Muscadel for a summer’s evening…

I’m not one of those narrow-minded souls who believe that sweet, fortified wine is something to be relished only alongside a crackling fire in winter. There’s been fire in the sky today, anyway –  surely the hottest day yet of this summer in Cape Town. I thought of grape harvesters and their aching backs, the sweat pouring off them… Then came a smug email from Richard Kershaw in Elgin, titled “Kershaw Wines – too cool to harvest!”: Elgin, he wrote “is very much the ‘cooler place to be’ as our grapes are still enjoying time on the vine to ripen to perfection”. On the other hand, Richard, in April, when you’re in the thick of it, the guys in Swartland, Breedekloof, Tulbagh, etc will be sitting back with a beer, all the anxiety behind them!

muscadelBack to the fortified stuff. I confess that it was (unrespectably, hopefully not unrespectfully) to pour over icecream that I opened the bottle of Nuy Muskadel 1992 that a generous Angela Lloyd had given me as a birthday present last month. That was sublime – I’ve done the same trick in the past with such glories as 1953 KWV Muscadel. But I have also had a small glass or two, and the Nuy was as sublime on its own. A really lovely glassful – somewhat too warm, I suppose, having come straight from a cupboard in my living-room (so closer to 30 than to 20 degrees!), but with such impeccable balance that even thus it didn’t show as hotly spiritous. With beautiful, serene, grapey flavours that were more subtle than obvious (if not exactly complex, they were harmoniously integrated), it was the opposite of cloying, too – even rather dry on the finish despite its full sweetness.

How excellent the best Cape muscadels and jerepigos can be, and how good to be reminded of it (thanks, Angela). Even on the hottest day of the year.

Tomorrow off to the Hemel-en-Aarde for the Pinot Noir Celebration, one of the great events of the Cape’s wine calendar – and there’s a forecast of coolness and even a few drops of rain for Saturday. Sounds wonderful too. I took a cold shower this afternoon to cool down; another on Saturday, with pinots from New Zealand, Oregon, Burgundy and the Cape sloshing around inside me instead of muscadel, sounds just fine.

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