Despite a hugely challenging year for the wine industry due to the drought, CapeWine 2018 is an impressive showcase of optimism, friendliness, and proudly South Africaness, running at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until tomorrow. I attended yesterday, with my Parisian friend Aurelié Jullien, and we were both impressed with the magnitude and professionalism of the exhibition, held every three years, and attended by the local and international wine trade. Continue reading →
Last night I returned from the Hermanus FynArts Festival, having spent six days of the Festival ten-day period enjoying a feast of a fine Festival! I have experienced Festivals in my time, but never for so long a period, and none so extensive in content as the Hermanus FynArts Festival. I cannot wait for the 2017 Festival, to be held from 9 to 18 June 2017! Continue reading →
The first event I attended of the Hermanus FynArts Festival on Monday evening was the Festival Gala Dinner, being a highlight in that I was able to attend it, and in meeting Benguela Cove owner Penny Streeter! The Festival is a jam-packed celebration of art, food, music, and culture, running over a ten day period! Continue reading →
For the fourth year Hermanus FynArts is showcasing and celebrating the best of South African Arts, from 10 – 19 June. The theme of the Festival this year is ‘French Connection’. Continue reading →
On Wednesday evening I attended a special tasting of the wines of Bouchard Finlayson, a Boutique Vineyard according to its marketing material, at the invitation of Janie van der Spuy of FIVE STAR PR. It was held in the special function room upstairs at Mondiall, with Chef Oliver Cattermole and his team preparing excellent tapas dishes which were paired with the four flights of wines we tasted.
I have to admit that I have not previously stopped at Bouchard Finlayson on the R320 Wine Route in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in Hermanus, it being the longest standing wine farm in the area. I was fortunate to sit next to Peter Finlayson, who has been at the farm for 25 years. He studied Oenology (Chemistry was a tough subject, but he is grateful for the grounding it gave him for winemaking) at Stellenbosch University, which he followed up with a year at Geisenheim in Germany. Of his class of nine graduating in 1974, only two have become winemakers. Peter previously worked at Boschendal. Only 22 ha of the 125 ha farm is planted to vine, Peter having bought it in 1989 from a farmer who farmed with ‘mielies, sheep, and baboons‘, Peter said, at a time when the locals said that the valley was only suitable ‘for farming by poor Whites’! The baboons are still there, he told me with a laugh! The remainder of the land is covered with fynbos, and Bouchard Finlayson is committed to conserving and adding fynbos, and they joined the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. Peter was the first winemaker to import Nebbiolo and Sangiovese vines, planting them in 1994. His real achievement has been with Pinot Noir, known as the ‘Pioneer of Pinot Noir’, and now the whole valley is synonymous with the varietal. Galpin Peak Pinot Noir is the flagship Bouchard Finlayson wine. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also do exceptionally well in the valley. Continue reading →
I last visited Creation more than two years ago, when I wrote a story about the Hermanus Wine Route, which had been launched in 2011. Since then a number of changes have taken place, new chef Warwick Taylor offering even more heavenly food to match the heavenly Creation wines, living up to promise made in the Tasting Menu heading: ‘Original, distinctive flavours. Exceptional, harmonious matches’!
The road to travel to Creation was never in great condition, having been a gravel road 7 km before the entrance to the wine estate. They were very excited when the Western Cape province announced the tarring of the road to Caledon, and 3 km of the untarred section had been tarred when the construction contractor went bankrupt, a huge frustration for Creation. A number of months have gone by while the province appointed a new contractor, and work has finally commenced again, it taking ten months for the road to be completed, owner JC Martin estimated. The road currently is in a worse condition than it was on our last visit, in terms of its surface, with more accidents on the road, and having a stop/go system in place. Co-owner Carolyn Martin said she is placing pressure on the Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works Robin Carlisle to get things moving. Creation will have to possibly change its entrance once the tarring is complete. Despite the poor condition of the road, it was a surprise to see the car park at Creation completely full, Carolyn’s marketing of their wines and the Tasting Room being so excellent that tourists as well as Johannesburg and Pretoria locals come anyway.
