Tag Archives: south africa

A night spanning three continents…

Last night, we had my good blogger friend John, The Wine Raconteur, and his wife over for dinner at our place. The dinner had been a long time in the making, and I am glad we finally got to it. It has become a Christmas tradition in Nina’s parents’ house for me to cook a boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy) “between the years”, as we call the period after Christmas and before work starts again in early January. I had to tweak my established recipe (over at FX Cuisine’s stunning food blog) a bit, and figured John and his wife would not mind being the guinea pigs to give the new recipe a try.

I have always loved this dish, and pride myself in having mastered quite some skill in its preparation. It is time consuming, with the marinating and dealing with the meat, but it is also so rewarding! This photo is from FX Cuisine, and mine looks pretty much like this (and yes, I do serve it with mashed potatoes as well!):

Boeuf Bourguignon

As a French classic, a Burgundy Pinot Noir is normally a must to accompany this dish, but John had something else in mind. He had recently acquired a bunch of single vineyard reserve Pinot Noirs from California-based Tudor Wines and wanted to share this wine, which was very generous. He knows of my reservations as regards California Pinot Noirs (too fruit-driven, not enough earthy aromas), so he grinned and informed me that this had enough “dirt” in it. And oh boy, it did. We were drinking the 2007 Tudor Tondre Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands. It was such a pleasant surprise: The initial taste was this wonderful earthiness that a light Pinot Noir carries when done right, and it stretched through the mid-palate, only to be taken over a by surprising fruitiness of sweet cherry and berries. This fruit explosion was in no way a problem, it was so well integrated and part of the earthy tones. Just a great wine, wonderful with the meal as well.

After we were done with the Tudor bottle and our dinner, and conversation was flowing naturally back and forth, I was making eye contact with Nina. We had a bottle of Riesling in the fridge, but it didn’t feel right to crack that bottle just now. As John’s wife was describing how much she enjoys Cabernet Francs and has a penchant for big wines (just like Nina), Nina suggested we should open our last bottle of 2007 Tukulu Pinotage. John reported that he had only ever tasted his first Pinotage at a recent tasting and seemed not very keen on reliving that experience (who can blame him, a lot of the stuff sold here is not up to par), but we insisted. Nina and I have had a weak spot for good Pinotage ever since our time in Botswana, were amazing wines from this grape were available. Tukulu quickly became my favorite producer back then, and has remained so since. Tukulu was one of the first wineries in South Africa to be run by black entrepreneurs and deems itself a black empowerment project (granted, I do like the winery for that reason alone!). This particular bottle had been sitting for a while, and Cellartracker kept nagging me that its drinking window was closing…man, was Cellartracker wrong. The wine poured in a gorgeous purplish red, and swirled heavily through the glass. The nose was fresh and enticing, with typical rubber and dirt aromas mixed with red fruit. On the palate, the wine was wonderfully fresh. Great acidity, lots and lots of earthiness, mixed in that unique style that only good Pinotage can achieve with red fruit. Stunning, and by far not nearing the end of its drinking window.

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

Instead of dessert, as is common in our household, we opened a 2003 Vereinigte Hospitien Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. You all know my love for aged Rieslings by now, and this one did not disappoint. Petrol aromas in the nose, some mineral aromas and citrus. On the palate, the wine was a stunning mix of toffee and vanilla and underlying acidity and yellow fruit aromas. It still tasted very fresh, and was not on its way to (what I loosely describe as) the more sherry-like qualities of even older Rieslings. By this I am referring to a narrower scope of aromas, and a “thinner” mouthfeel (thanks to Frank for making me explain this a bit more!). I love this stage in a Riesling’s development: still supple and a good mouthful, but turning more towards the caramel side. In general, I find the 2003 Mosel Rieslings are great to drink at the moment, so if you have a bottle in your cellar, give it a try!

All in all we spanned three continents last night. Add in that we talked about our Asian trip as well, and we can make that four. I love how wine can do that, so easily. But as always, the best wines are worth nothing if not had in delightful company.

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Sunday Read: Does Much-Unloved Pinotage Deserve Another Look?

As you might know, I have a soft spot for a good pinotage, the South African grape. I wrote about that earlier here. As I explained back then, when I first tried pinotage in the early 2000s with South African friends in Germany, my friends were very upset. The wines were incredibly hot from alcohol, and they tasted rubbery. This was in line with what I had read prior to tasting the wines. One of our friends, an older Boer lady, was so upset, that she suggested shooting people that make bad pinotage like this (she also advocated shooting wine columnists who say pinotage tatses like burnt rubber). The problem back then was, and to a certain degree still is: It is very difficult to get good pinotage outside of South Africa. There are exports, for sure, but they tend to be not very good. And the ones that taste good, cost a fortune once they reach Europe or the US.

But since, I have had some good experiences, mainly in Southern Africa. So I do believe this grape deserves another look, but it can be challenging. So thinks Lettie Teague in this piece for the Wall Street Journal. Have a great Sunday!

Wall Street Journal: Does Much-Unloved Pinotage Deserve Another Look?

My fellow blogger Anatoli wrote about South African wine gems the other day, so you might want to check that out, too, while you’re at it. It is not pinotage specific but a great read still! Read his article here.

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Savanna Dry Premium Cider

South African Savanna Dry Premium Cider

I like to think that I discovered Savanna Dry ciders during my time in Botswana, because it would be nice to connect this discovery with my other two discoveries there (the other two being pinotage and Nina). But that is not true. I actually first got exposed to it in 2005, when my ex brought some from a three month stint during her legal training in Stellenbosch…but I digress.

After my return from Botswana, I began looking for sources for it in Germany, and I was lucky. There was a guy who selling it (Germans, you can find his website here)! I admit, it is not cheap, but there hardly is anything like it to get that Southern Africa feeling back into my daily life. So, while Nina and I were living in Germany, we would usually have a box in our house, rationing ourselves in order not to overspend. But for our wedding celebration, we actually bought a couple of boxes to serve while people arrived at the venue…in the spirit of our relationship’s roots.

Here in the US, I have not seen it in stores, and online sellers here seem to be happy to completely overcharge their customers on shipping, so I give that a pass (the insanely high shipping and handling prices here will have to wait for a rant in a seperate post). So, when a friend of mine came to visit us from London this spring and asked what he could bring, I told him Savanna Dry. And he did bring two bottles, big bottles even (500 ml instead of the usual 330 ml)! We had one in the summer, and it was time to have this one the other night…leave aside all the emotional connections with it for me personally, and the first thing you notice is the awesome branding. I LOVE the label and the fact that they bottle it in clear glass, so the cider gives the label its appropriate background.

Savanna Dry is, as the name indicates, a dry cider (the company’s slogan is: “It’s dry but you can drink it.”). The color reminds me of the soft, warm sunlight of an afternoon in southern Africa. Its bubbles are never offensive, and it has this strong and great taste of yellow apples with a bit of tartness, sometimes it even reminds me of biting a bit too deep into the apple and getting the coarser inner bits that surround the kernels, which in this case is not offensive. The company website says it is made from apples in Elgin region in Western Cape province of South Africa. At 5.5% ABV it is just right for warm summer nights, but also when it gets colder. I like to throw in a slice of lemon for just the right punch of acidity and, I swear, I feel like I am back in Bots … where life is so much more pleasantly slow.

If you get a chance to try it, please do so! You can check out their website here.

Savanna Dry cork

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