There are various approaches to wine. One which I always enjoy and appreciate is the “there are only two kinds of wine – wine you like, and wine you don’t like”. This pretty much sums it up, when the whole topic is so often confusing and intimidating.
Many people take it super seriously; I’ve watched them swirl, nose, sip, chew – stopping short of gargling, and spitting it out. Granted, when you’re on a judging panel, working your way through dozens of wines in a morning, this is kind of necessary. But these people, clever as they are, are not “normal” people like you and me. Sure, we appreciate a lovely wine, but we enjoy actually drinking it, with or without food, as part of the experience.
As far as winemakers go, I’ve almost always found them to be incredibly down to earth, and not snobbish or superior when faced with a good old fashioned wine lover/drinker who has no idea what malolactic fermentation is. They – and sommeliers – speak a beautiful poetic language which is soothing to listen to as it rolls off their tongues, and more often than not, they’re easy to understand.
At Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek – one of Richard Branson’s properties – you can enjoy an evening in Miko restaurant every last Thursday of the month in the company of wine maker Dustin Osborne as five delicious courses are served, paired with the estate’s wines from the different ranges. As each is presented, Osborne gives a short explanatory chat about the wine (not the food, or how well they work together, because this is implied). It’s a super winter option, as the restaurant with its high thatched ceiling, has roaring log fires to keep it cosy, and you can make it even better with an overnight stay.
At last month’s dinner hosted for media, we got a couple of extra courses, but some examples of what you can expect include crispy Patagonian squid with chunky sweet chilli dip and exotic tomato salsa paired with Mont Rochelle Sauvignon Blanc 2018; and cured Franschhoek trout with spicy tomato chutney, smoked salmon cream and crispy kale served with Mont Rochelle Chardonnay 2017.
We’d begun the evening with the 2009 unwooded Chardonnay, which was excellent with the amuse bouche of grilled cauliflower and bacon soup with truffle oil. The Miko 2016 Chardonnay teamed up with the wild mushroom risotto with Parmesan cream.
Two meaty courses followed, with the requisite reds. Pan-fried springbok loin with cranberry gel, sumac roasted carrots, and creamed potatoes with straw wine jus came with Mont Rochelle Syrah 2010. I was planning to skip dessert (dark chocolate fondant with mixed berry compote – it was a long evening), but I held out for the beef fillet with gorgonzola dauphinoise, roasted baby beets and mulberry jus because its wine was the 2009 Mont Rochelle Cab Sav and worth the wait. For me, it was the perfect ending, before I headed back to my room. I heard at breakfast the next morning, the party had continued for quite a while longer.
It’s certainly a marathon, not a sprint, but a warm and convivial atmosphere and Osborne’s little speeches – as well as the opportunity to chat to him one on one – contribute to an evening well-spent.
The Winemakers Dinners cost R750 and include some of the best selections of Mont Rochelle wines, as well as premium and museum wines – like Miko Red 2010, which won the Gold Award in the London wine competition and the only South African wine to receive a gold award.
* For bookings call 0800 056 343 (toll free) or 021 876 2770; alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org