Elgin under a cloud

On May 28, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Living in Elgin, Cape carries a price. Summer is more often grey and gloomy than not. You could well be living in Elgin, Scotland. If you get invited, bring a jersey. You might need it.

I guess that many of Elgin’s homes are empty at the weekend. Everyone’s gone to look for some sun. You don’t have to go far.

Elgin South Easter three 02 10

This is sunrise on a summer’s day on the road from Cape Town to Elgin. The vineyards of Elgin and Grabouw are ten to fifteen kilometres east of this point. They are blanketed by the cloud formation, regularly lowered over them by the the Cape’s summer South Easter. They won’t see the sun all day. 

This particular day, after the cold and windy Pinot noir grape-harvesting, just a 10 minute drive back towards Cape Town brought clear blue skies and sunburn warnings. At midday in Stellenbosch, the temperature was 34 degrees C. At the same time in the Pinot noir vineyard at was 18.

What isn’t fun for people seems to be good for the finicky Pinot. A constant cloud cover doesn’t stop photosynthesis, just slows it down. The longer the bunches hang on the vine, waiting for ripeness, the better everything works.

Pinot Noir Rowey Elgin b&w 02 10

The Pinot noir vineyard is exposed, on the 350m. altitude crest of a ridge. The ocean is about 8km away, in a line with the right edge of the picture

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What’s going on with old Pinotage

On May 25, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Everyone believes that special old wines are expensive and sought-after. But few people have ever tasted any. No one keeps wine for drinking ten or twenty years from now.

We often get asked “how long will this wine last?”. But some wines actually get better and better. Favours that weren’t even hinted at in the young wine emerge and become a source of surprise and satisfaction. So it’s less a case of ‘lasting’ than becoming a different and more rewarding wine.

Three bottles of old Bordeaux with premium heritage arrived in Cape Town in the luggage of a visiting Frenchman. So we got a few Frenchmen and a couple of South Africans and we organised a last minute pick-up test match where tasters and most wines were in the over-30 category.  The main events were to be the wines from Paulliac with the always-memorable food prepared by Harald Bresserschmidt. The venue was Auslese, the invitation-only food and wine venue on Hope Street, Gardens, Cape Town. We warmed up by tasting some venerable South African whites and reds with well-known names. Then came the Latour 1983 and Lynch Bages 1998 and 1979. Terrific stuff.

We were ready for our gourmand lunch, tugging our chosen bottles, when someone noticed that we had ignored the 5 Pinotages, all in their 30’s, standing open. We sat down again.

Old Pinotage 2 Socks Wine Club 2010 19s

Harald Bresserschmidt, master chef (left) and Denis Garret, fabled sommelier and enfant terrible at the Auslese test match

From the first bottle, a Simonsig Pinotage from 1972, we were in a serious contest for ‘wine of the tasting’. From the second, the battle was over. The five Pinotages, dated between 1972 and 1976, showed delicate aroma, outstanding depth and breadth of flavour, fruit, structure and balance that put them in a different league to all of the other wines. None of them tasted like recent-vintage Pinotage. When the wine ages, it becomes a different beverage. 

At lunch, we decided to do it again next year with some chosen grizzled warriors from around the world, and let Pinotage defend its crown.