“Oh my, here comes Jancis Robinson” exclaimed Adi Badenhorst at Bar Bar Black Sheep this afternoon as a glamorous windswept angular blonde of a certain age picked her way around the cacti and clutter on the stoep of this Riebeek-Kasteel culinary landmark-in-the-making colonized by twenty Swartland producers for an appellation-wide tasting. “On second thoughts there are no TV cameras, so it probably isn’t.” Confirmed by her boots – definitely not Issey Miyake, Manolo Blahnik or Miuccia Prada.Read More…
While the popular anorak diversion of musical riempiestoele focuses on winemakers swapping jobs, it’s fun for the whole team. Gareth Robertson, formerly GM at Waterford, has joined L’Ormarins and one of the benefits of working for Johann Rupert was clear on Thursday night as three of Johann’s team were necking Premier and Grand Cru Burgundy (Domain Dujac, if you must ask) at Carne with viticulturalist Rosa Kruger and Brian Cluver the other L’ Ormarins operatives. Another benefit, classy threads from the Alfred Dunhill shop on the Waterfront, was also self-evident (see below).Read More…
Johannesburg born novelist, fellow CBC old boy and Witsie, now domiciled “in a remote village in rural France”, Christopher Hope, published a collection of short stories last year called The Garden of Bad Dreams (Atlantic, 2008). A collection about which I was all set to interview him for a review in the Sunday Times if judging the Concours Mondial in Bordeaux had not clashed.
In his capacity as director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, Christopher invited me to “submit the best piece of writing you published in 2008 on any wine-related topic, for the Franschhoek Literary Festival’s SA Wine Writers Award” last week. An award that may turn into a nightmare suitable for inclusion in a sequel.
The Mondovino may be full of false prophets, barkers and shills but the Boudoir biscuit for irrelevant advice must go to Neil Becketts’ hideously expensive 1001 Wines To Try before You Die (Cassell, 2006) which lists the George Spies 1996 Cabernet [sic, should be '66 as per headline, see comment below!] as one of the chosen few. Of course it was only included as Wine Spectator had raved about it, scoring it 95/100 and confirming that “expert” and “foreigner” are synonyms in the local spittoon.
What a cop out, I thought, to include a +40 year old Cab you’ve never heard of in a book of lists. Yet like albums by the late Jimi Hendrix and bottles of Château Margaux 1945, there seems to be a secret stash somewhere as two friends, Emile Joubert and Michael Olivier, the biggest wine writers in the business, each gave me a bottle recently.
So off to the biggest chef in Cape Town (Big D at Chef in Rose Street) for some pasta featuring a sauce made with a “handsome admixture of anchovies” (as Uriah Heep might say) to put George through his middle-aged paces. Ok, so the nose was a tad oxidized but the palate was a glorious explosion of fruit. A real Mr. Bojangles wine.
The quickest way to Mooiplaas, jewel of the Bottelary Hills, is exit 32 off the N1 from Cape Town, through Kraaifontein (where the roads are so bad, you’d swear you were in Johannesburg) and then right on the Bottelary Road swinging you back towards Kuilsriver. The Kuilsriver itself is a bit of a joke, a muddy track easily missed. But the mountains are magnificent and the malevolent crows add a macabre Alfred Hitchcock touch as they wheel menacingly in the thermals above the vineyards and rubbish dumps from the squatter camps.
It’s the rubbish that makes crows the endemic species of birdlife in the area. Things are now so bad, packs of marauding crows attack jackal buzzards in flight and indigenous bird species are in serious decline as crows devour both eggs and chicks of competing avians.
Rather like its crows, Bottelary Hills is an appellation whose time has come. Pit stopping at Vaughan Johnson for a chat between lunch with some old farts on a yacht at the Cape Grace Marina on the Waterfront and a two-hander with Emile Joubert at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch, ace retailer VJ maintains that volumes are constant while value is down as punters down shift for the recession.
R100 is the ceiling for recessionary reds and the big name producer of whom VJ would annually sell R1 million is down to R10 000 while Dalla Cia Cabernet Sauvignon at R85 and Bilton Merlot and Shiraz (both under R100) are the new Stellenbosch stars. Bottelary Hills must be the best value for money in the appellation, so stand-by for a realignment of stars in the gastronomic galaxy.
