To celebrate British Pie Week we’re harking back all the way to the glory days of the final issue of SmartLife International (again), out a year ago this month, when myself and my then glamorous assistant and Deputy Editor Sam Corrigan set about pairing pies and fine wine. As you do. Sadly the Wills and Kate was a Royal Wedding speciality and is no longer available, regardless it’s still worth reading Sam’s review of it if only for his glorious overstatement and his admission of getting ardent over Kate. Tuck in…
LIFE OF PIE
Wine and product-packed pastry together at last! Ignoring the more traditional union of pie and ale, STUART PRITCHARD & SAM CORRIGAN tackled some epic pie and plonk pairings; and then the Wind-eze. Lots of Wind-eze…
When a PR lady emails you and asks if you’d like to try some proposed pairings of fine wines and equally fine pies, you have to say yes; it’s the law. But as I say, these are no ordinary common or garden pies that merely blend meat and gravy, cheese and onion, or fruit and fruit, no, these are the kind of pies that you should approach with a due sense of reverence (especially in the case of the Matador Pie which tried to kill me) because of the stunningly rich variety of ingredients and flavours they contain, each ready to explode in your mouth like some kind of delicious taste-bomb.
Of course, when you have pies of such magnitude, clearly no ordinary wines will be sufficient to wash them down, which is why the alco-pairings here have been sourced from all round the world to provide the ideal accompaniment to this pastry perfection.
So, get comfortable, loosen your belt and prepare to indulge in the supper upper crust…
THE PIE: Matador
Warning: absolutely delicious and hearty as it is, there’s a very real chance this pie could make you dead. A fusion of free range British beef steak, chorizo, olives, tomato, sherry and butterbeans wrapped in some seriously tasty pastry, the Matador is richer than the man behind MyFace and really should not be attempted alone unless you are, of course, an actual matador, a human stomach, or John Prescott.
Unfortunately, because it does taste so good, I struggled through alone and as a consequence couldn’t move or breathe for five days afterwards as I was, literally, dead. Fortunately, I did get better after the digestion period ended, which is why I’m here now to recommend the Matador Pie to couples and anyone who thinks they’re man enough to tackle it alone. And to recommend the accompanying wine…
THE WINE: Cune Crianza 2007
A juicy, flavour-packed Spanish red to go with the Ernest Hemingway pleaser of pies, we tried the 2006 last year and were hugely impressed with this blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo, and the 2007 appears to have been an even better year.
Aged in American oak for 12-months, there are wonderful red berry aromas on the nose, with spicy hints and the vanilla drawn from said oak. On the palate meanwhile, the rich fruit and subtle spice works wonders with the taste sensation that is the Matador Pie to enhance the whole experience of gorging yourself to a capacity technically known as ‘stuffed’ to dizzying new heights… mostly dizzying because you can’t catch your breath. Did I mention this killed me?
THE PIE: Chicken of Aragon
If I were to be asked to give a brief list of things I’d like to eat at any given moment, including after just waking up, I can guarantee that very early on in that list would be free range chicken, smoky bacon, roast garlic and fresh tarragon. And if you were to then hand all these things to me mixed with vermouth and wrapped in the flaky confines of a pie, I’d probably assume you were some kind of food-angel. Well, that’s exactly what Pieminister have done here with their Chicken of Aragon pie, a soon-to-be staple of my regular diet that I would previously have thought was nothing but a wife of the Chicken Henry VIII.
Nowhere near as much as a challenge as the Matador, the Aragon may be lighter but it’s no less delicious and pleasingly filling. Out of the three I tried this was my favourite, served up with fresh mashed potato, a drop of gravy and…
THE WINE: Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2010
The produce of the Kiwi vineyards of Villa Maria has long been a favourite here at SmartLife Towers, so marrying up a top-notch bit of eating like the Chicken of Aragon with a wine that – let’s face it – I already know is superb is not exactly rocket surgery…
Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this bright, sharp, elegant wine hits the nose with citrus and gooseberry promise and then a palate that’s like a slap in the face from the god of refreshment, potent with citrus, gooseberry, green pepper and hints of passion fruit – the freshest from the Marlborough region yet!
You don’t have to be a brain scientist to see how well this match works – as though it were made in heaven, like Brad and Angelina, Beyonce and Jay Z, me and Kylie (worth a go). So perfect a pairing in fact that lucky readers in the UK (if ‘lucky’ applies) can even pick both up together from branches of Sainsburys. But fear not abroad-types, for you there is the Internet.
THE PIE: Henny Penny Pie
Intensive journalistic research on Wikipedia informs me that Henny Penny is the same character as Chicken Licken (and Chicken Little) in that it’s the chicken that becomes convinced the end of the world is coming; which in the case of the tasty free range British chickens involved in making this pie, something that was very much a reality. But don’t mourn those plucky cluckers, Pieminister has mixed them with mushrooms, white wine, cream and herbs for you to celebrate their deliciously noble sacrifice.
Like all of the oral delights featured here, Henny Penny comes lovingly served in Pieminister’s finest butter-based pastry (their flour supplier also supplies to the palace), making this fresh take on the traditional chicken and mushroom pie that’s very probably even better that that your mother used to make.
So with that nostalgia firmly kicked to the curb, what fine wine should accompany this premier poultry pie?
