20 May 2013

Snooth PVA: Wines of South Africa

Immediately after the Wines of Austria tasting, we were whisked away to the Institute of Culinary Education, a cooking college in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. We were there to enjoy a tasting hosted by Wines of South Africa and a lunch prepared by Johannesburg native Chef Hugo Uys.

We started out with a sparkling blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the NV Graham Beck Brut, $18. Crisp and acidic with medium bubbles and a clean finish. I enjoyed it, but after the dozen Austrian wines sampled in the previous two hours, I was a little peckish and decided to dive into the little wooden bowl of dried fruit, nuts, and meat. And it was the best beef jerky I've ever had. Shortly thereafter, the host explained it.

In the photo it's a little hard to make out the details, but the wide flat pieces are biltong, a favorite snack of South Africa. A round roast or other large cut of tough meat is cut into strips (called tongs or tongues, but it's not actually tongue meat), marinated and air-dried. I loved it, and also enjoyed the little thin dried sausages known as droëwors. Try one of those and you'll never snap into a Slim Jim again.

I've long been fascinated by the history of South Africa (sparked in no small part by the adventure novels of Wilbur Smith), and while I have tried many wines from the country, this was my first experience getting to enjoy them with the appropriate cuisine and with folks devoted to this particular wine region.

Amuse Bouche
“South African Shot”: Peppadew relish in a parmesan cup, a guava juice shot topped off with a ginger foam

This was a pleasant little snack, just enough to wake up the palate and get us ready for the wines that followed.

2012 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, $18: A little rough on the beginning, but it later opened up with jasmine and citrus notes. Certainly more in line with Chile and New Zealand than France.

2009 Raats Family Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, $22: Mild and fruity with gentle floral aromas and a round body.

Curry Mussels: Lychees, shallots, white wine and dry sherry, in a curry emulsion

I love a good batch of mussels, and these were delicious. I would never have thought of adding lychees, but it made for a nice flavor combination.

2012 De Morgenzon Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, $15: The winemakers here play Baroque music to the vines to help them grow. Light white fruit aromas and flavors with just a little vanilla from the oak. Medium acidity and a short finish.

2009 Badenhorst Family White Blend, Coastal Region, $34: A rough edge at the beginning yields some herbal and vegetal elements in this Rhône blend of six white grapes. The winemaker made his first wine at the age of thirteen.

Smoked Ostrich: With roasted root vegetables, gorgonzola mousse, herb port reduction, homemade sultana/apricot chutney and an oven baked spicy potato chip

Excellent ostrich, and I'll be on the lookout for some thicker steaks to try and recreate this dish in the future.

2011 Warwick Pinotage Old Bush Vines, Stellenbosch, $19: Lovely aromas of ash and earth from the Pinotage, with a flavor of red cherries and raspberry seeds. The 12% Cabernet Sauvignon should help round this one out for those that are afraid of Pinotage.

2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, $39: Spicy and smoky at first, giving way to aromas of tart red cherries with a thin, gentle body. Very unusual for a Pinot Noir, but I thought it worked out quite well with the ostrich.

2008 Kanonkop Paul Sauer, Stellenbosch, $42: This wine is named after a hilltop where, in the 17th century, a cannon would be fired to alert everyone that ships were entering the harbor at Cape Town. It gave everyone enough notice to load up their oxcarts with food and other trade goods so they could meet the sailors. The wine has complex aromas of green bell pepper, smoke, and leather. It's a deep and dark Bordeaux-style red made with 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot.

2010 Boekenhoutsklouf Chocolate Block, Swartland/Citrusdal, $34: Due to the popularity of this wine, it is allocated in the United States and may be difficult to find. Interesting blend of 69% Syrah, 14% Grenache Noir, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cinsault and 1% Viognier. Cream and cherry aromas with, yes, a deep chocolate character. Deep yet smooth and very drinkable.

2009 Glenelly Lady May, Stellenbosch, $50: This venerable wine is made of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot in a traditional Bordeaux style. Lots of bell pepper and black cherry with underlying notes of coffee and leather. Medium tannins indicate that this one could age for another few years. Highly recommended with your favorite roasted meats.

2010 De Toren Fusion V, Stellenbosch, $45: Another Bordeaux blend, but this one is still quite young with very firm tannins and a long tannic finish. There is a cherry profile to the wine but I found it a little tight and not quite ready for consumption. Check again in three years.

Tipsy Tart: Soaked in rooibos infused brandy, vanilla ice cream and a brandy date syrup

Sweet and savory and delicious, and the addition of rooibos was incredible.

2010 Ken Forrester T Late Harvest, Stellenbosch, $55: This 100% Chenin Blanc dessert wine was rich and golden with floral notes, honey, and a beautiful, slightly musky finish. Delicious and decadent.

Check out these other great reviews of the same tasting! Avvinare "New World Wines: South African Wines Continue to Excite Me", My Vine Spot "#SnoothPVA: South African Wine Lunch", Wine Julia "SnoothPVA: Wines of South Africa with Lunch at the Institute of Culinary Education"

Note: This trip was provided by Snooth.

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