Lunch at Almeida, with beautifully matched Cape Chenin & Cape Vintage wines
Today I’m going off piste and sharing with you two hot off the plate and glass excellent food and wine matches. Both from yesterday’s Sip & Savour tasting at Almeida, which had a South African theme. Both favourite styles – an old bush vine Cape Chenin Blanc and a fortified wine made from Portuguese grapes varieties – a rare breed outside Portugal itself.
Anthonij Rupert Cape of Good Hope Van Lill & Visser Chenin Blanc 2014 (Citrusdal Mountain)
Anthonij Rupert’s Cape of Good Hope range is focused on preserving South Africa’s historic vineyards. Vineyards which former viticulturist, Rosa Kruger, sought out with alacrity. At the Passion for Old Vines’ Seminar at Cape Wine 2012, she told us she’d identified some 300 centenarian vineyards and showed a very singular Semillon/Semillon Gris from the Cape of Hope range. Like this example, it was named after the vineyard owner/ grower (Henl Laing). This Chenin comes from two 1960s’ blocks planted on red sand or clay on the Skurfberg mountain. Basie van Lill’s block sits at at 541m. Jozua Visser’s block sits at 439m. Although rainfall is low, with the benefit of elevation and cool Atlantic influence, the pair’s dry farmed old bush vines produce a fabulously structured, fresh but firm Chenin with intense citrus (lemon and grapefruit), quince and mineral notes. Very persistent indeed, with well integrated slightly smoky oak (it was only part barrel fermented, then aged for 7 months in 600l older French oak), it worked beautifully with my stand out course from Tommy Boland’s menu, a starter of grilled Cornish mackerel, fine potato salad, sweet mustard, smoked eel, pickled golden beetroot. I could eat it all over again! But best of all, long and limpid, it absolutely chimed with Kruger’s comment about old vines being so well is adapted to their environment that “they show terroir more than the hand of winemaker if the winemaker is wise.” 14% £16 at Swig, £15.99 at AG Wines (2013).
Axe Hill Cape Vintage 2005 (Calitzdorp)
It’s a while since I tasted Axe Hill’s Cape Vintage. Back then, I suspect it would have been called Port (it was only in 2012 that this practice stopped). Established in 1993 by the late Tony Mossop (Miles Mossop’s father), Axe Hill is a tiny 1.3ha estate in Calitzdorp, whose hot, dry climate, poor, stony soils and long tradition of fortified winemaking earned it the title of the Port capital of South African wine. This mature example, predominantly Touriga Nacional with Tinta Barocca and Sousão, still had lots of life in it. I loved its generosity of spicy clove and liquorice-edged dark prune fruit and firm, relatively dry, long finish, well fuelled both by the brandy, fruit and acidity.
Very well done and, like Port proper, foot-trodden in lagares and aged in large format seasoned barrels. Pitch perfect with bitter chocolate and hazelnut pavé, prunes, malted milk ice cream, honeycomb 100s & 1000s. 20.5% A nice buy at £18 at Wood Winters. £19.50 at Swig & Old Bridge Wine (50cl).