Two years ago I was fortunate to meet wine maker Izele van Blerk from KWV, the largest winery in South Africa, at a Trade tasting in Vancouver 2 years ago. I talked about my experience with South African wine through the South World Wine Society, where I was the President and cellar master at some time. I’ve continued to watch out for KWV wines, and became friends with Izele. I found out that Izele was going to visit Vancouver as part of a Canadian tour, and was asked by KWV’s agent if would I like to sample some of her wines at a dinner at L’Abattoir. I jumped at the chance.
Everyone knows the term “Small is beautiful“. People seek out small, boutique wineries to experience the flavours and aromas; the terroir of the wines. That being said, larger wineries also do have a place and also can dial in quite directly to a vineyard or a particular block for a wine. Imagine if you had a box of coloured pencils. One box had two colours in it; yellow and red, while the other box had 72 coloured pencils, with a rainbow of colours and shades of colours. With the smaller box of coloured pencils, you can paint a picture using different amounts of pressure to make lighter and darker tones on the paper and draw your picture. With the larger box you can pick a range of colours, e.g. for red, and as well add in some purple or blue, and come up with a more nuanced picture, like a Bordeaux blend. But then again, with that wide range of colours, you could still pick one colour and draw your masterpiece with that pencil. That is what I would like to offer to you with KWV.
Izele has 72 different grape producers across South Africa that KWV works with, so she can access which grape, clone, warmer/cooler climate vineyard, etc. that she wants when she makes a wine. To this extent, Izele showed us wines that were multi-regional, from their Cathedral Cellar Collection, wines from specific sites that best reflect South African terroir from their The Mentors Collection, and wines that fall somewhere in between with the Laborie label.
The Dishes from L’Abattoir and KWV Wine Pairings
The wines and dishes we paired at L’Abattoir:
Gougeres, a French cheese puff, and Foie gras with sliced grapes on toasted brioche paired with KWV Cathedral Cellar Basilica’s Blanc de Blancs, 2010. Sparkling wine is very versatile for food pairing as it tends to have high acidity which works well with food. This particular wine is made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. It had toast, lees and apple aromas. Dry, high acidity and very citrusy with a background of lime skin. There was also toast, minerality and a creamy bubble. An excellent quality Methode Cap Classique bubble. Sorry this wine is not yet available in BC.
The gougeres were light in texture and had a mild flavour while the toasted brioche had a very nice texture and flavour combination between the sliced green and red grapes giving some sweetness, some richness from the foie gras and toast and crunch from the brioche. The presentation of the brioche was also very nice. This Blanc de Blancs, with its citrus and creamy bubble and toastiness made a very nice complementary pairing.
Hamachi, yellow fin tuna slice, topped with pink grapefruit, sliced jalapeno, basil, and clear tapioca pearls. Paired with KWV’s The Mentors Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (not yet available in BC). This Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Darling region of South Africa, which is along the west coast of South Africa and is affected by the nearby cold ocean current. This wine had lots of jalapeno, gooseberry and lime aromas. Dry, medium acidity, some flintiness, and lots of fruit and jalapeno flavours. A very nice wine.
This dish was quite wonderful, with so many flavours working together, plus the fine variations in the green tones in this dish made it delightful to see. You get saltiness, herbaceousness, and pepper from the different ingredients in this dish; Plus the tapioca pearls, which are neutral in flavour, give the impression of fish eggs, and some texture, along with the firmness of the hamachi. The herbaceous quality of the basil, the citrus from the grapefruit, and the light pepper from the jalapeno, are all flavour components that you can find in many Sauvignon Blanc, so of course this Sauv Blanc from KWV was an excellent, complementary pairing for this dish. Well done!
Baked beach oyster with whipped garlic butter and black truffle, paired with KWV’s Laborie Chardonnay 2014 (SPEC $11.99). This Chardonnay is a blend of grapes from the Western Cape. 40% of the grapes were matured for 4 months in French oak. The wine had a light citrus and stoniness on the nose. Medium body and medium plus acidity. Citrus, light oak and some pepperiness on the palate.
The oysters are quite large; not like the small Kusshi oysters that you slurp on the half shell. These beach oysters are bigger, meatier, made for being cooked in their shell, and having various sauces and spices added to them. In this case we had whipped garlic butter and black truffle. I was at first worried about how I would eat the oyster as it is quite large, but upon dipping in my fork I saw that the oyster had been cut into several slices, which made for a nice mouthful to enjoy, one slice at a time. This dish was very buttery and creamy. The black truffle adding the earthiness to the dish. And what about the pairing? The medium plus acidity cut through the creaminess of the whipped butter, and the citrus added a nice complement to the flavour of the oyster. Another nice pairing.
Two roast fillets of beef together with a veal sweetbread, creamed celeraic,and a (green) peppercorn sauce. To this we paired 3 red wines from KWV:
- Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($15.99) – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Western Cape. 29% Swartland, 25% Coastal, 25% Darling, 8% Walker Bay, 6% Stellenbosch, 6% Western Cape and 1% Paarl. This wine had a dark fruit, black currant, herbaceous, and cedar on the nose. Ripe dark and red fruits, cassis, along with sweet spices and pepper on the palate. Medium tannins. Higher acidity and an overall hint of sweetness, which I think may come more from the fruit than from sugar, as the RS is only 3.09gr/l.
- The Mentors Orchestra 2013 (SPEC $28.69) – My favourite red wine of the evening. This wine is a Bordeaux blend, consisting of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon from Paarl, 17% Merlot, 13% Malbec, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Petit Verdot, all coming from Stellenbosch. Dusty, dark ripe fruit nose. Medium plus body, round and silky, with a heavier mouth-feel. Medium plus acidity. Lots of ripe fruit with a floral component. Firm tannins. There isn’t anything that I would add or subtract from this wine. It is wonderfully balanced.
- Abraham Perold Tributum 2011 (Not available in BC) – The wine is named after Abraham Perold, who is the Father of Pinotage. This wine is a “Cape Blend“, which means that it has to have 30-70% Pinotage in the blend. It has 40% Shiraz, 30% Pinotage, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine is from 2011 so it has some aging to it, but it is still very lively. The wine has a light purple fruit and vanilla nose. It is full-bodied, silky, with deep, dark fruit flavours and some cocoa. Medium acidity and some pepperiness on the palate. The acidity balances out the intense dark fruit flavours. A very close choice for my favourite red wine, but came in second spot, due to the lighter acidity and tannins compared to The Mentors Orchestra.
The roast fillets of beef were very tender, cooked medium rare, and the peppercorn sauce is a classic to go with the beef. The sweetbread was a thin slice, cooked, with a bit of firmness/crunch on the outside. This was my first sweetbread experience. I did not really get much of a flavour; it was more of a creamy + chewy texture, depending on the part eaten. All three of these red wines went well with this dish. Red wine and beef are a classic pairing. The tannins in the red wine binds to the protein in the meat, making the red wine feel softer, and in theory bringing out the fruit flavours from the wine.
There was also a Yogurt Panna Cotta dessert with caramelized apples, and lavender pumpkin seed crumble. No wine to pair, but KWV does make fortified wines, and I’m sure one would have made a wonderful complement to this dish.
Congratulations to L’Abattoir for making such wonderful food pairings. All dishes were very high quality, and I without reservation can recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a nice restaurant to visit in Gastown. Give KWV wines a try, if you have not yet had a chance. South African wines are well-known for being very food friendly. Enjoy!