Exploring the World of Wine

Last night’s World Tour of Wines stopped off in Auckland, New Zealand, with a couple of side trips to Christchurch and Wellington. We sampled wines from only a few of New Zealand’s seven hundred wineries; I suppose the only way we’ll get a full grasp of the country’s diverse assortment of wines is to organize a wine tour of the country, which my wife suggested last night we do. She was joking. I am not. The only thing stopping me from doing it is the lack of an abundance of money crying out for discretionary spending. Well, a few of the people at our table last night said they would not go because the time involved in travel would be too great. Crybabies. I would happily stow away in a cardboard box in the underbelly of a slow airborne freighter to make the journey.

The star of the show from last night, without question, was The Crossings Pinot Noir. The description provided to us reads as follows: “This expressive Pinot Noir has lifted aromas of black plums and violets. Ripe berry fruit flavours combine with savoury notes on the palate to produce a wine that is both elegant and approachable. Enjoy with dishes such as lamb rack, roast pork, or duck breast.” The pretentious, turgid descriptive language notwithstanding, the wine was very, very good. However, at the temporarily discounted price of $20 per bottle (tax included), I doubt I’ll be buying much. Or any. I had a conversation with one of the guys at our table about wine prices. I discovered that he and I are on the same page with respect to “daily drinker” wine prices; $10 to $15 is pretty much our range. However, keeping a stellar bottle,  like this one, that costs more around for special occasions is reasonable. So, I haven’t decided. The price does include tax, after all.

We started the evening with a Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, at $19 (including tax). It was decent, but it paled in comparison to The Crossings.  However, the Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay ($21 per bottle, inclusive) was a huge hit at our table. Even my wife, who’s not at all fond of chardonnay, liked it. But, again, at $21 per bottle, it’s outside of my price parameters; but if she wanted a bottle, I’d break my own rules.  After the chardonnay, we sampled a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. The price was more in line ($15.75 per bottle), but I was not impressed, personally. I much prefer other New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, such as Babich, Oyster Bay, and New Harbor; and those are less expensive, if only by a touch. The last wine of the evening was Matua Pinot Noir Rosé ($14.75, inclusive). Decent, in my view, but not outstanding.

Now, to the menu. The first course was ostensibly kiwi and strawberries with assorted cheeses. And it was. Except there were no strawberries. But it did come with crackers, which were not listed on the menu. And the goat cheese was especially good. The other cheese was, we were told, a New Zealand cheddar; it was good, too. Next up was “New Zealand Salad,” which combined a nice red lettuce with goat cheese and half a canned pear (which was very good, notwithstanding being canned) and drizzled with balsamic dressing.

The main course was New Zealand venison (the caterer put the boxes in which the venison was shipped on the table as evidence of the meat’s pedigree) with juniper berry glaze. The venison was farm-raised, so it had no game taste; it tasted like beef to me. While it was very good, I really prefer wild venison, but I know it’s impractical (perhaps illegal?) for a caterer to serve wild venison. The menu described it as being accompanied by parsley butter potatoes and fresh spinach. And it was. Except there was no spinach. The dessert was a pavolova, topped with a lemon curd, whipped cream and berries. Maybe it had berries. I don’t remember.  I don’t think we’ve been to a single World of Wine event at which the printed menu corresponded to what was actually served. But that’s all right; we go for the conversation as much as for the food and wine.

The evening wasn’t entirely about enjoying food and wine and laughter. Our group actually made plans for the future. Well, the plans involved food and wine and laughter. My wife suggested we all meet again at our house in February for an evening of heavy hors d’oeuvres and Malbec wine. Everyone is to bring a bottle of Malbec and a plate of hors d’oeuvres of their choice. We’ll sample the wine and select our favorites and will indulge ourselves in assorted goodies from the kitchens of all involved.

We learned that the next World of Wines event will be on March 15, with the spotlight on South Africa. Naturally, our group will plan to participate in that event, as well. And then, in May, we’ll turn our attention to the USA, with a May 17 event focused on California wines of the north coast. Then, on August 30, we’ll have a special event with a representative of a Sierra foothills winery, from which all of the evening’s wines will be served, will be present. On September 27, we’ll train our palates on the wines of Washington and, then, on October 25, we’ll move on the wines of New York. I like the direction this thing is heading. However, I have to say I think it might be just as much fun, if not more so, to do it in our homes. I suppose the February event will give us a glimpse of what that might be like.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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