Welcome to the inaugural South Island Riesling Stalwarts dinner at Ancestral Wellington.
This shortens down nicely to the Four SIRS. The four stalwarts, introduced by Raymond Chan of Raymond Chan wine reviews, were: Andrew Greenhough of Greenhough wines in Nelson, Dr Andrew Hedley of Framingham wines in Marlborough; Ed Donaldson of Pegasus Bay in Waipara; and the new kid on the block Max Marriot of Auburn wines in Central Otago.
One small hiccup on my part was not letting the team at Ancestral known when I booked that I don’t eat meat, so my food and wine pairings weren’t exact, but they did an excellent job of thinking on their feet. My veggie meal is in parentheses.
Here’s my run-down of the evening.
1st course: Rare seared beef (radish and fennel salad)
2011 Framingham Old Vine
2010 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto
The Framingham Old Vine was a misfit. This funky-style wine was giving off interesting earthy notes mellowing out the fruit you get on the nose. The palate was silky smooth with a good weight to it and a nice mouth feel. As it sits in the glass and warms a bit the whole experience begins to mellow and round.
Bel Canto is the driest style from Pegasus Bay with sharp, mineral notes, this is a clean, classic cheerleader of Riesling. A toasty wine with notes of vanilla and apricot, with a rather sharp acidity. On the night I kept getting a weird metallic edge to the wine. I couldn’t understand where this would be coming from. In the end I’ve tried it again without seeing this flaw and as it was an experience unique to me, I’ve decided it was the pairing with the radish and fennel salad, not the wine itself.
2nd course: Steamed pork & prawn dumplings (Silken Tofu Salad with cucumber and hot & numbing vinaigrette)
2011 Greenhough Hope
2010 Pegasus Bay
The Greenhough Hope was a clear, clean wine with sweet, nutty and blue cheese notes on the nose with a subtle intensity. A bone dry, nicely balanced example with a lighter body, delicate flinty character, crisp acidity and creamy texture.
Pegasus Bay’s classic 2010 Riesling was a rich, voluptuously full-bodied medium-sweetness wine. The nose had notes of honey, which carried through onto the palate along with a slightly sweet, nutty maasdam cheese character, quince jelly and orange zest.
3rd course: Scotch Fillet of Pork (Buddha’s Hot Pot red-cooked bamboo, assorted mushroom and fungus)
2012 Auburn Lowburn
2012 Greenhough Apple Valley
The 2012 Auburn Lowburn had a light intensity nose with hints of apple, sweet peach and plum: a major emphasis on fruit in this medium-sweet wine. With a full mouth-feel, medium acidity and a clean, youthful expression of honey and vanilla on the palate.
Greenhough’s 2012 Green Apple Valley Riesling was similar to the Lowburn: subtle-nose, soft-palate and well-textured. However, the Green Apple Valley was off-dry with plenty of apple and ginger notes, tart acidity, and a lemon/citrus/honey hit at the very end of the palate. When paired with food, the smooth texture is emphasized.
4th course: Free-range Gong Bao Chicken (Crispy Aubergine with Sichuan sweet & sour sauce & chilli)
2012 Framingham Späetlese
2012 Auburn Bendigo
Framingham’s 2012 Späetlese is a light, delicate wine with waves of honey. The wine was mead-like and smooth as silk. A weighty sweet wine with soft acidity and lovely length. If you like your Rieslings sweet and honeyed, this one is gorgeous.
The 2012 Auburn Bendigo had a very delicate nose with a light, sweet array of peach, plum and apple. On the palate it was a light-bodied with a flinty, mineral character and plenty of melon, citrus and orange blossoms. With the food pairing the minerality was intensified.
The evening started and finished with some oddities carefully selected by the Four SIRS.
Opening the night was the 2003 Pegasus Bay Riesling, which had started to show some bottle age, with nice toasty notes; the 2011 Auburn Riesling was a sweet wine with lots of young fruit; and the 2010 Domaine Mathis Bastian Domaine et Tradition Riesling was a super-interesting, unconventional example. Bone dry with notes of portobello mushroom and a rich aged cheddar this was a purely textural wine.
The night wrapped up with the Domaine Michel Gros Nuits-Saint-Georges, Cote de Nuits, France which was “fucking phenomenal” according to my notes. Rich, smooth texture with notes of pepper and red cherry. This wine simply undid all the knots between my shoulders.
The 2006 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir was a earthy and black cherry beauty. Greenhough’s Calera ‘Ryan Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 was white pepper and raspberry. And the I Vigneri sicilian high tannin red had liquorice, cinnamon and cloves to go with the cherry.
Cheers to many more Four SIRS dinners to come