One of the oldest white wine grapes in South Africa and still today the most widely planted, Chenin Blanc is being promoted as a national treasure. Over the past decade or so there has been a huge resurgence in the punting of Chenin as one of the local wine industry’s factors unique selling points, and quite rightly so.
If Chardonnay is not regarded to be an aromatic grape, what the hell is going on in this glass of Glenelly? Perhaps it was the dull, grey weather following a late-winter cold front or the impending gloom concerning another piece of news originating in the areas of State Capture or Bosasa that caused the senses to be so surreptitiously sparked by this wine. But there, sitting in Glenelly’s Vine Bistro with a piece of gelatinous pork-cheek, fat and sauce oozing in all directions, it was a Chardonnay made to rethink the border-transcending possibilities of the grape.
It tastes of mountain, sun, sea and Stellenbosch. “And fynbos,” says Christo le Riche, head of the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective, the regional organisation formed in 2015 to get eyes seeing and mouths tasting what many deem to be one of the finest wine offerings in the world: Cabernet Sauvignon wines made in Stellenbosch from vines planted to the region’s ancient soils.
Bordeaux wine region: is it selling its soul? The French are famous for their rigorous traditional laws concerning their country’s regions of origin and what is permitted inside those regions. Now there’s a proposal to allow new grape varieties into Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellation vineyards.
The wines of Bordeaux have, after all, achieved their pre-eminent reputation on the back of the varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. But now seven varieties foreign to the region are being considered as a result of the effects of climate change and their being more resistant to disease.
So me and Frankie the Juice are not hot-footing it back to the Big Apple after our unsuccessful attempts to track-down this bunch calling themselves the Stellenbosch Mafia so as to politely enquire as to their relations with the Mob. No, we are still holed-up in the Cape on account of an assignment we’s got from the Don’s neighbour, Sockeye Salvatore, the job being to go and whack a Ukrainian gangster in a joint called Sea Point.
Icy rain pelting down over Stellenbosch and a wine cold enough to freeze the heart of a twice-divorced Texan housewife, this was no ideal day to go tasting Sauvignon Blanc. But when Erica Crawford from New Zealand is in town you’ll dodge polar bears to get a hook on those steely, bracing wines from Marlborough.
Ex-Capetonian Erica is a quiet force in the Kiwi wine industry. The former medical researcher headed to the Land of the Long White Cloud in 1990 to join husband Kim, a New Zealand winemaker whom she had met while he was doing a stint in the Cape Winelands, including Backsberg. In Auckland the Crawfords found themselves at the beginning of the wine world’s interest in New Zealand and began the Kim Crawford brand out of their garage in Auckland.
A winemaker’s confidence comes effortlessly if it is earned. During a recent presentation of the new vintages from David & Nadia, the ease David Sadie showed in his own skin bordered on the edge of audaciousness for such a young man and relative newcomer to the South African wine scene. Firm, steady voice seamlessly jumping between English and Afrikaans. A no-nonsense and pared-down description of the vineyards and earth from which he and wife Nadia make their wines, and how they make it. Not a moment’s hesitation shown during question time, steering curve-balls to fine-leg and without an iota of doubt in his answers.
The last time me and Jackie the Juice did a job together was back in the Old Country when the Don’s son-in-law Flavio needed some skull-work on account of Flavio playing hide-the-prosciutto with the neighbour’s wife. Now Jackie’s sitting aside me at a joint in Africa goes by the name of Stellenbosch, where the Consiglieri sent the twos of us to check out the rumours that a branch of the Mafia is operating in this little old town.
For sustenance, large parts of the wine community do not down tools at noon to lunch on dishes of high dining incorporating slivers of free-range beef flank, sustainability sourced flakes of hand-caught Cape salmon and carefully arranged cuts of organic vegetables. The mid-day meal more often than not consists of a take-away item wolfed down next to your bakkie while sorting out a distribution issue or dictating back-label copy on the phone.
Here, humble pie is eaten. And the roadside pie is King.
Under extreme duress and with true commitment to clarity in reporting, this writer did the rounds. Travelled the winelands to check-out the status of the Cape Wineland Pie.