Chocolate Melt Down

The Paardeberg is famous for many things: parties, leopards and little blue flowers that grow on my farm Lemoenfontein in the Siebritskloof and nowhere else. At least that’s what a botanist from UCT told me. Although now I read in Bidet they also seem to be awarding qualifications in tasting through a Wine Tasting Academy run by an unqualified Wine Lizard. If UCT is indeed #3 emerging university in the world, perhaps ivory towers are in reverse and rapidly returning to the stone age. When do the courses in Astrology for 2014 start, Max Price? Should I cast a horoscope to find out?

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What is perhaps less well known is that the horse mountain is also famous for chocolate. I hear that an uber-fashionable wine brand – Chocolate Block – 41/2 stars sighted in 2014 Platter – is made in the capacious stainless steel tanks of the former Swartland Co-op – or so a recent visitor to that facility told me. The most prestigious estate on the wrong (i.e. Paarl) side of the mountain, Vondeling, is owned by Armajaro Holdings who hit the front page of the Weekend Financial Times today with the bombshell “‘Chocfinger’ sells trading arm for price of a Mars bar.”

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Seems that Anthony Ward lost his gamble on cocoa beans and “has been forced to sell his London-based cocoa, coffee and sugar trading business for just $1 – about the price of a Mars Bar.” And we’re not talking the Marianne Faithful party favour here, either, although that must be getting a bit stale now.

But Ant is a resilient trader and this former motorcycle messenger has way better lessons than the ones Reg Lascaris, owner of Chocolate Block, peddles from the boot of his Ferarri. For starters, Ant’s wines are also way better, with the Cabernet Sauvignon of Emile van der Merwe – strangely unrated for Reg’s Platter sighted wine guide – no chocolate bon bon made in barrels that look remarkably like steel tanks with giant teabags full of oak chips dangling inside.

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Emile was a 2013 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year for a Chenin Blanc. He’ll be a shoo-in for the prize next year when the category is red although I won’t be around to congratulate him, having been fired (I hear) on instructions from teetotal Ebrahim Matthews, Diners CEO, for suggesting Diners owner Standard Bank may want to get their ethics committee to look into the whole purchase of the Platter Guide by Diners director Reg. Which looks problematic, to say the least, from a corporate governance perspective.

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Meanwhile it seems that Leeuwenkuil who operate the Swartland Winery facility, make some of the leading fashionable SA brands with a frog from Cape Point and a sharp one from the Swartland, in the picture. Which begs the question “why they are so very pricey when in the old days, they’d have been called co-op wines?”

Is this the awkward truth that will upset the terroir apple cart of the Cape Vintner Classification? That people who qualify to join are not making SA icon brands? For starters, where is Etienne le Riche, who makes the best Cabernet in Stellenbosch or José Conde, his understudy, whose excellent Man Vintners wines are made at the Perdeberg Winery on the chocolate side of the mountain? Terroiristes should wipe that sneer off their dial as I hear they shift one million litres of the stuff in the USA. I had a bottle of the Cabo Tormentosa Cabernet 2009 last night with a crab salad at Birds on Bree and it was bloody marvellous.

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Then it was off to the Bunker, Cape Town’s new Ground Zero for beautiful people, lavishly documented in these photos. My mission was to deliver a bottle of Wynand Grobler’s stunning Rickety Bridge Blanc de Blanc MCC – the closest the Cape comes to Bollinger without Ab Fab luvvies Patsy and Edina. Plus a bottle of Rémy Martin Accord Royal 1738 to transform the complementary Mumm Champagne into opulent cocktails.

Alas, by the time I arrived, Mumm had gone to bed and they’d switched to Villiera so I left the Cognac with Farren Greening, celebrity barfly and coiffeurier to celebs. Preston Haskell is going to have to pull out all the stops if he wants his New Year’s Party to remain top of the pops with competition from babe magnets like the Bunker.