Exploring, Visited

Publik Wine Bar


Wine bars in Cape Town are scarcer than a gold hen’s tooth. And when you do find one, you realise it’s not a hen’s tooth at all, just a shitty piece of yellow dirt. Caveau? hah. Harold’s? Please. Oblivion? Pull the other one. ‘Wine-bar’ in Cape Town is something to add to the title of your restaurant to make it sound better. It is an empty, hollow phrase. As long as I have a few glasses and a couple of boxes of Overmeer, I can happily change my name from “Harry’s Bistro” to “Harry’s Bistro and Wine Bar”. Continue reading “Publik Wine Bar”


Live Blogging of The Alphabetical

OK, so this is the second of these that I have done. The first time I did it was simply because I was in the same place as an open bottle of wine and my laptop. This time it was premeditated and I like it less.

The reason I did it was because in the original instance the wine I tasted was The Hedonist. Now I use the method to taste another wine by the same entrepreneurial wine/beer/food guys, Simon Wibberly and David Cope. I am not going to go into detail about them as they will form part of an article I am writing on backdoor winemakers (I made that term up, I hate the word garagiste, it reminds me of Derelicte) so for now I will just let you read the unedited ‘live’ blog.

I have arrived at &Union to taste the Alphabetical ‘Live”. It is only live because I am going to type as I taste, rather than taste now type later. I will keep my editing to a minimum and basically see if I got this wine wrong the last time I tasted it.

Also, I have ordered a bacon and cheese sandwich.

Here we go first sniff. Simon produced the bottle a few minutes ago and poured me a glass so it has been standing for a couple minutes.

No wait, hold on.

Shit, bacon and cheese arrived. Going to go there first.

Bacon sarnie is a cracker.  Back to the wine. [by the way, I was at &Union for this, and I suggest you go there try this wine for yourself and get a Bacon and Cheese Sandwich

On the nose Red fruit. But wait, this is a little tricky as the last time I tasted this I remembered thinking about volatility, so now this is at the forefront of my mind. Need to get past this. Red, cherry fruit starts then a bitter finish with an abrasive middle palate seems to get in the way.

Nose again. A little strawberry action and I’ll give some sour cherry, but this abrasive finish is still hard to get around.

Was really hoping for this to be different from what I remembered. I preferred The Hedonist.

It sucks when you know someone who makes a wine that you do not like. Honesty must prevail.

Ok so I was wrong about the VA thing. And Simon has assured me that it didn’t show up in any considerable amount on the analysis. So I was wrong there. But still. The  fruit obscured by harsh acidity and some heat. Not fresh. But you feel it could and samn well should be.  I have the feeling that there thre is more of a wine behind this prickly business. It is why I keep using the word obscured.

Nearly finished first glass. Some chocolate now. Dark, but with a good proportion of milk. Slightly toasty. Improving slightly, but the finish is literally leavingme with a bitter taste in my mouth.

Been chatting to simon for a bit and the wine has been drunk as we spoke.

It has opened up. More cab coming through. Cassis. The evolution has been from lighter to darker fruit which is interesting. From syrah to cab I guess. The tannin in the cab are now slightly coming through that prickly acidity business that I can’t really work out.

Definitely not volatile, just prickly.

Rudi cronje has joined us. He says, “ why aren’t we drinking this in two years.”

A fair question.

Ok, now on to food and wine.

Chalmar beef. Coppa ham.

Spice and spice don’t go so well, but I like it with the coppa ham. A balanced pairing.

As ghe wine has been in the glass there has been a move from syrah to Bordeaux. But the pricklynewss remains although not as much. The tannins are beginning to make themselves known. You can kind of get that cab structure coming through.

I haven’t been convinced. But I have definitely been cheered.

OK, now you can see why I don’t really like this. It is a vomit of half formed opinions, thoughts, without even the slightest hint of conclusion. Ah, life.

So now I come with the tissue of hindsight and try mop up the vomit. Briefly.

There are three important things that I got out of sharing a bottle of wine with Simon. The first one is obvious, sharing a bottle of wine with such an affable and sound chap is always a pleasure.

The second was a sort of freedom. It was kind of liberating to stand with someone who was intimately involved in making a wine (for David and Simon this wine represents much travail) and tell them that I didn’t really care for it.

That might sound cruel, but it isn’t. So much of the time when winemakers are around, or owners of wineries you hear “mmm, lovely”, “good fruit, good value” but hardly ever: “gosh, this is unbalanced.” or “This thing needs a label, it is nearly flammable.”

I didn’t have a go at Simon about his wine, I simply told what was bothering me about it. It was a level headed discussion about the wine that naturally evolved into one about wine in general, and then, well, we had a beer or two. This is how it should work.

And at the end of the day I don’t think they are too worried as sommeliers, the public (at least 4 or 5 came up and told Simon how they enjoyed the wine) and, it seems, nearly everyone but me who tastes it, loves it. Which is great. Not just great, fantastic.

It is fantastic because this is just the sought of wine more people should be drinking, because I think The Alphabet is an interesting wine. Whether I like it or not is not important, you might; and you would be drinking a far more interesting wine than you could get at the supermarket for the same price.

I think some more time in the bottle will improve this wine, and hopefully make me look rather silly. I will put away some bottles to put this to the test.

Have you tasted it? What did you think?

[PS. I promise not to do any more of these silly live blogging things. Or, at least until Simon and Dave bring out a new wine. Also, after the interview and the article is out I will write a proper post about this wine and the men behind it]

Drunk, General

Bits and pieces

Not enough wine I say. Unfortunately that has been the case recently. Well, that it is not altogether true. There has been wine, just none of great interest. No, there has been one, a Rose from R. Lopez de Heredia. It is a current release from the 2000 vintage. 2000. I know. And it was quite easily the craziest ass rose I have ever tasted. It was still bright and fresh, also very serious, with structure and weight. It was Rioja in silk pajamas. Close your eyes and you wouldn’t know it was a rose. An astonishing wine that made me remember why I love this vinous life.

Apparently life is too short to drink bad wine. A load of baloney. Life is simply too short. For everything. Bad wine is a generally a right of passage, a little town we pass through on our way to wines of stature, elegance and ludicrosity. Sometimes you get stuck in this little Village of plonk, either because wine is simply another liquid to imbibe or  because financial constraints limit you to the cheaper end of the supermarket shelf. A shame indeed, but it happens.

A greater crime, assault with grievous bodily harm, is the making and consuming of boring wine. At least I can moan and shout and wax lyrical about shitty wines, but those stuck on the plateau of the ordinary, wines that are nice, that are just OK, wines that inspire neither rapture nor revulsion are the true villains here. And this, dear reader, is what I have unfortunately been subjecting myself to recently, and as a result this blog as been on the quiet side.

Later today I will be trying a new wine: from the produces of The Hedonist, comes a new vinous escapade that has twitter in a flutter, and the blogosphere all a titter. It is Simon Wibberly and David Cope’s new wine The Alphabetical. I have had a glass, and must admit it did not move me; I couldn’t get past the volatile acidity. But then I was a little worse for wear by the time we opened it and I might of mistaken me having no palate left after the 100th cigarette, for VA. We shall see. This afternoon I will be ‘live’ blogging a bottle of it from & Union.

I have become far more sensitive to VA after I tried a little test I learnt online. Here is the idea:

Wine is basically one stage in the conversion of fruit juice to vinegar.  Put simply, fruit juice is converted to wine (alcohol) by the action of yeast cells, and wine (alcohol) is converted to vinegar (acetic acid) by the action of acetobacter in the presence of oxygen.  Acetobacter is spread by fruit flies, one species of which (drosphila melanogaster) is the same one that is used to teach high school biology students the basics of genetics.

While all wine has some amount of acetic acid, a good wine has an amount that is below the threshold of our ability to detect it by itself.  A bad wine has an amount that is detectable by almost anyone.

You can try this at home yourselves. Take two glasses of the same wine, cover one and leave the other exposed to the elements. After a few minutes uncover the one  glass and give it a good sniff and slurp, repeat with the fly tainted wine and you will now have a very good idea as to what VA is.

Give it a go. You will learn something.

There has also been a lack of posts here due to my 12-day sojourn in Oudtshoorn for the Absa KKNK. This really deserves a post of its own. There were sokkie treffers, more pouting Afrikaans young men on posters than you could imagine, rooster brood on every corner, Kaapse Klopse, the karoo, a drag show, I showed up in drag, plays in the desert, a 3m thumb, more sokkie treffers, back track friends, Smokie (or at least brand Smokie), more sokkie treffers, a foaming fountain, a Dj named Choppa, interpretive dance, and more sokkie treffers.

We also sold some wine.

All in good time my friends, all in good time.

I will see you later for The Alphabetical.