Wither Hills Winemaker dinner at Le Classique

Ben Glover winemaket at Wither Hills at Le Classique, Emirates Golf ClubBen Glover, Chief winemaker from Wither Hills was given a warm welcome, some chilled bubbles and a slightly perplexed look from the staff at Le Classique at Emirates Golf Club.  He was wearing jeans and no jacket.  This, he explained, was down to his roots as a farmer’s son in New Zealand and not having worn proper trousers for many years, he’d forgotten to pack any.  Given that he was spotted kneeling down several times in order to chat to people properly as he visited every table throughout the evening, it was a practical excuse to flaunt the dress code.

The restaurant was set beautifully for a four course dinner matched to a range of Wither Hills wines.  Tasting notes were provided (see below) but Ben added another dimension throughout the night. When describing the appeal of Pinot Noir he called it a ‘dancing wine’ rather than a ‘sitting down with a cigar kind of wine’ with the Wither Hills Pinot delivering bright cherry and spice notes with silky tannins on the palette.  Ben’s passion for Pinot had him predicting it to be “the next great thing to come out of New Zealand”. (continued below)

Recounting his childhood as the son of a dairy farmer, Ben took his first steps into the wine world when his father decided to change the purpose of the farm, “one school holidays we milking cows and the next we were weeding between vines.”  These agricultural roots are the backbone of his skill as a winemaker, “you need to be in touch with the land so you know what goes into the glass.”  His respect for nature translates into the methods used in the vineyard too.  For making Pinot Noir, Wither Hills is rare in its use of a basket press – a method which is 2000 years old.  Ben said that humans were great at interfering but his ethos is to keep his hands off the wines and let the vineyard do the talking.

The conditions have to be perfect to produce wines from botrytis affected grapes so making Wither Hills Noble is not an annual event.  Like all the wines tasted that night, this dessert wine was really well balanced.

Ben explained New Zealand’s geography, its position as a cool climate wine growing region with the wind from the Antarctic moderating temperatures so that the grapes had time to ripen and express lovely fruit flavours.   And his farewell prediction? “I look forward to when we win the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 25 years!”

Wither Hills wines are available in all MMI shops (on offer until the end of May 2011).

Wines, tasting notes and menu:

Wither Hills – Sauvignon Blanc
Tropical fruit flavours, lychee and hints of gooseberry balanced with crisp acidity.
Pan fried John Dory with a cucumber and coriander salad, avocado and lychee maki, ginger jelly and citrus dressing.
Wither Hills – Chardonnay
Hints of peach and pear dominate the palate with a delicate touch of oak. Medium bodied.
Pea velouté and bacon with white truffle foam.
Wither Hills – Pinot Noir
Red cherry fruits with hints of spice.  Light to medium bodied with fine soft tannins.
Roasted lamb loin coated with a nut crust served with green asparagus, crushed potato, dressed with a thyme jus.
Wither Hills – Noble Riesling
Intense marmalade and citrus characters supported by rasping acidity and a sweet lingering length.
Kiwi fruit pavlova, whisky sauce with vanilla ice cream.

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