Quietly, the new category of Super Pinotages is causing a ripple through the incoming tide of things offered by Brand South Africa. Not everyone – present company excluded – is convinced that Pinotage can bear the torch as the nation’s grape: that sought-after focused ray of light, in clarity unmatched by any wine country, that cuts through the wad of global vinous offerings and makes universal consumers sit up and say, “Oh, that is South Africa in a glass, and we all like it. What a great piece of the wine world that neck of the woods must be.”
Tourism remains the wine industry’s brightest star. This is where South Africa has showed tangible growth and added value. Those who have experienced tourist offerings in the winelands over the past two decades can attest to this: a while back a wine-tasting tourist was lucky to be offered a Cream Cracker to accompany a pouring done in the tractor shed.
Robertson Wine Region supremo Danie de Wet calls him the Salvador Dali of winemakers, but Abrie Bruwer is not that weird. The proprietor and cellar-master of Springfield Estate, just down the road from Danie, is one of those enigmatic silent forces found lurking about the silent depths of the South African wine industry. Abrie’s idea of social media is allowing a neighbour to borrow that day’s copy of Die Burger newspaper. Twitter is something a bird makes before you shoot it. And I quite honestly believe he would rather choose to never go out on the sea to fish again, ever, than to post a selfie of himself smiling next to a bottle of one of his wines or thumbs-upping the harvest.
I never miss an Amorim Recorking gig. Not that I want to indulge in the delicate opening of rare vintage wines with crumbly corks that need to be extricated with the skill of a brain surgeon and the patience of space-shuttle pilot in landing mode. But whenever the Amorim team sets-off to put new corks in old bottles, one gets to taste the contents that have been slumbering for three, four decades.
No other agriculture body gives such a good Information Day as VinPro. And I’ve been to some – from ostriches to rooibos tea, farmed salmon to prickly pears. This year the South African wine industry’s official voice and representing body once again packed the Cape Town Convention Centre to the rafters, some of the 1 000 plus attendees having had to leave their farms at 04:00 to make it through the infamous inbound rush-hour traffic.
Dining out on a regular basis hones the senses to the joys and travails of restaurant visitations. With the good, there is the not so good, a list of Seven I could do without. Let’s go:
1. Saucy skid-marks on plates: Obviously a result of chefs wishing to capitalise on the instagram-era or deployed by those harbouring a Matisse complex, brush-strokes of bordelaise, truffle, beet-root and other sauces swirled around a plate are as irritating as they are useless. Being attached to the plate, these showy skid-marks have zero use in complementing the dish’s flavour as like wigs, nipple-caps and saddles, sauces are meant to go on-top. Once the dish has been eaten, the sauce-stroked plate looks like Van Gogh’s palette after an evening of painful ear-slicing, something no gentleman wants to present to a hard-working waiter or waitress.
It has now been ten-and-something years since the wines of Stellenbosch property Kleine Zalze first passed my parched lips, and to this day I still have to find a wine under this label that fails to hit the spot. Starting at the entry level Cellar Selection range, made from grapes sourced from around the Coastal Region, to the top-tier Family Reserves from Stellenbosch, Klein Zalze just seems to get it right. Always.
Chicken is the number one source of protein for those of South African descent, and I’ll fly by that. Having recently become a member of Dias Tavern’s exclusive 150 Club, an honour bestowed upon those who have consumed a century-and-a-half of the Tavern’s legendary peri-peri chickens, I have taken the modest liberty of calling myself an expert on chicken-serving restaurants. This excludes the KFC chain, as I still have to be convinced that the putrid stringy pale flesh lurking under the scab-like crust of vile spices is, in fact, chicken and not some sort of medical waste.
‘Tis the season to be Jolly for South African wine.
1. Abrie Beeslaar from Kanonkop was named International Winemaker of the Year at the IWSC in London – for the third time. Not only does this confirm Abrie’s undeniable talents as a great winemaker, but also recognises the world-class status of South Africa’s wines, and specifically Kanonkop. On the other hand, having been handed this recognition so many times, it is unfortunate the country is still struggling to claim an image of premier quality deserving high prices.