Nasal Nostalgia

How ironic that one week before Cape Wine 2008, the biennial industry S5 of See, Swirl, Sniff, Spit or Swallow (that should more sensitively be called SA Wine 2008) skops off at the über-bling Convention Centre, than the news breaks that The Nose Restaurant & Wine Bar in the Cape Quarter is to change fingers and become Nightingale Bistro & Bar, quite a distance from Berkeley Square. Seems that the Mother City has fallen out of love with wine bars, the demise of The Nose coming hot on the heels of the collapse of Jean Vincent Ridon’s Signal Hill in March, that brave winery and tasting room in the heart of the inner city. Seems like wine bars are the new cigar bars.

cleo Nasal Nostalgia

I for one will be sad to see it go. A Cape Town office for my frequent visits down South (thanks to the progressive free Wifi internet policy) and an unbeatable showcase for new releases, it was a resource SA wine is crazy not to have supported more. With big budget new release launches held in the most inappropriate of venues, what a pity The Nose was taken for granted and not picked more often.

But life goes on. Proprietor Cathy M has a small but perfectly formed proboscis for good value and can sniff out interesting wines at 1000 paces. Her e-mail newsletters were a chuckle a megabyte and her “little pickers have big knickers” was a classic.

With so many inside traders making fortunes advising wineries on styles of Sauvignon Blanc and export strategies to China, let’s hope progressive producers and restaurateurs will keep Cathy in mind when next they need a consultant who knows the difference between Bordeaux and Claret. Not that Cathy needs me to boost her CV, but my most recent (and hopefully not last) interview with her in the Sunday Times was right on the money:

Q: Have you come across any interesting new release whites?

A: Well, I’ve had a slew of excellent Sauvignon recently, three in particular standing out, all new entries to the market, all coming in at the top end price-wise. Crios Bríde is an astonishing wine – stuffed full of fruit, it’s like drinking tinned litchis! Ecology is the child of minister Valli Moosa from his eco-friendly enterprises out in Walker Bay – very lovely drinking wine with nice green notes to it. And the third one is Crystallum from Peter Allan Finlayson, son of Peter of Bouchard Finlayson fame. I didn’t like this when I first tried it a few months ago, but it has softened and evolved amazingly and has delicious asparagus and peapod flavours with zingy acidity. All of them are coming in at a price more than most other better-known Sauvignons – can that be justified? Not sure really, and I guess the market will decide eventually, but certainly all of them are extremely enjoyable tipples right now.

Q: And reds?

A: Rather surprisingly, I had a couple of new reds turn up from Durbanville where everyone seems to be going Sauvignon-crazy. These are from two farms I’ve never heard of – one of them hasn’t even made it into Platter yet which is the Cab/Merlot from Signal Gun, a really good value drinking wine, totally unpretentious, just good fruit flavours, soft tannins and an easy finish – what’s not to like? Oh yes, that would be the horrible label! The other is the Syrah from De Vallei which is a juicy, soft and mellow wine full of red berries and cherries. An interesting pair from this cool-climate region.

Q: Are rosés really on a roll?

A: Oh absolutely. We have been through loads this summer and are still going strong. My top tips for Rosé producers out there – make it dry, and package it in white and silver with a screwcap. It’s worked for Jordan, Lynx, Dornier, Highlands Road and numerous other delicious wines so why not join the trend? And my top tip for consumers – crack open the olive oil and garlic and drink your roses with food – something like Mont Destin’s Pink Door just gets better and better when you have it with bruschetta!

Q: Anything for the sweet of tooth?

A: I’m rather interested in a new wine I’ve just got from Solms-Astor which is the new range of empowerment wines from Solms Delta. It’s a sweet, sparkling Shiraz – three words which I’m not sure should ever be so close together – but it’s a decent price, has nice berry fruit and I think it might go rather well with chocolate Brownies. Apparently the Australians drink Sparkling Shiraz with a fried breakfast – reminds me of that joke ‘What’s the difference between Australia and a pot of yoghurt? Given enough time, a pot of yoghurt will develop a culture.’ Cheers!