For the last three years, on a Saturday morning around this time in November, I have woken to a dull thud behind the eyes, a thirst, that if quenched, would bring about a hosepipe ban, and the woeful admission that have no idea where I am. As I was not attending the 2013 Swartland Revolution, I had expected this last Saturday morning to be somewhat more convivial. Continue reading “Platter 2014: The Launch”
As I have taken a break from writing and thinking about wine – my mind has been in Namibia, writing scripts for an audio guide set in that arid country – I’ve realised I was beginning to take it, and as a consequence myself, far too seriously.
The role of taking a subject very seriously is important, and there are enough of those people around, despite the fact no one in this country cares to pay them much for their opinions. Taking yourself too seriously is a guaranteed road to humiliation, short-sightedness and drowning in a pool reflecting your own face.
There were signs I was on this road that I didn’t notice. Scoring wines. I started arguing for their importance and usefulness on this blog. Who did I think I was? Robert fucking Parker?
Silly of me.
There is more to write about than wine. And soon – I can just see it poking out in the misty future – a new site will emerge here where I will write generally, for my own amusement. Wine will of course remain, but this niche has got uncomfortable, so I am going to blow that popsicle stand.
That being said, I would like to make a self important pronouncement anyway.
Eben Sadie’s new releases mark a turning point in South African fine wine.
Pinot Noir is the cliche grape. No other variety gets bombarded with more hackneyed descriptions, casually sexist metaphors, and marketing nonsense. Seriously. Is there nothing more we can say about Pinot Noir than it being a feminine, heartbreaking, difficult, expensive, steel-fisted, velvet-gloved, grape? Of course we can. Burgundy. And South African wine people say it over and over and over.
I think I’ve written before about how South African wine people are too damn worried about how our wines taste compared to more famous international examples. We have a huge inferiority complex. Whether this has come from years of burnt rubber accusations, hundred and thousands of litres of shitty bulk wine, or apartheid, I don’t know. But it is there. Continue reading “Crystallum New Releases and/or Launch”
Hartenberg has been around a long while. This property on the Northeastern slopes of the Bottelary Hills has had vineyards on it since the mid 1690’s. 20 years ago they hired winemaker Carl Schultz, and it was to celebrate his 20th vintage that I was at the farm recently.
We celebrated with a vertical tasting of Hartenberg’s flagship wine, the Gravel Hill Shiraz.
I’ll give you my notes below, but I first want to comment on what I learned about wine during this tasting. It makes you look a fool, even if it’s only you that know. Continue reading “Celebrating Carl Schultz’s 20th Vintage: A Gravel Hill Vertical”
I realized this morning that there have been no posts this week. I considered after posting my first video that, as a picture is apparently worth a 1000 words, and video is simply 24 pictures a second, I’d get away with it.
I have, however, always found that assumption to over value pictures. Take Gigli, the film was composed of hundreds of thousands of pictures, and it takes only two words to describe it. Goddamn awful. So, what to write about.
The only worthwhile wine endeavor I have taken part in this week was the Young Guns 3 tasting at Wine Cellar. The problem is I was so busy playing music, changing Power Point slides and pressing play that I didn’t properly taste the wines. I drank as much as I could of them, but came away with nothing but a hangover. Luckily I had tasted most of them last week.
And that’s when I realized what the topic of this post should be.
When you first taste brandy the natural reaction is, “Ergh god my mouth, fire, Christ, what the hell is this stuff.” If you know the Johnson quote you realize why Brandy is the drink of heroes. You have to be bloody heroic to let something that dammed fiery in your mouth. Continue reading “Drinking Heroically: SA Brandy vs. The French”
I was invited to an interesting tasting last week. The first in a while as I may have pissed off most of the South African Wine PR firms by suggesting it is to them that words go to die. But that is a rant for another day.
