Drunk, Visited

I revolted, felt revolting and revolted some more: The Swartland Revolution 2010

I can confidently say that the Swartland Revolution was by far the most enjoyable wine event I have been to. It was run with Germanic efficiency but full of South African gees. There was a balance between formal tastings and lounging on the grass sipping Bollinger. We ate till we were fit to burst, and drank till we were dancing (read: falling off)  hay bales, we chatted & laughed, sipped and smiled; this was a revolution against boring wines, against boring events; this was a revolt against the plain and the sad, the straight and the narrow; it was simply a benchmarking of joie de vivre.

OK. I’ve gushed enough now I can get on with my story.

On Friday (a week and a bit ago – I never said I was into current affairs) I packed my bag with essentials (extra tobacco, bottle opener, hat, waistcoat, rizla, headache pills, pen and notebook) and headed out in what would also turn out to be my accommodation: The four star Chez Citi Golf*

p_1289565254I arrived early and popped in at the Royal Hotel for a quick glass at the bar. Soon the other attendees began to arrive and register. Bottles were bought and consumed in the sun as we waited for things to get under way. I spotted one of my partners in crime Jörg Pfützner and we headed out for a crafty G&T and a sneak preview of the following day’s lunch  at Bar Bar Black Sheep.

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“Cancel all my appointments, I’m revolting”             The deep fried baby marrow flowers were orgasmic

Ready to revolt we made our way back to the Royal Hotel for the first tasting: Quality First eight wines from Michael & Stephane Ogier of the Northern Rhone.

We started with the Saint Joseph Blanc 2008  made from 100% Marsanne. I found it quite grapey with  pineapple and spice, nutmeg perhaps. A very satisfying wine, although I found the palate to be boxy, structured around the sides but not much weight in the middle. The decidedly mineral finish was very tasty.

The 100% Viognier Condrieu "La combe de Malleval" 2009 was not quite as good for me and seemed a touch clingy on the palate. But I enjoyed the richness with dollops of white fig. What can I say, I battle with 100% Viogniers.

Then there was a series of Syrah’s from Côte-Rôtie starting with the L’Ame Sœur 2007 from vineyards in Seyssuel that provide schist soils. I thought this an excellent wine, with tomato leaf, black cherries and cedar dominating for me. The tannins were fine and the wine was quite accessible.

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My favourite was the Côte-Rôtie "Belle Hélène" 2007 which was gritty with serious weight. Muscle weight, not weigh-watchers weight. And although quite powerful, showed excellent balance. Very young and tight, this will be a brilliant wine.

The ‘99, and I have to agree with Mr. Pendock here, was quite stinky, but I kinda liked it. Just like your own farts smell like roses, here the stink was charming rather than nasty.

I loved the 2005 Roussanne, so rich and textured with touch of veggies, but also some spice. There was some debate as to whether more than a glass would be too much. I finished all my absent neighbours’ glasses to find out. I can confidently report that two are fine, but a bottle without food could become a little tiring.

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After the tasting we all trooped up the hill for a braai at The Ou Pastorie  prepared by Rueben Riffel. Oh what joyous delights were presented to my mouth. Slabs of pork belly, chops, steaks, hamburgers and sausages, salads and potatoes and more that I have forgotten were liberally piled onto plates, and glasses were filled with mystery Swartland Wines. I wandered about video camera in one hand, glass in the other. I found this snapshot from late in the evening.

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Gulping and lurching from one bottle to the next we left the braai and headed into town. A bar was found. One G&T later and I did a bit of a runner.  When I saw springboks lining the bar being made with Patrón Tequlia, I decided I would preserve myself. A tad too revolting for me.

Hazily I made my way to my accommodation. I was staying by the Royal Hotel; well, to be a little more precise just outside the Hotel, in my car. I realised the next morning that I should perhaps have parked a little further away when people I had never met before started asking how I slept and if my neck was stiff. You see, as the early risers left the hotel they all stopped to peer in at this wino nestled in his sleeping bag.

