A blog from the team at Great Western Wine
Posted on April 26, 2015
I love to cook; I’m fascinated by scents, flavours, and how they marry together, or clash horrifically. I’m also obsessed with finding just the right wine to go with different styles and flavours of food. Many dismiss this, and don’t reckon it’s that important. They could be right – if you’re not really interested in wine, and just want a glass of something to enjoy, that’s fine.
However, it’s a fascinating experiment, and when you put food and wine matching to the test, it proves that the wrong combination can ruin either the enjoyment of the wine or the food. I put this into practice this week, training staff at a top end Indian restaurant. I made them taste wines with a variety of dishes – what worked well with creamy, coconut- based curries, clashed violently with the drier, herbier, tomato-based dishes on the menu; and the same happened in reverse. The reaction of the team was just what I wanted to see, from a smiling agreement to a glorious match, to a shuddering grimace when the combination didn’t work out so well.
Over the Easter weekend, I decided to experiment with a few new recipes and ideas, most of which had some form of spice, herbs or fruit involved. Aromatic whites and a juicy red seemed to be the logical matches, so I decided to put some of the lovely Yealands wines to the test.
I’ve always enjoyed, the fresh, elegant, aromatic styles of wine that Tamra Washington, Yealands, head winemaker, produces. My selection included Yealands Sauvignon blanc, Yealands Riesling, the quirky Yealands PGR, Yealands Estate Pinot Gris, and Yealands Pinot Noir.
First up on my culinary weekend fest was a salmon and tuna ceviche, which I’d had marinading for 24 hours, in the traditional lime juice marinade, spiced up with a chunk of ginger and a chilli pepper; this was served alongside salmon gravadlax, with a mustard and dill sauce. The Yealands Estate Riesling 2011 was a scintillating, zingingly-fresh match with the ceviche, both bursting with vibrant, tongue-tingling fresh lime flavours, which brought out the very best in each other. The Yealands Estate Sauvignon blanc 2014, was a worthy runner up.
This year’s Easter Sunday roast, was chicken with a twist – a cheerful, Caribbean twist, Jerk Roast Chicken. There are a thousand and one variations on the spices and herbs used in Jamaican Jerk seasoning . My version included the ‘must have’ spices that define the dish – Allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon, mixed with brown sugar; add to that a chopped up handful of herbs, cracked black pepper, garlic, shallots and the obligatory chillies, plus some freshly grated ginger.
Mixed with a splash of rum, and some soy sauce, this then was pasted onto the chicken, and left for 24 hours before roasting.
The heady, sweet, savoury, rich aromas and juices, made for a real challenge. The Riesling, which had worked so perfectly with the ceviche was completely overpowered. Next up was one of my favourites from the range, the baby of the range Yealands Estate PGR 2014 ( a blend of Pinot Gewurztraminer Riesling). I had high hopes for this wine, with its nutmeg and ginger- flecked fruit. However, even this was no match for the dominant presence and pungency of the allspice and cinnamon. This needed something weightier, fleshier and bolder.
Step up Yealands Estate Pinot Gris 2013, in all its richness and glory. It’s natural spice and sweetness, tempered and got the allspice under control and managed to bring out the more subtle flavours and scents of the other elements in the marinade. It was a clear and worthy winner in this particular challenge - I didn’t have a bottle of the Yealands Estate Gewurztraminer, but I reckon that would have been a great supporting act.
It proves, once again , the need to balance the wine, to the most dominant flavor, in this case allspice. In terms of red wine, I didn’t look beyond the sumptuous, majestic, multi-award winning Yealands Estate Winemaker’s Reserve ‘Gibbston Valley’ Pinot Noir 2013, whose fleshy, silky, spicy sweet flavours, were intensified by the rich sweetness of the powerful flavours of the jerk chicken – however, the heady sweet allspice, would have overwhelmed a more delicate Pinot Noir.
