Premium wine celebrates nautical heritage
Maverick winemaker Duncan Forsyth often hosts wine events while wearing a baby-blue suit and a pair of snakeskin shoes. On a recent trip to Bermuda, the charismatic Kiwi's flashy shoes were in place — but it was his wine, rather than his wardrobe, that attracted all the attention.
And for good reason — the wines Mr Forsyth produces at Mount Edward winery in Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand are drawing raves from critics and customers alike. Mr Forsyth was on the Island for a wine dinner that featured the world premiere of The Golden Rule Privateer, a single-vineyard, premium pinot noir made by Mount Edward exclusively for Miles Market and Harry's Bar.
He was joined at the launch by his business partner John Buchanan, a fellow Kiwi who has been resident in Bermuda for 18 years. Bermuda's Cox family — Will, Richard and Donald — have produced the wine, crafted after many hours of research by Will and Mr Buchanan and the professional input of Mr Forsyth, to celebrate the Island's nautical heritage and the 2017 America's Cup.
Naturally fermented in French oak from Burgundy, the wine is available at Miles now for $34.95, having made the six-week voyage by ship from New Zealand. “People who enjoy a full-bodied style of pinot noir will enjoy this wine,” Mr Forsyth said.
“Our winemaking style at Mount Edward is a lot of elegance and finesse. This wine is slightly more concentrated and unique — we have only produced 200 cases and only one hectare of our vineyard is dedicated to this wine.
“The historical link to John's New Zealand background and his friendship with Will and the Cox family gives the wine symmetry and celebrates the unique relationship among the three of us.”
“I love the wine; we wanted to celebrate the nautical theme of the America's Cup from New Zealand to Bermuda,” Mr Buchanan said. “Privateer does that — it is a wine that we're both proud of.”
Added Will: “The palate on this side of the Atlantic prefers more rounded fruit on it. We wanted to ‘Bermudianise' this wine — it is more fruit-forward than Duncan's normal style.”
The tasting of The Golden Rule Privateer was one highlight in an evening of many for those who appreciate the sensual qualities of food and its perfect accompaniment, wine — or perhaps it is the other way around?
Mr Forsyth was a star attraction, too. Taking his wines seriously, but not himself, Mr Forsyth's devilish sense of humour combined with a deep knowledge of winemaking made for an enjoyable evening of delicious food, great wine — and agreeable company.
Messrs Buchanan and Forsyth met when the former travelled to his Kiwi homeland with the objective of purchasing a winery. He visited Mr Forsyth and purchased the Morrison vineyard from him. Later, Mr Buchanan bought the Mount Edward winery from pioneering Central Otago winemaker Alan Brady. Mr Forsyth joined the team as winemaker and business partner.
“Duncan sold me a vineyard, and then himself,” Mr. Buchanan said.
Twelve years on, Mount Edward is a large boutique winery with production of 10,000 cases annually. “We are farmers, it's all about how good our grapes are,” Mr Forsyth said. “The best wines come from the best vineyards grown in the best way.”
The evening began with canapés — braised beef in a filo cup, spicy tuna nori roll and heirloom tomato bruschetta — accompanied by Earth's End Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20.50 at Miles). The wine is made by Mr Forsyth with grapes from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, one of the world's top regions for the production of sauvignon blanc. Blue cornmeal-crusted jumbo scallop with cumin-scented sweet potato mash, prosciutto crisp and yuzu butter sauce was complemented by two aromatic wines — Mount Edward Pinot Gris 2014 ($21.95) and Mount Edward Pinot Blanc 2014 ($21.95).
“The pinot blanc is light, refreshing — it's smashable,” Mr Forsyth said. “It's a drinking wine; you are allowed to enjoy drinking wine. The pinot gris is about the texture of the wine and in the scallop.”
Pan-seared duck breast with grilled polenta, caramelised orange and a griotte cherry rum sauce was accompanied by the 2009 ($56.75) and 2012 ($59.95) vintages of pinot noir from the Mount Edward Muirkirk vineyard. Located on Felton Road in Bannockburn — a nod to the Island's Scottish links — the area has heavier soils than some of Mount Edward's other properties.
There is a nod to Mr Buchanan, too; his father was born in the Scottish village of Muirkirk.
“As well as determining the varieties of wine that you enjoy, you should also find out what years you like,” Mr Forsyth said.
“We had a hot year in 2009. The growing season was short; there was a lot of fruit flavour in the wine. After six years, the flavours are starting to change, become softer, more savoury. As wines age, they develop characteristics that they don't have when they're young. Wine has a lot of different expressions as it ages.
“The season was a bit longer in 2012, and so there is more weight in the wine. It's a new wine, so it's nice and fresh.”
A grilled English lamb chop with a black olive, sun-dried tomato and feta cheese crust with celeriac purée and port reduction was complemented by the 2009 ($56.75) and 2012 ($59.95) vintages of pinot noir from Mount Edward's Morrison vineyard — and by the 2012 The Golden Rule Privateer from the Pagan vineyard in the Gibbston Valley, a property farmed and taken care of by the Mount Edward organisation.
“[Wine critic] Robert Parker gave the 2009 a rating of 93+,” Mr Buchanan said.
The Golden Rule Privateer evokes Bermuda's nautical heritage.
The Golden Rule was a Bermuda schooner built from timber harvested from the Sunnylands property in Devonshire. It was owned in equal parts by the Cox, Watlington and Dill families.
In November 1849, it brought the Island's first Portuguese settlers here from the island of Madeira.
“It's also the rule — treat others as you wish to be treated — that we live by as a family,” Donald Cox said. “It's the way we do business, and it has kept us going for 170 years.”
A fine evening came to a close with a dessert of Parmesan pâté bombe with chilli coconut anglaise and spicy pecan walnut praline. It was accompanied by the 2012 Mount Edward The Late Riesling ($25.95).
We'll let Mr Forsyth have the last word. “Wine for us is about a sense of place,” he said with a mischievous grin. “You can enjoy a glass, and know what it is.
“For example, you might think that you are drinking a pinot gris, and then you might think that it's a wine from New Zealand. If you are convinced it is from New Zealand, you might conclude that it is from Central Otago — and once you have done that, you might think that it is from the Mount Edward vineyard. You can't do that with many things in the world.
“You can pick a cheese, but you can't tell which cow it came from. But you can do that with wine.”
Bermudian Jack Rhind had what he considers the “perfect day” on a trip to New Zealand in August.
“I skied in the morning, and had a wine tasting at Mount Edward in the afternoon,” he said.
“Duncan’s a good winemaker — I have had his wines before and enjoyed them — and he is an interesting guy to talk to, very laid back and he really enjoys what he does.
“We sat around at his place, my wife Lisa and I, and had a little tasting. We really enjoy his wines as they are a strong representation of the wines in the Central Otago area.
“As we were doing that, the staff at Mount Edward was crating The Golden Rule Privateer for shipping to Bermuda.”
Mr Rhind says he and Lisa visited other wineries while in New Zealand. “We do a lot of wine tasting wherever we go where the wine is good,” he said, listing Australia, California and Oregon as other wine-tasting destinations that he and his wife have enjoyed. “We are not wine experts, but we are certainly wine enthusiasts.”