Tag Archives: Hawke’s Bay

Australia vs New Zealand: The Wine Challenge

Roger and Sue Jones are possibly two of the hardest working, most dedicated people in the wine industry. Not content with just running their Michelin-starred restaurant in Wiltshire, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, they also plan, organise and run a whole host of wine and food events both for the trade and their customers.

These events have included everything from setting up and running their own competition for Australian Wine, the Mamba Awards, to hosting pop-up events at wine trade tastings and even taking over top restaurants in far flung countries. Together they make an impressive team with Roger as head chef and Sue front of house – certainly a power duo, but also two of the nicest people in the trade who are incredibly passionate about all things wine and food.

So it is perhaps not surprising that a couple of years ago they set up another series of events – the Tri-Nations Wine Challenge: a series of dinners pitching the wines of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand against each other. Events have been held in Cape Town and Hawkes Bay as well as at The Harrow (see my blogpost on Aus vs SA here) and I believe they are hoping to take it out to Australia soon too.

Over the last 2 years there have been six rounds with the following results:

Win Draw Lose
South Africa 3 2 1
New Zealand 1 2 0
Australia 0 0 3

Not exactly happy reading for the Aussies.

Earlier this month the seventh round took place at The Harrow with Australia competing against New Zealand for the first time. Could this be the chance for Australia to redeem itself?

The dinner consisted of 6 courses, each matched to a pair of wines – one from Australia and one from New Zealand. All we had to do was decide which wine was our favourite in each flight and vote for it – something that sounds very simple but in some cases turned out to be anything but.

Australia vs New Zealand: The Wine Challenge

Australia vs New Zealand: The Wine Challenge

 

A glass or two of Hambledon’s excellent sparkling rosé kicked the night off in style – an English wine chosen so as not to upset any of the antipodeans present. And then we were off.

First up were two sparkling wines, served alongside ceviche of sea bass and bream with yuzu – a beautifully fresh dish to start. Wine 1 had a really pure, bright acidity to it but flavour-wise was very restrained, shy even. I expect it needs a bit more time in bottle to open up – but will equally age for many years to come. In contrast, wine 2 was much more open in style – quite rich and toasty with a certain hint of sweetness to it. Very different wines but in the end the vote went 26 – 37 to New Zealand.

Wine 1 – Arras Grand Vintage 2008, Tasmania

Wine 2 – No. 1 Family Estate Cuveé Virginie 2009, Marlborough

 

Roger Jones announcing the sparkling wine winner

Roger Jones announcing the sparkling wine winner

 

Course number 2 was a pair of Sauvignon Blancs, matched to citrus cured salmon. Of course everyone expected this to go to New Zealand and to taste a classic Marlborough style in one wine. But on first taste it became clear both wines had seem some oak ageing. And so the competition got a bit more interesting. Wine 3 appeared quite closed on initial pouring but after some vigorous swirling it opened up revealing a nicely textured wine with some mealy notes and a herbaceous core. In contrast the oak character on wine 4 was more apparent with some smoky notes and a softer, richer texture. Again, very different wines and this time Australia took the prize 28-35.

Wine 3 – Seresin Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough

Wine 4 – Larry Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Pemberton

 

Next up was a pair of Chardonnays matched to lobster, scallop and langoustine ravioli with thai basil. And for me this was one of the hardest pairs to pick between: both were truly fantastic wines. Wine 6 perhaps showed a little more oak than wine 5, but both were complex and elegant with beautiful acidity. World class Chardonnay. And so I was more than a little surprised to hear how decisive the results were: 50-12 to New Zealand.

Wine 5 – Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2015, Nelson

Wine 6 – Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2013, Tasmania

 

So that meant the overall score was 2-1 to New Zealand after the whites and half way through the dinner. Time to move onto the reds…

Course 4 featured a pair of Pinot Noirs, served with perhaps one of the best risottos I have ever had the pleasure in tasting – perigord truffle risotto served with Scottish girolles and chicken & cep cream. Happily the Pinots were pretty good too – and similar to the Chardonnays there was not a lot to pick between them. Wine 7 showed a touch riper fruit, whereas wine 8 was a little more savoury – but overall they were both excellent and show just how good new world Pinot Noir is these days. The end result: 44-20 to Australia, taking the overall score to 2-2. With Shiraz and Cabernet to come suddenly the Aussies were detecting the scent of a win in the air.

Wine 7 – Paringa Pinot Noir 2013, Mornington Peninsula

Wine 8 – Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago

 

A pair of Pinot Noirs with the tastiest truffle risotto ever

A pair of Pinot Noirs with the tastiest truffle risotto ever

 

Shiraz was up next, served alongside melt-in-the-mouth fillet of aged Highland x Shorthorn beef. Whereas the last few flights there had been far more similarities than differences between the wines, here we had two that were poles apart. Wine 9 showed lots of fresh dark fruit alongside a real crack of black pepper. Wine 10 was plusher in terms of texture but still had lots of vibrant acidity to it and a lovely complexity. It is perhaps no surprise that Australia took the crown here with their number 1 grape variety, winning 23-41.

