Wine: Bev­er­age known for its ben­e­fi­cial qual­i­ties

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WINE is of­ten de­scribed as one of the world’s most im­por­tant bev­er­ages, with as many as 60 cen­turies of con­tri­bu­tion to hu­man en­joy­ment, and it’s also a bev­er­age that has in re­cent years quite rightly been recog­nised for its ben­e­fi­cial qual­i­ties.

This week we di­vert from culinary ad­ven­tures into a wine ex­pe­ri­ence, sparked by a su­perb evening of wine tast­ing hosted by lead­ing wine dis­trib­u­tor Albert Nhau. Sadly, the once-promis­ing Zim­bab­wean wine in­dus­try has shrunk to tiny pro­por­tions, and it is re­ally to our south­ern neigh­bour that we look for sup­ply of the bulk of our wine re­quire­ments.

Wines from fur­ther afield at­tract very high, al­most puni­tive, taxes and du­ties and they are, un­for­tu­nately, not avail­able to us in the num­bers they were back in the 1990s. I have seen a few Ital­ian, Ger­man and French wines, as well as some Chilean, too but noth­ing like the enor­mous variety we had just 20 years ago.

The Grapevine wine group was formed about 13 years ago to cre­ate a plat­form for wine en­thu­si­asts — be­gin­ners and se­ri­ous im­bibers alike — to learn more about wine and find out what wines are avail­able to us on the lo­cal mar­ket. It meets al­most every month for some kind of event, usu­ally a wine tast­ing but some­times linked to a dif­fer­ent bev­er­age; in Jan­uary each year, for ex­am­ple, it hosts a whisky tast­ing linked to the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of Burns Night, when Scot­land’s famed poet is com­mem­o­rated.

This past week a gather­ing of folk from the diplo­matic and NGO com­mu­nity was con­vened by the Grapevine, and Albert Nhau of Danai Wines very kindly gave his home to the oc­ca­sion and supplied a remarkable se­lec­tion of quality wines for those present to en­joy. This is the third or fourth time he has done this, and the events have al­ways been pleas­ant and en­joy­able for all in­volved.

Albert was for many years head of one of this coun­try’s big­gest and busiest ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies, and it was his plan to spend years of re­tire­ment on the golf course. Well, the golf def­i­nitely still hap­pens, but he has reached out into the world of wine and runs a re­spected and dis­cern­ing wine dis­tri­bu­tion op­er­a­tion called Danai Wines. Not only is this a sup­plier to the re­tail and hospi­tal­ity sec­tors, but it also now has its own re­tail op­er­a­tion, sit­u­ated in the Chisi Walk shop­ping com­plex in Harare’s Chisip­ite sub­urb.

At this week’s event there were folk who have been in Harare for sev­eral years, while the “newest” was a se­nior diplo­mat who has been in Harare only two months. A to­tal of eight wines came for­ward for tast­ing, se­lected on the ba­sis of hav­ing dif­fer­ent types and styles, as well as dif­fer­ent home es­tates; all were South African.

We started with a sparkling wine, the tra­di­tional opener at a tast­ing. Albert’s choice was a Hoopen­burg In­te­ger Meth­ode Cap Clas­sique. If we were al­lowed to call all top-end sparkling wines Champagne, this would be a Champagne.

How­ever, as the French have quite rightly en­forced the rule that is re­spected world­wide to re­strict this de­scrip­tion to sparkling wines from the Champagne re­gion of France, this is not a Champagne but a sparkling wine. To show it as be­ing top-end and pro­duced in the same man­ner as Champagne it is called MCC.

This one was well re­ceived, pitched by the wine­maker, He­lanie Olivier, as be­ing suit­able for ac­com­pa­ni­ment with cheese, seafood, salads and pas­tries. All wines from Hoopen­burg, sit­u­ated in the Stel­len­bosch area, are what are known as bush vines, and this “wild” feel is of­ten felt to be a fac­tor of in­creased en­joy­ment by en­thu­si­asts.

Our sec­ond sam­pling was a blanc de noir. As the name says, it is a white wine made from a dark grape — usu­ally but not al­ways pinot noir — meant to pro­duce red wine. Ours was from Hill­crest es­tate in the Dur­banville area north of Cape Town, where the grapes are grown on the Tyger­berg Hills. This su­per wine had many of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a red wine, but it was a salmon pink colour, gain­ing min­i­mal ex­po­sure to the skins at the start of fer­men­ta­tion. This was fol­lowed by our first white wine, a False Bay chenin blanc. Grown on the Waterk­loof es­tate over­look­ing False Bay, the grapes are ex­posed to ex­cel­lent sea winds off the bay and this en­hances their quality.

The fer­men­ta­tion of this False Bay wines is in­spired with wild yeast, as op­posed to re­fined yeast, and the re­sult is of­ten a mix of bready aromas and herba­ceous notes. Wine­maker sug­ges­tions for culinary ac­com­pa­ni­ment: shell­fish, fish, spicy food and mild or soft cheeses.

The sec­ond white was a No­ble Hill sauvi­gnon blanc from the Si­mons­berg-Paarl area of the Cape, where the sauvi­gnon blanc grapes come from the old­est vines on the es­tate — 30 years of age. This es­tate has the highly-de­sired twin at­tributes of be­ing at high el­e­va­tion and with ac­cess to mar­itime breezes off the Atlantic, and this wine was very el­e­gant and smooth, suited to par­ty­ing, drink­ing while watch­ing the sun­set or match­ing with seafood dishes.

Our first red was a Niel (yes, the cor­rect way he spells his name) Joubert mer­lot. As a young red, only two years in the bot­tle, it had a pur­ple tinge that will dis­ap­pear with mat­u­ra­tion, but it had a de­light­ful plum colour and also some plum notes on the nose. Its pro­ducer rec­om­mends it is a per­fect match for roast chicken or black mus­sels.

Next up was a De Meye caber­net sauvi­gnon from 2015, so a wine well on its way to ma­tu­rity; reds are con­sid­ered to peak at five or six years. The De Meye es­tate goes back to the mid-17th cen­tury, when the first My­burgh set­tlers came to the Cape from the Nether­lands, so the her­itage of the es­tate is a fine one. The wine was ex­cel­lent: very com­plex and full bod­ied with, as promised by the wine­maker, a touch of cof­fee on the nose and palate.

We next tried a DeMor­gen­zon syrah, which was in it­self a treat but made more so by a dou­bling help­ing; the first was served straight from the bot­tle but the sec­ond came through one of Albert’s spe­cialised which cre­ate in the nano-sec­onds of pour­ing the es­sen­tial “breath­ing” in­put that usu­ally takes an hour of swirling and sit­ting. The dif­fer­ence was phe­nom­e­nal, the sec­ond help­ing be­ing even more re­mark­ably smooth and en­hanced.

DeMor­gen­zon is one of South Africa’s most re­spected es­tates, with wines grown at 400 me­tres above sea level in the Stel­len­boschk­loof area. The syrah — also known as shi­raz — was su­perb on the eye, nose and palate; deep pur­ple in colour with lots of red berries on the nose and un­usual hints of spice, pep­per and even vanilla on the tongue. This wine spent more than 12 months in French oak and the ef­fect was ab­so­lutely in­spir­ing, with a prod­uct that is gen­tle and charm­ing.

Our fi­nal wine was a real eye-opener: a wine brand new to Zim­babwe, brought in af­ter be­ing dis­cov­ered by Albert while in South Africa. It’s called a Louis57 Pri­vate Col­lec­tion Pino­tage Oosthuizen — quite a mouth­ful! In­ter­na­tional golfer Louis Oosthuizen — win­ner of the 2010 Open Cham­pi­onship — de­cided to get into busi­ness and gave the name Louis57 to his col­lec­tion of prod­ucts: wine, craft beers, cof­fee, cloth­ing and golf­ing ac­ces­sories.

The Louis57 win­ery was opened in 2009, in the Stel­len­bosch area, and now has a re­spected range of la­bels. We tried a pino­tage, mainly be­cause this is a wine ‘in­vented’ in South Africa, when the first pro­fes­sor of viti­cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch cre­ated a new variety from the dif­fi­cult-to-grow pinot noir and the more easy-go­ing cin­sault (then called her­mitage in SA). From this came pino­tage, South Africa’s own wine.

The 57 of the name refers to the ex­cel­lent score from a game of golf played by the cham­pion on his home Mos­sel Bay course in 2002, when he played a round of 57 – 15 un­der par. Our wine was 100 per­cent pino­tage and, de­scribed as suited to pair­ing with all beef, game and poultry, was plum and mul­berry in colour, with strong red fruit flavours and silky tan­nins.

Louis57 wines are pro­duced un­der li­cence by Boschk­loof Wines of Stel­len­bosch, a busi­ness headed by well-known fa­ther-and-son team Jac­ques and Reened Bor­man. For me this was a classy and clas­sic end to the evening and this dis­cov­ery was one of the most en­joy­able I have had in years, es­pe­cially as it fea­tured a va­ri­etal I have pre­vi­ously never re­ally en­joyed.

Well done, Albert Nhau, on a su­perb se­lec­tion, and for mak­ing the group of guests so wel­come in Zim­babwe. Danai Wines can be vis­ited at Chisi Walk shop­ping com­plex, ad­ja­cent to Spring Fever restau­rant and sit­u­ated on Shorthe­ath Road, Chisip­ite. Call 0772 409600 for more in­for­ma­tion.

A pro­mo­tional photo of Louis Oosthuizen with one of his wines and the es­tate on which the grapes are grown

On Wendy Ap­pel­baum’s DeMoe­gen­zon es­tate clas­si­cal mu­sic is played to the vines . . . and is said to in­spire good quality results

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