Stepping from my car I was promptly handed a crate of ice and set to work – always happy to help I joined in with gusto assisting the revolutionaries polish glasses and pour the wines for the next session. But before that started it was Babelaas Breakfast Burgers for everyone. Adi Badenhorst, wine-maker, parrot breeder and mutton-chop grower,  was of the opinion that the whole weekend was setup around these burgers. Quite possible, as without the revolution there would be no Babelaas, and who wants plain old breakfast burgers anyway?

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Burgers in our bellies we all filed into the tasting venue for the Eben & Adi Show moderated by Dr. Tim James. Dr. James lamented that he always has to get stuck with a Dr. in front of his name when another wine writer also has a Doctorate in an irrelevant subject. Is it perhaps the striking resemblance he bears to another Doctor of Journalism?

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The tasting was kicked off in true showman-like fashion by Eben Sadie doing a cartwheel in front of the crowd as a result of a lost bet. Eben’s tasting was focused around the importance of having an in-depth knowledge of the soils vines are planted in. He spoke of how in the Côte de Nuits and the Mosel they know their land intimately. They’ve spent years mapping their soils and it is something we’ve got to start doing. He said there are two ways to map the soil: one is by drilling holes and testing the soil, and the other is by tasting the soil in the glass. It is when these two maps start to correlate that you have the truth. But the most important thing is to start.

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To illustrate he poured four wines from the 2010 vintage. The first three were Syrahs from single vineyards and the third a blend of the three. They were from some of the vineyards that go into making the Columella. Eben described how he had intended to make three Syrahs from three different vineyards but found that the blend was always a better wine than any of the individual ones. Also, he quipped, it is cheaper to produce a single label. 

All the wines came from 3 year old casks. What is the point, Eben argued, of spending a year trying to get wines to taste of the soil and then putting it in new wood to taste like a tree from France. An interesting point here was that in his earlier Columella’s Eben admitted to using more new wood, and it is from these wines that he scored higher points from the yanks.

The first wine was from granite soils, which according to Eben have a great affinity with Syrah. It offered loads of spice and bright purple fruits, with some serious intensity. There was a weighty feel to the mid palate, but still a linear wine. I found it stern, but not without attraction, like a sexy librarian.

Wine number two was made from vineyards planted in schist or slate soil. He explained how there are not many wine growing areas with slate soils but wherever they are they produce “some of the most extraordinary wines in the world.” For example Cote Rotie, the Mosel, and Priorat. If we were to take a scale of red wines with Gamay on the one side and Cabernet on the other, Eben says that the Syrah coming from slate leans more to the Gamay side. It is leaner, “like having two safety belts on”, and provides the element in the Columella that makes it approachable younger.

I found it offered floral notes instead of spice, a violet wine. There was an interesting combination of creaminess and leanness. I could drink this on its own easily.

The third wine was from clay rich soil. In Malmsbury there are slivers of clay ridges, and Eben  claimed that everyone who makes wine in the Swartland has at least one parcel of vines in this soil. The reason is that it provides such remarkable structure. “Clay soils make big big wines.” This one was no different. It was the one wine of the tasting that I would not want to drink by itself. Or at least not for the next ten years. It was bold, with massive body and mouth rape-ish tannins. A swashbuckling, hide your daughters wine, a wine that doesn’t beat around the bush, it simply beats the bush into mulch.

Finally there was the blend of the three in equal parts. Eben was right, I thought this was the better wine, although for me the granite one was a very close second. Eben said to be a serious blender you have to start blending with the vineyards. For example he has vineyards he includes just for acidity, some for purity etc.; he says he blends what he gets given from the vineyards. And I think this is a point central to the revolution. If your acidity is poked, adding something from a bag on a shelf is counterrevolutionary. The revolution is about purity.

Following Eben was Adi Badenhorst who started off in his usual self-depreciating manner by saying that “Eben’s wines are linear well made wines, mine are anything but that.” Nonsense. But that’s why we love Adi, he makes winemaking sound as easy as making mud-pies, gooi something there, chuck some of that, wait for 8 months and you have a wine. We all know he is bullshitting.

He presented seven interesting white wines from younger vineyards. He described how he wanted substance in wines, not just showy wines with nothing behind them. “It’s like when you have Meryl Streep in a movie,” he explained “you know you will get substance, maybe not sexy but you will get substance.” And substance can come from originality, which he admits is a challenge:  “It is very difficult to come up with original stuff. You have to stand back.” This seems almost counterintuitive, but his point seems to be that we have incredible vineyards that are able to produce wonderful original wines, if we simply don’t fuck up the process.

Adi beautifully compared terroir to bees: you have thousands of bees that go out to collect pollen from many many different flowers, and the result is exquisite honey. Terroir is a combination of a multiplicity of elements that go into wine. Another revolutionary point I took away from this (and I am saying this not Adi) is that man is not terroir, by standing back and letting nature do her thing you are able to express the terroir through interesting, original wines of substance.

I enjoyed all of Adi’s whites; the Chenin was round and fresh with mineral chunks and stone fruit flavours. The Grenache Gris was weird (well to me a grenache gris virgin) but wonderful, lots of litchi skin on the nose that followed to the palate, quite oxidative but still fresh and a long finish with a little tannin grip. An exciting interesting wine that makes you think. 10 points (not wine scoring points mind you, more like a high five).

The colombard was funky, fighting fresh and rad. The Verdelho had lovely lines, a very pretty wine that I have dreamt of since. Racy, almost salty with some oily limeyness. “Fan-bloody-tastic” to quote Jörg. There was also the blend which I would have bought a case of given half a chance. I really hope we start to see some of these single varieties being bottled and adding a bit of spice to the local offerings at wine shops.

All happy and bouncy we left the tasting venue and collected a complimentary Riedel flute at the exit. Flutes in hand everyone’s eyes darted this way and that looking for what was going to fill them. Happily the revolutionaries appeared, Bollinger in hand, to fill everyone’s glasses.

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Revolutionary Chris Mulineux getting in on the action

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Mr. Bubbles himself

I spotted one revolutionary who seemed to be enjoying the Bolly as much as me, wine maker Callie Louw.  This proved biblically positive as my cup did runneth over.

Michael Fridjon was up next after an introduction by Marc Kent. The speech he gave served two purposes, one was to launch Swartland Independent, the central committee if you will, to the revolution which aims to carry on the good fight and promote the Swartland’s interests; the second was the launching of South African Sommelier of the Year. I found the speech level headed and necessary, although when the ANC was mentioned (as how not to carry through with a revolution) I cringed as bolly, sunshine and lounging on the grass seemed to be the antithesis of politics. But the points were important and well made, to read the speech see here.

Bolly finished and stomachs grumbling the revolutionary mob made their way to the best restaurant in the known universe** Bar Bar Black Sheep. I, as usual, followed the wine and, also as usual, Jörg Pfützner with his travelling Riesling cellar provided.

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The Bucket ‘O Riesling

After drinking and eating steadily for an hour or so an auction was held where amongst other items a Nomblot concrete egg fermenter was sold for R40 000. But that’s not all, thrown in at no extra cost was 600 litres of Chenin donated by Eben and Adi. But more on that later, all I will say for now is watch out for the Silwer Vis.

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From this point things got a little wild and woolly. The Real men Wild Ferment walk around tasting began, although there was no word from the host Neil Pendock. Apparently the sound system had disappeared, a bit of a poor excuse I thought, but it did give him something to blog about.

I loped merrily from one stand to the next gulping wines with what some may have considered reckless abandon, but I just thumbed my nose at them and called them counterrevolutionary. A stand out was from a buddy of mine Bryan MacRobert (thus I am obviously biased) the Tobias Chenin. It stood out for its ludicrously mineral finish that made me think immediately of all the Rieslings I had just had. Another style of Chenin which I hope we will see more of.

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The day wore on as comfortably as a silk pair of drawers. Before I knew it the sun had disappeared along with the majority of attendees and I found myself performing interpretive dance to Florence and the Machine on top of hay-bales with Tessa Miles. This ended when I managed to fall arse-over-kettle-over-pot and landed rather heavily on the pavement; though I must add not a drop of wine was spilt.

The hangers on went for more dinner at Bar Bar Black sheep (this time the best T-bone this side of anywhere***). During dinner a couple sitting in the corner decided this was an appropriate time to get engaged. We all felt this was fitting and we joined in the celebrations loudly and vehemently. I trust we will make a story at their wedding.

Memories now become patchy. Some of us then kidnapped a waitress, a few bottles of Mullineux White and headed for a lookout point. Then a vineyard.

