You’d like to find the perfect wine to pair with your Asian meal but can’t make heads or tails of the vast selection offered on the market?
Fret no more!
We have sampled six New World wines for you, all of which were recommended by none other than Master of Wine (MW) Annette Scarfe, International Wine Challenge Panel Chair, William Reed Business Media consultant, and member of the Estates and Wines team at Moët Hennessy Wine Division.
Scarfe recently visited Tokyo to promote six of the estates’ New World icons and lead a wine tasting and seminar at the prestigious Cordon Bleu in Daikanyama.
Read on to find out more about these exquisite New World wines to accompany your Asian fare.
CLOUDY BAY PELORUS BRUT NV
This wine is native to New Zealand’s Marlborough region, which boasts a variety of well-drained, alluvial, silt, gravel and clay soils, and is highly suitable for growing Sauvignon Blanc – the estate’s flagship grape variety- and Pinot Noir grapes. Cloudy Bay wines are said to “embody the spirit of the region”, while the area’s variety is “a reflection of its diverse terroir.”
Infused with crisp apple and bright citrus flavours with nice minerality, Pelorus Brut NV is a full-bodied wine enjoyable as a sipper on its own or as an aperitif. The maturation process, Scarfe explained, is what gives it complexity. “To make sparkling wine, you need a second fermentation, which will add a degree and a half more in alcohol content.”
The new trend, she said, “is to New World sparkling wine made the traditional way, [using] the same grape as champagne.”
She suggested pairing Pelorus Brut NV with dishes such as grilled herbed or spiced seafood, salmon or beef carpaccio.
CLOUDY BAY TE KOKO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011
Scarfe expertly described Te Koko (“Cloudy Bay” in Maori) as a wine reminiscent of the French White Bordeaux, offering “toasty notes and biscuit aromas with a bit of effervescence and refreshing acidity – though not as much as in champagne.”
Te Koko’s structure is made up of about 70 per cent Chardonnay grapes and 30 per cent Pinot Noir grapes. Wild yeast is used in the fermentation process of this full-bodied, varietal wine aged in French oak. “When you use wild yeast, it gives more complexity and flavour [to the wine], but the ferment takes much longer.”
For Scarfe, Te Koko’s versatility makes it a great complement to a range of cuisine, particularly Japanese food. “This wine, I really love with a lot of sushi, sashimi and fish dishes because it’s got enough texture and body, and the fact that it’s in oak means it can even take some of the most smoked dishes.”
Interestingly, Cloudy Bay was the first producer to develop oaked Sauvignon. “Oak gives a little bit of complexity. There’s only a tiny bit of it in this Sauvignon Blanc because we don’t want it to overpower the wine.”
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines are often aged sur lie (on the lees), a process that imparts distinctive yeasty taste and aroma.
A technique called bâtonnage in French may be used to stir and ensure an even distribution of the lees throughout the wine during the aging process.
“As the wine must (the expressed juice of grape containing pulp and skins) sits and ages in tanks, every so often we need to ‘rack’ (siphon) the wine; then we get clarity in it.”
CLOUDY BAY PINOT NOIR 2013
Another great New Zealand wine, Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied wine exuding flavours of dark cherry and bright berry fruit, with mushroom undertones and smooth, soft tannins.
“If I had to liken this to a French Burgundy,” said Scarfe by way of comparison, “I might put it somewhere between the French Côte de Beaune and Volnay; these are the closest perfume-wise.”
Altitude and blue skies, she pointed out, are responsible for this wine’s intense aromas. “Because of the higher mountains and sunshine in New Zealand, the Pinot Noir there gets a more perfumed, aromatic note to it.”
The maturation process in French oak […] and the fact that the estate’s vines are getting older and therefore showing more concentration, also contribute to accentuating the fruit aromatics.
The blend, which varies from year to year, is usually about 59-60% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and a small percentage of other permitted varieties. While Petit Bordeaux was used for this year’s vintage, Merlot or Cabernet Franc would have been equally suitable, according to Scarfe.
Another characteristic of Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir is its very dark colour inherited from the Malbec grape, which has a thick skin and is better suited to warmer climates. It also contains less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon, making it the best red wine to pair with Asian food.
“It’s actually more suitable with spicy dishes or with a mixture of dishes than perhaps Cabernet or other Cabernet-dominated Bordeaux wines. The palate is quite rich, with sweet fruit on the end. It goes well with a whole range of Asian cuisine.”