THE WINE: Vidal Chardonnay 2009
Back to New Zealand now like some kind of bizarre dating agency as Henny Penny gets set up on a tasty liaison with one of the North Island’s stars. Vidal is one of the oldest wineries in the Hawkes Bay area having been founded in 1905 and has long enjoyed a solid reputation as a quality producer. What’s more they know about food too as their restaurant is regarded as one of the best in NZ. So who else to pair with Penny?
Nutty, citrus aromas dominate the nose with hints of subtle oak, while on the palate this zesty, refreshing fruity number contrasts so incredibly well with the flavours of the pie it’s almost as if they been made for each other. Like me and Kylie. I’ll stop now.
Here’s where Sam takes over…
THE PIE: Heidi Pie
After the Matador Pie literally killed Stuart to death we entered an extended period of mourning here at SmartLife Towers. However, halfway through planning an extravagant funeral, including a gin fountain, a fly-over by the Red Arrows and a performance by an inconsolable Kylie, he miraculously got better and I dropped that plan and decided it was finally safe to take on my own selection of Pieminister pies… we kept the gin fountain.
First on my hit list was the Heidi Pie, which at first glance seemed distinctly lacking in one key ingredient: meat. Breaking the thick buttery pastry I was greeted with delicious Somerset goat’s cheese, spinach, sweet potato, red onion and roasted garlic and instantly my carnivorous urges were allayed. Each sumptuous mouthful offered my palate a treat and the lack of meat meant that I wasn’t levelled by the heartiness of the fare, it also meant I had enough room for the wine…
THE WINE: Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2009
Designed to be enjoyed young, this offering from one of our favourite winemakers is a fruity, full-bodied number that marries perfectly with the flavours of the Heidi Pie. An olfactory treat the Beaujolais Villages 2009 has strong hints of fresh red fruits that mellows into subtle but distinct notes of cherries, a pattern that continues on the palate.
Adding a hint of raspberries, a dash of vanilla and finished off with firm tannins the fruitiness is never too rich and makes for an enjoyable tipple right to the last drop – which I quickly found out. A treat for vegetarians and normal folk alike these two are seemingly a match made in heaven, speaking of which…
THE PIE: Kate & Wills Pie
Now I’m not an ardent Royalist but in my opinion the Royal Family should be treated with a degree of reverence. Therefore it troubles me slightly that I find our future Queen so incredibly, well, sexy – is that treasonous? Or would it be treasonous to not find her sexy? Either way she’s a tasty one, speaking of which her very own dedicated pie isn’t too bad either.
Wrapped in delicious pastry, the pie not Kate, the ingredients list reads like a fact sheet of deliciousness. British beef, wine, bacon, pearl onions and a dash of brandy are the constituent parts of what is quite possibly the finest act of jingoism I have ever seen. If there is a better way of celebrating the nuptials of two strangers then I’m yet to eat it, and considering it is only available for a limited period of time my chances of experiencing it again are dwindling by the moment.
At this point I should issue a massive claim alert: this is the greatest pie I have ever eaten… ever, EVER! So when it came to washing it down I wanted to be sure that my palate wasn’t left disappointed, luckily it wasn’t…
THE WINE: Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2009
This drop is a 100% Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley region of Chile. Located just west of Santiago the vineyard is marked by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean as cool breezes from the coast ensure the grapes ripen gradually, developing strong aromas and flavours along the way. All this leads to a fruity nose that elicits thoughts of summer fruits and even offers a subtle hint of rose hips. On the palate the full majesty of the wine comes to the fore; subtle and refreshing the lightness of the wine perfectly complements the richness of pie – much like our Royal couple.
After imbibing this wine and pie-based meal my fervour for the Royal Wedding has increased exponentially and now I find I’m digging out the bunting and planning to eat lunch with people I wouldn’t normally acknowledge, and in the street of all places.
THE PIE: Shamrock Pie
In a crowd of ostentatious attention grabbers the Shamrock Pie seems a little unimaginative when one casts a ravenous eye over the ingredients. Containing British beef steak, Irish stout and gravy this pie may seem like the simple option, but as I found out to my delight sometimes the simple things are the best.
Served up with buttery mash and proper gravy I devoured this pie like it were to be my last and I soon entered the torpid state that inevitably follows such hearty food. It was in this dreamlike state that I had a moment of clarity, this pie was a classic and you don’t mess with the classics. The reason the Shamrock Pie doesn’t need any extraneous ingredients is because it is pie-based perfection without them, and when you consider that all this comes locked inside Pieminister’s delicious pastry you realise that this pie, inspired by the Emerald Isle, would make St Patrick himself smile with voracious glee.
THE WINE: Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz 2009
Owing to the fact that the Shamrock Pie is such a substantial meal the accompanying wine needed to be elegant and refreshing without being overly imposing. This is achieved adroitly by winemaker Grant Burge with the 2009 vintage Benchmark Shiraz. With red berries and a hint of blueberries on the nose, this tipple mixes soft and subtle tannins with its fruitiness to ensure that the sweetness of the wine complements the robustness of this classic pie on the palate.
An unassuming option this wine and pie combo won’t stand out from the crowd, choosing to merely sit quietly at the back, self-assured in its deliciousness, welcoming in the discerning customers who know that simplicity is often the path to epicurean happiness.