Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Subtle Forces

After all the years and all the bottles, it never ceases to amaze me how subtle forces play on your perception and appreciation of wines, even those you have tasted many times. Dinner with Grunter and the Wandering winemaker was particularly mellow, as the other halves were a delight and fun. It made for a softly, sweet and easy evening. And the wines seemed that way too.

Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough Lot 602 is a bit of a mini Bollinger as far as I'm concerned. SWMBO has ensured a supply for all occasions. Tonight the dosage appeared much higher and the yeasty autolysis far more subdued. Delicios nevertheless, but more a Louis Roederer of old! And the under-the-radar 2009 Te Mata 'Zara' Viognier. In a world where explosive, high octane examples rule, 'Zara' tends to get left in the wake. And unfairly so. Over a lovely dinner it shone with its more delicate richness, lovely oily texture and hidden power that emerged in the glass. We would not have drunk so much of a show-stopper for sure, and we made it the wine of the night. And then a 2006 Hyperion Cabernet Sauvignon from Romania! First whiff - full of brett. Danger signal. But strangely it came and went, sort of like the topics of conversation. A touch dried out. But then great with cheese. The ripeness was good, the oak a little rustic, but it was 'fine' to drink.

To be aware of these subtle forces is important. We can see their effect, but also it is great to go with the flow. It makes life easy and enjoyable if you do.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not a Dead Cert

It's been a while since the last post, as work has been demanding. Part of it was a visit to Grunter's region to keep things humming, and I wasn't sure if we could stay. Nothing's a dead cert, since you can't impose, even on the best friends.

To make it sweeter, I brought along a 1983 Vieux Chateau Certan from Pomerol. Expecting the worst, but out came the cork in fine fashion. Long too. And only one-third soaked, and still firm. Dark hearted red with mahogany-tawny edges. A little autumnal on nose,and a bit resiny. Purists would see a little brett? But on palate sweet and vigorous. Good acidity. Loads of Merlot fruit cake and Cabernet berries. Complex, and still with time to go - another decade.

I wondered if it was going to be a goodie. The 1982 was even sweeter and lush. My fears were that it was a dead cert to be on its last legs or spoiled by the dreaded 'B'. No way. It was a restorative to believing and being positive.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Seafood Extravaganza

We were off over the hill to meet up with our gourmet friends for a celebration of seafood. One keen kitchen confidential with our hosts doing the service matters allowed 10 guests, of which SWMBO and I to sit down and enjoy the creativity. The menu was provided in advance and all of the attendees brought along wines that might match the seven courses served up. When the food was dished out, we made our choices from the pooled wines. Some worked, some didn’t. But that’s the usual case when the wines are not tasted while the food was designed and prepared…

The Trio of oysters was delicious. Bluff oysters, of course, done natural, Rockefeller and as a shot. Unfortunately, most of us had finished our Champers beforehand. The NV Veuve Clicquot ‘Yellow Label’ medium weight with soft Pinot Noir fruit and moderate yeasty autolysis. A fresh landing, no doubt. And the NV Lanson ‘Black Label’, much weightier and more autolysis and aldehydic. Most preferred the former, but I went the latter.

Seared tuna rolled in Dijon mustard and herbs with lemon mayo and micro salad. A wow dish, with fantastic textures and rich surroundings. A 2006 La Viarte Colli Orientalide Friuli Pinot Grigo looked as if it was going to be too old or underwhelming, but it worked a treat, becoming sweeter, and enhancing the juiciness of the tuna. The big surprise was the 1998 Saints Hawke’s Bay Pinotage, beautifully smooth, cedary-spicy and light enough to match the tuna, and stand up to the mustard. The 2008 Hawkshead Bannockburn Pinot Noir was bold and too fruity for the fish, but a delight in its own right, in fact most excellent and very Bannockburn.

Saltiness was the problem in the Salt and pepper squid served with anchovy aioli for the wines to match. Both the wines were fully mature and without the ‘cut’ for the squid, and the saltiness was too much for the wines fragility. The 2007 Koura Bay ‘Sharkstooth’ Pinot Gris quite pear-like and rounded, the 2003 Pond Paddock Te Muna Chardonnay getting a little vegetal, but still intact on palate, though rather delicate.

My pick of the courses was the Crayfish ravioli, served in a bisque sauce. Sweet and fresh textured flesh with intense reduction. The Hidalgo ‘La Gitana’ Manzanilla Sherry meeting the bisque head on and powering through, but in the end the flavour was a little too light. A good amontillado would be even better. Unfortunately the 1998 Schlumberger Alsace Pinot Gris ‘Les Princes Abbes’ was too flabby and mature, the golden colour and apricotty flavours indicating botrytis?

Crispy skin John Dory fish, sautéed, on fennel and salsa verde. Mine just slightly undercooked, and it continued to progress to perfection. Subtle and sweet, with the herby influence. With three wines, there should have been a stunning match, but no. On their own, the wines were great. A 2008 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett was gentle, crisp and faintly exotic in its sweetness, but too sweet for the fish. A 2004 Tyrrell’s ‘Belford’ Hunter Valley Semillon, only 11.0% alc, but lovely herb and waxy textured, and great finesse and depth. But rather austere for the dish. And the blockbuster, seriously concentrated, mealy, nutty, toasty and citrusy 2007 Villa Maria ‘SV – Keltern’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. Just too powerful and oaky for the John Dory.

Duo of dessert time! A Lemon and thyme brulee, beautifully combining both citrus and aromatic herb, plus a Valrhona 70% cocoa chocolate mousse. A seldom seen 1999 Cofield Rutherglen Late Harvest Muscadelle at 9.2% alc did the job perfectly with the brulee. Stylish Muscadelle, rather than brash Muscat being the key to the match. A 2006 Kilroy was here! McLaren Vale Sparkling Shiraz had the right flavours for the chocolate, but was too dry. A lovely example of modern, balanced, non-excessive bubbly Shiraz, however.

We were getting close to being finished off, and the Cheese course did the job. A wonderful triple cream brie, and a Kapati Kikorangi blue, set beside a stunningly rich, spicy, integrating 1998 Rosemount ‘Balmoral’ McLaren Vale Syrah, misnamed, as it was definitely Shiraz. This was strong enough to wade through the creamy layers of the brie and stand tall with the flavour peak of the blue. Also a success was the Lauriston Show Liqueur Muscat, but this headed off to its own world of raisiny decadence. Perfect blend of fresh and old material, more on palate than on nose, just increasing in richness and intensity with every sip.

An amazing night of a range of seafood, and a great deal of fun trying to match the course with the range of wines. Must do it again!