Meeting South African chef Pieter de Jager and tasting his cooking paired with South African wines at the Prince Albert Rotisserie of the InterContinental Manila brought me back to Stellenbosch where the vineyards of Cape Town are situated. On our way there, the mountains changed colors as the sun went down. Polka-dotted guinea fowls roamed the streets. The town we visited looked very European with its white chapel and neat rows of houses.
Chef De Jager, however, comes from the other wine-producing region called Franschhoek which, with Stellenbosch and Paarl, forms the Cape Winelands. His father ran a restaurant where he also cooked; then he trained with two of the best South African chefs—Margot Janse and Chris Erasmus—whose food I chose to sample by chance among those of many chefs featured during the 2008 Cape Town wine festival.
A Leopard’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc came with the appetizers, quite acidic and dry. But it was La Motte wines, considered the top produce of Franschhoek, that appeared at the table for the rest of the evening.
La Motte Sauvignon Blanc was paired with De Jager’s salad of blackened tiger prawns with noodles mixed with mango, papaya and coriander. The very Asian touch, according to the chef, is the influence of Indonesian people who were exiled to South Africa by the Dutch colonizers.
La Motte Chardonnay paired well with the excellent grilled sea bass with two kinds of velouté (sauce), salsa and champagne. A filling beef tenderloin with a thick bordelaise sauce was paired with La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon, both sauce and wine thick and rich.
Chef De Jager gave a rather enlightening explanation about winemakers’ forays into Asia, a fact that puzzled us. He said 10 percent of the Asian market is like the whole of Europe’s.
Leopard’s Leap and La Motte wines are available at Wine Depot (tel. 8978167).
The name Dog Point Vineyards had guests at the tasting curious about the name. James Healy, winemaker, must have answered that question too many times that an explanation is printed in the company brochure.
The vineyard is located in Marlborough, New Zealand, formerly sheep country where dogs were brought in to keep the sheep within the farm’s boundaries.
It is sauvignon blanc that began the event, a refreshing white for a muggy summer evening. It smelled of guava though the tasting notes identified the aroma as passion fruit.
Healy with his partner, viticulturist Ivan Sutherland, and their wives collaborated to make wines according to their “own style,” Healy said. Translate that to what they like to drink, what they look for in wines.
The “hands-on” partners have made their vineyards certified organic with low cropping of grapes that are handpicked. Both used to work for an Auckland wine company called Cloudy Bay, whose sauvignon blanc shot the brand to fame.
We tasted the Chardonnay, a fuller white and smelling of oak. The Pinot Noir smelled mainly of berries, smooth with the tannin not too cloying.
The tasting was done at the residence of New Zealand Ambassador Reuben Levermore. I must commend the kitchen staff for making a great pavlova.
It was good to meet Alison Harvey again who has been promoting Katnook Estate wines from way back. She stayed on after the winery was bought by Freixenet, a Spanish wine company.
Welcome wine was Azahara Sparkling from Deakin Estate, a beautiful bottle with an award-winning taste, helped no doubt by the Cava wine know-how of Freixenet. The name, by the way, is Spanish for orange blossom.
Katnook Estate is located in Coonawarra, South Australia, a remote place but whose red top soil (terra rossa) over limestone is best for wines, especially cabernet sauvignon.
The Cab 2010 was matched with an Omaha rib eye at Sage, Shangri-La Makati. The lingering aroma and taste are of plums.
A second red was also paired with the steak, a Merlot 2010, lighter, as expected.
The first course of pork terrine was paired with a Chardonnay 2010, Founder’s Block, which means it is from the original area that Coonawarra founder John Riddoch established.
In spite of the history attached to its name, Alison said that the fruity wine should be enjoyed while still young.
But the best was saved for last, the Shiraz 2008 Prodigy, one of two Katnook Estate flagship wines. Deep in color and taste, it smelled of berries and was perfect with the chocolate dessert.
Both Katnook Estate and Dog Point wines are available at Lester Harvey’s Zen Asia (tel. 8160317).
The long wine list of what was billed the Loire Valley wine dinner at Spiral of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila would be intimidating if you thought you had to taste all of it. But like the Spiral buffet spread, you choose what you know you can finish and relish. That evening we were offered to taste nine wines from the Domaine Fournier Pere et Fils.
According to the Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford University Press, 1994), Loire Valley is one of the main and varied wine-producing regions of France. While appreciated in Paris, its other wines, save for Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, are “widely underrated outside France.”
Claude Fournier, winemaker of his family’s vineyard in the Loire Valley, said he arrived just a few hours from a 20-hour flight from France. To get over his jet lag, I asked Fournier about the difference between the sauvignon blanc of Loire and that of New Zealand.
Water, he said, is present naturally in the Loire Valley floor while New Zealand wineries have to pump in water.
As is usual at wine-tasting events at the Spiral, the chef suggests the food to pair with the wines. I thought it logical to stay with the French menu.
Seafood on ice was paired with the Sancerre Blanc 2011. The flinty tasting Pouilly Fumé Blanc 2011 was perfect with the Soupe de Poisson (fish soup).
The smooth Anjou red was not recommended for the duck confit but worked for me.
The finale was the semisweet white wine, Coteaux du Layon 2008, taken with the cheeses from L’Epicerie.
Fournier had to wake up before dawn to catch his flight to Cambodia (after that he would fly to Chinese cities).
With what we tasted that night, that “widely underrated outside France” billing can be reversed.
Fournier wines are available at Le Cellier (tel. 8971840).
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