Tastes & textures

Tripe. My dear Mark loved it; he would always choose tripe when we ate out and it was on the menu. I’m afraid it was the one thing I wouldn’t cook for him. I was tempted to try his Trippa alla Romana when we were in Rome (every Italian city seems to have its own version) because it looked so good. The tomato and other flavours in the small tripe-less spoon I did try, were wonderful.

It’s not an offal thing with me; I’ll eat calves’ liver, kidneys (in steak & kidney pie, less so on their own) and sweetbreads, but tripe I can’t stomach – or rather palate. It either feels slippery or like a rubber mat with suction pads. It’s the tactile side of tripe that’s a turn off.

Texture is what our wines, white wines especially, have lacked. When stainless steel tanks and cold fermentation, plus the help of specific yeasts, replaced the tired, oxidised whites of the mid-20th century, the result was vibrant, fruity whites, ready to refresh almost as soon as they were bottled.

Over the past ten years things have changed: texture as well as flavour has become more important. This has been achieved as much with the vinification vessel, its shape and material, as the method. The latest to gain interest are amphorae, originally two-handled clay jugs used in Greek and Roman times for storing and transporting wine and oil; so the wheel turns full circle.

Walking through modern cellars can be a bit of a time-warp: stainless steel tanks, side by side with concrete eggs; oak barrels, amphorae and even glass demi-johns tucked in between.

The popularity of fermenting white varieties on their skins (and the winemakers’ competence) has grown in tandem with these vessels. Among the diverse expressions, one of the most refined I’ve tasted recently is the Grande Provence Amphora 2016, selling for a considerable R650 ex-cellar though it’s not the most expensive around. (Smaller wallets can expect enjoyment from the more traditionally-fermented Grande Provence Chenin Blanc 2017 for R90)

The Amphora 2016 was made by ex-ex-Cellarmaster, Karl Lambour from the farm’s then 33 year old chenin blanc vineyard with a dab of musky muscat. Two 400 litre clay amphorae made by master-craftsmen in Italy were used to spontaneously ferment and age the wine for seven months on skins. They can’t be cheap, but it was good to hear new Grande Provence winemaker, Hagen Viljoen, confirm chenin blanc is a major focus of attention.

The porosity of the clay allows the wine to ‘breathe’, providing harmony, finesse and loads of charm in its expression of chenin; those skins add extra dimension of fine-grained density.

Now, if only tripe had that texture!

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