Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Rambling's
wine, food and other vinous topics from New Zealand
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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings. One day I'll update it to proper blogger software but right now I haven't the time to research which blogging software is best, nor do I have the time to teach myself how to use it. I'll stick to archaic html to record my daily events. It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website www.wineoftheweek.com which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.
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Archive: February 15th to February 28th 2007
Feb 28th: Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Auslese 2003
Feb 27th: Hyperion Helios Chardonnay 2006
Feb 26th: Clearview Unwooded Chardonnay, Peach Salad and Peach Soup
Feb 25th: Morton Estate at the Oscars
Feb 24th: Summer Salad and Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Feb 23rd: Four Alsace Whites, Four Spanish Reds, Four McLaren Vale Shiraz
Feb 22nd: Thai Scented Burgers and Corbans PB Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004
Feb 21st: Pinot Noir 2007 live on your PC
Feb 20th: Sacred Hill Sauvage Fume Blanc 2005
Feb 19th: Pork with Fennel and Pears
Feb 18th: Ten cents well spent - Ostler Vineyard Audrey's Pinot Gris 2006
Feb 17th: Veraison and Kerr Farm P04 Kumeu Pinotage 2004
Feb 16th: Venison Sausages and Okahu Estate Chambourcin 2004
Feb 15th: Anchorage Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Auslese 2003
Some really interesting wines tasted with the Wine Spirit tonight, no New Zealand wines at all, instead a mini world tour starting in Germany with four rieslings, stopping off in Italy for four reds and finishing in Western Australia with four more reds.
Highlight of the Germans, in fact highlight of the whole night, was the rather glorious Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Auslese 2003 from the Mosel. It was the last of the four and by far the best. A pale lemon gold coloured wine, it was quite floral and honeyed on the nose with a whiff of that 'kero' character that starts infusing into these styles of wines as they age. It was strong flavoured and full bodied with a slightly viscous texture, an apricot and toffee apple flavour and perfectly balanced acidity to pierce through the sweetness in such a seamless way. Just 8% alcohol by volume but not cheap at almost $60 a bottle.
In contrast there was a rather impressive little cheapie from Tuscany, the Renzo Masi Chianti 2005. Great colour, expressive aroma and a blend of old world / new world flavours with an earthy rusticity behind the clean oak and juicy fruit with hints of liquorice and a succulent spicy finish. It's Chianti, but not as we used to know it.
A disappointment, however, was Prunotto Barbera d'Asti 2005 from Piedmont, which I though showed low level corkiness. I was told that all five bottles were like that, except for one that had high level corkiness and was discarded.
A new winery named Xabregas from Mt Barker in the cooler southern region of WA impressed with a two exciting shirazes, one from 2005 that showed more acid structure than the 'Show Reserve' 2004, which was smooth, softer and creamier.
Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 was a true varietal exression of the Cabernet Sauvigon grapes I say this because I picked it as CS straight away. Lastly the Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2004, a gutsy monster of a wine clocking in at 16% alcohol, the polar opposite of German riesling, if ever there was one.
The notes will be posted to the main site on Friday.
Hyperion Helios Chardonnay 2006
Visited Matakana, the wine region just an hour north of Auckland city, on Monday. There's lots happening up there and new labels are slowly appearing on the shelves. But I came home with a familiar label that's responding to the competition by producing some of the best wines they've made for a while and we enjoyed one of those wines with our dinner last night. It is a wine I heartily recommend.
Hyperion Helios Chardonnay 2006 is a clear, bright, light golden coloured wine with seriously ripe fruit from a good vintage in Hyperion's Omaha Flats vineyard in Matakana. It smells nutty and mealy with a hint of toffee, stonefruit and spicy oak and it tastes rich and luscious in the palate with sweet oak, tropical fruit and stonefruits, a mealy richness and a long savoury finish. A full-bodied style(but not OTT) with a creamy nutty backbone and a bright, fresh, lingering finish, the oak plays a supporting role in the background, adding harmony and balance without overpowering. The alcohol is higher than I remember from any previous vintage of Hyperion chardonnay, but the fruit has gobbled it up.
Winemaker John Crone barrel-fermented the grapes in an equal combination of new, 1 year old and 2-year old oak, six barrels in total. French and American oak was used and the wine stayed in barrel on the spent yeast lees for 6 months. The finished wine carries 14.5% alcohol by volume. It's sealed with a Diam technical cork and costs $23 at the winery cellar door.
Winestate magazine awarded this wine 3.5 stars but that was a bit miserly in my opinion because Hyperion Helios Chardonnay 2006 is easily a 4 star, silver medal quality wine. Perhaps even better on the right day.
The rays of Helios, the Sun God (son of Hyperion), shine through this wine and so we matched it to food that was equally as sunny - fresh, plump yellow sweetcorn. Simple to prepare, two cobs were placed into the microwave, leaves and all, and cooked for a total of 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes. Then the leaves and silky fibres were removed and the cobs plated and smothered with butter, salt and pepper. A good match.
On the Web: www.hyperion-wines.co.nz
Clearview Unwooded Chardonnay, Peach Salad and Peach Soup
The peaches are literally dropping from the tree in the yard. They are Golden Queens, which means they are of the clingstone variety, so they are not easy to halve and grill and present beautifully like you see in the recipe books. But they sure are delicious to eat.
With the peaches in the feast stage, I needed to do something with them other than simply eat them or have them cooked up and frozen for year long supplies. So on Saturday night I put Peach Salad on the menu and on Sunday night it was Chilled Peach Soup.
What's the best wine to match to a Golden Queen?
Chardonnay, of course. I say this because of my first experience of home grown Golden Queen and chardonnay several years ago. It was the Mission Estate Jewelstone Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 1994, a gorgeous wine in its own right but with a fresh peach just plucked from the tree, it was absolutely orgasmic. I've loved peaches and Hawkes Bay chardonnay ever since. So the creations were made with chardonnay in mind.
My Peach Salad is reasonably simple to make. It consists of wedges of peeled peach, leaves of rocket, cubes of feta, a handful of unsalted, pan-roasted cashew nuts, a chiffonnade of Thai basil, and dressing made from a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (to stop the peaches from browning) and a tablespoon of olive oil.
The Chilled Peach Soup, which was adapted from the Wine Lovers Cookbook by Sid Goldstein, takes a little more preparation and forethought. It does need chilling after all. But it's totally delicious and worth it.
You will need 6 large ripe peaches, as fresh as possible for the best flavour. Peel the peaches, cut the flesh into a bowl and discard the stone. Add 1 tablespoon honey, 1 cup Greek yoghurt, 1/4 cup unoaked chardonnay (or riesling), 1 tablespoon minced crystallised ginger, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, 1 tablespoon chopped spring onion (or chives), the zest and juice of an orange and 1 teaspoon of five spiced powder. Blend all these ingredients in a food processor or with a stick mixer and refrigerate, covered, for at least two hours.
Ladle the soup into serving dishes and garnish with a dollop of the yoghurt, a wedge of peach and sprigs of mint. Accompany with toasted ciabatta and a ripe, peachy chardonnay.
When I was looking for a wine to match to the Peach Salad, Clearview 'Unwooded' Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 leapt out at me and I thought, "Why not give it a go". After all, Clearview has a solid reputation for outstanding, lavishly oaked chardonnay, so how would this unadulterated wine fare? It would have aging on its yeast lees to give the wine some complexity, a process that sometimes imparts a creamy nutty flavour, perfect to match to the cashew component. If the fruit was there as well, it should work. So the screwcap was cracked and the wine poured.
Clearview 'Unwooded' Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 is pale lemon gold in colour with a suggestion of a greenish glint. On the nose the yeast lees characters are apparent and it's just a little nutty. There's stonefruit too, but subtle. Spritzy and zesty, bright and refreshing, citrussy - more of the 'lemonade' fruit - and quenching. Lots of juicy factor with warm nutty leesy notes and a creamy, mealy finish. It has 14.5% acohol by volume and costs about $22 a bottle.
It worked with the salad but it would have worked better without the rocket because the leaves were a bit sharp and bitter for this wine, but the peach and nuts and feta cheese just dissolved into deliciousness when they met the wine in the palate. Pinot Gris actually works better with the salad as a whole, including the rocket, as we found out after tasting some of the leftovers from last week's tasting.
As mentioned yesterday, the Morton Estate Riverview Chardonnay 2004, was absolutely delicious with the soup. The Clearview Unwooded Chardonnay 2006 was excellent too. It was, after all, the wine that I used in the recipe. And after a day in the bottle, more peachy flavours in the wine had emerged.
On the Web: www.clearviewestate.co.nz
Morton Estate at the Oscars
What are they drinking at the Oscars? Lots, I would imagine. But at the Pre-Oscars party hosted by the New Zealand Consul General in L.A., they drank New Zealand wines and ate New Zealand food as they celebrated New Zealands influence in the world of film. And some of the wines were from Morton Estate's 'White Label' range.
This is a range that offers excellent value for money, as we've found out from recent tastings of their viognier, riesling, gewurztraminer and pinot gris. So it seemed like a the perfect excuse to open one of their rich, full-bodied chardonnays because this is the variety with which Morton Estate really excels and the Oscars are all about excellence.
The wine we chose was Morton Estate Riverview Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2004, an individual vineyard wine from Morton Estate's premier Hawkes Bay vineyard inland of Maraekakaho and adjacent to the Ngaruroro River.
The wine when poured, once the cork (yes, cork!) had been extracted, is a gem-like yellow-green golden colour, like a heliodor crystal both in colour and lustre. It's a gob-smackingly rich and decadently creamy style with a fair slug of toasty oak - but the oak simply melts into the rich, juicy, fresh-off-the-tree Golden Queen peach fruit that is a feature of this wine. It's underpinned with spice and savoury mealy characters from the barrel ferment and the aging on yeast lees and as it lingers there's a touch of lemon meringue too. A gorgeous full-bodied, opulent style and fabulous with a chilled peach soup - made with Golden Queen peaches, fresh-off-the-tree, of course. I'll post the recipe here tomorrow, and by then we'll know who won the Oscars.
Summer Salad and Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
At this time of year in New Zealand fresh summer produce is in abundance. Vine-ripened tomatoes, capsicum, avocados and even courgettes, are at bargain prices in the produce store while in our garden, the herbs are going berserk. We usually have a salad each night with dinner, but tonight I decided to have only salad for dinner. A more substantial salad than usual, however.
It would be a pasta salad with red and yellow capsicum, tomato, courgette, avocado, herbs, rocket and feta cheese.
I like roasted capsicums because roasting brings out a flavour intensity and sweetness, so the whole capsicums together with a whole tomato and a courgette that had been cut in half lengthwise and drizzled with olive oil, were roasted for 20 minutes at 200° C. After this time the capsicums had blackened on one side so they were turned and returned to the oven, which was switched off while the rest of the ingredients were being prepared.
Two cups of dried 'bow-tie' shaped pasta were cooked to the package instructions, drained and rinsed with cold water then placed in a bowl and drizzled with a tablespoon of gorgeous Matapiro olive oil (from Hawkes Bay) and 1/2 a tablespoon of aged balsamic. Copious amounts (about 1/4 cup, in fact) of herbs - sweet basil, Thai basil and fennel fern - were added and stirred through.
The roasted capsicums were peeled and the flesh cut into strips. The tomato was peeled and the flesh roughly chopped and the courgette was chopped up too. These were added to the pasta together with a chopped fresh tomato and half a fairly firm avocado, diced. Half a cup of cubed feta cheese (I used the yummy Waimata brand) was also added and everything was tossed to get a lick of the oil and vinegar dressing. No additional seasonings were needed as there was so much natural flavour already.
By now you realise the bowl you started the preparation in, the one you usually use, is almost overflowing, so the rocket goes into a larger bowl to be tossed with a little basil infused avocado oil, then the pasta, etc., is added and carefully combined. It looks like a lot of food for two people, but because it's the complete meal, it is in fact about right.
"Is that all we've having for dinner," Neil exclaimed, so I grilled a few strips of streaky bacon so he could get his meat fix.
Food like this screams to be accompanied with a young New Zealand sauvignon blanc, the fruity flavoursome drink that was designed to soak up the summer sun. Served chilled, a good young New Zealand sauvignon blanc is crisp, refreshing and fun.
