Monthly Archives: December 2014

Die Vine Intervention KWV The Mentors: 2011 Chardonnay and Petit Verdot

Masterful wine expert Michael Olivier introduces two special wines from KWV for this week’s podcast – The Mentors Chardonnay 2011 and Petit Verdot 2011.

John Fraser is in the Johannesburg studio with Cape Wine Master Debi van Flymen from Wine Cellar, KWV’s Jolize van Wyk Fourie and Absa’s Chris Gilmour.

As well as tasting the wines, the panel has a good chat over the necessary but destructive practice of spitting out wines during tastings….


Die Vine Intervention: A Pair of Classy Cape Bubblies

For a suitably festive Die Vine Intervention, the sparkling Michael Olivier has chosen the Bon Courage Cap Classique Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blanc 2009 and the Cap Classique Jacques Bruére Cuveé Rosé Brut 2008.  Two very stylish South African bubblies.

John Fraser is joined in the Jo’burg studio by an equally classy tasting panel – Debi van Flymen from Wine Cellar, KWV’s Jolize van Wyk Fourie and Absa’s Chris Gilmour.

 

 

 


Die Vine Intervention: Nederburg Brewmaster 2010

Wine evangelist Michael Olivier presents a gorgeous red wine – the Nederburg 2010 Brewmaster – to a trio of gorgeous guests.
John Fraser is joined in the Johannesburg studio by Corlien Morris from Wine Concepts, Gumtree’s bargain of the week Jeff Osborne, and serial economist Dennis Dykes from Nedbank.


Buddy, can you spare a (real) drink?

The four most depressing words I have heard, more and more frequently, recently are: “Sorry. Soft Drinks Only.”

They are said by barmen at analyst presentations and other events which I attend in my super-sleuth capacity as a roving reporter preparing raving reports.

In contrast, the most glorious sound in the world has greeted me at a few recent media events involving the launch of new booze products. This is the seven word celebration: “What Can We Get You to Drink?”

Now, I have worked for a mining company and fully understand and support the logic that if you – rightly – ban alcohol from your mines, or factories or smelters, you should follow this through to the corporate offices.  I remember a lunch with Sasol, when I was delighted to hear the welcoming mantra: “What Can We Get You to Drink?” My spirits sank when I realised the lack of spirits, or wine or beer on offer…. There was grape juice or Coke. But I understood the policy.

However, I would argue that when mining, construction, manufacturing and indeed all other firms hold functions ELSEWHERE, they should show some adult hospitality and offer a few real drinks to real men (and women).

On those infrequent occasions when I am offered a glass of something pleasing, it often comes as a compensation for the frequently dire food which is dished up. I just don’t understand how so many expensive Johannesburg hotels (in particular) can be so poor at providing tasty and well-presented grub.   There are exceptions, which only serve to highlight the dire fare at most events.

So, how can and should the hosts do better?   Apart from restricting the section of analyst presentations given over to the CFO to 30 seconds or less, a little bit of imagination and graciousness would make such a difference, and at little or no extra cost.   If you are buying food for 100, along with Coke, apple juice, bottled water and other over-priced extravagances, procuring a few bottles of wine and beer would be a tiny extra burden.   A fraction of the annual bonus of the CEO, I would venture?

So who is responsible for the trend towards Scrooge-like behaviour among the big corporates? Internal or external communications and investor relations types, who want their own miserable existence to spread like Ebola to all with whom they interact? Company bosses whose own lifestyles would make the (historic) activities at the Playboy mansion, or the weekend orgies at Nero’s place, seem like a Sunday School picnic?   But the aim of these types is to project soberness, godliness and an upright image, hoping they are seen as the sort of people who would never indulge in insider trading, the fiddling of accounts, nepotism, collusion, or the bribing of public officials. Which, of course, never happens in corporate SA.

I just don’t buy this hypocrisy – although I did buy a hip flask, which enables me to slip a slug or 10 of gin into an orange juice on those increasingly-frequent occasions when the host is highly inhospitable.

So how should it be done?  Well, I have attended a results presentation of a big property company where guests were greeted by a tray of (adult) drinks. Whenever an Investec or Barloworld, Shopright or AECI, function has been held, there has been real hospitality. One of the smaller listed firms hosts the media for lunch at a celebrated Rosebank steakhouse, and a good time is had by all.

