South African brandies made a clean sweep at the 2017 World Drinks Awards, claiming gold medals as well as the ultimate title of World’s Best Brandy for the Oude Meester Demant.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
To check out the quality of Cape Harvest 2017, I was assisted by the friendly folk from Diemersdal, out Durbanville way. For here two new vintages, bottle, closed and already being sold are waiting for those like-minded vinous souls who want a sneak preview as to what this vintage holds.
There is one thing a wine maker cannot learn or buy or initiate, and it is not something he or she is born with, either. This is a gift given after you have earned it, and it is a gift called respect.
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.
While doing some exhaustive research so as to be of service to the informed readers of this publication, it was quite amazing to see how little has been written, spoken and sung about South African Merlot wine. There are reams of missives on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc and little-known, trendy bottles made from weird grapes like Verdelho and Palomino, but the Merlot voices are largely silent.
No wood, no good. This phrase was not coined by Elizabeth Taylor or Lady Gaga, rather by the late Graham Beck who abruptly dismissed any Chardonnay that had avoided some face-time with a maturation barrel.
An increase in sand mining in the Paardeberg area, Swartland, might have a detrimental effect on wine tourism and South Africa’s reputation as a producer of top quality wines.