A cask of gold at rain­bow’s end

Wendy To­e­rien finds why our liq­uid gold holds equal al­lure for in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal palates

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

SOUTH African brandy is right­fully hailed as a na­tional trea­sure. Brandy flows through the cen­turies-old an­nals of our coun­try’s his­tory. It’s been the stuff of lo­cal lore, lit­er­ary in­spi­ra­tion and a na­tional psy­che that has sel­dom failed to show an in­cor­ri­gi­ble spirit un­der the quick­en­ing ef­fects of the African sun. Now in mod­ern times it has gone out and con­quered the world by rak­ing in the most pres­ti­gious ac­co­lades at in­ter­na­tional spir­its show­cases.

The third an­nual Stan­dard Bank Fine Brandy Fes­ti­val, hosted in part­ner­ship with the SA Brandy Foun­da­tion at the Sand­ton Sun from 5-7 May is a rare op­por­tu­nity for brandy con­nois­seurs, brandy quaf­fers and com­plete novices to see what all the fuss is about… and you’ll find rea­sons aplenty.

First up is the sim­ple fact that SA pro­duces the world’s best brandy. This year’s fes­ti­val theme “South African brandy: the world’s finest” is no mere mar­ket­ing speak. Take a stroll down the fes­ti­val’s “2010 Brandy Walk of Fame” and you’ll be in­tro­duced to no fewer than 12 South African brandies that have walked away with the Best World­wide Brandy tro­phy at London’s an­nual In­ter­na­tional Wine and Spirit Com­pe­ti­tion (IWSC), re­garded as the global liquor world’s most recog­nised qual­ity as­sess­ment.

In a wa­ter­shed year for South African brandy, the new SA Brandy Act of 1990 in­tro­duced two new cat­e­gories of brandy to the ex­ist­ing stan­dard “blended” brandy. It was pi­o­neered by lo­cal dis­tillers to meet de­mand for brandy as a thirst quencher in the form of a long, cold drink with a mixer. But now came “pot­still brandy” and “vin­tage brandy’.

What this did was recog­nise brandy’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ver­sa­til­ity. It gave mean­ing to the term “liqueur” brandy. And it made the world (and doubt­less the proud Cog­naçais) sit up and take no­tice. What this year’s fes­ti­val aims to il­lus­trate is what con­nois­seur and quaf­fer alike should be made to re­alise: that, of all the world’s brandies, SA’s ex­po­nents are per­haps the most deeply rooted in the tra­di­tions of ex­cel­lence, dis­til­la­tion and mat­u­ra­tion meth­ods, and strin­gency of qual­ity reg­u­la­tion fol­lowed by the wine grow­ers and dis­tillers of the Char­entes.

There is a rider, how­ever, best expressed by brandy ex­pert of in­ter­na­tional stature, Johan Ven­ter, of Dis­tell: “Cape brandy mak­ers have moved be­yond mim­ick­ing Co­gnac in style and are able to ex­press a unique sense of place. Our brandies are dis­tinc­tively fresh and fruity be­cause they’re made from ripe grapes with ex­cel­lent acids pro­duc­ing aro­mas and flavours char­ac­terised, typi- cally, by warm notes of sun-dried fruits: apri­cots and peaches.”

Look out for the Brandy Aroma Wheel at the fes­ti­val to ex­pe­ri­ence what Ven­ter ver­balises. Not just that, but also the phe­nom­e­nal multi-lay­ered sen­sory rich­ness dis­tillers ex­tract dur­ing the ar­ti­sanal process.

The year 1990 also saw the re­lax­ation of lo­cal in­dus­try laws sti- fling pri­vate dis­till­ing for most of the 20th cen­tury. The re­sponse was im­me­di­ate: the un­leash­ing of cre­ativ­ity among many top fine wine farm­ers, both tal­ented young vint­ners and long-es­tab­lished wine­mak­ers thrilled to be re­viv­ing a cen­turies-old tra­di­tion of pri­vate dis­till­ing on Cape wine farms.

Many of these hand-crafted brandies are not read­ily avail­able on shop shelves and can only be tasted and bought at the cel­lars. In a fes­ti­val first up-coun­try brandy lovers can taste the al­chemist’s art of the Ar­ti­san Col­lec­tion, rep­re­sent­ing Van Lov­eren, Grund­heim and De Com­pag­nie. These can be tasted in Cin­ema Par­adiso, an in­no­va­tive sa­lon privé ex­pe­ri­ence.

Fes­ti­val­go­ers look­ing for the new and novel should pause at Oude Molen Dis­tillery, lift­ing the lid on two of the new prod­ucts at the show: Sol­era Grand Re­serve, cre­ated in the Span­ish Sol­era tra­di­tion as well as the limited re­lease René Sin­gle Cask of which only 714 bot­tles are pro­duced.

Not to be over­shad­owed by pot-still artistry, South African blended brandy is also of su­pe­rior qual­ity. Of course, our lo­cal tra­di­tion of en­joy­ing “blended brandy” as an ev­ery­day drink gave rise to the oft-ma­ligned but iconic South African “brandy and coke” com­bi­na­tion.

The ver­sa­til­ity of blended brandy has also been utilised to de­light­ful ef­fect by an en­thu­si­as­tic young breed of mixol­o­gists.

Pic­ture: ADAM LETCH

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.