But the events which have outshone all the corporate ones have been staged by people who know how to entertain.   Thanks to my involvement in the broadcasting of boozy podcasts with my chum and mentor Michael Olivier, I have attended several remarkable events in recent months.   Nedbank hoisted the Cape Winemakers’ Guild tasting, which was superb. I went to an excellent lunch for the launch of the latest High Road Wines’ vintages, and have attended launch events for a KWV range, Appleton Rum, and Black Bottle and Scottish Leader whiskies.   I was also hosted twice by the Sandton Convention Centre, the second occasion for an impressive craft beer evening. In the (distant) past I also attended some excellent Winex wine-week events at RMB, the first of which enabled me to first encounter Warwick’s wonderful boss Mike Ratcliffe.

I am not saying that companies and others who host the media and analysts have to splash-out in quite the same manner. But you need to just look at the sad huddles of sad people who pour out of a dull event to find the only thing being poured is Coke or fruit juice. Maybe the hosts are well-aware that something sweet needs to be offered remove the sour taste from the mouths of their guests?

So come on, you bunch of party poopers!   Replace the poop food with something worthwhile, and don’t refuse the booze.

See? There’s a New Year’s resolution which will truly make the world a better place.

Tweets of the Day:

David O’Doherty (@phlaimeaux): What singer is the best for organising visas and consular affairs? SHIRLEY EMBASSY

J A E (@jaymeisterrr):   Madonna was recently named the face of Versace’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection, which is impressive for an 87 year old.

Conclusion:

Only the soft-brained only serve soft drinks.

 

In response to the growing support for the Die Vine Intervention wine tasting podcasts I conduct with the legendary Michael Olivier, ZA Confidential is expanding its coverage to include more writing about food, wine and lifestyle issues.

We will continue to commentate on business, but will do less day-to-day writing on routine matters, concentrating on the big stuff.

ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   For subscription details, invitations to grown-up events, or any other communication, please contact:   zaconfidential@gmail.com     Follow us on twitter: @zaconfidential


2009 Koelfontein Shiraz

Michael Olivier introduces the 2009 Koelfontein Shiraz to Jeff Osborne, Corlien Morris and Dennis Dykes.

A delightful Cape red.


A Gastronomic Cape Meander

In response to the growing support for the Die Vine Intervention wine tasting podcasts I conduct with the legendary Michael Olivier, ZA Confidential is expanding its coverage to include more writing about food, wine and lifestyle issues.

We will continue to comment on business matters, but will do less day-to-day writing on routine events, concentrating on the big stuff.

In the spirit of this new approach, here are a few reflections on a recent gastronomic meander in the Cape….

SAA

I flew to the Cape and back with SAA, as I had some Voyager miles to redeem.   I have no complaints about the flights as such, but am sure that the airport taxes I was charged on top of my redeemed miles – in the order of R1 500 – could in themselves have funded a return flight on a cheaper airline. The sooner someone investigates this loyalty scheme, the better.

BMW

My mates at BMW lent me a sporty set of wheels for the trip, and I could not believe the power of the car. I was able to effortlessly overtake and had to control myself to drive safely. I also received a number of admiring glances, which is something that rarely happens in my own battered vehicle. On returning home, I had become so used to the power of the BMW that I genuinely thought the hand brake was still on when I set off in my own car.

Uber

In an effort to enjoy drinking without the risk of driving, I used the phone app Uber for the first time, and found it efficient, and far more affordable than I believe many traditional taxi services are.

Warwick Wine Estate

I had a couple of memorable drinks on the terrace at Warwick, sitting under the trees. One day I just worked on my own while sipping their Platter 5* Cabernet Franc. I later had a session with my chum David Bullard, cheekily ordering a bottle of Black Lady for us.   Warwick offers classy picnics, but I favoured the lighter tapas-style menu of cold cuts and other nibbles. Absolutely delicious, even though a sour note was hit when I asked if I could order some tapas and received a sneering response: “We don’t serve tapas.” The rest of the staff in the tasting room were excellent, attentive, knowledgeable and delightful. I also managed to catch up with Warwick owner Mike Ratcliffe who is one of the most absorbing and eloquent ambassadors for Cape Wine.   If you have time for only one visit to a Cape wine estate, I would urge you to head for Warwick.

