Cape Town - Picture perfect setting with weather to match. As usual, De Wetshof got it just right, choosing a warm and windless day presenting avenues of iceberg roses in full bloom, with young horses adding a skittish sideshow from an adjacent paddock. The jacarandas were a tad tardy about flowering, but Lesca de Wet will no doubt ensure they do better next time.
Months ago we were asked by MC Dave Hughes to list our top 20 South African chardonnays, from which a list is drawn up for the biennial Celebration of Chardonnay, a stylish event that De Wetshof has hosted since 2006.
This year the wines were particularly impressive, the top 10 emanating from Stellenbosch, Paarl, Elgin, Walker Bay, Robertson and Helderberg.
Guests sipped bubbly on the lawns before heading to a marquee where Dave Hughes presided over the tasting, with contributions from Jan Boland Coetzee, sommelier Miguel Chan and viticulturist Phil Freese.
Exciting and elegant chardonnays from Jordan, Hartenberg, De Wetshof, Hamilton Russell and Ataraxia were followed by one from Sonoma, which I found underwhelming. The Joseph Drouhin Close des Mouches 2009 was a Burgundian patrician while Australia’s Margaret River produced a champion chardonnay from Cullen Wines.
The first 15 wines also included Springfield, Fleur du Cap, Glen Carlou and Uva Mira.
It added up to classy evidence that the former meaning of abc – anything but chardonnay – be replaced, as suggested by winemaker Arco Laarman as ABC – Always Buy Chardonnay.
A lively discussion ensued when Miguel Chan suggested more attention be paid to producing unwooded chardonnays as there has been substantial growth in this market.
Of course they are less pricey than those that have spent time in barrel, and the trend toward lighter cuisine has also boosted their sales.
The impressive lunch created by Garth Stroebel and his SA Chefs Academy team opened with smoked salmon trout, baby beets and herbed crème fraiche, followed with marinated artichoke, ham, asparagus and poached egg. All good ingredients with which to pair chardonnays, but the main course presented a challenge: masala roasted lamb, potato bhadji and raita with which the wooded chards coped, but performed better when matched to a sublime fromage blanc and butternut savarin with gorgonzola and almonds.
This year the Gold Vine award, presented to someone who has contributed significantly to South African cuisine, went to renowned restaurateur, chef and food writer Peter Veldsman.
Sipping along with My Song
Allan Mullins needs little introduction to those in our world of wine and beyond. As popular as he is talented, his unparalleled blending ability is a skill from which Woolworths and consumers have benefitted for more than 20 years.
Now Allan is creating his own range, a task he is tackling with predictable enthusiasm. The My Song white and red duo have just been released and there’s pinot and bubbly in the pipeline.
Johan Reynecke, himself a Woolworths supplier, provided outstanding organic wooded sauvignon blanc, which Allan blended with Duncan Savage’s Cape Point Vineyards semillon, both wooded and unwooded, to produce this 2011 charmer, aromatic bursts of melon and honey preceding a rich, well structured wine that combines freshness and elegance.
This limited edition sourced from enthusiastic friends and fellow surfers is made to last and is well-priced at R170. The My Song red 2009 (R200) comprises a juicy medley of Spier’s finest – 50 percent merlot, 43 percent cabernet and 7 percent cab franc – with restrained wood. It will improve over time, but plenty is sure to enhance roast beef and lamb over the next month or three.
Songs sung by Sarah Brightman or Maria Callas could add a pleasurable element, says Allan, to enjoyment of his festive duo.
Green wines get gold
Co-incidence or a further example of excellence recognised and rewarded?
The recent announcement of the Nedbank Green Wine Awards winners saw two of the cellars chosen by Allan Mullins to make his My Song wines also named as 2012 winners in this contest that honours fine wine made from organically grown grapes and those judged as outstanding practitioners of conservation.
Once again Reyneke Wines scooped the organic award, with their Reyneke Reserve red 2009 judged the best wine overall and best red. Spier took home the award as innovative leader in conservation and sound environmental practices. Paul Cluver Riesling Noble Late harvest 2012 won the best wine overall in the BWI category. Close to 200 wines were entered in the two categories.
The Summer Elegance festival at Twee Jonge Gezellen outside Tulbagh has acquired a must-go reputation for the young and trendy.
This year sees their beautiful bubbles paired with fine deli fare including sushi and oysters, local olives, cheese and figs, finishing with cup cakes and nougat.
There are vintage cars to admire, boules to play, a fashion show to applaud.