Cabernet Ingénue

After browsing the 2009 editions of a couple of sighted wine guides, I remain more convinced than ever that the eye (as in reading the label) is the decisive sense when it comes to assessing wine. That said, blind tastings are not always possible. On this year’s Good Value Guru road trip, the GVG at least sets the itinerary, which saw us diverted from Darling and giving Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Cabernet Ingénue
by franschhoekwines
the flick. Omissions to be rectified in 2009 when we double the length of our epicurean expedition.

At the Nose Wine Bar in the Cape Quarter my blind tasting strategy is to ask proprietor and Pink Tongue wine columnist Cathy Marston for a glass of her finest. Which yesterday produced a glass of 06 Cabernet from Klein Génoe – which had me puzzled for a moment. A take on ingénue perhaps, pretention not being unknown in the French Corner? No, it was Cathy’s larney pronunciation of Genot – she too thought it was French – Klein being no Gallic giveaway as Nice-born Yves Klein was a neo-Dadaist with his own shade of blue.

The small Genot was a genot indeed and reminded me of a wonderful lunch with owners Angie and Joey Diamond, a lunch which I wrote up for the Sunday Times.

aj Cabernet Ingénue

Angie Diamond compares husband Joey to one of those frenetic hopping bunnies powered by Duracel batteries. Which is quite appropriate for a man who has spent 40 years making Prima Toys, with more energy than a person half his age. And while Duracel famously withdrew from SA in the dark days of apartheid-era sanctions, Joey is going nowhere, convinced of a rosy future in SA. The pair met when Joey was selling toys in Angola where Angie’s father was a big game hunter, an appropriate profession for a man named De Jager.

Elephants were the biggest trophies back then and Angie now has one in the 30ha back garden of her boutique seven-suite, twenty-seven staff hotel called Klein Genot, on the fashionable side of Franschhoek (through the town centre, next to Boekenhoutskloof). Although this elephant is a real mother – a mountain with the head, eye and trunk of the pachyderm clearly visible on the western skyline. Especially after a bottle of Black Swan, an elegant blend of Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon made for the Diamonds by consultant winemaker Mark Carmichael-Green.

Elephants used to be a feature of the valley, until shot out by settlers using a cannon borrowed from the castle in Cape Town. Tokyo Sexwale’s farm in the valley used to be called Elephant’s Pass when owned by Premier Milling bigwig Peter Wrighton, until renamed to avoid the unfortunate sobriquet of elephant’s piss for the wine. The beasts are also mightily auspicious in Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese philosophy of harmony with nature. Something Joey learnt a lot about while dealing with the Chinese who now make his Prima toys that command half the SA toy market. The teddy bear factory in Epping is now a warehouse and the factory making balls has bounced itself all the way over to Guandong.

Wine is Joey’s new passion (although the Harley-driving man himself is a “Johnny Black in a tall glass full of ice”-kind of guy) and integrity is the stylistic aim. With Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer 2004 voted best SA Bordeaux blend earlier this month in a competition sponsored by a French bank, run by a Bordeaux importer and judged by a couple of Jo’burg retailers and Cape Town anoraks, a more potent affirmation of the style lies in grass-roots support from a “hard-nosed business man” like Mr. Diamond. Although this is no one-trick pony show with a spicy Shiraz, an elegant Cabernet and a meaty Merlot also in stock.

The black swans at Klein Genot are prospering after Joey discouraged the local wild ducks with a .22. “They laid six eggs last year but wouldn’t sit on them as the ducks were too rowdy.” Their namesake wine is also booming with the 2005 sold out like rooms in Angie’s boutique hotel – like hot baguettes (baked on the premises) and the only ducks left are the Maggie Laubsers on the walls.

No surprises that Condé Nast acclaimed Klein Genot one of the top 100 baby boutique hotels in the world. The name may translate to “small indulgence” but this is obviously an offence against the trade descriptions act. Angie and Joey are having such fun, the name should be changed to Groot Genot immediately.