It is a rare week when you get to taste over 100 gold medal wines but that is what I was privileged to taste this week just past. The Air New Zealand Wine Awards were announced and a tasting of the gold medal winners was a highlight. There were 97 gold medals awarded in the Show, a record number from a record entry of 1550. The gold medal tasting was followed by one called 'Simply Delicious' when even more stunning wines were tried, including gold medal winners from other shows.
But my Wine of the Week is not one of these gilded beauties, but another very special, very exquisite wine.
It is the Felton Road Block One Riesling 2005 from Central Otago, one of several low alcohol Rieslings that I also tried during the week in the name of research. And this wine - plus several more - seduced me more than any of the gold medal winners. This was because I could sit back and relax and actually drink the wines, rather than swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting then moving onto the next one. And drink you can - because there are less standard drinks in a bottle, which means you can drink more.
Low alcohol Rieslings may be low in alcohol but the best are intense in flavour and although sweet - because not all the grape sugars have been fermented to alcohol - they are beautifully balanced by searingly high acidity, which makes these wines simply gorgeous.
Felton Road Block One Riesling 2005 is one of the best. It is floral - think honeysuckle, citrus blossoms and ginger flowers - and just a little earthy smelling - like the pith of lemon, with a lightly viscous, slightly oily texture, bright upfront acidity in the form of limes and green apples and a long, fresh, crisp, spice-infused finish. As the wine warms up - because this is one wine you can drink and enjoy straight from the coldest fridge - peach and nectarine flavours join the racy citrus and the texture becomes more nectar-like. This is a wine with power and concentration and although low in alcohol, it is definitely heady.
A low pH wine with 8.5% alcohol by volume (5 standard drinks in a 750ml bottle), 67 grams per litre of residual sugar and 10.4 grams per litre of acidity, winemaker Blair Walter has achieved perfect balance. The bottle is sealed with a screwcap and the wine will be very long-lived if you are patient enough to wait because it is so delicious and refreshing now.
Felton Road Block One Riesling 2005 is likely to be a rare treat as it is always in limited supply. However you may find the wine - if you are lucky - in the best fine wine stores. It costs $36 a bottle at normal shop retail at the Felton Road Winery in Felton Road in the old gold-mining town of Bannockburn in Central Otago.
Find out more from the Felton Road website.
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What do you eat with these gorgeous low alcohol wines like the Felton Road Block One Riesling 2005 and its generally more available - though still limited - stablemate, the Felton Road Riesling 2005 ($29, 9% alcohol, 10.7g/l acidity)? Well, I know what I ate and that was pork that was slowly braised in a spiced wine and citrus reduction. Mmmmmm!
You need a cut of pork that will take slow cooking, such as strips cut from the belly with skin and excess fat removed. To make the reduction take 1 tablespoon soya sauce, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 whole star of anise, 1 cup of chicken stock,1 cup of light to medium-bodied chardonnay and the juice and zest of a tangelo or orange. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half. Place the pork in a glass casserole dish, pour over the reduction, cover and cook until the meat is falling apart. Serve with kumara and potatoes that have been peeled and cut into chunks and added to the meat partway through cooking. Mash the potatoes with the juices and accompany with green beans.
I've made this recipe twice to ascertain the correctness of the quantities and the second time I had some one piece of kumara left over and it went into the fridge.
The next day, during one of several foraging trips, I decided to eat it. It was cold but the cooking juices had infused into the vegetable and it was delicious. So I thought a kumara salad would be an interesting match to the wine, as well as making a vegetarian option for non-meat eaters - in which case substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. You simply make the spiced wine and citrus reduction the same way, but only cook the kumara in the liquid. I used three types of kumara - the traditional purple skinned and two newer orange-fleshed 'sweet potato' versions. When cooked, remove from the liquid and place in another dish to cool and refrigerate until about half an hour before serving. Dress the kumaras with a light dressing made from sunflower oil and tangelo juice, and put into a bowl lined with lettuce leaves. Top with freshly chopped coriander leaves and chives - or if it is this time of year, garlic tops make a spicy, vibrant addition.
Reserve any leftover liquid - you can use it to cook tomorrow night's spuds in.
© Sue Courtney
13 November 2005