I got an email yesterday from the editor at Wine & Spirit (formerly Wine International) informing me that I had been selected for the first round of the Sommelier Challenge. For those unfamiliar with the challenge, each month four sommeliers from around the world are send a recipe from a famous chef. Their challenge is to select a wine that they feels complements the dish. Then the judges gather at a restaurant in London, to taste the wines in conjunction with the meal. Scores are awarded for your selection and a league table is compiled. At the end of the challenge the four top scoring sommeliers enter the final round to compete for the grand prize. Its a great competition because you get an opportunity to pit your experience and knowledge against some great sommeliers from across the globe. Its also a great learning tool, because you get to see a range of recommendations and reasons for them, often coming up with some new ideas, and directions to pair dishes with.
So I got my recipe, which was a roasted loin of rabbit, with prune, belly and langoustines, from Jun Tanaka of Pearl restaurant. Its an interesting recipe and it is similar to a dish that Chef produces here. So my suggestion for the wine is a New Zealand Pinot Noir from Mount Edward, based in Gibbston, Central Otago. The current vintage is 2003, but we are still pouring the 2001. Its a big, fairly full bodied red, unusual for a pinot. On the nose, it has dense black fruity flavours with hints of spice and a touch of white pepper. Being quite young it retains its youthful acidity which will help break down the flavours of the langoustine, and its tannic backbone with cut through the fattyness of the rabbit belly and streaky bacon the loin is wrapped in.
So the judges are tasting the wines against the dish next friday, Im not sure when it is being published, but I would imagine that it will be fairly soon. Im quite looking forward to reading it and seeing what else is recommended. This will be the third time that Ive done the challenge, lets hope I get a better score than last time, and hence show some progression.