Napoleon ordered his troops to salute the vineyards of Chambertin whenever they passed – such was his reverence for the patch of Burgundian soil that delivered his favourite wine. I get the same urge when stopping at a specific rocky lay of land on the De Wetshof Estate in Robertson and seeing that piece of earth where the gnarled Chardonnay vines stand used for creating the estate’s Bateleur Chardonnay.
And let’s face it, in these claustrophobic times of shut-down, anything named after a magnificent free-flying eagle has a particular allure.
Despite the pressure placed on my physical and mental stamina, a marathon wine-appreciation session this week-end past has me beating the South African Chardonnay Drum with admirable vigour this Monday morning.
Complexity and freshness rule in this, one of my perennial white favourites. David Finlayson is a master of the blend and has perfected a choral harmony from three varieties: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Sauvignon Blanc provides the typical bolt of zesty freshness, while the Sémillon gives a welcoming firm mouth-feel and educated waxiness.
Heading off to Arcachon outside Bordeaux later this month, part of my visit will entail presenting a tasting of South African wines to some local journalists, rugby players and vignerons. As the first American on French soil?+¦-+?+¡during D-Day said: ?+¦?+º?+¦There ain’t no free lunch.?+¦?+º?+æ
?+¦-+?+¡Having smuggled the Chardonnay vine-cuttings into the country with which the industry was founded, we Jouberts have always been partial to South Africa’s interpretation of the royal Burgundian white. From the smoky sweet clunkers of the 80’s, the high-alcoholic 90’s and the experiments with malolactic fermentation in the early 2000’s, the advent of South African Chardonnay has been well-documented and discussed during family gatherings. Not to mention consumed. In fact, all the grand-children of Fritz Joubert, the mule who clandestinely carted the cuttings from the Clos des Mouches to Robertson, were Christened with a thumb-print of Louis-Jadot Meursault on the forehead.
The Bride had just sliced the head off her second masked Yakuza gangster when it hit me: what had really just happened over the past few days? Here I was, sprawled on the futon watching Kill Bill Volume 1, lulled by a warm comatose feeling of exhaustion and satisfied post-hectic workweek euphoria.
What a week, I thought looking at the screen as The Bride, aka Uma Thurman, drove a nail through the head of a Japanese schoolgirl.