Friday, February 18, 2011

Rust & Vrede - Yin & Yang

It must have been really easy for the Eat Out judges to award Rust & Vrede as top restuarant if yesterday was anything to go by. On this occasion - a tasting of selected vintages going back to '79 to reveal their style evolution followed by lunch paired with their current releases - the cheese course nearly pipped the pigeon as my pairing of the day but I settled on a tie.

The Tête de Moine cheese served with Hazel’s Curried Peach, Samoosa Wafers and Basil Gel was paired with Tinta Barocca 2000 port. It again revealed the skill and experience of both chef David Biggs and sommelier Neil Grant. One of the features of this cheese - just like the port - is that it evolves with increased exposure to air (pictures ex google)and can show nutty wine-like aromas when matured.





When sliced with a Girolle (above left) it dramatically increases the surface area of the cheese and you end up with a beautiful rosette. Each time you have another silky mouthful you experience something subtly different - as was the case with the port - so this was many cheese courses in one! The tea leaf notes on the port with the curried peach was a good example of complex subtleties found here. Unfortunately the port is only sold at the restuarant (only one barrel produced).
 
Then the pigeon, ok so some people left a little uneasy with this one -  bit like with wabbit. But as with wabbit once you taste it - as I did as a young pellet gun-toting boy - you are immediately enamoured. Pigeon and Fig, Goat’s Milk and Pistachio Cream and a Pickled Beetroot Puree was served with two reds - the R&V Shiraz 08 and the R&V Estate 07. The savouriness of the blend (cab, shir, mer) appeared the better match with the gaminess of the pigeon and goat's milk rather than the berry fruit of the Shiraz but the fig made it a very close finish.

Site of the original cellar

 Of the current relases wine of the day was probably the R&V 1694 Classifiation 2007. 1694 was the year R&V was founded and this wine really did wow. It offers power and elegance off a core of dense but plush tannins and great intensity and length. The sting is the price - R1200 ex cellar door but it was a fab match with the intensity of the lamb loin and shoulder and is definately one for cellaring. The 06 garnered 93 points from Wine Spectator.

Of the retrospective wines, it was a close call between 2 very different wines and a good example of how far R&V have travelled. The first is the '79 Cabernet Sauvignon which revealed surprising vibrancy and complexity and one of the signatures of excellent mature reds - violets. Later in the flight we had a R&V Estate 2004, a blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot.  This was a richer, opulent, thoroughly modern (Parkerised?) wine showing venison and aniseed aromas with a touch of sweetness on entry followed by plush tannins and juicy mouthfeel. But the violets swung it for the '79.     

Rust & Vrede is also rated in the S. Pellegrino top 100 restuarants in the world.

Geek Philosophy
Tête de Moine means 'monk's head'. This Swiss gourmet cheese was originally invented by the monks of Belleray Abbey in the Bernese Jura, and the brothers taught the local farmers how to make it.

Unlike most other mountain gourmet cheeses which tend to be very large, it is made in small drums. The rind may be smooth and slightly greasy, or rough and brown in color. The paste is firm and creamy to straw-yellow in color, darkening as it ages.

There may be small holes or horizontal fissures in the paste. Older Tête de Moine cheeses smell strongly of roasted nuts with wine-like aromas. The flavour is sweet and tangy, with musty wood mold and nuts. 

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