I had a rather good lunch today at Societi Bistro in near-central Cape Town (accompanied by a very satisfactory bottle of Hartenberg Riesling, despite being almost tempted by the first semi-honestly labelled bottle of Theuniskraal Cape Riesling, which up till 2010 was allowed by the craven authorities to call itself Theuniskraal Riesling, and should really now be obliged to call itself Theuniskraal Crouchen Blanc – but that’s another story, of course).
Anyway, my present point is that I mentioned to my delightful hostess, a denizen of the chic side of residential Cape Town, that I’d had a pretty abysmal dinner (food-wise) last week at a restaurant in Camps Bay called Piranga (it was at a dinner for Domaines Ott, a lovely rosé which is big on the Côte d’Azur, and a rainy spring evening in Camps Bay was as close as the organisers could, at the time, get to Cannes – see Christian Eedes’s blog entry if you’d like slightly more detail about the wine, though I liked it more than he apparently did).
Perhaps my hostess at lunch today (I think she’d prefer to remain unnamed, having a “sensitive” position) noticed my shudder of reminiscence, and said, with her own look of horror, that she never, ever, ever willingly eats at restaurants in Camps Bay…. (But if you enjoy kinglip that tastes remarkably and blandly like badly cooked frozen hake with a poor sauce, and a crème brulée off which the back of one’s spoon bounces, as off rubber, when you playfully try to crack the crust that you expect to be there – if you like that sort of food, please don’t be put off by me. And if you above all enjoy looking at beautiful people who are happy to eat such food, well, Camps Bay will do very well. Near our table was a man whose attractions I first noticed, and then realised that his beauty was surpassed by that of his girlfriend. I asked Christian Eedes to take a photograph of them for me while he was fiddling around taking foolish pictures of wine bottles, but he neglected to do so. Beautiful People didn’t quite compensate for the food – fortunately the company and the wine did – but they were wistfully enjoyable to contemplate.)
Was that really my point? Actually now I’m convinced that my reason for dragging myself off the sofa (and the rather disappointing, winding down chapters of Cloud Atlas – see last week’s drunken bloggishness if you want an indication of its author’s depressing lack of wine sophistication) was to make a few comments on Axe Hill Cape Vintage Port 2000 (one of 7188 bottles according to the neck label). It was, incidentally, preceeded by a very satisfactory glass or two (hah!) of Chapoutier’s Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2008, a cheapish wine from Roussillon, usually available from Wine Cellar in Observatory, Cape Town.
The Axe Hill was very good. I notice now with horror that the 500ml bottle is nearly empty! – so let that serve in lieu of a tasting note, please. But I glanced at the back label (not really a label, it’s printed on the bottle) and the text began: “Tony and Lyn Mossop make limited quantities of wine on their tiny Axe Hill Property in Calitzdorp…..” Tony Mossop, a fine maker of port and an important wine-judge and wine writer for Wine magazine (in days when it was a more interesting proposition than it, sadly, is now) died just over five years ago, in September 2005. (Axe Hill continues, happily and expansively, under new ownership.)
Actually, I don’t think that Tony and I much liked each other, but I had respect for him, and I felt a real twinge as I read this bland sentence, and was confronted, as we all are to our surprise now and then by such things, by the memory of what a significant person he was in the little world of South African wine, and how time has – for most of us, not deeply connected with him – simply rushed on by since his death.
Do the young bloods of our industry, who are making it such a much greater enterprise than it was when Tony was also important to it, do they even know his name? Tony died in the middle of perhaps the most important decade thus far of the Cape wine industry, a time of extraordinary development, as I sometimes remember to realise. He was just 63, and I would have liked him to see – and taste! – what is happening.
I’ve just drunk the last drinkable drops of my bottle of Axe Hill 2000, and made a sentimental toast to Tony. I went to my desk intending to write about a few other wines as well, but I don’t much feel like it any more.