Check out the explosion in restaurants offering patrons access to their “sommelier”. He/she is described as an “in-house wine-expert, especially trained to ensure your wine choice matches that of one’s culinary whims, ensuring an all-encompassing dining experience that you – our valued customer – deserves.”
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.”
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.
I had always struggled to nail my precise feeling towards Pinot Noir when Danie de Wet did it for me. “You find three kinds of wine: red wine… white wine,” the Sage from De Wetshof said, “and then you have Pinot Noir.” This was over a decade ago when De Wet had been busy at playing pioneer again – not Chardonnay, but by making the first Pinot Noir in the Robertson Valley.
The deceptively simple and seemingly innocuous description stuck, and the more Pinots I drink the more on-the-button Danie’s words appear.
Public Holiday Nation, this has been South Africa over the past few weeks. Good Friday. Bad Friday. Workers Day. Freedom Day. Election. I am just waiting for a public holiday honouring the date on which Simon van der Stel stopped beating his first slave on 7 September 1689 after said slave, Pielkopius Witman, discovered how to make the original Vin de Constance.
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.
A grilled Portuguese sardine is one of life’s great fishy pleasures. In South Africa one finds these critters in the freezer, each fish having been individually quick-frozen after being caught in the Atlantic off Portugal to ensure firm-fleshed and flavoursome eating.
Last week I hauled a few packs to De Wetshof for the annual sardine braai that Portuguese national Joaquim Sa and moi host for the sardine-loving De Wet family. Our sardines were packaged under the Breco brand and having been purchased at Porra-owned Fish4Africa in Woodstock, I presumed another splendid culinary evening was in store. The perfect sardines would be washed down with vinho verde while Joaquim entertained us with jokes about Portuguese nuns before bursting into tear-inducing bouts of fado song.
Being an unrepentant classicist, I was not going to drink just anything after watching the St Petersburg Ballet dance Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at Montecasino in Johannesburg last week. All those prancing Russian swans made me work-up quite a thirst and appetite, and I needed a wine about as big as that thing ballet-dancer Dmitry Grotzdik was hiding under his tights.
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
?+¦-+?+¡Thunder rolls as I hit Bloemfontein. Raining big fat dollops of splashing water. The sky is grey, the earth wet and the city smells like an oxygen tent inhabited by Sophia Loren.
First stop on my jaunt to Mangaung for the ANC’s National Conference is Casa Van Zyl. Said Casa is inhabited by Jan, my second cousin, and his lovely Dorette. In wine circles they are possibly better known for being the parents of the Coco Chanel of South African wine-writing, one Jeanri-Tine van Zyl.