Easter Monday saw fish back on the menu for a relaxed Bank Holiday lunch – Salmon roasted in a soy, honey and ginger marinade, with a crunchy little Asian-style sweet and sour salad. Finally, the Yealands Estate PGR came into its own; this exotic blend mingles the fresh acidity of Riesling, with the richer, peachy Pinot Gris, and is topped off with a dollop of scented, voluptuous Gewurztraminer – the result is a delightfully lively, spiced, yet fresh, aromatic white, with flavours of apricot, nutmeg and ginger. A wine of different components, yet balance – just like the fish and the salad, which combined sweetness, spice, saltiness, and lots of different textures, from the creamy richness of the salmon, to the crunch of the salad.
Food and wine matching shouldn’t be taken too seriously – but getting the right match definitely makes a difference; what’s more it’s fun to do, and provokes great conversation. Next time you have guests, be bold, try something out of the ordinary, buy a few bottles of different styles, and work out your own best matches. I never cease to learn!
By Angela Mount
Posted on April 22, 2015
Last week Great Western Wine held their Burgundy dinner at the fabulous Allium Brasserie in the Abbey Hotel, Bath. GWW’s Fine Wine Manager Tom King and Allium’s Head Chef Chris Staines had devised a food and wine matching menu which showcased fresh, seasonal produce paired with a selection of white and red Burgundies. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson was also in town that night, but this didn’t stop over 60 people booking for the event – 20 more than rival Jancis!
Tom’s knowledgeable, yet accessible, style chimed with the guests who had come to sample some of the world’s most sought after wines. Tom’s aim was to compare and contrast a snapshot of the region, proving that ‘terroir’ played its part in creating the unique flavours in the wine. He also highlighted the effect of vintage, ageing and climate on the style.
The night began with a glass or two of Domaine Paquet Saint-Véran 2013 and some delicious nibbles, served in Abbey Hotel’s newly refurbished bar. Saint-Véran is an appellation next to the more famous Pouilly-Fuissé, sharing its soils and style. From further south than any other Burgundy at the tasting, Tom explained how its geographical location in the warmer Mâconnais gave the wine a more rounded, fruity style than the Chablis we were about to try with our meal.
As Tom pointed out, Burgundy is a big region, with the area of Chablis some 100km from Dijon, a city which marks start of the famous Côte-d'Or, home to the likes of Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault and Montrachet: travel another 130km and you get to the Mâconnais in the south. With such a large region, and minute changes in soils and climate even within the vineyards themselves, Tom said that his purpose was not to cover every aspect of Burgundy as that would be impossible. Instead he would provide “little pictures of Burgundy” that we could see evolve as they interacted with food.
Our first wine and food match was Poached Cornish oysters with Watercress and Asian Pear paired with two different wines; a Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2012 from Domaine Louis Michel and a Chassagne-Montrachet 2012 from Domaine Bernard Moreau.
Head Chef Chris Staines has a background in Michelin-starred fine dining, from heading up Foliage in London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel to working alongside Marco Pierre White at the three starred Oak Room. His attention to detail was evident in the first course – the finely chopped spiced pear bathed in a watercress velouté and punctuated with pearl-like oysters – but his love of Asian food also shone through with the hints of fresh ginger seasoning the dish.
On its own, the Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2012 was both richer and more minerally than the Saint-Véran. The style was also different than most Chablis you’d be used to – rather than the simple crisp, lemony, briny textures you’d expect, the premier cru was very complex with a salted honeycomb nose, hints of popcorn and touches of lemon and fennel. On further inspection, Tom suggested that you might also detect a whiff of brie rind and the flavours of white strawberry: It’s a wine which “punches above its weight”, he added.
Chablis is a classic with oysters and some people say you can detect hints of oyster shell in the wine itself; the shells are certainly present in the soils of the area, once an ocean bed. The wine and the food tasted leaner and more minerally when paired together, bringing out the briny seaside flavours of the oyster.
Over 100km away from Chablis, the Burgundies of Montrachet and beyond are richer and more full bodied, like Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne Montrachet 2012. This is a world away in style, with butter and orange notes on the nose with hints of caramel, almond and cooked lemon on the palate. The Chassagne might not have been the obvious choice with the oysters but the Japanese-style construction of the dish matched well with the wine’s richer flavours, heightening some tropical fruit nuances and hints of smoke. Although Tom preferred the leaner, saline qualities of the first match, the Chassagne was crowned the overall winner by the guests.
