Nigel Greenings Wild Hare Pappardelle (shot by the chef himself up Mount Difficulty)
It would be fair to say the extremes in temperature and environment don’t get any more diverse than holidaying on the beach the Datai Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia (6 º longitude N – just above the equator) to Wanaka (Lake), in the deep south of the South Island, New Zealand (44 º longitude S).
We left a balmy 30 degrees Celsius for a minus 5 degrees as we stepped out of the aircraft in to the mountain air of snow covered Queenstown airport in the late afternoon. Then an hour drive over the spectacularly rugged Crown Ranges, blanketed in snow against a blue sky.
We are staying with Nigel Greening and family, proprietor of Felton Road winery and extraordinary cerebral bon vivant. We are principally here on holiday, to give my daughter, Hayley, her first experience of snow, notwithstanding it just happens that this part of the world is unequalled in its proximity to fabulous wine and equally exhilarating ski slopes.
We are already 3 days in to our stay, Hayley conquering her first ski lesson on the Caldrona slopes made all the more challenging by a 65km hour westerly spraying powder snow and accelerating her down the learners slope at a decidedly increased speed. This westerly increased to a gale force 215 km hour overnight along with rain and propitiously, snow.
Alas, today has been a lazy day indoors and with my wife arriving from Singapore, joining us for the weekend’s gastronomic activities and a well-conspired main event of cooking her legendary duck curry.
This has been quite a mission with the 3 ducks coming from a Chinese restaurant in Auckland, who opened early for us especially this morning for colelction. Now I did have a handle on the duck source at one stage but Clive Weston (wine guru at Negociants New Zealand) took on the mission to get the ducks and personally deliver to the domestic terminal with precision timing to my wife, stepping off her Singapore flight and connecting to Queenstown.
Clive did an exhaustive check on no less than five potential restaurants for our ducks and decided on the selection after a Saturday taste test last week; a heroic effort and the exercise now known as the “Duck Run”.
No sooner had the wife dropped her bag at Nigel’s, we were off to the local food supplier, Mediterranean wholesalers; a rather incongruous name when there’s a blizzard of rain greeting you as you step out of the car. But they are worth a special mention as this is an incredible one-stop-shop for all your fresh produce and gourmand requirements, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave for the gastronomically inclined, including a fantastic butcher, namely German-born Master Butcher of 30 years, Simon Tiefenbach, who won this NZ’s recent sausage competition http://www.sausagecompetition.co.nz/2010winners.html
Mediterranean Wholesalers is hidden in an industrial park in a nondescript warehouse at 50 Reece Crescent, Wanaka 9305, ph (03) 443 4181, so well hidden it is only those with local knowledge that shop here, the masses (and there are 10 to 15 thousand skiers bloating the population of Wanaka’s normally 5000) all shopping at the utterly pedestrian New World Supermarket. If only they knew they were getting the raw end of it moreover, paying through the nose.
Preparations are well underway with the duck curry, and a bottle of Heymann Lowenstein von Blauem Schiefer 2009 seemingly the perfect prep wine for duck curry, lasting only minutes. Oddly, a bottle of Donnhoff Felsenberg GG 2009 evaporates at the same speed.
Meanwhile, Nigel is playing Sous Chef to my wife for the duck run, which is being cooked tonight purposely to mature overnight for tomorrows feast. At the same time he is heating up his hare ragout, which he has in cryovac portioned in readiness in his fridge as a rhadamanthine to satisfy the hunger of any demanding palate. Quickly boil some pappardelle pasta, liaised with some excellent Seresin Estate olive oil and black truffle paste, mixed with the hare ragout, and voila, you have an brillaintly satisfying meal.
And what to drink with the wild hare pappardelle – the dregs of the 2006 Felton Road Block 3 that we had opened this morning to see how the wine is developing. Nigel thought it did not show that well at the Burghound event in Singapore and wanted see if it was development stage thing or simply a bad bottle. Moreover, Alain Duccase has personally asked for this very wine for his new London restaurant. My tasting note below:
Initial taste at 11am:
Immediately gratifying perfume of deep red berry fruits and secondary aromas draws you in to the wine; herbal nuances – thyme and tarragon, also pipe tobacco incense-smokiness and a background of mountain pine forest and earthy minerality. The fruit profile takes on a savoury note with piercing tamarind tanginess and concentrated plum and cherry compote infused with intense star anise and juniper spiciness. This savoury, tangy quality is mirrored on the palate with spicy piquancy and a racy, quite firm fine-tannin structure, exuding a tension that balances the brooding power and overall cloaked richness of the wine.
Second taste (same bottle that is) 8pm with hare ragout pappardelle – obviously the wine is well breathed out and now displaying highly desirable pongy characters (somewhat unexplainable odours of the farm) but also added complexities on the palate with chocolaty layers of richness and more sweetness; and the texture has built up significantly to a silky and opulent, yet still firm structure, enhanced by exemplary acidity and profuse minerality culminating in great length and a never ending tanginess.
In my personal opinion, a perhaps atypical but exemplary example of New Zealand pinot noir of serious concentration and savoury quality that most would associate with Burgundy; just turning the corner in terms it’s early drinking phase and will assuredly continue developing for the next 5 years. I would leave it for a few more years ideally as it still has a lots of vitality – I would suggest around 10 years in bottle will be closer to optimum drinking time, but feasibly have a 20 year life span – and I know that is aggravating for new world pinot noir sceptics, but this is a wine of true substance.
More on this tomorrow on the duck run….