By Christian Eedes, 23 August 2010
After 30 years in the international wine trade, Johann Innerhofer now owns Capelands Estate together with partner Laura Mauri on Old Sir Lowry’s Pass Road, Somerset West. This coming Saturday Innerhofer and Jörg Pfützner of Fine Wine Events are hosting a “Magnanimous Barolo & Truffle Dinner” at the property’s Restaurant Magniare. Wines from the excellent vintages of 1996, 1997 and 2000 from magnum and double magnum, truffles imported from Alba, a meal of five courses. Cost per head R1 490 but already sold out.
It’s the kind of event that I would dearly like to attend but as an impoverished wine hack, is beyond my means. The ebullient Pfützner, however, was keen to see if the recently arrived truffles were up to scratch and a bunch of like minded souls were convened for lunch yesterday.
If not Barolo with truffles, then what? By extraordinary coincidence, fellow guest Jean-Pierre Rossouw of Rossouw’s Restaurants and I both bought a bottle of maiden vintage Ashbourne 2001, Anthony Hamilton Russell’s concept wine from Pinotage.
Resolute classicist that Hamilton Russell is, he would no doubt have been happy with the way his wine showed on the day. First of all, there was immense variation between the two bottles, the first appearing quite evolved but still possessing tight tannins; the second appearing much fresher but rather sweeter and softer. Common to both however was a peculiar, hard to identify flavour profile far removed from the cherries, plums and appealing wood vanillins that characterise even the best examples of more conventional Pinotage.
At first, we were all a little nonplussed by the Ashbourne (again a reaction Hamilton Russell would probably cherish) and put both bottles to one side to get on with the day’s proceedings: a vinous tour of Italy with Innerhofer producing first Rosso Divino Brunello di Montalcino 1999, then Marcarini Barolo 1997 and finally famed “Super Tuscan” Sassicaia 2005 out of his well-stocked cellar (cheers, Johann).
The wines during the meal proved an interesting exercise in re-calibrating my palate: Out of everything on offer, the undoubtedly excellent Sassicaia (a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc) was nevertheless the wine that appeared the most “international” in the sense of being beautifully easy to drink; the Ashbourne meanwhile sat much closer in style to the Brunello and Barolo. It had slightly more ripe fruit than the Italian wine as you might expect but it had also had a similar earthiness about it, a “noble rusticity” as Pfützner put it. It reminded me that to get the most out of wine, you should not define what constitutes excellence too narrowly.