Earlier this year a competition took place in France called Syrah du Monde. It is an international competition dedicated solely to the Syrah/Shiraz varietal, held at Chateau d’Ampuis. The judges rated 445 wines from 24 countries and awarded gold medals to 30 wines.
Three South African wines made it into the top ten – Saronsberg Shiraz 2010, Rust en Vrede Shiraz 2009 and Hartenberg ‘The Stork’ Shiraz 2008. But there’s more. The Stork came first. Yes, best Shiraz in the world. The whole world. And for all we know, best in the universe too.
So, when I saw that the Vineyard hotel ‘Tastes of 2012’ wine paired dinners included a Hartenberg evening, it immediately caught my eye. We had been well overdue for a dress-up outing together, so I invited my husband out on a date – a food and wine pairing evening at the Vineyard hotel, with an opportunity to taste the best Shiraz – the best Shiraz in the whole world.
We arrived at the Vineyard and were greeted by the staff, who pressed glasses of Hartenberg Riesling into our eager hands. The Riesling had a beautiful green tinge and that distinctive Riesling aroma – people refer to it as terpene – to me it is an aroma that is hard to define – similar to green apples plus something else beautiful and mysterious.
Carl Schultz, the winemaker from Hartenberg, welcomed everyone to the wine paired dinner. He spoke eloquently and humbly about Hartenberg’s superb achievements and wines. He explained how ‘The Stork’ got its name: Ken Mackenzie, who bought Hartenberg in 1986, was a tall man with long thin legs. As an RAF Spitfire pilot in World War Two, he had earned the nickname “Stork” which endured. Ken loved Shiraz, and The Stork was named in his honour.
What a glittering and glamorous affair. In the same way that Italian wines taste better in Italy, perhaps the opulence of the surroundings and the gorgeous food made all of the wines taste so good. That Shiraz was unlike any Shiraz I have ever tasted before – less of the spiciness, more black berries and very smooth (the Shiraz we tasted was in fact the 2007 Shiraz, and not the 2008, but it tasted good enough to me!).
We were looked after by Ntsikelelo (which means ‘Blessing’ in English). Despite having so many tables to serve, he made us feel like we were his only table, and remembered my random requests for more water, generally delivered when he was in the middle of serving several plates of food to several tables.
Towards the end of the evening, someone announced the names of those present who had been fortunate enough to win bottles of wine in a lucky draw. While he was announcing the winners, one of the guests stood up and interrupted him. The gentleman apologised for interrupting the speaker, saying that what he had to say could not wait, and would only take a minute. He turned to all of us, raised his glass high into the air and bellowed: “Here’s to us!” to rapturous applause. His wife stared into the middle-distance with an indifference unstudied enough to suggest that she has witnessed such spontaneous outbursts of ebullience before.
One thing that struck us with regard to the wine was the generosity with which it was served. We have been to wine pairing dinners before, where the wine looks to have been measured out in teaspoons, no glass containing one single molecule more than another. At the Hartenberg evening the wine was flowing – I had to turn glasses of wine down. Apart from That Shiraz. I had some more of that. What a decadent and lovely evening.
Here’s to us!
Hartenberg Estate Wine Paired Dinner
Hartenberg Riesling 2010
Cured smoked Norwegian salmon, cucumber Carpaccio, red pepper jelly, prawn cracker,
wild rocket, almond butter
Hartenberg The Eleanor Chardonnay 2008
Butternut, ricotta and sundried tomato roulade, baby salad leaves, sage and truffle beurre noisette
Hartenberg Merlot 2008
Slow roasted beef fillet, tender stem broccoli, shiitake, extra virgin olive oil, crushed new potatoes,
pea puree, spinach flakes
Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2007
Hartenberg The Mackenzie Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2005
Tropical fruit, crème anglaise and meringue pavlova
Hartenberg Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2010