Friday, November 30, 2018

'SA launch' wine & food-pairing dinner of Aristea wines at the Alphen Hotel, Constantia

An invitation from Matthew Krone to join him and taste the new release of his Aristea wines over dinner at the Alphen in Constantia. Aristea is a partnership of three friends who each already have their own wine brands/wine ventures and many years of accumulated winemaking experience. Their aim was to make exceptional South African wines that would reflect each of their individual identities and passion for wine, Matthew, a 12th generation winemaker from South Africa who sources the grapes and makes the wine, Martin Krajewski who is British and owns Clos Cantenac in St Emilion and in 2016 bought Château Séraphine in Pomerol and Frenchman Florent Dumeau, a renowned Burgundian winemaker, who has extensive experience of winemaking and vineyard management, as well as considerable expertise in France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, South Africa, Turkey, China and Serbia. Together, they strive to produce exceptional wines in the Cape that encapsulate the wild spirit and raw beauty of this wonderful land and that make people smile. For the full story, go to
We began the evening with the Aristea Méthode Cap Classique Blanc 2015,
a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes
It has sophistication with brioche on the nose and some perfume, salty citrus with clean and fresh long flavours, with some minerality and a good mousse. It spends 3 years on the lees. A small portion of the Chardonnay spends some time in wood
Antique buildings in the The Alphen complex as the evening shadows lengthen at sunset
The restaurant is in this superb old Cape Dutch mansion
It is called blanko
Canapés of oysters were served with the bubbly. They came topped with red pepper, croutes
and gazpacho and, sadly, chopped raw onion, which masks the delicate flavour of the oyster
Matthew’s father, Nicky Krone, joined us for dinner. His father, NC Krone, made a very important contribution to the international wine industry, being the first winemaker in the world to implement cold, low temperature fermentation in his wine tanks. This revolutionised white wine production worldwide, and made it possible to make fresh-tasting, reductive white wines
Chatting in the lounge before dinner
Two squirrels on the wall outside surveying their territory!
Matthew tells us more about this vintage release. The wines are sold on allocation locally and in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They only make small quantities of each wine, 6 000 bottles of each. Only a small portion (10%) of total production is kept back every year for sale in SA
Listening to the Aristea story
The Aristea wines
The menu was paired with the wines. We were very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food, they must have a new chef. We have not always had great food at Blanko
We were in one of the small private dining rooms
The first wine was the White blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Matthew told us that some of the wine comes from part of a block rather than the whole block; they pay the best for the best fruit. The wine made such an impression on us that we made it our wine of the week in MENU last week. We can pay no better compliment to this wine than to say that, at the table, one person compared it to a Graves, another to a Haut Brion. It certainly is quite French in character, and very impressive. The grapes are from Elgin and they pay the best price for the best fruit. It isn’t a wine you want to pull apart and analyse; it is a full, well balanced, well integrated and layered wine, with beautiful golden stone fruit, good minerality, deliciousness and staying power. It is aged in wood for 10 months and the wood supports, not dominates.75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon
It came with the amuse bouche of a perfectly grilled sweet but a little sandy, scallop topped with a pancetta crumb, with a pea purée and a lemon burnt butter. Wonderful pairing
With the starter, we had the Aristea Chardonnay. Beautiful fruit on the nose: golden loquats and greengage plums, whiffs of wood smoke and vanilla oak, sweet, spicy and well balanced with golden fruit on the long, long palate. This went amazingly well with the starter of beetroot carpaccio, dried beetroot chips, and baby beets topped with a creamy and delicate goat’s cheese mousse and killer candied walnuts which were an inspired addition. Neither of us is a fan of beetroot, but we can unreservedly say that this was the best we have ever eaten, and we were not alone around the table. The walnuts brought everything together
Next was the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from four Stellenbosch producers in the Golden Triangle of Cabernet. Tension is the buzz word in red wines at the moment and this certainly has it. Rich cassis berries and cherries on the nose and palate with liquorice wood, perfume and incense. It needs time to settle and the good fruit acids will carry it forward for many a year. We had it with herb and crumb crusted lamb chops, fondant potato, and an 'exotic' mushroom and rich lamb jus
Dessert was difficult to photograph, as it was rather phallic in shape! A melting mascarpone Semi Freddo, filled with a raspberry gel, on a cocoa nib soil, with fresh strawberry slices and basil. Not the best course, but it went so well with the wonderfully fruity, candy pink Aristea Rosé MCC. It has whiffs of smoke and is full of lively strawberry and red berry flavours. 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir left longer on the skins and this shows on the long flavours which delight. To enjoy all summer long. Thank you Matthew for sharing these lovely wines

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