We chose Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006, pale in colour and a little herbaceous and oily on the nose with a subtle presence of that distinctive Marlborough 'sweat'. Later, after it had been chilled for half an hour or so, tropical fruit aromas emerged too. It's a ripe, juicy style, bright and flavoursome with a capsicum oily character and a piercing, herbal, citrussy richness. Naturally delicious on its own but so exciting with the food it seemed that it had been made with this salad in mind. It was even more outrageously exciting when it encountered the fennel fern and the flavours exploded in unison.
Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 has 5% Semillon in the blend and approximately 10% French oak. Indigenous yeasts as well as cultured yeasts were used for fermentation. It's sealed with a screwcap, carries 13.5% alcohol and costs about $23.
On the Web: www.seresin.co.nz.
Four Alsace Whites, Four Spanish Reds, Four McLaren Vale Shiraz
My detailed tasting notes from Wednesday nights tasting at the Wine Spirit have now been posted on the Wednesday Roundup Pages on the main site. It was a very tempting tasting with four Alsace whites amongst the twelve. The first of these, Schoffit Pinot Gris Colmar Tradition 2004 ($38) was rich, lush, delicately spicy and full of saffron poached pear flavours. As for the three low-acid, gewurz's the more expensive they got, the more refined they became. Schoffit Cuvee Cuvée Alexandre Gewurztraminer 2004 ($50) with its pungent, heady aroma and rich spicy flavours was distinctly varietal. Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurztraminer 2004 ($36) was a little more restrained and a little more citric but always that lovely balance and soft, oily mouthfeel while the delicately scented Albert Mann Grand Cru Steingrubler Gewurztraminer 2004 ($58) slowly revealed its resplendent gloriousness with seductiveness and power.
Alsace whites are expensive, a contrast to the soft, juicy and reasonably cheap Spanish reds.
The medium-bodied, slightly rustic, warm-blooded Torres Sangre de Toro 2004 ($18) is an old friend, but it has lost its plastic bull pendant and is now it is adorned with a screwcap instead.
Castillo de Monseran Old Vine Garnacha 2004 ($17) displayed a contrast of new world / old world with sweet oak, juicy fruit and an earthy, herbal, rustic backbone. The smoky, savoury and concentrated Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria 2005 ($28) from 100 year-plus vines, looks young and tastes young too while the dense red-black coloured Remelluri Rioja 2001 ($44) was full of Brett with medicinal aromas and horse saddle flavours. It didnt look old or taste six years old but had a complexity and fascination that comes with age - once you got past the fault.
Four McLaren Vale reds followed, and the first one, Coriole Toa McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005 ($19) was not really a style I identify with this southern Adelaide region. With its earthy savouriness it was more akin with the Spanish wines that preceded it. Penny's Hill Red Dot Fleurieu Shiraz Viognier 2005 ($26) is a big, bold black coloured, with jammy fruit, chocolate and soft smooth tannins. It's a drink now style.
Tatachilla McLaren Vale Foundation Shiraz 2001 ($53) smells and tastes like classic sweet oaked, deep fruited, spicy Australian Shiraz with a little age. There is still plenty of life ahead of it but I would enjoy this beautifully refined wine now. The night ended with the affluent Mr Riggs McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005 ($50). This fruit forward, concentrated, velvet-caped wine is one of the new cults, so despite its price, it's a relative bargain.
Full notes of these wines on the Wednesday Roundup Pages for 21 February 2007.
Thai Scented Burgers and Corbans PB Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004
Burgers cooked on the BBQ and a soft juicy red, what could be better?
I'll tell you. Spicy burgers cooked on the BBQ and a soft, spicy, red!
The burger recipe is a favourite. It's called 'Thai Scented Burgers' and is one of the first 'Food in A Minute' television campaign recipes from before when they got overly commercial and yeck.
This particular recipe is actually quite tasty and only has one of the sponsor's products, a sweet chilli sauce which can be replaced with an authentic Thai sweet chilli sauce, which is recommended. But what makes this meat pattie recipe superior over all other meat pattie recipes is the addition of tender, new growth, lemon leaves. This is the item that makes this recipe so yummy and it's one of the reasons I cook it so often, because I can always find a tender lemon leaf or two ( I only use two in the recipe) by simply stepping outside for a leaf pluck of one of our lemon trees. Fresh herbs are bonus ingredients too.
