With nothing eventful in sight for the rest of the year, herewith some of my highlights.
On the local front I am going Grenache, and I am going Neil Ellis 2011. Made from old vines on the Piekenierskoof, this is the kind of wine that will urge an Iranian camel-jockey to start drinking. Garnet in colour, brooding tones of fennel and soil, the wine dances a fruit-laced medley comprising berries, quince and ripe fig. Everything is fresh as a showered pom-pom girl and the palate-weight is graceful, while the wine’s length lasts longer than a Julius Malema court appearance.
Of the international wines there was the Graham’s Tawny Poet 1952. This thing was bottled for the Queen’s (the British female one) 60th jubilee and sipping it on the banks of the Douro made me feel like a Portuguese King when the sardine-eaters still had and Empire. The wine was incredibly concentrated with flavours of treacle-pudding, Moroccan black honey and scorched saffron, yet there was a lively, lusty run of citrus making the drinking of this stuff life-affirming. A wonderful and rare privilege, right up there with the DRC 1982 I had in Zanzibar last year.
Locally, the 24-hour piss-up to Oudtshoorn with journalist Samarie Smith and Bernard Kotze from Du Toitskloof Wines to launch the Afrikaans cooking show Kokkedoor. My friend from De Rust, Likkie Elstadt, arrived in a wig with a throng of farmers and rural arty types in tow, turning what was going to be a formal and stiff do into a raucous affair where Likkie out-shone Afrikaans television’s queen of priss Mariëtta Kruger.
You know it was a good trip when you return with a six-pack of ab muscles from all that laughing, an ownerless size 5 ladies’ cowboy boot in your car and brandy stains on your back.
Internationally the best trip was this year’s visit to Portugal. Isabel Monteiro from the Symington group dumped me at Quinta Roriz in the heart of the valley where I spent time with wine maker Luis Coelho. The region is extraordinarily beautiful and makes fantastic white and red wines along with the show-stopping Ports. And braaiing with Luis and his wino buddies on a dark, moonless night up in the hills is one of those “I have seen things you people would not believe” moments.
My mom is the best cook I know, and when she got hold of some rare-to-come-by abalone it hit the spot. Sliced it. Beat the crap out of it. Fried it in butter. Squirt of lemon juice. Nothing more, nothing less.
Restaurant ways, the 76th peri-peri chicken out of the 102 I had at Dias Tavern was truly exceptional. It was a Tuesday. It had rained. The chicken was tender, crisp-skinned and it tasted good.
Best Wine Hero Moment
A week-end spent with Andrew Jefford on De Wetshof talking soil-influence on wine profiles, Chinese poetry of which he is a huge fan and introducing him to Herman Charles Bosman and waterblommetjies.
Best Television Performance
Ken Forrester’s impassioned performance on youtube as a face of the publicity-seeking screw-cap closure industry was hard to beat, although Graham Norton’s instructions on changing a vibrator battery did come close. Ken’s brooding on-screen presence, his convincing stare into the camera and disarming ease in reading a script that is complete nonsense was really admirable. With an appearance resembling Steve Martin on steroids, Ken is a thespian to watch-out for and should his contract with the screwers run out, his services will be highly sought-after. All 209 people who have viewed this engaging video will agree.
Best Winery Visited
Delaire-Graff is hard to beat. The staff are informed and polite. The wines are good, especially the Chenin Blanc. And the views give you something to stare at if there are no cleavaged diamond-shoppers around.
Best Wine Event
The tasting of Port-styled and Portuguese-variety wines at the Barrydale Karoo Hotel during the Hotel’s annual Portuguese week-end. Boets Nel led an informative and detailed tasting before 30 attendees, most of who were suffering from severe hang-overs. The wines were tasted between draughts of cold beer and shots of Jãgermeister to keep the palates awake, and the event was a highlight of an annual festive week-end where legends are born. Miss next year’s at your peril.
With Joaquim Sá and journalist Lucille Botha on the banks of the Douro. Kneeling to take a picture – and to cop a look at Lucille’s leggings – my Levi’s split, making a sound like a rhino snoring. The results were equally side-splittingly hilarious, and was captured for all to see.