Entertaining. (Also with wine. And food.)

Monday, 11 October, 2004
Lesley Beake
Nederburg’s new wine and food pairing extravaganza – the hottest show in town.

Katinka van Niekerk could well be described as a 'legend in her own lunchtime' - and make that breakfast-time and dinnertime too. As one of South Africa's great spokeswomen on the art of pairing food with wine, she has long enjoyed the affection of those lucky enough to attend her talks and lectures at the Cape Wine Academy and elsewhere - including Germany and France, where she has promoted South African wines.

But now she has her own show. The theatre impresario is Nederburg. The play is staged in the enchanting Nederburg Homestead and the drama (artfully interspersed with spontaneous humour) is in three courses. 'Welcome to the world of palate scrubbers,' Katinka says, daintily tearing off a bite of bread between taste experiences. 'Shall we go for taste heaven with the next wine? Or destroy it?

Because that is what food can do to wine ... and wine to food. Marry and live happily ever after - or conflict horribly and end up in the divorce courts. (Palate scrubbers, by the way, remain on the table - with the water - while the butter is, most firmly, taken away).

Nederburg offers a sufficient range of wines to be able to play happily - and at a price that the average dinner party can sustain. This is not about rarified tastes and überpalates. It's about basic knowledge that can make or break a meal. 'It's no good,' Katinka says solemnly, 'going for a Parker-scored wine of 92 and then drinking it with something it is going to hate.'

And the old rules no longer apply; 'Food has changed. You get fusion now ... whether you want it or not ... and the balance of the food and the wine is different. 'Wine by the glass is the way to go. You can play!'

Which is what the audience truly does during the presentation. Six wines and a potstill-style brandy were on the tasting mat the day we tasted - and an assortment of different, and challenging, flavours ranging from sushi to hollandaise sauce (the latter with beef, lamb and venison).  Taste and sip, sip and taste - mix and match, match and mix. Try the bitter salad leaves with one wine - and then another. Add the vinaigrette dressing - or not. Dip the pretzel in salt - or soy sauce.

All this interspersed with wicked humour and quick-witted response to the audience (in our case including some of the grandest grande dames of food writing in South Africa). This is an absolute winner of a course -and a wonderful opportunity for tourists and locals alike to taste South African wine and local food. By the time the two-hour course is finished, the participants have not only learned a hell of a lot that they never knew they needed to know - they've also had lunch! Most highly recommended.

Katinka's style:

'One should not,'(just before a deliberately horrible matching), 'be allowed to do this to a wine! Shall we move into the reds for more horror?'

'Brussels decided,' (on opening Champagne and Cap Classique), 'that one is allowed to pop again. Just gently, so that people in other corners of the restaurant know you're having some.'

'I'm not sure that fruit and wine should go together at all. But then ... we don't like water.'

This is, in Katinka's own words, 'not a course, it's an event,' - one that takes place daily at the Nederburg Homestead in Paarl. There are two options - the Gourmet Gallery of Tastes, which lasts about 2 hours, and the 90-minute Basic Art of Balance. The presentations change frequently to incorporate seasonal foods and new wines and are designed for people who love to entertain and eat out.

To book call Nederburg on (021) 862 3104 or visit www.nederburg.co.za for more details.