Posts Tagged ‘south africa’

Pulpo (octopus) and Radish Salad

July 7, 2010

I was so upset with that German octopus guessing that Uruguay would be ousted from the South Africa World Cup that I decided to take revenge on a poor little pulpo I had in my freezer. The small kind, that is, not the baby ones but the ones farmed in places like Portugal or the Adriatic Coast, bagged in a cylinder and exported frozen. Thaw the critter and then steam. Ideally your rice cooker comes equipped with a wire basket. If that be the case, pour an inch of water in the pan, place the mollusk in said basket and steam for about 15-20 minutes. After minute 10 you need to poke the octopus frequently to test tenderness and to make sure there is water in the bottom.

Octopus is ready when is slightly chewy but once you apply pressure your teeth get into the flesh with a juicy pop. Do Not overcook, or it will become tough and then it will turn into a mash. Cool down with tap water and slice thin. Place in a bowl. Slice a few radishes and combine with octopus. Add black pepper, pinch of salt, grated fresh ginger and finely chopped flat parsley. Stir and add lime juice, not as much as you would for ceviche. Just the amount you would use in a salad. Drizzle with olive oil, stir and eat.

Crunchy, chewy, tangy, spicy and refreshing at the same time, this is an awesome snack. I had it with South African Chenin Blanc. It made perfect.

ps. unless somebody else did before, I claim to be the creator of this dish.

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South African World Cup. Of Wine.

June 19, 2010

Well, with the Bafana Bafana team virtually out of the competition, it’s time to take a look at the country’s wines again. On June 15th Wines of South Africa celebrated the cup with a tasting at the V room at Earl’s in Yaletown. Nice atmosphere, great venue with windows facing Mainland St. and a lot of good snacks set the tone for a good tasting. A very convenient booklet with information about South Africa’s wine industry, about the exhibitors and their wines made a big difference. Also, the tables were arranged in a sequence mirroring that one of the pages of the booklet, so it was easy to find the wines you wanted to taste.

A FEW FACTS

South Africa has just over 100K hectares of vines cultivated. That is close to 50 times the amount in BC. Considering the size of the country, there is plenty of room for expansion.

Over 50% of grapes produced are white, with Chenin Blanc (called “Steen”) leading the pack. Contrary to popular belief, neither Pinotage nor Shiraz are the most ubiquitous red grape in the country. That honor is taken by Cabernet Sauvignon.

Many wineries are leaders in offering empowerment and opportunity to poor people, through work and education in the wine industry.

South Africa’s wine industry is a leader in fair and ethical trade wines.

Contrary to popular belief, Pinotage (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut) tastes really good.

To the vino and the show.

First of all, South Africa offers incredibly good value.

Second, it seems that consumers are getting over the “black legend” about the wines from the land of Winnie Madikazela Mandela being  stinky or of lesser quality.

Third, I am convinced now that Vancouverites will never get that there is NOTHING WRONG  with spitting at a tasting.

Let me start by saying something about the entry level products. The Sauvignon Blancs and Chenin Blancs around the 10 dollar mark offer fantastic quality for the money. Here a few examples of what you should look for if you want really delicious value:

  • Man Vintners Chenin Blanc 2008
  • Robertson Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Stormy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc 2009

But really the wine that stood out in this group was the Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2009. Off dry and minerally with firm fruit and beautiful limey acidity, this is a real winner at 12-14 dollars retail.

To be continued….

Wow! Time does Fly…2010, Olympics, Writing, White Wine

February 22, 2010

My dear few -select-  readers, I should say something about my inexcusable absence. Over a month without entering a single line on this blog. I hope those who visited it  found something interesting in older entries. What has kept me away from winecouver? Well, to begin with, as a typical southamerican man, I like to celebrate great occasions and when I celebrate, celebrations last days, or week, as in this case.

As some of you may know, besides being a bit of a wine addict and know a bit about it, and besides my culinary interests and my marine biology background, I am a fiction writer too. It is from this line of action that my celebration was born. Last December I was selected finalist in the Juan Rulfo Radio Francia International literary contest. This is probably the most prestigious prize of its kind (cuentos, short fiction) in the hispanic world.

15 works were chosen from a universe that I can estimate at -easily- one thousand entries. So, I am still trying to digest such honor. And this rewarding experience led me to try -unsuccessfully- to finish a novel in 26 days in order to enter another contest, this time for historical fiction.

The job was definitely too big for me and I decided to give this novel a real chance, so I am not rushing to finish it any more and instead I am starting to plan it so that it will be a good, solid one when it is done. The subject is the Incas, more precisely, the last days of the Incas, after the Spanish invasion of the …what century? 14th? (of course I know this, just adding some spice to this otherwise boresome account).

As for wine, hot weather has come upon us vancouverites well in advance. I keep my kitchen windows wide open at night time sometimes. Crazy. And because of this premature spring, I have been drinking white wine.

Here a few wines that are worth visiting. Some for sheer deliciousness, others for being serious value.

Rudera, Chenin Blanc (I think I had the 2006). Must give a chance to well made Chenin Blanc. Fully flavored and almost resinous, this Rudera was a revelation. Honey and wax and intense malus (the technical name for the apple family) flavors plus an acidity that stays on the palate to a long, satisfying end. $30-36

Other Chenin Blanc to check out, the Cuvee La  Negrette from the Loire Valley ($ 30-35) and for value try the Obikwa. Yes, the humble -often maligned- inexpensive South African brand makes a really good job at 9.99.

Feudo Arancio‘s Grillo is (at $15-18) definitely worth trying for those who love Pinot Grigio but find that the lovey Italian white is still too lean, too acidic, too refreshing for the weather. Try this offering from Sicily. Wine needs to be tuned to its environs, yes? Who would gulp a glass of heavy, dense Shiraz in the middle of a scorching hot day? You get the point.

As for the Vancouver Olympics…. could someone ask the rCmP (or whoever is in charge) to stop running those low flying choppers over Burnaby Heights? My house is very old and every night the poor little structure shakes to its foundations…. sure security matters, but c’mon this is not Bombthehelloutofitstan.

Cheers

Ivan

South African Beauties

July 28, 2009

Bafana, brother, here is the good news. Too many of us avoid South African wines, some because they are header_logotoo exotic. Others heard stories of burned rubber as a prevailing aroma. Well, I must admit I was among those and carefully chose not to pick wines from the land of Mandela, Rugby champions and the great five.

That until Andre Morgental, communications manager of Wines of South Africa, guided us through a flight that went from a bubbly all the way to rich Shiraz and Merlots. The contentious issue of burned rubber was brought up and Andre gave us an insight on the matter. In spite of tremendous efforts to pinpoint the nature of this smell that has created a bad reputation for some of their wines, South African researchers have not been able to determine a single compound responsible for it. Furthermore, studies show that in blind tastings, subjects find the smell in wines from all over the world. It may have a strong psychological component and perhaps, once the consumer knows the wine is South Africa, he “finds” the odour. True or not, we had eleven wines and not a trace of the said stench.

Graham Beck, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, sparkling. A lovely wine with a yeasty, biscuity nose, subtle floral aromas and creamy palate, accentuated by fine fizz. Definitely worth a try. $25

MAN Chenin Blanc 2008. Inexpensive white wine, filled with ripe banana and dry pineapple aromas. Granny apple and mineral flavors, good acidity and overall, a very nice everyday white. $12

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2008. Another great value white, lighter than the MAN, with tropical fruit and a nice long finish.

Excelsior Paddock Viognier 2008. This Viognier surely has no low self-esteem issues. Big nose, leesy and tropical, some floral notes and a nutty, lemony medium-bodied palate. $15

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2007. A good rendition of this controversial grape, which seems to be adored in South Africa but does not have the same following overseas. Smoky, medicinal notes on the nose, coffee and honey, juicy palate.

Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot 2005. Gamey aromas and a juicy, fleshy, mineral palate. Soft tannins, rich with good finish.

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This one stole the show. Black currant galore, pepperleaf, game and resin on the nose. Sweet, ripe fruit and soft tannin for an excellent value wine. At 13.99, this is a winner.

MAN Shiraz 2007. Deep purple robe with a minty, diesely nose. Palate peppery, medicinal notes and a bit puckering. Not my favorite but for the price -11.99- does quite well.

Boekenhouskloof The Wolftrap Shiraz 2008. Never had coconut on the nose of a Shiraz before. This one has plenty, plus toasty, gamey notes. Rich palate with tchai spice, lots of ripe red fruit and peppery minerality. A dash of Mourvedre and Viognier makes this Shiraz a serious contender in the price range. 14.99

Leopard Frog Vineyards Midnight Masai Shiraz 2002. A juicy, fruit driven, rich broth. Tannins firm and mouth puckering, in a agreeable way. 24.99

Thelema Reserve Merlot. A Mafuta (BIG) Merlot, with plenty of fruit, velvety texture, flavorful and convincing. Great way to close the tasting. 29.99

I would recommend any of the wines described above. Plus visit the Wines of South Africa website, for information on their very interesting food. Mafuta Bafana!

PasSo Doble 2007, Italo-Argentinian Red Blend

April 20, 2009

Argentina meets Italy in this inexpensive yet flavorful red. Not that they haven’t met  before, given that half of Argentineans have last names finishing in tutta, tutti, chini, gini and chetto. Batistutta, Maradona and Caniggia are prime soccer player examples of Argentinean graftings on Italian rootstock, to use wineology terms. Here the two countries meet in the winemaking field, thanks to Italian wine powerhouse Masi. The big winery plays with archetypal Italian Corvina grapes -grown in Mendoza and partially dried- blended with archetypal Argentinean Malbec, to give a medium body broth of  rich ruby color and even richer nose. Coffee, dry plum and wooden tones dance against a conspicuous -almost South African- gamey background. Good acidity and soft tannins lead to a long, convincing finish.

With this wine reminiscent of the Italian tradition -even the label has a marked tano style- we are reminded that Argentina, with its vast lands amenable to viticulture will continue to surprise us for a while.

Variety: Blend. Malbec, Corvina, Merlot

Vintage: 2007

1081Origin: Mendoza

Winery: Masi Agricola

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 17.99 Cdn