An invitation to Saturday dinner with food by Bertus Basson of Stellenbosch restaurant Overture and the wines of renowned Portuguese producer Dirk van der Niepoort. Host for the evening was J√∂rg Pf√ºtzner, former sommelier and now owner of Fine Wine Events. A man of impeccable taste and boundless enthusiasm when it comes to eating and drinking, his encouragement to potential guests was “”I’m a big fan of both these mavericks and the evening should be a lot of fun”. As if encouragement was needed…
Basson’s restaurant Overture, situated on Helderberg property Hidden Valley, is rated a full 3 Stars in the 2011 edition of Rossouw’s Restaurants, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t retain this rating for 2012. Niepoort, meanwhile, is the fifth generation of his family to run the Douro winery of the same name since it was founded in 1842. Originally a Port shipper, Niepoort has in recent times gained acclaim for exceptional, exciting table wines.
The first course consisted of rare grilled tuna with sweet corn and potato salad. What generally impresses about Basson’s cooking is that there always seems to be an effortlessness about it, seemingly quite simple ingredients combining to producer great complexity, and here was a case in point. The accompanying wine was the outstanding Redoma Branco Reserva 2007, a white blend from very old, high altitude vineyards. It showed white fruit, herbaceousness and spice and had a weightless intensity about it. It particularly loved the roast fennel stalk that came with the dish.
Then shredded pork hock done crisp and sweet, Asian-style with side dishes of coriander, coconut rice and cabbage and radish slaw. This was served with Niepoort Riesling Dulce 2007, a wine where the fermentation had been arrested resulting in an abv of 8% and a residual sugar of 60g/l ‚ very dramatic but for me lacking the finesse of a dry version which we’d had as an aperitif.
Douro reds are always going to require rich, earthy flavours on the plate and Basson was able to provide: Mature entrecote with porcini, baked potato and long stem broccoli. The wines served were Redoma Tinto 2007 and Batuta 2007, the former intended to be “wild with strong character” and the latter “fine and elegant” according to the Niepoort website. Though I suspect the Batuta is intended as the more sophisticated proposition, I liked both, with the Redoma showing great fruit intensity while the Batuta was more medium bodied and savoury.
One further red without food, the Charme 2007, a wine typically harvested early and fermented on the stems to achieve as much lightness of body and delicacy of tannin as possible. On this occasion, it left me somewhat nonplussed showing both “stalkiness” and oak sweetness.
Finally, Huguenot cheese pie with fig pur√©e and green fig ice cream – not normally one who likes any sort of fig with my cheese, I can tell you this is the way to have it. This was served with Vintage Port 2005, Colheita (dated tawny) Port 1991 and however good the local stuff is, I’m not sure it will ever have quite the same finesse.