It was a light, airy space, but we were feeling dark. We looked each other in the eye. Slipped our hands to our trousers, fondling. I took mine out first. Then he was holding his in his hand. And his was bigger.
“Nice Laguiole,” Anthony said, stroking his much more deadly looking pocket-knife. “Mine’s got 22 notches on it. One for every country visited.”
I slipped my modestly-sized Laguiole knife back into my pocket, cursing. If you are going to play knifey-knifey with Anthony Hamilton Russell, make sure you don’t bring a toothpick to an axe battle.
My knife was there to help me through lunch, and this occurred a few hours after running into Anthony. The place was Burrata at the Biscuit Mill and the crowd was serious. Danie de Wet and son Peter had driven in all the way from Robertson to join myself and the Duke of Cork, Joaquim Sa, in the tasting of a few Portuguese wines. There were vinho verdes ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ all made from Alvarinho. And a very tasty Malmsey Madeira. Danie had bought along a De Wetshof Riesling 1974, and with Burrata offering Darling beer on tap, we were definitely not going dry.
As far as the food was concerned, proceedings kicked off with a pizza bread cooked in the volcanic heat of Burrata’s pizza furnace and a plate of tapas including charcuterie, cheeses and the most amazingly fleshy olives.
At this stage my Laguiole was at my side, just ready to lend masterly strokes to the slabs of sirloin which was my main-course. The other three, guys had obviously been seduced by the vinho verde, ordering ordering pork-belly, flavours of which were reminiscent of the Portuguese countryside, splendid cork oak forests, fado and garlic breath taxi drivers.
The food, however, required red wine. And this is where my belief in zen comes in. For jumping out at me from the wine-list like an Italian vendetta knife was the Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009,,from the porperty,owned by the Ant the Knife of the earlier meeting.
The wine was duly ordered. And in the process we were reminded just how good this classic South African Pinot Noir from the Hemel-en-Aarde is.
The main thing about this wine, of a splendid vintage, is the structure. There is no pussy-footing around with the wine’s introduction to the mouth. You can taste the salty clay while the gravel and stones give the wine a tremendous power and girth.
A steely ,sabre of raw fruit hits you on the mid-palate, bursting with fruit and a cultivated wildness ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ think of being hosed down with red wine by Patti Smith. Darts of forest floor, truffle and pine-needle were still in their infancy, but will undoubtedly lend a different nuance to this fabulous wine. It is evident that the vines on Hamilton Russell are now in that perfectly hardy harmonious relationship with their sparse, measly growing conditions. Less is more. No pain, no gain. We’s Pinot vines, and we can take the wind and the storms and the tough patch of earth you guys planted us in. And just ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëcause you asked, we’ll make great grapes for a great wine, because that’s all we as Pinots can do.
More Gevrey than Corton, this must surely go down as one of the true great Pinot Noirs yet made in South Africa. It won’t break your heart, but it may just stick a knife in it.
And take it easy, but take it.