Mountain or Maritime, Shiraz or Syrah?

Christian Cloos (below, left) runs a catering business in Belgium along with four restaurants and spends around €300,000 a year on wine. So the wines of Neil Ellis, shown yesterday to artist Joachim Scönfeldt (below, right) and yours truly (who took the photo) by François Cillié (below, centre), are must tastes.

IMG 4712 300x225 Mountain or Maritime, Shiraz or Syrah?

In particular, a brace of 2010 Shirazes impressed. The entry level from Elgin is called Shiraz and retails at R80. In a screw-cap bottle, it over-delivers in the spice and fruit departments. The Vineyard Selection is called Syrah, is made from grapes grown in Darling, is closed with a corkamorimcork Mountain or Maritime, Shiraz or Syrah?
by Amorim Cork
and at R220, costs nearly triple. So which one for Christian?

My answer would be both. The Elgin example is an elegant Mountain Red with plenty of tannins which will help with digestion of game dishes and steak Tartare – or filet américain – as its called in Brussels. The Darling wine is a tangy Maritime Red with an acid freshness that calls out for a seared tuna steak or yellow tail. The former, a good value catering option as Belgian banquets are all you can drink. The latter, a restaurant selection in the €25-€30 range.

Why is more not made of wines such as these? Has familiarity bred contempt? Is SA wine a victim of neomania, an illness defined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb as “a love of the new for its own sake.”

The December/January edition of Classic Wine magazine carries a supplement called Champions (below) which rounds-up the results of a year of blind tastings and is a potent challenge to the Platter sighted guide as the Classic assessments are honestly made. Sighted Platter is fast running out of road and last week Die Burger asked whether the time has come for a facelift?

ne 224x300 Mountain or Maritime, Shiraz or Syrah?

A producer called George Burns from Worcester made the serious allegation that several producers who threatened to withhold their wines from Platter, saw their ratings improve by two and three stars in the new edition of the guide. George goes on to compare the guide to The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander.

A strange bedfellow indeed for Classic Wine as the only weak point in Champions is a superficial and misleading overview of recent trends and developments in SA wine penned by an assistant associate Platter editor. But perhaps worst of all, it is boring with, as expected, attention focused on the Swartland. The contributions of giants like Gyles Webb at Thelema and Neil Ellis are totally overlooked.

Neil invented Darling over two decades ago and his Groenekoof Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is still a benchmark at R75. Meanwhile the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2012 for R160 at Asian Tapas heaven Haiku in Burg Street, Cape Town, is the best deal on the menu and is terrific with the whole baby chicken steamed in a whole lotus leaf.