Speaking on CapeTalk radio recently, one of the foreign judges flown out for the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show said the quality of the Pinot Noir category surprised her. Especially as the Wine Show’s South African judges were, prior to the tasting, “almost apologetic” about the quality of local Pinot Noir.
Everyone needs a bit of yesteryear now and again. And whenever this feeling raises its head, Vriesenhof is my place.
Look, I’m all for progress. And having resided and worked in Stellenbosch for almost four decades I am stunned by the continuous evolution the wine industry has shown. Not only in its incomparable wine quality, but the imagination and initiative wine-farm owners have shown in turning the region into a haven for tourists and other visitors. Gourmet restaurants. Cavernous, shiny venues with gorgeous views offering detailed wine-tastings to rows of eager tour groups. Art collections and play-spaces for kids.
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 was looking at a dead goat and drinking the finest Chardonnay in the land. The goat was big and fleshy and red, and this being the Restaurant at the Newton Johnson winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Chef Eric Bulpitt was deftly dissecting the creature with a razor-sharp knife, the kind used for settling old scores in Sicily. He was preparing lunch for a few hungry wine-tasters, which brings me to the Chardonnay.
Wine commentary is often ridiculed for the weighted words and terms strewn about like trashed spittoons. Besides the spirited terminology used to describe taste and aroma – think organic coconut hand-crushed by Tahitian virgins, freshly folded Spanish linen duvet cover and manicured seal whisker – there is the lofty lauding. Here, words such as “icon”, “legend”, “works of art” and “genius” are used, more often than not just a bit too randomly.
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.
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
Like the rich, the French are different. In what way? Well, going into detail cannot be done before proper broadband comes to South Africa as the reasoning is bound to be expansive.
Wine, for example, is one area in which the French are different from other nations.
Still the greatest wine country on earth. Has been and always will be. Blah.Blah. Agreed.
In the spirit of Bastille Day celebrations, thus, I’d like to take a look at five South African winemakers who to my mind have ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ knowingly or otherwise ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ been infected with French genes of vinous brilliance. Doubting Thomases can taste it in their wines.
Chatting to a Pinot Noir maker a while back, the dude flicked the hair from his eyes and said that Jan Boland Coetzee was probably the best Pinot exponent in South Africa. “But unlucky for him, he’s farming in the wrong region.”