Compared to Australia and even New Zealand, we don’t see nearly as much wine from South Africa as we do from its ‘new world’ Commonwealth colleagues. That said, there is actually a vibrant wine industry in that nation, with wines of fine quality and often great value.
One of these wineries is Fleur Du Cap. The Cape Floral Region stretches from the Cape Peninsula across to the Eastern Cape, and is a World Heritage site. Within the Region is the Cape Floral Kingdom one of only six such regions in the world, and the smallest.
Despite its relatively small size – 90,000 square kilometers – it contains roughly 3 percent of all the world’s plant species, thousands of which occur only there. In it alone are more plant species than in all of Great Britain or New Zealand.
It is within this region that Fleur du Cap was established in 1967, going by the name of “Die Bergkelder” which refers to the ‘cellar in the mountain’. Fleur du Cap had the very first underground cellar in South Africa, which first opened in 1968.
The winery is very aware of the unique nature of the environment which surrounds it, and aims to reflect that in its carefully tended vines and the wines they produce.
In 1978, an Hungarian, the far-seeing and innovative Dr. Julius Laszlo, became manager of wine production, and he is credited with encouraging the planting of noble grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in South Africa as well as improving vineyard management and introducing the use of small oak casks. Fleur du Cap’s flagship wine bears the name ‘Laszlo’ in his honour.
It also produces two lines of wine, the “Unfiltered”, which was introduced in 1998, and the “Bergkelder Selection” line which came into production around 1979 when the winery introduced the practice of maturation in small barrels of new French oak.
The “Unfiltered” wines are not available at this time in the LCBO, but the Fleur du Cap Bergkelder Selection Cabernet Sauvignon has just joined the Chardonnay on the general LCBO list. The present vintage is the 2013 and sells for $12.95 per bottle. The winery recommends serving it with dishes such as Osso Buco or Roast Lamb with rosemary and sage.
This makes great sense to me, as I would place the wine more towards the savoury end of the taste spectrum. The depth is appreciable, the flavour rich. While it is not a wine in which I distinguish fruity sweetness, it is still well balanced. It is quite dry, with between 13 and 15 percent alcohol.
The entry is clean, and soft, with mouth-coating tannins tightening things up on the finish. I pick up nuances of coffee and dark chocolate, and over-all consider it an impressive value at this price.
The Fleur du Cap Bergkelder Selection Chardonnay 2014, $13.15, carries six bonus air miles until August 13. It is generous in citrus fruit with a lightly floral nose which also bears a whiff of vanilla spice. The oak treatment – 20 percent fermented in French and American barrels, 80 percent fermented in tank on oak staves – gives the wine a good mouth-feel and some weight, but all is nicely proportioned.
Suggested pairings include shellfish, creamy curries, and rich chicken dishes.
Fleur du Cap’s chef, Craig Cormack, has developed a cookbook pairing their wines with certain dishes, each incorporating a specific salt; for example, Oryx desert salt, Peruvian salt, black lava salt, etc.
With the chardonnay, he pairs trout or salmon fillets, and this is the recipe. The salt suggested is Persian Blue, a rock salt. It is said to have a hit of sweetness and the highly compressed crystals are sometimes blue as a result.
In the cook book, all the ingredients and temperatures are given in metric terms, but I will try to provide Imperial equivalents: adjust as you see fit.
I kilogram (2 pounds) fresh trout or salmon, skin on, cut into 4 portions
- 50 grams of sugar – about 1 and 1 half ounces, or 3 1/3 tablespoons
- 20 grams mustard seed – about 1/2 ounce or 1 1/3 tablespoons
- 10 grams coriander seeds– a heaping teaspoon
- 50 grams Persian Blue salt… I leave it to you to find it.
Oil for frying.
Combine the ingredients for the rub, and rub generously on the fish
Sear the fish in oil in a hot pan on both sides (skin on) and finishes it by baking in a 180 degree Celsius oven (325 F) – for 5 minutes. Remove the skin before serving.
Alternatively, you could try grilling the fish at this time of year. (This is my suggestion, not the chef’s.) I like to place the fillets on foil on the barbecue, skin side down. Watch not to over-cook, but when it is done you can easily slide the fillet off the skin on to a serving plate. Clean- up is simple: when it has cooled - just fold up the foil and discard.
