Elgin Chenin Blancs are like buses: nothing for ages then along come two together. The first was Cathy Marshall’s Amatra 2012 (retail R91) at Auslese last Tuesday and on Thursday JP Winshaw’s Usana 2012 with a grilled cauliflower and cashew nut soup with truffle oil at Birds on Bree Street.
Off to Auslese in Gardens this afternoon for the TVM Wines trade tasting and a typical Cape Town experience. At first I thought it was Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards with dyslexia, but it turned out to be Tracy van Maaren, which was even better as the wines were wonderful. Although there was a sting in the tale when the car of gorgeous Kalinka Lombard, of WineStyle fame, parked opposite Auslese, was broken into and her brand new lap top was stolen. The attending car flies then tried to rush her for a phone card to get the computer back. Quite how anyone can run a restaurant in a crime hotspot i.e. central Cape Town, defeats me. Lucky it didn’t happen at Helen Zille’s SA Wine Index gig yesterday. Or does the Premier have better security than rate payers like Harald Bresselschmidt? For Helen, security is so tight, you have to email them your ID a week before the function!
Budgets must be under severe pressure when the Nederburg Auction shares judges with the controversial Top 100 SA Wine Competition to select wines for the annual auction, as happened last month. Far better to have asked Mark Norrish (Ultra Liquors), Mark Robinson (Spar) and Mark Antony (Ancient Rome) I would have thought, as these are the guys who buy the stuff. Especially the Mark in Food Lover’s Market as Mark told me “these are the guys with the best retail offering.” No wonder they laughed off a R1.8 billion offer for the business five years ago from a competitor. If you can sell five bottles of Tin Cup wine for R100, you’re clearly onto a winning formula.
But Nederburg probably wasted their money as tasting is not even necessary these days. It all comes down to labels as the Platter guide confirms and Mike Veseth, Auction speaker last year, noted when he told assembled Marks “when I went to the local wine shop [in Washington State] with the most comprehensive selection of South Africa wines I found that 15 of the 16 wines on the shelf were ‘critter wines.’ ”
Poor Lucy Shaw, gaffe-prone hack for DB. After a fab freebee to SA for Cape Wine 2012, her hilarious attempt to pay back host WOSA by declaring then CEO Su Birch (did she or did she not quit yesterday?) 48th most powerful woman in wine was derailed by the shockingly sexist image (below) that had sisters and cross-dressers up in arms. Now her story on Oldenburg was sabotaged by the cheap, attention grabbing headline “OLDENBURG OWNER HITS OUT AT PINOTAGE.”
Yesterday’s Su shock scoop crashed the Uncorked site. Rosebank nerds are on the case and are confident of fingering the hackers, more to follow. But back to the scoop of Su waving sayonara into a Kalk Bay sunset on April 1.
If the industry decides to continue with WOSA, (after all, can SA wine in reduced circumstances afford plush new Paarl offices for both Vinpro and WOSA as one billionaire asked?), there are ten things (at least) that need to be got right to recover from the current condition of expensive irrelevance.
Lunch at Bizerca Bistro with Jean-Vincent Ridon in January did not drag as he had to bottle his 2012 vintage Chenin Blanc made from the oldest vine growing in the southern hemisphere. Planted in 1771, today it provides leafy shade to the schmodels of Max Models and ash trays of Bizerca, located in the aptly named Heritage Square in central Cape Town. Quite why the Chenin Blanc Producer’s Association does not make more of this extraordinary plant is a mystery as JV recently sent cuttings back to the Loire, as its genes have disappeared from the French pool. Confirming that when it comes to Chenin, Cape Town has something special. A terroir triffid tailor-made for tourism.
The Cape Town suburb of Newlands should be renamed Slanghoek for the welcome it gave to the 250 snakes who turned out for the Cape to Canton Chinese new year festival this afternoon at the Vineyard Hotel & Spa. Here are some of the Chefs who steamed up a storm with spinach dim sums from Haiku firm favourites with snake charmer Jonathan Steyn.
When I lunched at Constantia Uitsig with Andre Rousseau in January (his 2012 Chardonnay is a knockout), the valley’s most underrated chef and King of Sweetbreads (kos) Clayton Bell, hurried over to enquire whether Andre had caught his snake yet. Seems that a green mamba had taken up residence, a little early for the Year of the Snake festivities which take place next Sunday. And also the wrong address, as the Cape to Canton party takes place in the garden of the Newlands Hotel & Spa down the road. There are still a few tickets available.
One of the main attractions of China as export destination for SA wine is the fact that last year, 90% of the wine exported left Cape Town in bottles, rather than bulk. The Chinese bulk market is dominated by Spain and bulk imports are often blended with Chinese wine with national identity lost in the process. I had lunch with a French winemaker at Bizerca Bistro yesterday (salmon trout ceviche followed by pink lamb and Antebellum Chenin Blanc 2012 that tasted distinctly Cartological). My guest, in town for a week to bottle his SA 2012s (showing better than 2011 even though the grapes were worse with some rot) had also exported bottles of Côte du Rhône to China at €1 a litre in 12 bottle cases. The purchaser repackaged the bottles into individual cartons and sold out at €25 each.
The weekend after next is the busiest one on Cape Town’s dance card. Parliament opens and the Mining Indaba closes and to top it all, ten days of festivities to mark the Chinese New Year, kicks off. The dragons of 2012 are being chased back up Table Mountain and the water snake of 2013 will be welcomed at the Sea Palace outside the Waterfront where Miss Chung expects to feed 5,000 over 10 days.