The Wine Show Road Show comes to PE!

The Wine Show organiser John Woodward and Mia Mårtensson, of the Winery of Good Hope. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

By Louise Liebenberg

WITH quite a few festive season lunch and dinner dos looming in “the vale” (that’s Essexvale, Port Elizabeth!), last weekend’s Wine Show Road Show at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in North End was the perfect excuse for Salvelio and I to replenish our  by now thoroughly depleted and profoundly unimpressive wine rack with some classy and elegant offerings.

A food and wine pairing led by the Winery of Good Hope’s Mia Mårtensson in the Weekend Post VIP tasting area at the event promptly inspired the purchase of two bottles of  seductive Radford Dale pinot noir …  we should’ve checked the price list first though as the R420 this little lot set us back did not leave awfully much in the kitty for the rest of the show’s enticing offerings!

Mia’s pairing session nevertheless gave us much food for thought, so scroll down on blog today for her suggestions on which wines to team up with which flavours – including tricky asparagus, mustard and wasabi!

I promised myself I’d no longer mindlessly buy wines and then fine-tune my menus afterwards. Best approach? Plan your menu, then put some proper thought into how you want to complement each dish – it’s really quite fun and if you get stuck, just get an expert like Barbara Scott at Preston’s in Main Road, Walmer to help, Mia says.

“With more than 600 wineries to choose from in South Africa today, including the small producers, you can afford to be bold when it comes to buying wine in 2011!” she said.

Penny and Bill Hughes of Malmesbury shared a stand with Wine Logistics’ Lauren Nash (right). Picture: Salvelio Meyer

The wine show also yielded some interesting and surprisingly affordable blends, such as the Nativo red from Malmesbury, which we got from the Hughes Family Wines’ stand.

We also ran into lovely Lauren Nash, of Wine Logistics, who shared a stand with Penny and Bill – see picture above!

Tasting time up and budget slightly battered, we’ll have to wait for the Wine Show Road Show to return to the Bay in 2011!

Avusa chief marketing officer Justin Peel (left) with Jean and Derek Smith. Derek is Weekend Post’s wine columnist.

All you need to know about food and wine pairings – and what  to serve with tricky dishes!

By Louise Liebenberg

THE recent Wine Show Road Show Nelson Mandela Bay wowed the city’s wine lovers with offerings from 40 of South Africa’s leading estates, producers and merchants.

Weekend Post had a VIP tasting area from 12.30pm last Sunday, where readers, staff and clients enjoyed a food and wine pairing hosted by the Winery of Good Hope’s Mia Mårtensson.

Mia visited South Africa from Sweden in 2004 and ended up loving the country and its winelands so much that she has made her home here.

She started us off on the Winery of Good Hope’s Land of Hope chenin blanc 2008 (R110) which was served with smoked salmon and crème freche.

All the food served alongside Mia’s selection of fine wines was prepared by Bay culinary whiz Dean Dickinson and his team from Imagination Food Design.

The verdict? This super chenin with its fresh zestiness and slight fruitiness with tastes of apple and apricots totally complemented the fat in the salmon and crème freche – a winning combination for sure. It turns out chenin is an extremely versatile wine for the rack too as it makes a very good food partner, unlike sauvignon blanc which has more acidity and so can sometimes be a bit more difficult to put to food.

Sauvignon blanc therefore is better batched to seafood and salads, and the likes of asparagus and goat’s cheese because of its acidity.

Chenin, on the other hand, is also very suited to mixed cuisine, for example Asian-style food, as it can comfortably handle the likes of lemongrass, coconut milk and even mild curries, and it could also be paired with asparagus which is always a tricky customer.

Land of Hope’s seductive chenin comes from granite soil which gives the wine power, and shale, which gives it elegance, according to Mia.

Mia also mentioned that South Africa now has the world’s biggest plantings of chenin grapes, even beating France. You can do a lot with this grape, she says – even make brandy!

Still on the topic of whites, she says both chenin and chardonnay can handle mushrooms, because of their complementary earthiness.

Pinot noir paired with sushi - Louise is clearly relieved to find a wine that goes with sushi!

Next up was the Winery of Good Hope’s Radford Dale Freedom 2009. This pale, easy-drinking wine is a pinot noir with beautiful “strawberry, raspberry and rose-hip hints”; a young wine with good acidity.

“You need a bit of training to drink this pinot noir. She’s a woman and she needs time. But when you discover her she’ll end up being the most beautiful woman of all,” says Mia. And to think I now have such lushness developing right under my nose!

What especially appealed to me is that it proved an innovative and very pleasant accompaniment to the sushi it was paired with. Sushi can be tough to match thanks to the presence of soya, wasabi and ginger, but the pinot noir coped well with it and indeed this very quality prompted my rather extravagant aforementioned purchase of two bottles! You can indeed drink lighter reds with sushi but it must be one that can take away the harshness of the soya. The wasabi itself is actually sweet even though it burns, which also makes an off-dry (sweeter) wine a reasonable match.