Wine 9 – Craggy Range Le Sol 2011, Hawkes Bay

Wine 10 – Yalumba Octavius 2013, Barossa Valley

 

Onto the sixth and final flight: Cabernet Sauvignon served with a welsh rarebit croquette. Here again were two very different wines. Wine 11 being leaner with some bell pepper notes, wine 12 showing a lovely fragrance and lift with a richer texture.  A drum roll and baited breath greeted the results announcement here: would it be an overall win for Australia or an even draw?

24–38 came the results……to Australia! That gave an overall score of Australia 4 : New Zealand 2. Finally, Australia had made it onto the leaderboard.

Wine 11 – Vidal Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013, Hawkes Bay

Wine 12 – Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Margaret River

 

Despite all of the celebrations and then heading up on stage to collect the trophy on behalf of Australia, I have to say it really could have gone either way. Both countries fielded some truly world-class wines and it seems slightly unfair that there should be a winner and a loser. But I guess that is the nature of competition.

Accepting the award for Australia

Accepting the award for Australia

 

For me though what the series really does is far more important than celebrating a winning country. Rather, it injects an (often much-needed) dose of fun into wine tasting and it focuses attention on the wine. Which is no mean feat given the quality of food they were served alongside. This is the sort of occasion any winemaker would be thrilled to have their wine served at: where the wine is the true star of the show and the bit that people remember. Long may it continue.

Emma


A few thoughts on New Zealand

Recently I found myself reading Oz Clarke’s article on Sauvignon Blanc. I found myself disagreeing with it on an epic scale. It also reminded me that I owed you all a blog post relating to my recent trip to the land of gooseberry and passion fruit, New Zealand. So here goes. Spoiler alert: it is NOT about Sauvignon.

In fact, throughout my whole time in New Zealand, I drank Sauvignon Blanc just once. Well, ‘drank’ may be an overstatement, it was more of a case of it being ‘forced down my throat’ by my lovely friend Kat and swiftly gargled with a much nicer drink, Seresin Chardonnay. So I did well then. Yes, NZ produces wines other than SB!

This was actually my first trip to Middle Earth and wine was not the no.1 item on the agenda. That was to follow in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring, do some hiking and indulge my obsession with volcanoes (volcano-spotting, if you will). Of course I can’t help being an MW student and therefore had to visit at least a couple of wine producing regions to learn a bit more about them. And when I wasn’t prancing around vineyards, I was tasting in bottle shops or drinking in wine bars.

What follows are a few observations about the regions and wines. I should stress that I am no expert on New Zealand wine. I don’t often drink NZ wine at home due to my Sauvignon phobia but I know that NZ can offer so much more. Here are 5 observations:

1. NZ Riesling is getting pretty good. Perhaps it’s because the vines are growing up, perhaps it’s better winemaking. In any case, by the end of the trip, Riesling became my restaurant white of choice. My favourite producers were Pegasus Bay and Valli. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Pegasus Bay, it’s simply stunning and not far from Christchurch.

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2. Central Otago needs a rogue. Perhaps they have one and we simply did not encounter him/her. This is a young wine region, granted, but I could not help feel that the wines we tasted were somewhat samey, especially in the case of Pinot Noir. Often picked far too ripe and showing that sweet rhubarb character accompanied by liquorice. No tannin whatsoever. Consumer-friendly to the tee but perhaps not challenging enough for me. This is by no means a bad thing, merely a personal preference (I like tannin!). I just feel like I want to see someone break the mold and do something brave, make a wine on the wild side. The best Pinots I tried were Felton Road 2014 Calvert (more elegant than the opulent Cornish Point) and 2012 Burn Cottage, the latter from a cool vintage and therefore showing savoury, sappy fruit.

3. Syrah is where it’s at. Whether from Hawke’s Bay or Waihiki, Syrah is the variety to get excited about. No news there, I know, but it’s nice to be reminded. I loved the restrained style of Te Mata (the 2014 Bullnose is classy) and the structured intensity of Elephant Hill’s 2013 Airavata. It has tannin! And 30% whole bunch! Yay! And then there is the famed La Collina, a wine that isn’t afraid to show a little funk.

4. There are 7ha of Gamay planted in NZ. 6.7ha of those belong to Te Mata in Hawke’s Bay whilst the rest can be found at Rippon in Wanaka. I happened to try both! Very varietal and fresh, great reds for hot NZ summers. I believe Te Mata Gamay is even available in the UK so check it out.

5. I found a Gewürztraminer that I liked. It is called The Gallery and it is made by Misha’s Vineyard in Central Otago. The 2013 vintage had pared down aromatics, textural mouthfeel and actual acidity! All natural!

And that is it, my friends, short and sweet. Like I said, it was a holiday. We had hobbitses to visit and a ring to dispose of. If you haven’t been to NZ, I would strongly urge you to go. Even if you have no idea what a hobbit is.

Lenka
The Evil Monkey