Having conducted wine lunches with Jacques Scott’s team of wine professionals every month for around half a decade, we have managed to eat and drink our way through most of Cayman’s top restaurants over the years. None, however, have so far matched the incredibly thoughtful and attentive service at Agua, thanks to the efforts of owner/manager Walter, sommelier Luciano and waitress Dunja. The superlative service was matched measure for measure by the dazzling array of seafood that all looked as if it had been styled specifically for the occasion, but which, we were assured was simply its everyday exquisite presentation.
The Shiraz (as it is know in Australia, Syrah to most of the rest of the wine-producing world) grape is not one you would immediately choose to pair with seafood; however the robustness of many of Agua’s beautifully prepared dishes, such as its fantastic paella scented with traditional saffron and jam-packed with flavourful sausages, made the wine tasting a breeze, and only served to enhance the wonderful nuances of this most versatile grape.
When you think of Shiraz you might automatically think of a deep purple-ish wine, full of pepper, spice and alcohol and these characteristics were certainly evident in the four wines that we blind tasted, yet there were so many more nuances that were highlighted in the tasting that it pays to get to know your grapes.
Wines up for tasting in no particular order were as follows:
Jean-Luc Columbo “Les Forots” Côtes du Rhone, France, 2004 CI$28.99
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz, Australia, 2004 CI$50.99
Glen Carlou Syrah, South Africa, 2005 CI$19.99
Montemaggiore Paolo’s Vineyard, Syrah, California, 2003, CI$32.99
After an incredible presentation of Peruvian ceviche and tiraditos, the freshness and lusciousness of which more than adequately awakened our palates, wine tasters Lee Royle and Sergio Serrano from Jacques Scott, Agua’s sommelier Luciano and yours truly ploughed through our four deep dark wines in a blind tasting to ascertain which was which.
The first wine was, according to Lee, tannic, youthful and full of aging potential. “This is a fantastic wine but needs to age somewhat as it’s a bit of a tannic monster!” he states.
Luciano was in agreement as to the quality of this wine, enjoying its dark berry flavours, spices and aggressive fruits.
This wine paired nicely with Agua’s Peruvian speciality a delicious mix of Peruvian peppers known as aji Amarillo (brought in especially for the restaurant) as well as shrimp, salmon, snapper and leche de tigre (a blend of celery, garlic, ginger, cilantro and lime juice).
During the big reveal at the end of all the pontificating, the first wine poured was in fact the most expensive of the four – the Australian Penfolds St Henri. Three out of four tasters correctly guessed this wine.
Second was an earthy wine with a subdued nose that hinted of cinnamon along with spicy accents. Luciano noted the wine’s cassis qualities while Lee noted that this wine was lighter in appearance and lower in alcohol than its counterparts. Sergio was convinced it was an Old World version of the grape. The wine’s earthiness went particularly well with the formidable flavours of the paella. All tasters were indeed spot on with this wine, correctly identifying it as the Jean-Luc Columbo “Les Forots” Côtes du Rhone.
Number three in our awesome line up was correctly identified by Lee as the oldest wine in the bunch, having tell-tale signs of aging around the rim (red wines get lighter/browner with age). Luciano enjoyed the wine’s “rich flavour” and thought it was “very chewy with biting tannins”. This wine was again correctly identified by all four tasters as the Montemaggiore, Paolo’s Vineyard from California.
Last on the line up was a favourite of some of the tasters (including me), enjoyed for its medium body, great fruits and soft spices. In particular, Luciano appeared to be certain of this wine calling it “surprisingly rich” and thought it was something of a dark horse, presenting such a great all round taste for such a reasonable price. Agua proved its versatility by preparing some melt-in-the mouth beef burritos which went nicely with the power of the wine, but their fish tacos also went down a storm. By the power of deduction it could be worked out that this was indeed the South African Glen Carlou, incredibly well priced at CI$19.99 for the power and fruit that you get in the glass.
“At the end of the day,” says Lee, “it’s all about the terroir. Although they may be made from the same grape varietal, each wine presents its own special characteristics because of where it is grown, the specific climate in that area, the soil it is grown in and eventually how it is vinified. That’s why it’s so much fun trying new wines, to establish your newest favourite!”