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Wine of the Week for week ending 28 Sep 2008
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Highlights from NZIWS 2008
Auckland, New Zealand

There's no particular Wine of the Week this week, after all most of the week was spent tasting gold medal wines from the New Zealand International Wine Show. However, as it was my birthday on Friday, I took home a few of the remnant bottles that particularly took my fancy to share at the family dinner. And now that the gold medal results are announced, I can mention them here too.

I was excited but not surprised to see Saint Clair Pioneer Block Oh! Block Sauvignon Blanc 2008, a Wine of the Week two weeks ago, on the gold medal table. That and it's top of the tier sibling, Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 found their way into my box. Well, the Block 6 lived up to every expectation and the Reserve - just that extra textural refinement. Both such delicious drinking, these wines were matched to a simple starter. Nibbles actually. My sister Linsey arrived home with a gorgeous, spreadable goats cheese pyramid made by Soignan and imported from France. The cheese was spread onto a cracker, topped with a slice of fresh tomato and decorated with a leaf of fresh basil. The vividness of the white, red and green colour matched the vivacity of the wines and the taste combination was sublime. So simple and so, so good.

Gewurztraminer also found its way into my box and of the three I had taken home, it was the sweeter Johanesshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008, a recurrent gold medal winner, that worked best with the food. This wine is delicately scented but rich in its flavour with hints of spiced orange water and a rose water-infused honeyed finish. While slow to start, it builds in intensity and power and all those aromatic Moroccan spices come forth.
I made a mix of flour, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, salt and pepper to coat some monkfish that was pan-fried then rested in the oven while I quickly made the sauce. Spring onions were sizzled in the skillet then the left over flour mix added to brown. A little water was added to sizzle the spices then in went coconut milk, orange and lemon juice and some of their zest and sweet chilli sauce and stirred to combine. Lastly about a cup of fresh chopped coriander that was quickly stirred through the sauce, which was poured over the fish and served. I had tested this recipe the night before with chicken stir-fry pieces and preferred the firm texture of the bird- but the taste still delivered what I wanted to achieve.

But the piece de resistance was the main course from my sister. Inspired by Peter Gordon's Beef Pesto recipe from the Sugar Club Cookbook (1997), she marinaded a whole fillet of beef in a blend of soy sauce, cider vinegar and seed mustard. Two halves of a whole red chilli was added after blending to infuse flavour without too much heat. The beef marinaded for a day and a half, then was removed and cut into steaks that were lightly oiled and cooked for just two minutes on each side in a searing hot skillet. While the meat looked rare, it had been somewhat 'cured' by the marinade. Peter Gordon describes it as having exquisite succulence and flavour and Christine's rendition certainly lived up to that description.

Peter Gordon serves his beef with pesto, chard, beetroot and zucchini but we had new season's 'oven steamed' asparagus with baked tomatoes and mushrooms. Oh, and the potatoes that Linsey spent about 15 minutes putting through the mouli - they were piled into a dish, seasoned and topped with butter to reheat. They were several echelons above simple mashed potatoes. Another textural treat.

This was matched to one of the most interesting Pinot Noirs that I tasted - Drumsara Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 from the Alexandra subregion. It is a rich and earthy yet fruity style with smoky bacon and field mushroom aromas, a wild thyme infusion, concentrated red and black fruits and a beautifully balanced savoury finish. Nice touch of oak too- you know the oak is there but this is a big wine and can handle it. Besides, three days after the bottle was opened, when we enjoyed it with our dinner, it was integrating nicely. Gosh I love the screwcaps for preserving partially consumed bottles. This is a great new find. There's an informative website too - check out

So these are just a few of the fabulous gold medal wines I tasted last week with food - the predictable labels (Saint Clair, Johanesshof) but the exciting new Drumsara too.

© Sue Courtney
21 Sep 2008

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