Expert Wine Recommendations for The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio does a lot of things in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s epic film The Revenant, currently on circuit. Besides wrestling grizzlies, shooting Indians, doing canoe-less white water rafting and self-medicating his wounded torso, there are some interesting foodie scenes involved. WineGoggle caught up with Chief Cloudy Lees, a sommelier in training and member of the Sioux tribe who is currently visiting South Africa as a guest of Cape Ethnic Wine Outreach, to talk about wines which can possibly be paired with the dishes shown in the Oscar-nominated masterpiece.

WineGoggle: What are your impressions of South African wine?

The Chief: Like most of my compatriots, I dig the big red stuff. Your Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon is the business and can give Napa a real run for its money. On the white side, your wines are, like, out there. I am taking cases of Chenin Blanc from the Breedekloof back for the tribe – after a stretch of scalping there is nothing like a cool, crisp dry white wine and I am going to convert my people to seeing Chenin Blanc as the go-to wine for scalping. Tastes pretty good after a bison hunt, too. Gets the horse-sweat out of your mouth.

Sioux wine-buff, Chief Cloudy Lees.
Sioux wine-buff, Chief Cloudy Lees.

WineGoggle: Do native Americans have a wine drinking culture?

The Chief: We are getting there, although us red-skins have a lower tolerance thresh-hold to alcohol than the pale-faces so tend to get shit-face real quick. However, we have superior tasting senses due to all that stuff growing up in the woods and in tee-pees where we had to smell the oncoming enemy tribes as well as the colonising pale-faces. The latter did not really count, however, as you could smell them a mile away. Even Custer wore Old Spice.

WineGoggle: So, getting to The Revenant and Leo’s eating. What wines would you have suggested?

The Chief: First up was the rotten bone marrow Leo scraped from the bones of an elk carcass, an underestimated dish. The marrow is unctuous and rich, but after lying in the bone for a few weeks it gets a real fine mouldy, rancid flavour – pretty much like bloody blue cheese. This makes the field marrow an ideal accompaniment to a fine Pinot Noir, as long as it is Pinot with cajones in the tannin department. I would recommend Vriesenhof 2011 or Sumaridge 2010. The dense fruit catches the more nasty off-flavours in the marrow, while the tannins clean the palate.

Grayling ain't no salmon.
Grayling ain’t no salmon.

WineGoggle: That was a delicious salmon Leo caught in the stone trap……

The Chief: Sorry Gringo, that was a grayling, far removed from the salmon. Grayling has a paler flesh than salmon, and it less fatty with more of a fishy taste – especially when you are doing as Leo did which is eating the fish raw while it is still alive. (Delicious, by the way). This makes the raw fish a sitter for a lean Chardonnay. Here in South Africa it could be De Wetshof Bon Vallon 2013, an unwooded Chardonnay with multi-pronged complexity and a superb acid on the finish to coax the fishy grayling, especially the still quivering guts. You want a wine with flavour as in the wild there is no sushi and wasabi to help your raw fish along.

Vriesenhof, the wine for elk marrow.
Vriesenhof, the wine for elk marrow.

WineGoggle: I must say, the raw bison liver Leo tucked into looked pretty good. An Indian speciality is it not?

The Chief: True, there is a lot of sentimental stuff about our relationship to the bison, but among my people KFC and McDonald’s has taken over in the popularity stakes. Raw bison liver is, however, very tasty and has a higher iron content than cow liver as bison move around a lot more. Flavours are, just as would be expected, big and meaty and bloody – no pussy-footing around here. Next time I get my hands on one I am washing the raw liver down with one of your great Cabernet Sauvignons. The deep, tasty Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 of Kanonkop 2012 would be ideal as the wines are both taut and plush, running a tight line between taste and assertive structure. Your Cabernets are truly great. Are there any winemaker’s scalps I could take back with me? It would be an honour.

WineGoggle: No comment.

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