The second dish was Roast Breast of Landes Duck with Lettuce Purée, Fresh Garden Peas and Roasted Figs, paired again with two different wines, but this time from the same year and producer: Domaine Harmand Geoffroy’s Gevrey Chambertin En Jouise 2011 and Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques 2011.
Although Tom thinks that Burgundy is all “hints and suggestions” he said that the 2011 vintage has a distinct herbal, tobacco character. In terms of “suggestions”, Burgundy wine tasting notes often sound implausible for a drink made out of grapes – cheese, bacon, oyster shell and ladybird (?!) are all to be found.
It should come as no surprise then that the Gevrey Chambertin En Jouise had hints of smoky bacon, savoury almonds and cheese rind, as well as some of the more usual fragrances of vanilla spice, red cherry and green tobacco. I was amazed at the nutty aroma from the wine – like a fine Montgomery cheddar served with a dry Madeira.
The Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques was utterly different - more mineral in texture and aroma, with fine acidity – it seemed incredible that the wine was made by the same winemakers, in the same area, in the same year. Although I found the En Jouise more appealing at first, I soon realised that the more bashful Lavaux St Jacques was opening up, showing unbelievable levels of fragrance and refinement. Both wines had intensity, but the Lavaux had a finesse and florality that marked it as the premier cru.
But, everything changed with the food – although the Lavaux St Jacques was the perfect match for the duck and sweet pea, the addition of the roasted fig challenged the wine a little too much. The En Jouise , a premier cru in everything but name, became deeply cherryish with hints of old dusty cupboards and earth, the concentrated, savoury sweetness of the fig transforming the pairing.
Rather than a pudding (no sweet wines in Burgundy), Chris and Tom stuck to cheese for the last pairing of the night. Two Burgundian cheeses were presented with a white and a red, to see which wine went with which cheese. Tom pointed out that contrary to popular belief white wine is often best for matching with cheese. He explained that white wines have less structural components than reds so have a wider choice of partners.
The two Burgundies were from older vintages - Domaine Jobard-Morey Meursault Poruzot 1er Cru 2006 and Domaine Laurent Roumier Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2003. The white Meursault came from a warm vintage and during its ageing process had developed complex flavours of saffron, iron ore, apricot and almond. At almost 9 years old, it was a great match for the truffley cheese, Brillat Savarin aux Truffes.
The red Clos Vougeot Grand Cru was from a very hot year, 2003, and this made it less obvious that it was an older vintage. Tom thought its fruit profile was almost New Zealand in character; rich velvety and less ‘old world’ than you’d expect. The fruitiness was a nice foil for the funky, smelly Ami du Chambertin cheese – his time the cheesy whiff was from the cheese rather than the wine.
This was a really enjoyable night, my first GWW event, and a very memorable one at that. The night was brilliant value too – the wine itself would have cost more that the price of the ticket, let alone the delicious food created by Chris Staines.
So, get yourself booked on one of GWW’s future events before they sell out – it’s a great way to learn about wine and lots of fun too.
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on April 22, 2015
"One of my favourite Pinot Noirs, made by Carrick in Central Otago’s Bannockburn sub-region. Here the reds are juicy yet complex, helped along by the cool climate of this beautiful winemaking area. This is a Burgundian style Pinot at Kiwi prices, full of red berry and black cherry aromas and hints of spice. Try this in the sunshine, with an al fresco lunch of roast duck, chicken or charcuterie."
Was £15.95Now £14.04
Prices above are valid from 01.04.15 to 30.04.15
Free delivery over £100 | 5% off 6 bottles | 10% off 12 bottles
Posted on April 21, 2015
Spaghetti Bolognese - the essentials
Everyone has a favourite Bolognese recipe and here is mine.
The secret to this one is the fennel seed which adds a really interesting fresh, herby note. Classic Italian sausages are made with fennel and so this serves a similar purpose here.
The pancetta is also important: British bacon just doesn’t cut it. The slightly spicy nutmeg and white pepper notes from the pork are essential.
The minced beef has got to be full fat too – the lean stuff ends up stringy and dry and is not fun to eat. You can always skim off the fat before you serve, but please don’t strain until the end.
