Big-town adventures

I’ve been up in the big city – for Winex mostly, and feeling like a small-town guy, though Johannesburg is where I lived my first 20-odd years. Travelled up on Wednesday with Eben Sadie, who started off well by losing his boarding card.Then the plane was delayed, then the marvellous Gautrain was runnng erratically and late, so Eben got to the Convention Centre only just in time to deliver the gold-embroidered black cloths for the Swartland Independent Producers association tables. Mind you, this was in more than good time for Adi Badenhorst who, not uncharacteristically, had got the opening time wrong.

I managed to get around half a dozen producers that evening for some serious tasting – generally, those behind the stalls looked as surprised to see me in Johannesburg as maybe I should have been myself – before I had to rush myself off to my dinner arrangement.

OK, I confess that Winex helped with the timing of my visit but was hardly the centrepiece. Thursday provided that. Picked up Eben from his guesthouse (much cheaper than a Sandton hotel) and took him to visit artist William Kentridge in his studio. This was something Eben had been wanting to do ever since William visited him and HIS studio (the winery on the Perdeberg and his vineyards dotted around the West Coast), and produced the artworks that featured on his Ouwingerdreeks (Old Vine Series) last year (as reported here). Eben seemed pretty enthralled, and told me later that he’d learnt a lot. See the pics of him learning.

Then William, Eben and I drove off for lunch on the verandah of Michael Fridjhon’s house, with its views from Parktown ridge over the jacaranda-splashed views of Johannesburg’s green northern suburbs. It should be mentioned that driving that day was made somewhat more complicated by the fact that most of our routes seemed to cross the path of the Economic Freedom march. We didn’t bump into Julius Malema, however, and were able to continue with our self-indulgent, privileged activities of the day, unimpeded by anything other than (possibly, for some of us) a consciousness of the contrast and of the bizarreness of the way the world is presently organised.

Which, once we arived chez Fridjhon, involved some serious lunchtime wines worth mentioning. A great chenin from the Loire for starters: Domaine Huet Haut Lieu Vouvray Demi-Sec 1962 – superb, and amazingly deliciously fresh for a near fifty year old, and with many years to give more delight.

Moving onto reds, we then tried, in rather gingerly fashion, some sips from a sample half-bottle of an apparently hugely expensive wine from Giorgio dalla Cia that had been sent to Michael. Called just G, and with a striking, original label (or so it looked to me without my glasses). The backlabel extolled the greatness of the wine and the winemaker (“legendary”?) in a way that, as someone said, iot would be nice if someone else said those things, but to say them about yourself and your own wine is really a bit off. Lush, fruity, heavily oaked – in its Californian styling the G is about as far as it’s possible to respectably get from the sometimes mushroomy, rather lean Rubicons that Giorgio was making for Meerlust a decade ago. Impressive, perhaps, but not to the tastes of any of us, and after our sips, it went off to contribute its expensive plushness to the sauce for the beef.

We turned to more congenial reds. Firstly, the lovely Pofadder 2010 from Eben’s yet to be released second vintage of the Ouwingerdreeks. This is the cinsaut from the Riebeek mountain. Even better than the first, with fresh, clear fruit, and a structure hiding its profound intransigence beneath graceful, charming seductiveness.

Then (oh the effort of it all!) what looked from the label likely to be the star of the occasion, a Domaine Romanee Conti Richebourg 1970. And gorgeous it was, in excellent mature condition, delicately fragrant, finely structured, lingering. There really is no vinous pleasure comparable to a properly mature fine wine.

What could top that? Well, in my opinion at least, the Bordeaux that we had the privilege of sampling next (and I think that even Eben, someone whose regard for Burgundy, unlike mine, tends to exceed his regard for Bordeaux, agreed on this occasion): supremely confident and elegant Ch La Conseillante 1985. (As the pic shows another person or two had dropped in before I got around to taking a bleary photo or two.)

After that, I couldn’t face Winex that evening (though I dropped off Eben to do his duties) – but returned the next day. I dropped Eben off to do his duties tonight – he had less choice than I, and worked my way homeward through the traffic chaos of a rushhour made worse by the march.

Later that night I received an SMS from winemaker Chris Williams to tell me that he’d met Kwispedoor at Winex. Kwispedoor, the indefatigable contributor to the more intelligent online discussions about South African wine. I had hoped to meet him myself there. Next evening I checked that he’d found his way to Lammershoek and the bottle of Bandito promised to him by Craig Hawkins in a comment to my last blog. Have you tried it yet, Kwisp? I do hope it wasn’t a letdown.

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