Following an enjoyable and informative Wine of Austria Master Class, we jumped on a bus and headed to the Institute of Culinary Education for a South African Wine Pairing Luncheon hosted by Wines of South Africa. Going into this tasting, I had familiarity with some of the region’s refreshing Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc wines as well as Pinotage – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut that is largely unique to South Africa. As a matter of fact, a few years ago I hosted a ‘Pinotage Party’ on Twitter with fellow wine blogger @BrainWines to draw attention to the often misunderstood and underrated grape variety.
South African Wine Lunch
South Africa has a long wine growing history dating back over three centuries. However, at a time when other new world wine regions were advancing, South Africa’s wine industry was set back by apartheid (1948-1994). In response, trade sanctions were imposed, preventing South African wines from being imported into the U.S. and other markets. Since that time, South African wine has experienced a renaissance of sorts and is growing in popularity. "Chenin Blanc is no longer called Steen and varietals such as Syrah are taking their rightful place among the world’s finest," said the folks at Snooth. Adding that, “ Pinotage ... the black sheep of the vitis vinifera family, is finding new appreciation as producers begin to understand how to coax the most from each variety in South Africa’s famously complex soils.”
Our lunch, prepared by Chef Hugo Uys, who has experience with the flavors of South Africa, consisted of traditional cuisine. Everything served was delicious -- so much so that I cleaned every plate that was put before me. There were also several wines on the tasting sheet I found agreeable – particularly the red blends that I do not see too much of on store shelves here in Virginia.
Wines and dishes of note start with a refreshing flute of Graham Beck Brut N.V. (SRP $18). This is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that’s crisp, clean, and versatile and priced just under the $20 sweet-spot for wine consumers. It is also widely available nationally so check with your local wine shop for a bottle. The bubbles paired nicely with the curry mussels dish (with lychees, shallots, white wine and dry sherry, in a curry emulsion), which was an extremely pleasing and flavorful dish.
Boekenhoutskloof ‘The Chocolate Block’
Our entrée, and a first for me, was a delectable smoked ostrich dish with roasted root vegetables, gorgonzola mousse, herb port reduction, homemade sultana/apricot chutney, and an oven-baked spicy potato chip. It had a texture (even taste) that I would liken to beef (not chicken like everything else) and paired well with a few of the red blended wines we had an opportunity to taste. Some of the reds enjoyed were a 2008 Kanonkop Paul Sauer (SRP $42); a Bordeaux-style blend comprised of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Merlot. This wine shows aromas and flavors of ripe red and dark berry fruit, plum, smoke, and anise alongside hints of leather and floral perfume with a full-bodied velvety texture. The 2010 Boekenhoutskloof ‘The Chocolate Block’ (SRP $34), a blend of 72% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Grenache Noir, 6% Cinsaut and 2% Viognier, exhibits a superbly ripe, luscious, and silky smooth profile with well-integrated barrel character made complete by a solid acid backbone. The 2009 Glenelly 'Lady May' (SRP $49.99), a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot is a polished wine that flirts with elegance and finesse showing a dark fruit core with moderate complexity, a juicy mid-palate, and a lengthy finish.
For the sweet ending, we enjoyed a scrumptious and lip-smacking Tipsy Tart (tart soaked in rooibos infused brandy, vanilla ice cream and a brandy date syrup) with a splash 2010 Ken Forrester ‘T’ Late Harvest (SRP $54.99, 375ml). This tasty golden colored wine is 100% Chenin Blanc with rich aromas of dried apricot, fig, floral honey, and tropical overtones with balanced acidity. In closing, this was a wonderful (and memorable) experience that opened my eyes to new cuisine as well as several (premium) expressive red blended wines. I had such a nice time that I plan on finding several of these wines and some ostrich fillets and recreating this delightful experience (as best I can) for a few friends. Cheers!
Read what others are saying about the South African Wine Lunch :
Snooth writes "The Wines of South Africa"
Benito's Wine writes "Snooth PVA: Wines of South Africa"
Avvinare writes "South African Wines Continue to Excite Me"
Wine Julia writes "Wines of South Africa with Lunch"
Backyard Feathered Friends: Black-capped Chickadee
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