The Thistle Restaurant hosted an amazing evening of fine wines and exquisite food on Saturday 7 September. Anthony de Jaeger, winemaker of Paarl-based Fairview wines and the ever-bubbly Nell-Marie le Roux of NLR wines, the Eastern Cape distributor of Fairview wines played hosts along with our Restaurant manager Robin Hyde. In the kitchen, Executive Sous Chef Sifiso Nsele conducted his disciplined team with finesse and created a symphony of flavours to accentuate the stunning selection of wines.
The evening started with guests being treated to a glass of Rose Quartz in the courtyard. Made from a blend of Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut, with a careful touch of old French oak barrels to add a creamy texture, this is a pink grapefruit and watermelon-kissed wine with serious appeal. Robin introduced Nell-Marie and Anthony who spoke about the wines, as the guests tucked into a delectable amuse-bouche of Smoked Salmon and chive cream cheese en croûte.
The unmistakable pop of the Fairview Brut Méthode Cap Classique corks signalled the next course and Anthony explained the Fairview approach to making this Cape Bubbly. For their version, under the guidance of “maverick leader” Charles Back their version is made from Viognier, Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc. The bubbles accompanied fresh oysters with an MCC foam and the classical salty, sweet flavours of the oysters melded with the aromas of lime, apple and freshly baked Ciabatta crust on the nose.
Fairview Viognier was next on the list and was served alongside a chicken and sweet corn chowder, with crispy bacon and garlic bruschetta. Anthony pointed out that one of the many gifts that Charles Back has brought to Cape Wine was, and still is, Fairview Viognier. Planting the mother block of this French grape in 1994, Charles and team have nurtured this variety to bring us a gorgeously aromatic and refined wine. The joy of the guests finding out about this varietal while sampling the sweet aromatic chowder was palpable and Martin Bekker, owner of the Royal St Andrews and ardent Sauvignon Blanc fan remarked that his wine blew his perceptions of Viognier out of the water.
The main course was an Ostrich Fillet with a Peppery-Mushroom sauce, potato fondant, beetroot puree, carrot puree and wilted bok choy and Anthony explained the nuances of the two red wines that were served alongside the dish to show how different wines react to flavours. The first one the Piekenierskloof Grenache. As Anthony explained: “We’ve carefully cultivated a home for old Grenache bush vines along the Piekenierskloof Mountains where, with extreme weather conditions and poor soils, the high lying vineyards undeservedly reward us with a profound style of wine. Having provided the backbone to some of our finest blends, we are proud to bring this single variety to the fore”
The second wine was another interesting wine, The Fairview Petite Sirah is the only single varietal wine of this rare varietal available in South Africa. Anthony explained Petite Sirah [pe-teet-si-rah] (also known as Durif) is a natural crossing of Syrah and Peloursin, discovered by François Durif in the south of France in 1880. Its intense colour and good tannin structure make it an excellent wine for ageing. Today the variety is mostly grown in California and Australia.
Petite Sirah was introduced to South Africa by Fairview owner, Charles Back after he tasted it abroad. It thrives in our warm climate – both in Paarl and in the Swartland that in keeping with his innovative repertoire, Charles Back planted the Petite Sirah mother block to South African soils in 2004. Indulge in a deep red, full bodied wine offering intense plum characters, a robust palate with juicy tannins and an elegant finish with hints of lingering pepper. These flavours really complemented the Ostrich dish and although everyone enjoyed the Grenache, the overwhelming majority of diners chose the Petite Sirah as the best match to this dish.
After everyone had finished the main course Anthony told us about the Beryl Blanc, another innovative wine in the Fairview portfolio. Honouring Charles’s late mother, this traditional straw-dried sweet wine is a true labour of love. Savour a full mouth feeling with tropical fruit and citrus flavours followed by the unctuous texture courtesy of the fresh, well-balanced acidity. This was paired with Chef Abongile’s Frangelico Crème Brulee served with a Chocolate Touille with Amarula Ice Cream and Hazelnuts and this really did make an awesome pairing with everyone unanimous that the wine and food was well matched.
With dessert out of the way, Nell-Marie took wine orders and processed payment with a little hint that someone would be going home with a beautiful magnum of the amazing Stone Quartz Rose. After losing the wine for a while to an ardent fan of the flavourful Stone Quartz Rose, Nell- Marie drew the lucky credit card and awarded the prize to Sugnet Moller who was delighted to receive the coveted bottle.
All in all a great event with loads of flavours and lovely wine was held with guests asking when can we do this again? The good news is that the next Estate Wine and Food pairing will be held on the 7th of November when Danie Steytler Junior, of the renowned Kaapzicht Wine Estate, will present his wines with another well-crafted menu to match the array of wonderful flavours in the wine.