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Pinot rules!

New Zealand cookery writer Lauraine Jacobs reports on the Pinot Noir '07 conference in Wellington, including a gourmet sausage tasting

"New Zealand’s Pinot Noir has truly come of age. That’s the message many commentators and critics delivered at the Pinot Noir 07 conference in Wellington last week. The wines were rich, luscious and bursting with fruit and heady scents. Thousands of bottles were opened, hundreds of guests, both international and local swirled, sniffed and tasted to their hearts’ delight.

But as good as the Pinot was, it may have been the food that stole the show. Culinary director Ruth Pretty oversaw lunches, dinners, feasts and discussions where superb food was offered alongside the wines. One afternoon, in an act organised with almost military precision, delegates were hosted in ten of the capital’s top restaurants by chefs who presented their own seafood entrees and beef main courses to match with white Pinot (Pinot Gris) and selected Pinot Noirs. The event turned into exactly what it was billed, The Long Lunch and many guests returned to their hotels early or even in some cases late, in the evening after debates, chatty banter and some terrific food.

The wind-up gala dinner was an event that did the locals proud. Fabulous platters of oysters, sides of hot smoked salmon (perfect with the Pinot Noir), grilled scampi and plump scallops were shared. But the main course, served after a stunning performance which showcased garments from the World of Wearable Art collection, was the perfect food to match Pinot Noir - roasted Cervena (venison) shortloin with confit eggplant, garam masala and crushed boysenberries. This was a dish that echoed every nuance and flavour in local Pinot Noir and such examples as Bell Hill Old Weka Pass Road 2004 from Canterbury, Felton Road Block 5 2004 from Central Otago and the revered Neudorf Moutere 2004 from Nelson have never tasted so good!

But it’s often the quirkier events that do the most to grab the imagination the most. In a session entitled “The Pinot Noir Lover” (more serious souls were enrolled in two other concurrent classes, the Pinot Noir Maker, and The Pinot Noir Seller) Jamie Olivers’ sommelier Matt Skinner, and Australian wine commentator Nick Stock, led the audience through a tasting of three gourmet sausages especially created by international chefs Brad Farmerie of New York’s Public, Rex Morgan of Wellington’s Citron and Josh Emett Of Gordon Ramsay’s The London in NY. The Pinot Noirs served were an Olssen’s Slapjack Creek 05 from Central Otago and Oyster Bay 2005 from Marlborough.

Brad Farmerie’s Cervena, duck and oregano sausage was scented with vanilla, and although a little lean was meaty and flavoursome. He had taken flavours from the wine and included them in his recipe.

Rex Morgan admitted he had started out with the wine, wanting to put every flavour he could find in the bottles into his sausage but had to settle for a lamb, lentil and thyme sausage with cherry marmalade. (Apparently Ruth Pretty vetoed his first attempt as it would have blown the event’s budget!) It was a great choice and had plenty of punch to meet the vibrant Pinot Noir.

My favourite was Josh Emett’s pork, sweetbread, apple and tarragon sausage. It was lighter than the others but still well within the realm of meeting the pinot Noir head on. Mr Emett failed to show on a planned video link so we’re not sure just what went into his planning and pairing.

But the discussion and subsequent audience comment pointed towards the feared ‘fat’ being the single most attractive ingredient in all the sausages and it was remarkable just how alive the wines both became when enjoyed with the food."

Lauraine Jacobs latest book The Confident Cook is published by Random House. For stockists see


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