10 things you need to know about Hemel-en-aarde Valley wine estates

28 Jun

Look, I can play with ‘heaven and earth’ puns and cliches til armageddon comes (although it’s apparently already been according to the billboard that still stands on the N2 in Somerset West, en route to the valley in question). But I’m not going to. I’m going to be brief and avoid poetic descriptions and wafty loveliness. If you want that, buy a wine magazine.

Right, so to the point, but not in any order of awesomeness:

1. Except for La Vierge, you don’t pay for the tastings … and the wine lists are not short 🙂

2. You can explore the oddness that is Pinot Noir, and know that despite the high price you need to pay for a decent one, the tastings are still free.

3. You can find old vintages, and at some estates, they’re cheaper than the new ones. I bought some 2004 Bord de Mer at Whalehaven for R25 a bottle (a current special). Granted, it won’t get any better in the bottle any more, and is possibly already starting its decline, but still… that old, matured wine quality I love for R25 a bottle. Though frankly anything drinkable for R25 a bottle is a boon. Great happiness!

4. Unpretentious wineries with dirt roads. My car bonded with the other muddy and happy pets in the parking lots, and proudly still displays its new brown colour. Let your car play a bit too 🙂

5. At long… long… last. Really good Merlots. I found two (Sumaridge and Creation) and I’m totally going to share them with @Merlot_girl.

6. Sumaridge and Creation tasting rooms. All you lasses pondering wedding venues… off you go then.

7. The restaurant toilets at La Vierge. I’ve never… EVER… seen my fiance go gaga over a toilet. He went more than he needed to just to visit them. He made me sneak into the men’s.

8. The views.

9. The views.

10. Sweet mother of [fill in the gap] – The views.

And lucky fish me, I’ll be tasting La Vierge wines again for a Tweet-up on Thursday evening – tune into Twitter for more!

Good stuff.

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If you thought our Italian evening was delicious …

24 Jun

… then vote for Massimo’s on Food24, who are doing a survey of the best pizza gig in Cpt. They get my vote: great pizza – no, really great pizza – warm vibe, friendly and helpful staff, cool ginger cat, and they stepped up to host our very successful Italian evening in style.

Yes yes, still to report back on that … in brief, we had a great turn-out, drank lots of wine (of course), and then zapped ourselves with Limoncello and chocolate liqueur.

Good stuff.

And a heads up for the next event, in which hopefully at least three foodies of Indian ancestry will cook up some curries for us to pair our next wine theme with: Any wine that you think goes with curry. We can use the ‘in-laws’ house in Pinelands, and munch and sip away in front of a fire, so it will be a warm and spicy affair, hoorah! Date and details to follow soon – but if you’re diarised up the ying-yang for July already and don’t want to miss out, feel free to suggest any Fri/Sat eveningss that suit you and I’ll see what works for the most people. I’m nice that way.

Brussel sprouts and the G – beyond expectation

13 Jun

I don’t like brussel sprouts. And I gather most of the world doesn’t either.

But at Buitenverwacthing Restaurant, chef Edgar Osojnik has somehow managed to make these into little bites of beauty… and they’re only the garnish. With none of that bitterness that usually spoils a brussel sprout, they were perfectly cooked, soft, rich and a perfect accompaniment to whatever else was on my plate at the time – I don’t remember… I was amazed at the awesomeness of those sprouts – I think it was a trio of lamb cuts. Which, I must add, were rich, flavourful, tender and slightly wild (where did he get that lamb)?

Having worked as a bottom-rung waitress there for a month last December (an experiment in experiencing a different side of the food/wine industy), I was most eager to actually get to taste Edgar’s work instead of serve it. And having experienced the ins and outs of being a waitron at Buitenverwachting, I can say this for sure – what bloody good service! I hope I was half as good as the team that served us last Thursday – slick, polite, not intrusive, informed, aware and extremely well co-ordinated – let me  emphasise that that trio of soups is very, very, VERY hard to carry and serve smoothly (read about them and see them on Batonage’s blog here). Well done Walter and Lesley, and fellow whose name I didn’t know.

So the food is great, the service is awesome, and the wine …

Eish, I’m running out of adjectives here – wonderful, delicious, ehm, going embarrasingly blank here… But I’ll say this is the G (their new Gewurztraminer):

Holy Turk.

That G surely hits the spot, and I’m swooning just to think of it. At last, a dry, subtle, complex, soft Gewurz. I want to wear it as perfume. I want with with my fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. I want it.

What a perfect way to spend our 5th anniversary, and thank you to Sandy Bailey for inviting us for this treat. It was truly beyond what we expected on many levels.

Mama mia! Italians in Hout Bay

8 Jun

I honestly don’t remember how we decided on Italian varietals for our next wine club theme, but I’m quite sure it doesn’t matter. We’ve done Riesling, Merlot, and now we’re going grande with a selection of:

– Pinot grigio (white)
– Bonarda Vivace (red)
– Barbera (red)
– Sangiovese (red) and
– Fragolino (a dubious, fizzy, illegal wine drink as opposed to a wine).

There are a bunch (ya ya pun ya) more, such as Nebbiolo, Garganega, Moscato, Trebbiano, Aglianico and Corvina, but Massimo and his Missus of Massimo’s (Pizza Club) in Hout Bay have kindly put together a little selection of Italian wines … and ITALIAN FOOD, including a little homemade Limoncello and Bicerin (a chocolate liqueur).

What of Chianti? Silent, little lambs. Chianti is a blend, and we are doing varietals. Which leads me to a little tangent…

There is some confusion about use of ‘variety’ and ‘varietal’ – I have done extensive research on Twitter about this, and here’s the dealio:

– A variety in winespeak is a type of grape. Such as Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. If we were to compare this to another important food group, say meat, a variety of cow would be the Angus breed.
– A varietal is a wine that is made from only one variety, i.e. not a blend. Like a fillet steak, as opposed to, say, polony.

[Please, do not let my polony analogy taint your perception of blends – blends can be very very very good, and offer a fascinating perspective on a region, area or farm. Google ‘terroir’ if you don’t know what it is, and we’ll work on our French accents at a suitably themed event. I digress from my tangent.]

Right. So. La Sera Falso Italiano = meaning, in poor grammar most likely, The Fake Italian Evening!

when: Saturday 18 June
time: 6pm
where: Massimo’s, Hout Bay (excellent directions and map here)
what: the Italian varietals listed above, Limoncello, Bicerin + salad, foccacio and some pizza (about half a pizza per person)
cost: R98pp

So you don’t have to go looking for needles in piles of spaghetti to find some Italian wine you can’t pronounce from some plaas agter die heuwel or a boutique wine store. Or make snacks. Or (and this one’s for me) wash dishes afterwards. You just have to RSVP as soon as possible so I can make the arrangements. Più gente c’è, più ci divertiamo (Google it).

IF, however, you do have a specific Italian (local or imported) varietal wine in mind, let me know … I’ll see what I can organise wrt bringing it along – I’ll just check with … (oh, I can’t resist) … *da boss*.

To RSVP:
– comment below
– tweet @kungfukittypow
– email ingridbiesheuvel [at] gmail.com

The unprofessional critic

27 May

The unprofessional critic – this is most of us really. We who drink wines and decide what we do and don’t like. From ‘Nice wine’ and ‘Ugh, too sweet’ to ‘I love the structure – the way the acidity and fruit balance, supported by integrated tannins’ to the more poetic ‘Imagine biting into deep red colour, eyes closed, a crackling fire while a cape winter storm blows thru a window’, there are a lot of ways to say things about wine.

Luckily for me, I have somehow captured the favour of He Who Organises Tweet-ups (a Mister Dusan Jelic of wine.co.za),  and I get invited to events to taste and tweet about wine. This means that, like Cathy Marston, Di Proctor, Karen Glanfield, Neil Pendock, Christian Eedes and dare I mention Michael Fridjhon, I am being consulted about my opinion. Unlike these highly experienced, well-qualified and very talented people, I am little more than a somewhat knowledgeable, over-enthusiastic pleb.

For example, here are some of the things I tweeted about the Wedderwill Wines at a tweet-up last night:

– The 17deg, red bl: tobacco, biltong dust+stewed plums, ripe rose too! Eucalyptus tannins, unripe plum fruitiness
– The quail legs like chicken but fragrant- bring out a rich floral, perhaps tiger lily charac in the wine. Good pairing! 
– Sv Bl prem: nose: oh! the bitten-off green-leaf bit of a s-berry you don’t eat, a cold, soft sea breeze. And brand new shoes

I wouldn’t expect anyone to take these ‘tasting notes’, well, seriously. But then again… perhaps there is a value to them. Other than possibly being mildly entertaining, and maybe, maaaybe even somehow accurate, I’d like to pose that their value is simply that they’re unrestrained by a need to be taken seriously.

