What grows together goes together is an oft-quoted phrase in the wine pairing game. Sure, that’s helpful if you have an idea what sort things grow and thrive in the wine region that’s connected to your bottle.
But if you don’t know, don’t despair. It’s time to do some research. Learning about the foods of place can have transformative effects on enjoying the wine made in the same environment.
Last year I covered the Basque Culinary World Prize and the 2018 winner Jock Zonfrillo. This was an eye-opening experience because the organizers of the prize look at food from a social perspective, as the transmission of prosperity, dignity and culture:
Now in its third year, the prize considers nominees of a particular stature, but contrary to the world of celebrity chefs and restaurant rankings, eligiblity comes from transformative good works in the fields of education, health, research, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and economic development.
The Basque Culinary Prize (BCWP), in partnership with the Basque Culinary Center (BCC) and the Basque Government, announced 10 finalists this month, women and men who exhibit innovation, research and creativity in their work.
“At the Basque Culinary Center, where our mission is to develop the economic and social potential of gastronomy, we are very encouraged by this, and we will continue to promote it,” says Joxe Mari Aizega, director of the BCC.
~From my article in Forbes, The Transformative Power Of Gastronomy: The Basque Culinary World Prize
I spoke to Asier Alea, a member of the group that developed the BCWP and general manager of trade promotion and tourism for the Government of Biscay, about the origination of the prize.
“Few things are more horizontal than food,” says Alea, who emphasized that transformative impact trickles down to hungry people worldwide, not just as an element of a menu on a fancy restaurant. I believe that transformative winemaking also has a trickle-down effect, particularly when the care of the soil, farm workers and community are prioritized.
I had the opportunity to taste Remhoogte Honeybunch Chenin Blanc 2017 and I first noted the flavors and sense experience, sure, but then I did as I often do these days and took a peek at how the wine was made. Like, what are these people like? What do they care about? How does their place breathe through the wines they produce?
Sustainability encompasses so many things and when you think about the word, it implies that something is allowed to continue. In the case of winemaking, that generally means that the growing environment is sustained, rather than degraded. You’ll often hear that sustainability also means economic balance, that the winemaker can sustain the practice of making wine without over-exertion on any resource.
Social sustainability, how culture is able to convey nuance, history and meaning through winemaking is (in some places) an afterthought. This is an advancement Wines of South Africa is pridefully generating.
For Wines of South Africa’s take on social sustainability, visit their website here:
The breaking down of political barriers and the redressing of historical wrongs in South Africa has seen people from disadvantaged communities emerge as winegrowers and winemakers in the Cape winelands for the first time.
Historically, they provided the labour on which the industry is based. Currently, over 160 000 people from historically disadvantaged groups are employed in the South African wine industry, which employs approximately 300,000 people, both directly and indirectly, including wine tourism. ~ Wines of South Africa
So, this wine from Remhoogte, it’s new to me. In fact, many South African wines are new to me. There’s been a handful in my coverage, but not many. So from this wine, I learned about IPW: Integrated Production of Wine which the South African wine community established as their self-monitoring sustainability program, in line with OIV advisements.
Remhoogte Wine Estate adheres to this certification in the production of their estate Chenin Blanc, from 33-year-old vines (the oldest on the estate). It’s all harvested by hand and I find it interesting that only “exposed bunches on the morning sun side” are harvested for this wine, prized for the golden color they acquire from solar contact.
The wine is vegan and made from wild or spontaneous natural yeast. The fermentation for the 2017 vintage took a long seven months, with a portion of the wine set to ferment on skins for six weeks in a closed container. It was aged in neutral French oak for 12 months, on the lees.
A Meal for South African Chenin Blanc
As you can imagine, the wine has layers of complexity but is snappingly fresh. It delivers honeysuckle aromatics and a nice bite of tropical citrus which is balanced with a smooth sweet-savory vibe, not totally unlike a VDN. There’s a bit of butterscotch extract delivering hints, something to hold on to.
When I tasted it, I thought it would go well with grilled chicken with mango chutney or even chimichurri.
So I decided to look at what’s grown locally, what would fit into that transformative gastronomy momentum. A familiar dish like grilled chicken can be shifted into meaningful territory with relish or chutney from more suitable South African fruits such as marula, sourplum, monkey orange and sour fig.
And of course, I have access to none of these.
Instead, I found an approachable recipe for South African chutney, ideal for dropping over grilled chicken still hot from the coals. Sublime with braised kale and a side of grilled bread to dip in extra servings of chutney. And of course, a chilled bottle of Remhoogte Honeybunch Chenin Blanc to pair.
Wine Pairing Weekend
This month our Wine Pairing Weekend group has focused on Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Join our Twitter chat at 10am central on Saturday, May 8th to converse with and ask questions of our group:
Camilla from the Culinary Adventures of Camilla will be sharing “A South African Braai (Rhymes with ‘Fry’) + A Trio of Chenin Blancs”
Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm will feature Grilled Chicken Caesar paired with a South African Chenin Blanc
Lori of Dracaena Wines will highlight “Unlocking the Marvels of Nature Through Wine”
David of Cooking Chat shares “South African Chicken with Chakalaka and Chenin Blanc”
Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen features “South African Chenin Blanc Paired with Vietnamese Food”
Gwen of Wine Predator writes “3 Summer Wines from South Africa Shine for #CheninBlancDay #RoseDay #WinePW”
Nicole of Somm’s Table will share “A South African Pinot Feast Hamilton Russell, Tesselaarsdal, and a Glazed Pork”
Sarah of Curious Cuisinere features “South African Chutney Chicken and Chenin Blanc Pairing”
Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs writes “A Celebration of Wine Industry Upgrading Paired with South African Food Truck Takeout”
Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings is sharing “Spier Pinotage/Shiraz from South African Plus Sliced Lamb as Wrappers”
Jeff of Food Wine Click features “Gemaak en Gebottle Oorsprong: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”
Linda of My Full Wine Glass highlights “Golden Wine from a Golden Land – South Africa”
Here on L’Occasion we study “Making a Meal with Wine from South Africa”
Cindy of Grape Experiences features ” A Family Affair: South African Chenin Blanc with Scallops, Tomatoes and Pesto”
Jane of Always Ravenous writes “South African Chenin Blanc Paired with Shrimp, Scallops, and Mango Salsa”
Michelle of Rockin Red Blog is sharing “Wandering into June with Lubanzi Wine and #WinePW”
Jen from Vino Travels will be hosting featuring Zucchini Quiche with Raats Chenin Blanc from South Africa
Please note that this wine was provided as a media sample. All opinions are my own.
Thanks to Wines of South Africa for providing the wine.