Monday, 23 July 2012

King Cabernet and Seductress Shiraz

This one written for

Cabernet may be king but the throne is faux and the real power lies with the seductress Shiraz. Cabernet is regarded as one of the great interlopers of indigenous and new vineyards worldwide, and is a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc - a bastard, one might say. But like all bastards, Cabernet can be as suave and sophisticated as any blue-blood, with no compunction about pretending to be king, or even Elvis.

Shiraz, cast for so long as a Persian belly dancer, actually has a more noble - and now fashionable - lineage. Unlike relative newcomer Cabernet in Bordeaux, Shiraz has reigned in the Rhone since Roman times and DNA profiling reveals it as progeny of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche in southeast France. Shiraz is now estimated to be at least the world's fifth most planted grape.

Cabernet's conqueror reputation is yet another pretence, for while he strode far and wide, he ruled neither his conquests nor his backyard with any real authority. As one Australian winemaker puts it "Bordeaux's greatest coup was in convincing the rest of the world that the great red Bordeaux is pure Cabernet".

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Monday, 2 July 2012

To Stir or to Shake

(my take on Martinis for Playboy's Bond edition)

Think cocktails, and Martinis appear – quickly, with James Bond not far behind, but one man's perfect Martini is another man's Molotov cocktail. How much vermouth, how much gin? Bond’s preference for shaken not stirred suggests a mix but with the driest of Martinis, the glass is rinsed with vermouth – the rest is gin. Could Bond have liked his martinis sweet, even wimpy?

Bond's Vesper Martini (with a twist)
 Throughout the 22 James Bond movies, numerous cocktails, Champagnes and beers have made an appearance. Reports are that the new bond film – “Skyfall” – will set new records for product placement. So, is Bond a heavily disguised brand ambassador with a taste for wimpy martinis? As long as he gets to kill, maim and fornicate, Joe Public doesn’t seem to care.

It does look like Skyfall is going to be a windfall for Bond. On this occasion he is going to be drinking Heineken, or Heinie as some Americans say. Now with all due respect to the beer and Bond’s usual preference, I would imagine that Bond did not accept a mere six pack of Heinie in return (rumoured to be $40m).

It’s been a lot easier for some South African wine producers. American Jeffrey Deaver enjoys the Cape winelands and he – as author of Carte Blanche - has Bond sipping on Rustenberg’s Peter Barlow 2005 and CuvĂ©e Clive, Graham Beck’s Grand Marques bubbly.