National Nut Day – Oct 20
Yes, really. National Nut Day is on October 20: master sommelier Cameron Douglas has prepared this handy guide to making a perfect match of your nuts and wine. Raw Walnuts Quite a soft texture when fresh, with the flesh of the nut turning to a fine powdered butter on the palate; medium strength of flavour yet has a long after taste especially with fresh walnut. High tannin, medium oil, strong flavour, dry. Off-dry pinot gris, using the sugar to counterbalance the tannin in the nut and a creamy texture to manage the weight and creaminess of the walnut texture when broken down and macerated in the palate. (Askerne Pinot Gris 2013) Pinot noir – young, fresh, just dry or even a wine with a gram or two of sugar. The tannins in a young Hawke’s Bay pinot assist in dissolving most of the tannins in the walnut and the fruit concentration, along with some sugar, in the wine counterbalances the bitter notes that some people detect in walnuts. (Sileni Estates The Plateau HB Pinot Noir 2013) Salted Macadamia A very soft texture that crumbles easily on the palate; in fact it turns into a powdery creamed butter texture quite easily with a mild nutty flavour. Low tannin, high oil, mild flavour, moderate finish, a hint of sweetness which counterbalances the salt on its own very well. Mild to medium-oaked chardonnay with a creamy buttery texture – just like the nut. There’s a great correlation with texture and sense of sweetness in both the wine (from oak and alcohol) and macadamia (all natural sweetness). The oiliness of the nut is easily matched with the texture in the wine, but the key is the mild new oak with a low toastiness. (Ngatarawa Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay 2013) Youngish merlot cabernet sauvignon blend such as a 2013/2014. The wine responds well to the texture of macadamia and any saltiness calms the acid in the wine. (Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013) Gamay noir also worked well – the weight and intensity of both the nut and the wine were similar and because the oak in the wine was low the fight in the palate for attention was even. (Te Mata Estate Gamay Noir 2014) Almond A strong flavour that can last on the palate for at least a minute. Roasted almonds are even stronger and can last on the palate for several minutes. The texture is coarse and crunchy with mild tannin, medium oiliness, strong flavour and long finish. This nut requires wine with equal power and intensity. Young, vibrant and fruity viognier works extremely well with almond. They are equal in power and intensity and if the viognier has oak influence, even better. (Coopers Creek SV ‘Chalk Ridge’ Viognier 2014) Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot was the best match. The robust nature of cabernet sauvignon equalled the power of the almond, while the merlot softened the coarse edges of the nut. There was also a natural harmony between the wine and nut. (Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels “The Gimblett” 2013) Pistachio A distinctive flavour that is quite mild with a soft and slightly sweet herbaceous flavour. They are often salted to assist in bringing out the flavour and crumble easily in the palate. Low tannin, medium oil, mild flavour and moderate finish. Dry to just dry pinot gris seemed to work best – the very light green herb flavour of the nut is counterbalanced by a mildly flavoured wine and just enough sugar to counterbalance the herbaceous flavours. The very low sodium brings turns up the volume of the fruit flavours in the wine. (Crossroads Milestone Series Pinot Gris 2014) Pinot noir is the best fit for pistachio as it marries up to the gentle herb push of the nut as well as the very mild nuttiness and sweetness by counterbalancing these with fruit flavour and its own mild savoury character. (Coopers Creek Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir 2013) Honey-roasted Cashews Despite the honey and sugar coating on the nuts, the cashew flavour remains distinctive – quite oaky in fact, much like the oak flavour you would find in a white Burgundy (chardonnay) from France. Very low tannin, quite oily, strong flavour and long finish. Cashew crumbles easily on the palate and turns to butter quite quickly when mixed with saliva. Just dry or dry to medium pinot gris with some oak influence seems the best pairing with honey roasted cashews. Cashew likes oak, but not too much. The sugar and honey are balanced by the sugar in the wine. If the cashew were raw or roasted and salted then the wine choice would shift to oaked chardonnay or even oaked sauvignon blanc. (Esk Valley Pinot Gris 2014) Rosé is really the only choice of red wine with honey-roasted cashew. A rosé from cabernet sauvignon or syrah is best, since the wine is usually a little more robust. Some rosé has a little oak influence, which is even better. The wine’s fruity appeal counterbalances the sugar and honey notes in the nut and a little oak or earthiness in the wine has a voice (though quiet) with the nuttiness and power of cashew. (Quarter Acre Syrah Rose 2014) Raw Hazelnuts Chewy, strong and distinctive flavour: very nutty. There’s also an earthy, almost gamey, quality to hazelnut. Medium tannin, medium oil, strong flavour and very long finish. Syrah has the power and intensity, is usually not shy of oak and more than meets hazelnut’s power head on. Both complement each other’s richness and finish and the seesaw effect between the two makes the match very memorable. (Mission Estate Reserve Syrah 2013) Late harvest or noble sweet wine is a great match for hazelnuts – they equal each other with power and intensity and if any oak is used in the sweet wine ageing even better. Noble semillon is recommended, as is noble chardonnay. (Alpha Domus Noble Selection Semillon 2011) Notes: Salt makes the acid in wine seem less intense so if the nuts are oiled and salted the wine selected will need to manage these two elements – the salt especially. Oiliness in nuts can be balanced by alcohol or weight or oily texture in wine. Nuts that are coated with spice, for example paprika, require a wine with much more power and sugar to counter balance the impact of the spice. Nuts have a natural affinity with oak so there is often a good match with wine that has obvious oak. Nuts are often an ingredient in food or a garnish for food – when this happens match the wine to the nut or seasoning first.