The 'burgers' are never eaten in traditional burger fashion, that is between two halves of a burger bun. They eaten as meat patties accompanied by spuds and salad.
Find the original recipe here.
Tonight we matched the Thai Scented Burger meat patties, nicely smokly and with slightly burnt edges from the BBQ cooking, with a wine that worked a treat. Even when I bit into a piece of ginger that was still quite raw, the wine just washed it over and didn't protest. It was Corbans Private Bin Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004.
This is an attractive looking wine in the glass, purple-red coloured, like a shiny brambly berry and deep and reasonably dense. It smells peppery, leathery and nuggety with earthy nuances, spiced plums and hints of sweet oak and tastes deliciously ripe and juicy, crammed with flavours of succulent berries, plums, polished French oak, lots of spice that includes anise, allspice and black pepper and hints of bitter chocolate. It's well structured and perfumed with a firm acid backbone, a silky texture and a long, earthy, savoury finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, it's really hitting its straps now. If you enjoy it as much as we did, there'l be none left over for cooking.
Corbans Private Bin Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004 has been matured in French oak, 30% new, for 12 months. It carries 13.5% alcohol by volume, it's sealed with a screwcap and has an RRP of $23.95 a bottle. It's definitely worth seeking out.
Corbans, one of the great New Zealand wine names, is now in the ownership of Pernod Ricard, which means it should be reasonably widely available. Click here to find out more.
Pinot Noir 2007 live on your PC
Three weeks ago Pinot Noir 2007 was held in Wellington, New Zealand and 500 delegates, including winemakers, retailers, importers and a plane load of invited international wine media attended the event.
I can't report on the proceedings, other than what I've read in press releases, as I wasn't there.
So what really happened? What did the heavyweights say?
Well, now you can find out with a couple of clicks of the mouse button, because, for the first time in the short history of New Zealand's pinot noir conferences, audios of all the sessions have been loaded onto the official website for anyone to download and listen to. There's even the audio of the tastings sessions (sniff, sniff, slurp, slurp, spit, spit). You'll just have to imagine you have the same wines that the panel and the delegates are tasting.
So dial up the Pinot Noir 2007 website and go to the programme pages for Tuesday 29 January, Wednesday 31 January and Thursday 1 February. You'll see the links to the MP3 audios there. Happy listening.
Sacred Hill Sauvage Fume Blanc 2005
How long does it take to get from Auckland to Hawkes Bay? Five or six hours if you are travelling by car but less than an hour if you are travelling by air. So how long does it take to get to the airport? From my place, in rush hour, a long, long time. Even longer in rush hour on the return journey home. An hour and 25 minutes from Mangere to Takapuna. Now that's frustrating.
Still it was worth it to fly to Hawke's Bay for the day, to travel up the Dartmoor Valley to the original Sacred Hill Winery and to drink a toast to David Mason, Tony Bish and the gang at Sacred Hill for reaching a milestone. Which milestone exactly? Well it could be their 25th birthday milestone - 25 years since grapes were first planted on the farm that David Mason's parents owned. Or it could be their 21st birthday milestone - 21 years since the first harvest and the crushing of grapes by foot, in 1986. So a toast was made to both milestones with the Sacred Hill 'Sauvage' Fume Blanc 2005, specially adorned with a limited edition label.
The label will be familiar to long time drinkers of Sacred Hill wines for it's a reprint of the original Sacred Hill label, the design with grapes leaves in orange-autumn tones on a white background. Back then, they called their sauvignon blanc 'Fume Blanc'.
Sacred Hill 'Sauvage' Fume Blanc 2005 is rich, ripe, fresh and bright with the hallmark barrel ferment and wild yeast character that this wine is known for. It's slightly grainy in texture and mouthfilling in flavour with nectarine the dominant fruit of the moment and citrus and melon supporting it. It builds in power to a spicy, zesty lime and mandarin finish with savoury and slightly earthy nuances on the expressive aftertaste. It's sealed with a screwcap, carries 13.5% alcohol by volume and costs about $30 a bottle.
