Friday, 26 April 2013

Meat and winey treats for Braaiday

British barbecues are for wimps.

Here, we wheel out our garden centre supplied, rickety barbecues at the first hint of a sunny Sunday and try to coax heat from last year's slightly damp charcoal and firelighters, before chucking on a few bangers and burgers and hoping they'll cook before it gets far too cold to hang about outside.

In South Africa they take such things far more seriously - it's all man-sized barbecues (or braais) contained in half oil drums and using actual wood, not our namby-pamby "easy light" charcoal.  Meat, meat and more meat are the main features - steaks, antelope, boerewors sausage, king-size prawns.

The idea of a British national holiday dedicated to the barbecue has the phrase monumental damp squib written all over it.  However in reliably sunny South Africa they have turned 24th September into Braaiday, when the country celebrates its love of meat cooked over open wood fires.

I had a (literal) taste of the celebration at a recent Braaiday event held by Wines of South Africa at High Timber, a London restaurant that specialises in South African food and wine.

The food was delicious and suitably meaty, though surely the portion sizes would have been dismissed as mere snacks by any red blooded male South African - but were fine by me.

A great variety of South African wines from the boutique end of the spectrum accompanied the food.  After two solid days of palate-killing judging at the International Wine Challenge prior to the dinner, I found most pleasure in the white wines on the evening.  Two standout whites for me were both blends that leaned heavily on Chenin Blanc.

Zevenwacht, The Tin Mine 2011 - £12.95 from Vagabond Wines
45% Chenin, 36% Chardonnay (I love these exact percentages) plus Viognier and Roussanne made for a vibrant, zippy mouthful of fruit and herbal flavours.

Chris Alheit Cartology 2011 - from £22 from Handford Wines, SA Wines Online (or Russian oligarchs may want to pay £49.30 for it from Hedonism)
92% Chenin and the rest is Semillon.  Where the Tin Mine lets the different varieties provide the different notes, here Chris Alheit has used Chenin parcels from four different parcels in order to give the wine its combination of flavours and aromas and it works beautifully.  There are layers of fruit, pumice and honey which whip across the palate, making for a rich and hedonistic experience, held together with a stony restraint.  Remarkable stuff.

An honourable mention must also go to:

AA Badenhorst Funky White NV - £14.50 for a half bottle from Swig
Adi Badenhorst has obviously been bitten by the natural/real/call it what you will wine movement.  This white was aged in barrel under a layer of flor (like a Fino sherry), but unfortified (like Jura's Vin Jaune).  The resulting wine has elements of both sherry and Vin Jaune - broad, tangy, apple skin flavours that linger long on the palate.

High Timber restaurant:


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