Eric Bulpitt and PJ Vardas, chefs at the Roundhouse restaurant in Camps Bay, are the ultimate exponents of umami in the Cape. Their organic vegetable patch, raw and pickled with mushroom soil and herb emulsion (below) served after a vertical tasting of Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon today was inspired. For not only was it something a French impressionist painter would have committed to canvas, but the umami laden flavours were a perfect match for the 2009 Zonnebloem limited edition Cabernet, which, at R85 a bottle, confirms that it is not yet necessary to visit the autoteller before buying a decent red in SA.
Presented by Duimpie Bayly (below) who started at Zonnebloem back in 1962, two years before the first wine of the vertical was bottled, my pick of the old reds was the 1974 which had a rare intensity of flavour followed closely by the 1982 which was elegantly savoury. SA reds need a sympathetic bank to step in and buy up any stocks of 2009 vintage wines that have not yet found homes, store them in their vaults for 30 years to be released to restaurants that currently stock current releases at best. Why should Distell be the only company with a Tabernacle and the ability to showcase older reds?
The venison loin with hay ash-baked beets, pickled blackberries and cherries (below) was a similar divinely inspired match for the Zonnebloem Lauréat 2009, a Bordeaux-style blend with remarkably similar flavours to Eric and PJ’s main course. If I was Deon Boshoff, Zonnebloem’s engaging cellar manager, I’d ask for the spelling to be changed to Laureate, which is English for the recipient of an honour. For this wine is so good, it has no need of a faux-French moniker. After all, we’re not in Franschhoek here manne, these wines are pure Stellenbosch.