"I need a wine for dinner," is my usual cue for Neil to rummage in the tasting box and find something that fits the brief. The dinner, at the end of the long Queen's Birthday Weekend, was herb and garlic roasted chicken. It was something that could be thrown in the oven together with the vegetables and left to cook until the buzzer went off. It didn't need any special care.
I thought, perhaps that Sauvignon Blanc would possibly be the best fit for the herb and garlic flavours, but my mood wasn't in the Sauvignon Blanc camp. It was a Chardonnay that best fitted my disposition and although I didn't know it at the time, the wine poured for the initial tasting and assessment, was Pegasus Bay Waipara Chardonnay 2006.
In the glass it is bright lemon gold with a hint of oiliness to the lustre. Passionfruit, citrus, creamed nuts and smoky oak tease the nose. A bright citrussy initial onslaught in the mouth parts and gives way to nutty, mealy influences and toasty, spicy French oak. In the fruit department there is citrus, tropical fruit, loquats and a deep peachy undercurrent that interacts with the wheat/malty backbone and even a touch of earthy clay. Funkiness from the wine's natural fermentation comes into play too. Richly endowed and sophisticated with gorgeous fruit sweetness balanced by the dominant zesty mandarin and tangelo-like citrus, it is rich, mouthfilling and long. Although still very youthful this well-worked wine has all the signs that it is going to blossom in the bottle with age.
However, this wine, for all its glorious flavours, did not want to be a food partner.
It turned its nose up at the herb and garlic roast chicken although it winked and nodded at the butter-lashed roasted potatoes.
The next night I thought about the dominant flavours and tried to bring those out in the food. It was pan-fried sole served with an almond, white wine and freshly squeezed orange juice sauce. The food was delicious but again the wine said 'No.'
The need to find a food match won out over the temptation to finish the wine. I racked my brains. I looked at the online edition of the Pegasus Bay restaurant menu (currently the autumn 2008 menu) to find Tuscan Vegetable Soup; Black truffle and tallegio frittata; Pork belly with speck and creamed corn and Marlborough king salmon were the chardonnay-matched dishes.
But I had another idea. I thought I would try some 'old fashioned' cocktail food to see if that worked. So after stopping at the fishmonger on the way home, I had mushrooms wrapped in bacon and scallops wrapped in bacon to try. Now, while the mushroom wrapped in bacon might match to Pinot Noir - and I'll give that a try some time - it was the scallops wrapped in bacon that did the trick. At last a food match - and even better when the bacon is unwrapped from the scallop and the components eaten separately. The bacon juices infuse the scallop and being cooked firstly in the oven for 10 minutes then crisped up under the grill, the scallops remain plum and juicy.
And lastly, we matched the wine to cheese. It went very well with the Hohepa Farms Cumin Danbo from Hawkes Bay. This is a rich, creamy and fairly tasty cheese and worked a treat. But unfortunately, with that last taste, the bottle was emptied.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Chardonnay 2006 has 14.5% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap. The back label says it is made from Mendoza clone grapes and fermented by 'wild yeasts' in 500 litre artisan Burgundian puncheons. It is aged 'sur lie' in these barrels for one year and then in tank on fine lees for another 3 months. A wild malolactic fermentation starts in spring and is stopped to retain good natural acidity.
Expect to pay about NZ$34.95 in retail - much more in restaurants of course. Find out more from the Pegasus Bay website.
I should also mention here the Pegasus Bay Virtuoso Chardonnay 2005 - a magnificent expression of chardonnay that I tasted late last year. It is deep golden coloured with a powerful wheaty aroma and even more powerful flavours. It tastes rich, creamy, meaty, buttery, creamy, spicy and savoury with concentrated peach-like fruit, a modicum of citrus, cedar and loads and loads of sweet mealiness, even though the wine is dry. This wine totally has it all. Just one sip - and the flavour lasts and lasts and lasts in the mouth. It has 14% alcohol by volume and a screwcap closure and costs about $NZ48.95.
© Sue Courtney
9 Jun 2008