Thursday, June 14, 2018

Menu’s Wine of the Week. Backsberg Family Reserve White 2017

This wine won the Grand Roche Old Mutual Trophy for the best white blend. It is an intriguing blend of three grapes, two expected: a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc, more often found as single varietals, and nestled in the middle of those two is a Roussane, a grape probably unfamiliar to many, found in the Rhône valley in France, often dry land and very rarely used alone, as it is a very good blending wine. They use it in Crozes Hermitage and in the red Chateauneuf du Pape
Photograph courtesy of Backsberg

It pulls the other two together and adds something very special. Fresh fruity, layered and with a summery attitude, do try it with food or just on its own. An excellent companion to duck or other poultry, rich creamy sauces or with soft, complex cheeses. We hope it will delight and charm you as much as it did us. With aromas and flavours of rich ripe peaches and apricots, vanilla oak and some spice, it is a wine that just keeps on giving, and will do so for a long while

Postscript from John:
I thought we had the Wine of the Week in our cellar. This is the 2015 Backsberg Centenary Cape White Blend. Our WotW is the 2017 Backsberg Family Reserve white blend. But we had its 2015 predecessor. Also brilliant. The 2017 was tasted at the Old Mutual Trophy tasting at the CTICC

MENU's Iberian Exploit 9. Jerez de la Frontera

If you are planning to travel in this area you need to know that from Seville to Cadiz, our next stop, it only took one and half hours driving. We wanted to see this famous port on the coast, but our experience can be summed up in just a few words from Lynne's notes: motorway tolls, SatNav doesn’t work, reverse, reverse, reverse, green roads, too many roundabouts, council estates, no access, dizzy, stress. They do have a seafront like Sea Point, but not a single café or place to have lunch. We left and headed straight for Jerez, where we had booked an AirBnB for a night - 3/4 of an hour away. We eventually found these 2 competing cafés, five minutes’ walk away, to have some sherry and some supper! One had food, the other football, it was Liverpool 2, Roma 0
Before ordering supper, we ordered a Palo Cortado sherry as an aperitif - what else would one choose in the home of sherry? Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is initially aged under flor to become a fino or amontillado, but inexplicably loses its veil of flor and begins aging oxidatively as an oloroso. The result is a wine with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado. Only about 1–2% of the grapes pressed for sherry naturally develop into palo cortado. Interesting! Dark amber, we concluded that, had this been from a better house, the quality might be better. €2.50 a glass
When in Jerez.... After the Palo Cortado apéritif, what else to accompany your Salmorejo but a glass of Fino with a lovely nose, nutty and dry, lean, very typical of the style, and hot with alcohol. €1.40 a glass. Sherry should not be something your Granny keeps on the sideboard for when you visit 
Our choices for supper
Bad choice: We ordered Chicharrones de Atun Rojo (pink tuna). It was not tuna, but very overcooked pieces of dry pork belly, also Chicharrones but not what we ordered. (Pity, the tuna may have come fresh from Cadiz). The pork was fatty and full of skin and John does not do those
Just billed as Tapas: Salmorejo is a version of Gazpacho found in every restaurant or bar we saw in Andalusia. Lynne makes it often in Summer, as we love it. Base ingredients are tomato, garlic, sherry vinegar, white bread and olive oil (see our recipe at It is delicious and very refreshing, especially in summer
A dish of potato salad, which was another tapa, rather good
Tempura boccarones (flattened anchovies). This suited John down to the ground, but not Lynne, who hates fish bones and small fishy fish
The bill. Lynne had a tonic water
Up bright and early next morning to visit Sandeman Sherry. We wanted to visit Gonzalez Byass (Tio Pepe) but they don't open till noon. Fortunately, Sandeman opens at 10, so we had a very good cellar tour and sherry tasting there. It is time for Sherry to become fashionable again. It is a wonderful apéritif and a good accompaniment to food. South Africa used to produce some really good examples, but the few that remain cannot compete with the Spanish, sadly
First a tour of the cellars; rows of 600 litre American oak barrels of sherry
The shop
And Lisa, a guide who spoke excellent English and was very informative, wearing the traditional Sandeman cloak and hat outfit. She knew we were informed, so she added to our knowledge
A Sandeman winemaker drawing sherry from barrels for the inspector, using his "wine thief" to pour with incredible skill to give the wine a bit of air as he pours - sorry it's unsharp, but we came round the corner in the dark cellar and John just pointed and shot! Yes, they do this so expertly, no drips
George Sandeman set up his Port and Sherry business in 1790. These, we were told, are his original tools. Not for torture, for marking the barrels
Some more sherry winemaking tools
A lovely courtyard
Lined with flower pots
The vine pergola in spring, just breaking into bud
Murals with the story of sherry
An illuminated glass fronted barrel where you can see the flor yeast floating on top of the sherry. It is this yeast which gives sherry its special character
A Criadera or Solera system of sherry. The top barrels are the youngest wines; a portion of wine is drawn from the oldest barrel at the bottom, replaced from the younger barrel above and that replaced from the younger barrel above that. So there will never be a vintage sherry; they are all made from a combination of vintages. There can be many layers of barrels
We had a tasting, of course. It costs €15. First a three year Fino, grapey, nutty, dry, soft and crisp. Then a 5 year dry Fino which had more maturity and was warmer and nutty. Then a medium dry, complex Amontillado, shy with nuts and spice on the nose, richness and layers of warm flavour. A 3 year old Oloroso sherry followed with a sweet nose with notes of wood and nice warmth on the palate with nut and apricot flavours; full on the palate, more nuts and Christmas mince pies. Next, a 5 year old Oloroso, raisins, dried fruit, & nuts. Sticky and thick on palate, a dessert wine, with an amaretto biscuit character, to pair with blue cheese, cheese cake and Christmas pudding. And, finally, Pedro Ximenez with raisins, brandy plums, nuts, sweet, velvety rich, perfect for desserts or to add and marinate strawberries or whip into cream (rather like an aged red Muscadel). We bought a bottle of the young Fino because we love it and it is very difficult to find in Cape Town. Sherry has been rather in the shadows and out of fashion in SA. Perhaps we should take another look at it - and do try the real thing
Our companion tasters, Janet and John, were British. They added tapas for another €8 each
The two younger sherries
We were hungry and needed a good lunch rather than Tapas so we stopped for lunch at a bar across the street from Sandeman
Beer is always a good refreshment after sherry, or any other wine tasting
Simple menus like this can deter one as you don't know what the quality will be like
Really good olives and bread came first
Volaores Rellenos - It doesn't look too appetising, but the flavours are great. Squid stuffed with more squid, onions, herbs lemon was quite sour and came with chips 
And the herbs were a little bitter
Somehow, Gambas al Aillo sounds more exotic and romantic than Shrimp scampi. Becoming a favourite, shrimps rather than prawns in olive oil and lots of garlic. So good to use the bread to soak up the juices. Lunch with a beer and a tonic cost about €14

