By Louise Liebenberg
FORTIFIED wine – the tipple we rely on at winter time, Christmas time and just about any time when nerves get the better of us at awkward family gatherings – had its origins not in Europe but thousands of years ago in the Arab world.
We may think of sherry as Spanish or port as Portuguese, but it was the Arabs or “Moors” who, having invented the process, first brought the secrets of fermentation to Spain – still home today to some of the world’s finest makers of “jerez” or sherry – when they ruled large parts of the Iberian peninsula for nearly 800 years.
From there on the process spread across Europe and to the rest of the world. These and other lesser known facts about fortifieds were shared last week when Weekend Post and Monis hosted an informative and fun food-and-wine pairing in Port Elizabeth.
Fourteen subscribers and their partners who won tickets to attend the event at Leo’s Bistro and Lounge in leafy Walmer were met by the “man from Monis”, Chris de Klerk, who flew in from Johannesburg to share his knowledge of these wines.
Monis is not only South Africa’s top producer but an international award winner when it comes to the likes of sherry, port and muscadel.
However, 2012 marks the year in which we will have to stop calling our South African ports and sherries such because of European Union labelling laws stipulating that all geographically based wine names outside the country of origin must be phased out. It was the same story a few years ago when sparkling wine made outside France’s Champagne region could no longer be called “champagne”.
So now, instead of speaking of “medium or full cream sherry”, we are simply to drop the word “sherry” (anglicised from “Jerez”, the town famous for it) altogether. The same goes for port, which means you’ll now enjoy a Monis Cape tawny or a Cape vintage, for instance, instead of a “tawny port” or “vintage port”.
Fortified wine, in short, is wine to which a distilled spirit such as brandy has been added, Chris explained. This means it can pack a powerful punch, which is why in South Africa it may only be served to the public in a 50ml glass.
Guests at the Monis event tasted how the pale dry – not dissimilar to the Spanish “fino” – adores salty foods like biltong and could explain why in that country it is so eagerly enjoyed, well chilled of course, with dry-cured ham and other tasty tapas.
The Monis medium cream paired particularly well with a milky camembert (brie would have been too creamy) while the intense, fruity port we tasted (sorry, Cape vintage!) could happily handle the gorgonzola and preserved fig it was matched with.
Our final tasting was of the amber coloured full cream that was practically off the charts in delicious sweetness and therefore ideally accompanied by the malva pudding prepared by Leo’s chefs.
After the tasting more classy canapes were served and some of our winners continued their lucky streak by taking home prize hampers from Monis.
Scroll down for some tapas-style recipes that make use of fortified wines or are ideally served with them, as well as more social pics from the evening! Also see last weekend’s post further down for more pics – and a recipe best served with Monis pale dry, or a fino.
Recipe: Pan-fried chicken livers with gooseberry compote
Best with Monis Medium Cream – serves 6 as a starter
For the melba toast: 6 slices white bread, crusts removed
For the gooseberry compote: 250g gooseberries; 80ml (1/3 cup) sugar; 45ml (3 Tbsp) vinegar; 125ml (½ cup) water; ½ small onion, chopped; 5ml (1 tsp) curry powder; pinch of salt
For the livers: 400g chicken livers (you can also use duck livers); 60ml (¼ cup) butter
Preheat the oven to 160ºC. For the melba toast, roll each of the slices out as thinly as possible and cut each slice into four triangles. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.
For the compote, combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer until the mixture looks like thick chutney.
For the livers, heat the butter in a pan over high heat and fry the chicken livers for 2 min on each side until they are golden brown and slightly pink on the inside. Season.
Serve the chicken livers with the gooseberry compote and melba toast on the side.
Recipe: Gorgonzola soufflé with smoked pear compote
Best with Monis Full Cream – Serves 4
For the smoked pear compote: 4 large pears, peeled and large diced; 60ml (¼ cup) wood chips; 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 125ml (½ cup) vinegar; 125ml (½ cup) sugar; 250ml (1 cup) water
For the gorgonzola soufflé: 60ml (¼ cup) finely grated parmesan plus extra for moulds; 60ml (¼ cup) butter; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 60ml (¼ cup) cake flour; 250ml (1 cup) hot milk; 10ml (2 tsp) Dijon mustard; 4 egg yolks; salt and ground black pepper; 75g (½ block) gorgonzola cheese; 5 egg whites
Lay tinfoil in the bottom of a wok or frying pan. Place the wood chips on the foil and sprinkle lightly with water (like two squirts from a hairdresser’s spray). Place a cooling grid or wire rack on top of this. Top with the pear.
Cover the wok with a lid or anything that will insulate it well. Place the wok over a high heat and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for an additional 10 min to cool.
Remove the pears and place in a small pot with the onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar and water. Simmer gently for an hour or until your desired chutney texture is reached.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease 4 x 250ml (1 cup) oven-proof serving bowls and sprinkle with extra parmesan. Make a collar out of a double layer of buttered baking paper and tie around top of mould, buttered side inward, standing about 5cm high.
For the soufflé, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and cook for 2-3 min or until soft, add flour and stir continuously for 1-2 min.
Gradually add milk, mixing until smooth, then bring to the boil, stirring continuously and cook for 2-3 min or until thick. Remove from heat, add parmesan, mustard and egg yolks and mix to combine. Season to taste, set aside for 5 min, then stir in gorgonzola cheese, taking care not to break up chunks.
Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Fold one third of the egg whites into cheese mixture to lighten, and then fold through remaining egg whites. Pour into prepared dishes and bake for 30-35 min or until puffed and golden.
Serve the soufflés with the smoked pear compote.
Recipe: Walnut shortbread with mascarpone and fig-and-date chutney
Best with Monis Muscadel – serves 6 as a canape
For the walnut shortbread: 125ml (½ cup) butter; 60ml (¼ cup) castor sugar; 250ml (1 cup) cake flour; 50g (½ packet) ground walnuts
For the preserved fig and date chutney: 4 preserved figs, finely chopped, with 45ml (3 Tbsp) syrup; 125ml (½ cup) fresh dates, finely chopped; 45ml (3 Tbsp) red wine vinegar; ½ red onion, finely chopped; 250ml (1 cup) water; 1 clove
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silpad.
For the walnut shortbread, rub all the ingredients together until dough is formed. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into heart shapes. Bake for 10 min until cooked and lightly golden. Cool on wire racks.
For the fig and date chutney, combine all the ingredient in a small pot and simmer on a low heat until a chutney consistency is reached. Store in the fridge in a sterilised jar.
Serve the biscuits with the mascarpone and a dollop of fig and date chutney.
More social pics
All the winners
THE 14 Weekend Post readers who each won a double ticket to the Monis food and fortified wine pairing at Leo’s in Port Elizabeth are: Loredana Loyson, Malcolm Thom, Niel Dorward, Liezel Wait, Thomas Lupondwana, Doodie Candasamy, Basil Blatch, Brian Dawson, Charmaine McCance, Cindy Bester, Marilyn Harte, Rory Nottingham, Noelene Oakley and Herbert Klasse.