 

Pendock Wine Gallery

Wander into the CT Taj hotel and you will find somewhere which offers tastings of some of the lesser known wines, but that is no bad thing.   Neil Pendock is well known for his outspoken wine writing, which I appreciate in an environment where far too many food and wine writers have no objectivity, little knowledge, and are happy to recommend the awful. In return for? I wish I knew! I tasted some delicious and impressive wines, with a great welcome from Neil’s team.   They also hold a number of special events.  If only every hotel in SA showed the same commitment to promoting our wines!

The Taj

I stayed in the CT Taj, and really enjoyed my stay, during which I was hosted by the hotel for one of my nights and given dinnner.   It is comfortable and elegant, has excellent valet parking and very good breakfasts, which include some authentic Indian breakfast offerings for those who may find bacon and egg a bit dull.  The only black mark came when a room service order was messed up, a sin compounded by the awful cheese platter with plastic and tasteless cheeses.   I did raise this with the management and hope it will be sorted.   The hotel has an enjoyable Indian restaurant, where I ate twice in the evening, really appreciating the food and the service.   Not cheap, but a distinct improvement on one of the neighbouring Indian restaurants which is in slow decline.

Reuben’s

The Franchhoek outlet of celebrity chef Reuben Riffel is a firm favourite of mine, and I ate there several times on my recent trip, enjoying both lunch and dinner.   I am concerned that Reuben is stretching himself too thinly with several restaurants and frequent travel and TV work, but I remained impressed with his original outlet.   My only upset came with a starter on my final visit – of a tempura scallop and prawn dish, which had become my new favourite, as it is the best starter I have ever eaten in SA. On this one occasion, though, the prawns were overcooked and spoilt the dish, but to the restaurant’s credit I was not charged for it.   I was also suspicious when one of the wine specials, being served by the glass, tasted nothing like the identical wine I had enjoyed on previous visits.   I hope this was a mix-up and nothing more sinister. As always the welcome was warm, and the service professional and efficient.

Food Barn

Chef Franck Dangereux’ Foodbarn was a delight, made more so by the company of M. and Mme. Olivier.   I ate the best lamb I have tried this century, had some superb wine thanks to Michael’s unique expertise, and delighted in a venue which is as impressive as it is unpretentious.   This was my first time there, although I have tasted Franck’s magic in the past, and I will certainly be back.

The Black Sheep

I first visited the Black Sheep in February and really enjoyed a first class meal. Really superb. This return visit was not quite as good, as a few of us ordered steaks which were not well cooked. This was soon forgotten, however, when the cheese platter arrived.   Quite simply, this was a knockout selection of ravishing cheeses – all local. Why on earth do so many other establishments serve up plastic shit when this quality of food can be sourced, albeit with a bit of trouble? Maybe they just don’t care as much as the team at the Black Sheep?

Den Anker

Having escaped Belgium after serving an 18 year sentence, I have always avoided Den Anker at the Waterfront, worried it would just be a tourist trap for wandering Belgians.  More fool me.   It was a hot lunchtime when I went, and we sat indoors, eating surprisingly good food and downing cool, refreshing Belgian beers. Those diners who chose to sit outside were turning red as I watched them, and I would certainly return in the evening if I wished to eat outside, or would sit indoors again on a warm day. But boy, what a pleasant surprise to find a popular restaurant in that location that is so much more than a tourist trap! Some very good Belgian dishes in a magical setting.

Fairview

I remember visiting Fairview before it became so commercial, when I was the only one in the tasting room.   These days the masses arrive by the coachload.   However, I still enjoy lunches in the Goatshed restaurant there, with a superb selection of the farm’s wines, which can be ordered by the bottle or glass, brilliant bread and cheese, and an array of other delights. The salmon gravalax was inspiring, the coffee excellent, so this is far more than just a wine and cheese hangout. I rarely travel home with wine, except on those foolish occasions when I drive to and from the Cape, but I always pick up a few bottles of Fairview Olive Oil. And I remain impressed by the range and quality of their wine.  I would just stay away at the height of the tourist season, when the crowds can overwhelm.

Conclusion:

So. That is a rather personal summary of a delightful fortnight break in the Cape. I won’t dwell on the seafront walks, the delights of strolling through Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, the majestic drives through the Winelands.   But I will guess how much a gastronomic meander of the same top quality would have cost me in London, Sydney or NY. A hell of a lot more.

ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   For subscription details or any other communication, please contact:   zaconfidential@gmail.com     Follow us on twitter: @zaconfidential


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