We all awoke in a car with a farmer shouting at us.

“Shir thish ish private property, you musht leave now.”

Groggily, “OK, but we were just having a kip.”

Opening his car door menacingly “Lishen hear, thish ish private property and you must go right now. Pleash sir, go now!”

“Ok but who do you sell your grapes to? Because we’re never buying it again.”

We then sped off back into town for a few breakfast G&T’s.

Being chased off a vineyard seemed the perfect punctuation mark to end the weekend. We revolted, felt revolting and revolted some more. We drank wines of substance, of personality; they were of the soil, from the heart and fresh as  daisies. We also made friends, companions in wine, lovers of complexity fine food and a helluva party.

As I made the long trek to Steenberg to pick up some 2005 Sauvignon Blanc for a old white wine tasting that Sunday afternoon, I reflected that this was the way of the future. Outside of the technical aspects of winemaking the Swartland Revolutionaries had made sure their weekend was fun, an aspect of wine drinking that is oft forgotten. They provided style in swathes and I will be back next year. Maybe it will not be a revolution then, but I can promise you one thing, on Sunday morning I’ll be feeling just as revolting.

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The egg

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A fair question Eben

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The Revolutionaries

 

*According to the HRH accommodation when you have no accomodation review.

**according to the HRH Restaurant Review – it is biased, and impossible, but more than likely true.

***According to the HRH T-bone review – Also biased and ridiculous, but probably true as well

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Drunk

In Vino Veritas: Die Ouwingerdreeks

In Vino Veritas. This hackneyed phrase was coined by my favourite of all the Elders, Pliny, and despite its overuse I could think of no better way to describe the Sadie Family Wines’ Ouwingerdreeks (Old Vine Series).

StyledBoxwebThe Ouwingerdreeks are a set of six wines produced from fruit grown in six of South Africa’s oldest vineyards. Some were probably planted before records of plantings started being kept in 1900, so the ages range from 45year old Cinsaut to 100+ year old Hanepoot vines. Winemaker Eben Sadie and Viticulturalist Rosa Kruger along with the farmers – the unspoken heroes of this story – on whose land the vines grow have banded together to produce not just vinous oddities or collector’s items, but wines of substance, importance and truth.

So I use Pliny the Elder’s phrase here not in the sense that when one gets pissed the truth comes out, but rather, that in these wines there lies truth.

This idea is not mine but Sadie’s, and it can only be understood once the importance of old vines is grasped.

In Europe, Sadie was exposed to very old vines. He said that they produced fruit that was already great. He wasn’t using ‘great’ as in, ‘that was a great lunch’. No, he was using it in the same way you’d say Einstein was a great thinker, Mandela a great statesman, Pliny the Elder a great writer of one liners, etc.

You see, as Sadie explained, vines can be compared to people. When young they can be a little all over the place, giving in to moments of excess, all vigour without control. As we perform in the inexorable play of time everything begins to slow down, mellow out, and we can move from hell-raiser to sage. Similarly, vines whose roots have reached the extent of their growth stop, according to Sadie, overdoing everything. They reach the Goldilocks’ Mean, where everything is just right. Voetpad-oldvine

It is incredible that these vineyards still exist, ungrafted and untainted by herbicides and chemicals. But how does one approach the task of making wine from these venerable vines? Sadie says it is about removing one’s self from the act as much as possible – you need to put your ambition aside and “let the vineyard project itself”.

The goal of these wines is to express the truth of the vineyards, and in this endeavour Sadie truly lives up to a label given to him by many: a poet. In Vino Veritas.

Sadie said one has to “settle with the truth of how it is made. We are working outside the realm of points, competitions and aroma wheels” and must just accept what the wine is because “the wine is truthful.”

This is a bold statement which cynics may see as an excuse for imperfect wines. But to be cynical about this project is like slapping your grandmother.

The wine making process here is a picture of simplicity. Juice from the grapes – crushed by feet and pressed in a small hand operated basket-press – is poured into a single old, clean barrel where it ferments by way of natural yeasts. 18-24 months later the wine is bottled. That’s it. Pretty much as they did it a hundred years ago. Sadie described the method as “historical, with today’s understanding. “

To taste these wines was a privilege. There is very little of it around: only 250 cases of the six will be available. For them to be poured so generously at the tasting and lunch was amazing. Thank you very much Sadie Family.

Here are the six wines we tasted.

image description The Skurfberg 2009 gets its name from the mountains on which three parcels of old bushvine Chenin grow. According to Sadie, each of the three parcels produces specific characteristics. The grapes from Basie Van Lill’s farm give freshness and brisk acidity to the wine, the parcel on Henk Laing’s land gives deep fruit concentration, and Jozua Visser’s provide minerality.

I found deep honeyed notes on the nose with rich peach and pear boiled sweets and some hints of a minerally seashore.  There was a marked intensity on the palate with luscious fruit undercut by a racy mineral core. A waxy finish rounds it out with refreshing acidity. The 14% alcohol was not overtly noticeable, and it paired well with the pickled seafood we had for lunch. It made me, a lover of Chenin, warm and fuzzy. Yet another expression of this remarkable grape.  image description

The Kokerboom 2009 is made from a vineyard of mixed red and white Semillon planted in the 1930s. The blend is about 70:30 white to red Semillon. I found some stinky sweaty aromas on the nose at first that faded to mingle with pineapple, and some green leafy notes. The acidity on the palate is bracing and cuts through the caressing creamy mid-palate. I would like to come back to this wine in a couple of years.

image description My favourite wine (and label) was the ‘T Voetpad 2009. It shares its name with Dirk Brand’s wheat and rooibos tea farm where the vines are located. The vineyard consists of Hanepoot planted around 1900, red and white Semillon from the 1920s, Palomino (normally associated with sherry) from 1978 and Chenin Blanc from 1991. Again, all of these vines are ungrafted and have seen no herbicides or chemicals. The wine is a field blend (except for the Hanepoot) and the grapes were picked, pressed and fermented together.

This wine had so much character that it was alive. On the nose the Chenin bursts through with honey, wheat, and according to my neighbour at the tasting “furry peach skin”. The wine was bright and rich. The abundant tropical flavours were pretty much bottled summer. Waxy and fresh with stony undertones, and a finish I can only describe as cheeky. I absolutely loved this wine. It was a swinging, dancing, smiling wine (with dimples) skipping through a field in a summer dress.

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I remember when I first started going to tastings and learning about wine and hearing about this Chenin Blanc made from really old bush vines. It sold for around R800. I was determined to taste it. Since then I have been lucky enough to taste all four vintages of Mev. Kirstens – it seems those late night sacrifices to Bacchus have paid off. The 2009 seems the most refined of the four, although this one is still as toight as a toiger. The vines were planted in the 1920s on decomposed granite in the Jonkershoek Valley, and regarded as the oldest chenin planting in the country. To my delight the owner of the vines, Mev. Kirstens, was in attendance, and the deserved applause she was given showed a side of our wine industry that I hope more people will experience.

The nose showed orange blossoms, pine needles, and just turned butter. The palate had searing (in a good way) acidity, zippy and bouncy with some litchi and pears. The wine seems to have been refined over the years, and has gone from very oxidative to fresh with some oxidative notes, to its current state of sheer deliciousness, which I believe will increase for years to come.

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The one red of the set is the Pofadder 2009 a 100% Cinsaut from 45year old vines on the Riebeek Mountain in the Swartland. After harvest the grapes were sorted to avoid over and under ripe fruit, after which the whole bunches were put in an old wooden open-top fermenter. Daily foot-powered punch downs released the juice for fermentation. After a month’s skin contact the grapes were pressed in a small basket-press straight into an old wooden cask. After about a year the wine was bottled.

The wine was full of fruit, with a perfumed nose of cherries, mulberries and violets. It was bright, joyous and very juicy. There was a rustic quality to it that I liked, maybe not as complex as the whites – Eben mentioned at one point that the Cape is a land for white wines not red – but satisfying and provided much interest.

image description Finally there was the Eselhoek 2009 a sweet hanepoot made from the grapes in the ‘T Voetpad vineyard. It seems the vineyard is susceptible to becoming a buffet for birds, and who could blame them. “Some 100yr old Hanepoot grapes, don’t mind if I do.” *Swoop* *pluck* onomnomnom.

