MY GRAPES IN A BOTTLE OF WINE

Ten years ago, my wife and I sponsored a row of pinotage grape vines in the Perold Vineyard on Mostertsdrift, the home of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS).
The vineyard covers a mere 0,5 hectares and is planted with 966 vines. It produces 1 000 bottles of wine per vintage.
I recently visited STIAS to attend the launch of our latest vintage and it came with a brand change.
I proudly present, the Aliquid Novi Pinotage:

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A Liquid Novi    (photograph by Stefan Els)
Since 2017, the vineyard has been managed by Lanzerac and they describe the new wine as “an elegant, lighter wine of pronounced character. It is clear that this descendant takes more from the Pinot Noir parent than the Hermitage lineage. Not heavy or overwhelming, but nuanced and complex, more reminiscent of a Pinot, the colour is nonetheless deep and the nose typical.”
The wine’s name refers to the dictum of Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher: ex Africa semper aliquid novi (something new always comes out of Africa).
Proud grape daddy that I am, I found the wine delicious and worthy of a second glass.
It boasts a striking, embossed and detailed label, absolutely gorgeous.

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Aliquid Novi Pinotage is for sale at the Tasting Room on Lanzerac Estate or from the Lanzerac Wine Shop.
And remember, lurking somewhere in that beautiful bottle of wine may be the product of some of my grapes……

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ONCE IN LOVE WITH AMY…

 

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If, like me, you are an Amy Winehouse fan, you will simply adore Charles Moriarty’s new book about her, Back to Amy.

Amy Winehouse died in July 2011 with her cause of death labelled “alcohol poisoning”, but drugs and mental illness had also taken their toll. She was just 27and had been described as “the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation” and “the last real individualist around.

Tony Bennet said in tribute: “Amy Winehouse was an artist of immense proportions and I am deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing. She was an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist and I am truly devastated that her exceptional talent has come to such an early end.”

Today Charles Moriarty is a fine art photographer, working in fashion, portraiture and documentary.

In Back to Amy, he presents an intimate portrait of the real Amy Winehouse. The book contains over 100 photographs he took of her when both were at the start of their respective careers as well as his recollections and those from Amy’s mother, band members and others close to her.

Moriarty’s pictures are of Amy at her stunningly beautiful and unspoiled best. Many have never been seen before. They are a remarkable visual tribute. They are the lasting visual memory I will hold of Amy. Back to Amy is a touching and loving visual and reading treasure trove.

“I felt the world needed to see the Amy I knew, that it was time to stop holding onto these personal memories of when we first met, so tightly. Life’s too f***ing short.”

Maybe this verse from a song from Frank Loesser’s 1948 musical “Where’s Charley” expresses my and many fans sentiments:
Once in love with Amy
Always in love with Amy
Ever and ever fascinated by her
Sets your heart on fire to stay

SUPREME SUSHI AT THE SEASIDE

For years now, for me Sushi has fallen into that category of food that I am happy to eat, but would never order when dining out, until now.

What changed my mind was tasting the new sushi offering at The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa in Camps Bay at their invitation.

From November 2018, SUSHI by 12A under Thai Chef Sarawut Sukkowplang promises to be a popular destination for those who like top end sushi. (Chef Sukkowplang previously worked at Nobu at the V&A Waterfront.)

Chef describes his classic, modern style as ‘Fusion Sushi’ – traditional and contemporary in perfect balance.   On the menu, you’ll find the Chef’s take on traditional dishes such as Nigiri, Sashimi and Tataki, but his Signature Rolls, with a wide selection of fillings such as Yellowfin Tuna, Norwegian Salmon, Trout and Beef fillet, and the Norwegian Salmon and Yellowfin Tuna Tacos.

“Using produce that is both local, as well as sustainable is key to our menu choices at The Twelve Apostles. Our Oysters (a twist on the Japanese version) and Sea Trout come from Saldanha Bay and the cold-caught Yellowfin Tuna from the Cape Atlantic area. The freshwater Trout is sourced from Fizantakraal in the Du Toitskloof Mountains.”

Chef Sukkowplang makes his own unique Dashi, with kelp foraged from the Atlantic Ocean right below the hotel. Every seaweed has its own flavour and character profile that makes it unique and once dried, it releases nutrients and intensifies in flavour (Kombu). Dashi is the base for many of Chef’s sauces and glazes.

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SUSHI by 12A Japanese Style Saldanha Oysters

The SUSHI by 12A menu covers a variety of sushi, my personal preference is for Sashimi and my palate was sent to foodie paradise by Chef Sukkowplang’s offerings. What flavours and textures, wow!!! I particularly loved the Japanese Style Saldanha Oysters (with momji, spring onion and ponzu), I could literally taste the sea.

 

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SUSHI by 12A Sushi rolls

There are no compromises on this menu, nothing but the best is served and I cannot imagine there could be a better sushi offering anywhere in South Africa. I will definitely be back and it will be the very first time I will order sushi.

Congratulations 12 Apostles and Chef Sarawut Sukkowplang – I loved every gorgeous mouthful on your sublime Sushi menu.

The setting is superb too.

Sushi By 12A is served daily in the Café Grill restaurant, from November 2018; 12h00 to 21h00.

 

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Phone: 021 437 9000

AN EXTRAORDINARY MODERN CZECH HISTORY

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The United States ambassadorial residence in Prague is an extraordinary building, 148-roomed mansion built in the late 1920’s, during the brief flowering of the first republic of Czechoslovakia, by Otto Petschek, the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in the country. The Petscheks were a German-speaking Jewish family, and their wealth was in large part from coal mine holdings and banking.

In January 2011, Norman Eisen took up the post of US Ambassador to the Czech Republic. This was a posting that resonated with the Eisen family as the Ambassador’s mother Freida had fled Prague after the Holocaust.

Eisen was startled to discover swastikas beneath the furniture in the palace. Later, “I decided to have another look at that swastika…there was another older mark …and there was another newer number too: the US government property number. There before my very eyes, the story of the past century in the palace. I was determined to learn more about every aspect of those who had come before me in the palace. “

In his book, The Last Palace, he relates an engrossing account of the people who lived in Petschek’s Villa before him. Otto Petschek who built the palace; Rudolf Toussaint, the conflicted Nazi general who put his life at risk for the house during the Second World War; Laurence Steinhardt, the first post-war US ambassador struggling to save both the palace and Prague from communist hands; the Hollywood child star-turned-diplomat Shirley Temple Black who fought to end totalitarianism; and Eisen’s own mother, whose life demonstrates how those without power and privilege move through history.

The story of each of these five and their part in Czech and European history make for fascinating reading. Eisen has done a masterful job not only in the depths of his research, but in the way he brings the histories in the book into vivid life.

Highlights for me were the extraordinary creative vision and dogged persistence of Petschek to deliver his ‘dream’ residence as reading about Czechoslovakia life in the early 20th Century – a weighty ‘opening act’ to a superbly detailed journey through a century. Also to discover the bravery with which Shirley Temple Black used her celebrity to advance the cause of democracy.

And the broad sweep of the period of history covered in The Last Palace, turbulent at times, peaceful at other times and an ongoing quest for democracy that threads through it is remarkable.

Norman Eisen’s family story adds a resonant and heart-warming human touch to this remarkable book. His treatment of his material and writing style make the sometimes heady subject matter always approachable.

The Last Palace is a history book that is both engrossing and ultimately entertaining. History books are not often page turners, this one resoundingly is.

 

THE FRUITS OF SUMMER IN A GLASS

Better known for their ‘Cape fortifieds’, De Krans Wines on Calitzdorp have in recent times produced some really lovely table wines as well.

With the welcome feel of summer here, I have just tried their De Krans Free-Run Chenin Blanc 2018.

 

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Only free run juice, approximately 66% of the total juice is used to make the wine. Although maybe a little young in the bottle, its appealing aroma of gentle fruits and pleasant aftertaste, made for enjoyable drinking.

I drank the wine with three different meals and it complemented each, although the food and wine pairing enthusiasts will have raised an eyebrow or two. A versatile wine.

It sells for about R60 a bottle and will certainly populate my fridge this summer.

 

ENJOYING SOME REGIONAL BREADTH

There are many ways of enjoying a visit to a wine trade show. I approach each with an open mind and decide on my tasting fairly impulsively.

Having done so, I like to wait a while and see which wines stayed with me.

After attending Vinimark’s show, a wine from Durbanville, one from Stellenbosch and a wine from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley did just that.

 

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I tasted and absolutely loved Durbanville’s Altydgedacht Barbera. I found its dark fruit, spiciness and toastiness made for a lovely rich mouthfeel. When I first tasted this particular wine many years ago, it was at the farm and Parker matriarch Jean presided, what a dear lady. A wine memory that I will always cherish.

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Over to Stellenbosch and to De Morgenzon and their Reserve Syrah 2015. My passion for Syrah gets reinforced time and time again. This one made by Carl van der Merwe, with its nose of plums and berries and with a hint of pepper, was certainly an enforcer. Full and lively and the balance that suggests it will age well.

 

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I recently visited Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington and enjoyed tasting across their Wellington range. But at the Vinimark show, I tried their Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir 2015. A full-bodied wine, with young berries and an earthiness I usually associate with Petit Verdot, a lovely detail on a delicious wine. Corlea Fourie its artistic creator.

 

 

HAVE I TURNED A PERSONAL (WINE) CORNER?

In my over five decades of tasting and drinking wine, my wine pleasures have changed.  given me enjoyment.

I started my wine journey as a white wine only person, evolved to a white or red wine drinker and then to being a red only drinker. None of these evolvements were intellectually driven, my preferences have changed of their own accord over time.

In recent years, I have happily tasted across the wine spectrum. But, if asked, I call myself a red wine drinker and add that I don’t drink white wine….

At the recently held Cape Wine 2018, I briefly discussed this with Chris Mullineux. I said that in grammatical terms I found white wine a full stop, whereas for me reds were a comma.

“Maybe you find whites aggressive?” he offered. Eureka! Until I find a better descriptor, aggressive is it.

Having said that, I was delighted to taste three ‘non-aggressive’ wines at this year’s Cape Wine: Andrea Mullineux’s Mullineux Old Vines White, Adi Badenhorst’s AA Badenhorst White and Abrie Bruwer’s Springfield Estate Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc. They definitely had non-aggressive in common, but were very individual wines, worthy of a glass or two rather than merely a taste.

 

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As the names suggests, the Mullineux Old Vines White has old vines (Chenin) at its core, with small parcels of Mediterranean varieties. I love the detail in Andrea’s wines, and the Old Vine White was no exception.

 

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Before I first tasted AA Badenhorst White, I was gobsmacked to find that it was a blend of 10 varietals: Chenin Blanc, Rousanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Grenache Gris, Clairette Blanche, Semillon and Palomino. It really is a tremendous wine and the sum of its many parts make for a delicious whole.

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From the moment Abrie asked me if I had as a child picked up a stone on the beach and licked it, I’ve loved drinking Springfield Life from Stone and its gorgeous flintiness in particular.

Have I turned that corner? Not yet, but at least I have the above three wines populating my ‘happy to drink anytime I can’ list!

The search continues…

 

A HAPPY RETURN TO IDIOM

Two years ago I attended the opening of Idiom’s impressive tasting room and restaurant, on the outskirts of Somerset West, near Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was a lovely introduction to the Bottega Family and to their wines.

So I happily accepted a recent invitation for a return visit.

