The People's Guide: Fat ladies drinking old vine and old 'boom' Chenin

Friday, 4 December, 2009
Michael Olivier and Neil Pendock
Neil Pendock discovers a Chenin blanc from the Swartland while Michael Oliver picks the Oude Denneboom Grysbok Chenin Blanc 09 for his chicken cooked in Verjuice- just in time for the first grapes of the season!
Neil Pendock's Wine of the Week Santa Cecilia barrel fermented Chenin Blanc 2009

The price: Around R45 for a 750ml bottle.

First Impression: Something one of those fat ladies in a Beryl Cook cartoon would drink.

The Story: These old vine Chenin grapes hail from the heartland of SA Chenin ­ the Kasteel and Paardeberg mountains in the Swartland. Anton Espost and Thys Greeff cut out the middlemen ­ those ambitious winemakers from other appellations who buy Swartland grapes and sell them at a fat profit as wine under their own labels.

The Taste: Big, rich and bodacious with a serious dash of residual sugar to keep upcountry wedding guests and your grannie, happy.

Michael Says: This is a call to visit Riebeeck Kasteel where the wines and olive oils are brilliant and where the eating is good in local restaurants like Bar Bar Black Sheep.

Neil Says: Anton and Thys "did that Afrikaans thing by naming the wine after their wives in the belief that they would be entitled to extra sexual favours. They are still waiting."

Did You Know? In The Essential Guide to SA Wines: Terroir & Travel (Cheviot Publishing, 2009) authors Elmari Swart and Izak Smit) claim "according to local advocates, Chenin Blanc is South Africa's only shot at a world-class white wine." If this is true, Santa Cecilia is the most spectacularly underpriced wine, ever.

The Small Print: Only 2,600 bottles were made from ten barrels and at the rate Anton and Thys are drinking them at Bar Bar Black Sheep in Riebeek Kasteel, if you want stock, don't dilly dally.

Contact details: The Wine Kollective, Riebeek Kasteel, (082) 776-9366.

Michael Olivier's Wine of the Week Oude Denneboom Grysbok Chenin Blanc 2009

The price: R38 a 75ml bottle. Available from the farm only.

First Impression: Different Chenin, no overt guava, honey or flowers.

The Story: The chaps at Oude Denneboom have it - We passionately believe that if something is worth doing it is worth doing well and today we're in an ideal position to do things in an eco-friendly way as we see the impact of our activities on our environment every day.

The Taste: The taste follows on after the smells of grated Golden Delicious Apples and ripe Williams pears. You get all these plus the bonus of pineapple and ginger root juice. Soft and round and creamy.

Michael Says: I know the Perdeberg quite well and the scrubby coverings of the hills comes through in the wine as a taste of trampled fynbos.

Neil Says: Paardeberg is Ground Zero for old vine Chenin. This one hails from the Stellenbosch facing side of the mountain, which explains the layers of minerality and tannic tension.

Did You Know? A senior editor of US magazine Wine Spectator James Molesworth referred to Voor Paardeberg as Poor Vaardeberg.

The small print: Alcohol 13,5%. 100% Voor Paardeberg Chenin Blanc. Harvested from 23 year old dry land bush vines. 5 tons per hectare. 2 months lees contact after completed fermentation.

Contact details: (021) 869-8073, email, or visit

Chicken with Verjuice & red grapes

As the first red grapes come into season, use a bottle of my Michael Olivier Verjuice to make this yummy dish. Verjuice ­ a medieval ingredient in the kitchen - is made from mid summer harvest grapes and it has the acidity but not the harshness of lemon juice and wine vinegar. My own brand of Verjuice is available at Pete Goffe Wood's Kitchen Cowboys stand at the Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River on Saturday mornings.

You'll need:
  • 8 chicken thighs ­ skin and bone on
  • sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • Vesuvio extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion ­ chopped finely
  • 4 sticks of celery ­ cut into 50mm lengths
  • 500­-600ml Verjuice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 little sprigs of thyme
  • 200ml cream
  • 1 heaped Tbs small capers well soaked on cold water
  • 300g seedless red grapes

Preset the oven at 200ºC. Heat an oven proof casserole over medium heat and pour in sufficient Vesuvio extra virgin olive oil to just cover the base. Rub the thighs liberally with the extra oil. Rub in the sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Once the oil is hot, place the thighs in the casserole, skin side down. Allow the skin to brown up nicely.

When browned on the skin side, turn the pieces over and brown on the other side. Remove to a plate. Pour off any excess oil and add the onion and stir gently until transparent. Add the celery, bay leaves and the sprigs of thyme. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole and pour over 500ml of the Verjuice, bring to the boil and place the lid on the casserole. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid of the casserole and allow the chicken to cook for a further 20 minutes.

Place the thighs on a serving platter and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

Remove any fat off the top using kitchen paper, pour in a splash more verjuice and bring to the boil, scraping down the bottom and sides. Reduce a little and add the cream.

Reseason with the sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Reduce further if desired, add the grapes and the capers and pour over the thighs. Serve with basmati rice and a green vegetable like steamed cabbage or long stemmed broccoli.

Serves 4

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