The Ara Wines vineyards in the upper reaches of the Waihopi Valley are close-planted with 4,500 to 5,000 vines per hectare in the European style, to reduce yields. The vines require intensive management as the Ara vineyard can be considered a cool site, this year experiencing 18 frost events. The benefit is the long growing season with extended hang time resulting in heightened aromatics and excellent concentration. These are the building blocks that provide the potential for top quality wine that seems to be realised now. To showcase the quality, Jeff Clarke and Natalie Walsh of Ara Wines hosted a ‘Single Source Seafood Luncheon’ for invited trade and media at Martin Bosley’s in Wellington where their wines were matched to food courses.
Jeff Clarke – Chief Winemaker, Ara Wines
With Gus Struthers and Jeff Clarke taking over the viticultural and winemaking roles at Ara Wines for the 2011 vintage from Damian Martin who was instrumental in establishing the 400 ha Marlborough operation, many wondered how long it would take for their implementation of new procedures to show in the wines. I see immediate changes in the 2011 vintage wines and the new release 2012 wines. The wines are now obviously ‘New Zealand’ in expression with richer and fruitier flavours that make them more readily accessible. The earlier wines were tighter, in the ‘European’ style that required time to show their character. Whether one style is better than the other is debateable, but one cannot deny the instant show success of the new wines. If Jeff Clarke is asked about what he has done to effect the change, he immediately credits the increasing maturity of the vineyard that is the basis for the quality, and the work of Gus Struthers. He admits that his work has been in ‘tweaking’ the winemaking regimes to allow for more clarity and up-front fruitiness, especially with the higher production, general tiered wines.
The Ara ‘Single Estate’ wines are classical expressions of Marlborough wine styles, and are the combination and blend of fruit from blocks throughout the Ara vineyard. The ‘Select Blocks’ are just that, wines representing the characteristics of individual blocks, showing terroir, the styles of the wines crafted to show greater minerality and finesse. The top tier ‘Resolute’ wines are the result of further selection to the level of rows, the vines given more attention for greater concentration and the wines made to show greater complexity. www.arawines.com The lunch was stunning, as could be expected. Martin Bosley is a master at creating dishes which showcase natural and complex flavours with clarity and detail, and the componentry is balanced to be complete. The mechanics of matching the dishes with wine is textbook, and not only appears perfect on paper, but delivers more, with the combined flavour and textures taking the experience to another level. www.martin-bosley.com
The Wines and Luncheon
I didn’t have the opportunity of making full notes on the wines, but did capture my impressions, which follow:
· One Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Brut NV
The One Estate Sauvignon Brut NV is pleasingly fine in bead and pale in colour, the Sauvignon Blanc varietal character not very overt, showing stonefruit and minerally overtones. Clean, crisp, fine-textured and with a suggestion of sweetness, this is a delightful introductory wine. 13.0% alc. and 12 g/L rs. Named ‘One Estate’ as ‘Aria’ is a trademarked sparkling wine. It was suggested this is in the ‘Prosecco’ style and I oncur.
Leigh snapper carpaccio, asparagus and pea shoot salad, lemon mayonnaise, toasted grains
Subtle, fine-textured and absolutely clean fish, the green vegetables quite piquant and contrasted with the nutty grain component.
· Ara ‘Single Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc 2012
· Ara ‘Select Blocks’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011
· Ara ‘Resolute’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011
The ‘Single Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is full with ripe pungent passionfruit aromas and flavours. The up-front expression and soft, rich mouthfeel make it a particularly approachable and instantly appealing, the wine showing no harsh acidity or edges. The ‘Select Blocks’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011 appears brighter, certainly tighter and more minerally, combining hints of secondary asparagus to gooseberry fruit. Steely, crisp and leaner in proportion, and with greater cut and depth than the ‘Single Estate’ 2012. The hint of bean and asparagus-like development is present in the fruit profile of the ‘Resolute’ Sauvignon Blanc 2011, but this has a slightly more fresh green colour, and considerably more breadth and depth, endowing the wine with greater richness and fruit sweetness. Lovely soft mouthfeel, revealing greater detail and nuance in the glass.
The pairing of the wines and the carpaccio worked well with across all three labels, but was particularly successful with the ‘Single Estate’ 2012, the fruit flavours of the wine becoming more varietally focussed, and merging with the greens on the dish, and providing a contrasting cut with the fish flesh. Both wine and food were noticeably enhanced. The ‘Select Blocks’ 2011 became a little sweeter and fleshy as a wine, whereas the ‘Resolute’ 2011 seemed to be a harmonious and non-clashing wine flowing and interacting smoothly with the dish. I enjoyed the nutty, toasty grain component in the dish which served as a marker post to reset the taste buds.
