Unexpected lunch yesterday with Vergelgen winemaker and long-time enfant terrible of SA wine, André van Rensburg (below, right), and other wine identities at a Dias-beating Porrra restaurant in Somerset West, Casa Valdez. Grilled sardines followed by impressively fiery peri-peri spatchcock for me while the Vans first split a Valdez salad before sharing a 500g espetada on a lethal looking metal skewer. Although it was a chair that André brandished above his head to make a point in a discussion about the holiday romance prospects of Vermaaklikheid.
Is André mellowing with age like his Vergelegen reds? For I gave him a bottle of Lemoenfontein Pinotage 2009 and he passed some nice comments, although the rest of the Swartland did not escape his tongue with “average to mediocre” his assessment of the terroir. It’s success ascribed to popularity with fashion-aware wine writers.
To see how lemming-like is the species, check out Neal Martin’s long awaited Cape Wine 2012 report back. WOSA must be sorely disappointed to rack up so many carbon miles for such a disappointing result. Although Boela Gerber (above left), winemaker at Groot Constantia (whose Chardonnay 2011 was the best white of the afternoon and good value indeed at R140) did make the point that the message of SA as being an exciting appellation was valuable. If only consumers, rather than anoraks and envious colleagues, read Neal. The point is better made by Stephen Tanzer in the Wall Street Journal.
André’s best joke of the lunch was at the expense of father-in-law, Jop Steenkamp, one of the main manne in Victoria West and friend of Mannetjies Roux and a boerekos kenner for whom chicken and pork pass as vegetables. Recently in London with Jop to visit brother-in-law Stoney (what else do you nickname a small Steenkamp?), Jop had a heart attack. Admitted to hospital, Jop, whose English is only slightly better than Beyers Truter, had a couple of stents implanted to open up his circulation. “His English was so bad” relates André, “the doctors thought he had brain damage.”
The good news is that Jop is back on his feet in Vicky West, which featured last night in the Karoo division of David Kramer’s Kalahari Karoo Blues at the Baxter Theatre. A show far less polished and stage-ready than the Breyani he dished up back in December 2010. Although a brave attempt is made to link the Kalahari and the Karoo through the use of common musical instruments fashioned from amplified Castrol tins, the Botswana boys (80 years old Babsi singing wistfully about condoms, young buck Ondong Piet dressed in buckskins like a tourist curio and Kapong’s answer to Jimi Hendrix but with better guitar skills, Ronnie Moipolai) sounded more Ali Farka Touré than Appolis Broers, singing as they were about “bitches” and AIDS prevention. The pairing does not really work.
It’s a language thing as David admitted, arranging Ronnie on the chair with his hands, “we can’t understand each other.” Did he give the game away with his comment about “my good friend Paul Simon”? although I’d rather sign with Ry Cooder to break into the US market. He’s more believably faux-ethno-authentic.
But with teaspoon wielding Hannes Coetzee and the kappie Kommando tannie on a koffieblik, David was a natural, sharing language and those dance moves of a Calitzdorp ostrich. Translations of the songs were projected onto the stage so that any visiting tourists would realize it was Afrikaans and not symptoms of stroke-induced brain damage.
Thanks to Solms-Delta for the tickets.