Seven Flags Chardonnay and the Gaucho

By Lafras Huguenet

The mob was donning Palestinian flags, loud and baying and smelling of garlic and hummus. I passed them at Hyde Park Corner, wrapped my scarf close, and continued west along the park’s edge, the protestors’ guttural wails drifting off in the distance, silence once descending on an icy late afternoon in London.

Chilled air was being sucked in through dry lips, slightly chaffed, and the light was fading quickly. It was good walking, even steps in a graceful rhythm, and I continued unwavering, pausing only to look at the Royal Albert Hall on my left, the most splendid theatre in the world. Kensington High Street was throbbing with pedestrians and traffic, the rear-lights of the idly paced vehicles now red and bright in the dark. Turning left at Kensington High Street Tube Station, I felt shards of iced rain on my face, and passing the Armenian Church on the left, I bit my lip against the snow.

The heat was on in the Abingdon Villas apartment, and I gladly rid myself of the confines of coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Kicked off my brogues and, using the phone, allowed the summery sounds of Steely Dan’s Gaucho album to send ribbons of cool sunlit jazz-rock through the place. Licking my lips, I realised how dry they were, a sensation shared by my throat. The walking had been all day and it had been long, and apart from the half Guinness off Sloane Square, I hadn’t had a drink all day.

A feeling of slight loss and homesickness set-in, emotions not much helped by Donald Fagen’s nasal, neurotic voice while singing “Glamour Profession”. I thought of the Cape where, I gathered, the summer sun was shining, and dry warm breezes were blowing through the vineyards and down from the mountains in the most splendid of all the winelands in the world.

There is nothing to connect one’s soul to a beloved place like a glass of wine from that place’s origin. For the past few months, I had been drenched in Barolo, soused from Burgundy and seduced by Bordeaux. Now, in the London chill of a not-such well-lit place, my heart did not desire a South African wine: it needed it.

The 78-bottle wine fridge was alarmingly empty on account of some furious bouts of entertaining prior to my return to Cape Town a few days hence. But this was of no issue because pausing at the door of the cooler, the wine I wanted and needed lay before me as if it had been placed there by a concerned angel who looked after my well-being on this place that is the world.

Paul Clüver Seven Flags Chardonnay, the wine an old friend, but this from the 2022 vintage yet to be formed and acquaintance with. I grasped the bottle in joyous hands, pulled the cork and – as is my wont with younger Chardonnay – ran the wine down the crystal glass throat of a not-too-showy decanter. An intoxicating aroma of fine white wine filled the room and I poured a glass as the music ran into the very fine song “Gaucho”…”your spangled leather poncho and your elevator shoes.”

Sitting down, appropriately in a lived-in leather couch, I nosed the wine with admirable restraint and knuckle-clenched patience as I was just dying to get some liquid passed these parched lips. It was seductive and beautiful smelling this, pure Chardonnay notes of jasmine, green sage and churned Ayrshire butter being spread on a crust of very good home-baked white bread.

I noted the vintage – 2022 – implying that this Seven Flags Chardonnay was made from 35-year-old vineyards planted in 1987 on Dr Paul Clüver’s splendid Elgin farm. There where the Groenlandberg edges a turquoise sky and indigenous wild-flowers dapple the slopes from where one looks down to one of the most splendid valleys in all the Cape.

It is a cool country, too, known for apples, but since the initial forays of Dr. Clüver into viticulture, Elgin has leaped to the top of the Cape’s fine wine offerings. If one revived the embalmed corpse of a Cistercian monk from Burgundy, I am sure the brother would muster enough life to agree.

I took a deep draught as I am not known for going in lightly. A generous thirsty first mouthful allows the wine to show itself in all its adventurous, lusty vividness, something all that poncy sniffing and swirling before taking a cautious first sip can never emulate.

This was all I needed, and more. Chardonnay expressing a place attached to my heart and one that clasps my mind in the most unexpected moments. It provided, generously, the comfort and ease and reassurance that I needed.

While the nose is rather delicate, the wine presents itself in the mouth with sincerity in its dedication and completeness. Flavours are vast, bewildering in their almost promiscuous diversity. Lime-peel and dry apples. Lemon-curd. A crunch of kumquat with a long run of salinity elevating the fruit to a level of sensation, I believe, is called umami by the Japanese folk. There is line of burnt-butter and brioche to add a feeling of reassurance, that splendid feeling that all is right with the world.

By the third mouthful, as the Steely Dan album was running down to the haunting melodic drama of “Third World Man”, I began appreciating the grace and body of the Seven Flags Chardonnay. Here it has the kind of cultured civility deserving a place in the British Museum, aptly placed next to the Elgin Marbles. For the wine is formidable in the alert, gushing power it presents to fortify the senses as well as the bejewelled, refined environment allowing one to experience the whispered secrets of the wine’s very heart.

I filled the glass, and decided on Gaucho all over again.

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One thought on “Seven Flags Chardonnay and the Gaucho

  1. Have not had the privilege to taste it yet, but the Paul Clüver Village Chardonnay was the money with this morning’s toasted bagels with creamy scrambled eggs, salmon trout and cream cheese adorned with capers and dill

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