Siris Vintners Trade tasting at the Mount Nelson

Once a year, Siris Vintners holds a trade tasting for their commercial customers. This year it was held in the Ballroom at the Mount Nelson so there was plenty of space for the many brands they represent

Megan Parnell and Shane Mullis showing their Claudia Brut from Domaine des Dieux, best bubble of the evening
Also of special note and top marks was the Groote Post Darling Hills Shiraz; sweet fruit, a full, rounded palate, spice and salty licorice on the end

David Nieuwoudt showing the wines he makes for The Berrio to Mark Herd of Sunset Beach Wines. The Sauvignon Blanc knocked our socks off. One for the summer
Fanus Bruwer of Quando has such a good selection. If you have a small list, these wines would fit perfectly
A top Sauvignon Blanc, a versatile Chenin Viognier blend that is magic with food, a lovely cherry berry Mourvèdre rosé just asking for a summer lunch and a Pinot Noir of note. His Mourvèdre rosé is currently sold out, but more will be coming soon, hopefully
Pete de Bruin of The Food Barn with broadcaster Jon Meinking
The shiny crew. Ad and Johan Wegner of GetWine with Pete de Bruin
Maia Bezuidenhout was showing the revived Lievland estate's wines. They had a horror: just as Maia was about to pour some of their Cabernet for John, someone used the just-filled decanter as a spittoon. It held their last bottle
We think the labels need a little more love on them. Hearts and flowers
Linda and Lydia Nobrega of the Chapman's Peak Hotel with fellow wine merchants Vaughan Johnson, famous in the V&A Waterfront for 30 years, and Mario de Biasio of Norman Goodfellow's
Wynand Grobler and Duncan Stuart of Rickety Bridge. Their "The Road to Santiago" Semillon really impressed as did the Cabernet Sauvignon. And no, we have no idea why the Semillon has that name. Wynand also makes the Landau de Val Semillon for Basil Landau - another benchmark wine in the Cape
Some snacks that went very quickly
Doolhof’s wines from Wellington. The Malbec has been a favourite of ours for a long time
The Mullineux table is always popular. The Old Vine white is complex and herbal, The Syrah intense. The Straw wine is pure honey with cherries, the Chenin classic with a dry finish. Their Swartland rouge is complex, fruity, soft and layered, definitely a food wine and very reasonably priced
Nico and Petra van der Merwe's daughter pours her father's wine. The Syrah is complex with sweet fruit and licorice
The Nicolas MCC
Anura has a good selection and a 2013 MCC in their reserve range. The excellent sauvignon blanc has incorporated Darling fruit for years but, we were told, now has Stellenbosch fruit as well, from vineyards high on the hill
Colyn Truter was showing Lourens van der Westhuizen’s Arendsig wines
The Arendsig Chenin blanc is awesome, full rounded and delicious. The Grenache is chewy and correct, very true to the varietal
Lynne and an old friend, Victor Mangala, now working at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay