Amid the hectic lead up to Neil opening Uitsig’s new restaurant and Jacques’ first busy month as resident winemaker – both still found time to meet together with Carlo (Uitsig’s Brand Ambassador) and myself at Open Door for our first (and certainly not last) wine tasting and food pairing session.
The inaugural wine in the spotlight: a crisp bottle of Constantia Uitsig’s 2013 white blend.
Awarded John Platter’s prestigious five star rating, this is truly a great white to be reckoned with. Combining just the right amount of structure and sass, the dominant Semillon cuts through the Sauvignon Blanc nose, leaving traces of lip-smacking lime and lemon on the palate. These citrus fruits are balanced perfectly by the soft undertone of wood, creating a wine that’s just the right amount of complex.
Jacques notes that the structure and elegance of this wine is partly due to the sandstone soils the vines grow in. In his own words, “It lends a sort of old world finesse to the wine…its elegance making it possible to bottle and enjoy immediately even though the wines have proven to age particularly well.”
We sit, savouring our wine and the moment of calm it brings with it – amidst the frenetic energy of a restaurant on the brink of opening wide its doors for the very first time.
Swirling his glass reflectively, Neil notes that this is definitely a wine best paired with food.
“Paired with the right dish, this will blow people away. It’s not an over-complex wine, not as floral as some of its contemporaries, but rather elegant and robust enough to handle a dish with a little spice if need be… There’s a little oiliness here too, thanks to the serious Semillon component.”
And he should know. As the co-founder and owner of Burrata, Bocca and now Open Door, Neil is one of South Africa’s rising restaurateurs with a real passion for what he does. What some might not know however, is his equal passion for wine. Having worked abroad as a sommelier, and then having helped to build Rust en Vrede’s great reputation, Neil still currently serves as the Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association.
So what dish did we settle on as the perfect accompaniment to Constantia’s White blend?
Of course, fish would be an obvious choice – and we all agreed that most fresh white fish would find their dream date alongside a glass of Constantia’s white. Fresh oysters too – with a dash of lemon could find no better companion. The clean finish of the wine would complement rather than dominate these kinds of dishes, pronouncing the hints of citrus in both.
But to really get the taste buds dancing like contestants in a ballroom finale, we pushed the envelope a little further… and settled on a less common, little more daring partner for our wine: Ceviche.
A classic Peruvian dish making a culinary comeback all over the world – Ceviche is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with a hint of chili. So if you feel brave enough to try something new, get the freshest fish you can find, grab a bottle of Constantia White 2013 (buy a whole case if it’s still on special), and follow our recipe here.
Like the dish we continue to talk about around our cosy table – it seems Jacques and Neil are a great match. Not similar, but complementary – with equal measures of passion for what they do and a fierce determination and focus to see their ambitious goals realized.
Look out for next month’s meet-up, where we’ll be exploring Constantia’s one and only red, and the perfect winter fare to serve with it. To make sure you don’t miss it (and the accompanying special on our wine), sign up to become a part of our Inner Circle.