What we've been drinking (11 - 18 September)
Editorial Assistant, Decanter
Waterkloof Estate Circumstance Shiraz 2007
With August no more than a distant memory of a coquettish summer that offered occasional glimpses of sunshine from beneath her cloudy skirts, September is upon us, and the party season has begun in earnest. Invitations have been popping into our inboxes with brio. It was at one such event last week – the first in a series of wine dinners at The Avalon, a gastropub in Clapham, that I enjoyed this South African number. A dark ruby, the nose was an upfront mix of blackcurrants, blackberries, violets and vanilla. On the palate it was smooth, velvety and well balanced with soft tannins, alluring spicy notes, sweetness from the vanilla and hints of savoury green pepper, which went wonderfully well with the salty crispy duck confit. One glass was definitely not enough.
Man O’War Pinot Gris 2008
I prefer to use this spot for wines I’ve been drinking rather than just tasting, but a wine I sampled last week is worthy of mention, not least for its heritage. Man O’ War is a New Zealand producer with a burgeoning reputation (notably for its reds), based on Waiheke Island – which, as the keener readers will know, lies just off Auckland. I suspect few of you will be familiar, however, with Ponui Island, at the foot of Waiheke, which boasts neither roads or ferry access. It is here that Man O’War, the island’s sole producer, sources the fruit for its Pinot Gris, sharing the land with three other, cattle farmers. The 2008 has a welcome fleshy texture, lively, zesty fruit and a touch of prickly breadiness. You’ll have to wait for stockist details in the UK, which are still being finalised, but like all good things, it’ll be worth the wait.
Chief Sub-Editor, Decanter
Waterkloof, Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvedre Rose, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2009
After chopsticks, the natural partner for Chinese food is usually an aromatic white wine, if not a beer. So it was a real revelation to visit Hakkasan recently – London’s temple of Asian fine dining – where Werner Engelbrecht, winemaker of Waterkloof in Stellenbosch, and Hakkasan Group sommelier Christine Parkinson, were pairing his wines with the Michelin-starred dishes in a rather unconventional manner. Chenin Blanc was flexible with mushroom stir-fry, Singapore roast chicken and roasted silver cod, but who would have picked a hefty Shiraz with delicate sesame prawns? But the real star was this rosé, which was the perfect partner for a sweet yet earthy lamb dish – Mourvedre’s flavour profile highlighting the Chinese five spice and the sweetness of the red dates, and its acidity cutting through the tender meat, yet still delicate enough for the chestnut mooli. A real eye-opener for this self-confessed roséphobe.
Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2008
I didn’t even know that Shaw + Smith made a Pinot Noir before this lunch to celebrate their 20th vintage. The first cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith MW are perhaps best known for their Sauvignon Blanc. The wines at this lunch also included three vintages of the Shiraz, a wine which proves the Adelaide Hills can produce lovely, textured, modern Shiraz with no green, unripe characters; and four vintages of the M3 Chardonnay, which has moved away from Californian and towards Dijon clones, with a increasing amount of wild ferment. ‘We’ve become more experimental and less rigid in our winemaking in recent years,’ said Hill-Smith. The second vintage of its Pinot Noir demonstrated this. Produced in near-perfect conditions, the 2008 is a ‘step up from the pretty wine we made in 2007,’ Hill-Smith commented. I agree – deliciously aromatic with layers of complexity and a weighty mouthfeel, it succeeds in combining the opulence of Central Otago with the structure of Burgundy.
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Chardonnay 2004
Nicolas Catena is the Decanter Man of the Year 2009, and we had this with the scallop starter at the celebration dinner last night at the Argentinian ambassador's residence in London. From the renowned Adrianna vineyard, it's a spicy, rounded mouthful with wonderful complex, rather exotic fruit - smoky apple, lime and peach. Quite an old-fashioned wine (it spends 14 months in French oak, then years in bottle - it's only just been released) but it's so well-made, and went so well with the tangy caper sauce the scallops came with, that you'd forgive it anything...