I really enjoyed judging in this years Michelangelo Awards. To me the overall quality of the wines seemed higher than last year – I certainly awarded more gold medals in 2010 than 2009.
I am still coming down from the trip and processing all I saw, so please forgive a somewhat self indulgent piece today, the sort that I do not normally write.
Sadly I do not know what the wines that I tasted at the Michelangelo Awards were yet, but will report back once the results are published.
In the meantime, I really finished my trip to South Africa on a high note – or two high notes in fact!
Before the trip I had arranged to have dinner on the Saturday night with my good friends Dave and Lorna Hughes, who are delightful people that I do not get enough chances to see. Lorna runs a vineyard and winery, while Dave is a giant of the South African wine trade – you can see a rather dry outline of his career and publications here. He has been writing about it, teaching about it and advising about it for decades, but chiefly I think he enjoys it. He is wonderful, wonderful company and seems to know everything about anything – which makes a conversation with him a little like surfing the web, but in person.
We enjoyed a splendid meal in Stellenbosch’s Restaurant Christophe, that gave as good a treat to my taste buds as the company did to my brain.
The meal was fabulous with elegant, but concentrated flavours dancing across my palate. The creamy mussel and saffron soup achieved that fine balancing act of giving an incredible depth of flavour without being overpowering – merely compulsive. Lorna’s Bouillabaisse pulled a similar trick with a stock that was unbelievably full-flavoured while remaining clean and bright.
Dave and I both plumped for the decidedly African Rooibock – which is a sort of deer and therefore venison – on a bed of roasted vegetables in a rich wine reduction. It was all quite magnificent and I would highly recommend a visit to this delightful little eatery before it gets even more popular and outrageously expensive.
Winewise we had three perfect wines – the aperitif was one of my favourite South African sparklers:
Villiera Tradition Brut NV Cap Classique
Cap Classique is the South African term for a sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method.
Like the food this wine had an elegance and richness about it that made it a wonderful start to the meal.
This sparkling wine is available in the UK here.
We followed this with the:
2009 Stonehill Bristle White
This is a Viognier wine from Lorna’s own Stonehill vineyard and winery and it was superb. The flavours were subtle and elegant with lovely concentration, a creamy texture and clean balancing acidity – it was perfect with my mussel soup.
Stonehill makes very good wines that are always elegant and understated – some of them are available in the UK here.
With the game Dave and I thoroughly enjoyed:
2006 Graham Beck The Joshua Shiraz-Viognier
This is a sumptuous, but balanced and elegant wine that gave rich berry fruit characters together with spice and superbly integrated smoky oak.
The 2005 is available in the UK here.
So, I thought that was the end of the fun on my trip, but no – they invited me the next day to have lunch with their family and friends at their home, so I enjoyed a last hurrah in Stellenbosch.
It was lovely for me to feel so at ease when so far from home – so thank you. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch of Stuffed Peppers and chicken with roast vegetables, all washed down by Lorna’s beautifully balanced:
2007 Stonehill Rosé
This dry rosé is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a proper wine with real presence on your palate.
It has good structure and flavour – even spending a short time in oak. It is neither too light, nor is it cloying and over the top – this is my favoutite South African Rosé to date.
The 2006 is available in the UK here – and it is made to age.
In addition Dave dug out a real gem from his cellar:
1998 Kanonkop Paul Sauer
This blend of Bordeaux varietals had aged perfectly and was quite delicious, the chicken being a perfect foil to this lovely wine.
Sadly no one has the 1998 left, but the 2006 is available in the UK here.
One of the delights of being abroad is how exotic quite simple pleasures can seem – a hot dog in New York for instance, taken for granted by the locals is an experience for the visitor. The same was true of our dessert – Gauvas and Custard. I had never had Guavas before, just the juice and I loved them. They were from Dave and Lorna’s own trees, skinned and lightly poached in sugar, Viognier and star anise.
In the same way that Cabernet Sauvignon can often be said to smell and taste of blackcurrants, Chenin Blanc in South Africa can seem reminiscent of Guavas, so a sweet Chenin was a natural partner and Dave served a beauty, is was so balanced and perfect that it was hard to tell where the wine stopped and the guavas began.
I could not think of a better way to end the trip, so thank you guys – till next time!
Wish I’d been there with you. Hope we”ll taste again some day. Regards
Thanks Hervé, you would have had fun if you had been there, Reuben was also there this year. I look forward to tasting with you again, all the best, Quentin
Hi, wow a more glowing write up was never written before, thanks very much. Quite a sneaky photographer, if I had known you were taking pics, I would have worn my push up bra! I must say that it was a real treat to dine with you, great sense of humour and a wonderful wine knowledge. Tks for the bubbles and you are always welcome here at our humble abode. x
Thanks for sharing your special and envious experience. I am one of the privileged ones who have met and spent a little time with Dave and Lorna Hughes. I had the pleasure to work with Dave at the Minneapolis Food and Wine Show – with his wit and sneaky charm he stole the hearts of everyone in the audience.I am humbled by there warmth, knowledge and kindness. I agree, the wines are delightful.
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