Vivat Bacchus South African Wine Festival

There are a few wine fans where I work and they tell me they enjoy reading my ramblings about the subject. On a Monday we’ll often have a chat about what was drunk over the weekend (obviously I’d never let on that I sometimes have a tipple on a school night!). John is a South African who only seems to drink South African wine, and Michelle loves big gutsy reds; so when I got an email from Vivat Bacchus about their South African wine festival, we decided to go for it.

Vivat Bacchus describes itself as “a celebration of rustic, robust food, artisan cheeses and great wines” and I would say its not far from the truth – however the food is definitely on the polished side of rustic! The festival ran for three days, with a tasting of 8 South African winemakers followed by a wine dinner, with different wine makers featured each night. We went for the dinner on the Tuesday as the producer of one of my favourite white wines, De Morgenzon, was on the bill.

First of all the tasting was quite an eye opener. I was expecting a lot of Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, but what was delivered was almost a homage to The Rhone Valley – Viognier and Roussane whites and Syrah and Mouvedre reds. It’s an exciting time for South African wines and there were some excellent wines on show. However I did feel many of the wines were a work in progress and I’d love to have had a few more Chenin, Cabernet and Pinotage based wines as a benchmark. When we got to a Cabernet/Syrah blend, John muttered the immortal words “I cut my milk teeth on wines like this!” – here he is telling us about it!

But as I’ve already said, there were some excellent wines, and these were my picks of the night:

De Morgenzon Garden Vineyards Rose 2012, Stellenbosch (£11.25)
The smell of summer. Lots of red fruit with wild strawberries and red currants. Mouth-puckeringly dry, simple but tasty. 88 points

High Constantia Sebastiaan 2003 (unavailable in UK)
A Bordeaux blend with lots of red fruit, smoke and earthy minerality. I was surprised that the wasn’t more than 30% Cab Franc in the blend as it was very aromatic. Quite tannic upfront but melted away to reveal red currants and spice. Good length. 91 points

Mont du Toit Kelder Le Sommet 2003, Western Cape (£62.50)
The blend isn’t divulged but I suspect there is a high proportion of Cabernet and Syrah. Lots of dark cherry, plum and black currant and warm spices. There is a wonderful balance of smooth tannins and lively acidity. A damn good wine. 92 points (we also tried the 2002 which ad been decanted but it didn’t have the elegance or balance of the 03)

Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2011, Elgin Valley (£17.50)
Beautiful peach and melon fruit with just a hint of the tropics, all snugly held together with beautifully judged oak. Very fresh with razor sharp acidity. 90 points

Paul Cluver Riesling, Elgin Valley (£13.50)
See note in dinner section.

Rustenberg Straw Wine 2011 (£12.50 375ml)
See note in dinner section.

Spice Route Chakalaka 2009, Swartland (£16.00)
Blend is 37% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 18% Carignan, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Grenache and 4% Tannat. This matches up to many Chateauneuf du Papes at twice the price! Lots of brambly fruit and spice, so smooth and delightful balance with superb acidity. An excellent wine and magnificent value. 92 points

After that it was onto the dinner. Five courses of South African inspired food, each matched with one of the wines from the earlier tasting. You’ll see from my notes above that 2 of my favourite wines were included, but the 2 other wines were so much better when matched with their food partners.

Chicken Liver Terrine with Spiced Mango Chutney
Paul Cluver Riesling, Elgin Valley (£13.50)
Aromas of lemons and limes that come through on the palate with real style. Superb balance of fruit, acidity and sweetness (just off-dry). Ripe, fruity and delicious – a great match for the chicken livers and the best value wine of the night. 91 points

Crocodile Medallions with lightly Pickled Vegetables
De Morgenzon Maestro 2011, Stellenbosch (£17.50)
First time for me to eat crocodile… And yes it is a bit like chicken! The wine us a blend of Rousanne, Chenin, Chardonnay and Viognier. Peach and apricot fruit with a hint if oaky vanilla on the nose. Nice reach and creamy palate, with almost enough acidity to balance. Finish a bit short but a good wine. 88 points (De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc Reserve 2011 is one of my very favourite white wines. Unfortunately it is now all on allocation and my local merchant can’t get good if it anymore. Aaarrgghh!)

Lamb Osso Bucco with Ratatouille, Croquette Potatoes & Red Wine Sauce
High Constantia Cabernet Franc 2006 (£21.25)
Lots of red fruits and green herb aromas with just a hint of smoke. Red currant and cranberry fruit on the palate, maybe a bit green on the finish but quite charming. 89 points

Cheese – Pont d’Yeu (France), Taleggio (Italy), Goats Cheese (sorry don’t like the stuff!)
Spice Route Mouvedre 2009, Swartland (£11.25)
Autumn Hedgerow fruit with lots of warm spicy goodness, with hints of gamey, roasted meat. If you like the Rhone you’ll like this – to me it could have been 50/50 Syrah/Grenache. Simple but delicious. 89 points

Milk Tart with Koeksister
Rustenberg Straw Wine 2011 (£12.50 375ml)
Koeksister are basically deep fruit doughnuts which are then rolled in cold sugar-syrup and John describes as “better than sex”! They are very good indeed! The sweet wine is a blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Crouchen Blanc – a new one to me. The grapes are laid out on straw mats and allowed to dry for 4 weeks after harvest to concentrate the sugars. I couldn’t believe there was no Riesling in there! Apricots and nectarines, lovely freshness and deliciously viscous body. A superb way to end a superb meal. 92 points

I can’t wait to return to Vivat Bacchus – check out their website.

About Confessions of a Wine Geek

Posted on May 27, 2013, in Eating out, General, Tasting post. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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