The ubiquitous Platter Wine Guide has been thrust into the spotlight since last week’s announcement that Diners Club had taken over publication of the South African winelands most colourful telephone directory and winery GPS co-ordinate provider. Subsequently a few old Platter issues have surfaced, fuelled by reactionary commentary from its associate editor Tim James who is in dire need of a PR 101 Course. But more on that later.
So I get this craving, and I must have it. Feel the stirring. The brooding expectation. The sense of “what am I going to do if I don’t get it”?
Drive down to the dodgy part of town to satisfy the desire. Park in darkness. Enter the subtly neon-lit building in one of Cape Town’s side-streets. They are waiting. And yes, there is the object of my want. In front of me. To be had for a few bucks.
The place is DVD Nouveau, the movie Barton Fink. An all-time favourite, the kind of film that calls to be viewed periodically.
It is made by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Tells the story of an anal pseudo-intellectual playwright whose pretentious writings stir the attentions of Hollywood. Pretty soon this stuck-up pseudo has sold his soul, exchanging the intellectual zone of Broadway for the cheap commercialism of Hollywood.
Pretty much like Tim James leaving the Mail & Guardian for a wine gig with the Daily Sun.
Anyway, got the movie. And heading off to Casa Emilio for cinematic satisfaction, a spot of thirst gets me to stop at Vino Pronto, a cute little wine shop in the Gardens. Despite the shelves of aforementioned Casa groaning with freebies, I decide to drop some cash on the wine industry. Help them pay for their WIETA audits, methinks.
Believe in fate? The zone? In Pronto Wine Shop?
Right there, before me. On the Chardonnay shelf: Crystallum Chardonnay.
Yup, that’s the vino connected to one Peter-Allan Finlayson, a winemaker who has always reminded me of someone who has just stepped out of a Coen Brother movie. Trendy. Cool. Dishevelled in a cultivated manner. Most of all, self-effacing and humorous. Like the Coens, it must also be said that the dude’s bit of an artist.
,Crystallum’s set of Pinot Noirs has built-up a pretty solid reputation since the release of the 2008 vintage thanks to the superb quality of the wines made from Hemel-en-Aarde fruit, with some Elgin stuff thrown into the Peter Max wine. The other number is, of course, the pants-wetting brilliant Cuv+¬e Cinema.
This was, however, my maiden venture in to the realm of Crystallum Chardonnay 2009,which, incidentally carries the name of “The Agnes” who was Peter-Allan’s great-grandmother.
Having dropped just over R150 on Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay from Peter-Allan Finlayson I headed off for a date with Barton Fink.
Look, if Barton Fink the writer ever did kick back to talk about wine, he could have told one helluva story about this. Problem is, it would be long and boring and aimed at sparking off a riot by page 23.
But I’ll just stick to the fact that this is one helluva wine.
Made from three vineyards – two Hemel-en-Aarde way and one out towards Greyton ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ there is a lot going on here in terms of expression. The first is a perfumed decadence and the second a trance-inducing broadness. No lean mineral linearity of limestone soils. No calculated intricacies of lees management to coax a featured Chardonnay personality from the fruit. The wine just gushes rich beauty and deliciousness and is a fine example of why Chardonnay remains the greatest white grape on the planet. No other variety is able of deploying this level of sensorial seduction on an unsuspecting movie lover just wanting to concentrate on a favourite film.
I had to stop Barton’s rantings every now and again with the “pause” button, enabling me to get to grips with the wine.
Was that a hint of Meursault-like hot buttered popcorn on the Crystallum? Yes. Montrachet potpourri? Indeed. O look, a bit of Santenay pebbles. Beaune waxiness? Is true, my bru.
Completing the myriad flavours is aforementioned heady perfume. If more wines smelt like this beautiful aromatic number I’d understand why wine-buffs are forever sticking their schnozzes into the glass.
The other is the palate weight. Like a fine silk kimono, it lies lightly, lies softly. Feels fine.
Just to be sure, I went back to Pronto the next day for another two bottles of Crystallum. And was assured that, yes, nostalgia can indeed be what it used to be.
On a factual basis, the wine is wooded, 2nd fill French. Nine months on the lees. Minimal stirring, shaking and prodding.
Less is more, dude, less is more. No matter how big the craving.
I have been not unwilling, but reluctant, to add my penny to the fortune of riches amassed by the Swartland region over the past few years. The area holds a dear place in my weary heart, as the family farm called Swartboskraal is situated in the Swartland’s sandveld soul. To me the Swartland is a desolate and mysterious place, filled with tales of hardship told by people to whom the term “salt of the earth” does not do justice.
That small curly black hair perched next to his crusty, ravaged orifice resulted in an irritable missive by Tim James on Grape. Writing about an expensive wine released by Bilton Estate, his criticism was not only leveled at the producer of this R3,000 bottle, the way the wine was made nor the winemaker that assisted on the project.
No, Timothy also had a go at the media, implying that most of those invited to taste this wine were not serious wine journalists. Obviously considering himself as a member of the latter, he writes: “I haven’t tasted the wine and am unlikely to. The serious end of wine journalism was largely not invited to the launch?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+.”
This statement did, of course, have the desired effect of urging journalists to comment on the whole do, as can be found in the notes under the article I have linked here.