BEST BUBBLES RISE TO THE TOP

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) In the wine (in the wine) Make me happy (make me happy) Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)

 Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) Make me warm all over With a feeling that I’m gonna Love you till the end of time

Don Ho (1967)

That song was a hit 50 years ago, and we continue to enjoy and celebrate those tiny bubbles today.

Yesterday, we were wined and dined at the 12 Apostles Hotel on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard – the occasion was the awarding of the prizes in the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge.

Each of the four courses we enjoyed was paired with an appropriate MCC: Chicken or Egg with an MCC Brut; Yellowfin Tuna with an MCC Rose; Lamb Roast with an MCC Blanc de Blanc; and the Apple Custard with a Museum Class MCC. .

This annual event is hosted by the MCC Association in association with Portugal-based cork company Amorim, the world’s leading supplier of cork wine stoppers and has done much to elevate the status and popularity of South African bubbly.

In 2016, MCC sold 4,4m bottles in South Africa, a staggering growth of 24.5% compared to 2015 or nearly one million bottles. .

The major awards at the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge went to:

Best Producer, Overall Wine:

Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Simonsig Cuveģe Royale

Best Brut:

Domaine Des Dieux Claudia Brut MCC 2011

Best Rosé:

Woolworths Simonsig Pinot Noir Rosé 2015

Best Blanc de Blanc:

Simonsig’s Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Best Museum Class:

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2005

And the Frans Malan Legacy Award went to Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck

 

 

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50 SHADES OF HEAT

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Ishay Govender-Ypma is a journalist, writer and cook based in Cape Town. She grew up on the ambrosial, sometimes hellfire curries of KwaZulu-Natal and quickly embraced spiced dishes of all kinds.

Her new book, CURRY – Stories & Recipes across South Africa, explores the fascinating story of South African curry. In it Ishay features almost 90 recipes from 60 cooks and food experts across the nation.

Ishay avers that “the Durban curries of her childhood, though a proud and prominent part of South African food culture, are not the defining curries of this land.” She didn’t take the easy way out in seeking recipes for inclusion in this book, instead she and her husband took to the road, travelling across the breadth of nine provinces. On the trip, both the dish and the heart of our people revealed itself to her.

“It became increasingly clear that a recipe shared without the context of a person’s life would be lost on me, the reader and the interviewee. While there are a handful of well-recognised chefs here, the majority are home cooks who were elected and suggested to me by their communities.”

CURRY is not an ordinary cookbook. For a start, Ishay’s Introduction is a marvellous and important discourse on the socio-political South African context of the history of curry and its communities. Even if you are not going to tackle any of the recipes, it will add some depth the next time you eat a curry locally. And with each provider of recipes, there is a personal back-story, adding authenticity and a setting to the dishes they share with the reader.

A plus, not common to all cookbooks, is that all the ingredients for the recipes should be readily available at your local supermarket.

Is Durban curry the real thing for you? Or maybe it’s the Cape Malay curry that gets your taste buds going? If that’s the limit of your local curry experience, you are in for a treat…

As Ishay says: “And I learned that profiling a South African curry as a single entity is a futile task. It’s as complex and interesting as the many people who make up our land”

So delve into CURRY’S   regional nuances of the delicious diversity that is South African curry – I’m sure that you will agree that in more ways than one, variety is the spice of life.

 

WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE

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Many people may be unaware of the threats that endanger the sources of the food they eat. Some key factors threatening food supply are the effects of climate change and the destruction of natural habit and the fact that many animals face extinction

Some blissfully consume without giving any thought as to where the food they eat comes from and whether or not there is a limitless supply of it. Globally, the impact of an ever-increasing consumer demand for cheap meat is devastating.

Philip Lymbery’s new book, Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were, is an eye-opening and frightening examination of the impact of industrial farming on the environment. In it Lymbery highlights iconic species and asks what would happen to them if we don’t change some of the ways we farm.

Lymbery is chief executive of leading international farm animal welfare organisation, Compassion in World Farming and a Visiting Professor at the University of Windsor.

