Last night a menu featuring ingredients like foie gras, calf’s liver and veal prepared by chef Jacques Erasmus of the recently opened Hemelhuijs restaurant in Waterkant Street, Cape Town, dishes paired with the sweet wines of Nederburg.
Savoury with sweet – why not? South Africa’s “stickies” are generally of a high standard but have come be perceived as “dessert wines” and hence they get relegated to the end of the meal when many diners lack the resilience to cope with their richness. Foie gras matched with Sauternes is well-established so not exactly completely unprecedented.
First up, Private Bin Edelkeur 2008 (from Chenin Blanc, for the uninitiated) with pear tart tatin and foie gras with a fresh pear side-salad. Wine can either complement or contrast a dish and here it was very much a case of rich with rich. “Dessert that’s not a dessert,” suggested chef Erasmus. Delicous, but my reflection was that the reason Sauternes has become such a classic match with foie gras is that it is not quite as sweet and rather more light bodied than Edelkeur, providing a foil rather than vinous echo to the goose liver.
Next, Private Bin Eminence 2008 (a natural sweet from Muscat de Frontignan) with pork and calf’s liver terrine with a salad of watercress, croutons, Parmesan and Pommery mustard dressing. Tasted without food, the wine showed a Muscat-derived floral note on the nose, which while typical I found a little heady; on the palate, it appeared overtly sweet and rather youthfully simple. With the food, however, it became much more interesting, the acidity staring to make itself felt while there was also an intriguing earthiness on the palate.
On to the Winemaster’s Reserve Special Late Harvest 2010 with pan-fried veal with smoked oyster cream, sautéed oyster mushrooms and mashed potato. According to Nederburg winemaker Tariro Masayiti, annual production of the SLH is some 10 000 cases, the wine selling for around R55 a bottle and the biggest markets being Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape. “A wine for the masses,” he says.
I thought it was a revelation showing great complexity and a good line of acidity. From Chenin Blanc, Muscat de Frontignan, Riesling and Semillon, it reminded me of Ingenuity on steroids, Nederburg’s flagship white blend with extra punch. Grapes come from the same vineyards set aside for Nederburg’s acclaimed NLH wines, the difference being that the bunches for SLH are picked with only 20% to 30% botrytis compared to around 50% in the case of those destined for NLH. Terrific on its own, terrific with the earthy flavours on the plate.
Lastly, Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2009 (a blend of 87% Chenin Blanc and 13% Muscat de Frontignan) with warm fig brioche and Huguenot cheese. This wine is conceived in a lighter style than the other Noble Late Harvest wines and has remarkable freshness. It worked well with the brioche and cheese, although it has to be said that this was the least unexpected pairing of the evening. Worth noting that Winemaster’s Reserve rated 5 Stars in Platter’s 2011, total production amounting to some 40 000 litres and it costs all of R55 a bottle. In terms of sheer deliciousness, availability and price, you could pair it with your rice crispies and I wouldn’t think you were crazy.