Celine Rousseau of Chalkers Crossing
Tuesday August 07th 2012, 9:11 am
Filed under: food
French winemaker Celine Rousseau long held a desire to work in Australia’s cool climate regions to make subtle and delicate wines, similar in style to wines from her own country.
Born in Paris, Celine worked at prestigious chateaux in Bordeaux, Champagne and Languedoc in France before moving to Australia in 1997.
She initially worked in Western Australia, but in 1999 she became the winemaker at Chalkers Crossing in the town of Young in the cool climate Hilltops region of New South Wales. Young is about 370 kilometres west of Sydney.
At Chalkers Crossing Celine was responsible for fitting out a new winery. In 2002 her wines won several national awards and attracted lots of attention from noted wine writers.
That year she was named Australia’s young winemaker of the year – a remarkable achievement given it was only a decade after she completed an MA in enology and marketing from the University of Reims in France’s Champagne region. She also earned a national diploma of winemaking from the Institute of Enology in Bordeaux.
James Halliday, Australia’s best-known wine critic, has praised Celine’s winemaking style, based on showing off the terroir of the wine. In his annual Australian Wine Companion Halliday classified Chalkers Crossing in the top 5 per cent of Australian producers, giving it five red stars, his highest award.
Chalkers Crossing was purchased by a Hong Kong mining resources company, Nice Link Pty Ltd, three years ago. It exports to the UK, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Halliday was enthusiastic about Celine’s 2009 chardonnay, made from grapes from the cool-climate Tumbarumba region of New South Wales. It offers aromas of white peach and stonefruits such as nectarines, with a touch of butterscotch. The wine has an acid zing that works well with the fruit flavours, and it hangs around in one’s mouth like an echo of a delicious kiss.
Celine said she picked the fruit for this wine at night to preserve the acid levels. These acids mean this wine would make an ideal accompaniment for creamy dishes or meals cooked in oil, the acid balancing the richness of the fat. Recent vintages of the chardonnay have won several gold medals and Halliday named the 2009 wine in his top 100 for 2010.
I also enjoyed the 2010 Hilltops riesling, with its intense lime flavours and an attractive floral character with hints of green apple and pear. This is a crisp and elegant wine whose acid zing makes one want to reach for a second and third glass. Its minerality, Celine said, comes from the red sandy loam of the vineyard.
Her 2010 sauvignon blanc is much more like a Sancerre style wine than a flabby Australian version produced from this grape variety. It is dry with aromas at the ripe and passionfruit end of the tasting spectrum. Its dry finish and crisp acid would make this wine an ideal companion for oysters or grilled fish.
The CC2 is the second label from Chalkers Crossing, though one hesitates to use the phrase “second” because this is a value for money wine. The label, interestingly, was designed in Beijing. The 2010 shiraz comes from young vines in the high-altitude Hilltops region around Young.
It has spicy, pepper aromas with a hint of violets, and soft tannins from time in old oak barrels. This wine would pair well with slightly spicy foods like mild curry, or a marsala dosa.
France’s loss has been Australia’s gain.
Published in China Post, 9 August 2012, page 10, under the headline “French winemaker takes her passion for the vine Down Under”. Find a link here.
Wine-food pairing for Wine+ magazine
Monday April 30th 2012, 7:28 pm
Filed under: food
Peking duck has been prepared since the late fourteenth century. Ducks bred specially for the dish are glazed with maltose, a malt sugar, and roasted whole in a closed or hung oven, burning peach or pear wood. The malt colours the duck a gleaming golden brown and the fruit woods add subtle flavours, producing a dish prized for its thin, crispy skin.
What wines pair best with Peking duck? A trio of tasters pondered what has been acknowledged as a difficult question. The trio consisted of Tersina Shieh, winemaker and general manager at the Independent Wine Centre, Nellie Ming Lee CS, from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and your humble scribe from the SCMP.
The duck is usually sliced in front of the diners, and we watched in admiration as the waitress presented our meal, held at Cuisine Cuisine restaurant in the ifc mall, with precision and a touch of class. The duck was served with pancakes, slivers of spring onion and cucumber, a plum-flavoured sauce and thinly-sliced pickled ginger. The last is a northern Chinese tradition.
