Let’s Go Merlot

South Africa has a number of wine groupings each representing and promoting specific grape cultivars, the activities of whom vary from blossoming and busy to cold and dormant. On the blossoming side, the Merlot Forum is headed up by an energetic bunch of wine makers keen to underscore the fact that Merlot is not only South Africa’s most-consumed red cultivar, but also one deserving a reputation as a variety of quality.

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Chicken’s Gotta Go to Roast&Co

Chicken is the number one source of protein for those of South African descent, and I’ll fly by that. Having recently become a member of Dias Tavern’s exclusive 150 Club, an honour bestowed upon those who have consumed a century-and-a-half of the Tavern’s legendary peri-peri chickens, I have taken the modest liberty of calling myself an expert on chicken-serving restaurants. This excludes the KFC chain, as I still have to be convinced that the putrid stringy pale flesh lurking under the scab-like crust of vile spices is, in fact, chicken and not some sort of medical waste.

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Death with Sheep and Chardonnay

When my hero died, I hit the freezer seeking a bag of dead sheep stomach. Jim Harrison, the last of the great red-blooded male American writers, passed over Easter. And with Jim having been a bit of a gourmand, I decided to make a big pot of something meaty, hearty and comforting, something the great man would have approved of. Remember, this is the guy who once wrote: “Men were not born to eat small portions.”

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Dry Encounter of the Thirst Kind

In a lingo filled with guttural sounding words to the tune of “achtung”, “mein Gott” and “Schweinehund”, the noun “Riesling” is one of the German language’s more joyous components. I have always found Riesling to be a precise, pure sounding word evoking images of brisk forest streams full of clear water foaming over clean white pebbles, a pristine green mountain forest lying beneath glaciers and a blond German damsel, straight from her fortnightly shower, picking daffodils next to a Gothic cathedral.

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Chardonnay Bell Tolls at Almenkerk

Despite my unashamed propaganda-mongering for the French Huguenots, you have to hand it to the folks from Dutch-land. Messrs Malan, Joubert, Du Toit and Du Preez would still be growing melons and raising goats in Franschhoek if the mighty Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) had not thrown a lifeline in the late 1600s by offering them the opportunity to give up their national identity and swap croissants for stroopwafels and “voilà” for “heel leuk”.

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Elgin Chardonnay Cool Enough for a King

 

Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.
Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.

In the good old days the boasting of gentlemen would mostly be confined to matters physical or material. Serious guy-stuff. Like who does the best air-guitar to “Stairway to Heaven”, which of you can consecutively inhale two Gauloise unfiltered and who can give the most graphically enthralling description of what it really was like getting to first base with the vampish Veronica Dimpelbosch.

But now everybody seems to spend time bragging about how cool the area is in which they make wine. Cool as in low temperature chilliness and not trendy.

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King of the South Hill

If God was a wine lover, the Grabouw-Elgin area would be his kind of place. In a country blessed with arguably the most splendid wine-land scenery anywhere on earth, this region of valleys, mountains, rocks, orchards and lakes must count among South Africa’s finest. It is also producing some pants-wetting gorgeous wines, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling having thrust Elgin into the fore.

Oak Valley also produces a passable Bordeaux-blend, and Shannon has caused a few rattling Zimmerframes and pacer-recharging with its bulky Merlot. And then there are the brisk, refined bubblies produced by the late Ross Gower, wines whose legacy is fortunately still with us.

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