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]


A ‘live’ tasting from yesterday.

OK, so not quite live, but as close as I can manage. Here is why. I saw that Jamie Who (easily my favourite SA food blog) posted a about Hedonist 2008; a Syrah, Grenache, Carignon, and Viognier blend grown and made in the Swartland. Now I’m a sucker for wines made in this area, and especially these type of blends, so when I read his post and realised I had an hour and a half to kill before a killer Chenin tasting at Carolines I thought I’d pop down to &Union and give it another go (I had a quick taste a little while ago – all I remember is that I liked it).

*Sort of live tasting begins*

hedonist So as I type this I am sitting outside &Union with a freshly opened bottle. It is definitely too warm at the moment. I know that &Union is primarily a beer spot, but their red wines are always pretty darn warm. No worries though, just chucked it in a wine bucket.

First Impressions: It has a bright dark cherry red that appears quite dense, the label says that is hasn’t been filtered, so that probably adds to the depth in colour. The nose at the moment is quite fresh with a juicy dark cherry character. The nose also has, what I can only describe as watery edge to it; it’s like I am smelling a grown up squeezy juice –  like those red and green concentrate juices not the smell of them, but the texture of their smell.  I’m also picking up a dustiness that I associate with Swartland reds.

The palate is a sour cherry bomb, fresh and bouncy. The alcohol is showing a little too much at the moment, but I am going to attribute that to the temp.

Nose is now giving a meaty edge , like cherries dipped in bacon infused water. (remember this is ‘live’ so I am just typing as I taste )

This isn’t the longest staying wine I have ever had, more of a an Mbeki than a Mugabe.

Friend who has joined me (Gentleman Rawlinson) has added it smells like “American cool-aid powder”. Which for me is a cherry sherbet aroma. Not sweet though.

OK, so optimum temperature has been reached. Getting a lovely earthiness, like beetroot on a red dusty road. The nose is developing with a bit of cheesiness, feta perhaps.

I am enthused by the majority of this wine, it’s nose is very expressive and reminds me of many other Swartland wines I have had. The rustic, savoury, dusty part especially excites me.

However the finish is slightly disappointing. It has got a little longer, but still pulls up a little short. The tannins are grainy and quite assertive, and coupled with the acidity (fresh and bright) I feel the youthfulness of the wine makes it rowdy instead of composed.

Overall this is a wine with character, but also some flaws. The complexity is short lived and as we drank this wine over an hour I found it peak and drop. For the R120 you that you can get it to take away it’s not bad at all. I think it is in the same league as the Lammershoek Roulette Rouge 2007. The Lammershoek comes across as quite polished, whereas the Hedonist offers fleeting moments of complexity without the finesse.

This wine is a bush baby who likes the sun and still wants a bow tie. Probably won’t get the tie, but has enough sparkle and fresh faced prettiness to make sure it gets invited to all the parties. I’d take it out on a date, but would not be surprised if I was left for an Italian model on a Vespa half-way through.  Which would be fine because they would crash at the first corner.

*So concludes my first ‘live’ tasting*


I have just reread this and I’m about to post it. There were some glaring errors that I have fixed, but most of the others I have left because the point was to type as I tasted. A bit all over the place, but quite fun.

For any flaws I found in the wine – I can remember thinking it wasn’t completely balanced, like a fat kid and a skinny one  on a see-saw –  I couldn’t care, this is a wine full of character and it is wines like these we need to be supporting.