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edited by Sue Courtney
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Wine of the Week for week ending 19 November 2006
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Karikari Estate Pinotage 2003
Northland, New Zealand

About three weeks ago, one of the highlights at a First Glass Wines and Spirits Wednesday tasting was the Coto de Hayas Reserva Grenache 2002 from the Campo de Borja region of Spain. It was a rich powerful wine and though it looked like a young, dense pinot noir, it smelt and tasted totally different to pinot noir and every other full-bodied style of red that my palate was used to. This of course added to its charm and intrigue. With intense chocolatey aromas underpinned by juicy succulent blueberry fruit and sweet jammy flavours supported by loads of bitter chocolate with juicy berries, hints of thyme, a gamey undercurrent, meaty tannins and a creamy finish with a lingering savoury earthiness, I though the wine was seductive, sexy and seriously good. I also imagined it could be a seriously good accompaniment to a seared backstrap of venison coated in thyme and served with a chocolate berry sauce. So when I could get some venison fillets from my butcher, I tried the combination. But my imagination had run away with me. There was too much like and like in the wine and food. I had to declare the wine and food combination a failure.

What the food needed was a wine with edge, a wine that would provide contrast to the gamey meat and the chocolate-infused sauce. Fortunately everything was not lost. This was because this dish had taken some forethought (i.e. ordering venison fillets which I had to wait two weeks to get) so I had a couple of other wines on the table to try the food with as well.

One was the Zilzie Sangiovese 2004 from north west Victoria in Australia, but on tasting I found the wine was actually sweet. I thought it may have been made in an Amarone style but there was no mention of this on the label.

The other was Karikari Estate Pinotage 2003 from Northland, New Zealand. As well as being rich, full-boded and savoury to the taste, it ended up being an amazing match to the food. Thus it becomes my Wine of the Week.

I had tasted Karikari Estate Pinotage 2003 not long after its release, more than two years ago. "Excellent colour, a full, dense, deep red," I wrote. "There's an earthy leathery note and pinotage rusticity amongst the plum and cherry fruit flavours with firm velvety tannins and lightly savoury oak. With a dry clean finish and good length, put it with the right food and it will work a treat this summer."

I liked it a lot on that tasting but it was young and I thought it needed food to show its best potential. Well, with two more years maturing in the bottle, this wine had evolved into a deliciously complex mouthful. What's more, it tastes mighty fine without any food at all, but the savoury, gamey, herb-infused meat and the bitter/sweet sauce added an extra dimension. And it wasn't only the meat and sauce that this wine excelled with - my vegetable side, which was an assortment of sauteed cubes of potatoes and kumara with onion, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary, was a resounding success as well.

Karikari Estate Pinotage 2003 is still a youthful colour with purple hues emanating from its crimson red depth. It smells smoky, savoury and gamey but in the palate the rich, ripe berry fruit declares its presence. The fruit reminds me a little of the cassis of cabernet, together with blueberry and damson plum, with luscious vanillin oak and a savoury, gamey undercurrent with a hint of graphite and earth. The tannins are plush and the acidity is beautifully in balance to give this wine the edge that the other two so desperately needed.

Karikari Estate Pinotage 2003 was produced from first crop fruit grown at NZ's most northern winery location. Winemaker Ben Dugdale crafted the wine, which carries 13.7% alcohol by volume. The bottle is closed with a screwcap and the cost - if you can find it - is around $29.50.

Dial up the Karikari Estate Vineyard website to find out more about this company's wines. They have sold out of course, but it's definitely worth the hunt to match to experience this delicious wine and food match. Here's the recipe.

Venison fillet rolled in thyme and accompanied with sauteed vegetables
The venison was prepared and cooked rather simply. The fillet was removed of all sinew, seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in olive oil and a handful of fresh thyme - a combination of three different varieties that we have growing in our garden. There was my favourite lemon thyme, a new one with big leaves called pizza thyme, and a traditional old fashioned thyme.
Two potatoes and a kumara were prepared by peeling and microwaving whole for three or four minutes. They were then cubed and cooked in oil together with coarsely chopped spring onions, crushed garlic, half a dozen chopped mushroom and dried rosemary from a sprig I had picked about a month before.
In another pan the venison was seared in hot oil and cooked for several minutes, turning frequently for even cooking on all sides.
The cooked venison was put to one side and left to rest while the sauce was made. This was simply combining three tablespoons of cranberry jelly and three quarters of a cup of red wine (I used some of the Pinotage), which was brought to the boil and cooked till reduced to about half a cup. Juices from the resting venison were added to the sauce, which was then removed from heat. Finally a teaspoon of bitter (dark) cooking chocolate was stirred in and at the same time imparted a shiny gloss.
Grean beans finished off the dish when plated.

© Sue Courtney
12 November 2006


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