THE South African wine industry is burgeoning and now receiving more attention than ever.
Following the end of Apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s, the country’s viticultural renewal has seen advanced winemaking technologies being practised.
A famous South African wine region is Stellenbosch, a town in the Western Cape province 50km east of Cape Town. It is home to Ken Forrester Vineyards, named after its winemaker and known as the home of the Chenin Blanc grape.
Forrester is also known as “Mr Chenin” after he purchased the historic vineyard with a homestead dating back to 1694 (where he lives with his family) and set out to produce Chenin Blanc to rival the world’s other white wines.
“The Chenin Blanc is part of our icon range of wines. It is multi-tiered and complex because of how it is harvested,” said Ken Forrester Vineyards’ commercial manager Louw Strydom.
Strydom was in Malaysia to showcase a Ken Forrester Vineyards range during a six-course dinner at Urban, Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur.
He said the company harvests a vineyard block seven times instead of going through one big sweep, as the grape ripens in various stages.
Efforts are made to ensure each harvested parcel has the same ripening and sugar levels as the others, though the end result in a glass would depend on how the vineyard develops in the mostly Mediterranean climate.
As dinner got underway, we were treated to the Petite Chardonnay 2018. If I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have guessed it was a Chardonnay as it was anything but okay.
“The Chardonnay does not represent Ken Forrester Vineyards’ core belief but we feel strongly for this varietal.
“It is traditionally big, bold and robust but we opted for light, fruity, crisp and clean notes. It is a wine you can drink anytime,” Strydom said.
Indeed, the wine went beautifully with the first course – Diver Scallop, Sago Squid Ink Krupuk, Leeks, and Ginger Torch Beurre Blanc.
Before that we had Urban chef de cuisine Sharus Mizal Mohd Salleh’s amuse-bouche of Salmon Tartare Pie Tee with a orange marmalade and apricot dressing topped with caviar.
The last drop of Chardonnay lingered with its floral finish as the next glass was filled with the Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017.
This was paired with the Foie Gras, Jackfruit and Toasted Brioche, a dish so refined that the delicate fruit panna cotta with a sprinkling of fresh salsa and truffle sauce accentuated the minerality of the Chenin Blanc.
The vineyards sit on mostly decomposed slate and ancient pre-historic soil to give the wines their individual flavour.
“It is an elegant and stunning grape which is fermented in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels to get balanced sweet and acidic flavours,” added Strydom.
The last of the white wines – The FMC Chenin Blanc 2016 – was paired with Smoked Duck Breast, Sukun with Glazed Rambutan, Popcorn and Duck Jus.
“A bold and voluptuous finish that lasts for days with residual sugar and well-balanced acidity” was how Strydom described the wine which complemented this dish perfectly.
“Ken is a fan of pairing The FMC with unconventional food like red meat.”
The red wines made their appearance soon after, starting with the The Gypsy – Grenache Syrah Mourvedre 2014 – paired with the Sous Vide Lamb Rack with Ras-El-Hanout Spice and Rosemary Sauce.
“This is the pinnacle of red wines in South Africa.
“Stellenbosch mostly represents Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but Ken went against the tide in 1993 as the first person to plant the Mourvedre grapes,” he said of the ruby-tinted, fruit-forward wine.
The bottle was opened hours before the dinner to allow the wine to breathe, aerate and release its flavours.
Smokey undertones with hints of cherry describe the next red – Merlot Pat’s Garden 2016 – served with a delicious Black Mullet Fish, Seafood Dumpling, White Asparagus and Star Anise Fennel Jus.
Pat is the name of Ken’s mother-in-law, and the wine has Merlot/Cabernet Franc grape varietals.
The dinner was capped with the Renegade 2014 which was as stunning as the Nutella Panna Cotta dessert.
“The Renegade is a mid-tier level and best value for money wine, and it over-delivers in quality,” he said.
The wines featured here are served at Urban and distributed by AsiaEuro Wines and Spirits Sdn Bhd.
For details, call 03-7883 2828.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.