Mia says the illustrious Kanonkop was the first to plant pinot noir (a grape that is originally from Burgundy) in the 1960s but eventually uprooted these in the early 1990s because there wasn’t much of a place for pinot noir in South Africa at that stage. This grape from Burgundy is also called “the heart-break grape”, she says, as it can be a fussy (and expensive) grape to grow.

It’s a very thin-skinned grape compared to cab or shiraz and so while cab and shiraz wines are always dark and intense, pinot noir is paler red and perhaps a bit closer to rose in colour.

Besides sushi this wine also goes well with duck liver, duck breast, pork, lamb and even tuna steak, as its acidity means it can cut through the fat of such hearty dishes. You can even have it with your salmon too and so take the wine right through from starter to mains – and even the cheese tray – Mia says, making it an extremely versatile wine.

Do note however that red wine and blue cheese are always a no-no, she says, as this combination can leave a metallic taste. Sauvignon blanc is always a better bet for blue. Alternatively, because the cheese is so salty, you can also pair it with a very sweet wine.

The 2008 Land of Hope cabernet sauvignon was next and it too handled the protein of a teensy portion of mustard springbok fillet on bruschetta well.

“This cab is cassis, cedar, pencil shavings and cigarbox all rolled into one,” Mia says. “It’s a big wine; quite tannic, which means you must have this wine with food. Meat and protein need this quality in a wine and this cab also counters the sweetness in the mustard.”

Land of Hope is situated in the Helderberg, in the so-called Golden Triangle, and the soil is mainly granite with shale and clay; a geological concoction known as “koffieklip”. “Granite gives it muscle, and shale gives it elegance,” Mia reminds us. Land of Hope’s neighbours are Vergelegen, Ernie Els and Rust & Vrede, so it is in good company indeed.

“Cab is king in this area because of the soil structure,” Mia adds.

What’s so refreshing about this producer is that they do screwcaps even on their premium wines, as the owners have through much research and experimentation found the wines actually keep longer and stay fresher under screwcap than if corked. It also makes economic sense, Mia says, as up to 10% of the wines bottled at the moment can be lost under cork, “so until the cork industry sorts itself out we will stick with the screwcaps – it’s the way of the future”. Many other producers agree – especially in Australia which pioneered the use of screwcaps 30 years ago already.

“With a screwcap you have to be very honest with what you are doing with the wine – you can’t hide anything. Screwcapped wines also have less sulphur than corked.”

Interesting bit of trivia – if the inside liner of the screwcap is white plastic the wines are to be drunk in 3 to 5 years, as this allows the wine to breathe a little more. Premium wines have plastic under and tin on top of the liner, so with less oxygen going into the wine it keeps longer.

The 2008 Gravity (a blend of shiraz/merlot/cabernet sauvignon from the Winery of Good Hope’s Radford Dale range also did not disappoint and it paired well with Dean’s beef carpaccio, rocket and cream cheese, although Salvelio felt the chunk of cherry tomato on top of the carpaccio could happily have been omitted unless it had been cooked.

At R318 a bottle for the Gravity, however, this was probably our last opportunity to try it for a while!

Mia says rocket is bitter and that “bitter must be matched with bitter”; ditto when food has a burnt quality like on a braai – you need a wine that can stand up to that or else it will taste quite metallic.

Besides carpaccio the Gravity would work equally well with fillet, venison, mushrooms, lamb stew and even potjiekos, or anything peppery.

Major's Hill shiraz with chocolate pud! Louise cared more for the wine than the pud.

The tasting ended with a 2007 shiraz from Major’s Hill Estate in the Robertson area, which was served with a small bowl of chocolate and strawberry dessert. Not a fabulous dish – too sweet runny for my liking unless heated perhaps – but the wine handled it fine even though chocolate can also be a tough sell with wine in my opinion.

You could match a sweet dessert with a sweet wine, of course, or aim to counter the bitterness of the chocolate (if good-quality dark chocolate is used) with a suitable “bitter” wine like shiraz.

Mia says Robertson is a very hot area but its saving grace for grapes is that the heat is tempered by cold nights – and cold grapes take longer to heat up in the day.

Robertson is therefore best known for its excellent sauvignon blanc but the area also delivers very good shiraz.

The area is mountainous with limestone and granite soil – I’ll have to ask Mia what the implication of that is again when it comes to the wine!

What is also interesting is that Major’s Hill is owned by Kosie Marais, the man who pioneered Klipdrift.

This shiraz would also go well with a salad with vinaigrette, as it would need to be matched by the acidity the wine delivers. A sauvignon blanc, unwooded chenin blanc or unwooded chardonnay would also work well with salads that have acidic dressings.

Note to self – when making gazpacho the above would also more than do the trick on the wine front! Thank you Mia, this dish has been stumping me for years!

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