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Forage North Canterbury 2018

By January 29, 2018No Comments
A group of North Canterbury wine producers have a unique way of showcasing their wines and the regional and environmental context in which they are grown and made. ‘Forage North Canterbury’ was held for the fourth time this year. The concept is for attendees to interact with the region in ‘foraging, hunting and gathering’ for ingredients and produce to create a meal and eat the food with wines that are made in the district. Groups of chefs, sommeliers, writers and winemakers are each given the task of sourcing potential foods in different locations, to come together to put together a meal that is reflective of what they have garnered from the land and sea, in that particular time and the current season. It is an intimate interaction with the environment which shows the interconnected nature of flora, fauna and life, and in this case in the North Canterbury region.
The plan for the day was to divide into 8 different teams, each with a winery representative, a celebrated chef and members of the hospitality industry – in this year’s case, a number of international sommeliers, and wine media; head out at 8.00 am to various designated locations and come back by 2.00 pm with their ‘haul’ of produce for a meal. The chefs would then devise a menu, each working with their collected produce (bartering allowed), cook the food for a dinner to start at 7.00 pm. Each course of food would be accompanied by a wine from each of the 8 wineries involved with each team. The wines were to be selected by the sommeliers. A challenging aspect of the event was that none of those involved knew what location or types of produce they were foraging for until the last minute. A high degree of innovation would be required by the chefs especially!
The teams were assigned to: Fields & Vineyards, Fields & Verges, Hunting, Fishing the Rivers, Sea Shore, Ocean Fishing, Diving, Truffieres & Hives. This showed the diversity and bounty of the North Canterbury region. The organiser, Angela Clifford gives credit and inspiration to local foraging legends Kate McMillan and Melany Wright for the event. Immersing themselves into nature, Angela advised all participants to take care and to be safe. The day promised to be a warm one. The motto of the event, said Angela is “Forage North Canterbury – Nobody Dies!”
Guy Porter, Bellbird Spring – Our forage team leader

The 2018 Forage

The wineries involved in Forage North Canterbury for 2018 were: Bellbird Spring, Black Estate, Bone Line, Crater Rim, Greystone, Mount Brown, Pegasus Bay, Terrace Edge and Tongue in Groove. The chefs were: Alesha Bilbrough-Collins (BearLion), Alex Davies (Gatherings), Bob Fairs(Roots Restaurant), Hector Henderson (Gatherings), Simon Levy (Inati), Teresa Pert (Pegasus Bay), Jonny Schwass (Botanic Gardens/Ilex Cafe), James Stapley (Kika/Francesca’s Kitchen), Giulio Sturia (Roots Restaurant) and Dave Verheul (Town Mouse/Embla, Melbourne). They were assisted by Carlos Rodriquez (27 Steps).

My partner Sue Davies and I were guests, courtesy of Terrace Edge (Sue distributes their wines), and we were assigned to the Truffiere & Hives group, led by Guy Porter of Bellbird Spring. In our group were Teresa Pert and Liam Summers of Pegasus Bay Restaurant, American writer Elin McCoy, and sommeliers Alvin Gho from Singapore, Steve Li from Shanghai and Han Yew Kong from Macau.
Gareth Renowden and Rosie

For our group, our first foraging experience was to visit ‘Limestone Hills’ tuffiere, run by Gareth and Camille Renowden, who planted oaks and hazelnut tree thickets around 20 years ago, infecting them with truffle spores. At the time, much of what was understood about truffles was closer to legend and myth, but considerable scientific investigation has resulted in a much higher success rate for growing truffles and over a shorter period. Gareth talked about the concept of ‘truffle sex’ and described the four kinds of truffles they have: the Perigord black, bianchetto white truiffle, the Burgundy truffle and the winter black truffle. Their different seasons allow harvesting through around three-quarters of the year. They harvest approximately 15 kg of truffles each year, and are aiming for around 30 kg in time. Key to the truffling is beagle ‘Rosie’, with her keen sense of smell. In the period of about 10 minutes, she had detected nearly a dozen truffles, worth approximately $300.00 – $400.00 in value!