Yet, the Japanese appear to shun this cultivar in favour of others. “I’m always surprised that there isn’t more Pinot Noir drunk in Japan,” Scarfe admitted. One of her good friends, who recently did his MW study on sushi, sashimi and wine pairing, found that the most popular varieties here in Japan were Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux – the latter of which, she insisted, couldn’t be a worse match. “I think Pinot would be brilliant with a lot of Japanese food,” she offered as a more appropriate match.
This grape has a thin skin, which means less tannin. “You don’t want very tannic red wine with any sorts of raw fish because then the fish can taste metallic. So, actually, Pinot is a very suitable red wine to have with fish.”
NEWTON UNFILTERED CHARDONNAY
This wine is produced by Newton, a pioneer of unfiltered wines renowned for its meticulous, old-world style winemaking techniques.
Nestled in the heart of Napa Valley wine country, the vineyards are located in areas referred to as AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), namely, Yountville, Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain. “These regions are all very coastal, so we get a big influence from the cold; though we get slightly warmer fruit in Yountville,” Scarfe remarked.
Mount Vedeer and Spring Mountain both enjoy cool to moderate climates and very little diurnal changes, owing to marine breezes and morning mist, the ideal conditions for growing a Chardonnay grape that is replete with unadulterated flavours. “The cooling factor is very important; otherwise, you get very big grapes, [which affects their flavour].”
Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay expresses crisp notes of fig, melon and green apple with accents of honey, spice and vanilla. It has a creamy texture, nice balance and long finish, exhibiting a complex intensity unique to unfiltered wines.
“When you filter a wine,” explained Scarfe, “you strip away some of its aroma, flavour and texture; it’s like making coffee in a coffee machine.” The weather is another important factor. “When Chardonnay is grown in a warmer climate, you actually get [a] more tropical fruit [tang].”
While it is often enjoyed young, many wine experts and purveyors believe it takes on more Burgundy, Bâtard-Montrachet-like characteristics as it ages.
Newton’s Unfiltered Chardonnay is best paired with Asian and European dishes, “because the outcome gives a smokiness to it,” as Scarfe remarked. “You can match it with any sort of dishes like smoked meat or Chinese smoked duck flavoured with sweet sauce. It’s also a fantastic match with cheese.”
TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES CHEVAL DES ANDES 2009
Terrazas de los Andes is a pioneer of Argentinean high altitude wines and principal vineyard owner in Mendoza province. The region, which is characterized by heavy snowfalls and low rain precipitation, boasts several grape varieties in different areas: Torrontés (Salta), Chardonnay (Tupungato), Malbec (Las Compuertas) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Perdriel). All grapes are grown at altitudes ranging from 980 to 1800 metres, in terraced vineyards at the foothills of the Andes, “[allowing] for production […] at a wide range of climactic conditions for optimal fruit expression.”
Cheval des Andes, the winemaker’s prized Cabernet-based blend, “is a joint venture between Château Cheval Blanc […] and our own Terrazas de los Andes,” Scarfe told us. Elegant and complex, it opens with peat aromas followed by ripe fruit, fig, cinnamon, plum and berry notes, with slight tobacco accents. The palate is broad, yet fresh, the texture, smooth. Rich in tannins, “[Cheval des Andes] goes incredibly well with Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian food; anything that can be quite spicy. It’s got a really lovely richness and some sweetness in it as well.”
CAPE MENTELLE’S CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012
Last but not least, Cape Mentelle’s Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the Australian region of Margaret River. This area, which enjoys similar climates as Bordeaux in the North of France, is located in proximity to the merging point of the Indian and cold Southern oceans, thereby enjoying ideal conditions for the grape to thrive in. Deemed as one of “Australia’s best built Cabernets,” this wine is made from carefully “handpicked grapes fermented in large older vats, plunged down gently and then matured in Bordeaux barrels of which about 40-50% is new,” said Scarfe.
A full-bodied wine, Cape Mentelle’s Cabernet Sauvignon displays intense aromas of black currant, chocolate, thyme and anise with subtle violet nuances, alongside dark berry, chocolate and wet slate flavours, ending with a cool, mineral finish. Because of the depth and richness of this vintage, it is best enjoyed with game meat, T-bone steak and roast beef. According to Scarfe, “it is suitable with a whole range of food, but is particulary good with some duck or meat dishes in a sauce.”