• Wine of the Month : How To Impress Your Date

Wine of the Month : How To Impress Your Date

12 February 2016

Wine of the Month: How to impress your date

Wine writer Chris Boiling continues his quest to find the city’s most interesting wines. For romantic February, he recommends a New Zealand Pinot Noir discovered in Brighton’s newest vegetarian restaurant, 1847…

Wine of the month: Te Kairanga Pinot Noir 2011, Martinborough

How to say it: tee-kigh-runga

Winery: Te Kairanga, Martinborough, New Zealand

Winemaker: John Kavanagh

Grape variety: Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 13%

Tasted in: 1847, 103 North Road, Brighton (www.By1847.com)

Price: £39.50

Romance is in the air this month, so I searched Brighton for somewhere cosy with an impressive wine.

I found what I was looking for in the downstairs bar at Brighton’s newest veggie restaurant, 1847 (named after the year the Vegetarian Society was formed). The North Laine restaurant is in the three-storey building that once housed Vino Veritas (down the road from Bill’s).

You can have an aperitif in the small basement bar, called Dandelion, before heading upstairs to the restaurant, or you can stay downstairs and linger over a bottle of wine. But which wine to choose if you’re on a date this month and want to impress?

I think it’s hard to beat a good quality Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is the grape behind red Burgundies, and some of the most expensive wines in the world. In the right hands it produces elegant, complex, medium-bodied reds that truly reflect the site where they are made. In the wrong hands, the wines can be a big disappointment and make you wonder why so many wine lovers (including the main character in the film Sideways) wax lyrical about this grape variety.

The Pinot Noir at 1847 comes from Te Kairanga, one of the first and best wineries in Martinborough, the small wine region at the foot of New Zealand’s North Island. The country’s Marlborough and Central Otago wine regions in the South Island are better known for their Pinot Noir but Martinborough has some of New Zealand’s oldest Pinot Noir vines. Part of the Te Kairanga estate includes vineyards located on land once owned by the founding father of Martinborough, John Martin, in the late 1800s, and the cottage which once housed his senior stockman is now the winery’s shop.

The winery is owned by Bill Foley, an American billionaire, and the winemaker is the highly regarded John Kavanagh. Their stated aim is to produce the world’s best Pinot Noir and this release proves it’s not a wacky goal. They harvest their grapes from more than 60 different plots and ferment them separately. The resultant wines are then matured in their own French oak barrels before being blended. Mr Kavanagh believes in gentle handling (using gravity instead of pumps to move his luscious liquids), and minimal fining and filtering, so he can bottle as much flavour and character as possible.

The Te Kairanga Pinot Noir that I tried was from 2011. There were pleasing hints of black cherry, strawberry and spice on the nose and in the mouth. In the mouth there were also some earthy flavours that added to the wine’s tastebud-tingling complexity. The wine is only kept in barrels long enough to soften the tannins and add structure and a little smokiness, but not long enough for the oak to overpower the fruit flavours and refreshing acidity.

1847’s owner, Damien Davenport, who started the restaurant group in Manchester in 2011, said: “The Pinot Noir goes fantastically with some of our heartier dishes, like the merguez and mash and the Portobello mushroom. All our wines are vegan as well so it was a great find.”

I think it will also pair well with 1847’s beet bourguignon (a beetroot stew) – a combination that will surely impress any date for its colours, flavours and originality.