The Central Otago winemakers came to town a couple of weeks ago and I was looking forward to a blind tasting of 20 of the region's pinot noirs and later a seminar. But while the brand owners and representatives were there in droves, the wine was not. A pallet of wine had been lost in transit and the wine producers had to call on their distributors, friends and family to have some wine to pour for the early birds, like me. Some even had to go to wine shops to buy a bottle or two to pour. You could say that wine was scarce and a few of the stands, like newcomer Gypsy Dancer, were dry. Replacement stocks had been ordered from Queenstown but the consignment wasn't due to arrive at the venue in Auckland until after 5pm.
I had arrived at the tasting just after 11am and staying in the city for six hours wasn't on my agenda, especially as the blind tasting and seminar were cancelled. So I traipsed around the stands, limiting my tasting to the Pinot Noirs, after all, that is what the Central Otago winemakers like to hang their hat on.
There was an interesting range of styles from light and herbal to rich and intense but one that totally seduced me was the Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2004. This deep plum-red coloured wine, made from a blend of fruit sourced from the company’s vineyards in Bannockburn and Lowburn, was rich and savoury with tamarillo and plum fruit, a gamey savouriness and that important peacocks tail flare of flavours on the bright lifted finish. And it wasn't just the wine that was good. The packaging, with its simplistic art work, was stunning too. "That's a wine that would look good on a restaurant table," I thought.
Last week I was to find out that Wild Earth was not just a one wine wonder when I tasted the Riesling, in a blind tasting format, at the First Glass Wines and Spirits weekly Wednesday tasting. This Wild Earth Riesling quite simply blew me away.
Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2005 is a medium sweet wine with an exotic floral perfume, delicate citrus and rose petal flavours and fantastic acidity to balance the sweetness beautifully. Pure and focussed to start, or 'linear' as James Halliday describes wines like this. "It has line," he would most likely say. Yes, it has exquisite line and length but as the wine travels across the palate, lemon, lime, bee pollen and orange emerge and linger powerfully on the naturally fruity finish. The residual sugar clocks in at 27 grams per litre and that gorgeous acidity measures 9 grams per litre on the total acidity scale. It's simply a must for Riesling fanatics that like these sweeter, high acid styles.
The fruit for this wine comes from the renowned Felton Road in Central Otago, which I definitely consider the premium area for Riesling in Central Otago. Think of the other stars that come from here like Mount Difficulty's Target Gully and Felton Road's three beauties - the Block One, the medium and the dry. Wild Earth's vineyard is further west along the road than these two other renowned producers and the 2-hectare vineyard is positioned on a terrace.
Wild Earth's 2005 vintage, like others in the region, was small and every vine yielded less than a kilogram of fruit. However the tiny berries had wonderfully concentrated flavours, that have transformed into the wine.
The wine carries 11% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a screwcap.
Find out more from the Wild Earth Wines website.
What to match to the wine? Wild Earth recommends Asian inspired meals and so I popped down to the supermarket to get the ingredients to cook up some chicken in a lime and lemongrass sauce, to match to the bottle I had now acquired. But when I was in the supermarket I also bought some smoked salmon. Now smoked salmon and Riesling has never been one of my favourite wine matches as I much prefer the richness of this oily seafood with a glass of bubbles or a powerful chardonnay. But I've think I've found the secret to making smoked salmon and Riesling work. The trick is to add acidity to the food to match the acidity of the wine. And by doing so, the following smoked salmon and pear mixture became a delicious match to the Wild Earth Riesling 2005.
Here's how. Take some packaged smoked salmon pieces - you could use slices but the salmon is going to be chopped and the pieces are cheaper. Chop roughly. Peel a fresh pear, slice and roughly chop -- you want about a similar amount or just a little less of the pear that you have salmon - I had about half a cup of each. For this amount add two tablespoons of spreadable cream cheese, a sprinkling of ground coriander, the juice of half a fresh lemon and just enough dill fern to add colour but not overpower the flavour. Use as a dip or serve on a mini-toasts.
© Sue Courtney
12 March 2006