Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meeting the new winemaker and chef at An Expression of Chenin Blanc at Grande Provence

It has been a while since we last visited this farm, and in the interim period wine maker Hagen Viljoen has joined. We were invited for the release of the new 2017 Chenin Blanc, Grand Provence's new single varietal wine. He says “For many, Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa’s top wine varieties and has a strong claim for pole position when it comes to being the driver for brand South Africa. The ready access to a rich heritage of old vineyards, as well as the variety’s versatility of styles certainly re-enforces this claim”. And Chenin would be the main focus of the wine with lunch
The farm has a very good art gallery and the gardens are filled with sculptures
The fine dining restaurant
We like the new feeling of lightness that pervades Grande Provence and we were interested to see how popular it is. The outside tables were full all through the lunch time and afterwards, with people enjoying tastings and having light lunches
Media were directed to the Oyster Bar and given a glass of the Grande Provence MCC Brut, a blend of 50% each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
It was a very hot day and this was extremely welcome as was the ice cold water served
There were plumptious three bite oysters for those who could partake
We gathered under the trees at the Oyster Bar
Wine merchant Mike Bampfield Duggan
Tables laid for tastings under the trees
Luckily we were ushered into The Jonkershuis, where it was cool and a long table had been set up for lunch. We were to taste the wines with the dishes
Winemaker Hagen Viljoen
General Manager of Grande Province Ivan Oertle CWM. Ivan is also the Sales and Marketing Manager - Local and International Sales. He was previously the wine buyer at Woolworths
The new 2017 Chenin Blanc. It is Hagen's first wine for Grande Provence. A dusty nose with hints of English gooseberries, at first it is dry on the palate then the fruit powerfully bursts through, golden apricots, passion fruit, guava and a nice citrus shot of acidity. We were served some good sourdough bread and an unusual nut dip, the wine was very special in this combination
The menu
It also was the perfect match for the much enjoyed starter of firm Gin cured Yellowtail, with a Yuzu foam, and avocado purée, carrot fronts and some crisp sago crackers, rather like those prawn crackers you get in Chinese restaurants - we liked them. It also had some kohlrabi slices, but they were rather superfluous. We like kohlrabi but felt it didn't add anything to the dish
Next came two vintages of the Grande Provence White, a blend of 56% Chenin Blanc and 44% Viognier. Normally when this much viognier is added it takes over, but it didn't dominate in either of these vintages. The 2015 has the label, the 2016 is about to be released and has not yet been labelled. On the 2015 there are lees and wood notes, with apples and pears. A nice full, rounded palate followed by a crisp prickle and a long flavours of caramel apple tart tatin ending with a hint of wood smoke. The 2016 is similar, just a bit fresher, with lemons and peaches on the nose, and no wood visible. Citrus crisp on the palate, then the wood appears. Dry chalky tannins a little mouth puckering and lots of cooked apples and pears - they described them as pomme fruits. The room was split 50/50 on which was the favourite, so do try both of these wines if you can and see which you prefer
Executive Chef Guy Bennett came to tell us about his menu. He is a Capetonian who has worked his way up the ranks alongside some of Cape Town’s most celebrated culinary masters. After completing apprenticeships at Savoy Cabbage and Buitenverwachting in his early twenties, Guy joined Reuben Riffel at the One and Only and later moved to The Robertson Small Hotel. He was soon snatched up by Delaire Graff Restaurant where he worked as Michael Deg’s right hand man. His last stint before joining Grande Provence was head chef for Bertus Basson. Guy has taken over from Darren Badenhorst, who has opened his own restaurant, in Franschhoek
The long table during lunch
The course that was paired with the two vintages of the Grande Provence White was a tribute to cauliflower. A risotto of cauliflower and mushrooms with a perfect' bite', a rich brie cream and perfectly cooked wood smoked sautéed porcini which went so well with the wood notes on the wine. There were small florets of curried and pickled cauliflower which contrasted well. There were lots of other bits and textures of cauliflower as well - puréed, raw, grilled but perhaps a bit too much. The stars were the risotto and the cooked mushrooms. There was also a smear of well burnt sage butter on the side of the bowl
John had his without mushrooms
Love the chandelier! Now you don't have to recycle ALL of your wine bottles.
Hagen then told us about the next wine which was the pairing with the main course. It is an Amphora wine which was made by his predecessor Matthew van Heerden.
Called appropriately Amphora 2016 and made from Chenin Blanc and Muscat de Alexandrie, it is most unusual but not unenjoyable. The herbal green nose is like being in a pesto factory, it has so many herbal notes, so different. On the palate apples and limes with dry tannins and a back of the throat almost spirity volatility. Not a sherry substitute. This wine will certainly engage and fascinate the wine world
The course it was paired with was a small slice of belly of pork, topped with a peach  purée and crisp popcorn crackling and fresh figs. It came with both a potato  purée and a square of gratin sliced layers of potato that had been crisp pan roasted in butter. There was a ripe peach fluid gel and a slice of seared peach which made the dish nicely fruity and cut the fat of the pork. Oh and a good rich puddle of concentrated pork pan juices. A very good match for the Amphora as well as the new 2017 Chenin which many of us called for to retaste with this dish
Grande Provence have made Angels Tears for many, many years and it is deservedly popular. Made from Muscat and Chenin grapes it has now evolved into a dryer wine than it was previously and is all the better for it, as the dryness adds character and loses the slight sickly sweetness it once had. A charming nose of pure rose petals, and a palate of only slightly sweet, refreshing dusty Chenin. This was served with dessert and is certainly one to consider as a dessert wine and a wine for spicy food. The Natural Sweet 2017 has Alc/Vol 11.5% | pH 3.48 | R.S. 26g/l | TA 5.5g/l
The menu description of the dessert said passion fruit sorbet, but it tasted like good mango, which is in season. This was on a hazelnut crumb base and accompanied by a rich creamy honey parfait, sprinkled with toasted coconut, that was fighting the heat. It was topped with a plain tuile and set on slices of poached pear and a gel of what we think was pear but it could have been litchi? Another good pairing, with the wine washing away the rich cream. A very nice way to showcase both the wines and the food and refreshing to see the winemaker and the chef working so well together. Thank you Grande Provence for a great experience

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