Revolution in Meat and Six Reds. Viva Non-Wanky, Viva!
Venturing out last night into the freezing Jozi darkness turned out to be a very warming affair – a laughter filled “meat and six reds” soiree to introduce local wine and food bloggers and life-style writers to a revolutionary approach to wine tasting, reviewing and rating.
The event, jointly hosted by the irrepressible Andy Hadfield (the maverick mind behind RealTimeWine) and the wonderful Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright (the bubbly editor of WineStyle magazine) saw us gather at HQ Restaurant in mid-Sandton where Brett Mulder and his crew of “salad, sirloin & chips” service staff took very good care of us.
The guests were an interesting mix of people with both new and online writers and media as well as traditional print media represented. And whilst the majority of the guests were of the online variety, there’s nothing wrong with a little T n’ A from the print brigade too! (I’ve collected as many of the Twitter accounts and blog sites that I could below – if I missed you, let me know.)
Flutes of delicious bubbly from Pongracz MCC were on hand while guests gathered before Andy and Jenny each introduced themselves and shared their reasons for getting us together.
For Andy it’s the ideal of demystifying wines and wine tasting by collecting wine reviews from real wine drinkers, written in “real and non-wanky” language. This desire lead to the creation of RealTime Wine, and it’s list of Banned Words that reviewers must avoid at all costs. Words and terms that traditional wine writers love to use, but which make little or no sense to the average wino who simply wants to know whether the wine is any good or not. Words like ‘capsicum’, ‘herbaceous’ and ‘sweaty saddle’, and wine terms like ‘acidity’, ‘bouquet’ and ‘nose’.
For Jenny the evening was an opportunity to “soft launch” her large and lavish quarterly coffee-table wine magazine “WineStyle”. The wonderfully photographed magazine is available to interested subscribers only, and as a result, is an extremely environmentally friendly print publication – they only print the exact number of copies needed in each run (+ 100 extras for marketing). No over-prints, no re-pulping, no waste. WineStyle is trying to grow its readership organically to wine lovers and those interested in wine lifestyle and is offering free subscriptions to their first 12,000 subscribers.
I found myself seated in front of 6 reds in tasting glasses and surrounded by terrific company. The ‘Quirk-y’ Snowgoose Heidi Schneigansz, Carly Ritz (who brought the aforementioned T n’ A and must be an absolute riot at the Seder table!) and Canadian ex-pat Sam (who wants to find Ugg boots in Jozi!) were over on the other side of the table. On my side, I found myself happily sandwiched between self-confessed foot-in-mouth sufferer Ruby Letters and the lovely chef and food blogger Lexi Earl.
Asked by Jenny to taste, rate and review the six wines before they were revealed, (all whilst avoiding any mention of the big, bad list of Banned Words of course) and to tweet our thoughts if possible, resulted in some hilarious reviews: “This wine is as rough as a wife-beater in a dirty vest.” “Bitter lemon peel… In a red!? Slaps you in the face.” “Like licking a page from a magazine printed on sugarcane paper.” “Tastes like the end of the month salty crack accompaniment.”
A quick show of hands poll determined that wines #3 and #5 were the groups’ favourites. A result which brought a smile to our hostesses face as she revealed the bottles one by one. Turns out that we’d been ‘used’ to prove that when it comes to wine cheap plonk is not automatically bad, and the top-end bottles are not always good. Jenny had selected a low-end and a high-end wine from three estates for us to taste, and wanted to determine whether the gathered winos would be able to figure that out.
- 2008 Hermanspietersfontein 1855 Posmeester (Bordeaux blend) @ R74
I said “A smell of nothing – is that even possible? Taste better than it smells though, which is good. The runt of the litter – it’ll grow up to be a legend eventually.”
- 2007 Hermanspietersfontein Kleinboet (Bordeaux blend) @ R110
I said “Dry. Desert dry. Works in a martini, not so cool in a wine glass though.”
- 2009 Vondeling Bladrick Shiraz @ R58
I said “Yum. I like this. Fresh and tasty. The best of the bunch so far.”
- 2007 Vondeling Erica Shiraz @ R118
I said “All I’m getting is pepper and pee. Slightly scary. In a not good way…”
- 2010 Simonsig Adelberg Red (Bordeaux blend) @ R48
I said “Soft, smooth, very more-ish. Why is this wine in the 2nd row? It should be in row 1, probably in pole-position. Hey, it’s a F1 wine – drink it quick and repeatedly!”
- 2008 Simonsig Tiara (Bordeauxblend) @ R182
I said “Bitterly young, may become better with age, but right now is like a noisy child – a sure-fire headache generator.”
Wine #5 was the standout for me, as it was for most others there. Loved it’s softness for such a young wine. And at under R50 a bottle, it’s a must-get-a-case quick buy.
The point of the exercise, made simply but very effectively, was that wine deserves to be enjoyed because its’ wine. No need for pretentions, ceremony, or even big budgets. Drink wine that tastes good. Don’t over-complicate the experience, just enjoy it.
It would be remiss of me not to make mention also of the exceptional sirloin steak that we were served following the tasting. It came grilled perfectly and piping hot straight after the parmesan lashed salad starter had been cleared. Accompanied by a healthy portion of fresh fries and dressed in a creamy Café de Paris sauce, it was a fabulous piece of meat. I didn’t do dessert but, judging by the reactions and satisfied smiles of those around me that did, they are pretty darn fine too.
The Peeps & Tweeps
All in all, a great evening. Good food, good wine, great company – now that’s a non-wanky situation I can live with.
Bonus Info & Offers
- Be sure to register for your free subscription to WineStyle magazine now! Click it quick…
- The two Vondeling wines we tasted are sometimes hard to get hold of but you can buy them from the WineStyle site (www.wine-style.co.za and click on the ‘shop’ link). They provide this service to readers with no delivery charge.
- The 375ml size (so a half bottle) Pongracz bubbly is a brand new product launched last night as well. Retailing at about R48 for the Brut and R58 for the Rose. The Brut was brilliant!
- HQ Restaurant and WineStyle magazine are holding an exclusive function at HQ Sandton on the 14th of June (Tuesday). It’s a Wine Blending Competition. : Each table will blend samples of wine, professionally, with measuring vials, etc. under the guidance of Rob Armstrong, Head of Quality Control at Haut Espoir Estate in Franschhoek. The blends will be judged by a Cape Wine Master with the winning table scooping a prize. (And a lot of honour and significant bragging rights too!)At a price of R295 a head for dinner, wine, water, dessert and a tip – the whole shebang in fact – it sounds like a great event. Contact Brett at the restaurant directly (details below) for any more information. Booking is Essential!