The ingredients I’ve highlighted as requiring ‘good quality’ are other essentials – don’t skimp on these. It’s worth paying extra because the flavour is so intense that you can eat less of it and feel utterly satisfied.
Another essential ingredient is the accompanying wine - you shouldn't skimp on that either...
With this classic Brit-Italian favourite I thought I’d try the new version of an all time GWW classic – the mighty Biferno. Bolognese is an everyday meal in households up and down the land, but here I've upped the ante, creating a dish which is made with respect for ingredients we often take for granted. Likewise, Biferno is an ‘everyday wine’ – competitively priced at £8.50 and so an affordable indulgence. But, Biferno really does punch well above its weight – it’s a weekday wine which still has the ‘wow factor.’
The 2009 is older than previous incarnations of Biferno, spending time in oak. The wine is still really fresh, but the time spent in barrel has added a weight and texture to the wine, as well as those comforting aromas of vanilla and spice. The flavours of cherry, plum, herbs and spice are a great accompaniment to the rich meaty sauce of the Bolognese. The acidity of Italian reds also makes them the perfect match for tomato-rich dishes like this one.
As an experiment I tested the wine against a rogue supermarket Bordeaux priced at £5.99 that had been brought by a dinner guest. No offence to the guest but the wine tasted like vinegar in comparison! For a couple of quid more you get something that is ten times better – a bit like the ingredients for the Bolognese sauce. You can afford everyday luxury, you've just got to know where to find it...
- Tablespoon olive oil
- One red or white onion
- One carrot
- Two celery stick
- Two garlic cloves
- One fresh bay leaf
- Sprig rosemary
- 200ml red wine
- Can good quality chopped tomatoes eg Cirio
- Two tablespoon good quality tomato purée eg Cirio
- Beef stock cube – good quality eg Kallo organic
- Half can water
- Half finger rind of Parmesan
- 500g minced beef - must be 20% fat
- Pancetta cubes – 65g
- One teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a pestle and mortar
- Splash of Worcester sauce
- Good quality parmesan cheese – 24 to 36 months aged
- Cooked spaghetti, penne or tagliatelle – the choice is yours
Make a ‘soffritto’ by finely chopping the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, then frying at a low temperature in olive oil. Add the whole herbs and continue to gently cook until soft.
Add the pancetta cubes and fry until the fat renders down, then fry the minced beef, combining with the crushed fennel seeds.
Cook the tomato purée for a minute or so and add the Worcester sauce. Add a large glass – approx 200ml of red wine – and reduce by about half.
When reduced, pour in a can of chopped tomatoes and half a can of water. Warm through and then add the beef stock cube and allow to dissolve in the liquid.
The parmesan rind is not a deal breaker, but it does add some creamy richness to the dish; add this if you have some spare to hand. Make sure you discard the rind before serving.
Cook the Bolognese sauce on a low heat until it is rich and flavoursome - around 1 hour. Serve with your favourite pasta and lashings of aged parmesan.
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on April 20, 2015
Camel Valley Cornwall Rosé Brut 2012
Ridgeview Grosvenor Cuvée Merret Blanc de Blancs 2011
This week Olly Smith suggested to readers that they should “Celebrate St George's Day with a glass of English fizz.” The Mail on Sunday's wine man recommended two GWW fizzes - Camel Valley Cornwall Rosé Brut 2012 and Ridgeview Grosvenor Cuvée Merret Blanc de Blancs 2011.
As Olly says, “my personal collection of English sparkling wine stretches back beyond the year 2000 and I’ve been a believer for many years that we can produce bottles to rival the world’s best fizz.”
Make English bubbly your go-to fizz this St George's Day - it's a great celebratory wine to toast the occasion on its own, but is also a brilliant accompaniment to that other British classic, fish and chips.
The Telegraph’s Nick Trend reported back on the joys of a wine-tasting holiday to Alsace in his article Alsace wine tour: In search of the world's greatest white wine.
He said he was, “full of anticipation because, about 20 years ago, I tasted a wine which, because it was so unexpectedly delicious, has lodged in my memory ever since.” The wine in question was Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Emile which he described as “steely dry” with “an almost ethereal freshness.”
