Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A successful Life -discovering something new

Before I left for Africa I had a few white South African wines that I really liked. There are a few restaurants in Los Angles that carry South African wines on the menu. I had never had a red African wine and guessed they probably weren’t very good. Nobody I knew had any exposure to the reds.

Now my trip to South Africa was not about the wine. It was about the safari, the culture and the cuisine. The wine was an afterthought. In fact we opted to not go to the wine country and instead take the time to explore the Cape of Good Hope.

When we arrived at our first destination in Cape Town; a lovely bed and breakfast our host told me that in a short time we would be having sundowners. I quickly asked what was a sundowner? She told me it was a South African phrase for a drink to be shared with others as the sun was setting.

She served wine, beer and small appetizers. I had the white wine which was very good as I had always experienced South African white to be. With the other guest I had my first sundowner.

That night we went to dinner at a restaurant that served South African beef grown locally and grass fed. The owner of the restaurant had a large farm where they grew the vegetables and the beef. The waitress suggested a red wine with the meal. She suggested a Pinotage a South African red. To my surprise the meat was not very good as it was over cooked and a bit tough. The salad and vegetables were fresh but not any better than anything I’d had in the states. But the wine was unique and very good.

The next night simply by happenstance we found a local restaurant just around the corner from our bed and breakfast. It was the kind of place where the locals would go for sundowners and for good local food. It was not a tourist spot. We had met a waitress at lunch time who told us about this place called the Bombay Bicycle Shop. It sounded Indian but it was not. It was totally local cuisine.

We made a reservation as it is very small with a constant waiting line. We melted in with the locals and enjoyed our first game meal of Springbok shank, South African cheese and for dessert malva which is a pudding we get in Los Angles at a restaurant owned by a South African couple. Malva means mother pudding and everyone makes it different. It was very good but surprisingly not as good as the chef in Los Angeles. Hedley’s, a little restaurant in Los Angeles is the best malva and the food although not South African is also very good.

We wanted to have some red wine with dinner. The waitress suggested Pinotage. We ordered it and I was hooked!

Throughout the rest of the trip we ate local game each time enjoying a glass of Pinotage. On the occasion when I would revert back to a white wine I would regret that my meal did not call for red. I did not expect to return from South Africa with a love for Pinotage. In fact I didn’t even know what Pinotage was until I went to Africa.

Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and the more obscure Rhone varietal, Cinsault, born in South Africa (There the latter grape was called “Hermitage,” giving the new grape the second half of its name). Pinot Noir is renowned for its aromas and flavors, but can be difficult to grow, whereas Cinsault yields an abundant crop and is cheerfully resistant to disease. Both could learn something from the other.

Like all of Africa there is a volatile nature to the wine making and the status. Africa is a country with a deep heritage that at times is not very pretty. And yet there is a simple warmth that permeates the landscape. Pinotage is an earthly blend without the sophistication of European or American wines and yet has a uniqueness that give it soul. I never expected to find a red wine in Africa let alone something so local and unique. That’s truly a successful moment in life when you discover something new that never existed in your world before and it truly leaves an indelible image and taste that lingers long after the last drop is drank.

Doctor Lynn


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