Hell Hath no Fury Like a Beardless Women

A march to the Bot River Wine Valley is set to disrupt roads leading into Hermanus this long week-end as hundreds of women plan to protest against the holding of the Barrels and Beards event. The annual event, presented last week in the Bot River, sees representatives of the local wine industry being encouraged to grow beards for the duration of the harvest, with the be-haired jowls being judged at a raucous evening of wine-tasting, dining and entertainment from the contestants.

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The Penetrating Wines from Virgin Earth

Before you got there, the country wasn’t tough at all. The road began at Riversdale town in the Southern Cape from where you headed north. It was all pastoral, with the greenest of grass, still wet from the morning dew and the broad meadows specked by cows. Brown and tan, as well as black-stained Jerseys. There was a pass, then, the Garcia Pass named after a Jewish Portuguese land commissioner who had pioneered its building, grinding away at the first masses of rocks that are part of the famous mountain known as the Langeberg.

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Desiderius, the Commanding Cap Classique

When considering language to tag to the flamboyantly packaged Desiderius Cap Classique in the Pongrácz range, the word “brave” comes to mind. First and foremost, memories of the man Pongrácz himself, a pint-sized contrarian who’s opinionated cockiness was only matched by that of the yapping, peeing pack of miniature Dachshunds accompanying him around the Cape winelands. Here he was inspecting vines, initiating new plantings – Rhône varietals held a special allure – and baiting wine farmers into arguments about his opinion on their stubborn ways.

The second braveness of the Desiderius Cap Classique is the showy bottle. Ribbed and edged in gold, it is not at all modest in appearance, rather resembling a container one would expect to find at a Kardashian 21st bash or a Russian house of ill-repute.

Pongrácz with Dachshunds, some of them.

But since hitting the market 15 years ago, the flamboyant packaging has proved to have been way ahead of its time. Currently, that bottle is right in line with what is deemed as branding desirability.

But at the end of the day, it is about the wine. And here, too, Desiderius is a courageous Cape Classique in terms of style.

The 2009, just released, is a classic partnership of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, the cuvées pressed from Elgin, Robertson and Stellenbosch fruit. A slight percentage of the Chardonnay sees oak, evidence of which does show up in the final product. And with 72 months lees contact, cellar master Elunda Basson places the wine on a potentially precarious journey.

Nothing but the best base wine is going to complete the six year journey in a state of health, verve and pure Cap Classique expression. It is, thus, a brave quest, and once again the Desiderius gamble pays off.

Stylistically the Desiderius 2009 is in a Cap Classique class of its own. It resembles the Champagnes of Pommard, being more serious and sullen, with a bit of weight and moody depth one does not expect the bright image of sparkling wines to carry.

The Pinot Noir segment zips past the Chardonnay, offering plummy and kumquat notes. The Chardonnay presents an alluring grape-fruit element, with just a hint sorrel and buttercup.

Elunda Basson, Cap Classique maker extraordinaire.

But the wine’s prestige lies in the palate-weight and structure, the firm, succulent grip in the mouth, the commanding density on the senses and the finish which is longer than the legs of a Peruvian supermodel, just smoother.

Desiderius is no wine for frivolous downing at open-air hipster concerts, nor for splashing about at those noisy, uncouth MCC festivals. It is meant for food – live oysters spring to mind – or sipping with a spicy Havana cigar, such as Bolivar.

I am no fan of beauty shows where Champagnes and Cap Classiques are poured blind in an attempt to flummox critics into enthusing how close or better our sparkles are than Champagne. But if a Cap Classique is going to be taken seriously by a Champagne panel, Desiderius will step forward, proud as anything and brave as hell.

·       Emile Joubert

A Day in the Life of a Warehouse Chef

I have always been intrigued at what goes on behind the scenes of a top-notch restaurant. Braam Beyers, Junior Chef at Chef’s Warehouse, Beau Constantia, gives me the low-down on his first professional gig after graduating from the Hurst Campus at Backsberg in Paarl last year.

7:30am The team arrives on premises, we all greet each other with a great deal of excitement, even though we saw each other about eight hours ago.

 7:35am Bags are put in lockers and we head downstairs into the kitchen to be greeted by The Boss Ivor Jones (head chef) and Dave Schneider (sous chef).

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Crime Doesn’t Pay, if the Wine Buff Gets His Way

So there he was, the little twat, caught red-handed with an Apple note-book and iPhone. The burglar had audaciously slipped into an open side-door at six a.m., right in the middle of my morning’s meditating with spiritual support from Kenyan coffee and a Cohiba cigar.

We looked each other in the eye, and I was relieved and pissed-off: relieved that, being of Cape Malay descent, the intruder had not shown the slightest interest in the sin-laded contents of my wine fridge. But the fact that he had entered my property without an invitation – e-mail or printed – and was helping himself to some electronic gadgets of value, made my temperature rise. Put it this way, I was not going to waste time asking Gatiep, Faizel or Malooma for his aunty’s biryani recipe.

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Turning Listing Fees into a Win-Win

Along with leaf-roll virus and that cork vs screwcap debate, the issue of restaurants charging listing fees to procure wines for their wine-lists have been and will be around for a long time. My opinion on this is going to remain neutral. Just to say that listing fees are but one of many money-generating hoops wineries are asked to jump through if they want their wines sold by a restaurant or stocked on the shelf. If the vexed industry commentators looked beyond listing fees and saw the other shenanigans employed to get a restaurant or retail listing, they would be kicking holes in barrels of old Madeira.

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