Wine with real chemistry

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Big-name wine producers often explore fresh territory for partnerships that will match their legendary names with new technology. The classic example is Opus One in California's Napa Valley, where French treasure Chateau Mouton Rothschild paired up with icon of American wine Robert Mondavi in 1979.

In South Africa, the successful recipe was repeated when local Anton Rupert partnered with France's Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1997. Their Rupert & Rothschild wines from a West Cape vineyard at the toe of the spectacular Simonberg mountain in Franschhoek Valley became celebrated around the world, and their legend later enhanced by their sons, Anthonij Rupert and Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.

Late last month, Schalk-Willen Joubert, the cellar master at Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons winery, flew in from South Africa to help organise an exclusive Wine Dinner at the Banyan Tree Bangkok's Pier 59 Restaurant.

Executive chef Degan Septoadji prepared a four-course dinner to pair with three selected premium wines from Rupert & Rothschild, with Taylor's Port wine served at dessert.

After a refreshing round of amuse bouche, the action kicked off with the first course: poached seafood, mussel tomato gelee, kaffir lime, dill and smoked herring pearls paired with 2008 Rupert & Rothschild Baroness Nadine, which was 100 per cent Chardonnay. The wine hit the palate with a freshness that betrayed its fermentation method: 80 per cent French oak then another 20 per cent spent in stainless steel. It complemented the seafood dish well, bringing out the sweet flavour of the mussels. This exciting dish was also beautifully presented.

Next up was seared Wagyu beef flank, mixed bean salad, rucola and red currant with raspberry, paired with 2008 Rupert & Rothschild Classique. As its name suggests, this bottle was the classic/standard Bordeaux blend with 60 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 per cent Merlot. Even though it is a relatively young wine, it made easy drinking, with a nose of red berries and sweet cherry plus some chocolate undertone. The Wagyu beef was invitingly pink in the middle with the smoke of the pan seared deliciously into its surface. It was a perfect pairing.

The third course was red wine-braised and herb-roasted ostrich, glazed asparagus, beetroot and carrot with parmesan polenta, paired with 2008 Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond. This wine was the top line served on the night, created mainly from handed-picked Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Comprising 49 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 39 per cent Merlot, 9 per cent Cabernet Franc and 3 per cent Petit Verdot, the blend seemed more like a classic Bordeaux to me. Though the wine was beautiful on the nose, with blackberries and cranberries wrapped with tobacco leaves, the bottle was relatively young, with astringency and tannin on the palate. It has potential to mature for another two years to reach its full depth.

The braised ostrich served on a creamy polenta paired very well with the wine, but this course contained risks. Ostrich after beef seems risky since ostrich has a lighter texture, and the asparagus had the potential to make the wine taste metallic.

For dessert, flour-free chocolate cake with marinated orange and pomelo was served with Taylor's special Ruby Port from Portugal. The chocolate cake and Port were a pleasing match for every sweet tooth, though the sharper flavours of marinated orange and pomelo clashed with wine.

The restaurant's spectacular 59th-floor view, together with beautiful decor and attentive wait staff, also helped to make this well-attended wine dinner a memorable occasion.

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