GRAZE by the River was graced with Mellasat Vineyards winemaker Stephen Richardson at the latest food and wine pairing last Saturday evening.
Earlier that day, Richardson also did a wine tasting at D’vine Deli in the Portmaster’s Village, so a number of locals got to sample the vineyard’s unique range of whites and reds.
Mellasat is most renowned for pioneering the white pinotage, one of the wines available for tasting at D’vine Deli and the wine paired with the first course at Graze.
Mellasat is a boutique wine farm just outside Paarl. Richardson has owned the farm for 21 years and started a replacement programme of the farm’s existing vines in 1997, under the expert supervision of local viticulturalist Poena Malherbe
“Paarl is a warm region so we’re allowed to grow in that fashion,” Richardson said. “We’re on the Dutoitskloof Pass which is a bit cooler.”
The welcome drink was the white Seraphic 2016 vintage, an unwooded easy drinking wine.
Richardson said the Seraphic was co-fermented, with the chardonnay one of the varieties that ripens earliest being fermented in a tank with yeast added. Chenin blanc grapes are added about a week later and then the viognier shortly after that, being the minority grape in the blend.
The first course served by Graze owner and chef Nick Howard was a delightful salad with fresh asparagus, apple, goat cheese and pecan nuts, with a peach dressing. The white pinotage that was paired with it has a smoky taste like a red, but without the heaviness that a red leaves on the palate. As Howard predicted, the flavour of the wine was enhanced by the variety of tastes in the salad.
Richardson said they achieved the white pinotage by removing the skin from the equation. They pick the first batch of grapes early and add the second batch as they ripen.
“We don’t do destalking and crushing or we’d get the same colour [as a red]. We press whole bunches of grapes which lets the juice run away from the skins,” he said.
The white pinotage is barrel fermented and stays in barrels for 11 months after fermentation.
“We treat it like a white after that, stirring sediment during the process.”
The second course was baked fresh kob with thermidor sauce, quinoa and steamed French beans. It was paired with the Mellasat chardonnay 2013, another barrel fermented wine. Richardson said he chose an earlier vintage because chardonnay tends to get “bottle shock”. Most come out of it after about six months, but the 2013 vintage was only released a few months ago.
The chardonnay had a noticeable butterscotch aftertaste, but rather than the fish or thermidor sauce it was the quinoa – a first for me – that brought out the most flavour in the wine.
The third course was a Mediterranean vegetable pasta, aptly paired with the first red for the evening – the tempranillo 2015. Richardson said the Spanish grape was widely grown in Spain, but little known in South Africa.
He said it could withstand droughts and dry conditions and was something South African vinters should consider.
The eagerly expected fourth course was Kowie duck breast served with a sweet potato and butternut mash, carrot and a plum and cherry reduction. It was paired with the Revelation 2015, a blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.
“Every year can be a blend of something different,” he said. “It’s an easy drinking wine – we call it our braai wine.”
With a noticeable liquorice/aniseed taste, the Revelation went well with the tasty duck.
Richardson had a special treat with go with dessert, his 2011 Tuinwyn, which is not in stock but came from his cellar. The sherry-like sweetness went well with the Greek baklava, frozen apricot parfait and toasted almonds – a decadent way to end the evening.