To avoid this avian dining the grapes were picked very early. As the sugar levels still needed to be increased, the grapes were hung under shade nets for three weeks. Then the shrivelled sweet grapes were pressed, resulting in a 90% reduction in original volume. This all ended up producing a wine with 285 grams of residual sugar per litre, 11.5% alcohol, and a crapload deliciousness.

This is the unctuous taste of South Africa. Notes of almonds, and apricots and naartjies. The palate was rich and I thought of koeksisters on the stoep with black tea. Dusty roads. Hot dry summer nights. Sweet and fresh.

I was satisfied after the tasting, but there was still the lunch put on for us by my favourite restaurant, Bar Bar Black Sheep. I’m not going to go into detail, but the skaapnek en waterblommetjiebredie was as honest and tasty as anything I’ve eaten in awhile.

Again I must acknowledge the privilege granted to me to taste these wines, and to again stress the importance of this project. At the end of the tasting Eben said that we have many old vines in this country, yet about 80% of the fruit ends up in big commercial blends. A sad situation. But thankfully there are farmers willing to keep these incredibly low yielding vineyards, and people like Rosa Kruger and Eben Sadie to make wines from them.

A note on the labels: The labels were produced by South African Artist William Kentridge. Kentridge was introduced to Sadie by wine writer Tim James, and these labels were produced after a visit to all the vineyards. An interesting fact about the pieces is that they were produced on pages of old ledgers on which sales of “intoxicating liquor” were recorded years ago. I think they are labels fitting for what are living documents of South African history.

Drunk, Visited

Plenty wine, plenty food, yet not a single olive

I must apologise for the lack of posts recently. You see I am in the midst of a two-week stint working nights. This I thought would free up my time during the day to blog, taste wine and sort out admin. But in reality it has simply meant, sleeping in, lazy breakfasts, reading and long lunches. I did manage a haircut though.

Well whatever, I am back this week and I have a couple of things planned. There is a little mission back into the rolling dusty hills of the Swartland to visit Adi Badenhorst to find out about the smallest co-op in the country. I will be doing a  ‘Zulu’ wine video tasting with Allister from Under the Influence. There is also a Marimba Rick-Roll on Saturday, but more on that later.

A busy week, and all of this amongst serving platters of steaming Kudu, Warthog, Springbok and crocodile to hordes of tourists. Those foreigners love their game meat. Especially the Germans, who only love tall painted up prostitutes more. pretty town

To start the week off, however, a quick report back form this weekend’s Olive festival. Although I could only make the Sunday my plan was still to and eat and drink until I fell asleep. I think I can award myself a first for this assignment.

It started off in style as I forged my way through the throngs of fat leather clad bikers to get to Mullineux Family Wines. Nicola Tipping, Mullineux’s new sales and marketing lady/person/head honcho/whatever was pouring the wines, and started me off on the 2008 White Blend. It is made up of 82% Chenin, and equal parts Clairette Blanche, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. It was a little warm and extremely tight, but I found the flowing waxiness and peachiness intriguing.  A serious wine. The 2008 Syrah was big but restrained, showing some characteristic Swartland dustiness with spice, black pepper and a silky mouthfeel. Hands down the best Syrah I’ve had in ages. But the straw wine took the cake, the candle, the knife and the little girl in her frilly party dress. Oh dear lord it is good. After pestering MulblogNicola for a glass – it wasn’t put for public tasting yet I spied an open bottle on the bookshelf – I wandered around  letting the layers of dried apricots, oranges, marzipan with a touch of spice, and slight honeyed flavours drift over my palate. The acidity is exceptional and leaves your palate refreshed with the flavours going on forever. Superb. 5678pts on the patented 5723 point scale.

The value range consists of a Chenin and a red blend with the Chenin over delivering on quality as usual, although I am not too sure about the label.

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With good value Swartland Chenin on my mind I broke out the big glass and ambled off to find Adi and get a bit of his Secateurs Chenin in me before tasting drinking his two top end, kickass wines.

adibl Overexcited, I have two glasses on the go at once.

