There is a plethora of Top 100s at the moment. This week’s edition of Time magazine features “the 100 most influential people in the world” while negociant Wade Bales has picked his Top 100 SA wines from 50 producers and will showcase them in Newlands the week after next. Which is most confusing as Robin von Holdt does a similar thing in St. James but I’d put Wade ahead as the St. James selection pool is 440 wines submitted to Robin’s competition along with a hefty entry fee.
Soon after my arrival in Peru last May I was asked if I could organize a container of South Africa’s finest wines. Positive in nature and bullish about South African wine as I am, I agreed to the task and immediately started sending emails to SA’s top wineries to engage them in exports to Peru. The selection ended up being a short list of South Africa’s Grand Crus, with a bit of local taste thrown in. As the list of interested people in Peru grew, so grew the list of wines ordered. We settled for eight different wines, which we believed to have stood the test of time, including a newcomer who had been tasted before by a friend in Lima. The list included the Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Rustenburg Peter Barlow 2007 and Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009, the De Toren Fusion V 2009 and of course Meerlust’s Rubicon 2007, and two Pinot Noirs, the Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak 2009 (would never omit this one from a list of SA’s finest) and the Crystallum Cuvee Cinéma 2011, both from Hemel en Aarde. By the way the Meerlust Rubicon was the only brand name known by my Peruvian friends, except for the Crystallum.
The extended version of Sunday’s Best Cellar in the Sunday Times Travel Weekly.
The Vineyard Hotel & Spa in Newlands is a Tardis of a property with 200 rooms nestled under Table Mountain and a string of villas scattered along the course of the Liesbeek River that bisects the garden. Yet it looks like the country cottage of a Georgian Lady (George III) with a few rooms added on. Which is what it is; the erstwhile home of Lady Anne, wife of Andrew Barnard, Colonial Secretary at the Cape, who lived in Newlands from 1797-1802.
A bit of a cougar (she was a dozen years older than her husband) she had some very modern advice for ladies: “upon my word, virtue seems to be a very needless article at the Cape, girls thrive better without it than with it & make much better colonists.” Advice preserved for posterity in the Lady Anne alcove in the hotel, along with some haunting watercolours painted on her many hikes up the mountain.
The Vineyard is also one of the few hotels in the Winelands to take the stuff seriously. Which is quite appropriate, as the Constantia Valley, where it all started 360 years ago, is five minutes away. A four star establishment at the top of its game, it’s so much more authentic (parliament hinges on the hall linen cupboards) than those five star palaces with ice in the urinals.
The hotel is well named as instead of fairies, it has a vineyard at the bottom of the garden. Planted by Lady Anne and resurrected four years ago by GM Roy Davies who notes “we’re often asked to get involved in promoting spirits and cocktails but wine is really all there is for us and what we take seriously.”
He is not joking as two wine dinners a month are scheduled and a wine tasting every Monday afternoon. “We even sent our schedule for 2013 to the Platter guide so they can include it.” In August, Oldenburg from the Banghoek Valley was up. Owned by Adrian Vanderspuy, who lives in Geneva, the venue would have been approved of by his granny Una, who died five days short of a century the previous month. Her Old Nectar garden is the most beautiful in the Cape, if not the whole world. Grandson missed the funeral as he was dodging the world’s largest plant, the corpse flower amorphophallus titanium, in the jungles of Burma.
Sixty Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted on a terrace above the Liesbeek in mini-Douro formation, along with forty of Semillon. A reflection of the popularity of Bordeaux-style white blends in SA today, whereas Lady Anne would more likely have planted Muscat d’Alexandrie. Probably sourced from her friend Hendrik Cloete junior who made the famous Vin de Constance from them on Simon van der Stel’s old Constantia farm. A venue for such uproarious parties, Lady Anne was once forced to hide behind the curtains.
when Fons Aaldering launched his eponymous wine brand on an unsuspecting SA in May 2010, shortly before the soccer World Cup, he chose La Colombe as launch pad. Alas, lunch left much to the imagination, featuring as it did, homepathic truffles and foie gras. “If you ever come to the Netherlands” offered Fons “I’ll take you to a decent restaurant.” So on Thursday I was treated to the meal of my life at De Librije in Zwolle, home town of Herman Brood. Here is Fons and our chef, Jonnie Boer.
The blue helicopter swooped down low over La Vierge this morning and for a moment we thought Anthony Hamilton Russell and Olive had forsaken the yacht on the Baltic and flown down to the Pinot Noir event arranged by Marc van Halderen (below). But it was just some tourists dropping by for lunch.
Playwright Samuel Beckett told art collector Peggy Guggenheim that “making love without being in love was like taking coffee without brandy.” Of course if Sam had been Italian instead of Irish, it would have been grappa he’d have been putting in his coffee and he’d have called it caffé corretto. When grappa is drunk straight as I digestive, it should be served chilled – in rural Italy it is typically stored ready poured in large glass tumblers in the fridge. For a corretto, the grappa needs to be added at room temperature to avoid cooling the coffee. Of course a chilled grappa may be taken after coffee, in which case it is called ammazza caffé – literally coffee-killer. Read More…
Is SA wine serious about China? The list of 27 exhibitors at next week’s VinExpo in Hong Kong – or Hong Kok as my dyslexic friend Pinky calls it (with Bang Kong presumably the capital of Thailand) concentrates very much on terroir by truck wines. Commercial wines sold mainly on price.
Where are the terroir treasures, the Kanonkops, Vergelegens and Meerlusts? Not a single one of the controversial UCT Top Twenty wineries are attending, although UCT’s self-appointed professor of wine, Tim James, has at last done the decent thing and signed up for a non-UCT e-mail with which to communicate with the industry. Perhaps the Platter guide will send Professor Tim east to present this year’s 5* stunners in the next chapter of the unseemly commercial luv-in between the guide and WOSA, the exporters’ mouthpiece.
The Sanhedrin of SA wine expanded by 15 last night as the Commanderie de Bordeaux intronized the latest batch of Bordeaux worshippers at a glittering function at De Grendel. Sir David Graaff and De Grendel winemaker Chas Hopkins had a home team advantage and their Koetshuis CWG was nailed at the Bordeaux-style tasting afterwards by Arthur McWilliam Smith whose laser-like taste buds detected the serious Sémillon component, as did mining financier Gerard Holden who was amused to be addressed in the Afrikaans fashion: Gheritt rather than Jerard. He flew down to Cape Town from London yesterday, especially to join in.