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Mt Beautiful New Releases with Sushi

By August 13, 2012No Comments

Some contemporary wine and food matches are right down the middle of the line, and have always meant to be. New Zealand’s fresh, fruity and elegant wine styles are ideal with fusion, Pacific Rim and pan-Asian cuisines especially, so it seemed perfect to have a tasting of the current and new releases from Mt Beautiful at the Shinobi Sushi Lounge in Vivian Street, Wellington. Both parties have very conventional appearances and indeed are in some respects, but they are quite innovative or very different from the norm in other ways.

While Shinobi Sushi offers very traditional forms of sushi, chef Jeremy Wilson, trained in Japan, also focusses on his interpretation of the art using local ingredients, and is keen experimenting with new dishes that cross the boundaries of culture and tradition. Mt Beautiful is a very new venture, the dream of David and Leigh Teece, who planted vines in 2004 in the virginal vignoble of the Cheviot Hills in North Canterbury. The location and sites yield wines that are stylistically between those of Marlborough and Waipara. Winemaking is by the experienced Sam Weaver, who enjoys crafting wines that are subtle in character rather than the fruit-bomb caricatures more prevalent in the market. In a way he is traditionally conservative in the European sense, but somewhat radical for New Zealand in his approach.
The Wines
Sam Weaver took attendees through the latest Mt Beautiful wines, including a vertical tasting of the Riesling, with food courses designed by Jeremy of Shinobi Sushi. Here are my impressions:
The first pairing was the Mt Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (17.0+/20) with Kingfish belly ceviche with shallot, tamarillo, chilli and lime. The wine, pale coloured, soft and gently presented, with subtle gooseberry, capsicum and herbal fruit flavours, along with tropical nuances, has restrained acidity and tender mouthfeel which speaks of current enjoyment. With the ceviche, the wine sits in support, but the acidity is sufficient for cut, and the fruit nuances pick up on the ‘green’ herb elements and spices, bringing more life into the wine.
Mt Beautiful Riesling 2010 – 2007
Next was a four vintage vertical tasting of the Mt Beautiful Riesling, from 2010 back to the inaugural 2007. Sam considers Riesling to be the most consistent variety for the company. Riesling seems very suited to the site, and Sam takes great care avoiding phenolics by hand-picking the fruit and ensures the best sugar to acid balance. The 2010 (17.5-/20) is softly fresh and full of limes galore on bouquet with hints of toast, the palate fine, tight and firm, the finish carried by the acidity. The 2009 (16.5/20) is light, tight and driven with linear expression, a touch on the shy and austere side. Softly textured, this will develop. I was pleased with the delicacy, freshness, energy and refined secondary toastiness unfolding from the crisp citrussy fruit in the 2008 (18.0-/20). Seen as a higher yield vintage, I found the balance spot-on. The 2007 (16.5-/20) was a hit in other presentations of the vertical tasting. While showing lovely maturity with honey and toast, and the associated soft creamy textures that accompany bottle-age, I saw the wine becoming broader, with nutty oxidative complexities appearing. It’s all a matter of perspective.
The food course was Salmon, turbot and gurnard sashimi, here listed in ascending firmness, texture and cut. A superb comparison of three fish, the salmon the oiliest and most melt-in-the-mouth decadent, the gurnard the most substantial in maintaining integrity, and the turbot just right! The 2010 and 2008 wines with their acid cut were impeccable matches, whereas the salmon and the 2007 matched harmoniously. The turbot was on par with the 2009 in weight and texture. Excellent matching possibilities emerged here.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir
I find the Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris to be the most striking wine in the portfolio. Here the 2011 (18.0/20) is a bit of a powerhouse with its body, weight and structure. It’s certainly full and near robust, being dry to taste, and possessing excellent textures, the fruit in the classical stonefruit and spiced pear spectrum. This was served with Cool jerk roll – grilled Jamaican-spiced gurnard, cucumber, sprouts and pear salsa. On paper an ideal match with parallel componentry and flavour elements, and the wine texture equal to the gurnard firmness. But in practice, the dish was too hot and spiced for matching with the wine. Nevertheless an enjoyable mouthful of flavour bringing attention to the food.

Three taste sensations were served with the last wine, all being Jeremy pushing the boundaries of Japanese style with New Zealand influence and produce. Confit duck and shiitake tako-yaki with saffron, aioli, Miso-glazed quail with Portobello puree, and Panko-crumbed venison with pea and eda-mame puree. These were sensational morsels, all with the texture, richness and earthiness in their elements to make a connection with the wine. The Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir 2011 (17.5-/20) is a light, delicately flavoured and subtle textured wine with soft red floral fruits. Initially lush, supple and easy to access, this grows in the glass to show its true depth and core, and the extraction to work with food textures. This has an array of aromas and flavours that has good detail. A very smart pairing indeed.

I finished the tasting affirming how good our New Zealand wines can be with fine Asian, in this case Japanese cuisine can be. I’m sure the more gentle nature of the Mt Beautiful wines contributed to their success here. www.shinobi.co.nzwww.mtbeautiful.co.nz

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