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Wine of the Week for week ending 12 Feb 2006
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Okahu Chambourcin 2003
Northland, New Zealand

Last week I wrote about Bragato and his plea for winegrowers to use phylloxera-resistant rootstock on the Vinifera vines. But there are some vines that are naturally resistant to the vine sapping louse and so donít have to be grafted. Those vines are hybrids.

Just the mere mention of hybrids may make some people shudder, but those people are probably older with a memory of the ghastly hybrid concoctions produced in this country in days long past. We're now in the 21st century and modern winegrowers are using modern hybrids that are made in a clean, modern way. And one of these hydrids is Chambourcin.

I wrote enthusiastically about this grape variety three and a half years ago when I reviewed the Marsden Estate Chambourcin 2000 from Northland. The McIvors, at Marsden Estate, grew this grape because of the enthusiasm of the Okahu Estate winemaker, Michael Benditt. Okahu was growing this variety in their estate vineyard between Kaitaia and Nintey Mile Beach and it was doing extremely well, however they only used the grape for blending.

Three years later, though, with new winemaker Jennifer Bound, Okahu Estate decided to produce a 100% varietal from the estate grown grapes. And the result is just as impressive, if not more so, than the Marsden Estate wine that captured my tastebuds those few years before.

Chambourcin, the grape, seems to be totally suited to the Northland climate. It can withstand the humidity of the region and produce deliciously flavoursome grapes, which, with skill, can be made into outstanding wine.

Okahu Chambourcin 2003 is an opulent looking wine with its inky red black colour rimmed with purple crimson. Itís totally dense but youthfully bright. The gorgeous, lifted aromas are like wild berries in the bush alongside a dusty road on a hot summers day - when I close my eyes it whisks me back to those days so long ago when we used to pick wild blackberries on a country road. The wild berry flavours carry through to the palate with creamy oak and soft juicy tannins and there's a kind of earthy, leathery, wild animal note in there too. A red liquorice flavour comes through on the finish and there's a savoury, herbal character to the aftertaste. It's a big, soft, juicy mouthfilling wine and as it lingers I can taste bitter cherry and chocolate too. A totally interesting wine with layers of flavour, it's like a big, chunky pinot noir and a soft juicy merlot combined.

We matched this to BBQ'd whole mushrooms with the stems removed. The cavities were filled olive oil, a dash of balsamic, herb-infused salt and freshly ground peppercorns. They were cooked top side down until wilting and the juices had infused into the flesh, then they were turned and sizzled on the other side for 30 seconds before serving. The wine and food match was a resounding success.

The next night I made a delicious red pepper sauce and we cooked some Chorizo sausages on the BBQ to match to some other unusual reds. One, which we really liked, was the Danzante Sangiovese Della Marche 2002 from Italy. This is a savoury rustic style of wine with wild berry, plum and fruits of the forest, the natural sweetness of which carried the finish. The sweet red pepper sauce was the ideal match for the Sangiovese but the sausages were too spicy and hot and killed the wine.

"What about the Chambourcin?" said Neil.

"Good thought," said I.

Well, if you want a wine to match to Chorizo, the Okahu Chambourcin 2003 is it. Although soft and juicy, it has enough richness and power to tame the heat without losing anything from the flavour of the sausage or any of the flavour of the wine.

Okahu Chambourcin 2003 carries 14% alcohol by volume, is sealed with a screwcap and has a recommended retail price of $27.95. It spent 12 months in new French and American oak before bottling. To find out where to buy this wine, check out the Okahu website. You may have to put 'Chambourcin' in the search window to find it.

* * * * * * * * *

Chorizo with Red Pepper Sauce

First make the sauce, then cook the Chorizo sausages on the BBQ and serve together. There's something about the heat of the sausage and the sweetness of the char grilled red papers that go very well together.

3 large fresh red capsicum peppers
1 medium sized red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed with a little salt
2 tomatoes, blanched in boiling water and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons white wine, preferably a herbal, capsicum-flavoured sauvignon blanc
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh sweet basil leaves

Char the capsicums over the BBQ flame until the skin is blackened all over without burning the flesh. Let cool, then segment the peppers, saving the juice that has accumulated within. Discard the seeds and peel off the skin, scraping with a knife, if necessary. Dice the flesh.
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then peel off the skin and dice.
Peel and finely slice the onion.
Crush the garlic with a little salt.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.
Add the sliced red onion and the crushed garlic to saute for 1-2 minutes without burning.
Now add the diced red paper and the tomatoes.
When softened add the wine and the reserved capsicum juices.
Let this sweat off then add 1/4 cup cream and a heap of roughly chopped sweet basil.
Stir to combine and reduce over a low heat until the cream has thickened.
Add salt and pepper to taste and if you want spice in the sauce, add a dash of Thai sweet chilli sauce.

© Sue Courtney
5 February 2006

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