Elephant Hill Syrah 2009
By Christian Eedes, 19 April 2011
Marita de Beer, managing partner of Dutch wine import company Great Grapes sells some eight million bottles of wine a year, representing wineries from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Uruguay. Among her South African clients, she represents the likes of Fairview, Rustenberg and Sadie Family Wines.
Now De Beer will be importing a selection from her portfolio into South Africa and yesterday showed some of these wines to an audience of restaurateurs, retailers and media at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. Quality was variable ranging from the dire Cantina Talamonti Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008, which I suspected of bacterial spoilage through to an excellent Syrah from Elephant Hill in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, which was juicy and fresh and had all the pepper and spice you’d want from the variety. The Talamonti was the cheapest of the line-up, with it set to retail at R89 a bottle while the Elephant Hill will go for R270, which shows you get what you pay for.
Afterwards, a Cape Cuisine Cook-Off, which saw six chef-sommelier teams in competition to win an eight-day study-trip to Holland, each team having to select two wines from the Great Grapes portfolio and then cook accordingly.
A stand-out dish for me was the snoek fish cake served falling out of Lucky Strike pilchard tin with caramelized cinnamon sweet potato and roasted cumin bread sea sand prepared by Mynhardt Joubert of Bar Bar Black Sheep restaurant in Riebeek Kasteel and while it worked well enough with the two Italian wines selected, namely Torresella Pinot Grigio 2010 and Pico Maccario Estrosa Monferrato 2010, I’m sure sommelier Melusi Magodhi would have been far happier if he could’ve had access to the wines of his home district, an oxidative Swartland white being theoretically the perfect wine to go with the robust flavours of Joubert’s food.
Great Grapes’s arrival here means that local punters are going to be able to pitch South African wines against their counterparts from abroad just that little bit more often, and while greater consumer choice is wholly desirable, I think the conclusion that they’ll come to is that the local stuff has never shaped better.