Bottles: From New Zealand, with Riesling

By Stephanie Yuen

I’ve always been a big fan of New Zealand Pinot Noir and loved its elegance and deep complexity, though I have to admit, Pinot Noir is not an easy wine to pair Asian food with.

A recent wine tasting lunch hosted by Jeremy McKenzie, Senior Winemaker of Villa Maria Estate who looks after the Marlborough wineries, along with the dishes prepared by David Wong, Executive Chef of Oru at Fairmont Pacific Rim put me in ease. As a result of their superb pairing, I now am an avid admirer of their Riesling as well.

McKenzie showcased three wines from Marlborough:

1/ 2008 Riesling

2/ 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

3/ 2007 Pinot Noir

Chef Wong prepared three dishes respectively:

1/ Heart of Palm Salad with grapefruit, cilantro and coconut vinaigrette.

2/ Sake Kasu Sablefish with gingered tomato, gailan and miso butter sauce.

3/ Roasted Duck Breast with wakame and peashoots.

With its supple, silky texture and berry, distinct flavour, the Pinot Noir was a perfect match for the tender velvety duck. I did, however, prefer the crisp Sauvignon Blanc for the citrus Palm Salad. Surprisingly, the one wine that I kept on sipping throughout lunch was the Riesling.

Riesling has always been my choice for Asian cuisine, especially when ‘hot and spicy’ is the description of the meal.

But to enjoy it thoroughly from the salad course to the entrée course while a spectrum of Asian flavours, from coconut to miso; ginger to slightly acidic wakame and mildly sweet and earthy peashoots entered my palate.

I have to say, McKenzie’s 2008 Villa Maria Riesling has a good balance of acidity and lingering charm. It fine-tuned the gingered tomato, mellowed down the subtle bitterness of gailan and sensationalized the gentle miso-moist sablefish.