Thursday, 21 October 2010

Out of Africa

Imagine...colonial Africa sometime between 1850 and 1900, a paradise for the rich, a land of biblical beauty brimming with herds of wildlife: gazelle, zebra, leopard, lion. A land of un-mined riches: gold, diamonds and the passport to adventure and earthly treasures. It is also a time of great savagery with huge losses of life incurred by the two Boer Wars. This land was every boy’s dream – to become an adventurer, and to pit his manhood against the rigours of the “Dark Continent” and boldly be the “Great White Hunter”. Every woman emerging from suffragist restraints would swoon at the thought of adventures under the canvas of the safari. This was the final frontier of its time.

We recently created an African Safari themed event for the American Women of Surrey, featuring a wonderful variety of South African wine, food and stories around the bush campfire. Of course, being England in October, it was pouring with rain, so our campfire was of the indoor variety.

The heat and dust of the savannah, or even the 6.34 pm from Waterloo to Guildford, can create a thirst for refreshment. Nederburg Première Cuvée Brut NV, £7.59 from SA Wines Online, a light but distinctive sparkler from The Cape Floral Kingdom, will give you the kick of a Springbok, the sporting symbol of South Africa.

The French Huguenot and Germany influences in Africa can be clearly experienced with the 49% Riesling Blanc de Mer by Bouchard Finlayson at £8.95 from Lea & Sandeman. Its piquancy is tempered with a blend of Viognier, Chenin and Chardonnay grapes. A crispy, fruity easy drinking wine to gently wake up the palate and refresh the taste buds after a hard day out in the bush.

The Walker Bay area from where this wine hails, and specifically Hermanus, is renowned for being the best land-based whale-watching destination in the world.

We think The Mullineux Family White Blend 2009, £15.50 from Berry Bros & Rudd, which is made predominantly from the much loved African Chenin Blanc grape, is a complex, concentrated warm and honeyish mouthful. From Swartland, meaning black land, a rugged, stark and highly sought after region for wine production. This area is also known as “the land of the Rhinoceros”.

The famous expression “LIVINGSTONE I PRESUME” was the very conservative British greeting of Henry Stanley when finding the missing David Livingstone. Livingstone was a missionary explorer who in 1864 was on an expedition to discover the source of the River Nile, when he disappeared. After some years and no news, The New York Herald commissioned the explorer Henry Stanley to find him. This he eventually did - after many adventures - near Lake Tanganika, and it was here that the famous verbal exchange was said to have taken place. Being two well- mannered Victorian gentlemen, despite being in the middle of nowhere, their incredible and long hoped-for meeting was extremely formal with the drawing room greeting of “Livingstone I presume” and a brief handshake.

Livingstone was said to be the first white man to have seen Victoria Falls, named by the natives “The Smoke that Thunders”. It is an amazing sight and Livingstone described it as “The scene that must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight”.

A final and we think touching fact is that Livingstone is buried in Westminster Abbey, but his heart is buried beneath the tree where he died in his soul home – Africa. Henry Stanley is himself buried in Saint Michael’s Church, Pirbright, in leafy Surrey.

If your quest is for a slinky, lithe bodied, sensuous and powerful leopard of a wine, look no further than the Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2008 from the Elgin Valley at £12.95 from Lea & Sandeman. Paul Cluver is recognized as a pioneer in eco wine production: the estate is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and even boasts a biosphere and an amphitheatre. This cherry-like wine has a minerality and something of the night about it, with power, and an elegant finesse.

The real deal and uniquely what African wine is meant to be all about is the quirky mix that is known as Pinotage. This is a real “Marmite” of a wine – in that you either love it or hate it. Kaapzicht Pinotage 2007 from Stellenbosch is a big elephant of a wine in its gravitas, complexity and intelligence. £12.95 from Lea & Sandeman.

This brave wine is from South African pioneering stock like Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, who wrote the true, endearing and enduring story of his friendship and real life adventures with his dog. “Jock of the Bushveldt” was published in 1907 and garnered huge acclaim in South Africa and internationally. It is a classic amongst African literature and a great and stirring read for young and old alike.

Fairview Jakkalsfontein Shiraz 2005 is rated as one of the best wines coming OUT OF AFRICA at present. Priced £17.87 from, it should be good. Full of wonderful elderberry fruit, it conjures the throbbing intensity of the savannahs, the promise and richness but also the savagery of this vibrant landscape.

In 1937 Baroness Karen von Blixen from Denmark went to live in what was then known as British East Africa, now Kenya. She had an unhappy marriage but fell in love with this paradisical land and its native peoples. It was she who, under the pseudonym Isaak Dinesen, wrote the book “Out of Africa”.

The story of her life and love affair with the great white Hunter Denys Finch-Hatton was in 1985 made into the now classic film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, both managing fairly good imitations of aristocratic English accents. Finch-Hatton was killed when he crashed his De Havilland Gypsy Moth. Karen von Blixen returned eventually to Denmark where she reportedly died of a broken heart - and syphilis.

Keep well
JAMBO from Heather & Heather don’t have to do a Mandela Long Walk to Freedom, we have regular Walks with Wine and lunch. Take a look at our website, or phone us for information. 01483 892678.

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