I thought I had arrived without being recognised, but Carolyn had seen me (I was sitting with my back to the desk) and she called JC to come and say hello. JC was busy in the cellar with the preparation for the start of the harvest the following day, but made time to chat, reflecting how good they are in connecting with their customers (we stock their Whale Pod range) and visitors. JC said that the harvest is only 3 – 4 days later than last year after the wet winter, and that they have some botrytis, which his staff is picking out. He expected the harvest to take a little longer this year, being 3 – 4 weeks, depending on the weather. He shook his head, almost in disbelief, Continue reading →
The function moved to different venues inside the hotel, a welcome glass of Balance Boldly Brut being served with a canapé of samoosa filled with crocodile (luckily we were not told what was inside when it was served!), bacon, and green apple on an Asian spoon, in Sandy B, the downstairs bar.
The tasting was held in the downstairs Bistro, with an introduction of Overhex Wines International by co-owner and MD Gerhard van der Wath. The company was established seven years ago, and he got Swiss winemaker JC Martin, co-owner of Creation and son-in-law of highly respected winemaker Walter Finlayson, on board as winemaker. JC and Gerhard recently bought out the other partners, and JC makes his own Creation wines as well as blending the Balance wines. The company is one of the top 20 exporters of South African wines. Their strategy is to be different, Gerhard said, which shows in their fun label of an elephant balancing on the letter ‘l’! They develop different styles of wines for different markets. All the grapes are bought in for their wine production, a total of 10000 tons. He shared that they have won the largest number of wine tenders in Finland in the past Continue reading →
* Creative Week Cape Town forms part of the Loerie Awards being held from 14 – 22 September, with a range of ‘crowd-sourced’ events on offer at no charge. Cape Town will be turned ‘inside out’ , offering film, yoga, night time bicycle rides to street art installation, artist’s tours and talks, gatherings, poetry,and public space pop-ups. (received via media release from Rabbit in a Hat)
The Thai Embassy invited a number of wine and food writers to attend an evening of celebrating Thai Gourmet food on Friday evening, and we were spoilt with an authentic Thai dinner using authentic Thai ingredients. The Embassy’s Department of International Trade Promotion announced that local restaurants that serve authentic Thai food will be identified with ‘Thai Select’ and ‘Thai Premium’ signs, to confirm their Thai authenticity.
The function was held at Bree Street Studios, in a building which has its numbering on Bree Street, but its front entrance is on a parallel street, causing some confusion on arrival. The view from the top floor onto Table Mountain and the city, on a perfect summer day, was magnificent, and this is where we met for a chilli cocktail. I had a long chat to Master of Ceremonies Pete Goffe-Wood about season 2 of MasterChef SA, for which the first auditions have commenced. The hot auditions are likely to take place in Johannesburg in December already, he said, and all the sponsors and judges are the same as for season 1. The use of the Nederburg kitchen built for the reality TV series has not yet been confirmed. An Indaba between the producers and judges was held recently, and improvements discussed. As the number of episodes will be doubling, the cooking challenges and Pressure Tests following will be split over two episodes per week, to allow more time per dish prepared. Pete was surprisingly not wearing his chef’s uniform, but looked smart and trim in black, with a quirky hat. There were some lost in translation moments during the evening, and Chef Pete did his diplomatic best to contain his reaction to the numerous Thai dances. The building had an impressive retractable roof, so we sat under the stars for a while, until the weather changed and the mist rolled in. There do not appear to be dedicated kitchen facilities in the venue, so it appeared challenging for the chefs to prepare the food for the guests, and to bring them all out at the same time per table, even though our orders were taken by e-mail prior to the function, and on the evening too.
