On Friday a number of writers was invited by De Kock Communications to attend a tasting of Monis sherries, muscadel, and port, on behalf of its client Cape Legends, the Fine Wine Division in Distell. The fortified wine tasting was conducted at the newly opened The Odyssey, previously the French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, and demonstrated the versatility of the fortified wines in their pairing with foods, and in the use of cocktails.
Marketing Director Ross Sleet (below right) said that sherry is making a come back. He also said that chefs have been cooking with sherry for years. It is a wine to be enjoyed and should not sit in the kitchen cupboard! Monis Fino, an extra-dry sherry, is to be re-introduced. The versatility of the Monis products was demonstrated with the welcome drink, being a refreshing Monis Muscadel on crushed ice. During the meal three cocktail options were offered, made with Monis products too: Mojito, Cosmo, and Sex on the Beach!
Monis had its early beginnings in Paarl in 1906, when Robert Monis founded Italian Warehouse, importing Italian products and making wines locally, changing the name of the company to Monis Wineries Enterprise Ltd in 1921, according to wine.co.za. The company was bought by Distell in 1966.
Chris de Klerk, a Cape Wine Master and a Wine Ambassador from Cape Legends’ Johannesburg office (left), was flown to Cape Town to lead the tasting, and did an interactive tasting of the Monis products, and then paired them with different food types, to demonstrate the versatility of the pairing options. Chris explained that fortified wines are oxidised, given them the darker colours and their richness. Sherry is the boldest of the fortified wines, he said, and is served as a double tot due to its alcohol content. The Monis range is not endorsed by Weighless, Chris quipped, talking about their sugar content. While the origin of port is Oporto in Portugal, it is the French who drink the most port in the world, serving it as an aperitif before a meal, making one’s guests happy and hungry quickly due to the quick absorption of the alcohol through the mouth and stomach. Sherry should be served ice cold, not known to most of its drinkers. Chris explained that it is not allowed to label new ‘sherry’ and ‘port‘ bottles any more, according to a 1936 ‘Crayfish Agreement’ between our country and the European Union, which prohibited South African sparkling wine from being called ‘champagne‘, and also prohibited the use of the words ‘Bordeaux’ and ‘Chateau‘. Existing packs carrying the sherry and port names were labeled before 2012, and those that are sold into non-EU countries may carry them too. So the Full Cream bottle just has the brand name and the ‘Full Cream’ descriptor, followed by an almost unreadable ‘Traditional Flor Method’, without the word ‘sherry’ on the label. ‘Flor’ refers to the unique yeast which is used to make sherry, and gives the sherries a unique flavour. Monis makes their sherries in the style of those from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. The port bottle is described as ‘Cape Vintage’.
* Monis Pale Dry sherry: Notes of apricot, wood, vanilla and salt. When paired with a very spicy chorizo, our tasting table felt it tasted less good (sugar level 18g per litre). Can be served with seafood too.
* Monis Medium Cream sherry: this wine was described as being a bit more shy, with more caramel and Christmas cake flavours (sugar level 95g per litre). The pairing with a creamy camembert was superb, the best pairing of the four, the cheese toning down the sweetness of the sherry. It would also go well with a soup, sauces, stews, spicy food, and creamy cheeses, or with cakes and sandwiches at a High Tea. We serve this as our welcome drink to our Whale Cottage guests in winter.
* Monis Vintage Port: this was described by Chris as ‘red wine on steroids’ (sugar level 90g per litre)! Berry flavours dominate. There is an upsurge in sales of vintage port, despite it causing gout in some. It has good balance, is not filtered, and ages well in the bottle, for up to 20 years. This year’s Nederburg Auction will include a 1948 Monis port at a sugar level of 90, which is the Portuguese norm. It has an illusion of greater sweetness, but is less sweet than the Medium Cream sherry. Good pairing with Gorgonzola, green fig preserve, and chocolates. Monis’ Port is made from Touriga Naçional, Souzão, and Tinta Roriz grapes from Calitzdorp.
* Monis Full Cream sherry: Notes of sultana, caramel (sugar level 128g per litre). The pairing with malva pudding was well received at our table, matching the sugar content of the dessert.
After the tasting the restaurant brought out a tasty starter platter of ham wrapped bread sticks, chicken liver paté bites, olives, crumbed mushroom risotto balls, and sweet potato, beetroot and Parmigiano wrapped in beef, with a separate container of very salty prawns, being mezes from the restaurant’s ‘nibble menu’, Chef Lorenzo Magni said. Most of us ordered the slow roasted pork belly with spinach flan, and apple purée, with a few mutters from the table, about sand in the spinach and string on the pork not having been removed. The dessert platter was a collection of vanilla custard profiteroles, chocolate brownies, and strawberry vodka (a surprise) sorbet. All the food was paired with the sherry-based cocktails.
Chef Lorenzo, previously running the Blues kitchen (the owners of Blues are the owners of The Odyssey), came to our table afterwards to apologise, stressing that they had only be open for two weeks, and that the Monis function had been pre-booked with the previous owners. He told us that they added sunscreens to the windows, and repainted the interior green, not much else about the interior having been changed. No signage is outside the building yet. We were very surprised to hear that Clare (Mack) McKeon McLoughlin of Spill blog is the restaurant’s PR consultant for the next three months!
POSTSCRIPT 10/6: We have received a Comment from Francois, pointing out that the information supplied by Chris de Klerk as to the naming of ‘sherry’ and ‘port’ is incorrect, in going back to an EU agreement of 2002, and not to the ‘Crayfish Agreement’. The words ‘Ruby’, ‘Vintage’, and ‘Tawny’ may be used to describe port wines.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of Monis Full Cream sherry with our media pack.
Monis, Cape Legends. Tel (021) 809-7000. www.moniswines.co.za Retail prices: R60 for the sherries, R80 for the port.
The Odyssey, 199 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-4084. No website yet. Twitter: @TheOdysseyZA
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage