Driving home with a bag of purchases from the vegetable shop, my thoughts were focussed on what I would cook for dinner. I had rich red tomatoes that were surprisingly cheap for this time of year, a big, fat fennel bulb with plenty of lacy fern, courgettes, spring onions, basil and a new variety of sweet red chilli pepper - like corno di toro - so called because of its elongated, bulls horn shape. I decided I would roast the vegetables with avocado and olive oils, then chop them up and serve them over bow tie pasta with a dressing of the oils and balsamic and some roasted basil as well as fresh basil for garnish. Best of all the flavours would be- or should be - perfect for sauvignon blanc.
While the vegetables were roasting I started the tasting.
First up was Forrest Estate James Randall Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - but it was nothing like I expected because my first impression was a 'Te Koko' style, that is with funky wild yeast aroma and a rich, complex, mellow flavour.
Next in line was Foxes Island Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - ripe, bright and fruity with green pea and capsicum, resplendent in its portrayal of pungent Marlborough greens.
This was followed by Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - a grassy herbaceous number with classic gooseberry, citrus and tropical fruit.
Last of all was a ring in - the Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Verdelho 2006 - a bright zesty wine with flavours of tropical fruit, passionfruit, stonefruit and citrus with a soft creamy texture and plenty of spice.
They were all very good wines, all beautifully made, all bright and tasty, but there was something about the Forrest Estate James Randall Sauvignon Blanc 2006 that edged it ahead of the others. It was the perfect balance of fruit sweetness to the gorgeously bitter lime-like acidity that complemented the overall fleshy juiciness. It was the mealy, funky winemaking flavours and the rich, creamy texture with its crisp, earthy, slightly flinty undercurrent. It was the pungency of the sauvignon fruit and the exotic character to those fruits, the feijoa that melded into more sauvignon's more classic gooseberry, melon and apple - and on the aftertaste the plums - like Christmas plums from our old family home (an early cropping Japanese variety with a cherry red skin and yellow flesh). It was the intriguing aniseed character that emerged as it lingered. It was because it was a concentrated powerhouse of a wine with a finish that went on and on. It was quite outstanding.
But my favourite wine was a bomb with the food. The others worked beautifully with the tomatoes, fennel, red pepper, etc. Classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc should but I'm especially glad the Verdelho was put into the mix because I wouldn't have tried this wine with the roasted vegetables otherwise.
Three out of four ain't bad, but what to match to the Forrest Estate? I decided on something a litle more classic, but with a new world twist. I decided on fish and chervil potato cakes (after my attempt to make quenelles failed) and a sauvignon blanc and chervil beurre blanc with a hint of tomato. I chose chervil as the herb because of it slightly aniseed taste.
To make the fish cakes, combine a small fillet of fish such as terahiki or snapper with one precooked potato (zap for about 4 minutes in the microwave), an egg white and and half a dozen sprigs of chervil. Blend together in a food processor until smooth, form into four fish cake shapes and chill in the refigerator while making the sauce.
To make the sauvignon blanc beurre blanc, chop up one spring onion and place in a saucepan with the juice of a lemon and 1/4 cup of sauvignon blanc, bring to the boil and reduce to about two tablespoons.
Add 1/2 cup cream, bring just to the boil then slowly simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, which will reduce and thicken the liquid.
Transfer to a double boiler, stir in about half a teaspoon of concentrated tomato paste and add some chopped chervil.
Chop up 100 grams of butter into cubes and a cube of butter at a time, whisking and combining into the cream mixture.
Cook the fish cakes in a little butter or oil in a frying pan and nap with the tart, tasty sauce with its subtle tomato hint. Garnish with more chervil.
It turned out to be a resounding success with the Forrest Estate James Randall, and also delicious with the Esk Valley Verdelho - however the overpowering acidity of the sauce clashed with the other two sauvignon blancs.
"We could have just had the sauce on a cracker," I said to Neil, as we cleaned up the saucepan after our meal was finished. It was the sauce that made the meal and the match to the Forrest Estate James Randall such a success.
Forrest Estate James Randall Sauvignon Blanc 2006 pays tribute to John Forrest's grandfather, a pioneering farmer in Marlborough. The grapes, that were grown on the region's stoniest soils was low cropped and hand picked and the free run, juice was subject to a long, cool ferment, with 10% aged in French oak and six months on yeast lees. There is no mention of wild yeasts, but the aromas certainly indicate to me that some could be present. One of New Zealand's most expensive Sauvignon Blancs, it retails for a cool $39 and is sealed with a screwcap.
Find out more, including where to buy, from www.forrestwines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
7 May 2007