Next was the Umani Ronchi ‘Casal di Serra’ Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2008. This was even more difficult to work out. Dry, crisp, minerally and with some depth and weight, this certainly lacked fruit ‘sweetness’ this pointing it to Europe. Our table went through the gamut of varieties and countries: Gruner Veltliner from Austria, Albarino from Spain, Verdelho from a Mediterranean country, and Arneis from Italy were the better suggestions. If one were to look domestically, an unoaked Chardonnay? But that was pushing it. The other tables floundered on this number, and we triumphed as the nearest to what it was.
The entrée course served with the second wine was pan-fried prawn tails, garlic butter sauce, lemon, Italian parsley and tagliatelle. Perfectly cooked, firm-fleshed prawns reeking of garlic, creamily coated, with the pasta ribbons not quite soaking up the sauce. Bread was needed, and the bowls were clean! The wine was neutral in flavour, but ‘cut’ through the creaminess to provide some cleansing freshness.
Then the red wine. Dark ruby-red in colour with the classical red and blackcurrant aromas and firm, but refined tannins. Elegant proportions and intensity spoke of Bordeaux varietals rather than the ever-present Pinot Noir, or new-kid-on-the-block Syrah. And very New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay because of its sweet, ripe-fruit elegance and suppleness. Narrowing it down, it wasn’t Gimblett Gravels, as it lacked the iron fist tannic structure. The perfumed raspberry note suggested some Cabernet Franc, but it could have been a Merlot-blend too. We saw a touch of sweet American oak, delightfully adding juiciness and a lift. Its approachability and completeness made us think 2008, but no… This Sileni ‘The Pacemaker’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2009 has come together beautifully in the last four weeks. It’s better than the 2008, I reckon, and absolutely delicious.
Continuing the comfort-food theme, the main course was slow braised ox tongue, saffron potato puree, carrot pickle, Madeira gravy. You can’t beat tender, succulent ox-tongue when it melts in the mouth, yet leaves you with its distinctive taste and threaded texture as taste memories. Peter Collins cleverly built in subtle nuances with the saffron and the delicate pickle, just to provide a counterpoint to refocus the palate. The wine was an excellent match, flavours all positive, yet with restraint, textures just melding together, with piquant highlights all the way through.
It was a high quality and successful luncheon.
Ortega Fish Shack and Bar, 16 Majoribanks Street, Mt. Victoria, Wellington.
The Beefsteak & Burgundy Club
The Beefsteak & Burgundy Club organization was founded in Adelaide in 1954 with the aim of its members sharing knowledge and experiencing great wines and food and fellowship on a regular basis. With over 150 branches around the world in countries as diverse as Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.A., it is an international success. In New Zealand there are ten branches, with five located in Wellington. The meetings are run on a semi-formal basis, with officers and committee including a Foodmaster and Winemaster who co-ordinate the meals and wines respectively. The Adelaide parent body oversees administration and maintains a constitution to provide a framework and uniformity, but it is a relaxed and enjoyable time attending the meetings and the occasional international conventions. For more information, go to www.beefsteakandburgundyclub.org.au where you can find out about joining an existing club or forming a new branch.