Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Month: February 2018

Foraging is hot – and life changing

Foraging is hot. Literally. It’s also all about expecting the unexpected.

In this picture we are picking coastal spinach at Gore Bay in North Canterbury, where we found edible berries buried beneath the leaves, in safe seclusion from birds.

As well picking pretty (and edible) flowers, we spent a steamy day in the South Island sunshine foraging along sea shores, roadsides and farms for food to eat.

The event is now in its fourth year and is the brainchild of local food lover Angela Clifford, who co-owns The Food Farm, Tongue in Groove wines, is a full time mother and organiser of Forage North Canterbury. Her mission is to show how food and wine relate.

It’s easy to get what she’s talking about when you’re sent out on a team to forage.

For a start, it’s impossible not to notice the vast vineyards, the wild fruit trees and the prolific number of local rivers, all, apparently, teeming with fish. This year’s catch was more significant than last year’s, which was why chef Alesha Bilbrough-Collins’ dish of kahawai and tua tua was so impressive, particularly with the wine match of the 2017 Terrace Edge Albarino; it may be an experimental grape (Albarino) in New Zealand but its tangy crispness was ideal with the sharp tang of beach mustard that Alesha cleverly incorporated into the dish. This was offset beautifully with slivers of foraged fresh pears and zesty exotic sumac; one of the biggest surprises to the forage team that I was part of. If you haven’t seen sumac in real life before, it’s a treat to hold and to behold for the first time. It’s velvety floral exterior is a delicately woven layer of spicy seeds, usually ground into the spice mix we see in supermarkets under cover of plastic. The real life version is so much prettier, not to mention mind blowingly tasty.

Our forage team was assigned to fields and verges, which is trickier than it sounds. Where do you stop a car safely on New Zealand’s narrow country roads, for a start? Luckily, most of our foraging was done along the stinking hot shores of the drop dead beautiful Gore Bay where we found sea figs (also known as succulents), edible aloe lookalikes and coastal spinach, along with the odd bucket or five of wild plums, wild edible berries and flowers. But first, we visited an organic vegetable farm on a chilly clifftop above Gore Bay.

We stood there in a field of colourful cardoons, eating wild strawberries and drinking the weirdest tasting orange juice I have ever tried. Apparently, it was the distillation of  organically certified vegetables growing on this farm, and its unusual flavour was eclipsed by the story of the man who made it – Michael Voumard, who lost the love of his life last year to cancer. He smiled, as he told us about their dream project – the wild food farm we were standing on. Thanks to the WWOOFers  helping him on the land, the farm is still running and his clients (also known as his neighbours) are growing in number. Those WOOFERS volunteer their work for him in exchange for food and accommodation.

Forage North Canterbury is a not for profit annual event, which Angela Clifford and invited chefs and local wineries all give their time, wines and venue (the outstanding Pegasus Bay Winery restaurant) to each year.

The best part of foraging

The best part of foraging is the discovery. To describe foraging as inspirational is to wildly understate how thought changing, and potentially life changing, an event like Forage North Canterbury can be.

When people think about wine, it is usually about the vineyard but Clifford wants to show us something altogether bigger, and wilder, at Forage North Canterbury. She wants to us to see the purple berries along the seashore and to taste the salty tang of beach figs; to savour the flavour of uncultivated porcini mushrooms and the sweetness of fresh organic eggs; the green taste of wild water cress and the tannic crunch of elderberries.

It’s the second time I’ve been to Forage North Canterbury. I hope it won’t be the last.

It’s humbling to realise we are, quite literally, surrounded in food, if only we know where to find it.

Thank you, Mother Nature.


Facts on Forage North Canterbury 2018

The forage teams

Fields & Vineyards

Fields & Verges


Fishing the Rivers

Sea Shore

Ocean Fishing


Truffieres & Hives

The talent

Organiser Angela Clifford pays credit to local foragers Kate McMillan and Melany Wright for the event.

The wineries

Bellbird Spring, Black Estate, Crater Rim, Greystone, Mount Brown, Pegasus Bay, Terrace Edge, The Boneline and Tongue in Groove.

The chefs

Alesha Bilbrough-Collins (BearLion), Alex Davies (Gatherings), Bob Fairs(Roots Restaurant), Hector Henderson (Gatherings), Simon Levy (Inati), Teresa Pert (Pegasus Bay), Jonny Schwass (Botanic Gardens/Ilex Cafe), James Stapley (Kika/Francesca’s Kitchen), Giulio Sturia (Roots Restaurant) and Dave Verheul (Town Mouse/Embla, Melbourne). They were assisted by Carlos Rodriquez (27 Steps).

The menu

Pig Face, tomato, blackberry, seaweed sashimi
Alex Davies
Cured yellow eyed mullet, Terrace Edge E.V.O
Hector Henderson
Served with: 2006 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon/Semillon
Paua, mussel, seaweed, waterfall cress
Giulio Sturia & Bob Fairs
Served with: 2016 Black Estate ‘Home’ Chenin Blanc 2016
Kahawai, tua tua, beach mustard, walnut, pear, sumac
Alesha Bilbrough-Collins
Served with: 2017 Terrace Edge Albarino
Driftwood smoked cod, kelp, galangal and porcini broth
Jonny Schwass
Served with 2016 Mount Brown Pinot Gris  
Burgundy truffle, egg, barley, cress, elderberry dressing
Teresa Pert
Served with 2015 The Crater Rim Chardonnay  
Wild turkey, yellow plum, fresh walnut, elderberry, chicory
James Stapley
Served with 2012 Greystone ‘Little Brother’ Pinot Noir 
2012 The Bone Line ‘Waimanu’ Pinot Noir  
Cheese and biscuits
Simon Levy
Served with 2013 Tongue in Groove Riesling
Wild berries, peach leaf ice cream
Dave Verheul
Served with 2016 Bellbird Spring Mute les Epices 

Sicilian Saturday in Wellington

This Saturday 10 February at Regional Wines in Wellington, we are hosting a free Sicilian wine tasting from 1pm to 5pm.

Wellington wine importer Richard Klein will open two interesting wines from the biggest island in the Mediterranean. Both are discounted for the day and open for free tasting. The red is a new vintage in store.

2015 Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso a Rina is usually $37.99 and its special price this weekend is $33.99.

If you like Pinot Noir, you’ll love this soft fruity red made with grapes grown high up on the slopes of Europe’s most active volcano – Mt Etna, in eastern Sicily. This wine is made from the quirky Sicilian Nerello Mascalese grape – a spicy, fruity, pale red, with flavours of savoury smoky tones as well as red fruit.

2016 Firriato Le Sabbie dell’Etna –  Usual $23.99    Special price $21.99

And where would you be on a summery Saturday without a bright fresh young white?  Firriato is a blend of two white grapes and also grown on Mt Etna. The Sicilian Carricante and Catarratto grapes make this wine full bodied, dry, nutty and its high altitude vineyards mean that both grapes retain acidity, which keeps this wine tasting as fresh as a daisy.

Wine of the week from Germany’s 2000 vintage

This is a beautiful wine. It was purchased in a beautiful place from grapes grown on an outrageously steep one…

2000 Fritz Haag Riesling Auslese 7% ABV, price not available

The 2000 Fritz Haag Riesling Auslese was made from grapes grown on the Brauneberg hillside, which has been regarded as a great vineyard site since the second century AD when the Romans cultivated vines there.

The Juffer Sonnenuhr is the best part of the Brauneberg Vineyard, facing south and producing grapes with great flavour concentration balanced by crisp high acidity, which is still evident in this 18 year old wine today.

We bought it when we visited the middle Mosel in 2001 with our then-15 month old daughter, Ruby. This week she turned 18, so we opened the 750ml bottle of this wine, tentatively, because it was sealed with cork – which crumbled almost as soon as the corkscrew penetrated its Riesling-soaked outer edge, which soon turned to dust, crumbling into the wine, until I extracted the last shred of cork and used a sieve to pour this full bodied, zesty Riesling, which has flavours of lemon, limes and honey. What a wine. It’s succulent and rich but super fresh still, after all these years. There’s no price tag on this wine because you can’t buy it, but drinking it after all this time can buy memories – both from the past and an investment in great future ones.

Residual sweetness is approximately 100 grams per liter, possibly slightly higher. The total production is about 200 cases.

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