If you try different wines, you are bound to figure out what works for you. Wine tasting and food pairing though, is an art and science best left to the professionals. I have written before about the journey in food you will have if you join Franck and Pete at The Foodbarn in Noordhoek. When they invite winemakers to pull out their very special wines to share in the marathon of fine dining they have created, your tastebuds will experience a symphony of taste second to none. In January 2017, the guests of honour at La Table du Chef, or Chef’s Table as we have come to know it, were Chris and Andrea Mullineux, co-owners and winemaker at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, a wine estate in the Swartland.
Who better to do my first food and wine pairing blog post with than the inimitable Franck and the 2016 winemaker of the year (in the world), Andrea Mullineux? This is not going to be a sprint of a post. I have seven courses to get through, all paired with a wine from Mullineux & Leeu. We got the experience to taste, masticate and take in the flavours, as this was a very well thought out menu. So I would not do it justice in a splash and dash of short and sweet words and a couple of photographs from the day.
The Chenin Blanc from Mullineux, is what we had to accompany the first two dishes. It was a 2016 vintage, and the brand name is Kloof Street, and it is available at Woolworths. The average age of their Chenin Blanc vineyards is about 42 years, and Andrea made a specific point to highlight that they grow on different soil types, some being on granite and some from schist. That she mentioned it, tells me it is an important piece of context for the results that they get, so I will be sure to look it up, but for now it will only get a mention. The wine was fresh and not as heavy as the Chenin Blanc I have had before. They did have the everyday wine in mind when making it, and it has limy flavours to it and it paired very well with the first two courses. You will be glad to know that it is a Category C wine, so gout and get one to try out as it is one of those wines you can sip on by itself.
The balance was quite amazing in tasting the wine with the first course of brandade beignets, which was salty and crisp like in texture while the second course had more acidity and creamy, smooth textures. It was a magical pairing in that both worked equally as well, although they are such different dishes. The second course was oysters that were warmed up in a burnt lime sauce served with harissa warm cauliflower and emulsified butter. I generally don’t like oysters, particularly because their texture creates somewhat of a discomfort in my mouth. I did not have trouble with these oysters though, as they were out the shell and their ‘warm up’ in the lime sauce created the right balance of flavours and texture for a pleasant taste and chew. He who dares wins right? Every bit on my fork, every sip of wine, delivered beyond expectation. I had to take a moment and savour.
Next we were served the Mullineux Clairette Blanche 2011. The menu said 2012, but my bottle was a 2011 vintage. It was the first time I have ever tasted the wine. This vintage and the one the year after, are a very limited production. U.S. publication Wine Enthusiast named Andrea Mullineux wine maker of the year and she was due to travel the following week to receive her award. I can’t imagine what the prestige does for one’s ego, and she did jokingly say after Franck introduced her that now she was “terrified of messing up” since expectations were so high. She spoke a bit more about the wine, and the estate, as well as their style. Mullineux wines are about intensity and freshness. Andrea and Chris are inspired by the French wine making style, which made this tasting for me all that much more interesting. What I have learnt is that French wines tend to be less ‘aggressive’ and bold, based on this experience, as compared to South African wines. I have had a handful of French wines, so will have to try more to see if my hypothesis holds true.
The Clairette Blanche vineyards in South Africa have mostly been ripped out as popular grapes like Sauvignon Blanc were planted due to the increased demand. On nosing the Clairette Blanche wine, I could not smell anything! Both Lyall and I were amused that we could not smell a thing while Chomba and Vonda certainly picked up aromas. I was quite relieved when Andrea mentioned that it is not an aromatic grape, but she likes it particularly in blends as it has structure. The wine was paired with the scallops, and it is light in alcohol (12% alcohol). It was therefore unique for us to be drinking the wine as a single varietal, as very rarely is the quality worth bottling as a single varietal. That vintage clearly impressed the world’s best winemaker enough, hence she made the exception. The label on the 2011 vintage was specific that only 25 cases had been made of the wine.
The Mullineux White 2015 was next on the menu, and it was paired with the Kingklip. I’m not giving you much to glean on in terms of Franck’s cooking, but that is not at all a reflection of the food. The last time I blogged about the Chef’s table, I emphasised more on the food. This time, I wanted to illuminate more the wine and what it paired with. Franck’s cooking and wine pairing is impeccable. This kingklip dish, not only looked beautiful from a plating perspective, but the sauce americaine was orgasmic. I remember Chomba even saying “it smells like Lobster Bisque”. The complex wine paired well with the dish and it was right up my alley.
The Mullineux White 2015 is a blend that has some of the Clairette Blanche as part of the blend from the beginning. The label reads “Old Vine” and it is 74% Chenin Blanc, 12% Clairette Blanche, 6% Viognier, 4% Grenache Blanc and 4% Semillon. I would be playing the “fake news” if I tried to share tasting notes at this stage of the meal. My taste buds are not well trained enough to be able to pick up distinct phenol compounds from the wine after three or more glasses of wine. What I can vouch for confidently is that the wine was full bodied and complex. It was certainly a blend I enjoyed.
In case you did not also take me seriously when I said that the quality of the food is not the reason I write less about it on this blog post, I present to you Exhibit A… My plate after treating myself to the kingklip with the sauce americaine. The knife and fork had to be laid down, and my hands were the best tools for me to manoeuvre the bread along my plate as I indulged in the sauce. Delicious…
It’s not often you will have red wine paired with fish. Then again, it’s not often that I share a table with Franck, Pete, Chris and Andrea. The Mullineux Syrah 2014 vintage was smooth hence Franck paired it with the dish with the black mushrooms and syrah cured salmon. These are not just any black mushrooms. Known as the “Trompette des morts”, which translates to trumpet of the dead I had to ask a couple of times if Franck said deaf or dead! I guess it would be inappropriate for me to say that the smoked and syrah cured salmon and mushrooms were ‘to die for’.
The Mullineux Tinta Barocca 2016 was paired with the lamb rib. Tinta Barocca according to Andrea, was brought to South Africa by the Dutch, although the grape is originally from Portugal.
Prior to this dish, a cleansing of the palate was called for and we had some sorbet.
The Tinta Barocca had unmissable tannins. Franck went with the liquorice sauce as he picked up liquorice in the wine, but I can’t say that I was that discerning. I did not take note as to the grapes in the blend, but I plan on joining the wine club and having access to some of these again. That way, I can have a more conscious tasting where I can make my own tasting notes, rather than be told. 900 bottles of this have been made, so again a privilege to get to taste this wine. Wine club members don’t have this problem as they have access to the wine.
Chomba does not like unmissable tannins, but she did appreciate the Mullineux Straw wine, that was paired with the desert.
I always find the Chef’s Table eventful, not just for tantalising my taste buds, but the interesting people you meet as well. There are the usual suspects, but always enough people I have not met before that make for the scenery to change enough. It’s an R850 treat on a seven course meal, with wine that is equally as extraordinary so definitely worth the treat.