Digressions, from olives to pinot envy

I’ve never been much of a nationalist or patriot, and certainly not a locavore (locabiber?) when it comes to wine. So it didn’t worry me too much when I was looking for red wine vinegar  this morning at the Claremont Pick ’n Pay and found two Italian versions nearly a third cheaper than the local offered under the Wellington’s brand name.

vinegarBut it sure as hell had me wondering. Leave quality aside – I’m assuming that there’s unlikely to be a significant quality difference, unlike for olives, for example, where I’ll go anyday for the local versus the cheap Italian, Greek and Spanish ones crowding the supermarket shelves. All of the vinegars were in glass, and I realise that we have to pay excessively for bottles here because of the Consol monopoly (as wine producers know only too well), but – how is it possible that a 500ml bottle of Boland wine vinegar here costs about double what the cheapest local red wine costs? When we can import it from Italy, with all the freight costs involved, for so much less?

Greed and opportunism, I suppose. Much as why the cost of fresh tartare sauce from Woolworths seems to go up each time I go to by it, which is surprisingly often, and has virtually doubled in the past year or two: I often hate Woolworths more even than other supermarkets; it seems to be a more dedicated gouger (though I admit its wine is, on the whole, well priced, presumably because its clientele is, probably sadly, less willing to put up with high prices for wines than for salmon, spring onions, tartare sauce, etc). At least I am now determined to make my own tartare (until someone starts importing it from Italy for less!), which isn’t going to be hard, I think. Just to spite Woolies in my mind – they won’t notice. I suppose I should also make my own wine vinegar, as I used to. But I digress.

I wanted the red wine vinegar as part of the solution into which I’m putting my olives! An exciting time, decanting them from the plastic tubs in which they’ve been transforming themselves over the past seven or eight months, cleaning and bottling them. It’s the first time in many years that I’ve prepared my own olives, and I now seem to have vast amounts of delicious ones. I acquired the raw olives from Hans Evenhuis’s Hemelrand farm in Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, where the Alheits, Peter-Allan Finlayson and John Seccombe make their wines (see here for my brief account of a visit there last year).

Incidentally, to digress again, with some Hemelrand news: There should be a first crop off Hans’s own small vineyard this year, to be vinified by the magician Chris Alheit (presumably with some participation by wife and fellow-winemaker Suzaan, though she’s getting close to giving birth to their second child). Also, John Seccombe has let me know that HIS maiden wine under his own label (he used to work for Iona) is now bottled, a wine made entirely from red semillon (and if you don’t know about red semillon, let me refer you to this World of Fine WIne article of mine about it), and which I’m really eager to try, after an impressive sip ex-barrel last year.

As to olives, Hans Evenhuis, who makes an excellent oil, did tell me, when asking me if I would want a few more olives this year, that they are going to be scarce when it comes to picking them in may or June, “as the lack of cold in the September flowering/fruit set period will result in a very small crop”.

pinot celebrationI see that this blog has been entirely digression. Even I can’t remember what it was meant to be about, but it turns out to have had quite a bit to do with Hemelrand, so I’ll also mention hos much I’m looking forward to the so-called “piNOT party” being held there this coming Saturday night – the final event in what looks like being a wonderful inaugural Hemel-en-Aarde PInot Celebration.

You might not even have heard of the Celebration – they’ve been pretty quiet about it, though I believe all the tickets have long since been sold. The two-day event is partly inspired, I think, by the Swartland Revolution – but they don’t have the brilliant PR machine that the Swartlanders have. It’ll be a very different kind of affair (I’ll certainly report back), but I’m sure it’s going to be another welcome development of the ever-more-buzzing Cape wine culture. Incidentally, when I was having dinner out in Riebeek Kasteel last Friday with some of the revolutionaries, none of them had even heard of the Hemel-en-Aarde happening. There’s localism for you! Perhaps the fault should be shared between the two regions – one not telling enough, the other not listening enough….

pinot-envyActually, it suddenly occurs to me that perhaps “The Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration” is verging just a little on the pompous. Perhaps they should have called it the Pinot Envy Party?

Digressions all done, except for this old postcard from the King Estate in Oregon.


8 thoughts on “Digressions, from olives to pinot envy

  1. Yes, Jon. My apologies; I even realised I was being a bit inadequate here and was planning on the inadequacy being temporary. As far as I know the wine is wonderfully named: Thorne and Daughters [brand) Tin Soldier (wine). I was going to come back to the subject and the wine when I had more certainty, after talking to John. I don’t know about availability, etc. But have a look at this recent blog by John: http://thorneanddaughters.com/2014/01/15/babylons-tea-and-semillon-gris/
    I will get on to John and ask him to send a comment, saying a bit more.

  2. Hi Jon and Tim,

    Thanks for the interest in the wine. Tim’s right on the name, Thorne and Daughters ‘Tin Soldier’. I’m currently putting the last touches on the labels and boxes for the 2013 wines, as well as taking care of the 2014 harvest, which is now a few days off. The plan is to release in April/May this year.

    Tim, I’ve got a couple of bottles with your names on them, and will drop them with you when I next head out your way.

    Hope the olives turn out well.

  3. Very excited to get my hands on some of John’s vino- if the label design is anything to go by, attention to detail will be right up there.

    Vinegar question – government subsidies maybe? definitely cant be due to exchange rates!!

  4. Dear Tim,

    We, too, are looking forward to piNOT ‘after’-party, which will be wonderful opportunity to show some of the other (non-pinot)outstanding wines being made in the Hemel en Aarde, and to socialise informally with the talented young cellarmasters who work there. Thanks for your most welcome plug for both the piNOT event and the Hemelrand cellar.
    Anyone who has ever dreamt of producing wine from his/her own estate will know how excited and upbeat we are about our first Hemelrand harvest, and the fact that our white field blend will be crafted by Chris and Suzaan. It will be the culmination of years of saving, building and nurturing.
    The energy levels in the vineyards and the cellar are really high right now, with Chris and Peter-Allan gearing up for the 2014 harvest and the first grapes coming in this week. We will really miss John this year, as sadly we have simply run out of capacity in our cellar and barrel room. John will be working in Elgin, but has promised to stay in close contact with us at Hemelrand.
    See you on Saturday, its going to be fun! We might find time to chat about olives, if the wino’s will permit …… Hans

  5. Thank you John and Tim. I may be heading to SA in March/April for some consulting and would love to try and pick up a bottle or two.
    Hi Chris it’s been awhile, will drop you a line shortly.

  6. Does anyone remember those wonderful Pinot Noir celebrations put on by Anthony Hamilton Russell and Kevin Grant in the ’90’s? How far was the cause of good Pinot in South Africa advanced in those few short years I wonder? I remember meeting Bruce Jack there for the first time. Gosh, the things that went on late in those evenings…

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