The tasting was put together by four young winemakers all making wines for themselves while keeping down a ‘9-5’ making wine for other people. David Sadie of Lemburg, Jurgen Gouws at Lammershoek, Johan Meyer at Meerhof and Jasper Wickens at A.A Badenhorst all make very good wines in their own right.
When you’re invited to most wine launches there is a sense of privilege. You feel privileged to be getting a decent meal on the house, a good few glasses of wine, and a chance to taste a wine before anybody else
Last night, however, I felt a different kind of privilege at being invited to the launch of Savage Wines, Duncan Savage’s own label. While the food was great, and the wines even better, the real privilege came from just being there, being asked to witness the start of this project.
I went for breakfast this Saturday. A 12 o clock breakfast of beer and curry. It was a good breakfast.
I get a little crotchety, now in my late 20’s, when it comes to big walkaround tastings. I prefer a bar stool, and solid bar top when drinking beer. My pocket does not keep up with my liver, however, so this is the only way to taste a whole bunch of beers.
I was particularly excited to taste some of BrewDog’s beers. BrewDog are scottish brewers who have punked the craft beer industry with cunning marketing tactics such as selling a beer served in a stuffed animal.
That friends, is awesome, and shows how far the wine industry has to go when it come to packaging. A bit of braille and gold lettering is thinking outside the box to most wineries. Avondale should consider of using its ducks for something similar. MCC out of a dead duck’s neck? Come on. I’d drink to that.
BrewDog’s beer is called the End of History, and held for a short time the title of Highest Alcohol Beer. I had hoped to taste the Tactical Nuclear Penguin – a beer that was at one stage the world’s strongest – but at R900 a bottle, they weren’t giving out samples.
At first it was pretty hard to extract any beer from the BrewDog stand. As the guy working the stand – a smart oke who is distributing the brand in SA – kept pushing me to pay for a tasting flight. When I said, no, I’d like to taste the beer, I’ll buy a bottle if I want to pay, I was poured as tiny a tasting sample as I have seen. I could have cried more into a glass.
I stomped off to buy a beer. Fucked if I was going to be forced into buying a tasting flight because the guy pouring feels his beer is more valuable than my tears.
I did come back, mollified after a few tankards of the Blck House IPA from Devil’s Peak. The beers were good. I think Devil’s Peak’s IPA is better than BrewDog’s Punk IPA, but the more intense (and higher alcohol) Hardcore IPA, was my beer of the day. Their Dead Pony Club, is a wonder at only 3.8% ABV but with waves of flavour.
If you haven’t noticed, I am getting into my India Pale Ale.
This is the Whatupribs stand, or #WHATUPRIBS, or maybe What up, Ribs. I am not sure. I think the hashtag is compulsory. They are hipster ribs. Apparently “Jewish Kryptonite”. You get +1 in klout for every order. Simon Hartley stands, his head out of shot, deciding how many +1’s he needs for internet domination.
I chose Chicken Curry from the Taj. I lost followers, and internet influence, but I had a damn good lunch. A solid match with the rather insipid Citizen Amber Ale. I had had many IPAs by this point so that could be the reason the Ale tasted a bit bland.
These tables were reserved for some sort of sporting spectacular that was happening later in the day. My hip was acting up in the weather, so I was home sucking a 6 pack of King’s Blockhouse IPA dry before a ball, racquet, or helmet was used.
This was one of the beers made by SAB’s craft wing. Which made me think of the Salvation Army’s military wing. Nonetheless, the Master Brewer (whose name I didn’t catch) has a heck of a time, as she gets to make whatever beer she wants with almost no commercial consideration, as the beers are only available at festivals.
More SAB craft. Crafty Democrat? A more sordid mind could suggest SAB is hinting that the POTUS is at heart, a bag carrier.
I didn’t taste as much as I should have, but I drank just the right amount. I can say that in three short years the quality of local beer has increased at a phenomenal rate. There really is a wide choice of interesting flavorful beers now. Hat tip to the festival organisers for being a part of this revolution.
I wrote a column about the varying responses to our Chenin Blanc.