Wine Enthusiast magazine has just given this trusty Tuscan a score of 90 points – no surprise for the folks at GWW HQ who have been shouting about it for some time now. Montepulciano is situated in the Tuscan hills on soils with a higher percentage of sand than the limestone-dominant areas of Chianti Classico or Brunello. In the hands of superior producers like Poliziano, the sandy soils and warmer climate here can create ethereal, deeply aromatic wines like this one. It’s rich and well structured, with an intense perfume of juicy, ripe, dark fruits.
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on April 17, 2015
In celebration of Malbec World Day here’s a selection from the widening world of Malbec, with wines from France, Argentina and Chile... and, what's more, you can buy the wines below as part of a specially selected six-pack for £59, including delivery - today only!
Languedoc is fast becoming the go-to place for brilliant value wines, especially white varieties like Picpoul and Chardonnay – the ideal soul mates with local seafood. But back in Blighty, eating al fresco is not always guaranteed, except for the obligatory wind-bashed barbecue. Step forward France’s best kept secret, Malbec; barbecue’s best friend. This rich, fruity style has heaps of cassis and dark plum, with a hint of spice on the finish - the perfect wine to accompany the smoky wafts of smouldering wood and memories of long summer days in Montpellier and Beziers.
Stepping up a gear we have Bovila’s Malbec from the grape’s homeland in Cahors, an area just below France’s famous Bordeaux region. In the old days you’d find a splash or two of Cahors Malbec propping up the lighter styles of Bordeaux, but nowadays Cahor’s deep, tannic wines have been mellowed, with more attention to using good quality oak and picking deliciously scented fruit. The rustic styles still exist, but winemakers like Bovila use altitude much like their Argentinian cousins, producing cool climate, minerally Malbec with hints if candied peel, redcurrant and Assam tea. Steak anyone?
Our first Argentine Malbec is made by our good friends at Tomero, a company located in the Maipu area of Mendoza. This region is renowned for its juicy, fresh Malbec; the climate and soils supplying the perfect conditions for world class wine. This is an unoaked Malbec, made in a style designed to showcase ripe fruit flavours over spice and vanilla. It is a bright, fragrant wine with hints of blackberry, cassis and espresso on a smooth, plump palate. An excellent introduction to Argentina, and just perfect with lamb chops or rare breed butcher’s sausages –barbecued of course!
Tomero is named in honour of the hard working men who sustain the water supplies that feed the grapevines of Mendoza. Tomero’s vineyards are set in the picturesque Uco valley at an altitude of 1300m. The higher the grapes are grown, the thicker the skins become; providing essential UV protection. Those thicker skins mean intense colour and flavour, as well as more structure from the grape tannins. This Malbec has flavours of plum and blackberry, intermingled with hints of spice and vanilla - a voluptuous accompaniment to charred meats and unctuous sticky stews.
A firm favourite at GWW HQ, Vistalba’s Cote C is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and local grape Bonarda. This is another wine hailing from the famous region of Mendoza, this time from a district called Luján de Cuyo. The grapes are hand harvested from old vines dating back as far as 1948, then treated to around a year in oak barrels. It’s a superbly balanced blend, full of rich black cherry fruit alongside complex nuances of spice (black pepper, aniseed) and herbs (dill, mint). There’s no need to remind you how good it is with a rare ribeye or sirloin is there?
Chile is also a brilliant source of fine Malbec, especially when made by a winemaker like Giorgio Flessati in an area like Elqui Valley. Giorgio was making wine in the cool climate Trentino hills of Italy before he and cousin Aldo discovered the potential of this region in the north of the Chile. Falernia is now the country’s northernmost winery, using altitude and proximity to the sea as a way of producing fresh, vibrant, modern Malbec. Another BBQ-friendly red, packed full of kirsch, violet and dark chocolate flavours with a hint of dried herbs and vanilla oak.
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on April 15, 2015
"This lovely Pinot Noir is made by Yealands Estate in the Gibbston sub-region of Central Otago. Plum, redcurrant, dark cherry and hints of vanilla combine with soft tannins, juicy acidity and hints of Asian spices. Sunday Express writer Jamie Goode gave this an impressive 95/100 recently - another great reason to try this brilliant red."
Prices above are valid from 01.04.15 to 30.04.15
Free delivery over £100 | 5% off 6 bottles | 10% off 12 bottles
Also try Chris' Tried & Tested recipe - Duck Noodles and Yealands Pinot Noir
Posted on April 14, 2015
The dish - Pan-roasted Scallops and Cauliflower Puree from Gordon Ramsay's book, Sunday Lunch.
I loved the idea of this dish – I’ve made cauliflower puree before and it’s a good addition to roasts, placed under green veggies for extra flavour. Here it formed a nice base for the scallops, but sadly I thought that the puree/sauce on top was, texturally, too similar to the cauliflower. Also, although the piquancy was a great idea, the sweet and sour flavours dominated the scallop.
The Crossroads Chardonnay was very forgiving, adding some refreshing acidity that coped with the bold flavours of the caper puree. But overall I felt that it would have been much more fun with a more Asian-inspired dish, perhaps – see below for some ideas!
The scallop and cauliflower would be nicer with a bit of texture from, say, some fried chorizo. Or, keep the capers whole and add to lemon juice, zest and olive oil to form a piquant dressing.
But my thoughts kept drifting to an Asian-inspired dressing of sesame oil, a dash of light soy sauce, lime and a spike of chilli. I think this would be perfect with the refreshing Chardonnay, highlighting the flavours of sesame in both the wine and the dressing. See underneath Gordon’s recipe for my Asian-style dressing that can be poured over the scallops (but, please, no purees!)
Pan-Roasted Scallops, cauliflower puree, and a piquant dressing
- 30g unsalted butter
- ½ cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 75ml water
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- 100ml double cream
- sea salt, white pepper
- 100g capers
- 100ml water
- 100g sultanas
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 12 scallops, corals and skirt removed
- Dusting of Madras curry powder
- Olive oil for cooking
To make the cauliflower puree, melt the butter in a pan, add the cauliflower and sauté for 3-4 mins. Add the milk and continue to cook for 2-3 mins, then pour in the cream and return to a gentle boil. Partially cover and cook for a few mins until soft. Season well then tip the cauliflower into a food processor and whiz until smooth.
Rinse the capers thoroughly in a sieve. Bring the water to the boil in a small saucepan, add the sultanas and capers and then liquidise them into a smooth puree.
Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and season
Scallops - season them lightly with sea salt and curry powder and cook in a hot pan for 1 min each side – they should feel springy when pressed
After resting for 1 min, halve the scallops and place on a blob of puree then drizzle the ‘dressing’ and vinaigrette over them.
You cannot drizzle the ‘dressing' over the scallops – you’ll find that the puree you made is too thick and can only be placed on top.
What you have is a lot of soft textures; soft scallop, soft cauliflower, soft caper and sultana puree and a vinaigrette sloshing around the scallops. The textures seem wrong.
It’s interesting that an online version of the same recipe calls for the dressing to be the texture of a ‘thin compote’ and omits the vinaigrette. Also, for that version, Gordon halves the scallops and cooks them for 20-30 seconds each side rather than cooking them whole for 1 min on each side.
It’s a shame – I had high hopes for this dish – especially with the success of last week’s Gordon-inspired duck, but you can’t win them all. Never mind the scallops – just drink the Chardonnay...!
Take the freshly cooked scallops and add a drizzle of the dressing below. Add leaves of your choice, scattered around or underneath the scallops.
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 spring onion, thin sliced
- sprinkle chopped coriander
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Squeeze of lime
- Sliced red chilli – to taste
Posted on April 13, 2015
Last week The Telegraph’s Hamish Anderson picked 3 of his favourite New Zealand whites, including GWW’s 2014 Gruner Veltliner, Yealands, Marlborough:
“Grüner is much in vogue, but nine times out of 10 you are better off sticking with the original from Austria. This is a rare exception, from one of Marlborough’s most dynamic producers. It is exotic with peach and mango before a typical burst of grüner spice in the form of pepper and lemongrass.”
For the Scotsman, Rose Murray Brown selected eight great Pinot Noirs from Germany – a country usually associated with white wines:
“Tricky as this varietal may be to grow and nurture into great wine, pinot noir (or “spatburgunder” as it is known in Germany) is the grape they all want to grow, from southern Baden up to northern Ahr region.”
She recommended a GWW wine from Weingut Knipser, a winery showing “good potential”. Of the Weingut Knipser, Kalkmergel Spatburgunder 2012, Rheinpalz, Germany*, she wrote:
“In a different league...this has much more depth and focus – it would compare well to Kiwi Otago pinots coming in at the same price.”
* 2011 currently available
Finally, Tom Cannavan picked his favourite wines of the month for consumer website Wine Pages, including Fontanafredda, Moscato d'Asti Moncucco 2013:
“This is a excellent example of a style of dessert wine I love: the very lightly sparkling, hugely aromatic Muscat from Piedmont in the northwest of Italy. With only 5.5% alcohol (which is typical for these wines) it is feather-light yet intense. There's the merest frothy frizzante on the tongue, but all those floral and herbal scents translate into flavour, that persists through to the shimmering, balanced finish. An absolute delight to sip, but matches with everything from the darkest chocolate puddings to fresh fruit desserts. 89/100.”
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on April 12, 2015
By Angela Mount
What’s the most Southerly wine producing region in the world? Well, that would be New Zealand’s Central Otago, nestled way down south, in the spectacular beauty of the country’s South Island - a mind-blowing contrast of snow-capped mountains, glittering lakes, wild forests, craggy hills, and wind-stormed oceans.
This dramatic landscape and climate - short, intense summers; harsh, frosty winters; and the lowest rainfall in the country - has helped bring some truly world class wines to the world. It’s the dream home for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon blanc and Riesling, which all crave cool, European-like conditions.
With its now stellar fame and reputation, it’s hard to believe that the first commercial bottlings in Central Otago only happened in 1987, less than 30 years ago. Their rise to fame has been nothing short of spectacular.
New Zealand is a country, or rather two islands, which are multifaceted, jaw-droppingly beautiful, and home to a fiercely proud and ambitious nation of people. There’s far more to New Zealand wines than Sauvignon Blanc and Marlborough.
We know about the heritage and history of centuries of winemaking from France and Italy, so it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend that wines from New Zealand only really began to be made seriously in the 1970s. The speed of the world’s discovery of the magical quality of this country’s wines has been phenomenal.
There’s over 1400km distance from the tip of the North Island to the end of the South Island, and this makes a huge impact on which grapes are grown where. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon work well in the warmer climes of the North Island; but I’m taking you south to Central Otago, which is about as far south as you can go in the world in terms of winemaking, and where the gloriously temperamental and maverick Pinot Noir shines in true splendor.
Central Otago accounts for only 3% of New Zealand’s total wine production, but what it does produce is top notch stuff. It’s pretty brutal in terms of weather and landscape – it has the highest mountains in the country, and the harshest of climates, but it’s an area that just happens to produce wines that angels helped to create, in their glory and sumptuous elegance. It also happens to be a region of breathtaking beauty.
Pinot Noir, with its temperamental needs, is beautifully suited to this land and accounts for over 60% of plantings. It has catapulted the area to worldwide fame in recent years with the sheer majesty of its wines.
It’s too cold here to bring other red grape varieties to ripeness, but it’s also a perfect Southern Hemisphere home for the delicate Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gruner Veltliner, as well as some deliciously fresh Chardonnay.
A land of contrasts
Central Otago, with the city of Queenstown at its centre, was first discovered in the 19th century, during the Central Otago gold rush. These days, vines thrive on the mineral-rich soils where gold miners used to dig. It’s a region of extremes, protected from the extreme harshness of the cold, maritime climate by the soaring mountains.
For a relatively small area there’s lots of variation in styles of wine between the main sub-regions, purely due to the differences in climate, terrain and aspect. In a land of towering mountains, deep ravines, ice-cold lakes, and extreme weather conditions, 6 small areas have brought to the world some truly stellar wines.
It’s the coldest, yet the driest, region in the country - short, hot summers, cool autumns and harsh, cold winters, with lots of snow and frost; the lowest recorded temperature was -21 c back in 1995.
