Sunday, 15 January 2012

Invivo dinner at The Fulham Wine Rooms

Proving that small can indeed be beautiful are Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne of Invivo Wines, a boutique New Zealand winery founded by the entrepreneurial pair in 2007. Making wine from both Marlborough and Central Otago, Invivo released its first wine in 2008 and has built up its range to five wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Rosé and a low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc called Bella, known as "skinny Sav", which is proving incredibly popular with health-conscious women, leading the boys to triple production.

While in town last month, winemaker Rob Cameron (left) showed off his quintet at The Fulham Wine Rooms at a dinner organised by Jimmy Smith of the West London Wine School. Having worked stints in Slovenia, Cyrpus and Moldova, Cameron is happy to be back in his homeland, with business partner Lightbourne – who counts L'Oreal among his previous employers – looking after the marketing.

Conscious of the importance a label can have on a global brand, the pair struck upon a dynamic design; a white eight-point star set against a black background created by New Zealand fashion house Zambesi. But with so many wineries out there, what makes Invivo different? “Hands on marketing, hands on winemaking and a strong belief in the quality of our wine,” enthuses Lightbourne. “We don’t just send a container of product to our export market, we send ourselves as well."

Ensconced in The Fulham Wine Rooms' private dining room, Cameron kicked off with 2011 Bella Sauvignon Blanc, which I was curious to try. The nose displayed all the typical Kiwi Sauvignon aromas you'd expect, from blackcurrant leaf to freshly cut grass, pineapple and passion fruit, while the palate offered mouth-watering acidity and surprising body and punch for a 9% abv wine. Having been charmed by Bella, we moved on to the 2011 Pinot Gris produced in Marlborough. The feminine nose showed exotic aromas of quince, fig, lychee and poached pear, while the unctuous palate offered both texture and clean acidity. To match, we enjoyed an autumnal tartine of aubergine and mushrooms in an earthy, creamy sauce.

For the main event, we moved on to the estate's signature wine, the 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, releasing the inner philosopher in Cameron: "With our Sauvignon Blanc, it's about creating a moment in time in the vineyard." More fragrant than Bella, it had a zingy nose of cut grass, tropical fruit and freshly squeezed lime. Bright and alive, the palate was deceptively powerful, with impressive concentration and lift from the vibrant acidity and herbal notes, which proved a great pairing for the accompanying fillet of cod in a zesty sauce vierge – a virgin sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice and chopped tomato.

Up next was 2010 Sophie's Rosé, named after the founder of Zambesi. A pretty salmon pink, the fresh, summery wine burst with strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and watermelon. A charming picnic wine, it proved a perfect pair for our pineapple pud. Saving the best till last, Cameron cracked open his 2009 Central Otago Pinot Noir to enjoy with the cheese. By far my favourite wine of the night, its deep ruby colour revealed a meaty nose of forest floor, red berry, smoky bacon and herbal aromas, while the soft, perfumed palate of bright red cherries almost longingly recalled a beautiful Burgundy. Was he aiming for a Burgundian style? "All New World winemakers that make Pinot Noir are aspiring to the heights of great Burgundy," Cameron admits.

Wine aside, both Cameron and Lightbourne take a great interest in art, sponsoring and setting up an Invivo bar at the 2011 Venice Biennale, and nurturing homegrown creative talent, including musicians, fashion designers and their latest discovery; a group of graffiti artists, TMD Crew, at the forefront of the global graffiti scene. Could this mean a daring new label for Invivo's next release? Watch this space...

1 comment:

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