Some of the pancakes were infused with ginger. We made pancake packages, eating with our fingers and contemplating the wines to come.
Sommelier Andy She started with a grand cru rose champagne, a non-vintage Marguet pere et fils. Its delicate pink colour hinted at the flavours of strawberries and cherries in the mouth, and the creamy acidity on the palate pointed to the wine’s calibre. Alone this was a wonderful wine and a lovely aperitif. But it suffered when matched with fatty duck wrapped in ginger-infused pancakes.
The fat and ginger overwhelmed the champagne’s charms. Noted Tersina: “Champagne of any kind won’t work with Peking duck because of the wine’s delicate structure.” Nellie concurred. “A charming aperitif but not with oily duck,” she said as she removed the sliced ginger from her next pancake package.
Sommelier Andy should be applauded for his willingness to experiment. He next provided a bold riesling, a 2008 Weingut Liebfrauenstift Kirchenstuck in the dry trocken style. The wine is something of a mouthful to say, and its lemon zing of acid filled my mouth with contentment. This wine worked better with pieces of duck meat, rather than the pancake parcels of traditional Peking duck, the acidity cutting through the fat. The duck was succulent and I find myself salivating at the memory as I write.
Nellie described the riesling as “vibrant, with babbling brook minerality”. She liked its earthiness and strength. Tersina described it as an “interesting” choice, suggesting any combination of riesling with duck needed a weighty wine. At least this wine from Rheinhessen had more body than delicate riesling from the Mosel region.
A 2007 Nuits St Georges premier cru “Aux Perdrix” from Domaine des Perdrix was the next contender in this contest for culinary glory. Nellie said the wine had a “perfect balance of fruit and acidity.” I agreed: the salt in the duck skin balanced the sweetness of the plum sauce served with the duck, and melded well with the duck flavours.
Sommelier Andy said he chose an old world pinot ahead of a new world version from say, Central Otago in New Zealand, because he believed old world style combined best with duck. Tersina described this pinot as “a wine for wine lovers” and suggested this was the best wine to match with classic Peking duck.
I simply smiled with joy at encountering what I consider a classic combination. Duck and pinot, forgive the cliché, are a marriage made in heaven but consumed on earth.
We moved to another duck dish for the final two wines. Sommelier Andy poured a 2007 Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert from Maison Paul Joboulet Aine as small pieces of duck fried with scallions appeared on my plate. Andy said the spices and black pepper of the hermitage grape went best with this kind of dish.
Nellie detected red flowers and raspberry blossom in the wine but thought the duck was too salty from the soy sauce to balance the wine. Tersina tended to damn with faint praise, describing the Crozes Hermitage as an “inoffensive, middle of the road choice” that some diners would find “comfortable”.
Nellie noted the Crozes Hermitage cost $930 against $1,650 for the pinot on the restaurant wine list, and suggested some diners would tend towards the cheaper wine if at a large table. I found the hermitage too muscular, its weight overwhelming the food. My mind wandered lovingly back to the pinot-Peking duck combination as I reached for another glass of the delightful “Aux Perdrix” premier cru. Meanwhile, the ultra-cold champagne with which we started had warmed and was giving off delightful aromas of strawberries.
The final wine was Tersina’s suggestion: a 1995 Colheita tawny port Quinta do Noval from Portugal. It was a revelation. Nellie detected “walnuts and the warmth of a sunny day,” plus hints from her childhood of chau pei mui, translated as old skin plums.
Indeed, the port’s sweetness succeeded with both duck dishes, easily accommodating the salty skin of the Peking duck, the slices of pickled ginger that came with it, and the soy saltiness of the other dish.
“A winner,” declared Tersina. “The port is strong and stands up for itself, and I think the sommelier should push it more.” It was the only way, she said, to get more people in Hong Kong drinking port, a wine that should be more appreciated.
Overall, two delightful combinations emerged from this tasting with Peking duck: the joy of a traditional merger with pinot noir, and the discovery of a new combination of tawny port with duck.
* Published in Wine+ magazine, May 2012, pages 54-57, under the headline “Tasty pairings”. Find a link here.