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Wine of the Week for week ending 12 November 2006
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Craggy Range C3 Chardonnay 2006
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Mount Michael Bessie's Block Chardonnay 2005
Central Otago, New Zealand

If a food and wine match was made for Aprhrodite, it would have to be freshly caught crayfish tail, lightly poached in stock then finished on the barbecue for serving with a dollop of tangy salsa verde and accompanied with the new Craggy Range C3 Chardonnay 2006. The chardonnay was pretty stunning on its own but when I tasted this combo, it sent shivers of deliciousness up my spine. It was only Tuesday but I was pretty confident that I had found this week's 'Wine of the Week' without a doubt. I submerged myself in the taste sensation and went back for seconds - thirds - and possibly fourths. Nothing would be able to outshine this combination, I thought.

But on Thursday crayfish and chardonnay would seduce me again. This time it was a delicious crayfish bisque accompanied with Mount Michael Bessie's Block Chardonnay 2005 from Central Otago. I loved this chardonnay when I tasted it without food but once again shivers of deliciousness aroused the senses as the sweetness of the crayfish in the salty tangy bisque brought out the savoury richness of the wine.

I had a dilemma. What to make the Wine of the Week? The only compromise was to make both wines 'Wines of the Week' and to extol the virtues of matching chardonnay to crayfish as one of the most delectable wine and food matches ever created. So here they are.

Craggy Range C3 Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay 2006, from the company's vineyard at Te Awanga on the coast in Hawkes Bay, is light golden coloured with a clear, bright, adamantine lustre. Lightly honeyed mellow oak and apricot kernel scents carry through to the palate where the richness of stonefruit and tropical fruit emerge. The palate has excellent weight and length with hints of citrus and apple on the dry finish and a creaminess to the lingering aftertaste. Modelled as a serious Chablis style and marketed as "Chardonnay for serious Sauvignon Blanc lovers", it's a fruity wine with no herbaceousness at all, as one would expect from sauvignon blanc (thank goodness). And while "Chardonnay for serious Sauvignon Blanc lovers" could be off-putting for serious Chardonnay drinkers, it has enough oak for oak lovers yet the oak is subtle enough for the wine to be very appealing to drinkers who like a little less oak.

The 'C3' in the name comes from the fact the wine is made from three clones of chardonnay, being clone 95 (70%), clone 96 (20%) and clone 15 (10%). Hand harvested fruit was whole bunch pressed and transferred to the oak fermentation vessels where wild ferment took place. Half of the oak was French barriques (17% new) and the other half was large oak Cuves where the wine matured for 6 months before bottling. Bone dry in sweetness, alcohol clocks in at 13.8% and the bottle is sealed with a screwcap. The winemaker is Rod Easthope and the wine has a recommended retail price of $24.95.
On the Web

Mount Michael Bessie's Block Chardonnay 2005 comes from the Mount Michael Vineyard in Cromwell, where Clone 6 chardonnay grapes grow on a terrace overlooking the town. The wine is medium gold in colour, bright and gemmy in appearance and smells like a rich, luscious style with its creamy lees and barrel ferment aromas. The smooth textured, soft palate is crammed with spicy cedary oak and grilled stonefruit with a savoury, mealy undercurrent and a hint of citrus as it lingers. It's totally fulfilling and rather moreish with a honeyed mealy oak richness and a mouthfilling spicy aftertaste. A beautifully made wine that has been barrel fermented in new and one to three year old oak with partial malolactic fermentation, it carries 14% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap. The wine was made at the Vinpro facility by winemaker Andrew Brown with input from Allan Scott and chardonnay king, John Hancock. Recommended retail price is $24. Delicious on its own if you like the full-bodied style, but when matched to the crayfish bisque, all I can say is 'Wow' and 'Yum'.
On the Web

Steve Vanderput, chef at Café Kohi, 237 Tamaki Drive, Kohimarama, Auckland, crafted the crayfish bisque to match the Mount Michael Bessie's Block Chardonnay 2005.

Mark Wiley, head chef at Soul Bar and Bistro at Viaduct Harbour, Auckland City, crafted the salsa verde, which was what set the barbecued crayfish tail and the Craggy Range C3 Chardonnay 2006 off so beautifully.

Soul's Salsa Verde
Soul's salsa verde looks like a leafy green herb dish swimming in olive oil but there are more than just herbs that contribute to this tasty treat. Greek style marinated vegetables, capers, celery, green capsicum, anchovies, garlic and olive oil are blended together with basil and curly parsley, then crustless ciabatta bread is added as a binding agent. This looks like a complicated dish when you see it on paper, but if you can make it like Mark Wiley and his chefs do at Soul, then it is absolutely worth the effort. You can taste it at Soul if you order the Mixed Grill of Seafood from their a la carte menu, where it accompanies green lipped mussels. But according to Mark there is the possibility of offering 'crayfish tail with salsa verde' as a 'special' while the crayfish that is currently available is so tasty. Trust me, you will swoon at the deliciousness of this dish, even more so if you pair it with Craggy Range's C3 Chardonnay.

Why not try it at home. The recipe is available on the NewstalkZB website, courtesy of Judith Tabron, owner of Soul Bar and Bistro. Click here for the details.

I've changed the quantities to make it more suitable for home use as well as using chef Mark Wiley's recommendation of adding the bread last.

Soul's Salsa Verde recipe
1/2 cup curly parsley, roughly chopped and tightly packed
1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped and tightly packed
40g of Greek style pickled vegetables
20g capers
Approx 70 g celery stalks, peeled and chopped
1/3rd of a whole green capsicum, seeds removed then flesh roughly chopped
25g anchovies
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped white bread (preferably ciabatta) with crusts removed
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Place the parsley and basil into a food processor and blend, slowly adding the remainder of the ingredients except the bread and the oil. Slowly add the oil, as you would when making mayonnaise, blending until the sauce becomes the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Lastly stir in the crustless bread. Makes about a cup.

Serve over barbecued crayfish tail and accompany with chardonnay, preferably one of the above, for a sensational and aphrodisiacal taste treat.

© Sue Courtney
5 November 2006

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