What to eat with Cloudy Bay
For most people the New Zealand winery Cloudy Bay is synonymous with sauvignon blanc but their range now extends to sparkling, sweet and red wines, a message underlined by a dinner at Hix Mayfair (in Brown’s Hotel) the other day.
Hix’s style - like that of St John - is minimalist: carefully sourced ingredients cooked as simply as possible. In fact a couple of his suppliers were at the table including the ebullient Peter Hannan of the Meat Merchant whose whose fantastic guanciale I tried the other day.
Cloudy Bay’s wines, on the other hand are generous and full of personality - classically ‘new world’. How would the two get on?
The best matches ironically were not with sauvignon but with pinot of which they now have two - one from their home territory of Marlborough, the other from Central Otago.
The more delicate Marlborough one - a 2012 - was paired with a rib of Peter Hannan’s superb bacon with Bramley apple sauce and the more robust 2011 Te Wahi with two courses: a Glenarm Estate steak with Hampshire ‘pennybuns’ (ceps) with parsley and a washed rind cheese called Guernsey Goddess made by Alex James (of Blur fame) from Guernsey milk and washed in Somerset Cider Brandy. That was the biggest surprise because although the cheese wasn’t particularly ‘stinky’ it was very rich and creamy but was a fantastic match with the sweet-fruited pinot.
The better known sauvignon - now on the 2014 vintage - kicked off the dinner with a threesome of oysters (I like the way Hix avoids the word ‘trio’) - some natives, rocks with cucumber green chilli and shallots and some deep-fried rocks served with a rich bearnaise-y style mayo (at his Fish and Oyster House in Dorset he serves a ransom mayonnaise but as ransoms aren’t in season I’m guessing he used herbs). That was the best match of the three but the natives were somewhat overwhelmed by the wine and the oysters with rocks and chilli not quite as good a match as you’d expect. (I think it needed more Asian-style seasoning which isn’t really Hix)
The next course of Wye Valley asparagus (a second, late harvest) and purslane salad was spot on though. There’s more going on than just asparagus flavours in the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon but enough to link to the dish - an explosion of green herbal flavours that was just delicious.
The course I didn’t think quite worked was a steamed fillet of St Mary’s Bay turbot (below) with sea beet and rape-seed oil where the fish was ironically so fresh it threw the accompanying 2013 Cloudy Bay chardonnay out of kilter, emphasising its oak rather than its creaminess. I think an older vintage or a light butter sauce of some kind - or even melted butter (better than rapeseed oil with this wine) - would have made it work.
And the luscious 2007 Late Harvest riesling wasn’t done any huge flavours by the Peruvian Gold chocolate mousse. Given Hix uses British ingredients it would have been better with something apple-based.
So great food, great wine but only a limited number of great matches in my opinion. It’s a problem with wine dinners. Restaurants don’t have the time or staff resources to tweak or change their dishes to match the wines and its hard taking wines out of their natural register - in Cloudy Bay’s case, the big flavours of Asian-accented New Zealand food. That doesn’t mean of course you shouldn’t do it. A preliminary run-through tends to highlight any problems.
I attended the dinner as a guest of Cloudy Bay.
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