A few wines

Dinner on Jens Lehmann the other night because some friends foolishly bet me that Arsenal would beat Barcelona in the Champions League. So I found myself at the Relais & Chateaux property Cellars Hohenhort, where the restaurant is called Greenhouse (it has trees growing through it) and a young Frenchman is behind the pots. The food was good on average, but what interested me more was that the sommelier had organised some wines in advance, knowing my friends were wine-lovers. Brampton Viognier 2005 was their first choice with the starters – a rich and heavy wine, positively smothering itself in an ingratiating desire to be lovable. As a result, I could barely drink a glass. At least the wine was in screwcap.

Then a Backsberg “Pumphouse” Shiraz 2003 which was so named I guess because it was pumped up by… yes, viognier. Put the wine to the nose and that was all you first smelt, second and third too. Not a poor texture on the palate, but again cloyingly sweet and twee.

To rescue the situation and take control of our vinous pleasure, my friend ordered a 1997 Cordoba Crescendo. The winemaker Chris Keet reckons this may be his finest (although the 1995 is superb). It’s a cabernet franc-led wine, and still so incredibly fresh and pure it’s astounding. Besides its obvious class, it had that most winning quality of being drinkable.

4 Replies to “A few wines”

  1. Curious that the food was ‘good on average’. Should be, at those prices. My recollection is of one of our party being given crunchy risotto, and getting a lecture when he requested it get a little more cooking. He was told (somewhat unfortunately?) that this was the ‘French way’. If it was a soggy baguette, perhaps it would have been the ‘Italian way’? I trust you didn’t comment adversely on the choice of wine to your waitron. It might have been worth it to hear the response. To be fair, everyone else thoroughly enjoyed their meal.

  2. I should have asked the waitress whether she would be happy to drink half a bottle of that immensely alcoholic wine, yes. It’s time the staff also tried to drink the stuff, not just be impressed by its supposed credentials.

  3. That might be the first offer she’s ever had to drink wine at work, in order to know what she’s putting customers through. Do you know whether the more expensive places make any attempt to educate their staff about SA wine, or do they just hope to hire people who know all this already? Apparently at Constantia Uitsig staff used to be encouraged to finish off opened bottles, but while there might be some educational value in this, I have my doubts about the context.

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