As a wine and food commentator, I am fortunate to be invited to some pretty awesome wine functions. Fortunately these happen usually in some of Cape Town’s leading restaurants where chefs go all out to showcase their dishes to a group of people who certainly appreciate what is put before them. Jos Baker, the doyenne of food and wine writers in South Africa, and in my view a living National Treasure, once said to me “the wine is there in the bottle, you have to bring the food to it.”
I have recently attended two such functions at Dear Me, a restaurant in Longmarket Street in the heart of Cape Town, whose kitchen is ruled over by Vanessa Marx. Vanessa has an almost unique knack of bringing her dishes right up to the wine and often will find a nuance in either the aroma or the flavour of the wine. She has a row of glasses on the kitchen passé and moves back and forth tasting and adjusting the flavours of her food to match the wine to perfection.
I was recently invited by Riana van der Merwe, the winemaker of 7Springs Wines up just north of the Hemel en Aarde Wine Appellation in Hermanus, to join her for dinner with some pretty heavyweight palates, Neil Pendock, Cathy Marston and Sam Linsell amongst them.
We were fortunate to have Claire Gunn there that evening. Claire took the photos below. She is a trained chef who turned to photography and is able to bring out some of the finer aspects of food in her pics.
The menu consisted of 8 miniscule courses – a magical Vanessa and Riana experience.
Poached Oyster spring peas, naartjie hollandaise, pork crackling
7Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Pale bright straw in the glass, ripe white fleshed peach and sliced Granny Smith apples on the nose and following through onto the palate. Lime-zip ending.
Kob ceviche, buchu, lime, pinenuts, 7Springs Frantoio olive oil
7Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Like the 2010 also pale in colour, but fresher and there were hints of herbal buchu which Vanessa cleverly echoed in the dish. The lime is there through the wine from nose to tail. Just enough fruit fullness to match the dish. This was my star dish of the evening – perfect perfect match.
Free-range prosciutto, pearl barley, watercress, grapefruit vinaigrette
7Springs Unoaked Chardonnay 2012
The fruited freshness of windfall citrus in this wine took to the dish like the proverbial duck to water. The fullness of the fruit supporting the cured pork and singing with the grapefruit vinaigrette.
Smoked Pork Belly, honey glazed green olives, vanilla scented sweet potato
7Springs Chardonnay 2010
The fullness of the wine and the undertow of oak loved the smokiness of the now-so-de-rigueur pork belly. The honey glazed olives were a revelation to me, and the wine supported them perfectly. The vanilla in the sweet potato echoing the vanilla aromas of the oak barrels in which the wine was matured.
Pan fried sweetbreads, truffled exotic mushrooms, sage brioche crumbs & macadamia nuts
7Springs Chardonnay 2011
The younger wine help up the sweetbreads, Vanessa had me at sweetbreads already. I am not a fan of truffle oil, exotic mushrooms are abundant in flavour but it was discreetly used. You take me at macadamia nuts too!
Crispy Confit Duck, red wine risotto, cherry & red onion marmalade, young beetroots
7Springs Pinot Noir ‘Young Vines 2’ 2012
Though Tim Pearson, owner of 7Springs, covers himself by putting young vines on the label, this is no show pony of a wine. It is an utterly delicious Pinot and of course made for Duck, the rustic marmalade and the beetroots. Vanessa cleverly picking out the cherries in the fruit with her marmalade and indeed the young beetroots.
Slow roasted Karoo Lamb, baby potatoes, caper and mint salsa verde
7Springs Syrah 2010
Cool ocean breezes from the southern Atlantic Coast give a refined, delicate wine. The vines were young at the time of harvest, however the wine is complex with spiced black cherries and ‘lifting’ red berries. Lovely undertow of oak. Vanessa found the Shiraz with the lamd and the wine had enough guts to cope with her salsa.
The evening was brought to and with a stunning little beignet of dark Valrhons chocolate, salted cocoa dust, raspberry. Valrhona is a French chocolate which has become very popular with chefs in South Africa.
To read more about 7Springs – click here
To read more about Dear Me – click here
To read more about Claire Gunn Photography – click here