In other words, as a self-confessed and probably widely acknowledged pleb (despite any aspirations I may once have had), I don’t have to take my first impression and gut-feel opinion and couch it in polite winespeak. Look at the last tweet there: I didn’t say I liked the wine, or that it was good, or well balanced or whatever. But I did have fun writing it. (Though I actually did like the wine, fyi!).

But I understand that when you’re actually a Who’s Who and get paid to taste and write and crit and all that, you have to be more conscious of the ramifications of what you say. I mean, if Mr Fridjhon had said that last tweet of mine … (oh, I do just wish he would just to see what would happen in the industry! … #wishfulthinking)

To the majority of us plebs, drinking wine is a sub-conscious appreciation of the technical aspects that make a wine good (balance, length, integration, blah blah), but on the conscious level, a delightful discovery of all that the nose remembers; that first sip a flashback to whatever in your life smelled or tasted like that.

Which is why I love descriptions like:
– wet dog
– dusty box in an attic
– weedy patch behind a garden shed
– that time in the Karoo when we …
– standing under a flowering orange tree in spring,  still a slight nip in the air

This is the fun stuff to talk about.

So now you know how to read my tweets and tasting notes. (And hopefully I’ll keep getting invited to Taste and Tweet events, because they’re an absolute blast and are incredibly educational.)

On that note, kudos to Wedderwill Wines and Den Anker restaurant last night for a superb food and wine pairing – it was classy, down-to-earth, informative, friendly, interesting, fun and very very tasty. It is indeed a very good thing that winemakers and chefs at least are pros. Good on ya, guys.

Venue change for Merlot evening – it’s going to be *very* cosy

24 May

Mooorning.

So, unfortunately De Grendel had a wee mix-up with their Friday night bookings, and turns out we can’t have our Merlot evening there this Friday.

Arg.

I can’t bare to postpone it again, so you’ll all have to come get cosy in my little garden flat in Pinelands instead. Pray for good weather, because when I say ‘get cosy’ and ‘little’, I mean it.

So same time, 5.30pm, at 2 Ringwood Villas, 26 Ringwood Drive, Pinelands.

Happy days,
Ping

Shiraz and charcuterie happiness

23 May

Yoh yoh yoh. This does sound good. Not sure I can make it as I had plans to wander up a mountain that Saturday night, but perhaps I could stagger up instead… some excellent producers, and if they serve parma ham  … mmm … I have no morals or sense when it comes to parma ham …

Just one more week to age your Merlots!

20 May

Hello hello hello!

I return from the depths of 2-ply tissue, my voice an octave lower, and my bottle of Thelema Merlot unopened!

De Grendel has kindly offered us next Friday, 27 May, for our Merlot evening – good on ya De Grendel! Same details as before – check out the 10 May post here for info and map.

Yippee!

Won: flu over the Merlots’ best (Merlot evening postponed)

19 May

Hello all you luvlies,

Sadly flu has finally gotten past my Echinacea and Vitiman C doses, and I sit here, miserably, blogging to say…:

Booo hooooo hoooooooOOOOO! (sniff, cough, sniff)

I’m afraid as seeing as I am hosting one million little virusy thingies, I am unable to also host the Merlot evening tonight, so will have to postpone. A loose survey has revealed that next Friday night (27 May) might be a good option, and I’ll run that by De Grendel. I’m proposing next Fri or even the week after (instead of Thursdays cos two good friends can’t make that day), so pls give feedback as to whether that suits you or not.

I even bought my Thelema Merlot from Vaughan Johnson last night in anticipation, but alas, it will have to wait. Apparently it’s good stuff 🙂

Ok then, back to bed. Sorry guys.

Ping

Two very different Riesling evenings

15 May

The first, the premier Le Fake Wine Club meet with Riesling as the theme, thanks to inspiration from the Just Riesling Association. The second, a tasting with Riesling winemakers hosted by Just Riesling. One rambunctious, one … not.

Part 1: Riesling with the riff-raff

One of the first things you’ll learn about Riesling is that it typically has a diesel, kerosene nose and taste. I hear your sarcastic ‘yum’. But once you’ve actually tasted a few, you’ll quickly realise that it has So. Much. More. to offer. With friends, family, a few pros and Katinka van Niekerk’s The Food & Wine Pairing Guide, Le Fake Wine Club explored this entirely neglected varietal as only riff-raff can – rambunctiously.

Fake pro that I am, my ‘presentation’, if you can call it that, consisted of tapping a wine glass with a bic pen, somewhat silencing the buzz of comments and laughter, and reading Riesling Factoids (my term) from Ms. Katinka’s book.  I won’t type them all up here – go buy it. It’s R127,50 on Kalahari.net, and it’s not only useful but a really entertaining read too.

