Last Sunday, we decided to drive to Wellington for lunch and some wine tasting. What we had completely forgotten is that small towns like Wellington close on a Sunday. Absolutely nothing was open. Well almost nothing…
But, it was still wonderful weather, so we were not going to let that stop us. So with the help of some friends who live in the area (thanks Doug from PT Productions and Dawn from Jorgensen Distillery), we managed to find what was probably the only open place in Wellington, but also one of the nicest restaurants I have ever been to. It is called The Stone Kitchen, and it is found on the Dunstone wine estate. At about 2 hectors of vines, it is a tiny little estate but with some fabulous wine. But the restaurant was great, the food was simple, fresh and tasty.
When we arrived they were full, but after a quick wine tasting at the bar counter (we finally got our wine tasting), they found us a table. The chef came out to introduce the menu, and we made our choices.
I had a grated warthog burger, with onion marmalade and cheese, and Lois had the goat’s cheese salad. Now for Lois to eat goat anything is pretty amazing! But at the chef’s instance she tried some of the goat cheese, and she loved it. She actually asked where they got such good goat’s cheese (that does not taste like, well…goat). I could tell you the answer but I will save that for a future post.
So two suggestions. Firstly if you want to go wine tasting on a Sunday, stick to the well-known areas like Stellenbosch or Paarl, and if you want a fantastic meal, goto the Stone Kitchen (but best to book – they were very full). And their sauvignon blanc and merlot are both brillant wines. We took a few bottle of each home with us.
Yesterday we took some friends winetasting and to lunch in Stellenbosch. We started off at Welmoed, an old favourite of ours. I love visiting this farm because they have a great selection of wines at great prices, and because the staff are always helpful and friendly. I have only had good experiences there, and I almost always have some of their wine in my fridge.
Then we went to Hartenberg for lunch. They also have some wonderful wines and a great tasting room (you actually sit down at tables and the staff come around and describe the wines and let you taste them). But Hartenberg wines are clearly of a different quality (and at over double the price of Welmoed wines) clearly in a different price range.
Hartenberg make a lovely picnic lunch which includes breads, cold meat, chicken, cheeses and dessert for R120 per person. You can sit outside the tasting room, or at one of the many tables scattered around the gardens. I have had a few picnics at Hartenberg and it is also a lovely experience.
A very civilised way to spend a Saturday.
The vineyards in Constantia are looking beautiful at the moment; the landscape is green as far as the eye can see. This is not really surprising considering that the earliest of the grapes will be harvested in less than two months.
Constantia is the oldest wine region in South Africa, and this particular vineyard is on Klein Constantia, home of the famous Vin de Constance, the wine of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Napoleon Bonaparte.
It is a privilege to live in Cape Town; it takes me two minutes to get to the beach, and 10 minutes in the opposite direction to be tasting wine in Constantia. So grocery shopping this morning, followed by a quick winetasting. A very civilised Saturday.
The braai is probably one of South Africa’s most traditional meals. It is practised by all cultures in South Africa, and as often as possible! Probably the only thing that will prevent a South African from having a braai is a rugby game, in which case they will probably simply braai before or after the game!
If you drive through any suburb in South Africa on a summer weekend, you will smell the delicious smell of grilling meat.
Braaing is a very casual and social affair, but there it is taken quite seriously by the cook. You simply NEVER interfere with somebody else’s braai without asking them very politely first (even if the meat is burning!)
So, what exactly is a braai?
Very simple really, it is a South African BBQ. However, it is almost always cooked on wood or charcoal – very seldom on gas. A braai will typically consist of one or more of the following:
- lamb cutlets (chops)
- sausage (boere wors – literally farm sausage made from beef)
- traditional pork sausages
- beef steak
- chicken pieces or kebabs
- beef or pork ribs
Let’s get going
You will need a braai (in which to make the fire). Many public picnic sites have brick braai’s available, or a Weber will do. You will also need wood or charcoal – we often buy “brikettes”, which are small round compressed pieces of charcoal.
Blitz, which is a paraffin-based firelighter, helps to get the fire going, but if you are a boy scout, matches and an axe will do!
Put a few pieces of the blitz (firelighter) onto the grid
Light the blitz. and give the coals a few minutes to start burning. Note that with the braai, you will always use “direct heat”.
Lighting the wood fire
Some nice coals starting to burn – it should take about 40 minutes to get good coals.
While waiting for the wood to burn, cook some garlic bread on the fire.
Garlic bread ready to eat – yummy!
From top to bottom – wors (beef sausage), chicken, and chicken kebabs in the front. You can also see some ostrich kebabs at the top on the far right.
Braaing is thirsty work – you will need plenty of liquid refreshments
When you can hold your hand above the grid for three seconds, you are ready to cook. Put the meat onto the grid, turning every few minutes or so.
Looking good – almost ready to eat.
After about two beers (40 minutes or so), you are ready to eat, so dig in!
Ready to eat – looks great, doesn’t it?
After a good braai, the plates will be empty!
One more think, we often have “bring and braai’s”, in which the host supplies the fire, rolls and salads, and the guests all bring their own meat and drinks. Simple and easy.
We could not drive through the village of Chateauneuf du Pape without stopping for a wine tasting of their world-renown wines. While the village itself is very small, there are many wine farms and tasting ‘caves’ (cellar) in and around the village.
We tried to use the local version of the Platter’s wine guide, but without any success. So we parked in the village and walked into two caves at random. In France, you do not taste wine according to a varietals, but rather according to a vintage. Each farm in an area makes basically the same blend of wine, according to a set of very complicated appellation rules’. This means that when tasting, you will not taste a cabernet or a shiraz, but rather a 2001 or 2002.
The first cave turned out to be the local tourist centre, and while the wines very good, I did have a sense of ‘shunting the tourists through’ without much attention.
Our experience at the second was very different. The proprietor did not speak any English, and we spoke very bad French, but this did not seem to be a problem to any of us. We had a lovely tasting of some superb wines. We learned all about the ageing process, what goes into the blends, and even ended up discussing the use of sulphar in the wine – all in French! This was with much gesturing and scribbling on paper. It was a fantastic tasting, and we even managed to buy some non-appellation wines at a really good price.
While the wines we tasted were really fantastic, the good French wines are very expensive, even in France. The cheaper Chateauneuf du Pape wines started at about 20 euros, which is about R160. For R160 you can get some really fantastic wines.
Of interest is that in France the farms pay tax on the wine depending on how many capsules are used. So when you taste wine there are no capsules on the bottles. These are only added when you buy the wine. Hence the farm does not pay tax on wine used for tastings.