South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are used to pitting their wits against each other with the annual Tri Nations rugby tournament. Michelin star chef Roger Jones decision to re-invent a Tri Nations Challenge for the country’s wine producers is equally as competitive. Even more so when a guest country is introduced. Here he reports back on the recent South Africa vs California winemaker challenge he hosted at The Vineyard Hotel at Stockcross.
South Africa established a convincing win when California was invited to take part in the latest Tri Nations Wine Challenge hosted by Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.
On paper it looks like no contest. The 5:1 result in favour of South Africa, highlighted how far South Africa wines have evolved in recent years. California’s stand out highlight was the esteemed Rudd Mount Veeder Sauvignon Blanc which beat the previous all conquering Savage White Blend, made by Duncan Savage, who had previously beaten New Zealand at their own game.
In a small triumph for California, two of the South African wines had a Californian influence; the prestigious Capensis Chardonnay, a partnership between Barbara Banke and Antony Beck, made by winemaker Graham Weerts, and Lismore Syrah made and owned by Californian wild child, Samantha O’Keefe, who has been blazing a trail with her award wining wines made in the foothills of a dramatic mountain range in Greyton at the foot of Africa.
The Tri Nations Wine Challenges were originally set up following a late evening of (wine) discussion at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town in 2014, with the inaugural event being hosted by the hotel on January 9 2015. Such was the success and popularity of the first event that we soon realised that we would need to elevate the Challenge and not only make it an annual event in Cape Town, but take it on the road.
Each challenge involves two nations, with a six course Michelin Star meal matched with six wines from each nation, served blind, with up to 80 guests at each venue voting for their favourite wine. I devise the menu using local ingredients and local chefs.
Here’s how the recent South Africa vs California challenge played out:
The Vineyard Hotel Stockcross – October 10
The menu and accompanying wines. The winning wine is in bold.
California v South Africa
Canapés and English Sparkling Wine
Huntsham farm beef tartare, bone marrow crumb sorrel sorbet
Rudd, Mt Veeder Sauvignon Blanc, Oakville 2014
Savage Sauvignon Blanc/Sem/Chenin 2016
Lobster Ravioli, citrus bisque and pickled ginger
Donelan Venus Roussane-Viognier Sonoma County 2014
Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse Cape White 2015
Diver Caught Orkney Scallops, Bhaji, Yoghurt, Mango Chutney
Talley Estate Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande 2014
Capensis Chardonnay 2014
Truffle Risotto with Cep & Chicken Soup
Pinot Noir FEL Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley 2013
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016
Slow cooked venison, potato press and preserved blackcurrants
Melville Vineyards Estate Syrah, Santa Barbara County 2015
Lismore Syrah, Greyton 2015
Welsh Rarebit Bon Bon, Quince, Blackberry
Sir Peter Michael L’Esprit des Pavots, Knights Valley Cab 2014
Jordan Cobblers Hill, Stellenbosch 2014
Boiled Egg & Soldier
- The next round will be on Friday January 5 2018 hosted at The Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, where South Africa will play the Rest of The World, which will involve some exciting wine regions including Greece, Alsace and, of course, the New World.