After guzzling the minerally but meaty red blend and arguing as to why I should get a couple cases  of the Secetuers Chenin for the restaurant (Adi somehow remembers me complaining about bottle shock the first time I tasted it, and reckons I should wait for the 2010 version) it was time to buy some wine.

The Wine Collective (the blue building above) sells all area’s wines. So you will find the Mullineux wines, the Badenhorst’s, the Sadie’s, Lammershoek, Annexkloof, Babylon’s Peak as well as a few local eccentricities like the El Presidente 2008 a red blend made by the owners of the shop.

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The Wine Collective. I am wondering how many more bottles I can fit in my backpack.

Then it was lunch. There was an Afrikaans Balkan band (seriously) kicking it down outside Bar Bar Black Sheep and we had a quick drink while we waited for our table.

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I found our table.

I had an incredible garlic and onion soup with gorgonzola to start and then Swartland Skaap Nek Bredie – slow cooked lamb neck with bay leaves, tomato, coriander, orange juice and rind and finished with black olives. It was as good as it sounds. We drank the restaurant’s own Chenin the Santa Cecelia and a bottle of the Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2008.

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The house wine showing off wearing my glasses

Rolling out of the restaurant we watched the Boere Balkan band for a little before heading back home.

band Kicking it in the Black Sheep’s court-yard.

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Yeah!

And again for the second year in a row I realised that I attended the Olive festival and forgot to eat any olives. Do I care? Not in the slightest. Grapes are better than olives anyway.

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Sod the olives I’m eating at BBS

OK here is a quick heads up for all of you. If you are not aware that the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival is happening from April 30 till May 2 then you probably dwell under a rock. Riebeek Kasteel has to be one of the prettiest dorpies in the country. BBBS PICS669d9ab61c9f0f3

Would I lie?

Now the heads up isn’t about the Olive Festival, but rather a peek at what my favourite restaurant will be serving. Bar Bar Black Sheep is always packed over this weekend so be smart – like me (OK not really like me, more like my girlfriend’s friend) – and book a table now. I think I am going to ignore the whole festival and just sit and eat all day long. Seriously, all the pushing and shoving as the masses fight for olives is not for me. You will find me with some Sequillo 2009 – I have recently tasted this vintage and it is achingly good – relaxing in the courtyard whilst eating everything on the menu.

outside1 Harry’s HQ for the Olive Festival

Now get a napkin ready, you’re going to start drooling.

Olive Festival Menu

Tapas

Green and Black Olives R22

Patatas Bravas R24

Pan fried Chorizo’s with onion and red wine R26

Slices of Serano Ham R28

Marinated Calamari Tentacles R30

Sardines stuffed with roasted onion and chilli wrapped in pickled vine leaves R32

Onion and Garlic Soup

Onion and garlic slow cooked in butter added to home made chicken stock and reduced with white wine.  Warmed with a shot of brandy and served with a creamy roasted Gorgonzola toast R38

Grilled  and Marinated Artichoke Salad

Artichoke hearts grilled and marinated in olive oil, garlic, coarse salt and rosemary served on top of greens with black and green olives with a chopped parsley and lemon rind dressing R48

Viskoekies

Very traditional and made with snoek, pan fried and baked in the oven.

Served with ginger and cinnamon sweet potato and a pineapple and coriander sambal R68

Roasted Tomato and Olive Risotto

Creamy Risotto warmed with roasted  tomato and olive sauce. Served with whole roasted tomato, basil pesto and parmesan R72

Persian Chicken

Oak smoked chicken breasts pan fried with peppers, grapes, figs, masala, chili, paprika and cooked off with coconut milk.

Served on top of cumin flat bread with thick greek yoghurt and dried pomegranates R84

Swartland Skaap Nek Bredie

Lamb neck slow cooked with wine, bay leaves, tomato, coriander, orange juice and rind and finished with black olives.

Served with ‘stampkoring’ R92

Dessert

Old Cape Brandy Pudding with Ice Cream and Butterscotch Sauce

Koeksisters with Amarula whipped Cream

Affogatto! Double espresso with Grappa and Ice Cream

I just read that and dribbled on myself. Also the wine list is fun an locally sourced. Check it out on their website. To make a booking, which I strongly advise you do (unless you are rude, obnoxious or stupid then please stay at home) call the restaurant on 022 448 1031 or if you are into facebook become a fan here

I am not getting paid, or receiving free shit for this, I am just making your lives better by giving sage advice. BBS is relaxed and fun with honest, real food and the superb wines of the Swartland to accompany it all. What more do you want?

