“The first 90 minutes are the most important.” Sir Bobby Robson
As you read this, excitement will be at fever pitch....it’s ok we are not deluding ourselves that our SA (Surrey Advertiser) articles are the generators of such intense passion. Another SA will be creating a huge amount of heat on 11thJune 2010 with the kick-off of the FIFA world cup in South Africa.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Bill Shankley
This summer there are really only two choices and, for those who, like us, are not the biggest footie fans, the pressure to support “our boys” will be hard to resist. So our advice is to go with the flow, avoid arguments and relinquish the TV for the duration. Do not fret that you have no idea how offside works, or what the sweeper system is - there are other compensations. Admiring the physique and prowess of the players has its own rewards and instead of whingeing, we are going to get wine-ing and demonstrate our enthusiasm by drinking delicious South African wine!
Our goal is to find something a little different that you can appreciate come rain or shine and that reflects the spicy heat of the SA proving grounds. South Africa's gift to the world of wine is its unique grape, Pinotage – the result of a crossing of the southern French Cinsault and the noble Pinot Noir. It's a Marmite of a wine grape and some people wish that South Africa had kept this particular gift to itself. Others lap up its lush, black fruit with smoky notes and beefy undertones. A feel-good and taste-good option is Tukulu Pinotage 2007, £8.99 from Oddbins. This wine amply demonstrates the South African term “Wamkekile”, a local Xhosa word meaning “we welcome you”, which we're sure we'll be hearing more of over the coming weeks.
The bookies' favourite to win this summer's beautiful game is Spain, followed by Brazil, England, Argentina and Netherlands. Is that a cue for a country-based wine and food matching dinner we hear?
“I felt a lump in my mouth as the ball went in” Terry Venables
Spain - land of conquistadores, matadors, rhythmic clicking castanets and the provocative rustle and swirl of a flamenco skirt. Old Moorish, intense and darkly brooding Spain, as opposed to the flashy Marbella Pina Colada portside pueblos, is what you are drinking deeply of when you senses first encounter Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza, £8.99 from Guildford Wine Company (and Majestic, as long as you buy 2 bottles ); £9.99 from Oddbins. A whiff of horseflesh and tack room tannins, with the backbone of the steely rapier of the corrida emanate from this lean, garnet red classic wine. Eat meaty tapas and chorizo. Olé!
Brazil - samba and sensuality, bronzed bikini-clad (at most) bodies on Ipanema beach, the shocking contrast of the über-rich and the gangster-riddled ghetto fraternities of the favelas. The food has to be Dobrada, a bean stew with everything in it, including pigs' intestines if you are up to it! Brazil is a big wine producer (third behind Argentina and Chile in South America) including, perhaps surprisingly, huge quantities of fizz. So Brazilians will be hoping to toast their team's success with home-produced sparkling wines. Not much of it makes it way to Europe though, so we'll have to settle for something to match that hearty bean stew. Guigal's Côtes du Rhône is a benchmark for the region, with plenty of rustic-tinged fruit and a hint of the warm south - £9.99 a bottle from Taurus Wines of Bramley. Beleza!
England, ah England – our battling colonial spirit has taken us worldwide, so we won't confine ourselves to an English wine. As an historically seafaring nation our strength is honed by the mixing of our races from Vikings, Normans, Celts and, more recently, from Caribbean and Asian erstwhile colonies. Our men of England possess, as in the times of our national hero Horatio Nelson, strong “Hearts of Oak”. In this vein we recommend for our heroes a lightly oaked Chardonnay from New Zealand, still part of the Commonwealth: Wither Hills Marlborough Chardonnay is £8.99 from Waitrose and shows plenty of backbone and a strong finish. This would be perfect with roast chicken and all the trimmings – though if we do manage some real summer weather, it would be equally at home around the barbecue. Cheers! Bottoms up! Mud in your eye!
Argentina - the heat and dust of the pampas, the macho cigar-smoking gauchos and the thrilling tempos of twanging guitars and tango in Buenos Aires bars. Big haunches of tender steak feed late night revellers, washed down with a strong, spicy and intense deeply purple Malbec. Argentina may not be the original home of this grape, which started out in France, but it has certainly made it its own. Majestic stocks Ben Marco Malbec from the Dominio del Plata winery at £10.99 if you buy 2 bottles. This wine has got “cojones” and a whiff of the cigar box alongside the ripe and lively black fruit. In spring it is the practice of the gauchos (cowboys) to castrate the cattle in order for them to grow bigger and fatter. The testicles are eaten as a relished delicacy cooked over burning coals.....ouch....don’t cry for me Argentina. Salud!
Netherlands - the easygoing Dutch have obviously got “on their bikes” and out of their windmills to be rated amongst the top Cup contenders. As a quiet, tolerant bunch of tulip-growing cloggies they may appear quite tame to the gambler and to have far less of a chance than their flamboyant Latino counterparts. Yet Dutch adventurers have been in South Africa as settlers since 1652, and of course their un-compromising Afrikaaner stock is renowned for tough, ruthless survival tactics. Across the other side of the globe, the Dutch invented “Rijsttafel” or Rice Table, a lavish Indonesian feast of rice served with from six to sixty side dishes of seafood, vegetables, coconut and all manner of attractively presented meats. Such a substantial and spicy meal needs a ripe, limey Riesling with some sweetness to stand up to the spice. Vidal Riesling 2009 from New Zealand fits the bill perfectly and is £8.99 at Oddbins. Let’s hope they don’t do a Van Gogh if they miss out on the top spot. Prosit!
“Sometimes in football you have to score goals” Thierry Henry
Now we are all exhausted from running round the Heathers’ football philosophy it is time to open a bottle of something from the host country that will set you off in anticipatory dribbling. Iona Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99 at Waitrose, £12.49 at Majestic is a classy combination of cool-climate acidity, combined with mouthwatering gooseberry and tropical fruit.
Enjoy the beautiful games and we hope to indulge in many a celebratory tipple.