In support of the Die Vine Intervention wine tasting podcasts which Michael Olivier and I endure each week, it is always fun to see how others approach the noble art of wine tasting, so I would like to report back on a few recent adventures.
I have always found the most civilised way of appreciating good wine is with a good meal, and indeed my most unpleasant experiences have been on those occasions – for instance at some barbaric media events and investment analyst presentations – where some effort and expense has been put into providing food, but the mantra from the bar is “soft drinks only.”
So I was most appreciative when invited to a wine tasting and food pairing event at my favourite Pretoria tuck shop, Prosopa restaurant. Hosted by the ever-affable and sometimes-sober Dino Fagas, the guest of honour was Zorgvliet’s charming, talented and articulate winemaker Bernard Le Roux.
We tried an array of wines, most of which were very enjoyable, but none of which shot the lights out. The food was thoughtfully chosen and prepared, and it complimented the wine well – with the possible exception of a lamb curry which I thought a bit overpowering next to its red wine neighbour. Now, I have been to similar events, for instance at a pretentious hangout in the Cradle of Inhumanity, where tiny sips of wine accompanied each course, and there wasn’t a lot of food either. The sort of tasting menu where there is not a lot to swallow, apart from an inflated bill.
Not so with Dino and Prosopa. Each wine was served in generous measures, with top-ups where required, and the food was ample and enjoyable. If you want to host a wine event, I suggest you give Dino a shout. I have subsequently attended a Lanzerac wine evening at Prosopa, where again there was ample food and wine, not too much waffle, and a greatly successful showcasing of some of the finest booze the Cape has to offer.
A more serious, and thus slightly less fun, event was the tasting at Nedbank’s Jo’bug HQ of entries in the Cape Winemakers’ Guild. I lost count of all the wines which could be tasted, but it was at least 50. Most of them were presented by the winemaker him/herself. The Auction itself was a big success, with bidders like Tsogo Sun’s Miguel Chan helping to raise millions for a very worthy cause. I have to say that while little expense appeared to have been spared by Nedbank to make this a memorable event, the food failed dismally to match the quality of the wine. Fortunately I was able to soak up some of the wine with crackers. We were really put through our paces at the tasting itself, with the result that at times I was struggling to recall which wine was which, when choosing from the two glasses in front of me. It gave me renewed respect for the career wine tasters who took it all in their stride.
Another event I really enjoyed was hosted by Michael Fridjhon, well known as a wine writer, who also runs an importation business. The tasting at the Rosebank Hyatt hotel was a meander through some of the world’s top vineyards, and I was able to glug back a few old friends from France, New Zealand and Spain. If you have the budget, and want to explore the world of wine outside South Africa, you can’t go far wrong with Michael. Literally world-class stuff.
I subsequently had a few problems with one of the kingpins of the hospitality industry, who made the promise of a review of an event a condition of an invitation – a practice which flies in the face of all my experience as a professional journalist.
This does raise a serious point, though? Are the full-time food and wine writers enslaved under a similar obligation? If so, it might explain why all too many reviews which one reads are so glowing. Maybe this is an avenue of the journalistic profession where there really is no such thing as a free lunch? The only thing I can guarantee at a hosted event is that I will seek out the finest wines, will appreciate them up to the limits of gluttony, and will try not to fall off my chair too often.
If I remember the event with any accuracy the next day, there will be a review. And if it was awful I will say so. After all, none of us is ever likely to try harder while luxuriating under a warm shower of purple praise.
A final wine event was the annual Winex at the Sandton Convention Centre, to which I was invited by FNB, and given free parking and some grub (after a few minutes of grovelling) by their sister bank and chief sponsor RMB. This was the best Winex I have ever attended, with some remarkable gems from producers such as Vilafonte, Warwick, Thelema and others. Michael Fridjhon is also involved in this event, which is a great stage for tasting a variety of wines, all under one roof.
Tweets of the Day:
Bill Murray (@BillMurray): The trouble with being punctual is that nobody’s there to appreciate it.
Famous-Quote.net (@famousquotenet): My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub. -Grover Norquist
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