Alex Dale, winemaker and owner of the Winery of Good Hope and Radford Dale in South Africa grew up in Burgundy, France where he cut his teeth in winemaking. He moved to South Africa 24 years ago, just as Nelson Mandela became president.
“It has incredible climate; it’s never short of sun. We are next to the ocean and the sea breezes are like air-conditioning. There are mountains and the soils are limestone and shale.”
Nature loves two grape varieties at Stellenbosch, on the Western Cape Province of South Africa – Chenin Blanc and Syrah, but obviously it loves the former more. So we started dinner with the Bush Vine Chenin Blanc from The Winery of Good Hope, Stellenbosch, that was fruity, well-balanced and rounded, with refreshing flavours of green apples and white peaches.
“There are more old vines of Chenin Blanc in South Africa than in the Loire Valley,” said Alex. The wines are organic by accident, with low additives and low sulphur content.
We were at Jing Ze, an Asian contemporary restaurant in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, whose chef/owner Nicholas Scorpion had created dishes with Thai, Balinese and Chinese nuances. For the first wine, the chef served cured red snapper salad and prawn toast, then the delicious Three Dumplings, with lobster, prawn and scallop inside, sitting in a stock made from the shells, drizzled with chilli oil.
The second Chenin Blanc – the Radford Dale Renaissance Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa – was several notches above the first. After all it is equivalent to Grand Cru; the vines were originally from the Loire Valley. On the nose were spice, baked apple and honeysuckle, while on the palate was ripe fruit and balanced acidity. The longer the wine was in the glass, the more minerally it became, and I liked it.
To match this was crab and nashi pear in a garlic broth with scallops and crabmeat. Then the food took a spicy turn, with stuffed chicken wings topped with snake beans in a fragrant, spicy and coconuty sauce, and fried catfish coated with Japanese bread crumbs.
From the Winery of Good Hope came The Bush Vine Pinotage 2017. “Pinotage is South Africa’s unique grape created in the 1930’s,” said Alex. It’s a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, known as Hermitage, in South Africa at that time. “It’s a very difficult grape; it’s always in a bad mood. It took me 15 years to make a wine that’s more gentle and soft. Whole berry spontaneous fermentation with no contact with skin makes a much softer and more appealing Pinotage. The bush vines are 40 years old and have limited production.”
Balance, length, spice and a touch of minerality are with this wine which has a juicy palate with red cherries. It’s an easy wine to drink with food, and at Jing Ze we had a grilled lamb served with it.
The Radford Dale Nudity Syrah 2015 Stellenbosch, South Africa was a brilliant end to our wine tasting. “Over the last 20 years we have been pushing the envelope, staying with a non-intervention method to produce this wine,” said Alex. “The wine is from a 36-year-old vineyard which hs been organic for the last 20 years. The vines had sufficient time to agree with nature and have a natural resistance to disaster. Good microbes dominate and they produce fruits that are naturally strong and with high concentration. Nothing (0 sulphur) is added.
“The naked grapes are fermented in eight-year-old oak barrels. They age slower but the wine stays purple and retains its youthfulness.”
Alex went to wine school in Burgundy where he was taught to add sulphur to wine, but it’s a practice he has eschewed.
The Nudity Syrah, equivalent to a Grand Cru, releases dark red fruit and complex spice on the nose. The Syrah stands out for its smooth, supple tannins and underlying concentration . It’s an expressive, engaging and elegant wine.
Of course dinner at Jing Ze ended on a sweet, engaging note too — with the Traditional Spiced Cake with Smoked Chocolate Ganache and the Jackfruit Sorbet, coconut sago, ginger granita and crushed lychees.
The wines from The Winery of Good Hope and Radford Dale are available at Monopole Fine Wines Sdn Bhd, tel +603 7733 8181, www.monopole.com.my. For more information on the wines, go to https://www.thewineryofgoodhope.com and https://www.radforddale.com.
Jackfruit sorbet, coconut sago, ginger granita and crushed lychees