Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

19 July 2012

SOUL BAR WINE O'CLOCK

Last night I attended the chardonnay session of the Soul Bar Wine O'Clock. For $35 we had Prosecco to start (Contarini Prosecco Treviso DOC) which was delicously dry and a great way to warm up in the bar before moving to a sensationally good tutored tasting of four chardonnays from around the world by an awesome assemblage of blokes in the know. Not only was it fun, but it was astonishingly good value.

Paul Tudor MW who consults to Soul ran the evening in conjunction with bar manager, Mark Holland. The effervescent Jean Christophe Poirat from Maison Vauron spoke too, as did Misha Taylor of Procure Liquor.

We tasted four chardonnays: Leeuwin Estate Prelude Margaret River 2010 (Western Australia) Louis Michel Chablis 2010 Chablis, France Elephant Hill Chardonnay 2010, (Te Awanga Hawkes Bay) Bouchard Finlayson Heaven and Earth Valley 2009 (Walker Bay, South Africa)

Accompanied by loads of chatter and some very fine finger food from Soul's Kitchen, this was a superb way to spend a couple of hours. All the wines were lovely in their own way.

The Leeuwin was quite elegant, the French chablis fresh, clean and crisp (I'm going to go and get the Grand Cru from the same producer for the husband's birthday but don't tell him), the Hawkes Bay wine appealed to all those who have a 'kiwi' palate and the South African number was big; full of buterscotch and strong buttery flavours.

How different they all were and what a great idea to do a line-up like that so we could compare the styles. As Judith Tabron said,"Sure beats a wine dinner that no-one wants to sit through." If this becomes a trend you heard it here and at Soul first. Go to the Soul Bar website to see future events there.

Pic: Judith Tabron on the deck of Soul. Pic by Aaron McLean

23 February 2012

DELICIOUS BEYOND BELIEF

This was the star wine in a line up of seven amazing Alsatian white wines we enjoyed last night at a special Alsace dinner at the excelent French restaurant Ile de France in Newmarket. (See my blog for more)

A few years ago we were lucky enough to spend a week in this lovely region of France and scored an invitation to the cellars of Marcel Deiss in Bergheim. Many regard this house as the most eccentric of the region, known for wines that don't conform to the general style of Alsace. Rather than make wine that can be clearly labelled riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc etc, Deiss produce what they call "field blends." In other words they take their top grapes, mix them up in tank and produce something quite out of the ordinary.

A simply splendid idea when it's as stunning as the Marcel Deiss 1er Cru Engelgarten 2007. It was smooth as silk, fruity, clean and clear and if you want any you'll have to twist the arms of Jean-Christophe and Scott at Maison Vauron in Newmarket. Good luck!

29 January 2012

THE HIT OF THE SUMMER

This has been the hit of my summer. It's a new product from Moet & Chandon, not released yet in New Zealand but brought in as a Christmas gift from Miss Moet.

I loved the effervescent effect of bubbles poured over ice, and the wine (a true Champagne) is lower than most in both alcohol and acidity so it's perfect for summer drinking on a sunny day.

Let's hope we can get to purchase this wonderfully innovative and refreshing wine soon here in Auckland. It really is summer in a bottle.

19 October 2011

ROYAL TIPPLES

A stunning day for a stunning lunch this weekend, when HSH Prince Albert of Monaco visited Matakana. A quick tour of the Sculpture Trail at Brick Bay Winery and he was whisked to the private residence of owners Christine and Richard Didsbury for a barbecue feast.

So what to serve to drink? Local beer from the Leigh Sawmill boutique brewery and of course, a choice of three stunning wines from Brick Bay winery. The Rose went down a treat with the Prince, everyone loved the pre-release 2011 pinot gris, and Prince Albert's bob-sledding mates Mark One and Mark Two were fans of the very European style Brick Bay Pharos 2005. "Lots of Malbec," declared Mark One.

Brick Bay winery is perfect for a stroll through the sculpture trail, lunch and a wine tasting. Only 50 minutes from Auckland. Arabella Lane, Matakana (near Snells Beach.) Open every day until 4pm.

6 October 2011

THE PLACES YOU FIND THINGS

I am a huge fan of Saint Clair wines. We've always got a case of two of their chardonnay which seems to disappear faster than the bread crusts I throw to the birds on my lawn everyday. And it seems I can find them around the planet.

So I was thrilled to spot Saint Clair had two wines on the list at the brand new China House restaurant, bar, gallery and cafe complex in Penang, Malaysia. Pictured here is the Vicars Choice riesling, ice cold and frosty.

The other wine I didn't shoot was the Pinot Noir; it was equally ice cold and frosty. Apparently all red wines here in Penang are stored under refrigeration as they tend to "cook" in all that heat. Go Saint Clair!

20 July 2011

RUGBY PLAYERS DRINK WINE?

I have just finished a bottle of the newly released Brancott Estate ‘Limited Edition RWC' Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011. The bottle, pictured above, is no doubt the flagship wine to go along with the exclusive sponsorship Pernod Ricard have invested in for the Rugby World Cup. Good on them. All the fans at Eden Park, the Wellington 'cake tin' stadium and all other rugby venues around New Zealand will only get to drink Brancott wines.

They are fine wines. That goes without saying and anyone who orders up a bottle like the one I have had will be well pleased with the gorgeous ripe fruity aromas. I did love this wine and even my husband who normally gets quite sniffy about my 'savvy' drinking habits tasted it and approved. (He prefers chardonnay, but then he is a man.)