He has played a leading role in many animal welfare reforms, including Europe-wide bans on veal crates for calves and barren battery cages for laying hens.

Described as one of the food industry’s most influential people, he has led Compassion’s engagement work with over 700 food companies worldwide, leading to real improvements in the lives of over three quarters of a billion farm animals every year.

Lymbery’s book, Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat was one of the Times Writers’ Books of the Year and was cited by the Mail on Sunday as a compelling game-changer. It surveyed the effects of industrial livestock production and industrial fish farming around the world

He believes it completely wrong that livestock need to be factory-farmed in sheds and fed one third of the world’s grain so that they grow as big and fast as possible. “There’s already enough food for everybody,” he maintains, as more than half the world’s food rots, is dumped in landfill, or feeds ‘imprisoned’ animals.

We are wrongly led to accept that squeezing animals into factory farms and cultivating crops in vast, chemical-soaked prairies is a necessary evil and an efficient means of providing for an ever expanding global population, while leaving land free for wildlife

If anything can provide an alarming wake-up call, reading Philip Lymbery’s Dead Zone will certainly be able to do the trick.

He takes us to the Gulf of Mexico where we discover what a Dead Zone is: “about 15 miles out, I was looking at something that resembled a construction site. All around me were oil rigs. It was blistering hot and the sea was eerily quiet. I’d heard a lot about this place in the media: somewhere out to sea where nothing lives. An expanse of water so polluted that nearly all the oxygen is gone. They exist all over the world, but the Gulf of Mexico one is the worst. As a dead zone spreads, some bottom-dwelling fish are forced to the surface, where they are vulnerable to predators; and the rest just die.” As a bottom-fish, shrimp take a particularly heavy hit.

In the book, we encounter the Elephant, neither the African nor the Asian, but the lesser-known Sumatran Elephant (which like the Indian, is a subspecies of the Asian) ; the Barn Owl whose numbers like other farm birds in Europe have dwindled dramatically; the majestic American Bison (also known as the American Buffalo); the Red Junglefowl, the primary progenitor of the domestic chicken; The White Stork, one of Poland’s best-loved wildlife treasures; The Water vole,  Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal; the Peregrine is a bird that is a fearless hunter that catches its prey on the wing. The island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel is a prime site for seeing them; It is also the site of an amazing experiment: the very first reintroduction of a Bumblebee, which were officially declared extinct in Great Britain in 2000; the iconic Jaguar is a big cat and the largest feline species in the Americas; Penguins from Robben Island in Cape Town; the Marine Iguana also known as the Galapagos Marine Iguana and lastly, the Nightingale, the numbers of which have declined by 43%.on Great Britain.

Be warned, the sections of Dead Zone where Lymbery discusses ‘industrial farming’ are “not for sensitive readers”. The topic is depressing and makes for jaw-dropping, harrowing, horrific reading. I hope that we don’t practice the extremes of industrial farming in South Africa.

The book includes this powerful appeal from Lymbery: “Helping to revive a living countryside can be as easy as choosing to eat less and better meat, milk and eggs from pasture-fed free-range or organic animals. Through our food choices three times a day, we can support the best animal welfare and bring landscapes to life.”

Dead Zone is well conceived and a work whose subject matter is of significance to everyone on this planet. Although much of the book is necessarily ‘quite serious stuff’, I found the opportunity to learn about creatures less familiar particularly rewarding.

Philip Lymbery has superbly manged to balance imparting much that is informative, with engaging personal and charming anecdotes. This excellent book provides for a read that is enjoyable, informative and important at the same time.

 

LOVELY DUNKEL, OLD BOY!

As you may have read in a previous post about CBC beer, I make no apology for thinking about my old school when seeing those initials.

This week I had the pleasure of tasting a limited edition new beer from the brewery: The CBC Brewmaster’s Reserve Dunkel (a dark lager). This beer is entirely different from their usual range of beer – it was created with individually selected imported ingredients.

Limited Edition Dunkel

The CBC Dunkel poured with a beautiful head of foam, definitely a winter beer, it offered malty, caramel and toffee flavours. Although rich in dark flavour, it is not a heavy lager at all.

I enjoyed half of it on its own, and the other half with some chicken curry – a lovely beer both ways.

Am looking forward to seeing what other treats lie in store in the CBC Brewmaster’s Reserve Range…….

Cheers.

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MUCH MORE TO DE KRANS THAN PORT-STYLE WINES

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Calitzdorp is known far and wide for its excellent port-style wines and De Krans Wine Cellars are one of its shining lights.

Over the past 30 years, there has never been a time when I haven’t had some De Krans port-style wines in my collection.

But in recent times winemaker Louis van der Riet has been producing some really decent table wines as well. I recently tasted one of these, the De Krans ‘Free- Run’ Chenin Blanc 2016.

‘Free-Run’ is the name for the juice (or wine) is drained without pressure from a mass of freshly crushed grapes.

The De Krans Free-Run Chenin Blanc speaks loudly of tropical fruits both on the nose and on the palate. It is a really lovely every day wine, well-rounded and fresh. I realise the cold of a Cape winter is not the best time to enjoy the wine, but drinking it had me eager for summer and it wasn’t a challenge to empty the bottle.

The wine sells for about R60 a bottle.

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DEM BONES….

 

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Normally a book written by a paleoanthropologist wouldn’t sound like a gripping read.

But Lee Berger’s new book, Almost Human, is as exciting as any work by a master writer of thrillers. And Part of Berger’s skills are his ability to write about his discipline in language approachable to the layman.

I am sure he is familiar with these lyrics from an old children’s song, Dem Bones:

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Now shake dem skeleton bones! The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, Now shake dem skeleton bones!

On the morning of 15 August 2008, Berger, his young son Matt and Job Kibii from Kenya were surveying a new fossil site in the world famous Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg. It was a typical winter’s morning, with nothing to suggest that a discovery they made would be life-changing.

Matt’s son cried out: “Dad, I found a fossil!” Berger’s eyes focused on the rock, a bone stuck out of it, he recognised it instantly as a clavicle. He turned the rock over, there was a hominin canine tooth and part of the jaw.

“Matt said I cursed. I don’t remember. Whatever I said or did, I knew for sure that both his life and mine were about to change forever.”

This happenstance discovery set off a chain of exploration, scientific research and culminated in the announcement of Homo naledi, an extinct species of hominin, which anthropologists have assigned to the genus Homo.

In 2017, however, the fossils were dated to between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago, long after much larger-brained and more modern-looking hominins had appeared. The research team therefore believes that Homo naledi is not a direct ancestor of modern humans, although it is probably an offshoot within the genus Homo.

The process of discovery by Lee Berger and his team is an exciting, often moving, tale of persistence, bravery, belief, and scientific research.

The most emotionally engaging parts of Almost Human are those where scientists were recruited to conduct the underground exploration and recovery of bones from underground caves. These individuals not only had to have the right qualifications and experience, but they also had to be slimly built to squeeze through the extremely narrow approaches to the area where the bones were. These intrepid women were dubbed Underground Astronauts, and their endeavours are every bit as pioneering and courageous as their airborne contemporaries.

“21 days after setting foot at Rising Star, this team of scientists, students, and volunteers had accomplished something remarkable. Together we had recovered more than 1.300 individually numbered fossil hominin remains, an unprecedented haul by any standard, far exceeding the number discovered at any single site in Africa.”

If you have done the Adventure Tour at the Cango Caves and found parts of the experience adrenalin-pumpingly frightening, fasten your safety-belts…..

This is really gripping stuff and many a reader will be forgiven for shedding a tear of joy and relief when the Underground Astronauts surface after their first journey underground, I know I did.

One of the major achievements of the book is the easy readability of Berger’s writing. What could easily have been a difficult journey through paleoanthropological terminology is avoided by Berger wearing one of his professorial hats, Public Understanding of Science. As a result Almost Human, although often quite technical, is never a difficult read.

