South Africa shines

Wines of South Africa laid on a dinner at Ransome’s Dock for sommeliers from Canada and the U.S. last week. Chef Martin Lam’s menu (Lincolnshire smoked eel and fingerling potatoes, duck breast with braised lentils and aromatic vegetables, and apple and Calvados tart) was quite nicely compatible with the wide range of first-rate wines on show. Two whites really stood out: 2007 Sequillo “White” (probably the best possible name for a blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier, which ought to be a muddle, but thanks to the skill of Eben Sadie, is a triumphant, vibrant wine with a seemingly endless finish), and a 2010 Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc—no cat pee and a nice taut touch of gooseberry, amazingly balanced.      
       Among the standout reds was the first Pinotage I can recall  ever pouring a second glass of, Painted Wolf “Guillermo” 2009, made by Jeremy Borg (10 percent of it Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache), and possessed of warmth, robust flavour, and good grip, and Spice Route “Malabar” 2002, a Merlot-Syrah-Grenache blend from Charles Back that managed to be big, bold, and elegant at the same time. Vin de Constance 2005 rounded out a good evening in style, as it always does.

Happy birthday indeed

Steven Spurrier got to be 70 last week, and, as with everything he does, turned it into a stylish celebration. The birthday lunch, by the sea on the Dorset coast, was attended by a convivial crowd—reunions galore, memories revived, good cheer abounding. There were Patricia Gastaud-Gallagher and Isabelle Bachelard, over from Paris, bringing back memories of days and nights on Cité Berryer back in the ‘70s, when we felt like we were in a Jacques Demy movie (but with better beverages), Hugh Johnson and Michael Broadbent and other grandees, Warren Winiarski, Michael Hill-Smith and other winemakers and, holding it all together, the lovely and indispensible Bella Spurrier.
       Of course, lunch was brilliantly lubricated. Highlights: Mike Hill-Smith and Warren Winiarski brought their Chardonnays (Mike’s Shaw & Smith 2010 M3 a Chablis-like analogue, and Warren’s Arcadia 2008 closer to Meursault); Fattoria Nittardi’s Chianti Classico 2008 (with a label illustrated by Gunter Grass) was vibrantly fresh, and Roberto Bava’s sweetly vivacious “Bassotuba” Moscato d’Asti 2010 a perfect finish. The wine of the day, though, was Chateau Leoville-Barton 2002, a vintage many people wrote off; it was poised, silky, suavely sensuous, supremely elegant, and just right now.
       We also celebrated Steven and Bella’s vineyard, where the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are about to be harvested for the first time. (It's in the background, behind Warren, Steven, and me) More on that in good time. . .
copyright 2010-2018 by Brian St. Pierre