But my nagging worry is that all the visitors who spend thousands getting here will not have a chance to taste the enormous variety of other splendid wines produced by our more than 600 other wine companies. The IRB and the RWC boards sold sponsorships to fill their coffers, and in the process sold out on a lot of what we do really well in New Zealand. My friend in Matakana, who is trying to attract rugby visitors to her wonderful winery and sculpture trail on the days they're looking for something else to do, is not permittted to mention the word 'wine' in her marketing material. What utter nonsense!

I can't blame Pernod Ricard for coughing up the bucks for the sponsorship but surely someone in the government who backed this whole performance and palaver should have been a bit more clever about all this silly exclusivity?

30 June 2011

WOMEN IN WINE

It's a tough call, but a winter lunch with three courses and three winemakers sounded like an attractive proposition. Especially as all the winemakers were women. And it was a lunch of surprises.

The first surprise was the venue. I had been to the Longroom twice and on both occasions had never seen any food, so lunch, with a menu of three choices for each of the three courses, plus a little 'amuse' to start was quite startling. We ate well.

Then more surprises; the three women. Each was charmingly honest and I have been thinking since, that if that had been a lunch with three kiwi male winemakers we would have heard plenty about wine and the nuances of vintages, vinification and wineries. Instead we were treated to stories of how these successful women came to be working in what until recently was a male dominated industry. Refreshing!

Jules Taylor was so carried away with her story she had to be reminded to mention her gorgeous sauvignon blanc, one of my favourites. She took a huge risk moving from a position with a large international wine group to dedicating herself to her own brand. I loved the way she told us it took her 18 months to find the name for her wines - Jules Taylor! She will continue to do well.

Helen McCarthy is from the Barossa and senior winemaker at Taylors. She was offered the job and thought how boring it might be at the time, but is so enthusiastic about the Taylor family now that she can't imagine working elsewhere. Her wine was a surprise; a meaty, savoury pinot noir that had me baffled for a while, but then I had chosen whitebait fritter for that course. Another time I shall take the duck.

Sara Scott from the family owned Allan Scott winenmakers spoke for the very first time ever in a public situation. She had no need to be nervous. This viticulturalist was funny, warm and everybody loved her. Both the sparkling wine to start and her late harvest riesling were very good too!

I can't wait for the next women in wine lunch as the only men in sight were either waiting on us or consigned to the outdoor courtyard. Excellent.

Pic: Jules, Sara and Helen with their wine.

23 June 2011

PERFECT WINE IN THE MALDIVES

I spent four glorious days at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort in the Maldives. I can't tell you how sophisticated it was.

And the perfect wine to drink in the balmy heat, while looking over the calm aqua waters inside the reef on the Indian Ocean?

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, elegant and with a lovely fruity nose, this was my tipple of choice every night I was there. So nice to see and drink some of my favourite wine so far from home.

20 May 2011

FROM THE RUTH PRETTY CELLAR

I am attempting to show a little of New Zealand to Madhur Jaffrey who was in the country for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival last weekend. We flew to Wellington and were driven to Te Horo where Ruth Pretty held a High Tea for her at the Pretty's amazing Springfield property. The kitchen produced a wonderful small feast of spicy snacks. Madhur, eloquent and elegant, is one of the best speakers in the food world, while the legendary Ruth Pretty is one of the best hostesses in the world. A perfect combination.

Later we had a delicious home-cooked intimate dinner in the Pretty’s grand kitchen after the event, and Paul Pretty delved into his cellar for some really lovely wines. (see pic above.) In front of the fire we sipped on a glass of Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” 1998, toasty and yeasty and just the right wine to toast our fabulous international guest. Then into the kitchen, and in front of another roaring fire we sat down to perfectly cooked scampi tails which were accompanied by Atarangi pinot gris 2006, made in a dry style with elegance; probably one of the best wines made from this grape I have tried from Martinborough.

Ruth served lamb for our main course; Madhur was delighted as she is keen to taste all the local specialties. Lamb with beetroot was perfectly matched to a very special treat. Otago’s Felton Road winery makes wonderful pinot noir wines and select grapes for special areas of their vines for single vineyard bottling. The Block 3 has become one of the cult wines of NZ wine scene and even though the grapes for this wine were picked seven years in the 2004 vintage, it still tasted a fresh as a daisy with wonderful ripe fruity over tones to the elegant nose it is currently displaying.

And to finish with a lovely seasonal fruity dessert, while Paul poured Vinoptima Late Harvest gewürztraminer 2004. I knew about Nick Nobilo’s Gisborne foray into his vineyard that only produces gewürztraminer, but this late harvest wine was a first for me. It was sweet without being cloying or with those hard edges gewürztraminer often displays. We could close our eyes and see rose petals just by sniffing it, and it really was a wine to dream on. Thanks Paul and Ruth!

23 April 2011

PARTY WINE

My birthday was fun. I cannot recall having a birthday on Good Friday before, but my new column in the Listener and my 100th birthday made two great reasons to party. (I was asked for my birthdate this week in order to register to vote for the best Farmers Market in NZ, and the nosey buggers wanted to know the year. I chose 1911 from the list they provided to choose from!)

Anyway, about 30 people came over and had a couple or three glasses of wine each over two hours last night, and the garbologist in me was interested to see this morning what had been consumed.

Four bottles of French Champagne, one bottle of pinot grigio, one of viognier, surprisingly one bottle of sav blanc and that was Mahi, four bottles of riesling, six chardonnays, and five reds - 2 pinot noirs and three Aussie reds. Plus one dozen ice cold beers.

I am surprised that chardonnay still leads the field, in the current climate of A-B-C. And I guess we would have had more Champagne if it had been chilled but we forgot to put it in the fridge - champagne is the one wine that should never ever be drunk warm.

A great party. And amazing finger food by Annabelle Guinness of Matakana - she is a star!