I should have guessed it would be L’Étranger – the outsider, Christiaan Groenewald – who’d win Diners Club when my room for the night was reserved in L’Ermitage. But then in Franschhoek, accents fly thicker than summer hailstones in Johannesburg and everything is a le or a la. Like the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year venue last night – La Residence below. Which is the best boutique hotel in the world, even if you have to use your dessert spoon to eat your asparagus velouté with grilled prawns.
So many accents, so many opportunities to make a spelling mistake! My photo of La R (as we habituées of le high life like to abbreviate it) may look at first blush like something Irma Stern might have painted. But then you see the exotic dusky orange maiden in the foreground and the photo suddenly becomes more Tretchikoff – erotically exotic.
Just like the winning wine. Made from Tannat, the great red grape of Uruguay, this is a drop well suited to Ugandan discussions. Harder than a whole pack of Viagra, the flavours are wild and decadent. This year’s Platter wine guide talks about “noble black plum and prune” but then they are on about the 2009 vintage while it was the 2011 Arendskloof wot palmed the victor’s laurels. How can a guide launched last month be two years out of date already? Noble black plums indeed!
As an aside on the guide, thank heavens for Cederberg that they got someone who can taste for their wines this year – Dr. Winnie Bowman – rather than the assistant associate editor they’ve had in the past – Dr. Tim James, the Dr. No of the wine world. This year Cederberg get four five star stunners in a crowded field of 80. When Dr. No sighted them in the past, the cupboard was bare. Exactly the same thing happened to Nederburg whose cellarmaster Razvan Macici (below) was the life and soul of the after party last night. Which makes it strange that a Fleur du Cap wine was matched to the pudding course, for which a fresh spoon was brought out. Dr. No held back Nederburg in Platter for years. Just as well they didn’t need it for marketing doeleindes, having their own substantial resources.
Christiaan, the Owen Wilson of the Overberg but with a Roman rather than Barbra Streisand nose, had the audience of handsome winemakers (below), cynical hacks and blubbery bloggers eating out of the palm of his hands when he came over all emotional during his acceptance speech. There was not a dry eye in the vaulted hall – a bit like Sir Elton John singing Daniel at Sun City. Sir Elton is only expected in March so his suite (#11) was available for Gareth Cliff, a Johannesburg radio personality, who started off on a good foot by attacking the press contingent who need a good kicking every now and then to keep them in line. Thanks heavens Diners dinner budget stretched beyond a local radio jock like John Mayhem, although he’s pretty much persona non grata in the hoek after sabotaging the Franschhoek Wine Writers Award this year.
The evening ended with a laugh and a KWV 10 yo brandy. They had to open a new tube for me (everyone else was drinking whisky). “Is that with Diet or Regular Coke, Sir?” enquired the five star barman. Confirming the height of the hill SA brandy still has to climb.