Sunday, March 19, 2017

Blaauwklippen Zin & Gin at the Cape Grace

Blaauwklippen in Stellenbosch is famous for making Zinfandel. Once a year they allow the media to taste one of their iterations of this interesting grape. This year, the 10th Blaauwklippen Zinfandel tasting, it was a vertical of the sweet Noble Late Harvest from 2007 to 2014. Blaauwklippen have also been making Brandy, Eau de Vie & Grappa for several years, now they have ventured into Gin, which is currently undergoing a huge renaissance in South Africa and abroad. The tasting was held at the Cape Grace Hotel this year. We began with the tasting of 8 wines, and ended a lovely meal with a taste of the gin
The line up of the NLH Zinfandel
We began with another Zinfandel, their MCC, the Diva. Yeasty brioche, apple hints, with some lemon zest, this is enjoyable and fun
Lots of it on ice
Canapés were served with the Diva. These small choux buns were filled with a fig chutney and a goat’s cheese mousse, so crisp and melt in the mouth
Scallop, served ceviche style on avocado mousse with passion fruit, went so well with the Diva. But Lynne's got whipped away before she could finish it
Small cured salmon twirls on crisp rosti with a Hollandaise sauce. Only saw them once, they were very good
Greg Landman of Country Life wearing his gift from the queen
We take our places for the tasting to begin
Some tasty bits of news?
Cellarmaster Rolf Zeitvogel tells us how these wines began. The grapes in 2004 had very high sugar so he decided "why not try to make a port?" He employed one of SA's top port makers - Danie Malan at Allesverloren in the Swartland - as an advisor and they began. But it didn't go according to plan as a heat wave shrivelled half the grapes and increased the sugars to over 40º Balling, so they were not suitable for port, said Danie Malan. They were fermented on the skins in oak. Rolf decided to make it into a sweet dessert wine and used the fact that the grapes get the Noble Rot, Botrytis cinerea, in some years. Rolf had to convince the Wine and Spirit Board who, at first, rejected it as they ruled that there are no red Noble Late harvests. Rolf eventually persuaded them to adopt Zinfandel into this category. Similar wines are made in California, where much of the world's Zinfandel is grown. Blaauwklippen’s oldest block of Zinfandel was planted by Walter Finlayson in 1982 and these wines come from that original block. They do everything in the vineyard to encourage the Botrytis
Winemaker Narina Cloete, who started at Blaauwklippen last year, tells us about the vintage and how it is made. She took us through the 8 wines
The wines are mainly cranberry in colour except for the 2009, which is much darker. They are very sweet, some having very high residual sugar, in the region of 350 gm/l. We started with the youngest 2014 and worked our way back to 2007. The flavour can vary from Ribena, to cranberry, honey bush tea, cassis and other sweet ripe berries. Some are rather syrupy. There is one standout year, which many people in the room preferred, the 2009, where the wine is much more port like, which made everyone wonder what would have happened had they continued on this path. It has an RS of 190 g/l, the age is beginning to show well as it matures. It has a definite port nose and palate, complexity with a bit of wildness, length and depth of fruit and spice, with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon
Time to go into lunch. We cleansed our palates with another glass of Diva
 In the restaurant
The menu
The first course was a small square of tender Confit Pork Belly (not fatty), topped with a large grilled and peeled prawn, on a bed of sweet, spicy, curried pumpkin purée and a mango salsa. This was paired with the White Zinfandel, a good dry wine match for the food; crisp and fruity with citrus and loquats. Most of us wanted another one; this was a very good dish
The main course was tender seared ostrich fillet with a black pepper and coriander seed crust, so like a good steak au poivre. Lynne converted Winnie Bowman to appreciating ostrich steak. It came with a delectable thick, shiny pear & meat jus. Luckily, someone at our table called for more of the sauce. Served with good creamy mashed potato, and a crisp onion streusel for texture, broccoli spears, baby carrots, courgette, mushrooms and onion slivers. Naaaice as they say in SA. The wine paired with this was the 2015 Red Zinfandel, now in a Burgundy bottle with new packaging. Spicy cinnamon on the nose, with red berries and rhubarb and dark licorice, dry tannins, a heavyweight and heady. Perfect for steak
The dessert was made to echo the Gin flavours and was a orange semifreddo, with coffee poached pears, honeycomb, gingerbread crumble fresh orange segments and candied orange zest
And now to taste the new gin
It was served neat, and ice cold. Lots of different layers of aromas and flavours, hot alcohols, and complexity. On the nose, herbal notes, with coriander seed, Eucalypts, wormwood, some quinine bitterness and floral perfume at the end. Citrus flavours abound, juniper is there and then too many to describe. Apparently it has many, many different added ingredients. The makers did a trip from Gariep in Namibia and added some inspirational flavour notes at each of the stops! Lynne added a teaspoon of water and it changed into a much softer drink, with even more flavours and aromas
Michelle Coburn of Taste Magazine enjoying the aromas in the Gin
Michelle Coburn with Seth Shezi at the end of a good meal and tasting
With coffee we were served plates of friandise, poppy seed macarons, guava jellies and the most amazing chocolate and shattery butterscotch bark with added rosemary
The two sisters, Narina Cloete with her sister Nanette, Blaauwklippen’s Hospitality manager
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2017

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