Poached Mooloolaba prawns, ginger, buttermilk – Pine nut risotto, vadouvan, traditional nantua sauce
Beautifully cooked prawn, firm-fleshed but moist, quite sweet and subtle, set on a base of oil-hinted risotto. The vadouvan curry character merged wonderfully with the reduced seafood nantua sauce, making this an intriguing and distinctive Indian-themed dish.
· Ara ‘Single Estate’ Pinot Gris 2012
· Ara ‘Select Blocks’ Pinot Gris 2012
2012 marks the second vintage release of Pinot Gris. The inaugural wine ‘Single Estate’ 2011 was a show winner, and the ‘Single Estate 2012 has already taken gold. The ‘Single Estate’ Pinot Gris 2012 is textbook varietal with pear and stonefruit aromas and flavours, with a touch of honesuckle, just showing a little robustness and texture from the alcohol and phenolics. The ‘Select Blocks’ Pinot Gris 2012, also at 7 g/L rs has the extra sweetness and more importantly greater fruit richness boosting the aromatic lift and providing a more complete and succulent palate. This is a sensational Pinot Gris that could easily surpass the ‘Single Estate’ wine’s show circuit success.
While the ‘Single Estate’ wine acted as a cutting and textural foil to the prawns, risotto and spicy sauces, the ‘Select Blocks’ wine matched the dish in texture and richness, the sweetness interacting with the gentle spices, and a noticeable integration and melding occurring. Both the wine and dish became elevated in profile and breadth, making the match another excellent one.
Ora King Salmon by Martin Bosley
Ora King salmon Marlborough, black pudding, chorizo sausage, duck liver mousse, peas, mushroom sauce
The salmon was a superb feature and presented as such. A beautiful piece of fish, cooked absolutely correctly, moist with a subtle firmness, the oiliness in no way excessive, and the flesh just flaking apart smoothly and softly. The flavours very gentle and nuanced, with a lovely saltiness and crispness on surface to provide textural support and integrity. The sides of black pudding and duck liver mousse, plus mushroom sauce all adding a contrasting dense earthiness to the cleanliness and richness of the salmon, and the chorizo a little hot and spicy counterpoint. A great dish.
· Ara ‘Select Block’ Pinot Noir 2010
· Ara ‘Select Block’ Pinot Noir 2011
· Ara ‘Resolute’ Pinot Noir 2011
The ‘Select Blocks’ Pinot Noir 2010 was distinctly garnet-red in colour, now beginning to exhibit hints of secondary dried herb and mushroomy flavours. The fruit in the savoury spectrum, with noticeable acidity, providing a raciness, and tannins beginning to round out. A wine showing signs of maturity. The ‘Select Blocks’ Pinot Noir 2011 definitely youthful in outlook, with purple hues, and bright raspberry and peppery fruit aromas and flavours, framed in a palate with bright, lively acidity and firm, but fine extraction leading a sinewy mouthfeel. The ‘Resolute’ Pinot Noir 2011 oozed richness and lush fruit aromas and flavours, showing raspberry liqueur, plum, spice and oak characters. Quite soft and very approachable, all the elements in balance and integrated. If there’s any criticism, maybe a little more extraction was possible for increased structure.
Salmon and Pinot Noir is such a good match in general. With the ‘select Blocks’ 2010, the outcome was the emergence of earthiness, which, while not at a discord with the salmon, was not positively complimentary as well as complementary. The slight herbal nature of the wine connected better with the side elements. Nevertheless, workable and not a clash. With the ‘Select Blocks’ 2011, the fruit brightness of the wine became accentuated, and became an extra layer of acid and fruit cut to the salmon. The wines firmer texture also meeting the softer, oiliness of the salmon, providing greater mouthfeel for both wine and fish. The primary fruit of the wine provided a contrast to the earthy side elements and the match may have been even better if the wine was older. However it was the ‘Resolute’ 2011 that was the best pairing with the salmon, the richness and range of flavours of both going up to another level. The harmony of the combination in texture was a feature. The right moment in time for both the wine and the food!
To signal the finish of the lunch, tea and coffee were served, with a trio of delectable petit fours. Martin Bosley knows how to serve a complete meal. And it appears the Ara Wines team has a complete package.