There's an interesting history to the Sacred Hill 'Sauvage' style. First made in 1992, it came about after David Mason went to France the year before to learn more about making wine. He ended up working in Bordeaux in the Graves appellation with the famed Denis Dubourdieu, described as a master of Bordeaux whites and who has since made several journeys to New Zealand to talk about and research Sauvignon Blanc. Anyway, David fell in love with the natural barrel fermented style of Graves white wine that Dubourdieu was making at Clos Floridene. That was his inspiration for the Sacred Hill Sauvage.
Winemaker Tony Bish has now perfected it. "It's about a style, not about a varietal expression. It's about complexity, it's about winemaking," he says.
Whatever, it tastes pretty darn good. The judges at the 2006 Hawkes Bay A & P Wine Awards, judged last October, thought so too. They gave it a gold medal and the Trophy for Best Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
On the Web: www.sacredhill.com
Pork with Fennel and Pears
Check out this week's Wine of the Week, the Camshorn Glenmark Gravels Pinot Gris 2006 from the Waipara Valley, about 45 minutes north of Christchurch in the South Island. It was the wine that was the best all rounder in a tasting of Pinot Gris wines on Saturday night. Being an all rounder means that it has to taste good on its own, but it also has to taste good with food. And the food I chose to accompany the wines was a Fennel seed and citrus zest encrusted fillet of pork with a pear and fennel sauce.
I chose these ingredients to accompany Pinot Gris because pear is usually a dominant fruit character found in Pinot Gris, and pork and pear go well together. Besides the pears on our trees are ripening like crazy at the moment - fresh produce from the garden, just wanting to be used. I also wanted to use the fennel bulb I had bought on Friday, a nice fat fennel bulb for a change, as my shop usually has the smaller, flatter ones. Pork and fennel is a classic Italian combination and Pinot Gris, as Pinot Grigio, is a popular Italian white. I hoped it would work.
Fennel seeds were crushed in the mortar and pestle, the anise-like aromas from the crushed seeds sweetening the room. There was a good tablespoon of crushed seeds, when I measured them. They were combined with the bright orange zest of a tangelo (off our tree), the shreds of zest chopped into the spice and rubbed all over the plump pork fillet, that weighed about 430 grams.
A tablespoon of olive oil was heated in a frying pan and the fillet curved into it to cook for about five minutes on each side. You have to ensure that the seeds don't burn - if they do, they will become bitter. While the fillet was browning, I squeezed the juice of the tangelo over it. The fillet was then placed into a baking dish and cooked at 180° C for 25 minutes, then left to rest while the sauce was being prepared in the pan that the pork fillet was browned in.
Melt about a teaspoon of butter in the pan and add 1/4 cup of sliced fennel bulb and saute to soften, then add slices of pear (about a cup) from one large pear or two smaller crisp pears (cut into quarters, then into thick slices). Add a couple of tablespoons of Pinot Gris and a squeeze of tangelo or orange juice, then stir in two tablespoons of cream. Lastly add more tangelo zest and some chopped up fennel fern, that was growing from the fennel bulb. This adds a nice colour contrast to the white of the sauce. Add salt and pepper seasoning to taste.
Well, as stated in the Wine of the Week article, the dish didn't really work with the dry, low acid wines. Blame it on our home grown pears. They were just so juicy and sweet.
Ten cents well spent - Ostler Vineyard Audrey's Pinot Gris 2006
"This wine's got sulphides," I said to Neil as we tasted through a flight of pinot gris last night.
"Smells alright to me," he replied.
"Really! Can't you smell that kind of smoky, struck match character?"
"Not really," he said. "You know I don't notice sulphide smells so much."
"I can taste it too, kind of a burnt match bitter thing going on in the back of the palate," I reaffirmed.
"Hmmm, maybe," he said, after another sniff and sip.
"We should try that copper trick, you know, 'Pop a copper penny in your wine'." We learnt this in a wine class in our early days of wine tasting.
"I wonder if we've got any old one or two cent coins lying around," said Neil.
"What about the new 10c coin? That should do the trick," I said.
Neil got up, found a 10 cent coin, gave it a clean and handed it to me. I popped it into my glass of wine without hesitation, gave the glass a swirl then retrieved the coin with my finger. I couldn't believe the difference when I smelt the wine again. It had definitely changed. The burnt matchstick stink had gone and instead there was a pleasing, clean, floral perfume with hints of beeswax. The taste had changed too - for the better. It had not lost any of its power or richness, but it had become bright and fruity, full of ripe juicy pear and tropical guava on a creamy texture with a clean, lingering finish. The transformation was amazing.
