Happy Freedom Day! For those of you that are readers of the blog, Wine With Friends, and are not South African, the significance of today is that on the 27th April 1994, for the first time in the history of South Africa, Black people could vote in the national elections! That’s a long time of oppression for Black people considering that since 1652 this country, (at the bottom of Africa) has been infiltrated and influenced primarily by the “pioneers”, (as they were referred to when you study history) from Europe. It is at this point that I will contain myself, as this blog is about wine with friends, not whine with friends.
I wish to share with you a little about an Old World Wine. Allow me to indulge though, as I may occasionally blend it with an old whine. An old whine that is not to be belittled, even though I bring it up in jest. I feel a sense of accomplishment with the wine blog, so it is a moment to reflect. Given the political climate we find ourselves in, the world over, and wine being so rich with history, my reflection is an opportunity to check not only my perspective, but yours too.
When I chose to start with the wine blog, it was more to solve what for me was a simple problem. Lots of people I know, be it at work or socially, are curious to learn about wine. I read from Madeline Puckette, of Wine Folly fame, that on average 600 new wines are released every day in the world! Let that sink in… Knowing that, it made sense to me why people are curious to learn about wine, yet are intimidated and confused as to where to start and so “do nothing”.
Not all of us want to study at the Cape Wine Academy. We simply want to have a reference point about wine types and wine grape varietals that are written in English we can understand. We want a reference point or a tidbit to take away as a party trick to use for knowing that one thing about wine.
Learning about wine by tasting is all that much harder when you live in Gauteng, as you can’t just pop into a wine farm. So I thought let me write about a different wine every week. A wine that is accessible by popping into your local Woollies, Pick n’ Pay, Tops or Makro. Take the “exclusive” and “snobby” out of wine, and simplify the complex. So it’s about exploring, hence all the wine blogs start with “If you try different wines, you are bound to figure out which wine you like!”
So if I get to demystify wine concepts and make wine lists look familiar when you are at a restaurant, or wine on the store shelves easier to pick out relative to your taste, I know we are winning. Don’t under estimate the stress levels of hosting, and looking to figure out not only what to cook, but what wine to have, given wine taste is so subjective and friends and family are very vocal and judgemental. I chose South African wines, because I was solving a South African problem. I chose South African wines because I wanted to brag about the great wines we make, and test my hypothesis that South African wines are world class and great value considering the tasting experience you get per bottle of wine relative to how much you paid. That is why I kept the Category split as simple as the price point, being Category A, Category B and Category C as explained in the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc blog post.
It has been quite the journey. Unlike our history, it has not been a struggle. Wine is something that brings people together and yet it can be so divisive given our varied perspectives and our desire to push our own agendas. I realise that I can’t encourage you to explore, while creating borders. We are on the internet after all, there are no borders here. So I chose to venture outside of my own comfort zone, a barrier for the blog, and try out an Old World wine. Simply put, Old World Wine is where winemaking first originated, which includes countries like Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Germany. New World Wines are what would be regarded as the “Johnny come lately” countries, examples being the United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. China and India are also in the game now, making them part of the New World.
I picked up a bottle of the Gavi Bric Sassi Roberto Sarotto 2014 vintage from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar. I bought one bottle at the time, and have subsequently gone online and ordered another six. She is having a special at the moment and the price makes it a steal, now that I have tasted it. I am not at all familiar with Italian wine so I relied on one of Caroline’s staff members to guide me, once I told her what I liked and did not like in a white wine. As you can imagine, I was completely outside of my comfort zone buying this bottle. I could not read the label, to understand the tasting notes, if they had any at all. The label itself was not a familiar brand, and unlike South African wine labels where the wine grape varietal is displayed, Italian wine labels seem to be more about displaying the wine region. The wine consultant told me the grape, and I had no clue what the grape was. I had to later let Google do the work and my search tells me it’s a Cortese di Gavi wine grape.
We paired the wine with some stir fry and pan fried Norwegian Salmon and it was a HIT. It was a 2014 vintage, and at R115-00 per bottle it is a Category B wine. I loved the colour of the wine, yellow enough that I actually thought that it had been matured in wood. Judging from their website it is not, it was two months in a steel tank and then to bottle! On the nose, it was stone fruit that I picked up and the taste was complex and consistent in terms of the stone fruit. It was also slightly more acidic than I am used to, but balanced and I enjoyed the crispiness of the wine. The lime zest effect on my tongue was quite “fun” and exciting, to go with the enthusiasm of “the shiny new toy” in my wine experience.
Caroline’s price is special, because seeing the price on the internet for the 2015 vintage on other websites, it’s in the Category A range (converting to Rands). It was my first Northern Italy wine that I consciously tasted, and let’s just say I look forward to trying more from the region. Populist politics looks to convince us that to have our freedom, we need to put ourselves first and be xenophobic, and I beg to differ. Freedom is about not being imprisoned or enslaved, which is what we do to ourselves when we close up and shut out what is ‘out there’. Happy Freedom Day!