Along with the fish he serves potatoes (two large ones), peeled and cut into wedges, then blanched and tossed in butter and chopped parsley. It is best to have the potatoes blanched before the fish goes in the oven. You could finish them while the fish bakes.
This is accompanied with a mixed salad which, along with the greens, includes a packet of cherry tomatoes cut in halves, a small red onion, sliced, and 50 grams of lemon preserve, all tossed in olive oil.
Aside from the challenge of finding the salt and, maybe, the lemon preserve, I think this dish would go remarkably well with the chardonnay.
You won’t regret trying these Fleur du Cap wines. You just might have to add South Africa to your wine itinerary.
Civic Holiday Weekend Specials
This Saturday and Sunday, Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc regularly $16.95 is just $12. This New Zealand white should show gooseberry and passion fruit, and will slap silly this warm weather we’ve been having.
California’s Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon will be $4 off at $12.95. This wine carries 15 grams of sugar per litre, and so will come across as having some jammy fruit, but there are also suggestions of coffee and chocolate. It is smooth with moderate acidity and should pair well with barbecue fare.
Limited Time Offerings until August 13
At the top of my list in vintages would be the Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, $3 off at $18.95. The whole ‘Casa Concha’ line is very well done. This wine receives 18 months aging in French oak, 40 percent of the barrels new. It is often compared favourably to wines which are far more expensive. Expect good, dark berry fruit, with savoury notes as well, including cedar and smoke. A fine wine for either sipping or pairing with grilled meats.
Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is $2 off at $16.95. The winery’s Pinot Grigio is the top selling white in vintages, and this fizzy offering will be perfect now with stone fruit and citrus flavours, and as refreshing as one could hope.
August 6 Vintages Release
Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2014 $16.95 wowed the Robert Parker people who awarded it a 90-92 and called it ”a serious high-class white”. From France’s Midi region, it is 95 percent chardonnay, with 5 percent Viognier; flavours identified included peach, citrus blossom, and “brioche.”
Baron de Hoen Réserve Pinot Blanc 2014, $13.95 is a bargain from Alsace. Pinot Blanc traits are known for being light to medium bodied, with notes of peach, cantaloupe, apricot and citrus. This is said to have a bit of spritz or sparkle to it with a good acidic finish.
Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, $24.95, impresses from its nose to its toes…that is, from start to finish. There are floral notes with vanilla and melon on the bouquet, perhaps even a whisper of crème brulée. The mouth-feel is perfect and smooth and creamy. I have tried chardonnays that are fruitier and others that are crisper, but this Niagara gem brings everything together beautifully. I couldn’t enjoy sipping a white wine more.
Kim Crawford is re-packaging and re-naming its Rosé, dropping the “Pansy!”, at least in our market. $16.95, the 2015 is predominantly Merlot with 4 percent Syrah. It is medium pink with a slight onion-skin tint to it, and is full of lingering strawberry and watermelon flavours. Good on its own, it would be a fine companion to roasted chicken.
Piattelli Reserve Malbec 2013, $14.95. There are three good Argentinian Malbecs on the release, each with lots to recommend it. winespectator.com scored this one 90, commenting on its “refined style”, with dried fruit flavours, “zesty minerality” and “seductive spicy notes on the finish.”
Mitolo The Nessus Shiraz 2013, $16.95 is the newest wine to our shelves from the popular Mitolo winery. It bears a winespectator 91 for its dark berry and plum flavours, “licorice, tobacco and spice details” and “fine grained tannins.”
Chateau d’Anglès Classique La Clape Mourvèdre/Syrah/Grenache 2012, $17.95. Shhh! (Don’t tell anyone, but the owner winemaker, Eric Fabre, formerly was the director of Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux, whose 2012 retails for over $700 Canadian. You hear what I’m saying?) erobertparker.com rated this La Clape 90, remarking on its “sweet red fruits, new leather, spice and licorice…silky easy drinking, yet elegant and balanced profile.” Buy.
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $24.95. From the Alexander Valley to the north of Sonoma and Napa comes a deep-toned wine, 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with splashes of other grapes found in Bordeaux blends. I have occasionally found California reds to be a bit too fruity at first, but not with this elegant and satisfying wine. 32 days on the skins during fermentation explains the depth of colour and fruit, as well as the brush of tannin on the finish. The entry is deceptive in its smoothness, belying the mouth-filling fruit that follows, and the ending is just as effective - easy going down, with that lightly tannic punctuation at the end.