Chef Pete explained that the Thai food we see in South Africa in the main is ‘street food’, and is not authentic fine-dining food, which is more hidden, also in Thailand. Thai food is complex, with up to 20 ingredients, compared to South African food, with three to four ingredients, said Chef Pete. Despite its complexity, Thai food has balance, always having sour, sweet, salt, and bitter elements. Dr Chakarin Komolsiri, the Commercial Minister of the Thai Embassy, said that Thai food is historical cuisine, unaffected by that of other countries, as Thailand has never been occupied by another country. Thailand is proud of its abundance, being the largest exporter of rice, frozen shrimps, chicken, pineapples, and more.
The Ambassador to Thailand, Mr Nonsiri Buranasiri, said that Thailand receives 20 million tourists per year, coming for three reasons in the main – the friendly Thai people, the beautiful beaches, and the Thai food. Thai hospitality is expressed though food, visitors to one’s home being asked if they have eaten, with an offer of food. There are hundreds of Thai restaurants in South Africa, he said, but the embassy hand-picked the best in Cape Town to prepare the meal, being Kitima at the Kronendal, Wang Thai, Yindee’s Restaurant, Tom Yum Restaurant, and Sawadee. Chef Kent Arnon of Kitima was described as one of the best chefs in Thailand, having recently received the ‘Iron Chef’ award. Chef Pete explained that Thai people used to eat their food with their hands, but that they now use cutlery, one eating with a spoon in the main, the knife being used to push the food onto the spoon. Each dish on the menu, catering for vegetarians too per course, was paired with a different Nitida or Creation wine. Chef Pete said that the complexity of the Thai food makes pairing more complex. Carolyn Martin of Creation disagreed via Twitter, writing that the pairing ‘is not so complicated it’s very different concept to western pairing’. Jacus Marais from Nitida said that the South African gesture of hospitality is to offer one’s guests a glass of wine.
The wine pouring and pairing to the ordered dishes did not work well at all, the hired waitron staff seeming very willing to pour, but not getting to each guest, and having no knowledge of the wines they were pouring. The starter I had chosen was Khanom Buang, being chopped seasoned shrimp and grated coconut wrapped in a traditional Thai crepe, served with bean sprouts and a Thai cucumber atchar, which was paired with Nitida Semillon 2011. It was prepared by Wang Thai. The Tom Yum Goong soup with prawns, mushrooms, lemon grass, and coconut milk was very strongly spiced, and had been prepared by Chef Pon of Sawadee. It was paired with Creation Chardonnay 2011.
Chef Kent from Kitima did a demonstration of a chicken soup, made in two colours, and this was served around the room, for each guest to taste a teaspoonful. Chef Kent had an enviable collection of titanium blade Kai Shun knives, Chef Pete saying that they are so excellent that they cost the price of a small car. Chef Kent is a gracious person, and came over to say hello at the end of the evening, remembering my visit to Kitima when I had been invited there by his regular guests Katie and Jonny Friedman of Orphanage. The owner Kitima also was present at the dinner. Kitima was named the Eat Out Best Asian Restaurant in South Africa last year.
The lemon sorbet palate cleanser was a refreshing break from the tasting. My main course choice of Gaeng Ka Ree Nong Ped, duck leg slow cooked in coconut milk with yellow curry paste, and served with potato, tomato and spring onion, was beautifully decorated but a disappointment, being tough and definitely needed the sole knife to cut it with. The restricted kitchen facilities must have been the reason. The dish was prepared by Chef Kent of Kitima, and it was paired with Creation Pinot Noir 2011. For dessert we were served two cheesecakes, one being made with mango, and the other with dates and mascarpone, as well as a refreshing Tropical yoghurt ice cream, which was paired with Nitida’s Madjodji Semillon Noble Late Harvest 2011.
A most interesting evening came to an end with Thai dancing. We all learnt about Thai culture, their extreme eagerness to please and friendliness, and their love for food and its preparation. The lighting was unfortunately not conducive to good photography. The promised cook-off between South African and Thai chefs and the demonstration of vegetable art, included in the program received, did not take place.
Disclosure: We each received a goodie bag with a bottle of Nitida Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and some Thai ingredients.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage