Down-Under meets 'The girl who played with fire'

Nov 8th, 2010 Jayne Pearce ,

At this month’s Sprite night, we decided to put Stieg Larsson’s first in the trilogy behind us and get our fingers burnt (sorry, couldn’t resist) with the second - ‘The girl who played with fire.’ Being a book club with an ‘officially’ recognised difference - wine consumption combo - it is only fitting to have a tipple or two to get those critical juices flowing. This months choice were from way, way down under and fabulous. The only flaw in my tasting plan was the lack of anything bubbly from Australian/New Zealand being sold anywhere in Belize. Do I sense a market opportunity here? What with the great choice of wines, a thought-provoking book and Lorna’s wonderful hospitality (not forgetting her ‘disco fish’ at the end of the dock), it made for a great evening.

We decided to go head-long into the first of the five wines. What could be better fitting than the still fresh and vibrant Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ (2006) Cellar Selection. I decided to knock up some goats cheese crackers given that it’s the obligatory pairing for Sauvignon Blanc from the north end of NZ’s South Island. It didn’t disappoint.

Despite the vintage - a whooping 4 years old for a SB, the still fresh acidity balanced nicely with the citrus and goosberry with just a hint of depth and development on the palate. Someone asked whether SB would go well with spicier food and my belief is it would go very well with green Thai curries or lightly spiced fusion food where the spice is gentle and integrated.

I wanted to try out a unoaked - or should I say - unwooded (is there a difference?) 2008 South Australian Yalumba Chardonnay and this was a pleasant surprise. I expected some mineralty due to the lack of oak but was delivered something richer and exotic both on the nose and on the palate. Papaya and pineapple came through with good acidity to compensate as well as those slatey notes I had been expecting. It turns out that although unoaked this wine has experienced some contact with the yeasty lees after fermentation which accounts for those fuller, exotic flavours. This is more of a food wine but try to avoid any tomato-based sauces as I think the sauce would battle for flavour domination and win, which would be a shame.

Next up came another of  Villa Maria’s of the same region but this time it’s private bin Riesling 2006. I love this Riesling combining New World floral with French Alsace elegance. Riesling is so beautifully simple yet complex it is the poet of wines communicating in subtle riddles. I could drink it on it’s own and enjoy the citrus, subtle spice and orange blossom aromas or balance the subtle spice and citrus flavours and a slight residual sweetness with fragranced foods such as butter chicken and grilled fish.

The first of the two Australian reds was the 2007 South Australia Yalumba (again) Y-Series Shiraz / Viognier blend. I am a big fan of the Syrah/Viognier blend from Northern Rhone and this New World equivalent generally did not disappoint. That said, it did not quite have the same structure and tannins as its French counterpart despite post-fermentation maceration. The spicy exotic nose and yummy Turkish delight notes on the palate made up for this.

Finally, the 2006 South Australia Oxford Landing ‘GSM’ (Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre) provided a good excuse to tuck into the fantastic little canapé styled Scandinavian burgers called Frikkedeler which Ana provided to set the scene for the book. Despite the 14% alcohol, this is a dangerously easy drinking blended red which is probably a good job after all of the other wines consumed. Thank goodness for those Swedish burgers to soak up the alcohol. The red fruit and spicy notes provided by Grenache worked well with the dark fruits and chocolate from the Shiraz. The Mouvedre gave the blend a savoury edge with some tannins and an underlying depth. This is a big wine with big initial in-the-mouth and head impact although I was left a bit disappointed on the length but for the price it represented good value.

Anyway, back to Stieg larsson’s ‘Fire.’ Not wanting to spoil the ending but just to say he managed to inject some Salander-styled retribution into the plot and give it a feisty finale which more than made up for its flabby middle. The third and final ‘Hornest’s Nest’ (via kindle on my ipad - bye bye paper, sniff) is a must-read if you’ve got this far. Rather like the persistent flavours in a good bottle of wine, the strong message threaded throughout all of the books was of the physical violence towards women. It consistently reminded the reader of femme-fatale fragility. SL partly wrote a 4th book before his untimely death in 2004.

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