"Try it," I said, handing the glass to Neil. "It's like a different wine".
"Mmmm. Maybe," he said in his typical measured way. But he didn't seem totally convinced.
"Well the only way for you to know for sure is to try them side by side".
So he went away and poured two glasses, treated one and handed them to me to try. I picked the 10 cent wine on the nose alone. The difference was obvious. It was floral rather than match struck. You would never guess both glasses had been poured from the same bottle.
"So what do you think now, " I asked him after he had tried them both.
"You're right," he said. "But are you sure the coin's copper," he added, thinking it might have been some kind of bronze alloy.
"It looks like copper to me," I replied.
The Q & A page on www.newcoins.govt.nz confirmed it. The steel 10 cent coins introduced last year are copper-plated. Bright and shiny when new, they quickly fade to a dull dark brown, to the colour of the old one and two cent coins.
So what exactly does the copper do to the wine? And why is the change almost instantaneous? Well, it's all about inorganic chemistry and that's not my forte.
Anyway, the wine was the Ostler Vineyard Audrey's Pinot Gris 2006 from the Waitaki Valley in the South Island. In the blind tasting of 8 wines from 8 different regional designations, I was hoping this wine would stand out. After all, we had visited the vineyard just before the grapes were picked in April 2006. The tight little bunches of silver sheened, greenish-greyish coloured grapes had taken on an iridescent lustre. And they tasted good too.
Well, the wine did stand out, but for the wrong reasons. Mind you, if you are not as pernickety as I am, if you are like Neil with little or no response to sulphides, then you will love this wine from the outset. You will love its lifted spicy character and its slick oily texture and you won't notice the sulphides at all. But throw 10 cents at it, and it will taste even better.
Veraison and Kerr Farm P04 Kumeu Pinotage 2004
Today I saw veraison. "Ve-what?" I hear you say.
Veraison. You know. When the grapes turn from hard little green marbles to fleshy little berries and take on the colour that we think of particular grapes as having.
I visited Kerr Farm in Kumeu today and saw veraison in action. They put the nets on the Chardonnay earlier this week but with this hot spell we've been having in Auckland, suddenly the reds started responding and the change started there too. The netting guys are coming back on Monday to finish off the job.
"I should have finished it off then," says Jaison Kerr, owner of Kerr Farm, as we watch a blackbird dive into the Pinotage vines and pick off one of the ripening berries.
I shrug and concentrate on the wine, which just happens to be a Pinotage, a varietal which is really Kerr Farm's forte. It's from the 2004 vintage, which was quite spectacular in Kumeu. So spectacular they gave it a special label , 'P04'.
Kerr Farm P04 Pinotage 2004 is deep garnet red in colour and looks like a young Pinot Noir (if you were trying to pick the varietal by its colour). Savoury and smoky on the nose with vanillin oak, cherry and brambles, it tastes ripe and savoury, soft and creamy with blueberry and cherry fruit, a touch of chocolate, allspice, hints of pepper and a gorgeous flare to the finish where firm acidity makes a statement. Hints of nugget and leather aid and abet the earthy character of the wine, but its the berry fruit that wins on the day. It's been subjected to American oak as well as French, carries 13.6% alcohol by volume, sports a screwcap and costs a very reasonable $20 from the Kerr Farm cellar door.
Open on weekends only, Kerr Farm in Dysart Lane, Kumeu, north west of Auckland City, is worth visiting for a homely tasting around the big table. Jaison and Wendy are great hosts. They produce Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon too.
On the Web: www.kerrfarmwine.co.nz.
Venison Sausages and Okahu Estate Chambourcin 2004
I've been into comfort food all week - sausages. It's comfort food because sausages are easy to cook and it doesn't take any persuasion to get the other half to cook them - either on the barbecue or under the grill. And they dont need any fancy cooked sauces, especially when you've a selection of relishes that your sister made you for Christmas. Just grab a jar from the cupboard and you're done.
