Tri-nations with a difference

The recent extreme heat in the Cape has called for much more white wine (rather than red but possibly not beer!) to be opened. Our usual drinking pattern of a glass of white before supper and red with the meal has changed as we’ve stuck with white for the whole evening. Somehow, the thought of a full-bodied red, even one of those light reds I wrote about last time, has lacked appeal. Looking at it from another point of view, drinking such reds in hot, sticky weather wouldn’t do them any favour.

I wasn’t that surprised then that the pair of shirazes and cabernets offered for comparison in last week’s Tri-nations left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

This event features far more than just wine; it’s an evening of food, conceived and realised by a Michelin-star chef, and designed to accompany two wines, one from South Africa, the other, this year, from New Zealand, with the twist of guests voting for their preferred partnership.

Vineyard MD, Roy Davies, introducing Roger Jones
Vineyard MD, Roy Davies, introducing Roger Jones

Roger and Sue Jones are owners of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in England; he is the Michelin-star chef and keen winelover. The Harrow’s cellar is impressively filled with emphasis on Australia, New Zealand and now South Africa.

Staying at The Vineyard in Newlands on their first visit to South Africa, the Jones’s together with the hotel’s MD and Food and Beverage team came up with the above idea, the first Tri-nations being held in 2015. The response from the public was enthusiastic with around 80 guests attending. South Africa nearly made a clean sweep, winning 5 – 1. The result was repeated when the same dinner was held at The Harrow in July last year.

Pause a moment to consider the logistics of feeding 80 people without lengthy delays, let alone pouring wine into 1000 Riedel glasses, each tagged with variety and number (1 or 2) and then tallying up the tags, handed in by guests, and announcing the result before moving onto the next course. Respect to all involved then that it has run so smoothly both years.

Last Friday, South Africa was paired with New Zealand, a contest most considered would be much closer. As indeed it was, ending in a tie.

Below is a list of the wines and scores (not every guest voted on each wine!), as well as the menu. Wines are selected by Jones in conjunction with The Vineyard and New Zealand producers.

Shane Louw, chef at The Vineyard
Shane Louw, chef at The Vineyard

A nice spin-off from this collaboration is that Jones invited The Vineyard’s chef, Shane Louw,  to work at The Harrow for two weeks last year; he also spent time in the kitchens of two Michelin-star London restaurant The Square. The Vineyard and its guests are the beneficiaries of this experience.

A few of my thoughts on some of the wines.

The Nautilus NV Brut was new to me. It’s a classic, refined 70/30 pinot/chardonnay blend aged three years on the lees with gentle nutty aromas, fine creamy mousse, complexity and length. Absolutely delicious and perfect with the macaroons.

New Zealand sauvignon blanc is often divisive; I’m not a fan of the ‘sweaty’ style, which the Greywacke is, despite a spontaneous ferment, which for me usually results in less overt fruit. Once passed the aromas, there’s lush fruit and balance but it’s too overt for the salmon. Frankly, I don’t know what food this sauvignon style would best complement.

Cape Point Vineyards’ less overt profile, semillon-augmented richness and varietal vigour was the sort of partner that craved second helpings!

Neudorf rightly enjoys a distinguished reputation both in New Zealand and internationally but both chardonnays proved white wine can go with red meat, the cep cream and mousse forging a clever link. A difficult choice, made more on personal style preference than quality.

Felton Road Cornish Point (l), Crystallum Cuvee Cinema (r)
Felton Road Cornish Point (l), Crystallum Cuvee Cinema (r)

The same applied to the pinots, though for those in a hurry to vote, the Crystallum had more ready charm. Left a while, Felton Cornish Point blossomed with dark cherry fragrance and crushed velvet texture. Both illustrate that Burgundy might be an original but it’s not the only place where characterful, quality pinot will grow. These were also the only reds which didn’t suffer to some degree from the very warm conditions; only Craggy Range Sophia’s elegance and vibrancy showed anywhere near as well as I know this range is renowned for.

Come July, this menu and wines will be repeated at The Harrow and, I believe, at sometime in New Zealand too. If a tie was the fairest result here, I’m not so sure of similar results these other events. But the evening isn’t about winning, more about comradery and delicious food.

Squid ink macaroon with caviar and namibian soft shell crab

Stellenrust Clement de Lure MCC NV – 36
Nautilus NV Brut – 44

Citrus cured norwegian salmon, fennel with seaweed aioli and radish

Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013 – 43
Greywacke Wild Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – 39

Carpaccio of springbok, chicken liver mousse, cep cream, english truffle and soda bread wafer

Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay 2014 – 30
Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2013 – 55

Warm crayfish salad and carrot butter dressing

Crystallum Cuvée Cinema Pinot Noir 2014 – 52
Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2014 – 30

Karoo lamb loin with hummus, couscous and edamame beans, smoked tomatoes, pea croquette and mint jus

Oldenburg Shiraz 2012 – 62
Trinity Hill Syrah 2013 – 17

Classic welsh rarebit cigar with cep dust

Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – 37
Craggy Range Sophia 2013 – 43

Dessert - panna cotta berry crumble, blueberry parfait, raspberry opera cake, blackberry sorbet, gooseberry and white chocolate mousse
Dessert – panna cotta berry crumble, blueberry parfait, raspberry opera cake, blackberry sorbet, gooseberry and white chocolate mousse

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