The Idiom building affords an unforgettably breath-taking view and I found seeing the view for a second time as impressive as the first.

I enjoyed tasting across the Idiom range and three of their wines in particular tickled my fancy: the Idiom Viognier, Idiom Barbera and their Imperium White Gold Viognier.

As I get to taste more and more viognier, I am really getting to appreciate the grape.

 

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The Idiom Viognier 2015 (much was lovely, with stone fruit and a hint of something spice on the nose and very smooth on the palate. I would have happily converted the taste to a glass or two.

 

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I really enjoy Italian varietals, so I was tempted to try the Idiom Barbera 2013 before tasting their whites…but I didn’t. The nose offers dark stone fruit and an almost fruit-cakey palate. A really delicious wine, particularly for those wanting something a little out of the ordinary.

 

 

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The Idiom Imperium White Gold Viognier was quite a surprise, it is a dessert wine that I would happily drink before or after a meal. Aromatic and delicious. I think they only produce a limited quantity of it, worth the drive there to get some!

Idiom also have two dining options, contemporary dining in their restaurant and authentic pizzas in their pizzeria.

It is well worth a visit.

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TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MIND PHYSIO

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Yuval Harari’s first two books, Sapiens and Homo Deus were internationally acclaimed, deservedly so.

In Sapiens, he surveyed the human past, examining how an insignificant ape became ruler of the planet Earth. While in Homo Deus, Harari explored the long-term future of life, contemplating how humans might eventually become gods, and what might be the ultimate destiny of intelligence and consciousness.

In my review of Homo Deus I asked:” It is astonishing that Harari, at a little over 40, has had time to produce two such profound major works. One wonders what next he will share with us?”

The answer is his new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. In it he asks how can we protect ourselves from nuclear war, ecological cataclysms and technological disruptions? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news or the threat of terrorism? What should we teach our children?

Harari takes us on a thrilling and thought-provoking journey through today’s most urgent issues. The golden thread running through the book is the challenge of maintaining our collective and individual focus in the face of constant and disorienting change.

“Of course 7 billion people have 7 billion agendas, and thinking about the big picture is a relatively rare luxury. My agenda here is global. I look at the major forces that shape societies all over the world, and that are likely to influence the future of our planet as a whole. Reality is composed of many threads, and this book tries to cover different aspect of our global predicament, without claiming to be exhaustive.’

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is not an academic textbook, as fine a brain as Harari obviously possesses, he is a superb communicator as well. He has the ability to discuss sometimes lofty subjects in the most clear and understandable way.

As in his first two books, almost each and every page will offer a sentence that requires thought. An example: “Whereas the major movements of the twentieth century all had a vision for the entire human species – be it global domination, revolution or liberation – Donald Trump offers no such thing. His main message is that it’s not America’s job to formulate and promote any global vision.”

We live in a world where taking offence and umbrage at almost everything is a global phenomenon. Those who partake in this will have a field day at much of what Harari gives us in this book. Bully for them.

I found 21 Lessons for the 21st Century hugely stimulating, and it is a book that I just know I will want to read again and again.

This last word and advice from Yuval Harari to end the book: “And we had better understand our minds before the algorithms make our minds up for us.” A sobering thought.

 

SOMETHING NEW AND DELICIOUS FROM LABORIE

It has been some time since I last tasted wine from Laborie, so I was delighted to be able to remedy this.

The wine was a newie from them, their first Rosé.

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Made in the style of Provence, the Rosé is a blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and cinsaut, with a touch of cabernet sauvignon as well.

The wine is a lovely salmon pink in colour. Its nose is a lovely mix of strawberries and melon, for me the smell of summer. On the palate I picked up some citrus and a pleasing minerality too.

It drank beautifully and begged to be enjoyed outdoors, I obliged!

Time for me to seek out more of the Laborie range…….

 

The Laborie Rosé 2018 retails at about R95 a bottle