The vintage here happens about 6 weeks later than for vineyards in the North Island, due to the colder climate, and the need for a longer growing season. It’s also the reason why the fickle, and high maintenance Pinot noir, whose natural environment is the cold, northern region of Burgundy, thrives so well here, as do other grapes that have traditionally thrived in cold and often mountainous conditions, such as Riesling and the Austrian Gruner Veltliner.
Vines were first planted in the late 19th century, with some experimental vineyard plantings in the 1950s, but it was only from the 1970s onwards, that the region began to expand as a wine producer. In 1996, there were only 11 wineries, and only 92 hectares of land under vine.
Nowadays, many of the traditional cherry and apricot fruit orchards have been uprooted, and vines planted, with a rapid increase to just under 2000 hectares given over to vine growing.The number of wineries has grown in proportion.
The wines from this area will never be cheap – harsh conditions, small production, temperamental grapes – but they have a glorious purity, and depth of style, and a cool aristocracy.
It’s difficult not to refer to scenes from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy when talking about the scenic and breathtaking landscape. For those of you who have watched these films over and over, Arrowtown and its surrounding area, close to Queenstown, was the location for the filming of several scenes, including the Gladden Fields. Drive over the mountain range and up to the peaks and from the top of Mount Cardona intrepid climbers are able to view the spectacular and panoramic vistas that Director Peter Jackson filmed to depict Middle Earth.
Let’s start with one of the best known sub-regions of Central Otago, producing some of the most complex wines, and with a unique story: Bannockburn lies on the south side of the Kawarau River, at the southern end of the Cromwell Basin. This is where the gold miners first found success back in the 1860s, and it’s known as ‘the heart of the desert’, with its glistening soils of loam and silica. One of the glittering gems that has emerged from this old mining area is Carrick, a winery founded by the ebullient and highly-focused Steve Green, and his wife Barbara. Before 1994, the land was covered in wild herbs, flowers and fruit trees; now the winery is one of the most respected in the region.
I met Steve on his last visit to UK, and his passion for what he is creating is infectious. He not only champions his own wines, he’s a worthy ambassador for Central Otago itself. He is understandably proud of the fact that he is crafting world class wines in the world’s most southerly wine producing region. His range of Pinot Noirs is outstanding, and presents a thoroughbred elegance throughout, with finely tuned layers of beguiling flavours.
The popular Carrick Unravelled Pinot Noir is a gorgeous example of approachable, affordable, yet very fine, Pinot; bursting with sumptuous red berry fruit and warm spice velvetiness. But there’s far more to Carrick than just Pinot Noir.
Their stylish Carrick Chardonnay has more than a hint of textured Burgundian style; restrained, yet ample in its complexity. I love their aromatic styles, which range from a lime-streaked, gooseberry- infused Sauvignon Blanc, to the delightful, vibrant, pink grapefruit and honeysuckle-scented Carrick Riesling.
Move on east of Queenstown, and discover Gibbston, which is the highest positioned of Central Otago’s sub-regions, nestled in a tight valley,alongside the spectacular Kawarau gorge. Here the vintage comes later, and the wines are some of the most delicate in Central Otago.
Marlborough-based Yealands make a single vineyard wine from Gibbston, with grapes sourced from the Holtzmans Vineyard situated 320 metres above sea level. Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington says she’s always had a soft spot for the wines from Gibbston, and was over the moon when she could secure a vineyard in the area. The grapes arrive at their Marlborough winery after an 11 hour journey by refrigerated truck; the perfect amount of time for giving them a pre-fermentation ‘cold soak which has the benefit of extracting extra colour and flavour from the grapes.
This juicy, cherry and plum flavoured Pinot was recommended by Sunday Express wine columnist Jamie Goode recently:
"This is such an impressive Gibbston Pinot, showing fresh, meaty, dense, spicy red cherry and berry fruit, with real freshness and a silky texture. It’s just so beautiful, with lots of aromatic interest and real palate presence."
So, if you have the chance to visit, please do so, and you’ll see for yourselves the magical, spectacular, uncompromising beauty of this southern outpost. But if you can’t just yet, pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir, and dream.
By Angela Mount