|View from Flying Fish, where we had dinner.|
We were first greeted by little wedding favors – Bombonieres – of sugared almonds. Champagne was cheerfully offered, but knowing my extremely low tolerance for alcohol, I tried to politely defer till dinner. In the meantime, I ordered something else to drink in the meantime.
Behold! The only non-alcoholic drink in the room!
Regardless of my (dis)ability with alcohol, I had a very lovely pre-dinner chat with Chris Barnes – consultant wine educator to Wine Selectors and visiting lecturer in Wine Studies at the University of Melbourne – about the science of wine.
We started out with two really nice Rieslings. The younger of the two smelled distinctly of fresh pears and apples, and the older had a slightly more complex scent of ripe fruit.
The younger Riesling worked really nicely with the oysters, and the older of the two cut through the richness of the Duck Rillettes and Foie Gras. While I enjoyed the lighter, juicier Riesling more, the more layered, older Riesling worked better with food. I guess what I’m trying to say rather clumsily is that I would enjoy the younger Riesling on its own, but would rather have the older Riesling with food.
We then had a choice of two different mains that we could have, and Simon and I went halfsies!
The fish was marvelously flaky, but the best part of this dish for me was the tasty, tingly vinaigrette! There was such beauty in the way that the flavors sparked my tastebuds and the silky-yet-flaky white fish felt in my mouth that the individual elements didn’t really make that much of an impression. It was just a glorious, light, soul-lifting whole.
As much as I usually prefer seafood – and that fish was divine – this duck was everything a duck should be. Or any meat for that matter. It was chock full of flavor, juicy, and I finally can say that I understand why there is such a tizzy about duck fat. There was just a certain satiny richness that coated my tongue, mellowed out the sharp saltiness of the pan juices and gave a great depth of flavor to the buckwheat.
The mains were paired with two Pinot Noirs – 2010 Riposte by Tim Knappstein No 1 Pinot Noir and 2008 Tarrawarra Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. To be honest, to a wine novice like me, the reds were just a bit much. I could definitely appreciate the jammy berry scents in the older of the two reds, but as far as the tasting, I was just a little bit lost. I did, however, learn about the importance of oxygen to flavor.
The oxidation process apparently allows for a greater complexity of flavor. Chris likened it to the process of cooking – oxygen molecules are excited and the flavor of the food changes. Hence the idea of letting the wine “breathe”, which apparently is a misnomer as the wine doesn’t exactly go through expiration and respiration. The process of oak barrel maturation was explained to me like this – the wood allows some of the liquid to evaporate, and oxygen is then pulled into the barrel, which then interacts with the wine and brings out a more complex, deeper flavor.
At least, that’s how I understand it.
A final red – 2009 Coriole Vineyards Sangiovese Shiraz – was then poured out for us to enjoy with the cheese platter.
We had two different kinds of cheeses that night – an American Cheddar, and a Delice de Bourgogne. The shiraz had a dark, chocolatey flavor, and the tannins cut through the creaminess of the oozy Delice de Bourgogne really well. It was really enjoyable, although I still felt that there was a limit to which I could enjoy the Shiraz because I couldn’t fully understand it.
But that’s the thing.
In my chats with Chris, what I really learnt from him and this wonderful dinner with the people from Wine Selectors is that you’ve gotta start somewhere. The perception of wine seems either to be that it is intimidating – probably because of a lack of exposure – or that it is pretentious. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be either. It is a little bit like food, I guess, because you win some and you lose some. I’ve just realized that while I wouldn’t consider myself a wine lover, I do like a young Reisling. And seeing as how I started my love affair with cheese with creamy white mould cheeses and now love a good sharp blue, I’m pretty sure that before long I’ll work my way up to appreciating a nice, full red.
A big thank you to the nice people at Wine Selectors and Keep Left PR for inviting me to this lovely dinner, and the intriguing introduction to wine.
Note: Insatiable Munchies and other food bloggers mentioned in this post dined as guests of Wine Selectors and Keepleft PR.
We ate at:
Lower Deck Jones Bay Wharf,
19/21 Pirrama Road
Pyrmont NSW 2009