Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Lunch at Aubergine with a vertical tasting of Elgin Ridge wine

What use is having a wine farm if you cannot make a bubbly on it? says Marion Smith at a vertical tasting of Elgin Ridge wines which was followed by lunch at Aubergine Restaurant
Owner Brian Smith began the tasting telling us about the wines and their Elgin farm. They sold their successful IT business in London and moved to South Africa. In 2007 they bought this bare mountainside farm in Elgin and began to plant vines. They have Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay which is used in their Rosé 2011 MCC, called MV which is mainly (73%) Pinot Noir
The 20 hectare farm has 7 hectares under vine and 10 are pasture; they are farming organically with ECOCERT certification. They also have cattle. Recently appointed winemaker, Kosie van der Merwe, has now planted 900 Semillon vines to add to Sauvignon Blanc and may put it into barrel so that they can make a white Bordeaux blend
We tasted seven Sauvignons Blanc: 2013 has herbal fynbos, green on the nose and palate with racy acidity. The 2014 is a bit more golden fruit than 2013 but still has the racy acidity. The 2015 has lots of green pyrazines with grassy notes and intense acidity and warm alcohol. The older 2012 is complex with a very different nose. It’s more golden, more integrated, grassy and a little perfumed. Crisp acidity still holds the wine together. The 2011 has structure and softer acidity. It is vegetal and full. There is no Semillon on this one. Niels Verburg helped make the 2010; it has fruit, perfume, elegance and depth, but has lost much of the grape acidity. Finally we tasted the 2009, made by Andrew Gunn of Iona and Jean Smuts of Boekenhoutskloof. Perfumed, grassy, grapey. A tingle on the tongue, refreshing, sherbety, with  pyrazines crisp and dry
Then we tasted the MCC. This 2011 vintage is a blend of 83% Pinot Noir and 17% Chardonnay. The wine is matured for two years in old French barrels, where it is naturally fermented. It spends 2 years on the lees being stirred, then a second ferment in bottle and another 3 years on the lees. It does not receive a dosage. It is partridge eye pink. Sweet pinot fruit predominates and there is a leesy character. It sells for R500 a bottle. Marion says she drinks a lot of it
Media listening intently during the tasting. Cabernet franc will come soon; they are making it in collaboration with another farm. It will be bought in and is not organic
The lunch menu
Another memorable starter from chef Harald Bresselschmidt. (Lynne cannot forget two other dishes he made when at Grande Roche, a mushroom soup and an apple strudel ice cream). The kingklip (line caught) was perfectly and gently cured, as you would gravadlax, then cooked sous vide. It looked raw, but was soft and yielding and had a texture rather like crab meat. It had an attractive pearlescence, so pretty, and the passion fruit dressing could not have been a better foil to the rich fish. It was accompanied by sautéed strips of abalone and served with spears of just blanched new season asparagus, dressed with garden herbs and flowers. Special mention must also be made of the rocket pesto, hot and peppery served with the bread. This course was served with the crisp 282 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, which had a good mouth feel, with warm alcohol
The main course was a duck breast people raved about. Crisp skin after rendering down all the fat, but served pink and tender, very flavourful with a sour morello cherry reduction, allspice, a red cabbage gel, baby corn and mushrooms and spinach. This was a good match for the 282 2013 Pinot Noir with its cherry fruit and slight bitterness from dark wood
Chef Harald had us all fooled with his menu description of the last course. We thought we were in for a cheese course as it was titled Gonedsa Belegen which is a matured (belegen) South African gouda style cheese. In fact, it was a tiny creamy cheese tart with superbly crisp buttery pastry, served with a pawpaw and apple ice cream with hints of rosemary; delectable. Sadly the wine served, the Late 96, a very oxidised 1996 Sauvignon blanc, was rather late
Chef Harald with Nicolette Waterford, owner of Waterford Communications who handled the Public Relations for the event
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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