Shall we talk wine first? Usually, I begin writing these articles with a rundown of recipes, followed by notes on the wine. My reason for treating wine tasting with caution is that I am, at best, cynical about expressive, and sometimes compulsive, wine tasting. It boggles the mind when confronted with some of utterly bizarre flavour components that some afficionados dredge from bottles. Hints of this, hints of that, amplified by price and, especially so, when encountering a “boutique winery”, inevitably in a “hidden valley”.
I have never served Jordan wines, so when they kindly arranged for a selection from their range, I decided to rely completely on the tasting notes provided by my guests rather than the usual formal descriptive approach. After planning and constructing a menu to compliment my selection of wines, this is how they responded.
Jordan: Blanc de Blancs*
Served with deconstructed baba ghanoush, water biscuits with ripe tomatoes, basil and gorgonzola.
Guest tasting notes: Butter, biscuit, “green” notes of celery, caramel, vanilla.
This shows how deeply subjective wine tasting can be, with guests steadfastly defending their smell and taste observations. Made from 100% chardonnay, and by consensus – “Fabulous”. I agree.
Jordan: Timepiece Chenin Blanc
In have written about my love of Chenin Blanc in this column before, but this wine stopped conversation in it’s tracks. Just released, this sublime wine from old vines turned out to be the star of the evening.
Guest tasting notes: Mango, litchi, wet paper (!), burnt sugar, petrichor (if ever terroir was a shining example), toffee.
This is a staggering Chenin, served with a fresh salad, and a dressing of whole mustard, balsamic vinegar and avocado oil. This is a shining example of a meticulously harvested and crafted chenin.
Jordan: The long fuse
Served with a leg of mutton with rosemary, lemon julienne, new potatoes, carrots, all slow cooked on a bed of shallots, with a side dish of green pumpkin. The green pumpkin recipe comes from the Kamiesberge, and is the perfect foil for roasts. It is simply old fashioned ‘boerpampoen”, picked green, cubed and boiled. To offset the tartness, I added a few tablespoons of maple syrup.
Guest tasting notes: blackcurrant, pepper, “ghostly notes” (here I suspect “sweet dust”, a term Luca Turin uses in perfume descriptions). There was a rather melancholy and heartfelt comment: “This is the wine I will drink upon hearing of the death of a loved one”. High praise indeed.
Served with a rich and fresh pear frangipani tart, a light custard on the side. My mother’s recipe for frangipani tart is given at the end of this piece.
How well I remember the 1970’s fine Rieslings from the Tulbagh valley. Deeply fragrant and dry, with a superb finish hinting at the flowers of Laperousia, a spring flower known as “naeltjies”. Then, for decades, Riesling practically disappeared from the scene. Now Jordan has produced a Riesling botrytis wine, Mellifera, and again, serving this extraordinary wine resulted in a heated discussion.
Guest tasting notes: persimmon, “sloppy fudge”, butter/vegetable oil, “kelp on a beach on a hot day”, marmalade, acidic sweetness.
Concluding remarks: It is rare, at least in my book, to serve, in succession, four wines of such outstanding eminence. For one evening, these superb wines outshone the food. I am deeply impressed.
*Full tasting notes by Jordan
Blanc de Blancs:
Vibrant green/yellow hue with an elegant long bead of bubbles, fresh green apples with citrus blossom, and hints of fresh brioche on the nose. Well balanced with full structure and elegant mousse with mouth-filling bubble explosion and long crisp finish
Timepiece Chenin Blanc 2019:
Charming and introspective aromas of angelica, quince, and orchard fruits. The clarity of fruit on the crystalline palate is supported by the bright acidity and the savoury, ethereal finish.
The long fuse:
Progressive techniques such as overhead fermenters, pump-overs, and gravity flow allow for the extraction of fully developed flavours and soft ripe tannins without compensating the tension and elegance captured from the various cabernet slopes. Here especially, the climate plays a significant role to allow great fruit expression and classic essences of cedar, brambles, and toasted tobacco.
Delicate and floral with a ripe apricot and spring blossom bouquet and the well-balanced acidity adds elegance to the long, rich finish.