Wine and Food report

Wine and Food February 2020 Report

Function No 348 – Wednesday February 26, 2020

The Percy Beames Bar welcomed members and guests for Function 348. Following the canapes and a sampling of the Bannockburn Riesling 2018, 164 members and their guests headed into the Long Room.

The Bannockburn Riesling 2018 was described by Tyson Stelzer as "at once generous, spicy and complex, layered with notes of ginger, honey and the creaminess of lees age and a well-gauged drop of sweetness. A main course Riesling of texture, richness and tremendous dexterity on the table”. The wine complemented the three canapés – a natural and beetroot kvass oyster duo, potato Chicken 65 with yoghurt dressing, and chickpea and black pudding crostini. Chicken 65 is a spicy, deep-fried chicken dish originating from Hotel Buhari, Chennai, India, served as an entrée, or a quick snack. The flavour of the dish can be attributed to red chillies. Very well received.

Chair Beth Benson opened the lunch by providing brief backgrounds to our guest chef Praveen Rachakonda and winemaker Matt Holmes. Praveen completed his culinary training in India before travelling to London where he gained experience at Wembley and Arsenal stadiums under the direction of master chef Raymond Blanc. He later settled in Melbourne and joined Epicure in 2012. He quickly became an integral member of the MCG Culinary Centre brigade and currently holds the position of sous chef.

Matt Holmes’ foray into wine was inadvertent. Wine retail was his mechanism for supporting himself while studying engineering in Sydney, and it was there that he caught the wine bug. What followed was a diverse range of experience working in the likes of Italy, California and Canada with a final pull back home to take on the role of head winemaker at Bannockburn Vineyards. Matt recalls selling Bannockburn off the shelves in those early days, so it’s fitting that he’s now at the helm.

Praveen’s entrée was saffron sea bass with green gazpacho, fennel, and crustacean essence. Elegantly presented, lovely combination of flavours, and very well received. The entrée was accompanied by Bannockburn Chardonnay 2018 and the Bannockburn SRH 2016 – the first came from a moderately warm season. “A core of fresh citrus acids, stone fruits and subtle winemaking inputs make for a wine well suited to a range of food matches”. The SRH was also from a warm and dry growing season. “Fresh, ripe stone fruits are complemented by citrus acids; texture and drive are derived from the extended lees contact. Wine to enjoy with fine cuisine, or to cellar” (website). Probably the wine of the day.

The main course was a duo Wimmera duck with Amaranth popcorn, kohlrabi, and apple mustard. Amaranth is not only an ancient grain having been cultivated for over 8,000 years, but a ‘superfood’. The main was a restrained serve, and, unfortunately in many opinions, did not provide a good balance of protein and vegetable – a common issue. The presentation of the dish was most attractive.

The accompanying wines chosen by Matt were the Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2017 and the Serré 2016. The 2017 has lifted red fruits and savoury forest floor on the nose, bright acid and fine tannin on the palate. Immediately enjoyable and versatile with regard to food pairings, this wine will reward medium term ageing. The Serre features Pinot Noir grown at Serré Vineyard using close-planting, low trellising and narrow rows to replicate the tough vineyard conditions of Grand Cru Burgundy. This block may be the oldest close-planted vineyard outside Europe. It certainly is the best of Bannockburn’s pinot noir sites: uniform, focused, powerful and fragrant, every year. It will continue to develop and drink well for another ten to 15 years or more. This lovely wine promises enjoyment in both the short and medium term (website).

The cheese course was a limited Ploughman’s Board with Quicke’s English aged cheddar, radish, celery, and piccalilli (a vegetable pickle). This farmhouse cheddar is hand-made with milk from the farm that has been in the Quickes family for over 450 years! The cloth covering allows the cheese to breath during maturation, leading to a small moisture loss that creates the distinctive open, crumbly texture. The wine served with the cheese was the Bannockburn Shiraz 2015 – ‘With elegant dark red fruits, olives and spice flavours, the mid-weight palate reflects the excellent growing season” awarded 95 pts by Cam Mattinson in 2018.

The dessert was peach mimosa trifle with almond crumble, kombucha ginger sorbet, accompanied by Bannockburn’s ‘1314 AD Blanc’ 2019. The dessert was a well-presented, interesting modern dish. 1314 was the year of the Battle of Bannockburn. The wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling where the best attributes of each variety complement those of the other two. 93 pts Cam Mattinson.

Another fine lunch, and unfortunately, the last for a while!

Andrew O’Brien