Neil's Wine of the Week
Testalonga el Bandito 2008
First Impression: A cross-dressing red in white drag and elegant high heels.
The Story: Craig Hawkins has declared war on fruit. He's all for austerity and flinty minerality. So when he came across some 60+ Chenin blanc vines on top of Lammershoek (Paardeberg) he threw Joska Gravner's winemaking book at them: fermented the golden berries on their skins with wild yeast for five weeks then left them alone in old oak barrels for a year without sulphur or racking. "Goodness" exclaimed Nederburg cellarmaster Razvan Macici when I told him about the wine "he's doing everything he shouldn't do." The result is akin to a fino sherry with incredible complexity of flavour emerging, blinking, once the frivolous distraction of fruit has been neutralized.
The Taste: On the nose, a broad spectrum of floral notes is underlain by a distinct impression of crushed shells and quartz. The wine is oxidized and the youthful exuberance of fruit has been replaced by austerity and layers of flavour: nuts, spice, minerals yet a lively mouth feel has been retained.
Michael Says: Perhaps the most striking thing about this wine is its appearance: a rich golden yellow (like the jersey worn by the leader in the Tour de France) that is both deeply shocking and irresistibly alluring.
Neil Says: Craig has succeeded in getting under the skin of Chenin, revealing an awesome skeleton. To paraphrase Tom Waits in The Black Rider: "t'ain't no sin to ferment on your skin and dance around in your bones."
Did You Know? Testalonga means "long face" and is the nickname of an old Italian artisanal farmer Hawkins met in France who makes white wine like a red.
The small print: Only two barrels (600 litres) were made although volumes have been pumped for 2009 to 1,500 litres using organic Chenin from Tom Lubbe's Observatory farm. The technique has been fine-tuned too: Carbonic Maceration à la Beaujolais has evoked a whole new palate of vivid flavours.
Michael's Wine of the Week to go with the fish
Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2008
First Impression: Crisp, fruity, lemongrass & sliced ginger.
The Story: Probably the only Riesling dominated white blend in the Cape with a good slug of Viognier and splashes of Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay.
The Taste: Crisp fruit, kiwi, white-fleshed peaches and honeysuckle.
Michael Says: Peter Finlayson taught me to cook fish until "most done - it will finish cooking on the plate on its way to the table." This is just great fish wine, clean and crisp.
Neil Says: Jean-René Germanier also makes a wine called Blanc de Mer in the Valais appellation of Switzerland. But at least Peter's grapes have sea views, unlike their colleagues in landlocked Switzerland. Perhaps Peter should send a bottle of Blanc de Mer to the Bolivian ambassador to pass on to the admiral of the Bolivian Navy with not much to do in a landlocked country.
Did You Know? Bad weather conditions during the 2008 harvest, nevertheless harvesting at the right time resulted in a great wine landing up in the bottle.
The small print: 13,6% alcohol by volume and nice and dry with only 2.8g/litre residual sugar. 49% Riesling, 22% Viognier, 15% Chenin, 12% Sauvignon and 2% Chardonnay.
Ina's fish in newspaper
"One of my Cape Food heroes is Ian Paarman. More than 20 years ago, she showed Madeleine and me how to cook fish in newspaper in coals. I've fiddled with her original recipe and it's still a great favourite and when the weather is good, we are still having Champagne days, this dish will go well with my chosen wine, the Blanc de Mer, a perfect counterpoint to the toothsome fish," says Michael.
If you are not able to do it yourself, ask your friendly fishmonger to butterfly the fish for you and remove the spine but leave the head and tail on. Rub in some coarse salt - preferably Khoisan Sea Salt from Velddrif that will firm the fish up - and chill it well for an hour or so.
- a whole fish - Cape Salmon, Kob are good, Musselcracker is great - of about 3 kg to do 8 people.
Now comes the fun part. Get the braai fire going well in advance, get your timing right, as the fish will take an hour to cook. Have ready some greaseproof paper, double sheet - not the waxed kind and not aluminium foil - and newspaper.
Spread lots of soft butter and lemon juice all over the skin side. Lay skin side down on the greaseproof. Lay down on one side a layer of ripe red tomatoes, peeled and sliced. Canned Italian tomatoes, well drained, will give you a wonderful flavour, sweet and full. Season well with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, and chopped fresh sweet basil - basil and tomatoes are like love and marriage, they go together.
On top of the tomatoes add a layer of fried onion [Ina doesn't fry hers, but I like to!] and plenty chopped fresh parsley. Fold the fish to cover the filling. Wrap the whole thing up like a parcel in the greaseproof paper. Then wrap the fish in three sheets of newspaper and wet thoroughly under a tap. Bury the fish in a hollow in the coals, and cover with hot coals as well. After an hour, the paper will be charred and blackened. Remove the bundle carefully and place on a clean sheet of newspaper. Remove the charred paper and you'll find as you remove the greaseproof paper that the skin comes away easily from the tender aromatic fish. Serve with a tomato-flavoured risotto, a crisp, all green, well-dressed salad and some garlic bread that you can heat in the coals at the same time as you cook the fish.
Pendock Uncorked in the Sunday Times by Neil Pendock
NoshNews by Michael Olivier
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