One good joke and two good wines

Before telling you of two excellent white wine bargains for summer, I have an equally great joke for you that has nothing to do with them, or anything else that’s relevant to my customary matter. Well, there is a connection, but it is simply that I was drinking one of them (me lying on sofa having supper, feet resting on dog, dinner plate resting on increasingly rounded stomach; supper featuring delicious smoked trout) while reading something that recalled the joke to me.

So I’d better say what I was reading – it was a wonderful short essay, in a year-old New Yorker magazine, by John Updike (who died earlier this year), entitled ‘A desert encounter’, in which the author tells of some encounters he had while finding the hat he had lost. Unfortunately you need a subscription to read it online, so the link is of little value unless you want to read a brief, inadequate  summary.

The story reflects on irony, and as soon as my smoked trout was finished I went in search of the joke it prompted me to hazily recall, and, thanks to the marvels of the google age, I found it. Here it is – a cod newspaper account (who actually wrote it, I have no idea) of how:


Jay Fullmer, 38, yesterday became the first American to get to grips with the concept of irony. “It was weird,” Fullmer said, “I was in London and, like, talking to this guy and it was raining and he pulled a face and said, “great weather, eh?” and I thought “wait a minute, no way is it great weather.” Fullmer then realised that the other man’s ‘mistake’ was in fact deliberate.

Fullmer, who is 39 next month and married with two children, aged 8 and 3, plans to use irony himself in future. “I’m like using it all the time,” he said. “Last weekend I was grilling steaks and I burned them to shit and I said, ‘hey, great weather!'”

Yes, well, no irony about the wines. Last week I opened (eventually) a bottle of the great Charles Back’s Goats do Roam White 2009 that he had given me many months ago when he was showing me the shiny new packaging intended for America. I thought it was an absolutely delicious addition to the cheaper end of the magnificent range of white blends that the Cape is producing these days at prices from little to lot. But then, checking for its price in Pick ‘n Pay, I discovered that the currently available version (in the old packaging) is the 2008, so I thought I’d better buy a bottle, for R39. (The label tells me that the bottle was “Imported by KWI – Belgium”, so I suspect that it’s part of a failed export order, of which there are very many clogging up the Cape right now.)

Although it’s not quite as good as the 2009, this was also delicious, and I had no trouble downing half a bottle with the aforementioned smoked trout. Both vintages are blissfully unoaked – and are based on viognier, which often means big, blowsy stuff, billowing forth perfumed excessiveness, but not here. Things like grenache blanc make it tasty, grown-up and very pleasant with food, with jokes or just by itself.

Another great white bargain, but a single-varietal, is the Oude Denneboom Grysbok Chenin Blanc 2009, a recent release which the Grape tasting team sampled last week.  It costs R38 and you’re unlikely to do much better (we rated it between 15 and 16 out of 20): packed with flavours like pineapple, thatch and melon, it’s unaggressive, but with a fresh, firm acidity, a decent ripe concentration and texture, and plenty of unpretentious tastiness. Oude Denneboom is one of those Voor-Paardeberg places that have been around for a long time producing various things and (liberated by the Back-Sadie revolution in the southern Swartland of which V-P should be, but isn’t – yet? – a part) is now bottling wine for itself: in this case since 2003.

The picture alongside comes off the website and I have no idea what it’s about, though it looks like one of those monstrous trophies awarded at the Young Wine Show. The farm is owned by one of the many de Waals that have brought lustre to Cape wine over the years (please – if anyone can tell me more about JP de Waal who was the general manager of Groot Constantia until an untimely death in 1901, I’d be grateful to hear more: he’s become a bit of a hero of mine, from what I’ve read) so this is presumably an older de Waal.

I confess that this was my first Oude Denneboom wine, but I trust it will not be my last – especially as the website makes it look like a nice place, run by nice people (I hope that’s the case). Though whether irony has come to the Voor-Paardeberg, I’m unsure – judging by the photos and text on the website, it seems just possible.

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