AUSTRALIA: Back to basics, Montana launches Avec
I admit I'd struggle to identify grape types and I'm only vaguely aware that whites go with white meats and reds go with red meats - although, just to confuse things, not definitively.
I'm also aware of a convention that says reds are winter wines and whites are to be chilled for summer afternoons and served with salads.
Like most punters I'm happy picking up a bottle with a nice label. Through many evenings of practise I've determined that I like Southeast Australian reds and I prefer Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc.
But Montana, New Zealand's biggest exporter to the UK, has come to my rescue with a new range of wines called Avec. They are unashamedly targeted at people who don't know much about wines and are looking to match wine to food. There is a Chicken Chardonnay, Seafood Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Steak Malbec and Pasta Shiraz Cabernet.
I can already hear those of you with more educated palates scoffing at the idea of a bottle of wine labelled for a specific type of food but Montana is likely to have the last laugh.
Within just a couple of months, and with little supporting advertising, the Avec range is into the top 10 for lucrative supermarket sales. The company has launched Avec into Australia where it is also doing well and is eyeing the UK.
The idea is simple: there are a lot of people out in the real world who know nothing about wine. Their interest in drinks is limited to those made with hops and wine is something posh folk drink. But attitudes are changing and for many people the idea of having someone to hold their hand while they pick a wine is proving popular, particularly as the Avec wines are good quality but impressively cheap (NZ$10 or less than £3).
Montana admits the Avec range is not a fashion wine and the company, which is part owned by Australian brewer Lion Nathan, has long-term plans for it. The wines themselves are a mix of New Zealand and Australian grape varieties and while I personally found the whites a bit too flowery, the reds were spanking good fun, particularly the Shiraz.
Like most people I'm probably too much of a snob to present a bottle called Avec at a dinner party but over a quiet family meal it is a great idea and if it's successful supermarkets may start demanding that wineries make more effort catering for the uneducated drinker.
Chardonnay 1999 - complement to chicken breast marinated with garlic and lemon, or any chicken dish with sauce and garnish which include sour cream, ginger, garlic, nuts, cream or coconut milk. The wine will also go very well with stronger flavoured fish prepared with saffron, nutmeg and mace, as well as lightly flavoured pork dishes, especially those that include cream.
Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 1999 - complement to any lightly flavoured white fish. Foe pest effect, poach the fish with lemon and wine and serve it with a dill garnish and beans. Other fish or seafood such as salmon, mussels, crayfish and scallops can be substituted. The wine will also go very well with chicken served with sage, tarragon, garlic, rosemary, basil or fennel. Lightly smoked dishes and green salads further extend the range.
Malbec 1999 - complement to any cut of beef steak. Dishes can be garnished with onion, garlic, tomato, mustard, olives or mushrooms to add an extra dimension. The wine will also go very well with grilled, sautéed or braised venison steak, especially with red wine or berry and juniper sauce, as well as with stronger flavoured lamb dishes.
Shiraz Cabernet 1999 - complement to any pasta dish with a tomato base. Other flavours that can be added to enhance enjoyment even further include pepper, mushroom, cheese, red peppers and a light dash of spice.
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