Alice Neville enjoys a crisp pilsner with a pleasing chilli kick, while Henry Oliver joins Reese Witherspoon in singing the praises of a pastel pink number from Central Otago.
MCLEOD’S FAR NORTH CHILI PILS
5.2%, 500ml, $9.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
Ah, beer and chilli. Name a more iconic duo. No wonder Hallertau Brewery used to hold an annual Chilli & Hop festival in honour of this perfect pairing. One year I took my then-toddler-aged niece along (her name, incidentally, is Lily, which rhymes with chilli). Anyway, Lily tried some chilli chocolate and entered a trance-like state — a bit like Homer Simpson in the Guatemalan insanity pepper episode — but at least I kept her away from the hoppy 8 percenters.
But I digress. This week’s beer, a seasonal release from McLeod’s, is a very good example of a chilli-infused beer, for which the Waipu brewery collaborated with another Northland business, hot sauce makers Kaitaia Fire.
The brewers added some Kaitaia Fire to the kettle during the brew, resulting in a nice, crisp pilsner with a subtle heat at the back of the palate. It’s not overtly hot, but it’s definitely there, and it lingers pleasantly. The chilli is well integrated with the hoppiness and it just bloody works, you know? Not at all like one of those novelty beers where you feel like they’ve just chucked in a random ingredient for the lols.
The overall result was me wanting to drink more and more of it. It also gave me a killer craving for tacos. McLeod’s recommends pairing the Far North Chili Pils with “the day’s catch”, however, which would also be tops — a cheeky ceviche, perhaps? This is definitely an excellent balmy summer evening beer, but, as I found, it also goes down a treat sitting at one’s desk in August.
Verdict: Beyoncé carries hot sauce in her handbag. I carry hot sauce beer in my handbag.
WOOING TREE BLONDIE 2018
Central Otago, 13.5%, $25.90 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
Rosé is like pizza – it’s rare to find a great one, but even the worst ones are usually pretty good. All a pizza really needs is to be hot and fresh. Everything else is a bonus. All a rosé really needs to be is super cold and drunk on a hot and sunny afternoon.
But Wooing Tree’s Blondie isn’t a rosé. I mean, it basically is – it’s a pink wine made from 100% pinot noir but without the skins left in for fermentation – but it’s so pale and so, um, good that another classification is perhaps more appropriate. ‘Vin gris’ or ‘blanc de noir’ maybe – both referring to, essentially, a pale wine made from red grapes using white-winemaking techniques. (‘Rosé’, on the other hand, is just a pink wine and doesn’t refer to any particular method.)
Either way, Wooing Tree calls it ‘Blondie’, and it’s delicious. It’s that pizza that’s worth travelling across the city for every once in a while. Almost champagne-coloured, with a soft, pastel pink hue, it is light and crisp on the palate, combining a white wine’s stonefruit and floral flavours (not a million miles away from last week’s pinot gris) but with a subtle integration of the lighter (read: lightest) side of pinot noir’s berries and plums.
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I drank it while eating cheese and then a roast chicken and it went better with the cheese (though it’s delicate enough to not require food). Just don’t waste it on barbecue-swilling as you might any ol rosé.
So, if you like rosé, think of this as a light, refined rosé and you’ll be impressed. But if you don’t like rosé, don’t write this off just ’cos it’s pink.
Verdict: Reese Witherspoon’s favourite New Zealand wine. And she was Tracy Flick, so…
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