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What grows together, goes together – Blackmore Wagyu and Heathcote Estate

We continue our ‘Grows together, goes together’ series with a glorious pairing in the rolling green hills around heathcote, Victoria – the world renowned Blackmore Wagyu and the equally impressive Heathcote Estate.

In the world of beef, Wagyu is quite rightly held in high esteem, its high grading and phenomenal marbling commanding prices of up to $200 per steak in restaurants. The marbling is due to unparalleled levels of monounsaturated fat – a good fat that can assist in reducing cholesterol levels in the body and which has a low melting point. Consequently, Wagyu scores highly on both health and flavour, delivering juicy, delicate characters with a deliciously soft texture.

Wagyu literally means ‘Japanese beef’ (Wa=Japanese, gyu=beef), and in Japan Wagyu has long been revered for its use as a working animal, its sheer size and muscle structure making it perfect for agricultural pursuits. It is theorised that centuries of labour helped develop the rich fat content in the muscle of the Wagyu, as it can be used as an instant energy source.

As a beef product, incredibly fastidious monitoring of bloodlines has allowed over a century and a half of absolute 100% pure breeding – each and every Wagyu can be traced to its genetic source.

In the Australian beef industry, one name is practically synonymous with Wagyu, Blackmore. Fifth generation farmer David Blackmore has been a trailblazer in our Wagyu industry, pioneering the production of 100% full-blood Wagyu beef in Australia since 1992. While adhering to the same exacting genetic regimes observed in Japan, he’s developed innovative production techniques for Australian conditions.

This has resulted in quite a revolution. Prior to Wagyu entering the Australian market, the Australian meat grading system was 0 to 6. Since the introduction of Wagyu, the grading system has been increased to 9, with Blackmore Wagyu consistently scoring 9+.

The Blackmore Wagyu farm is situated in the beautiful Victorian high country, at Alexandra, while the breeding cows and their calves are raised on a lush 3,500-acre property just out of Heathcote, a little over an hour’s drive north of Melbourne.

“Our property has beautiful rolling hills with lots of shelter belts for the cattle, which is really important for grazing on the open pastures, but also for getting out of the weather,” explains Blackmore CEO and sixth generation farmer, Ben Blackmore, when we tour their Fairfield property just outside Heathcote.

Agricultural neighbours

Just a short drive away from the Blackmore farm on the other side of Heathcote is the revered Heathcote Estate. As a wine region, the story of Heathcote echoes many of those around Australia. Settlers in the mid 1850s were attracted to the region by gold and agriculture, with some planting vines and establishing wineries that gradually fell by the wayside.

A few decades ago, the vinous potential of the region was again recognised and viticulturists established a wine region that now boasts over 40 wineries.

Heathcote Estate was planted in 1999 by the Kirby family, with the sole objective of making a premium single vineyard Shiraz. Award-winning winemaker Tom Carson, who also looks after the Kirby’s Yabby Lake Winery on the Mornington Peninsula, feels that he has achieved that, giving most of the credit to great sites and the distinct characteristics of the region.

“Heathcote is an amazing region for Shiraz,” says Tom. “The major factors are the ancient Cambrian soils – at least 500 million years old – very deep, rich, red and full of quartz and gemstones, coupled with the really mild climate of warm days, cool nights. It is perfect for Shiraz.

“The resulting Shiraz are quite bold but fine, with beautiful perfumes, a lovely intensity of berry fruits and savoury tannins – just beautiful food wines.”

A meal for a discerning crew

At the invitation of the Kirbys to use the Heathcote Estate Homestead, Selector organised for a special lunch with Ben, Tom and Heathcote Estate’s marketing manager Tiffyn Parsons, prepared by renowned Melbourne chef Neale White.

Growing up in Sydney, Neale started his career in London, honing his skills in the kitchens of culinary luminaries such as Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing, before returning to Australia to operate and consult for restaurants in Byron Bay, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne,  including the iconic Southbank restaurant, Pure South. In 2013, Neale opened Papa Goose in Melbourne’s CBD and, more recently, added My Son Joy café in South Melbourne, which allows him to express his ‘low carb, high fat’ mantra with a nutrition-based, wholefood menu.

The perfect wine & beef pairing

For this special lunch, we gave Neale the challenge of working with a lesser used rump cap as well as a secondary cut, skirt. This fact prompted Ben to reveal another unique quality of Wagyu.

“Because we are growing these animals to four years of age, they are much bigger than the traditional beef animal in Australia, so they have much better muscle development. This enables us to get up to 40 different sections from an animal, whereas you only get about 16 traditionally,” Ben says. “So this allows chefs to be much more creative with these extra cuts with different textures and utilising different cooking techniques.”

For the skirt, Neale seasoned the Wagyu steak then simply pan-roasted for three minutes each side, and rested for 10 minutes, before slicing thinly and placing over the pomegranate, macadamia and herb slaw salad. It was matched with the spicy fruit characters of the 2014 Heathcote Estates Grenache Noir, which highlighted the delicate flavour of the Wagyu.

The rump cap was brined overnight in 5% salt and herb solution before being slow-cooked in an oven, then rested, sliced and served with a roasted carrot puree and green bean salad. It was paired perfectly with the 2012 Museum Release Heathcote Estate Single Vineyard Shiraz – its plush palate and ripe tannins accentuating the wonderfully soft ‘melt in the mouth’ texture of the Wagyu rump cap.

People think when eating beef they need a really powerful red wine, but for me, the flavour of Wagyu is so delicate, the lighter, savoury style of Heathcote Shiraz is perfect.

- Ben Blackmore, Blackmore Wagyu

“I think the savouriness of our Heathcote Shiraz and that lovely cut you get across the palate works beautifully with this rich meat,” agrees Tom.

“That is the wonderful thing about this region. There are some wonderful food producers alongside great wine producers. These things just go hand in hand.”

Get Neil White's pan-roasted Blackmore's wagyu beef skirt salad with pomegranate, macadamia and herb red slaw recipe

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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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