Amazing what you learn from the Weekend Financial Times. Sunday’s interview with avant garde film director John Waters produced “balloonies, or people with a sexual interest in balloons.” “I really don’t get it” opined John “but maybe I’m being stuffy. It’s safe. We should encourage that kind of behaviour. No one gets pregnant at a balloony party.”
Maybe it was beautiful Nadia Newton-Johnson (above) mentioning that she was in the family way. Or maybe it was the taste of the 2006 Newton-Johnson Elgin Pinot Noir, all barnyard and balloons – awkwardly Elgin as winemaker Gordon Newton-Johnson summed it up. Or maybe it was the texture of the kingklip Harald Bresellschmidt had paired with the wine, balloons of firm flesh bursting with flavour. Or maybe it was the parsnip on my plate that reminded me of a snowman’s nose until kitchen cowboy Pete Goffe-Wood implied a ruder simile. But balloonies were on my mind this lunchtime.
Bevan Newton-Johnson noted that the family chose Aubergine to showcase their wines “the first time we’re doing something like this” because “Aubergine was the first customer for our Pinot Noir in Cape Town.” Which prompted Platter senior taster Angela Lloyd to shout out “was that before or after Platter gave it five stars?” A comment breathtaking in its rudeness.
Are the Platter pips so disconnected that they seriously think chefs hang on to their judgments before buying stock or was this Ange’s idea of a joke? What makes the comment so doubly delicious is that roughly a third of the grapes for the flagship Newton-Johnson Pinot Noir are grown on a vineyard called Maya owned by Platter publisher Andrew “BigMac” McDowall. Conspiracy theorists might even speculate that this is why the sighted guide awarded three five star ratings to Pinot Noirs for 2012 while Pinotage, the top selling red cultivar at Aubergine, received none.
I for one do not believe in grassy knolls and as to the quality of the Newton-Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir (previously called Domaine, until the French objected) there can be no question with the 2009 in particular a world-class wine. Viticulturalist Dean Leppan (below, right) clearly has something to do with it. The “I” in a Taipei production of Withnail and I (he lived in Taiwan for five years before heading to Mysore in India to train as a yoga guru), Dean used to make cheese on the farm until the 10 Jerseys were sold “they weren’t making a profit” explained Gordon. So while Dean’s favourite cheese remains mozzarella, there are now no decent ones made in SA, he reckons. O tempora, O mores!
Redeployed to the vineyard, Dean now looks after 16.2ha of Pinot Noir vines with a special interest in a new vineyard of south-facing ones called Sandford. “We’re quietly excited about the quality” confirmed Nadia. Which could lead to a recalibration at Platter although six, kimi in the number system of the Maya, is the nickname of SA’s leading Swedish sommelier Joakim Hansi Blackadder who was conspicuous by his absence from a lunchtime guest list bursting with sommeliers. “And three couldn’t come” said sommelier turned vintrepreneur Jörg Pfützner who had climbed out of his sickbed with “a head like a helmet” to attend the tasting lunch. Strong praise, indeed.
2/12/2012 PS: Big Mac informs that the vineyard is actually called Moyo and he sold it five years ago but since wines are nominated for five stars sighted, his association with the vineyard which he planted, remains an ethical issue. Ethics remains the Achilles’ heel of the guide and spies in the spittoon insist that one of the largest producers has decided to exclude their wines from the guide’s sighted tasting schedule from 2012, going forward, because it is not fair.