Is South African Chenin any good? According to two international writers it is, and it isn’t. Frustratingly for local producers, mixed messages are being sent out. Locally we have been all “Yeah SA Chenin is the dog’s bollocks!” and then given a full-on smack-down by international writers: “Steady on there Saffas, your wines are definitely not all that.” What the hell is really going on?
Yes, I know it would be easier to read it here, bu it’s bright and colourful over at 2oceans, you’ll enjoy it.
Over the next two days I will be judging in the Green Wine awards This means tasting through 60-odd organic wines, and over 100 BWI wines. (BWI wines are produced on farms that had dedicated a certain amount of land to the local fauna and flora – no guarantee of quality) The reason for this competition has always eluded me. Much like the terroir wine awards (What, like every single wine on the fucking planet?) and the young wine awards (what, like nearly every wine entered into local awards?).
But I am happy to join in the absurdity. I don’t get to do enough of this serious, and intense tasting. (Probably because I am not a wine judge) Then what are you doing judging wines, I hear you ask. Well, I have been drafted in, along with Johnothan Snashall (@wholebunchpress) to be a bloggers judges.
What this means I have no idea. I think it may be analogous to having a young writer on a script writing team so they can “keep in touch with the youth.” I hope I am wrong, because Jono and myself are as crotchety an old as anyone, no matter our ages.
It is possible that people believe that bloggers taste differently to people who write for printed publications; or maybe are just different from official judges. Who knows? I’ll ask Christiaan Eedes what he thinks as he seems to be straddling both categories very well.
I am not sure how our scores are going to be used as we are bloggers not judges. Secretly I am hoping there is going to be a special ‘boggers’ sticker’ for the wines Jonathan and score highest. Producers reading this who have entered wines are hoping strenuously that this is not the case.
It’s a great job, even if only for two days. We get to taste wine for two days. Hah. I know some judges and writers like to remind – they are only reminding everyone who does not get to do this – how strenuous the whole endeavor is.
“It requires serious concentration.” (yeah, so does landing a rocket on mars, you don’t see NASA reminding everyone every 5 minutes)
“After a full day you will be surprised how exhausted you are.” (yeah, exhausted from tasting wine. That’s like being exhausted from eating too much, or too much sex, or ice-cream, or, what ever it’s not like we’re mining.”
Compared to 99% of other tasks humans have to accomplish daily, wine tasting is a complete and total walk in the park; a really good walk, in dappled sunlight with a game of Frisbee thrown in, and a sneaky joint behind an old oak.
I’m not going to complain. That is, unless the wines are kak. Then I’m going to complain in vociferously good humour.
Here is the video from our day at the Table Bay Hotel. In retrospect I probably should of shaved. A big thanks to the editors for, well, editing so well. I’ll leave it at that. Enjoy:
I’m serious. You have to try these two wines. Don’t nod and smile and say “Sure Harry I’ll give them ago at some point.” Google these two wines, find out where you can get them, buy them, drink them, and then say, “Thanks Harry, you were right, you have changed my life a little.”
Myself and a somewhat anarchic ex-chef took on 4 other bloggers and partners in a cooking, eating, drinking and spamming competition this weekend. We lost in all but the drinking part. This was predicted. Although, after tasting our charred caper encrusted Cob with wild mushroom cous cous I thought we were in with a shout. I also think I mistook being in with a shout for simply shouting. Oh well, the wine was brilliant.
Feeling like I have billboarded my blog lately. Am I just a brand? Think I may have to give more esoteric tasting notes and topical stuff and less punting of parties and hotels.
So I had a lunch the other day and Chrisitian Eedes – who is fast becoming a favourite lunch buddy, he likes to bang fists on tables when making philosophical points about wine aesthetics as much as me – generously brought along some brilliant wines. One was a South African cult wine. A wine that the anoraks smile and nod about; an insider wine, a wine that I have been privileged to taste a couple of times. Continue reading “Klein Constantia 1986 and something topical”