But the sausages we have been eating are comfort food with a gourmet slant. We've had chicken sausages, lamb and mint sausages and my favourite venison sausages. The latter are so savoury, they are perfect with syrah, or pinot noir, or even some of the more obscure wines like Chambourcin, for example. And I like making sauces, experimenting, using the ingredients I have on hand. Like the roasted red capsicum sauce for the chicken sausages (where is that bit of paper I wrote the ingredients down on?), or my potato, bacon, mushroom and thyme side dish for the venison sausages.
I buy packs with six sausages. They all get cooked, Neil eats three, I eat two and there is one left over, something to nibble on for lunch the next day. But I had to restrain myself from nibbling that leftover venison sausage because I decided it would add a bit of jazz to the potato, bacon, mushrooms and thyme dish. I served it as a starter dish instead. And it was yum.
So here are the ingredients and the method
Two potatoes (Nadine or Draga -or any variety suitable for boiling and frying), to yield about 2 cups when peeled and roughly chopped into 2cm cubes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion (I always go easy on the onions - use more if you want)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 or 2 rashers of streaky bacon
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 chopped up, left over venison sausage
2 tablespoons of savoury red wine, eg. pinot noir, or whatever you are going to accompany the dish with
A couple of sprigs of fresh garden thyme
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Zap the potatoes in the microwave to cook them to 'al dente' doneness.
Put the oil into the frying pan and heat. Add the onion and bacon and saute for a couple of minutes over low to medium heat, then add the garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and the leaves off the sprigs of thyme. Cook, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally for four to 5 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked, then add the diced venison sausage and splash in the wine, stirring to get the wine over all the spuds, so they take on some of the wine's hue. When the sausage is hot and the wine has infused, taste and add seasoning if desired (although there is probably enough salt from the bacon and sausages). Serve and accompany with a savoury red wine.
Okahu Estate Northland Chambourcin 2004 is ideal. It's deep and dense in colour and full of those deep, dark, earthy, savoury, gamey flavours in the food, complimented by sweet smoky oak with hints of chocolate, wild dusty berries, a touch of spice and nuances of herbs. The screwcapped wine has 13% alcohol and costs about $28. Find out more from www.okahuestate.co.nz.
I first had this big juicy wine with a rich venison stew, with none other than Okahu Estate's owner, Monty Knight. He had had the venison slow-cooking all day but my 20-minute leftover venison sausage dish was the best I could do. But it just goes to show, no matter how it is cooked, savoury and savoury go well.
Anchorage Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Over on the food forum at the Wine Lovers Page forums, the item of the month is fennel and as I had some fennel bulb in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator, I decided it was time to cook it. I had played around with fennel a few years ago, as reported in my Food File back in July 2003 and wanted to make the 'Fennel Braised in Sauvignon Blanc' again. It had gone down rather well last time and I had plenty of sauvignon blanc to match it too.
The wine I chose was Anchorage Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and what a little ripper. It's concentrated and ripe; rich, zesty and vivacious with a strong seam of citrus and herbs - grassy herbs, summer leafy herbs - both on the nose and in the palate where it also has a honeyed apple richness that gives warmth to the ever so slightly grainy texture. That grassy herbaceousness - there's even a hint of fennel - surges again and goes beautifully with the orange peel on the long rich finish where tropical fruit with nuances of pineapple, emerges. The aftertaste is typical for good sauvignon blanc, that is it seems to explode with power and flavour quite a few seconds after the wine has gone. It is labelled with 13% alcohol and has 6 grams of residual sugar balanced by quite high acidity which makes it taste quite dry. And like 99.9% of sauvignon blanc in NZ, it has a screwcap closure.
The grapes for this wine come from the Motueka region, quite a long way west of Nelson City and further west still of Nelson's well-known Moutere subregion. The grapes were transported to Marlborough Vintners and Justin Papesch made the wine. The Drummond Family, who are the owners of Anchorage Wines, also have a vineyard in Flett Road, Lower Moutere, where they opened their tasting room and cellar door just last December. Check out their website www.anchoragewines.co.nz for more information, prices and retailers. It seems to be in supermarkets in Wellington, though not in Auckland.
As for the food, a perfect match if ever there was one. Less oil was used than stated in the recipe and the addition of tangelo zest (yes I still have some on the tree), set it off beautifully.
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copyright Sue Courtney 2007