Teresa Pert & Liam Summers – Pegasus Bay restaurant
foraging for watercress at the spring at the Good’property
Following our visit to ‘Limestone Hills’, we then picked plums, elderberries and spearmint from private property (with permission) and the roadside (public property!). We then obtained watercress from the Good family’s property, where it was growing in a natural spring.
Lee Corbett, Waipara Honey
Our next visit was with Lee Corbett who supports her husband Trevor in operating ‘Waipara Honey’. Their business, now 25 years old, is a small one with 120 hives, producing under 2,000 kg annually. This is a reduction, formerly working with 200 hives. The honey industry is largely unregulated, and there are some large players, but their aim is to produce local honey that is representative of the region. The output of honey is sensitive to rain, and dry conditions are not conducive to its production. Competition from wasps is a serious issue. Lee described the life of the queen bee and how the honey is made and collected. One interesting fact is that the fertilising male bee will only perform once, and dies from an “exploding penis”. This made us wince! Another fact is that one bee will produce around a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Waipara Honey has four honeys on offer. The ‘Clover’ honey is rich and sweet, with a refined flavour. The ‘Rata-Kamahi’ has a stronger, near piquant herb note. The ‘Beech Forest’ honey is the most decadent with a caramel and toffee-like character. And the ‘Manuka’ has the strongest finish and a real decadence.
Patrick Merry – Athena Olives
Our last call was to ‘Athena Olives’, run by Patrick Merry. A motor mechanic by trade, he purchased the grove in 2009, from pioneering olive growers who established their trees in 1998. There are around 3,000 trees over 6 different cultivars, covering 7 ha. Patrick is a perfectionist and he and his wife and family hand-pick their olives rather than use a shaker. The olives can bruise very easily and are prone to oxidation. Patrick presses the olives on site, and has recently invested in new equipment to take the quality and production up a level in efficiency and consistency. His production is around 250 – 350 litres annually. This is not sustainable as a stand alone business, so Patrick operates his garage mechanical service as his main income. Clearly the olive oil production is a passion. We tasted a number of different olives and oils from different vintages. Seasonal variation and age have a strong influence on the taste as well as that from the different cultivars.
Our team had obtained enough produce for chefs Teresa and Liam to be able to create some dishes that had been formulated during the foraging. We then retired to Guy Porter’s home where he and his wife served a delicious lunch. Accompanying the food were his Pinot Noir Rosé 2017, ‘Home Block’ White 2015 (a blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muscat), the ‘Sous Voile’ flor-yeast influenced wine, plus ‘Aqua Vitae’ and ‘Rustica’ spirits. We then brought our harvest pickings to Pegasus Bay restaurant and added our produce to that of the other teams.
As the chefs deliberated and began their food preparation followed by cooking, the other guests had an opportunity of tasting a selection of wines from each of the 8 wineries involved, with a tasting of ‘Aged Riesling’ before dinner was served. My notes on these wines will be posted soon.
Winton & Jean Dalley, Hurunui Mayor & Mayoress, 
and Angela Clifford, Tongue in Groove

The Forage North Canterbury 2018 Dinner

Here is the menu for the 2018 North Canterbury Forage Dinner held at Pegasus Bay restaurant. I list the dishes, the chefs responsible for each course, the wine served, and offer a quick note on my thoughts regarding the wine. In general terms, the food was more natural and even somewhat rustic, especially to those (me) who are used to food from more ‘refined’ ingredients and produce. However, the meal was very varied in flavours and textures, and showed creativity. All credit to the chefs who were under considerable pressure to impress their diners, and no doubt their colleagues. One conclusion by diners and chefs who had participated in previous forages was that the food was “lighter, probably reflecting the growing season of the region”. And importantly, the food represented its North Canterbury provenance. The wine matching was generally good as well, this being a little more subjective; there were no clashes at all.

Pig Face, tomato, blackberry, seaweed sashimi

Alex Davies

Cured yellow eyed mullet, Terrace Edge E.V.O

Hector Henderson

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon/Semillon 2006

Pungent green stonefruits, very densely packed, now with secondary notes, and hints of tertiary, a tad drying but in remarkably fresh condition. (17.5-/20)

Paua, mussel, seaweed, waterfall cress

Giulio Sturia & Bob Fairs

Black Estate ‘Home’ Chenin Blanc 2016

Very soft and creamy with yellow florals and hints of honey. Quite unctuous, and just beginning to show some bottle development interest, but with a fine thread of acidity. (18.5+/20)

Kahawai, tua tua, beach mustard, walnut, pear, sumac

Alesha Bilbrough-Collins

Terrace Edge Albarino 2017

Slightly cooler expression with white florals. Taut and slender with mouthwatering acidity and fine grip. A wonderful match with the seafood, the interaction enriching both. (17.5/20)

Driftwood smoked cod, kelp, galangal and porcini broth

Jonny Schwass

Mount Brown Pinot Gris 2016

An elegant wine with ripe white and yellow stonefruits, combning freshness with richness, but retaining good acidity. (18.0/20)

Burgundy truffle, egg, barley, cress, elderberry dressing

Teresa Pert

The Crater Rim Chardonnay 2015

Rich and vibrant stonefruit and citrus fruits with subtle barrel-ferment and nutty oak detail, and complexities growing in the glass. (18.5+/20)

Wild turkey, yellow plum, fresh walnut, elderberry, chicory

James Stapley

Greystone ‘Little Brother’ Pinot Noir 2012
The Bone Line ‘Waimanu’ Pinot Noir 2012

The Greystone an elegant wine with gentle layers of savoury complexities, very harmonious and integrated, the textures silky smooth. (18.5/20)

The Bone Line elegant and bright-fruited, lovely fresh red berry fruits, still tightly bound with plenty of zesty acidity. (18.0/20)

Cheese and biscuits

Simon Levy

Tongue in Groove Riesling 2013

A little shy and restrained initially, but opening up to show beautiful florality and citrus fruits, rich honied notes, and potential to grow. Fine acidity and textural thread. (19.0+/20)

Wild berries, peach leaf ice cream

Dave Verheul

Bellbird Sprinf ‘Mute les Epices’ 2016

Bright aromatics and exotics, fresh but with richness, smoothness and developing unctuousness. Some clean spirit adding power and linearity. (18.5/20)
Ed Donaldson, Pegasus Bay & Jannine Rickards, The Huntress 

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