Hacklewood pairs fine food with Meinert wines
The science of vine to barrel brought to the dinner table
A meticulous focus on the vineyard and painstaking attention to detail in winemaking – down to sourcing barrels only from one specific French forest – are what give Meinert wines their signature elegance.
They found a perfect match in both the graceful Victorian surroundings of Hacklewood Hill Country House and in chef Charne Kruger’s sophisticated menu for a recent wine and food pairing dinner, each dish made and presented with as much attention to detail as goes into Meinert’s winemaking.
Meinert winemaker Brendan Butler told diners that he and the winery’s founder Martin Meinert had similar philosophies and approaches to winemaking – “we don’t concoct wine in the cellar; it’s made in the vineyard” – which would see the range maintaining its distinctive style under new ownership.
Meinert sold the boutique Stellenbosch winery last year but remains on as an advisor for the next two years, with Butler appointed as general manager and winemaker.
He and Butler share that focus on meticulous attention to detail – red wines are picked and sorted by hand, and each vine is “treated as an individual”.This means that, instead of harvesting a vineyard block in one go, harvesting takes place up to seven times over a period of three to four weeks, each vine picked at its optimal stage and ensuring that only the best grapes make it to the barrel.As for the barrels, they come from one particular forest in France where the trees are all certified as at least 200 years old, producing a tight grain that moderates the influence of wood on wine.
Brendan, who describes himself as the farm’s “jack of all trades – viticulturist, winemaker, manager, finance guy, you name it”, received his Cape Wine Master (CWM) qualification last year, earning a distinction for his dissertation on his favourite topic, white Bordeaux blends.
White Bordeaux is a blend of sauvignon blanc with semillon, so no wonder the evening’s welcome drink of Meinert Sauvignon Blanc had a dash of semillon rounding it out, and Brendan plans to gradually increase that to around 15% to achieve the Bordeaux-style.
As it stands, it’s a super full-flavoured, textured sauvignon blanc, made from cool-climate Elgin grapes and blossoms and ripe fruit with a streak of zingy green minerality.
Brendan says a key advantage of Meinert is its small size – they produce just 60,000 bottles a year – “so we don’t feel pressured to meet market demands or follow fashion – we can set our own trends”.
Take their “German Job” riesling – a surprise to many who were expecting sticky sweetness, the Meinert version is typically aromatic but dry and flinty, with vibrant fruit. The winery has created its own style balancing “the linear French and the rich German style”.
Chef Charne chose hake – often a boring fish but definitely not in this incarnation – poached in coconut milk and served with chorizo and a spiced pumpkin puree, to show how well riesling pairs with spicy food.
The partnership of The Graduate Syrah 2016 with a beetroot risotto with wild mushroom and truffle fricassee was inspired – the earthiness of the beetroot and mushrooms, with the beet adding a touch of sweetness, together with a garnish of coriander, brought out the best of the wine’s lush herbaceous and spicy character.
It’s an amazing wine – made from a vineyard in the Hemel-en-Aarde where pinot noir is the grape of choice – and a quite different style of syrah; a deep, bright red and so luscious, with a perfumed floral nose that just jumps out of the glass and layers of juicy berry flavour and savoury spiciness.A hard act to follow for the 2014 merlot that accompanied a hearty dish of lamb shoulder slow-cooked in duck fat, with herbed cauliflower couscous, black mushroom puree, roasted baby veg and red wine jus – all of the flavours of the dish echoing and complementing the lamb and the wine.
“Our aim is a precise, focused, linear wine that is clearly distinguishable as merlot,” says Brendan, and this really is one of that growing class of wines that show what a quality merlot should be. lean and full of ripe dark berries and a savoury touch.The easiest of the pairings said Charne, was the dessert she assembled to show off Meinert’s dessert wine, a semillon straw wine. When these grapes are ripe, the stalks are pinched to stop the flow of sap to the berries, and they slowly dry out and build up concentrated flavour over six weeks before they’re finally picked.
The high acidity of the semillon balances out what could be an ear-aching sugar level of 450g/litre, and the wine’s pronounced pear, pineapple and honey flavours inspired the dessert.
This was a prettily plated, light and fresh finish to the meal – dollops of creamy milk mousse, delicate buttery vanilla tuille biscuit, shards of honeycomb, fresh pear and blueberries.
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