Drunk, Visited

Some advice on how to have a weekend that will give you a perma-grin.

It was my birthday this weekend and I would like to share some of the ways I celebrated which gave me a grin that would of made the Cheshire Cat look like he was frowning. Please follow these 11 steps to find weekend contentment:

1. Have a leisurely glass of bubbly after work on a Friday to let the traffic dissipate.

2. Drive up to Stellenbosch and have dinner at Terroir Restaurant at Kleine Zalze. I suggest getting a bottle of Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite 2008, my favourite South African  Chenin. I had last tasted it about 8 months ago, and it is getting better. There is a TerroirStellenboschPic1 lovely roundness to the palate, rich yet fine and pure, the oaking is, for me, judged to perfection. It is complex, delicate, slightly chalky with that fantastic straw-like character I love in Chenin. It paired with the Confit duck perfectly. The acidity keeps everything tidy and the finish is longer than a Rapunzellian follicle.

3. Find a place to stay in Stellenbsch to make the most of your Saturday. We stayed at a back packers called Banghoek Place, a lovely setup, clean with excellent facilities.

4. Have a lazy breakfast on a shady tree lined avenue somewhere in Stellenbosch. We chose ‘something-or-other” @ The Culinary Institute; it was pretty poor  which is probably why I can’t remember the name. The espressos were americanos in small cups, and the bacon I ordered with my scrambled eggs turned into salmon. The waiter also lacked a sense of humour; when I mentioned that I thought the bacon a little fishy, he said it wasn’t bacon but salmon. It was too nice a day to complain.

5. Pop by the Stellenbosch Fresh Goods Market for a few glasses of bubbly and couple oysters; it was too hot for us to do anything else. Get some nougat from the lady who sells the bubbly for later.

6. Then slowly make your way to Riebeek Kasteel visiting some farms on the way; we only stopped at Hartenberg as the pool at our next guesthouse was calling. Hartenberg makes excellent wines, but they need a bit of time to develop true interest I think. The Eleanor 2008 Chardonnay was my favourite, despite it still being quite tight; it felt angular and jaunty, as if it was wearing its had slightly askew.

v 003 7. Lounge about the pool, sipping Chenin and maybe take a nap. Now, you have to make sure you book a place that has a pool. Very important. We stayed in Hermon, just down the road from Riebeek Kasteel, at a place called Hermon Guest House, but also Vark v 002Paleis. Great  name, but I didn’t see a single pig while we were there. Check out the awesome Hermon wit in the second pic. No, not me the “hoggs and kisses” bit.

8. Have a few G & T’s on the veranda of the Royal Hotel as the sun sets and you lazily kill time waiting for dinner.

veranda

Yes thanks, I’ll have the longest G&T this side of the equator, with lime not lemon.

9. Find your table at Bar Bar Black Sheep, my favourite restaurant in and around Cape Town. Rustic and flavourful. The dish that had me almost crying with delight was the lamb heart; take my advice and order it if you can. It was lovingly prepared over 6 hours with ginger, cinnamon and I can’t remember what else other than I almost ordered it again for dessert. bar-bar-black-sheepTo drink there was the Santa Cecelia Chenin Blanc 2008, this barrel fermented Chenin was made by the owners. You gotta love the gargiste vibe. It might have been a touch flabby, but I enjoyed the crisp green apple that came through just under the oak. It paired up well with the Snoek fish cakes, sweet potato relish and pineapple salsa. With my fillet I had some Lammershoek Roulette Rouge 2006 which is a taught dusty little sour cherry of a wine, have enjoyed every bottle I have had, which is quite a few.

You can also check out Bar Bar’s Facebook page here

10. Retire back to your guesthouse, and partake in a midnight swim with a last glass of wine (Eikboom Chenin, not bad for R30, but not great in general).

11. Buy the Sunday papers and peruse them over a big fry up. Take a last dip in the pool before heading back to Cape Town for a couple G & T’s watching the sun set.

I promise if you follow my example your weekends will improve.