Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The release of the 2017 Limestone Hill Chardonnay from De Wetshof Wines at La Tête Restaurant

This was held over lunch on a gloomy day at La Tête restaurant in Bree Street and certainly helped to brighten up the day. 
It is De Wetshof's most popular of their five Chardonnays, the one you are most likely to see on wine lists. And, this year, it shows real potential to exceed its previous successes. Johan de Wet says 2017 is probably the best vintage they have ever seen
We were welcomed with a glass of De Wetshof's 2009 Mèthode Cap Classic Cuvée Brut, full of the characteristic limestone crispness you get in the Robertson valley,.
The launch certainly attracted one of the largest serious wine media contingents we have seen for a while
Most of the restaurant had been taken over for the launch and one long table had been laid. La Tête opened in November last year, 2016 and has been much lauded. It is run by Chef Giles and his financier brother James Edwards. Giles trained in Cape Town but moved to London in 2005 and has worked in some of the top restaurants there, latterly working for Chef Fergus Henderson at his restaurant St John in Clerkenwell, famous for his Nose to Tail eating
PRO Emile Joubert shows us the new wine glasses in which we will taste and drink the wine
James Edwards chatted to us about the restaurant which serves what’s fresh and available from a small number of carefully chosen suppliers. The menu changes daily according to what is in season. It is not only nose to tail meat but encompasses fresh fruit and vegetables, and fish and seafood - Giles received a solid grounding at Lombard Street in London and also worked at J Sheekey in Covent Garden
Johann de Wet introduces the 2017 Limestone Hill Chardonnay to us. He explained that de Wetshof focus on growing and producing great chardonnay, it is 70% of their business; the rest is just flowers and decoration! Well we think that is selling themselves a little short - they produce some excellent wines from other grapes, like their Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blancs, not to mention the Edeloes dessert wines and the bubbly. Limestone Hill is grown on chalk and heavy clay rich soils, they don’t need to add wood to this wine for richness, the soil does it for them, adding complexity and structure
Chef Giles explains what we are going to have for lunch which has been paired with the Limestone Hill
The menu
The wine is poured. it is like spring sunshine this vintage, with apple blossom and perfume and whiffs of pine nuts, with limes and lemons, crisp and lean but very full and very, very satisfying. In fact with lunch, quaffable in extreme!
Good crusty bread
Johann tells us more about the wine. They blind taste all the chardonnays to designate the wine candidates. Some vineyards do go to the same destinations each year, like Bon Vallon and Limestone Hill, even though they taste them blind. With ph 3.2 this is a very stable wine that ages easily and will be best drunk this Christmas and will last for 5 to 10 years
The food was served family style and we all helped ourselves. The first starter of char grilled green beans in a light vinaigrette with meaty pickled pine ring mushrooms from Tokai forest. It was fresh with some crunch from the beans and red onions. We liked the charring on the beans
The other starter of Crispy pig cheeks with crackling fresh chicory (endive) and apple was quite delicious We like chicory very much but usually cook it as it sometimes can be very bitter. This was not at all bitter but fresh and crunchy. The green apple added a nice sharp note and the gooey pork was well flavoured. The crisp crackling did exactly that. Our only complaint, not enough! It was hoovered up from the plate by our companions leaving a lot of the chicory and apple behind. Both went so well with the Limestone Hill
Discussions over lunch
More wine!
The main course - and to be honest many were expecting some offal - was a simple fish pie under puff pastry. It was filled with local hake both fresh and smoked in a velouté (creamy stock). This came with shredded Brussels sprouts and carrots. A clever way to disguise something many people don't like and the carrots took away some of the bitterness, as did the wine, which always goes well with fish dishes. But they do have after effects
A goodly portion on the classic very French style La Tête plates
Portion control! Shows you how big each pie was
Johann in discussion. He has recently become a father and we learned that the baby is very good and a sleeper! Lucky parents
And then the decadent dessert. One of Lynne's all time favourites - and she doesn't have many as desserts don't often excite. It is Iles Flottantes or Floating Islands - small quenelles of soft meringue that are poached in warm vanilla custard. This was topped with dark caramel sauce (often forgotten from the dish) and toasted almonds. Confession: she had two, her neighbour didn't like it!
And then warm freshly baked Madeleines with coffee. They were not much understood at the table, being quite new to the South African food world. Small, very light sponge cakes, perfumed with vanilla. Dipped in the custard they were superb. And the coffee is good. We have to come back to eat off the interesting menu which you can find on theirWebsite
Thank you De Wetshof for such a great launch. We think the Limestone Hill more than lives up to expectations and will take the recommendation to drink at Christmas and thereafter. It is available from the farm http://www.dewetshof.com/product/limestone-hill-chardonnay, in all good wine shops and supermarkets. And of course on many restaurant wine lists

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