Taking Risks with Wine

“Here’s to wine, wit, and wisdom: Wine enough to sharpen wit, wit enough to give zest to wine, wisdom enough to ‘shut down’ at the right time”. – Anonymous

All too often I hear “Namibians are not wine drinkers”, and for most part, I would agree. We are not a nation of wine drinkers. Beer? Now that is a very different story.

Beer? Now that is a very different story.

Perhaps one must expect a people with no or very little experience with wine to consider wine a somewhat risky drinking endeavour. If beer is the preferred beverage of the ordinary man, wine is considered, rightfully or wrongfully, the potion of the snobbish, stuck-up elite.

If you have ever taken the trouble to listen to the conversations of serious wine drinkers, you would know that it could be both bewildering and inaccessible to the wine novice.

For starters, I would forgive you if you do not know what terroir means, or vintage, or pinot noir, zinfandel, or pinotage. I would also forgive you if you (unconsciously, of course) reach to pick your nose when the conversation gets to the ‘nose’ of the wine.

Those who are serious about wine are not at fault, however. It is a fascinating drink, almost as old as mankind, and there are so many variables that shape each bottle of wine that one can taste for an entire lifetime without ever having to repeat the same wine twice.

I do not think that people do not like wine, per se.

I think people think wine is complicated and are intimidated by it.

Maybe people think that you must have a certain degree of knowledge about wine before you can enjoy it. That if you can’t tell the difference between a Cape Blend and a Bordeaux blend or an Old World wine from a New World wine that you’ll not be able to drink and enjoy wine.

I also think people are bewildered by the sheer scope of it. There are so many wines available these days that the wine novice struggles to find a sound choice. The number of choices is simply staggering and it is growing almost by the day. The problem is compounded by the fact that we do not have dedicated structures for people to learn about wine. So looking at an extensive restaurant wine list when you are already at a loss just makes it worse.

I think people consider wines expensive compared to other types of alcohol such as commercially brewed beer. And at face value, it appears to be true.

But if one considers the number of people involved in the making of wine (from the soil analysts, to the wine maker and vineyard workers, to the label designers, the barrel makers, the marketing teams, the distributors and those responsible for the transport and shipping, to name just a few) a bottle of wine is touched by many hands before it lands on the table where the cork is pulled.

The production of wine is very risky and extremely dependent on weather and climatic conditions and other acts of God such as earthquakes.

Finally, better quality wines are mostly handcrafted, which adds to their price. Most wine drinkers are happy to concede that it is simply impossible to derive the same quality of wine from a fully mechanised process, which is but one factor that allows for the prices of low-end wines to remain low. Like anything else in life, better wines cost more.

Ultimately, though, none of these issues matter.

If wine tastes good to you, drink it, and do not give a donkey’s backside about what others say or think. If you can afford it, try the better wines – I promise you it will be worth it and with time, you will figure out what works for you and what not.

Compared to the wines from the Old World (ie Europe), the South African wines sold locally are very affordable.

There is something for everyone: Whether you want excellent, good, moderate, bad or outright disgusting. And therein lies the perceived risk for new wine drinkers: What if I made a mistake, and I do not like the wine? It will be like pouring money down the drain, quite literally.

With most food related items, there is an element of risk.

Whether it is a new sausage from a new butcher or a new combination of flavours from the season’s first summer produce, you never really know what you are going to get.

In my view, little or no harm can come from trying something new. Much can be learnt and all knowledge serves a greater good, even when it is not all great.

My advice is simple. Drink wine with those who know more than you, and taste with an open mind.

Trust your own taste, start slow and spend a little more. Explore the way wines add value to your food and you will be more than pleasantly surprised, I promise.

But ultimately, take a few risks. After all, it is not like you are trying to cross a busy street with a blindfold on your face.

People often ask what wine goes with what food. Perhaps the best answer is: If it grows together, it tastes good together. There are established guidelines like white wine with fish, but these are continuously being challenged.

Thus, you are really free to do what you like. Is that not a massive relief? Thus, go forth and experiment with wine, I cannot think of a much better way to spend a few idle hours, not right now, anyway.

And before you think I encourage irresponsible behaviour, I conclude with the words of some anonymous thinker:

“Here’s to wine, wit, and wisdom: Wine enough to sharpen wit, wit enough to give zest to wine, wisdom enough to ‘shut down’ at the right time”.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER
Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble. PHOTO: CHRISTIE KEULDER

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

The Filling

450 grams Rhubarb
450 grams Strawberries, Husked and sliced in quarters
110 grams Golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon Grated fresh root ginger

The Crumble

110 grams Whole almonds
75 grams Butter, cut into small dice and chilled
175 grams Self-raising flour, sifted
2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground ginger
110 grams Demerara sugar

Directions:

1. Wash the fruit and cut the strawberries into quarters and the rhubarb into 2 cm pieces. Add the fruit  to a bowl with the sugar and grated fresh ginger and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and spread out to form an even layer. Set aside till needed.

2. Make the crumble by adding the butter, sifted flour, cinnamon, ground ginger and sugar in a food processor. Blend the ingredients will it resembles small breadcrumbs. Add the nuts and blend for a few seconds more until the nuts are fairly finely chopped. When done, sprinkle the crumb mixture over the fruit in the baking dish and press it down quite firmly. To finish run a fork over the surface just to rough it a little, you do not want to mix the fruit and crumble by digging too deep.

3. Preheat your oven to 200℃ and bake the crumble in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Once done, remove the crumb from the oven and leave for 10 minutes to rest. Serve warm with custard, or vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
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