Friday, October 5, 2012
South African Wine Dinner at the Cullinan Hotel
- South African sparkling wines, especially the Monroe 2007 Cap Classique and Simonsig 2007 Blanc de Blanc
- All of the pinot noirs from Hemel & Aarde (which means Heaven and Earth and is part of the Walker Bay Area). My favorite was the Hamilton Russel 2010 Pinot Noir
- Most of the Chenin blancs – especially the bone dry ones. A favorite was 2011 Boland Kelder Reserve No. 1 Chenin Blanc from the Paarl area
- A few of the syrahs – I have a tendency to like the dark, brooding syrahs with a hint of tar and earth. A good one was the 2010 Mullineux Family Syrah from Swartland
- Ports and Brandies – South Africa is known for this category, and in fact has won best brandy in the world for the past 5 years. My favorite here was the 1995 Bopplaas Family Vineyards Cape Tawny
Unique Style of South African Sauvignon Blanc – Grass & Jalapeno
The biggest surprise of the tasting for me were the sauvignon blancs, which were very green and herbal. When I asked about this, I was told it was the preferred style in South Africa. The wines are extremely lean, acidic and taste like jalapeno or roasted green chili mixed with green grass. To achieve this they grown them in very cold areas – even cooler than their chardonnays. Sauvignon blanc is one of my favorite whites, but this is a style that is an acquired taste. There was none of the nice kiwi and gooseberry you find in New Zealand, or the grapefruit and pineapple I love in California and Bordeaux savvys. Instead I was told that these flavors were frowned upon in South Africa.
Excellent South African Wine Dinner – With Stewed Water Lilies and Cape Gooseberries
The main course was Braised Lamb Shoulder in Red Wine with Stewed Waterblommetjies, Buttered Mash Potatoes, Green Beans and Confit Garlic. This was paired with some of the Cabernet Sauvignons/Blends, with the rich lamb muting out the green notes in the cab. I was especially intrigued with the waterblommetijies, which are a type of water lilly, that remind me of an artichoke (see photo).
All in all, a very enjoyable dinner and a great way to celebrate my first night in South Africa. I was especially impressed with the warmth, hospitality, and collegiality apparent between all of the South African wineries and Cape Masters present. I learned that “Cape Wine Masters” are South African wine experts who have completed a two-year study program and passed a rigorous exam slightly more difficult that then Diploma level of the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust).