Agritourismo Ayama

The Swartland Revolution was always too good to be true. And tasting some recent releases, its starting to show. Seems that some brands have been hijacked by the mercenaries of Mammon, internet moguls and Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Agritourismo Ayama
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folderols who make wines on an industrial scale in Co-ops and then claim boutique winery kudos. But the real deal is still out there on the wind-blasted Paardeberg, between leopards and baboons, beneath soaring eagles and hawks, living the dream. And battling to make a living.

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Like Atillio Dalpiaz and Michela Sfiligoi (above) on Ayama – which means Stand By Me, in the John Lennon sense. But in the same way that Italian legislation for agritourismo – the concept of offering food and wine made on a farm – was defined by law back in 1985 and saved countless traditional farms from bankruptcy, so too is Ayama in the fortunate position of being pioneers of Agritourismo in SA.

So forget about Cape Winemakers Guilds, Cape Vintner Classifications and Swartland Independents who are really just working for the man. Rather have lunch on Slent farm with Michela, Atillio and five year old Alex – he’s a bullet – for an authentic Swartland food and wine experience.

For this is Cape terroir at its most authentic (see below). No jus. No towers of food. No foams. To start Tzatziki on toast without the cucumber, made from aubergine grown in Atillio’s veggie patch (“my hobby”) with Greek-style yoghurt and garlic plus gressini on the side. Matched to a rich 2009 MCC blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, good value at R119 a bottle.

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Fry the aubergine in sunflower, not olive oil, although there are olives aplenty (see below).

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OK, so the rice for the risotto (next course) comes from Italy, but you are allowed 30% none local ingredients in an agritourismo offering. The porcini grew beneath the oak trees outside and are earthy bliss. It’s an edible Pan’s Labyrinth on the plate. To drink, a 2013 Ayama Sauvignon Blanc which is the antithesis of those oxidative Swartland whites Toothy Tim and others think define the appellation. Fresh, 13% alcohol and wonderfully floral – a Friuli-style Sauvignon. Which should come as no surprise as it was made by a vrou van Friuli, Michela. A benchmark style for Sauvignon which will last longer than the Platter guide, thanks to an excellent pH and great balance. No wonder producers at Cape Point and Stanford drive to the Swartland for Sauvignon.

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The lamb from the meat course could have been wandering the fynbos (above) before being grilled to perfection by Atillio (below) and was lucky not to have been grazed by the leopard family (mum, dad and baby) who live on the mountain. Great with the opulent 2012 Merlot made in stainless steel tanks with no need of a wooden crutch. Or marketing BS. At R55 a bottle, its a steal. Eat the meat on it’s own and then help yourself to green beans grown on the farm. Bliss. If you’d like more power, try Iggy Pop or one of two excellent Pinotages.

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Tiramisu for the sweet tooth followed by a limoncello made with local lemons and alcohol from KWV following a recipe filched from Sorrento. Finish off swirling grappa around an empty coffee cup (saves washing it) from Giorgio Dalla Cia.

Is agritourismo the way to save character SA wines from the attacks of accountants? It makes total terroir sense and will separate the players from the poseurs. The time is ripe for a pop-up agritourismo restaurant. Darling can do one with a seafood slant as can Elim while the Groot Gariep has all the ingredients for a stunner now that Rudi de Wet (of Meerlust fame) farms sheep at Maskam and makes wine at Grootdrink. Do I really have to do everything myself?