I've long maintained that a pre-requisite for turning a meal into an event is to add an aperitif and a dessert wine.
Amuses bouches, a cheese course and a digestif then turn that event into a memorable evening, but the key difference between mere eating vs a dining event is the extended time to talk, to catch up and swap stories over drinks that do not necessarily accompany food.
These four wines from Hill Smith make for an instant dinner party assortment; there is a lean and zippy aperitif, a complex white for starters, red for main and a luscious dessert wine.
The all have New World fruit purity with a poised, adept, balance and tension.
The Hill-Smith family for over six generations have explored and planted exceptional vineyard sites to maximise the personality of the wines they produce.
The wines are a Marlborough Chardonnay from New Zealand, a Cabernet from the Margaret River coastline and two very different Rieslings, a dry Riesling and a Botrytis from Eden Valley to celebrate International Riesling Day (13th March).
Pewsey Vale Vineyard Riesling 2020 (£15.99 – £17.99, Ocado, Hennings Wine Merchants, Specialist Cellars)
In the rugged, undulating high country of Eden Valley, 250 metres above the Barossa Valley floor, lies Pewsey Vale, a vineyard dedicated to Riesling. Named after the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, the UK home of Joseph Gilbert who, in 1839 emigrated to Australia and in 1847 planted a one-acre site, thus establishing Eden Valley’s first vineyard and one of Australia’s first high-altitude cool climate sites. Today, Louisa Rose oversees the winemaking.
With lean soils, rocky outcrops, and finicky microclimates, it is not an easy vineyard to manage. Louisa manages each block according to its specific needs, whilst nurturing the surrounding fauna and flora, important to the biodiversity of the vineyard to ensure the wines are consistent and reflect the terroir of Pewsey Vale.
The 2020 is a classic example, showing the distinctive, generous flavours.
white stone fruits, pineapple, line, grapefruit and melonskin; fresh and pure ripe orchard fruits, topical citrus with savouriness, slatey minerality, zesty, aromatic green herbs and a hint of kerosene. Poised, precise and linear.
Drinks nicely on first opening; can be cellared.
Match with fresh oysters, seared scallops, salt and pepper squid, Thai beef salad or a tomato salad with fresh basil.
Nautilus Chardonnay 2019 (£23.99, Majestic, Specialist Cellars)
Nautilus Chardonnay is made with fruit from the Hill-Smith’s Renwick vineyard in Marlborough, New Zealand. The grapes are blended with a Burgundian clone from long-time growers and friends of the family, Jim and Debbie Greer.
In 2006, a dedicated winery was built for white wine, where every step of the winemaking process takes place. Less handling leads to better results and for this wine, the hand-picked grapes are chilled and pressed directly into barrel where it is fermented.
This hard-fought refinement of the winemaking process has led to no fining of the wine, making it vegan friendly.
Marlborough Chardonnay is known for its cool climate intensity and this one has great longevity and depth.
orchard and yellow stone fruits, musky lime zest, white flowers and a toasty-savoury spiciness; fresh ripe peach and apricot, tropical guava, pineapple and lime marmalade; broad and savoury with toasty-oak spice, buttery-creamy oatmeal, brazil nut and a saline minerality.
Drinks nicely on first pouring and will gain complexity with cellaring.
A versatile food wine, match with smoked fish, coconut curries, roasted white meats, such as chicken or pork or cream-and-mushroom pasta or leek, mushroom and mustard chicken pie (try it in a pie).
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (£10 Tesco)
A vibrant Cabernet from Australia’s Margaret River, a wine region embraced by two oceans, the Indian and the Southern; the temperate, maritime climate with high winter rainfall and sea breezes are wonderful growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon.
The grapes for this wine are grown on a small selection of sites with a range of aspects and soil types, and it is these variances and selective blending that provide Ringbolt with much of its complexity.
expressive cassis, dark-berry fruits, violets and dark green herbs; blackberries, blueberries and ripe black cherry fruit with cocoa and spices; fresh, supple and savoury with ripe, rounded tannins.
Fruit-forward on first-opening, its savoury complexity becomes more apparent with aeration. Can be cellared.
Match with Angus roast beef or rosemary-and-garlic leg of lamb.
Heggies Vineyard Estate Botrytis Riesling (Waitrose £14.99 / half bottle)
Heggies Vineyard is nestled in an idyllic place in the high country of Eden Valley at 500m above sea level. The grapes for Botrytis Riesling are grown on a gentle western facing slope, with trees providing shelter and a dam at the base of the vineyard which provides a gentle morning fog, essential for the development of the all-important Botrytis.
The grapes are selectively hand-harvested in two separate batches, the first is juicy with delicate Botrytis character, and the second develops further to give more concentration of Botrytis and flavour.
The grapes are whole bunch pressed followed by cool fermentation to retain freshness and purity. The combination of innovative viticultural practises and its unique terroir result in a distinctive balanced wine with beautiful structure and long in flavour.
aromatic and floral with musky roasted butter peaches and sweet spices; fresh-yet overripe yellow stone fruits, pineapples pieces and orange marmalade with candied citrus peel and beeswax; rich, unctuous and complex.
Match with a cheeseboard, fruit tarts or roasted peaches. Also drink as an aperitif with a pâté starter.
Joanna Simon on Nautilus Chardonnay: www.joannasimon.com
And on the Ringbolt: www.joannasimon.com
Tom Canavan on the Pewsey Vale: Pewsey Vale, Riesling 2020 - wine-pages