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Warm food and companionable wines

Wine columnist, Michael Olivier prepares for the autumn chill with hearty food and warm companionable wines.

by: Michael Olivier | 24 Apr 2007

Driving back from the airport before dawn the other day, having bid my daughter Amy and her boyfriend Graham farewell on their way to South America. I opened my car window and the calling of the Olive Thrush followed us as we drove through territory after territory of this wondrous bird.

In autumn, the hours before dawn, when they start their calling are usually the coldest. In late March I pull up the mohair blanket to keep myself warm before switching to the full down duvets of winter.

Autumn is the time for wild mushrooms which grow in abundance in our forests for all to pick. And no I am not going to tell you where either! You might get there before me!

I have even seen them growing on the pavements in Newlands.

As a boy, my brother Geoff and I used to visit with our parents, Miss E L Stephens, Cape Town's fungi expert. On a Sunday afternoon many of her friends would pitch up with baskets of mushrooms they had picked in the forests, for her to identify. Often when there was one poisonous one in the basket, she would turf the whole lot onto her rose bushes and move on to the next basket.

Cooler weather heralds warmer food – usually of the comfort variety. Warmer foods mean warmer wines, so we move perhaps from the whites to the reds and fortifieds.

What's on offer?
Ridgeback His Masters Choice; a clever little play on the record company's dog with Vernon Cole's beautiful Ridgeback on the label waiting with his master’s slouch hat in his mouth. The wine is a blend classical in the Rhone Valley of Shiraz (red grape) predominating and Viognier (white grape) present in a splash but adding so much to the aromatics of the wine. It is utterly delicious and would be a perfect match with a light autumn casserole of lamb.

Jeremy Walker's Grangehurst reds are all just so delicious coming from the golden mile of the Helderberg, the perfect place for superb red wines. His Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my current favourites with all the elegance, restraint, balance and mildly grippy tannins one would expect. A deeply yummy partner for steak off the grill – and I include ostrich steak.

David Finlayson's, Glen Carlou Tortoise Hill red is a mélange of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is some Zinfandel there and Touriga, a Portuguese Port grape. This makes it a really interesting wine which will go down well with a pizza or a large pasta like penne, with an earthy tomato garlic and anchovy sauce.

We had our first bredie the other night and cracked a bottle of Simonsig Adelberg which has been gussied up with a screw cap (we drink to that) and an elegant new label. Classical Bordeaux stuff of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With flavours of lovely ripe berries and spice – vanilla from the oak, and sappy Merlot adding the juicy sweetness and soft tannins to the mix. Great value too.

It has a sister in Adelblanc which is a forward little hussy offering apple fresh fruit, herbs and blossoms, zappy Sauvignon Blanc 68 percent and the rest Semillon to fatten out the palate. Delicious with a sauce made from cepes picked in the forest, cream and a touch of Marsala which we just love in conjunction with mushrooms.

More offerings next time on early winter wines.

Michael Olivier trained at The London Cordon Bleu Cookery School and is a well known food and wine fundi. He convenes the Diners Club Wine List of the Year Awards with his friend Michael Bamfield-Duggan.

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