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Thursday, November 12, 2009
  Villa Maria food and wine matching evening
Last night B and I attended a magnificent food and wine matching evening at Villa Maria. The food was by Ruth Pretty (who also provided commentary on her choices and decisions) and the wine by Vidal (was commented by their champion winemaker Hugh Crichton). Paul Holmes presented his olive oils and was also a sponsor of the evening. Since the last fortnight has been hard, with pain and then discovering a hacker attack on my websites before the letdown over my accommodation for SBL all on top of a busy marking schedule such a break was well timed :)

The evening began with Grilled Scampi Tails with Lime Wasabi Dressing and Karengo Fronds and also Blini with Smoked Salmon and Herbed Cream Cheese as nibbles matched with Vidal Estate Marlborough Riesling 2009 while people gathered. The food was delicious and more understated than the description suggests, the wine delicious and already fairly well balanced, though I think I'd prefer it when the acid has had more time to mellow. (The horse whose mouth I am examining over-critically was not a gift, since we paid for the invitation ;) though it does seem unfair to criticise a gold medal wine for being too young it was a little ironic since Hugh Chrighton at one stage expressed the wish that Kiwis would learn to cellar wine for a decent period.)

After the starters we enjoyed six little parcels of food with different matched wines. Sewveral of these combinations were really interesting, so fat in the Whipped Goats Cheese and Candied Hazelnuts that filled the miniature icecream cones softened the sharpness of the Sauvignon Blanc. While the salt in the Feta and Olive Herb Salad interestingly softened the oak in the Chardonay, and similarly at the end the Anchovy Cream Sauce that accompanied the Cervena (an unusual but delicious combination) not only somehow made the venison taste more like deer and less like beef, but also made the impressive Vidal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 somehow tase older and more mature (again perhaps softening the oak?).

Two themes that ran through the evening were balance and age. Both the balance in good wines and that between matched wine and food, but also the way in which most of the fine wines NZ produces that are sold locally are sold and drunk young, often resulting in less balance than the same wines would achieve with a few years in the bottle... I'm sure there is a theological point in there somewhere...

I could rave of hours :) Ruth Pretty is a superb chef, who never let the food take over, but always offered food that was interesting in itself, but which "worked" well with the wine so that both wine and food tasted better together. The evening made a fine balance to the rest of the week so far. Bliss! I wish I had remembered to use my phone to take a photo so that you could drool too ;)

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