Nepenthe Twilight Tasting

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disclaimer: I was Nepenthe’s guest at the tasting

date: Friday 5 April 2013

I think we all know I am something of a wine geek (or bore, depending on your point of view, I guess). So when an email arrived inviting me to a special twilight tasting at Nepenthe Wines, in the beautiful Adelaide Hills I was always going to make the effort to attend.

Most wineries can lay claim to some pretty stunning scenery but Nepenthe is especially pretty, with the cellar door sitting on top of a hill overlooking vineyards, the view punctuated by a massive gum tree. But don’t believe me: my guest, who had not been to Nepenthe before, admitted the location had her second guessing her own wedding venue!

This tasting was a one off event by Nepenthe to launch the Autumn “club pack”. Six wines were paired with six different canapés which sounds quite formal. But that wasn’t really the case at all. As guests arrived they were greeted with the Altitude Sauvignon Blanc and, as it was such a beautiful evening, people soon spread themselves out across the cellar door’s verandah and onto the lawn. This meant that I, at least, ended up tasting everything in what was probably the wrong order. The staff ended up pouring quite a few different wines that weren’t on the main list, so it ended up being a great opportunity to try a range of the Nepenthe wines.

The absolute stand out wine of the evening for me was the Altitude Pinot Gris. I do not say this lightly. If you know me, you know that I will avoid Pinot Grigio at pretty much all costs. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape: one is the French name and one the Italian. However, using the different names on labels is not mere pretension on the part of the winemaker or the marketer. The Italians and the French make the grape into wines of very different styles and here in Australia, the use of the Italian or French name is trying to communicate something of the style to the consumer.

The Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be a light bodied, easy drinking quaffer of a wine. It’s inoffensive, light and refreshing. Understandably, it has many fans and it’s increasingly popular as a by the glass option in pubs and restaurants here in Australia. The French Pinot Gris (most commonly from the Alsace region in eastern France) is a little different: it has a bit of weight, oomph and spice.

The Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Gris delivers on that promise. It has that bit of weight, it certainly has spice, but it retains the acidity that makes it refreshing to drink. It’s interesting and, because we always need a bit of wine jargon – it’s textural. I actually went to a bottle shop the next day and bought a bottle (I was going to buy one on the night but by the I made that decision so had everyone else and there was a queue!).

The warm evening meant that I wasn’t really in a red wine mood, but I didn’t pass up the opportunity to try the 2009 Good Doctor Pinot Noir, and my red wine drinking friend gave a thumbs up to the two Shirazes (Altitude and Gate Block).

I have to mention the food. The catering was by Two Brothers and while I won’t pretend that absolutely every canapé was on song there were a few dishes that were amazing.

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The sweet potato and avocado salsa on rye was amazing. I don’t like sweet potato particularly but this was so creamy and zingy: the balance between sweet potato, avocado and lime was absolutely spot on. They looked perfect and tasted even better. Absolutely the highlight of the canapés for me – testified by the fact that there is no photo because I was too busy eating it!

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The Kerala prawn fritters, served on what looked to be some kind of prawn cracker, were lovely too and the pastry on the kingfish and beetroot tarts was beautifully short and thin (though I did think the quark needed a bit more oomph to it to stand up to, and cut through, the beetroot).

Overall, I thought this was a really lovely event. It was free for Nepenthe’s VIP club members and a really great way of making people feel a bit special and showcasing both the winery and the wines. The numbers were kept low so everything felt very intimate and there was always an opportunity to chat to staff.

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