Mooiplaas Cabernet Franc 05 is a good place to start. At all of R75 a bottle, it is elegant without being effete. Wonderfully clean and intense perfumed fruit flavours makes you realize that Franc is the Robert Downey Junior of Cape Wine – such exotic potential that once tasted makes you wonder why it is not universally acclaimed. Like those wonderful Crescendos Chris Keet used to make on Cordoba that are only now starting to be appreciated when there is no more.
The prospect of a mini-langtafel lunch in Mooiplaas’s atmospheric 1833 Herenhuis had brought us to the Bottelary Hills and the crows and Dirk Roos’s komfort kos did not disappoint. Peach soup with Asian spice and pomegranate seeds, a selection of roasts from Joostenberg to make a vegetarian reconsider, cheese from Bosman’s Crossing.
And a line-up of stellar wines, kicked off by a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay bubbly called Duel. Appropriately opened by Dirk à la sabrage using the sword of a Boer War British officer picked up on a Roos farm in the Free State. Not all the Pinot Noir ended up as fizz and winemaker Louis showcased a light and delicate still interpretation that was voted a better match with Dirk’s yellowtail that the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.
Excellent food and sympathetic wines. Bird-lovers and bibulists both should make a beeline for Bottelary. To paraphrase the description of Altydgedacht, if you want to see what wine tasting was like in Stellenbosch fifty years ago, visit Bottelary Hills in ten years time.
Type “Erfurt” into Google and the medieval capital of Thuringia and home to some of the best sausages in the world has been eclipsed by the school massacre in April 2002 in which 16 people died at the town’s Johann Gutenberg Gymnasium. A massacre that itself was eclipsed on Wednesday by another at Winnenden in which another 16 perished. Erfurt was on my mind as last night as I was speaking at the Erfurthuis in Stellenbosch as part of a double act with Emile Joubert at Woordfees 2009 “lag-lag 10 jaar” as it says on the program.
Feasting on leitão assado with the Honorary Consul, a cameraman from Al Jazeera and the Johannesburg bureau chief of the Portuguese equivalent of SAPA at the Troyeville Hotel sounds like a verse from one of those rollicking Dylan epics. Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts perhaps or Black Diamond Bay or even Changing of the Guards. Although the bit about “her ebony face is beyond communication” didn’t apply to the waitress. Or maybe the scene was the opening chapter from Emile Joubert’s much rumoured about Murder in the Winelands currently squatting under some publisher’s desk.
Phone call from David Bullard this morning from Exclusive Books in Hyde Park. He was trying to buy a copy of Sour Grapes for himself as a Christmas stocking filler but although the bookshop says they have a copy, nobody can find it. Nothing on the food and wine shelves so I told him to check out Africana – that’s where the Killarney branch house their copy. Next to Stephen Gray’s biography of Herman Charles Bosman. Or could the Hyde Park copy have been shoplifted? Or was there such a stormloop after this morning’s Radio Sonder Grense panel discussion between wyn kenners Emile Joubert and Melvyn Minnaar on the blind versus sighted wine tasting issues raised in Sour Grapes that Exclusive is sold out? Unlikely…
Sour Grapes, my celebration of the enthusiastic amateur approach to wine, was launched last night at the Book Lounge in Roeland Street, Cape Town. We decided to adopt a novel format with Emile Joubert, described as a “great controversialist” by Tafelberg’s Kerneels Breytenbach interviewing yours truly in front of the 100-or-so invited guests. Cederberg supplied the wines, which were so good, they soon ran out (18 bottles of white, 18 red). I’m off to India for a week on Saturday, so will drip feed social pictures and my recall of answer’s to Emile’s questions over the next week.
The Pendock/Platter wine war was picked up on Saturday by By, lifestyle supplement in several Afrikaans language newspapers. With Afrikaans the lingua franca of the wine producing industry, this is a serious escalation in the war of words. My translation of Emile Joubert’s story: