Last Sunday found me having lunch with my
London-based brother and sister-in-law at the Lots Road Pub & Dining
Room in Fulham. After attending Vinexpo, the bi-annual wine and spirit
exhibition held in Bordeaux, I was in transit from France back to Cape
Town and had time to kill.
If the French have bistros and brasseries
and the Italians have trattorias, then the English have somewhat
dubiously adopted "gastro pubs" - I always wonder if it's
"gastro" as in "gastro-enteritis". My sibling and his
spouse nevertheless assured me that the grub at Lots Road was more than
passable and after a foie gras binge over the preceding few days, I
didn't want anything too highbrow anyway.
One positive attribute of gastro pubs is that they
offer quite exotic winelists, especially if you're used to the
deprivations suffered in most South African restaurants. Lots Road had
everything through Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand to
Viognier from Jumilla, Spain. However, when I was charged with the
wine-ordering duties, I opted for a Grüner Veltliner from Austria - the L
Sophie Friendly 2005 from populist proponent of the variety Lenz Moser.
Grüner V makes up more than one-third of
Austrian vineyard area and typically makes wines that are highly aromatic
on the nose and super-peppery and dry on the palate. It's not unlike Riesling
but its relative obscurity gives it a "coolness" factor among
those in the know.
The question for me about Grüner V,
however, is does it justify the hype? At Vinexpo, I set out to sample
different examples from various top producers, including Weingut Loimer
in Kamptal, a producer classified as "Outstanding" (second only
to "Superlative") in the fourth edition of Peter Moser's The
Ultimate Austrian Wine Guide (Falstaff Publications: 2007). I found the
wines pleasingly ethereal, and was interested to note that Moser comments
in his guide that Grüner V from Kamptal is often "dominated by firm
mineral character and pleasant vegetal spiciness". All well and
Drinking, as most of us know, is different
to tasting, and with flight SA 221 out of Heathrow only set to depart at
21h00, lunch in London proved a less rarefied opportunity to get to grips
with Grüner V.
I duly set about this task but after two
or three bottles of L Sophie Friendly 2005, the best description I could
come up with was "a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and
Viognier". Not entirely unappetising - and the wine did seem to have
a remarkable ability to pair with every food ordered, but at £21.55 (over
R300) a bottle at Lots Road, I suspect you're paying a
"fashion" surcharge. (UK wine company Bibendum sells the 2006
vintage of Friendly Grüner V for the equivalent of £8.74 (R125) a bottle).
I eventually made it to the airport and on
to the plane - you want to have imbibed enough that you are sufficiently
numbed when it comes to the tedious process of clearing security, but not
so much so that you forget your passport. Not long after take-off, I was offered
a glass of Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from top local producer Steenberg, and
despite a palate that was fatigued not just after a long Sunday lunch but
by a week's intensive tasting, I reflected how just damn good it was,
possessing an intensity and purity of fruit that you don't encounter when
it comes to Grüner V. I just wondered if we in SA promote our signature
aromatic white wine as well as the Austrians do theirs?
Deputy Editor, WINE magazine
The postscript wine of
KC Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Fruit from Elgin and Elim. In a word,
"racy". R48 a bottle from the farm. Get your fix now.