Caveau Wine Bar and Deli, with its two Cape Town incarnations, is undoubtedly a Good Thing – with reasonable markups and a good and interesting selection of wines. And there might well be a good case for dividing the wine list up into categories like “Time out wines” and “Rich and robust” and one for garagiste wines, but it’s not much use if you want to see, for example, what Shirazes are available, or whether they have any wines from a particular producer. Why not include a simpler list at the end of the creative one for the less playful punter?
I spent a happy few hours the other day in the near-rain in the pleasant courtyard of the Heritage Square branch of Caveau, chatting with Mark Solms – neuroscientist (definitely not a psychiatrist, as he explained to me) and owner of the innovative and splendid Solms-Delta winery in Franschhoek (well, sort of in Franschhoek, but that’s another story). No trouble in choosing our first wine, whose name I happened to notice as I rather despairingly paged through the unconventional wine-list (Ok, I’m humourless and straight when in comes to wine-lists, I admit). I was delighted to see Mullineux White Blend 2008. Solms-Delta makes a bunch of very interesting white wines, and I knew that Mark would like this.
He did, and so did I, from the lovely deep yellow colour onwards – and even more after it had opened up after half an hour or so, when the touch of viognier was gently asserting a delicious hint of apricot, while the touch of clairette was keeping it all very fresh, and the main body of chenin was proving a rich (but not too rich), and flavoursome (but not too flavoursome and definitely not vulgarly fruity) core. The wine enters your mouth and (as the old game show had it), without deviation, hesitation or repetition, glides to its long conclusion (something more than just a minute). No edges, no dips; just lovely glide. Harmony and fine texture. Swartland white at its best. (The pic is of Chris and Andrea Mullineux outside their new and beautiful little winery in Riebeek, whose launch I recently described.)
Being a modest drinker myself, that bottle seemed enough, but I was ever-so-reluctantly pushed to the idea that we needed a red. Which is when I started grappling with the winelist again – I’d noticed in one of their quirky categories that they had Waterkloof’s Circumstance Rosé, so I wondered if they had the Circumstance Shiraz (which I recently waxed lyrical about). I couldn’t see it after much leafing and re-leafing through, and asked, and the third person I asked was able to find out and tell me that, no, they didn’t.
I toyed with the idea of the Mullineux Syrah, but it was released so criminally youthful and is not beginning to show anything like its best, so I decided to try the Tamboerskloof Syrah 2006 (which, incidentally, for some bizarre reason known only to the winery owner is listed in Platter, together with the Tamboerskloof Viognier, under the name of the Stellenbosch farm, Kleinood). It also has a smidgen of viognier in it actually, but manifesting, fortunately, only as a little extra oomph to the perfumed note. Very delicious wine, reasonably priced (I think it was well under R200 at Caveau, quite a bit less than the Mullineux White), and making for a satisfying, harmonious drink already – but maybe a bit too easily gratifying to count as a serious contender in the elevated shiraz stakes? But why should it want to, after all? Even if I’d have liked a touch more character and bite, it did its job of pleasing us just fine – that is, the second bottle did; the first was lightly corked, and exchanged without a murmur by the waiter, which is always a relief.
And Mark Solms (one of UCT’s most eminent academics in one of his many concurrent lives) was telling me about the high-level academic colloquium he was to attend the next day, and for which he still had to prepare his presentation. Something about whether there is an essence to being human, I think it was, something beyond culture, somethinig built in through long evolutionary time. I was a little befuddled by the wine perhaps, but I think he mentioned that one of those essential, mammalian (even more than just human) things is separation anxiety. I felt just a tinge of that as we abandoned a few glassfuls of Tamboerskloof in its elegant bottle, and left Caveau for the warm, slight humid Cape Town evening.