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Saturday 9 November 2013

Jackson Estate Wines and Sushinho - An Unlikely Pairing?

Words & Photography by Greg Klerkx

To begin, a geography lesson: find the point on the Earth’s surface that is roughly equidistant between Japan, New Zealand and Brazil…their point of convergence, in terms of distance. If you answered ‘somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,’ you get a gold star. 

One might think that an evening combining food and wine from these disparate nations might be similarly at sea, but the fine folks at Sushinho and Jackson Estate neatly deflated that concern. I had the pleasure of tasting seven of Jackson Estate’s recent vintages paired with an equal number of Sushinho’s Japanese-Brazilian specialities.  Far from feeling like the culinary middle of nowhere, this was a mostly delightful evening of discovery.

Starting with the Jackson Estate whites, a trio of Sauvignon Blancs demonstrated both control and versatility as well as the subtle difference a single year’s vintage can make to a wine’s character. The 2012 Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc (RRP: £12.99, widely available in the UK) was a light-lees delight, strong on grapefruit and elderflower with a hint of lime…refreshing. The 2013 vintage (available in the UK early 2014) was like the 2012’s slightly pricklier sister: notably less floral in nose and mouth, even slightly vegetal with green pepper notes. If the 2012 is summer sultry, the 2013 is more autumn crisp.

A third Sauvignon, the Jackson Estate Grey Ghost Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (RRP: £22.50, widely available) shifted gears altogether: an almost astringent nose, hard notes that gradually relaxed into rich, honey-treacle loveliness and a long, luscious finish. Somewhat unfortunately, the Grey Ghost was paired with Sushinho’s least exciting offering, the Sushinho Roll & Shitake Roll, the former being appropriately salmon-crispy yet slightly underwhelming and the latter not rising above a somewhat watery mouth-feel and barely discernable shitake sweetness. 

If these were Sushinho’s low points of the evening, a ringing high point was the spectacular Blackened Butterfish: meltingly buttery and smoky, served like cheekily chunky sashimi, and the one dish that I heard my fellow diners begging for more of (the restaurant kindly obliged).

This was paired with the very fine Jackson Estate Shelterbelt Chardonnay (RRP and availability, TBC), which was smooth, rich and burnt-almondy and proof that in the right hands, Chardonnay – that most over-wrung of modern white varietals - can still deliver subtlety, depth and even a few surprises.

Sushinho showed its classically Brazilian side more fully with a one-two punch of meaty mains. The Pork Rib-eye was oily and tender, while the Miso Glazed Lamb managed to achieve its tricky balance of signature ingredients so that the former didn’t overwhelm the latter. Both dishes were served with fabulously moreish cassava chips – crispy on the outside, fluffy and sweet on the inside – and an underwhelming hodgepodge of baby vegetables. The Jackson Estate reds offered were up to the task, of note being the Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir 2011 (RRP: £19.49, widely available), a fabulously lively example of the breed that brimmed with ripe damson, chewy licorice and just a whisper of black pepper.

The evening finished with Passion Crumble served with churros. I’ll admit to being a bit wary here: many years enjoying street-vended churros in California makes one rather fussy about these impossibly addictive Spanish pastries. But Sushinho handily sidestepped my fears with cigarillo-sized churros were crispy yet not crunchy, moist yet not greasy. I probably could have done without the admittedly tasty pot of dulce de leche provided for churro-dipping, if only because the Passion Crumble itself provided plenty of tangy, creamy accompaniment.

But this was merely the sin of overkill, which I can abide at the end of so enjoyable an evening. I ate it all quite happily, my trans-oceanic culinary adventure complete.

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