The origin of humankind is a fascinating study and bound to result in differences of opinion and even controversy. The work of paleoanthropologists like Berger is ongoing and what an intriguing prospect is the anticipation of what might yet be discovered

“Archaeologists have assumed that all the people who took these great steps in human development were direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens – that human evolution happened in a single straight line. But how do we know?”

Berger says that we are only at the beginning stages of learning about this remarkable species. New questions need to be asked and old assumptions questioned. So much of Africa lies almost entirely unexplored.

And like many good ‘thrillers’, Almost Human ends with a climactic sentence but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

I read the book at one sitting and finished it hungry for more. It is an incredibly rewarding read.

Lee Berger is Research Professor in Human Origins and the Public Understanding of Science at the University of the Witwatersrand and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He is the author of more than 200 scholarly and popular works. His research has been featured three times on the cover of Science and has been named among the top 100 science stories of the year by Time, Scientific American and Discover magazine on numerous occasions. Berger has appeared on many television documentaries. He is best known for his discovery of Australopithecus sediba and more recently Homo naledi.

 

DELICIOUS READING

 

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Tony Jackman should need little introduction to Cape Town readers. He is a journalist, columnist, playwright and occasional restaurateur who writes with knowledge, wit, irreverence and an abiding love and respect for family friends and humanity, for liberal values and the right to express controversial opinions unfettered.

His book foodSTUFF is a delightful, delectable combination of memoir and cookbook. In it he tells of his life from its humble beginnings in an English working-class family to an illustrious career holding a pen.

Like with a well-written song, words and music mix to create something beautiful. Jackman’s much-experienced quill has created a book where the narrative and the recipes are eloquently intertwined.

The narrative part of the book has two distinct writing styles: Tony Jackman, the person and Tony Jackman the writer. Each will give their reader much pleasure, although my personal preference was for the former.

One learns about the life and values of the man behind the pen, one travels and observes with him and learns about some of the events that shaped him. There is no doubt much more to tell and stories to share, maybe (and hopefully) content for another book.

The recipes in foodSTUFF should easily fit the capabilities of the good home cook. They include a Proper Yorkshire Pudding, Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan, Cape Bouillabaisse, Greek Shoulder of Lamb, Cardamom Chicken and Pan-Fried Salmon with a Thyme and Fynbos Honey Glaze. And amongst others: Ratafia Figs and Chocolate Tart, for the sweet of tooth.

We tried his Cardamom Chicken recipe and it gave us a flavourful, delicious meal.

Jackman’s recipe offering is unpretentious and its diverse dishes are all full of ‘good taste’

foodSTUFF is a pleasure to read, Tony Jackman’s writing embraces his readers with a warmth that makes one feel at home. His recipes may tempt some of them to seek him out and ask for a space at his dining room table…..

BACK TO MY ROUTES

Back in the 70s, when the pioneering Stellenbosch Wine Route was established, I was living in Johannesburg. So when, on my annual visit to Cape Town, a friend asked: Would you like to go on the Wine Route? I had to ask what a wine route was!

We decided to start my first trip to the “Wine Route” by heading for Lanzerac Wine Estate.

Looking back, my early forays into wine routes were more misses than hits! Why was that, you ask? The inexperience of a much younger me meant that far too much wine was consumed at each estate making driving afterwards a no no!

My recall of that first visit was enjoying the range of Lanzerac wines to the limit, reaching ‘cannot drive’ status and sensibly staying for lunch before heading home…

Fast forward to the present. I have two bottles of the Estate’s on my desk waiting to be opened…a maiden release of a Chenin Blanc and their first Syrah in over a decade.

 

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Lunch at home the other day was cheese on home-made bread and although the weather here in Cape Town was very cold, wet and windy, we opened the Lanzerac Chenin Blanc 2016. I found it full of stone fruit flavours with a hint of something tropical and gentle on the palate. Taking a bite of my cheese sandwich and a sip of the Chenin, made for a very well-balanced lunch and an enjoyable one, to boot.

