Twelve wines were opened on the night of the Winter Solstice (22 June) when four of us met to taste and then imbibe with some delicious food specially prepared for the occasion. On the menu was Mushroom Soup, followed by Roast Leg of Lamb in a Red Currant Sauce and then a desert of Roasted Fresh Fruits served with homemade Greek Yoghurt.
I've written a blog entry about the Mushroom Soup and the star wine match, the Morton Estate The Mercure 2004, a Hawkes Bay blend of predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It was delicious with the lamb as well, but it was not the wine of the tasting. That honour goes, surprisingly, to a Marlborough red, the Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2005.
Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2005 is a deep crimson-pinky-red colour, bright and youthful, almost opaque in its core. Bright, savoury, meaty aromas mingle with musk, liquorice and rose petal. There's wild red berries and spicy savoury oak in the creamy and complex medium-weight palate. It's very fresh with vanilla, spice, liquorice, rose petals, beautifully balanced acidity and fine velvety tannins that impart a very pleasing mouthfeel. The bright lifted flavours integrate well with the creamy vanillin oak, there's a touch of bitter chocolate kicking around in the background and dried herbs too. Very nicely done but a little elusive if you are trying to guess what the grape variety is. Bottom line is, you would never guess.
Montepulciano is a grape variety native to the Marche and Abruzzi regions of Italy where it is bottled as Rosso Conero and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It's becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. It seems to do well in most parts of the North Island and obviously, as this wine has proved, in Marlborough as well.
Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2005 is nice to drink on its own but it's a fabulous food wine, mainly because it is a medium bodied rather than an over-the-top full-bodied style.
It was beaut with the Roast Lamb in Red Currant Sauce but the leftovers have shown the versatility of the wine, firstly with Merlot and Cracked Pepper Sausages last night and then Delia Smith's Venison Sausages braised in Red Wine tonight.
According to the tasting notes on the Framingham website, Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2005 is a blend of two base wines from two different sites in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. The machine harvested fruit was gently crushed and destemmed into stainless steel open top fermenters and once fermentation was complete, the wines were drained and pressed from the skins quickly. Malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks then the wine was then matured in a mix of new and seasoned French and American barriques for 18 months. It was blended then fined, filtered and bottled under screwcap. It has 13.5% alcohol by volume and costs about$25 a bottle.
The Roast Lamb in a Red Currant Sauce is an old favourite recipe that was published in an Australian Women's Weekly magazine many years ago. Fortunately, in New Zealand, the legs of lamb are plentiful, nevertheless I popped into the supermarket early to ensure I could get one. I found I had about 20 to choose from and the one that I picked was beautifully lean and tender, weighing just over 1.5 kilos - enough for four, that's for sure.
The leg of lamb is placed in a baking dish and rubbed well with a teaspoon of salt. A basting sauce is made from 60g butter, a 5cm piece of ginger that is peeled and grated, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon of bottled red currant jelly and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free eaters). The ingredients are heated together in a saucepan so the butter and red currant jelly can melt, then the sauce is brushed over the lamb which is placed, uncovered into a moderate oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. The lamb is brushed frequently with the pan drippings - it is essential to do this, otherwise the drippings will turn to toffee in bottom of pan. I found that cooking uncovered for the first hour, then covered for the second hour pan results in more pan drippings accumulating. When the lamb is cooked, remove from the pan and keep warm
Place the baking dish on top of stove over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of flour (or cornflour for gluten free) to the pan drippings*, stir until smooth and well browned.
Now add 1 1/4 cups of water, 1/4 cup of medium to sweet sherry and stir until smooth. Then add 1 tablespoon red currant jelly and salt and pepper, stir until sauce boils, reduce heat, add 2 tablespoons of chopped mint and simmer for a minute longer. Serve sauce in a separate dish.
Accompany with fresh greens - we had baby spinach leaves stir fried with blanched snow peas and round bean beans, a potato, kumara and butternut mash with roasted garlic and honey, and roasted beetroot.
* If there are copious amounts of pan drippings, pour some of them off and put to one side while stirring in the flour, then add remainder of pan drippings with the other liquids.
© Sue Courtney
24 Jun 2007