Getting tickets for some of the more popular events at Wellington On A Plate is a bit of a lottery. Many of the events are held for one day or night only, and in a small restaurant were space is limited. When the pre-sale starts, I’m lined up with a tab for each event I want to be at, and click away madly to try to get through to Ticketek’s servers. As does everyone else…so really it just comes down to who clicks at the moment that the connections become free. There’s probably some horribly complicated geek-speak that can explain it.
The upshot is that I didn’t get to some of the events I wanted to go to…but one of my “reserve” events came through. On a rainy Wellington afternoon (did I mention it had been raining?) we went into town, to Avida, for tastings and tapas from Matahiwi Estate.
Avida is a regular haunt of mine. It’s just up the road from the office, and serves tapas and good beer (they often have Garage Project beers on tap). I pop in for a light meal before going dancing on Tuesdays. Today, they were matching tapas to the wines.
The tasting consisted of three varietals, with two vintages of each to compare and contrast. We’d had a glass of bubbles on arrival (chardonnay, natch) but the first “tasting wine” was sauvignon blanc - a 2015 and 2013. All the wines being offered today were from their premium "Holly" range, named after the owner's daughter. The 2015 had more of the crisp acidity associated with New Zealand sauvignon, whilst the older wine had more mellowness. This was paired with a chicken croquete. Nicola decided she liked the newer vintage more, whereas I was in favour of the more mature wine. Sav blanc isn’t really my favourite varietal.
The owner, Alastair, kept up a running commentary on the wines as we tasted them, giving us his thoughts on what flavours were in the wines and how they differed.
Next up was chardonnay. Again we had two years – a 2012 and a 2015. This time, they were from different regions as well – the 2015 having been sourced from Hawkes Bay, whereas the 2012 was from their own vineyard in Masterton. The 2012 showed good depth and variety – a full, rich wine, whilst the younger 2015 was more fruit-driven. Both good, and paired with a smoked chicken bocadillo.
Third on the menu was pinot noir – a 2013 and a 2015. But we didn’t know which was which! One of them had more tannin so I picked this as the younger of the two wines. I was wrong. Turns out that the 2015 had only been bottled two weeks ago, and was suffering from what’s known as “bottle shock” – a (fortunately temporary) syndrome which causes the flavours to be suppressed. So the flavours were quite muted, but will be far fruitier once the wine has had time to settle down. Wine is a delicate beast, and needs to be handled carefully. It will continue to change its chemical composition whilst in the bottle -this is what ages wines. If you take it from its nice comfortable barrel and stick it into a bottle without so much as a ”by your leave”, it will understandably react. Frankly, it sulks for a bit. The pinot was served with albondigas – Spanish meatballs – and mushrooms.
Finally, we tasted a dessert wine – a sauvignon/riesling blend. Not as sweet as some late harvest wines, and accompanied by a lemon curd custard and ginger snap dessert.
The last part of the afternoon’s proceedings was the quiz. This consisted of various questions about the New Zealand wine industry. Mostly guesswork on our part, but when it was over Alastair started handing out prizes of magnums of pinot noir! If I’d known what the prize was, I’d’ve googled the answers as everyone else appeared to have done! Anyway, after the quiz, he started calling out random questions and awarding bottles of the dessert wine. One of them was “what was the date of our first vintage?” and as I’d been paying attention earlier I called out “2004!” and snagged myself a bottle.
Before leaving, we said hello to Fleur, the sales and marketing person from the vineyard, and ordered some sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to be delivered. The rain was definitely lightening as we made our way back home. A very enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment.