Two’s Company, Three’s a PARTY!

January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Two three-packs of wine which made their way to my door in the run-up to Christmas have definitely convinced me of this! I took some of them away with me and some of them were enjoyed in the general party-party atmosphere of pre-Christmas euphoria. Three is such a nice number in my opinion – mainly because, of course, I am pretty-much ‘3-shaped’ myself, so appreciate a number which reflects my appetite for nice wine and my figure equally. So here we go.

Mont Rochelle Mountain Vineyards

High up on the right-hand side of the Franschhoek Valley lies this hotel and winery. The hotel bit is the old La Couronne – my friends got engaged there about 8 years ago and were most impressed to find their car was washed whilst they were at lunch. Service standards are just as high now that it’s part of the Mont Rochelle and the wine standards are creeping upwards with every vintage. There’s been a couple of winemaker changes over the years but Darran Stone seems intent on making his name at this pretty estate so bring on his first vintage! All these wines are new-releases and should be available at specialist liquor stores.

The oldest wine from Mont Rochelle is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (R90) – how great to see a five year old wine being released for the first time! This has had a lot of oak – in fact, 2 years of it altogether – and since these are some of the oldest vines on the farm, it has handled it with ease. Lots of lovely typical black berry flavours with a smoky, velvety finish.

The two Chardonnays are very different in style and region. Surprisingly for me, I preferred the Barrel-fermented 2008 (R72) which is basically from the oldest and best vineyard on the farm and the one which provides fruit for their flagship MIKO wine. A nice blend of different barrels means that the wine isn’t overpowered and the ripe yellow fruit and honeyed oatmeal notes and beautifully balanced by wood and acidity. The Unwooded Chardonnay 2010 (R55) comes from Walker Bay which quite surprised me because I was expecting more steel and less fruit salad. It’s spent a long time on the lees so perhaps that is why it is far richer than I was expecting and I would definitely recommend this wine with food – a creamy chicken salad or a buttery piece of fish would be a great match.

Wade Bales Wine Society Winemaker Selection

Now into his 18th year of operation, Wade Bales knows a thing or three about the local wine scene. I went to one of his tastings last year in Newlands – packed to the rafters with wines, winemakers (not just marketing chickies), punters and,(most importantly), credit cards.  I was most impressed by what he does, so I see every reason why his new offering will be a massive success. He’s linked up with a dozen great winemakers to produce a cost-conscious version of the wine they make best. Winemakers such as Rianie Strydom, Miles Mossop, Adi Badenhorst and Nico van der Merwe have all made up a special bottling for Wade at excellent prices. Here are the three I tasted. All reds costs a catchy R58.17 a bottle and whites R49.83 and are available from

Adam Mason, ex Klein Constantia, is now the new winemaker at Mulderbosch and a long-time fan of Shiraz. His 2009 is a complete over-deliverer of note, with plenty of black spiced berries wrapped up in a creamy swathe of delicate oak and ending in a sneeze of pepper. Ernie Els winemaker, Louis Strydom, has opted for a classic Aussie combo of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – I can’t think why we don’t do more of these in SA. Lively, spicy, fruit-packed, easy-drinking, top-quality braai-wine – what more do you want?

Diemersdal’s Thys Louw is a Sauvignon-Sage of note and achieved the great honour of having 2 of his wines in the recent Sauvignon Top 20. But only one made it to the Top Ten – and it was this one. I completely agree with the judges here – this is much the better wine, with more balance, elegance and fruit than Diemersdal’s own-label. Worth joining Wade’s society for this wine alone!

Perfect Pairs!

January 9, 2012 in Wine Recommends

When I first joined the wine trade, my boss told me that the best thing about being a ‘wine fundi’ (not that he used that word, coming from deepest, darkest Suffolk) is that you can go to other people’s dinner parties and take the cheapest wine around and people think it must be good, but when they come and visit you, then the pressure’s on them and they spend more than they normally would because they think ‘otherwise, she’ll know….’ Which is great for my drinking and my wallet, although now I’ve publicised this little-known perk, I expect I shall be inundated with people bringing bottles of Graca for dinner in future.

Of course one way round the issue of what wine to take round for dinner is to actually take more than one and in the run-up to Christmas, I got a couple of couples delivered to me to try out. It’s actually a really nice thing to have a matching-pair, particularly when they come in different colours and you can keep the maximum number of people happy. So here are my thoughts on the latest pair of pairs.

Palesa Sauvignon Blanc (R28) and Merlot (R30), both NV
This is a new Fairtrade label from a cluster of big co-op wine farms in the Breedekloof – Daschbosh, Groot Eiland and Nuwehoop. The grapes are grown on land where the farmers are guaranteed a fair price, have a share in the profits and how they are distributed and take part in a range of different upliftment projects on and around the farm. So all nice feel-good stuff really. The prices cannot be argued with and the packaging is quite chi-chi considering the price. But what do they taste like?

To be absolutely truthful, I wasn’t that blown away with the Sauvignon – it was okay, but I think I would rather spend an extra couple of rand and get a little more intensity of flavour and interest. The Merlot, on the other hand, was fab. Pretty much everything you could possibly want from a cheery, chewy, fruity little socialite – soft, easy-drinking, likes a good boerie roll – it was the perfect party partner and I would happily lay in a couple of cases for any forthcoming do’s. Well done.

Flagstone Poetry Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (R39.99) and Merlot 2010 (R44.99)
Apparently the standard definition of poetry is ‘The best words, in the best order’. But of course, that is too plain and simple for wordsmith extraordinaire Bruce Jack, whose press release for this new affordable pair is far more romantic than that! There’s a lot of thought gone into this duo from the lovely packaging (including a very pretty 2-bottle carrier which I had great difficulty persuading my son to hand over), to the contents inside. So how did they measure up?

Unsurprisingly, very well indeed. Both wines are sourced from a variety of vineyards around the Cape – Bruce has always had a good nose for sniffing out nice little parcels of grapes – and both are very correct, well-made examples of their variety. If that sounds as if I am damning them with faint praise, then it shouldn’t because this is much harder than it sounds – particularly at this price level. You can make a nice wine at the R40 mark, but to get it to taste ‘like it ought’? Not so easy and Bruce manages it splendidly. I liked the figgy start and the tropical finish of the white and the spicy, fruitcake hints of the red. A great looking-and-tasting gift which will fool anyone into thinking you’ve spent far more money than you actually have.

The Independent Republic of Oldenburg

December 8, 2011 in Wine Farms

I had two questions for winemaker Simon Thompson at last week’s launch of Oldenburg Vineyards new tasting centre – why have you planted Chenin Blanc and are we going to see a Bordeaux Blend anytime soon?

It took me some time to get hold of him however, being somewhat distracted by the really very lovely new building which houses the tasting room and offices. Designed by Simon Beerstecher who also did Glen Carlou and Rustenberg with all the furnishings and interiors done by Kelly Hoppen, it’s a great example of how a good building can mirror its surroundings and be part of them, whilst still carrying out its purpose effectively. My husband does some work for the farm and I have now been there twice, and strongly advise you to go and have a look for yourself and see what you think. And don’t miss the funky kangaroo picture in the lounge area on the right – if owner Adrian Vanderspuy ever finds it’s gone missing, it might be worth checking with me first…….

Oldenburg are making some lovely wines at the moment, but the most interesting white is probably the Chenin. I tasted it a while ago and the oak is showing far more prominently at this moment in time than, for example, the Chardonnay, which actually has more oak used in its make-up. This is the only Chenin grown in the Banghoek Valley and – when you’re surrounded by Sauvignon specialists such as Thelema, Tokara, Delaire, Zorgvliet, Bartinney etc etc – why would you eschew everyone’s favourite white grape in favour of Chenin Blanc?

“It’s Adrian’s choice” explains Simon. “He decided when he bought the farm 8 years ago that Sauvignon was just a fad and that Chenin had the better future! And I think he’s right – we are getting amazing fruit and our vines are still young.” He plants them on various different soils, but all generally the cooler ones, lower down on the farm towards the river. The wine is rich and citrussy with good length and backbone and I think it will be extremely interesting to see where it goes from here.

If Adrian has asserted his independence when it comes to planting Chenin, then Simon has rather followed the herd in planting my, and Banghoek’s favourite red, Cabernet Franc. Delicious as a single varietal however, he secretly hopes to be able to make a blend – something which the boss is less keen on. His Cab Franc is delicious, his Cab Sauv very nice, he tells me he has all the other ingredients needed for a Bordeaux blend – what are you waiting for Simon? Go on – make a quick barrel of something fantastic and show Adrian he’s not the only one with good ideas!

PS – there is no food offering planned on the farm owing to a less-than-enthusiastic neighbour, so PR organisers-supreme, Lise and Ian Manley persuaded Luke Dale-Roberts, Eat Out’s Chef of the Year, to come and give us all a taster of the tapas to come from his new venture, the Pot Luck Club. Lucky for us indeed!

Franschhoek Fizz Fest – My Fave Function For Ever!

December 6, 2011 in Events

Photos: Courtesy of Di Procter (

Sigh. Will I ever be organised? I doubt it. And even less hope when airlines CANCEL MY FLIGHTS AT THE LAST MINUTE!!! Breathe, breathe, breathe. So here is my quick review of my favourite event of the year – the Franschhoek MCC and Champagne Fest. A bit later than others. With less pictures and not such elegant words. But at least it gets posted now as opposed to later!

Best bits of the Festival

  1. An hour’s early entrance for media – sorry to pull rank, but actually we don’t often get perks like this and it really helps to be able to chat for a bit longer. Plus we got a nice table in the shade – gloat.
  2. New producers – really enjoyed chatting to Bramon and getting to taste their under-the-counter 2007 Sauvignon MCC. I much preferred this to the 08, so either try some of the earlier one if you can and if not, then keep the 08 for another year. Also enjoyed meeting Albert and Gerrit from The House of GM &Ahrens. They used to import barrels and then began to make a fizz of their own. They have lots of cool fun ideas such as being able to buy a particular numbered box of wine which then becomes yours in perpetuity. Check out their website for more info.
  3. Meeting Tweeple in real life – apart from @Bubbalubs and @AndrePentz, the best new tweep to meet was Hendrik from Chabivin. I’ve heard so much about the imported wines from Guy Charbaut and the local MCC and tasting lounge at this venue that it was a real pleasure to meet IRL (as we tweepies say – ha ha ha!) and taste the wines. Certain supermarkets are getting excited about selling Moet at R360 at the moment – don’t waste your cash, but rather get yourself to Chabivin and buy their Brut instead – far more interesting and exciting at the same price. And if anyone is having any dim sum over the Christmas break, get a bottle of their star anise/cinnamon-y Rosé too – unique flavours and a stunning wine.
  4. New styles of wine. Graham Beck launched their Zero Dosage wine earlier this year and it was great to see more examples from Sterhuis (yummy), Saltare (elegant and intense) and the recently-disgorged (as in 45 mins ago!) Ross Gower.  I love the salty/savouriness of no dosage and hope to drink more of these in the future.
  5. Lots of wine – shot to Steenberg, Graham Beck and Allée Bleue for sending bottles my way and to all the other producers for pouring so generously!
  6. Goodfellas – yes, I know I am luckier than most in getting sponsored by them, but I used them before I got sponsored and I would use them again any day of the week. The bliss of being able to drink what I like and not worry about driving home, makes this almost the best part of the day.

Worst bit of the Festival

  1. Falling down a hole in the grass within 20 minutes of arriving, getting grass stains all over my white trousers (mind you, it was only a matter of time before I got SOMETHING on them anyway) and ricking my ankle really quite badly – still limping and sore two days later. Still, at least that meant I had a good excuse for sitting in the shade and dulling the pain with champagne.

If you didn’t go – sorry for you. You should have done cos this is the best way to get in the Christmassy mood and spoil yourself rotten. Big thanks to the organisers and all the producers – and yes, you’re still officially my Fave Function of the Year!

I Suck at Sabrage

November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 The one that worked.


I knew I celebrated too soon. My mission was to really work hard to crack the art of sabrage before Christmas. I wanted to first get comfy doing it with a big knife, then a teaspoon and finally – the pièce de résistance – the base of a champagne flute. I started very brightly with a sound demo of Boschendal, but I am sorry to say, it has pretty much been downhill from there.

There is a saying that ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ and I am now beginning to fear that I am going to fall into the latter category and never be able to do it, whilst suffering the ignominy of watching my first-timer students heed my words and lop the necks off with aplomb. My sorry Vinatics effort with Laborie was entirely eclipsed by both Chef Caro and guest Mobile Marian, both pretty much sabrage-Virgins and both of whom did much better than I.

And it got worse. Three times worse in fact – with Allee Bleue’s new Rosé, Rhebokskloof Chardonnay 2007 and Weltevrede’s Entheos. And the results? Well, one was finished off by my father-in-law with a knife, one by my husband with a TEASPOON (for God’s sake!!) and one by our English babysitter, John. All of them taught by me. All of them far better at it than me. Anyway, enough about the maudlin, self-indulgent failure talk – I am not beaten! I will not give in! I just need more practice so please – wine farms – any of you who have an MCC, do send it my way. I need all the help I can get!

Here’s what I thought of the wines when they were finally opened.

The ones that didn’t (well, not for me anyway).


Allee Bleue 2010 Brut Rose         R98 cellar door

This is a fun, frothy fizz rather than a serious keeper. It’s only had 9 months – the bare minimum to qualify as an MCC – on the lees but that is what winemaker Van Zyl du Toit wanted. It’s intended to be fruity rather than yeasty and it certainly succeeds in that – lots of strawberries, fresh lemon zest and zippy, lively bubbles. Nice.

Rhebokskloof Chardonnay MCC 2007     R120 cellar door

Made from 100% Chardonnay which is grown in a cool little pocket in the Paarl valley, this wine has been 20 months in tank and then a further 24 months on the lees in bottle. As you might expect, it’s richer and more complex than the Allée Bleue with plenty of brioche and lemon cheesecake flavours.

Weltevrede Entheos NV              R80 cellar door

Philip Jonker really knows what he’s doing when it comes to fizz. This was the cheapest of the three I tried, but it was my personal favourite on the day. It’s made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and has a lovely honeyed-nut elegance to it, bags of yeast autolysis (3 years on the lees) and an almost savoury finish. A delicious bargain – and it’s not often you get to say that!

Why I hate supermarket shopping

November 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

I don’t know about you out there reading this, but I am not particularly well-off. Petrol prices, electricity prices and general inflation are all streaking way ahead of any salary increases coming my way. So I am watching my money, trying to stretch it out and being very careful about where I spend it.

Because I can’t afford either time or money to fag around organic markets, I generally go (as do most of us) to the supermarkets. They spend thousands and thousands advertising special prices, good deals, extra savings and ways which are intended to help me stretch my meagre budget just that little bit further. They’re on my side. Every little helps. Getting better and better. Making a difference. Thanks guys.

Yeah right. Thanks for absolutely nothing. I’m not going to talk about the regular increases which seem to happen daily, the fact that it is vastly cheaper to buy food in the UK (where salaries are substantially higher than in SA), the out of stocks, the unhelpful and un-engaging till assistants, the queues, the lack of trollies – etc, etc, etc. Those are not what ruins my shopping experience. What makes shopping such an anxiety, such a chore and such an irritation is the hard work you make it for me.

I regularly check prices of things. I work out an item cost and I work out a kg cost if that’s not shown. I buy two 100-teabag packs of Five Roses because they are cheaper than buying one 200-teabag pack, despite using less packaging. I buy two lots of 9 toilet rolls because they cost less than an 18 ‘buy bulk and save’ deal. And I could go on. This is annoying, it’s irritating and I don’t see why I should have to do it. I don’t care what excuses you give about ‘Head Office’ or ‘wholesalers pricing specials’ – it’s your bloody store and you profess to be looking after my interests. So do it.

And now it’s gone to the next level. For the second time in about a month, I have come across blatant pricing errors which frankly seem designed to con customers. I suppose I could report this to some kind of Consumer Protection thingy as being illegal, but I don’t have the time or the energy. And this is what it seems to me that the supermarkets are playing on. I bet a lot of you out there don’t check the prices half as much as me. I bet a lot of you believe (as I used to) that when there is a big yellow paper sign above a product, that there genuinely is a saving. And that when a deal is mentioned, that there actually will be stock available to make good on their offer. Well, in my view, this is not the case and this is why my shopping mood has changed from anxious and watchful to angry and disgusted.

Supermarkets – I hate that you are trying to seem ‘on my side’. I hate that you profess to care. I really hate that you spend so much money on telling me that you do, instead of using it to lower your inflated prices. And I really, really hate the fact that you think I’m stupid enough to fall for your lying signs, false advertising and glib answers when I bring problems to your attention. Don’t give me your excuses or your reasons for individual discrepancies. I have no interest in getting an answer about the price of beef in Constantia this morning, or the absence of milk in Paarl yesterday – I don’t really care. All I want is for you to put your house in order and think like a customer. Because if you could do that, I imagine you would be as keen as me to join the dots in your below-average performance and sort things out once and for all.

The Best Food & Wine-matching Evening You’ll Ever Have!

November 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

And I’m not just saying that cos I’m involved! I’m sure you’ve all seen heaps of these advertised all over the place these last coming months cos times are hard for both restaurants and wineries and people have to try a bit harder in order to survive.

I’ve been to lots of these events which generally consist of lovely food, great wine and – cos I’m lucky like this – good company in the form of the winemaker.

But they’re all the same – glass of wine, winemaker stands up and says something, food, another glass of wine which is meant to go with it, silent agreement/disagreement, philosophical draining of glass anyway, winemaker stands up again for next course – etc, etc, etc. Someone once said that ‘Golf is a good walk, interrupted’ and to be honest, a lot of these dinners are a good meal interrupted, rather than actually learning anything about matching food and wine and what goes with what.

So this is a bit different! It’s a formula we developed when we ran The Nose and they were always hugely popular – I am so pleased to be able to get it going again. Café Roux in Noordhoek and De Meye Wines will be offering you 5 different wines and 4 different courses of food and it is up to YOU, the customer to do the matches! Because everyone has different opinions and no-one person is right, we find this stimulates much more debate and interest and people just generally have a much better time. Plus we have prizes and lots of laughter, mainly because everyone drinks more which usually helps! It’s a game, a meal and an education all rolled into one.

So gather a few mates and come and join us! Here’s all the info you need and I hope to see you there!

Join Café Roux and De Meye Winery for ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ – an evening of fun, frolics, food and wine!

Hosted by well-known wine writer, Cathy Marston, our Café Roux cooks will concoct a tasty four-course dinner to complement De Meye’s range of wines. But will you be able to guess which wine goes best with which course?

Nibble, chew & savour delicious food, sip, slurp & relish fantastic wines and then, with your table of team mates, agree on the perfect ‘Match Made in Heaven’ to win prizes, fame and glory! Can you make the same matches as the winemaker? Will you agree on the ideal name for your team? And who will come up with the most outrageous or appropriate suggestions for the odd wine out?

Find out the answers during a fun-packed evening of full-on food, wine and entertainment.


Tomato & Blue Cheese tartlet

Seared Tuna Salad with wasabi dressing

Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake

Starts at 6:30pm on Wednesday the 23rd of November.  R290 a ticket gets you a delicious 4-course meal, wine for the evening, coffee & gratuity.  Space is very limited so get your table together & join us for a relaxed & intimate evening of fun, food & wine.

Email for bookings.  If you are vegetarian, please advise us when booking.

And before you all comment – no, this isn’t on the menu for the evening. I just thought it looked divine!!

Larney Lunches Part 3 – Zonnebloem Zooshing it up at the Test Kitchen

October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 The team at Zonnebloem

As I write this blog piece, I am on tenterhooks that I might be going back to the Test Kitchen tomorrow night – and for the first time, I would actually be paying for myself!! Yes, I realise that I am getting unreasonably excited about this prospect, but it is definitely one of the hazards of the job that you get to go to lots of lovely places but you never get to order the food you want to order, eat it with the person you want to eat it with, drink just a little more than is good for you and actually relax and enjoy yourself. I’ve felt this about the Test Kitchen for some time so am REALLY hoping that I can get in tomorrow and finally pay for what I want to enjoy. Fingers crossed for me!!

I must say that if I do manage to wrangle a table, I will be very hard-pressed not to have the starter I’ve now enjoyed three times – the trout tartare with apple, lime & crème fraiche. This was served at the Zonnebloem lunch a couple of weeks ago as a partner for the Chardonnay and it was as good as ever. The occasion was really just a reminder of how good the everyday Zonnebloem wines are and what incredible value they offer (something which I haven’t been able to say about the previous 2 Larney Lunches on this blog!!). Cellarmaster Deon Boshoff is surrounded by a team of young, smart, cool women who are making some very good wines which they are then selling for very good prices. They also sneaked in a couple of the Limited Edition wines – the new Chenin Blanc 2011 and the new Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.

So having said that, I am going to whinge about two things!! I am struggling with the two tiers of Zonnebloem – the normal and the Limited Release. Because either the normal range is well-priced but the Limited Edition is too cheap, or the normal range is over-priced and the Limited Edition offers good value. Rather against my cheapskate grain, I have to admit that I think it’s the former. At R 69 for the reds and R47 for the whites for the normal wines, I think they are absolutely on the mark – well-made wines at a more than fair price. But then the Limited Edition comes in at R69 and it’s just too close. The wines are lovely and, frankly punch far above their price-point – I know it sounds silly, but I would be happier paying an extra 20% more, instead of wondering what’s wrong when the ‘top range’ is so cheap.

What do you think – old-fashioned or not?

Which leads me onto my second rant, because I can actually answer my previous question by saying it’s the labels! I’ve had this discussion with JC le Roux as well – great wines, truly delicious, excellent prices, fabulous flavours – and the labels mean that they are the very last bottles I would ever choose on a shelf. I mentioned this to the Zonnebloem marketing manager and she said exactly the same as the JC le Roux people – they have such a conservative following, that they think they would seriously offend them if they changed the packaging in any way.

So where are the new customers going to come from then? If you can’t change the labels because you risk losing your old customers and you’re not attracting any new ones because they look so old-fashioned – you have (literally) a dying customer base. I would love to see the labels really reflecting the young, vibrant winemakers and the quality wine inside. In 2 years time, Zonnebloem and owners Distell will be celebrating 50 years of working together – perhaps that would be a good time to stop looking back and start looking forward, I feel.

Larney Lunches Part 2

October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Fons Aaldering & winemaker/GM, Dustin Osborne

So after my very delicious Asian-inspired lunch at Delaire, I moved onto the second spectacular lunch of recent weeks – with Aaldering Vineyards at The Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel.

Aaldering launched to the world last year, but since then, several changes have taken place, notably a new winemaker/GM in the shape of Dustin Osborne, previously of Mont Rochelle. The re-launch was held at the Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenort and was clearly a larney enough event to entice the glitterati of SA wine-drinking media to join in. Starting with a putting competition and fizz, it culminated with an incredible 5 course lunch by Eat Out nominee, Peter Tempelhof at The Greenhouse, specially opened for the occasion by group GM, Tony Romer-Lee.

The wines themselves are solid citizens and a very worthy start indeed. It was a tad awkward for Dustin to talk about them when he had done very little except oversee labelling, but he handled the quickfire interrogation with aplomb and was incredibly positive about the future. My favourites were the Chardonnay and the Shiraz – the Chardonnay 2011 showing delicious balance, hints of oatmeal and a creamy, nutty finish. It’s R132 cellar door. The Shiraz 2009 was all blueberries and mulberries on the nose with some white pepper character and soft juicy tannins. Like all the reds (Pinotage 2009 and Cabernet/Merlot 2009) it costs R187 cellar door.

Right now, I have to say that I think the wines are over-priced. They’re certainly very pleasant, and I think there is huge potential there, particularly in the talented hands of Dustin. Most of them get imported to Holland where Dutch owners Fons & Marianne Aaldering have a food distribution company and the wines are listed in an impressive 250 restaurants. I was particularly pleased to hear that Fons is setting up a version of   in Holland as well, to channel funds back to worthy projects in SA, helping to get kids off the streets and back with their families and into schools. It seems Aaldering have great deeds in mind on two continents and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

PS – Aaldering also win the prize for the cutest way of giving out a press kit – how sweet is this?!

How to get lots of media at your PR function – part 1

October 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

aka – Larney Lunches Part 1!


I know I seem to have the best job in the world – and to be honest, it is pretty good. But sometimes, it truly is hard to summon up enthusiasm to spend my own money on petrol, trek all the way out to the winelands, to eat food that may be delicious, but is certainly ruinous for my health and my waistline, taste a new wine, then hare back to base and try and catch up on all the work I should have been doing whilst I was are out to lunch. Look – I know it’s not exactly a cleaning-sewers kind of job, but after a bit, it definitely seems more sensible and politic to start turning down more invitations than you accept.

I think a lot of people are starting to feel like this too, which means that PR’s are becoming more and more cunning/adventurous in offering tempting scenarios to entice us to join them at events. So here is a report on the first of 3 recent larney lunches which succeeded in pushing all the right buttons and getting me off my backside to join in.

Delaire Graff has more money than you can shake a (diamond-encrusted) stick at, and an invitation to indulge in some of Christiaan Campbell’s Asian-inspired food is definitely not to be sniffed at. And, of course, it helps that the wines are really very nice as well and since this was the main reason for the lunch invite, I guess I should talk about them first! Winemaker Morne Vrey comes from Calitzdorp, which is not somewhere you associate with top Sauvignon Blanc. But his record since joining Delaire Graff is impressive – with the 09 Sauvignon getting 5 stars from Wine magazine and the 2010 Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon getting best Sauvignon at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.

The wine we were there to try was the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2009 and then they also sneaked in their new Chenin Blanc 2010, made from Swartland fruit, and took the opportunity to show us their 5 Star Platter stunner, the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008, as well. The Chenin (R98 from the cellar) is an extremely good example, made from 30 year old vines. It spent 10 months in barrel and is full of rich yellow fruits balanced by a clean, fresh acidity and a lengthy finish. And the Cabernet is big, bold, beautiful and should be squirreled away for another 3-5 years at least.

So onto the Sem/Sauv (60/40 split), one of my favourite blends. This was a very lovely example with the creamy lemongrass and citrus notes of the Semillon livened up a little by herbaceous Sauvignon. It’s not cheap at R350 (including a gift box) and there are better-value examples only a few hundred yards away from the farm, but hey – most of it gets sold to the visitors and guests at the hotels and if you can afford to stay there, then I guess you don’t really care too much about the odd hundred rand here and there.

So finally the food – which was sublime and my photos don’t do it any kind of justice at all. Again, it’s not cheap to eat at the restaurant, but I must say that the quality of the food was outstanding and in my view, this is a serious omission to the Eat Out Top Twenty. Mortgage your house, sell your kids and make sure you never turn down an invitation to Delaire Graff!