I decided to taste the Lanzerac Syrah 2015 on its own. It offered the pepper and spiciness that makes me a syrah/shiraz kind of guy and I enjoyed a second glass of it. Cellarmaster Wynand Lategan says that it took some time to perfect the wanted style. I think the wait was worth it!

LZ Premium Range Syrah 2015

Time for me to sample the other Lanzerac wines in situ I think…..

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The Lanzerac Chenin Blanc 2016 sells for R85 a bottle and the Lanzerac Syrah 2015 for R140 a bottle from the Estate’s Tasting Room.

 

 

MORE HARTENBERG FOR ME THAN BEFORE

I have enjoyed running many a Trail Run on Hartenberg Estate in Stellenbosch and have also visited to taste some wine, of course.

Those tasting visits were limited to catching up with the latest vintages of two of my favourite shirazes, the Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz and their The Stork Shiraz and their wonderful The Mackenzie blend as well. But until recently, that was the extent of my Hartenberg imbibing experience.

Then along came a bottle of Hartenberg Merlot 2015 for me to try. 2015 was an industry-recognised good season, so the Merlot should be a goodie….

Hartenberg Merlot NV

It was!

I found it full-bodied and fruity with some spice, with a nose of dark berries and some plum. Beautifully balanced and smooth, it was already drinking well for a youngish wine. I finished a glassful and enjoyed some more with the Spaghetti Bolognaise we had for supper. The Spag Bol and the Hartenberg Merlot enjoyed each other’s company!

The Hartenberg Cabs are next on my ‘to be tasted soon’ list…

The Hartenberg Merlot 2015 is available directly from the cellar at R175 per bottle

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A WISE HEAD IN CHALLENGING TIMES…

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Professor Jonathan Jansen is a leading South African educationist, commentator and the author of several books including the best-selling Letters to My Children. He is the former vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, where he earned the reputation for transformation and a deep commitment to reconciliation.

In March 2015, a postgraduate student at the University of Cape Town poured human excrement over the campus statue of Cecil John Rhodes. In the weeks and months that followed, a series of student demonstrations erupted across historically English university campuses of South Africa. This spread to historically Afrikaans universities.

In his new book, As By Fire, Professor Jansen examines the unprecedented disruption of universities that caught South Africa by surprise. He conducts frank interviews with 11 of the Vice Chancellors most affected, he strives to make sense of the forces at work and why the protests escalated into chaos. He considers what is driving and exasperating our youth.

“I decided to dispense with unnecessary jargon and to focus on what are sometimes complex ideas in everyday language. The crisis in South African universities is too important a topic to cloud or conceal important issues behind the shroud of academic pretence.”

At the time, reading about the prolonged unrest at our universities, it was not usually clear what was going on and it was difficult to understand all the factors involved.

But Prof Jansen, with this book, has given a “no words minced” account of what happened and an analysis of the forces involved. By so doing he has given us an impressive and important work, one that is well-considered, well-balanced and necessary to try and understand the ongoing complexities that affect our universities.

The interviews with the Vice Chancellors are powerful and revealing in many ways. Not only do they provide insight into the ‘engine room’ of running a South African university today, but also the extraordinary challenges they faced during the protests. These 11 VCs are no ordinary people.

The subject matter of As By Fire does not make for ‘light’ reading, but enlightening it certainly is.

At the end of the book, Jansen’s conclusion to it may not be all that optimistic, but he is nothing if not a realist: “More than ever before, our chances of establishing revitalised South African universities that are well resourced and well positioned  to prepare the next generation of leaders in the sciences, the humanities, and society at large depend  on a calibre of leadership that is both compassionate in speaking to the student heart and competent in leading our universities in a demanding world of teaching, research, and public duty.”

“We must repair what was wronged even as we reconcile what remains divided. Any other path will destroy both campus and country”.

“But there is one remaining glimmer of hope. There is a reason that these institutions are called public universities. They belong to all of us, the ordinary citizens of South Africa. It is possible to salvage our universities if ordinary citizens once again reclaim the public in our public universities. Such broad-based civic action constitutes a realistic project.”

With wise heads like Professor Jansen to guide us…….