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.
There may have been a few deviations over the past 340 years, but it is with immense pride, humility and gratitude that I can lay claim to my DNA including South Africa’s oldest wine-farming ancestry.
The Joubert side, which arrived at the Cape on 20 August 1688 in the form of Pierre Joubert from La Motte d’Aigues in the Luberon, saw that part of the forebears leading the way in the French Huguenots’ remarkable contribution to South African wine culture. Oupa Pierre had scarcely walked ashore at Table Bay when he was already scoping out the local terroir, reading the winds and deciding that if he was going to continue the family legacy of vinous excellence, he better get hell out of Cape Town. Head north-east to the mountains and valleys of Franschhoek, where he founded La Motte Estate.
South Africa looks set to become home to the largest urban wine vineyard in the world. This is if President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision of a brand-new city built in the country is realised. During his recent State of the Nation Address, Pres. Ramaphosa suggested it was time to build such a new modern city in South Africa. But besides featuring shiny skyscrapers and sleek bullet-trains, the new city is also to host a vineyard from which various wines are to be made.
A pub lunch can be a thing of true beauty. Simple, tasty and sustenance-giving, pub food is undoubtedly Britain’s finest contribution to international cuisine. Bangers and mash. Fish and chips. Hearty pies. Liver and onions. Steak and egg. Syrupy, spongy puddings. All served quickly without fuss or show just as you suck the froth from the second pint of keg beer.