Charity, compassion and fellow-feeling – or not

Oh dear. I’ve just proved yet again that awful truth that we all know and pretend not to know, that a blend in defiance of terroir, vintage and all else that we revere can, in fact, improve things.

fry-chroniclesJust possibly I was, when making the blend, a little blurry-sighted. Though in fact both Solms-Delta Africana 2011 and Lammershoek Lam 2011 Chenin & Viognier are both offered in burgundy-shaped bottles. Sufficient connection? I was working by feel (more intent on Stephen Fry’s splendid autobiographical The Fry Chronicles than on refinements of wine service). But now I see that in fact the vintage blend is spot on. But an early-picked white and a grand red made, Amarone style, from vine-dried shiraz?

Ja, well, no, fine. The Lam had gone down brilliantly with my dinner (egg and leek, basically) – it’s a food wine, really; I didn’t find it all that delicious as an accompaniment to Poulenc as I made my supper, but the bottle emptied alarmingly with the food (even notoriously difficult egg). And the Africana, which had been open for three or four days already was pretty convincing with cheese later (no details), though I really think I would reserve it to keep me warm on a polar expedition. Not that it’s alcoholic or porty – but rich, warming and a little sweet-fruited.

As to the mixing, I can’t say more than to express my pleasure in an Africana-heavy blend – the Lam added vitality and vigour. But, again, that might have been the blur. (Just think how the blur is affecting my writing! I will now reach out for some more blend, to strengthen my confidence. Actually, Stephen Fry is so full of self-deprecation taken to the extreme that I won’t even try that particular game tonight.)

I should, though, point out that the Lam was my own (unregretted) purchase and the Africana came in a tasting of newish releases that I’d done a few days before with Angela Lloyd. The other Solms wine there was the Solms-Astor Vastrap 2012. My notes read: “Fresh, modest nose. Balanced, nice, rather juicy, balanced by good acidity. Clean, good crisp package. Not at all trivial. Well-made easy drinking. 15+.” I should add that it’s delicious, and very good value at R50-plus. (Africana, which promises some evolution, is R250-plus.) There’s a new winemaker at Solms-Delta, and the renowned Rosa Kruger is their viticulturalist guru these days, and I reckon things are going to only improve wine-wise at this Franschhoek farm.

Well, I had intended to follow on my remarks about the RedEscape wine from Stellenzicht that I was just a touch nasty about last week. The original point had been that a really dreadful wine makes some other wines, about which I and Angela were a little less than enthusiastic, taste comparatively good.

But I’ve been reading Stephen Fry, who says he hates writing negatively about anyone because it might hurt them (he at least partly thinks this is a weakness of his), and also I was reproved by Michael Fridjhon who, for apparently similar reasons, didn’t like my comment asking him to name names when he made a sideswipe at a “celebrated” Swartland wine.

So what do I do? Let me try to be a little sensitive and less horrible.

Well, certainly there do seem to be people who like the style of wine coming from Banghoek’s Oldenburg more than Angela and I generally do. We this time sampled the Merlot 2010 (R200!) and the Chenin Blanc 2012 (R130!) and I’m afraid we really, neither of us, didn’t care for either. The Merlot, whose colour is surely more evolved than one should expect, has big, brash, showy aromas – mostly of oak. At last I was able to find a bit of burnt rubber in a Cape wine, alongside some green-edged fruit and a bit of bitterness from the excessive oaking.

The Oldenburg Chenin is also very oaky, and also rather coarse and clumsy, with not much in the way of genuine fruit flavour, let alone freshness – there’s acidity, but it stands apart in the classic way of added acid.

I promise I’m trying to be nice.

We were also not surprised to be not driven to extremes of enthusiasm by Weltevrede’s latest additions to the lowest-common-denominator of flavourant-style wine attempting to build on the depressing market success of coffee-flavour pinotage. They brought out a Vanilla Chardonnay last year, and now there’s a Cherrychoc Merlot 2012 (R55+) and a Tropico Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (R45+).

The latter is fairly tasty and zingy, with possibly more sour-green-apple than luscious tropicality, and not much guts (there are dozens more tropical sauvignons that this); but nice enough. Weltevrede Cherrychoc Merlot is sweetish, flat and tired, with a swingeing acid finish trying to compensate for the ultra-ripeness, with a thick wodge of tannin too. “Better than RedEscape”, I noted in a desperate surge of trying to find something nice to say.

Time to stop, I think, with an encouraging afterword for Michael Fridjhon and other kindly people from Stephen Fry’s Chronicles:

“Well, if you haven’t anything nice to say, then don’t say anything,” is the recommendation of most mothers, and as always their advice is worth considering. The difficulty comes when … iron has entered the soul and charity, compassion and fellow-feeling have fled it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you human? *