edited by Sue Courtney
Celebrating a Feast of Pinot at Pinot
Ask anyone the red wine variety that New Zealand does best and there should be no hesitation in answering 'Pinot Noir'. It's our most planted red grape variety and, with the plantings currently in the ground, is expected to provide over half the red grape harvest by 2005.
With growing accolades from around the world there isn't any doubt that Pinot Noir is our greatest red wine asset. It's something that the Pinot Noir winemakers of New Zealand are proud to celebrate.Pinot Noir 2004 is that celebration. It takes place at the end of January 2004 when part of downtown Wellington will be transformed into a Pinot Noir party. More than 100 of the country's Pinot Noir producers and their adoring fans will gather to drink, talk, eat and sleep their favourite grape.
Following the format of the successful inaugural event, Pinot Noir 2001, there'll be partying at the Pinot Noir Street Party and formal dining at the Gala Dinner. There'll be consumer-oriented seminars to explore the diversity of New Zealand Pinot Noir and field trips to Pinot Noir vineyards. There'll be informal tastings of the participating producer's wines at the 'Tasting Centre' at Queens Wharf. And last but not least there'll be two formal tasting sessions.
The first of the formal tastings will be a regional insight into New Zealand Pinot Noir with a dozen wines from eight regions discussed by experts from New Zealand and offshore. The second will be the international tasting where three prestigious New Zealand Pinot Noirs go head to head with some of the world's best.
What better-named venue could one to announce the formal tasting regional selections for Pinot Noir 2004 than 'Pinot' in Auckland. This outstanding venue, that was formerly known as 'Clifford house', was where the wines that had been selected by the regions themselves were unveiled. And I was there to taste ten of them, to taste them with food to see just how versatile the selections were.
It was a winemaker's lunch with a difference. A lunch you had to work at to find the intricacies of the matches. Ruth Pretty, the Pinot Noir 2004 Culinary Director, hopes that we will be impressed.
"Don't make your minds up about the foods until you try them" she said and indeed the different flavours made you think about the wine. That's one of the great things about food and wine matching, you don't know what goes with what until you try it.
A selection of food designed to to match Pinot Noir. Photo by Sue Courtney
The wines and food were presented in two flights.
Kumeu River Pinot Noir 2002 - Auckland
Palliser Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002 - Martinborough
Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001 - Nelson
Foxes Island Pinot Noir 2001 - Marlborough
Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 - Central Otago
With this flight of wines the food selections were
Roasted Japanese Eggplant - a small round of roasted eggplant with a coriander infused topping. I'm not a fan of eggplant but the herb topping rescued it. Good with the herbaceous notes of the Peregrine and exceptional with the Greenhough.
Mushroom Tart with Sesame - a light puffy pastry case topped with a juicy whole mushroom with a sesame paste smeared on top. Yummy on its own, not surprisingly it matched to all the wines.
Tuna in Soy and Mirin - a cube of raw tuna that had been marinated for at least 12 hours in soy sauce and Japanese 'mirin' wine. At the venue, which was rather subdued in lighting, it looked like a cube of Turkish Delight but that was where the similarity ended. The fish had a strong salty soy flavour that brought out an earthy aspect to the Palliser. I thought it terrific with the Foxes Island but it definitely clashed with the Kumeu River.
Vidal Reserve Pinot Noir 2002 - Hawkes Bay
Alana Pinot Noir 2001 - Martinborough
Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 2001 - Waipara, Canterbury
Lynskeys Wairau Peaks Pinot Noir 2001 - Marlborough
Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2001 - Central Otago
With this flight of wines the food selections were
Duck with Szechwan and Grilled Pumpkin - the pumpkin was crisp to the bite and there was too much of it but duck is one of the foods that seems to match to Pinot Noir no matter what. Sliced roasted breast of duck on top of shredded duck that had been marinated or cooked in a Szechwan sauce made for one of the highlights of the matching experience, so long as most of the pumpkin was left on the plate.
Smoked Lamb and Parsley Wonton with Dashi Mayo - The smokiness of the lamb was like bacon in some respects. A little difficult in its presentation to try with all the wines but lamb lovers would be pleased with the overall match.
Vine Ash Brie with Raisin Bread - Made in Gisborne by Carol Thorpe at Waimata Cheeses and served with raisin bread done Melba Toast style and muscatels. The texture of the creamy cheese was melt in the mouth with the wine and the muscatels added richness.
This was a fantastic exercise, the incredible range of flavours of the different foods providing an extensive taste experience with the same variety of wine and showing that when matching wine and food, individual flavours come into the equation. Where some of the matches worked well with some of the wines, they didn't really work too well with the others. It could be due to the acidity of the wine, the herbal character of the wine, the earthiness of the wine, the leatheriness of the wine or the idiosyncrasies of the taster's palate. What worked for some didn't work for others.
It was no surprise to me that the classic matches worked well for all the tasters - the mushroom in the first flight and the duck in the second flight matching to all the wines they were served with. It also proved that sometimes the simplest things are the best. By this I mean the creamy Brie served with muscatels and bread. It is simple to prepare, easy to present in an attractive fashion and with its texture makes a delicious combination with all the wines.
Whatever, I happy to keep on experimenting. Just keep pouring those Pinots.
Nine of the above ten wines will be presented in the formal tasting of wines from New Zealand Pinot Noir regions. Replace the Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2002 with the Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2001 and add
Three wines have been chosen for the formal tasting of international Pinot Noir wines, a session that will be chaired by the eloquent and knowledgable Jasper Morris MW, from the UK. They are
Found out more about Pinot Noir 2004 from the official website - www.pinotnoir2004.co.nz. This has a full overview of the 4-day program as well as brief profiles of the international speakers and guests, the international guest winemakers and the participating New Zealand producers.
As Richard Riddiford chairman of the celebration says, "It will be the ultimate tasting event for those who have developed a passion for this varietal".
Now available - The Pinot Noir 2004 International Tasting.
Recap the previous celebration, Pinot Noir 2001, at these links.
Find out about Jasper Morris at this link
Find out about New Zealand Pinot Noir at this link
"People who are passionate about pinot noir are passionate about other fine things in life." Ruth Pretty
© Sue Courtney. 20 November 2003