The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2015

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22  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2015 NEW YORK CITY SIPS L ast month we enjoyed visits from far-flung destinations and wondrous geogra- phies—all of them south of the equator. If we couldn't visit in person, at least the antipodean messengers came bearing bottles that tasted of the place. Sometimes you go to a tasting out of a sense of duty (or to fill up space in a column). But when it's an Oz Clarke presentation, you go for the entertainment. Clarke, who started out as an actor, has an inimitable style, accentuated by table thumps, curse words and very odd analogies. All the better to enliven a New Zealand Wine seminar at the Michelin-starred Musket Room. Turns out the North Island is oh- so-yesterday, Waiheke Island's vineyards are aptly named Purgatory and Madness, and the South Island has improved its status from a "hellhole when I first went there 30 years ago," Clarke told us. We forgot this bleak endorsement as he guided us through wines of surprising aroma and flavors. In Central Otago (no longer damned), Pinot Noir ("the stuff that all good suicides are made of") dominates. The area is also strong in aromatics—Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer—but it's Chardonnay, "one of the fallen stars, on its way back," that Clarke champions. In the end, by our count, three places were hellholes, but they all made good wines. The antithesis to Mr. Clarke was Siobhan Thompson, genteel Chief Executive Officer of Wines of South Africa, who was stateside for the equivalent of a "fluff and fold" of the seven-year program. With the hire of NYC-based ambassador Jim Clarke (no relation to Oz), Thompson says there's a "concentrated effort to refresh the strategy and grow South Africa's footprint in the U.S." People associate South Africa with Chenin Blanc and the maligned Pinotage, but Thompson and Clarke presented two wines they think herald the future of the region. Cape Point's 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Estate was a blend that included Semillon and Chardonnay, giving the zingy wine enough to keep it from de-enamelizing your teeth. We also liked the lean and tart Boschendal Shiraz-Mourvèdre blend from the Paardeberg area. Both wines are in the $12–20 sweet spot. You might not think a $10.99 bottle of wine can command much respect, but when it's produced by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, then our attention is piqued. Thanks to Emmanuel Riffaud, enologist for Anderra, the Rothschild winery in Chile's Maipo and Maule Valleys, we learned not to be so haughty about value wines (especially when attached to French nobility). Stressing Anderra's Bordelais parent- age, Riffaud said, "We are not looking to make body-building wines." We also learned that, very surprisingly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère pair well with seafood. We dug into the grilled octopus and "Pistols on Horseback"—fried Chesapeake oysters wrapped in aged Surryano ham—accompanied by the highly quaffable reds. The Sauvignon Blanc we reserved for the traditional noble pairing with raw oysters. Noblesse oblige! It Came from Below THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE INVADES MANHATTAN IN A TRIO OF TASTINGS by Lana Bortolot Siobhan Thompson, Wines of South Africa's Chief Executive Officer, and Jim Clarke, Wines of South Africa USA Ambassador. PHOTO: LANA BORTOLOT Author Lana Bortolot and SOMM Journal correspondent Sarah Huges Bray (center) take notes at Oz Clarke's New Zealand wine seminar. Laetitia March-Nulton, USA Export Manager, and Emmanuel Riffaud, enologist for Anderra, discover the way to good food at the Chelsea Market in Downtown Manhattan. PHOTO: IÑAKI VINAIXA PHOTO: LANA BORTOLOT

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