Riesling Factoid 2: ‘We like to describe Weisser Riesling as the ‘metrosexual grape’: it has the
self-assurance to be made into any style and carries it off with aplomb without
ever needing the aid of oaking. From bone dry to off-dry, to semi-sweet, late
harvest, special late harvest and finally, to immensely rich noble late
harvest, it will join the party in any guise.’

Riesling, the metrosexual

It certainly did join the party at our meet, and came decked out in no less than 15 different guises. Here are the wines we tried in roughly the order we tried them – brief reviews on the Wines page.

Jordan 2010
Jordan 2009
Jordan 2005
Hartenberg 2009 Weisser Riesling
Cape Winemaker’s Guild 2007 Auction Weisser Riesling (Hartenberg Wine Estate)
Hartenberg 2006 Weisser Riesling
Klein Constantia 2009 Rhine Riesling
De Wetshof 2009
Thelema 2009 Rhine Riesling
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2009, a German Riesling
Fairview 2010
Paul Cluver 2010 Close Encounters
Rietvallei 2011 John B
Perdeberg Reserve Natural Sweet 2010

**The wines I donated from the case I won from Just Riesling are in bold, the wines donated by their namesake excellent, friendly wine estates are in orange, and the remaining wines were brought along by the knowledgeable and generous Hennie (@Batonage), Maggie
(@BlackDelilah) and Elmarie (@choccobella).

The empty bottles

We also munched popcorn, Doritos, Woolies’ amazing avo dip, crackers, salsa, chicken liver paté and some Woolies chicken breasts – very Kirstenboschy picnic fair. The Rieslings went with them all (but especially the Doritos and that avo dip, nom nom nom). But there is a ‘veritable cornucopia’ of options according to Ms. Katinka …

Riesling Factoid 3: ‘Depending on style and age, you will find that it’s very appley, from fresh Granny Smiths to spiced, backed apples. There are also quince, orange and granadilla flavours, not to mention spice, honey and geranium.’

But let’s not forget some of the smells and flavours that *we* got that night: nuttiness, smelly socks/sneakers, pork rind, burnt red pepper, crème brulee, canned pears, minerality, coconut and bus tickets, cloves, banana, goat (no prizes for guessing which wine that was) and toilet spray.

Just imagine what you could pair all those with! Among many others, Katinka suggests olives, sun-dried tomatoes, seafood, cold roast meats including duck and quail, beetroot, mustard, fresh berries, sweet salads, Thai green curry, sushi, seafood, roast veggies, stir-fries, apple puddings, roast pork … almost anything except very peppery and roast red-meat dishes, and green vegetable/vegetarian-type dishes.

(Bugger, I can see I am going to type up her whole book before I know it. One last bit…)

The magic of Riesling’s ability to pair well – and age well – is its balance of acidity and sweetness.

Riesling Factoid 4: ‘A unique characteristic is the tug-of-war between its acidity and its sweetness: it is as if the wine is balancing on the edge of a sword. Is it sweet or is it
sour?’

More on this in Part 2 and in the wine reviews, which will follow … soon.

My only problem with Riesling is that it’s not always easy to tell whether the bottle you’ve chosen is dry, off-dry or semi-sweet; the labels don’t always say. There was a recent discussion about a similar problem with Chenin Blanc (read up on it here: http://www.food24.com/Wine/Features/Chenin-Challenge-winners-controversial-changes-on-the-way-20110121) – a lovely varietal that people also often avoid because they don’t want to end up with a sweet wine if they prefer dry (or vice versa). With Sauvignon Blanc it’s easy. It’s dry. You know what you’re going to get.

The solution? Well apart from drinking and learning by trial and error and good times, you could post any ideas you may have here, on this blog. For example, perhaps all Riesling producers could agree to include simple terms for their wine labels that would help consumers know what they’re getting inside the bottle. Perhaps something a little more revealing than ‘off-dry’…?

And when I get to hang with the Riesling winemakers again, I’ll see if I can drop a hint or two. Yes, little ol’ fake pro me and a cellar or Riesling winemakers. I was very privileged to be invited to a tasting evening hosted by Just Riesling and attended by a bunch (pun intended) of winemakers, and needless to say, I was also somewhat terrified. But I survived it, and only really embarrassed myself once (that I know of), and even got invited again.

More of that in Part 2, Riesling with the real deals (the winemakers). Meanwhile, I wanna know – do you or would you buy Riesling?