Site Meter

About Me

My photo
Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Campaign Against Raw Onion

Raw onion does not taste good. Right? Right.

Soooo … why do cooks insist on adding it as a special treat for the punters?
I was at a tasting of very expensive, aged fine wines recently. The canapés were suitably small and perfectly formed, but Chef’s mini salmon blinis came with a sprinkling of raw onion!

Raw onion used to be standard with burgers for some reason. I always intended asking ‘and can you cook the onions, please? Thanks.’ But invariably forgot and ended up picking it out before I could go near my Hawaiian Burger. Now, it’s creeping into haute cuisine. What next – quail eggs, with a culinary foam of uncooked onion and garlic.

Stand up for your rights as you sit at your dining table. Say NO to raw onion.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fab Red from Portugal - Bairrada Messias Reserva 1997

I’m always on the lookout for a new red wine experience – so I do often take gamble and grab one off the supermarket shelves, or act on recommendation from a retailer. In this case it was the latter – Kevin from Artisan Wines in Elliott Street stables. He knows I like full bodied, spicy reds, particularly those from South America – but in this case he suggested Bairrada Messias Reserva 1997. Bairrada is the region and Messias is the wine producer, founded in 1926.

Verdict: This is a soft, ripe and full bodied red with floral and earthy spice characters not unlike a Brunello di Montalcino or even a Bordeaux, and great value at about $NZ24. Nicely aged and just starting to brown at the edges, it still retains a lot of fruit.

My limited (i.e. non-existent) Portuguese language skills lead me to believe it is a ‘Meritage’ type blend of several Portuguese grape varieties.

For info on my New Zealand Wine Tours - see here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Day I Met the Queen

Seems to be the silly season - in that I'm getting invited to lots of fab wine tastings since the onset of spring.

Having written a bit about wine for about 7 years, ergo sum, I seem to have become a wine writer.

This time it was a tasting of the best of Louis Roederer Champagne - from the Rheims region in France. The tasting was hosted by the charming, diminutive and dapper Damien Motte, export manager. Venue and food pairing was by Mollies Hotel - a charming and diminutive B&B in St. Mary's Bay, Auckland.

Damien: Bonjour

Me: Bonjour..... er, ... ca va?

Damien: (enthusiastically in reply - a whole sentence in French of which I understood not un mot)

Me: Gaaaahhhh ... um ..Oui!!

So much for freestyling 5th form French in public.

Yennyhoo - the wines. All pretty fab.

Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier NV (non vintage - ie blend of different vintages and ready for drinking on release) $NZ100.00
A blend of 70% 2005 vintage plus oak-aged Reserve wine. Pinot Meuniere, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Aged 3 1/2 years prior to release. Clean flavoured, appley and crisp with light toast flavours.

Louis Roederer Champagne Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Vintage 2002 $NZ135.00
Only 15 to 20 thousand bottles produced each year. Crisp, clean citrus flavours with creamy yeast lees influence.

Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Vintage 2003 $NZ144.00
Fuller bodied than the Blanc de Blancs - bigger palate weight, with crisp green apple and a tangy yeast finish.

Louis Roederer Champagne Rose Vintage 2002 $NZ135.00
Salmon pink colour, 70% Pinot Noir/30% Chardonnay. Yeasty and full, with a hint of sweet ripeness.

Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne Vintage 2002 $NZ405.00
Aged 5-6 years before release. Rounded, rich with brioche flavours. Only Premier Cru fruit was used.

Historical note: On the request of Czar Alexander II Cristal was created for his exclusive use. To set his personal sparkler apart from that of the average Czar, he demanded that the bottle be clear crystal glass and that it have a flat bottom. Vladimir Illich Lenin unfortunately put the kibosh on forward orders from the Palace with his Bolshevik uprising in the early 20th Century. Happily for Louis Roederer, other fabulously rich people were keen to buy his fab fizz.

I do recall an elderly lady fresh off her cruise ship saying, "I love Champagne! But of course I can only drink Cristal." Something about her her blue/white perfect teeth, immaculate clothes and the huge rock on her finger made me believe her.

Finally ...
Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne Rose Vintage 2000 $NZ885.00
Gorgeous wine - toasty, and rich with toffee and almonds and seamlessly integrated flavours of aged wine.

For info on my Auckland New Zealand Fine Wine & Food Tours see here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nederburg - Surprises from South Africa

I was lucky enough recently to attend a tasting of five of Nederburg's premium export labels. Hosted by Celler Master Razvan Macici and Asia Pacific marketing manager, Anabelle Poggenpoel - we tasted two Sauvignon Blancs two Shiraz, and a Noble Riesling dessert style.

Akin to sending coals to Newcastle, drinking S African Sauv Blanc in NZ does seem a bit odd. However, these were wines grown in cool climate, high altitude conditions. If I was drinking them blind, I could easily mistake them for NZ wines. The Winemaker's Reserve 2008 and Manor House 2007 Sauvignons both exhibited crisp mineral and gooseberry flavours with a lime/lemon citrus tang. More approachable than an over the top 'dissolve your fillings' Marlborough Savvie - and more akin to the Hawkes Bay versions.

The two reds were outstanding - hot climate Shiraz but without the blockbuster alcohol and tannin found in South Australia. The Winemaker's Reserve 2007 Paarl Shiraz was plummy, spicy and softly ripe. The Manor House 2007 had just a bit more class with 18 months oak ageing adding even more softness. Interestingly, neither had the pronounced black pepper character of the Aussie Shiraz.

Finally, the Noble Late Harvest Riesling was another knockout - intense flavous of toffee, honey and apricot with a lively acid balance.

The food (Kermadec - top seafood restaurant) to match was pretty fab, although Chef liked serving 'culinary foam' with everything a la Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. It did look rather chewed and spat out rather than carefully prepared in a fine dining kitchen.

After dinner story: Another interesting thing that I learned from Razvan (an ex-Rumanian) was that previous Rumanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu insisted on having an office built the size of a football field in his mansion. The carpet was hand-woven in one piece, by hundreds of workers on an enormous loom and had to be lowered into the building before the roof was added, as it was too heavy to be moved once the structure was finished.

For info on my New Zealand Wine Tours - see here.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Well, hello

Right now, NZ's vineyards are just starting to show the first tender leaves of what we call 'bud burst' - where leaf buds spring forth from dormant, woody vines and once again start the cycle of growth, which will eventuate in the next crop of grapes for the next vintage (with harvesting starting around March/April 2010 ).

My local wine region - Kumeu, located about 20 mins from Auckland's CBD, grows top quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, albeit in challenging clay loam soils and a maritime climate.

Despite north Auckland growing less than 3% of NZ's grape crop, we transport grapes and juice from other regions and make a lot of wine in west Auckland. West Auckland region is home to some of NZ's major exporters - Nobilo, Oyster Bay, Matua, Babich and many high end boutique wineries such as Cooper's Creek, Kumeu River, Soljans and West Brook.

It is an emerging wine tourism area - with local cafes, restaurants, B&Bs, coastal scenery and rolling green pasture land.