Words: Monica Tindall
Photos: Rich Callahan
A collaboration between Chris Milliken from the U.S, and Max Eyzaguirre from Chile, PengWine bridges the northern and southern hemispheres with boutique wines that are guaranteed to spark conversation. Using traditional methods but unconventional blends, the team are adventurous in their endeavours. Mirroring this spirit, all wines are named after Chilean penguins, and hence the clever play on words, PengWine.
Tonight we’re at a dinner at Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s European restaurant, Graze. Mr Zainal Abdul Kadir, regional head of sales for PengWine, leads us through the evening sharing some stories behind the brand and the wines as we dine, while chef de cuisine Darios Seitfudem provides the food matches.
Being such a small winery, so small Zainal says the township only has “one page in the yellow pages”, they only make wine in a good year and they only make eight labels. They’re a “tiny drop in the ocean,” says Zainal but we hear that this droplet is making big splashes by winning three Decanter Asia awards: Chinstrap (silver), Royal (silver), King (bronze) – not bad for a single page directory. Another achievement worth noting is PengWine’s participation in the Buy One Give One campaign. For every bottle sold, the company donates to projects in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s a worthy program. Check them out here: www.b1g1.com
PengWine Dinner – Graze
Canapé – PengWine, Chinstrap Traditional Method Sparkling, 2014
Our introduction to PengWine is with a crisp and subtly fruity Chinstrap Traditional Method Sparkling, 2014. It’s a pale gold in colour with plenty of green apple and toasty notes on the nose. Lively bubbles serve to awaken the palate and leave us in a festive mood (isn’t that what every good bubbly should do?). A canapé of chicken liver parfait is sweetened with an apple compote, and contrasted in texture with rye bread crostini and cress. Provencal stuffed tomato plays a seesaw of flavours with mache leaf and roasted garlic oil as seasoning. Together, the wine and canapes play well, the freshness of the sparkling balancing the richness of the liver and garlic. Founder Chris likes to call it, “ChamPengWine,” much to the disdain of the French apparently. Love it!
1st Course – PengWine, Pagos Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
A perfect mate for seafood comes in the Pagos Sauvignon Blanc, 2014. Notes of green apple link from the bubbly to the sav blanc with the added aromas of citrus and a soft floral scent. Fresh with a trace of minerality, it is a worthy friend for the Smoked Tasmanian Salmon. I quiz Zainal saying that it’s not your typical varietal and he reveals the secret of 5% Viognier in the blend. The salmon comes with garlic mousse, fondant potato, squid ink tulip and dressed frisse, which make the dish a great stand-alone recipe. For this wine though, all you need is the salmon – clean fresh seafood – a flawless partner.
2nd Course – PengWine, Magellan Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc, 2010
Perhaps two of the world’s most recognized white wines, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, come together in the Magellan Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc, 2010. This surprising combo works, I think, as it has been processed in stainless steel rather than oak allowing the elegance of the Chardonnay to complement rather than overpower the sauvignon blanc. Chef has done a brilliant job with the Lobster and Crab Bisque. Consolidated with pulled flower crab, brandy cream and Italian parsley, the additional layers of complexity are just right in standing alongside the more powerful white.
3rd Course – PengWine, Rockhopper Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere, 2009 & PengWine, King Carmenere Malbec, 2010
As Zainal introduces the two red wines with the main, he precedes by asserting that the most important thing about wine is that you drink what you like, “wine is personal.” The Rockhopper, known for its fiery wild plumage is the inspiration for the Rockhopper Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere, 2009. Utilising the famous Chilean varietal, Carmenere, it switches our colour story from white to red. Spicy, earthy and fruity, it is a delicious blend that pairs deliciously with the Australian Black Angus Sirloin. The second, King Carmenere Malbec, 2010 is a 50/ 50 blend with two significant grapes for Chile and Argentina. Only 200 cases of this unusual blend have been made so we feel fortunate to get a taste this evening. Chef’s presentation of the steak is done with simple elegance arranging maxim potato, sautéed spinach, confit tomato on vine and porcini jus in artistic appeal.
4th Course – Dessert
We would be easily satisfied with continued sips of the wine alone but chef provides a pretty (and delicious) conclusion with a Chocolate Nougat Cigar. The sweet chocolate mousse is balanced with a fresh tang from the raspberry sorbet and lifted with fresh mint and orange coulis.
As we savour the last drops and final moments with good company, Zainal sums up the evening with a few words, “Wine is a simple thing. There is no need to complicate it. You like it. You don’t like it. It’s simple.”
Reasons to drink PengWine: I’m partial to their bubbly; uncommon blends to challenge your perception of wine; drink wine with a conscience knowing with every sip you contribute to the B1g1.com program.