Monday, September 25, 2023

South African Dinner Dazzles With Tasteful Dishes And Stark-Condé Wine

Stark-Condé South African Wines

Wines from South Africa find the sweet spot between Old World winemaking techniques and New World flavors.

Stark-Condé Syrah
Diverse Roots

When we were invited to sample a selection of South African wines from Stark-Condé. It was the perfect occasion to throw an aandete partytjie (dinner party) pairing these delicious bottles with elegant dishes.

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Stark-Condé is a family business that encompasses a story of diversity as well.

South African patriarch Hans Schroder was raised in Stellenbosch. In the 1960s while attending university in Japan, Hans met and married fellow student Midori Maruyama. At the time, their marriage was illegal in Hans’ native South Africa due to the apartheid regime’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act so the young couple settled in Japan. They remained in Tokyo for the next nearly three decades where they raised three daughters.

South African dinner and scallop entree

In the late 1980s and with the changes on the horizon in South Africa, Hans and Midori decided it was time to return to his native country. They purchased the Oude Nektar farm in 1989 and focused on growing grapes. In 1998, eldest daughter Marie and her American husband José also relocated to South Africa to join the family – and the family business, where with an artisan’s attention to detail and a purist’s approach in the cellar, José slowly developed Stark-Condé’s wines.

Gary and Diane and Bobotie

Today, Stark-Condé wines and the family of brands includes Stark-Condé, MAN Family Wines, Lievland Vineyards, Essay, and KaraTara. The range has something for everyone, from wine novice to lovers of classically styled wines.

Celebrating South African Wine

Friends enjoying dinner and sosatie kabob

To make a six-course meal possible, we enlisted the culinary expertise of our guests, inviting them to create a dish for an assigned wine. Our guests were Kyle and Natalie Hampton, Arthur and Mary Barham, Rob and Chris Rudloff, and Gary and Diane Wessell. Of course, this would not have been possible without the cooking and organizing of my wife, the Green Dragon.

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After a bit of bubbly, we uncorked our first SA wine: the 2021 Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, from MAN. Warrelwind is a whirlwind in Afrikaans, and this was a beauty, with an accent on herbaceousness and rich tropical notes. A nice accompaniment to the fresh Caprese Salad.

South African Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa’s most well-known wines, and we featured two on our menu. The first was the 2021 Monk Stone Chenin, Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, from Stark-Condé. This is a complex wine aged in amphorae and second-use oak. It has lovely nectarine and apple flavors with notes of wet stone. The tasty leek and asparagus quiche was a perfect partner, not overpowering the delicate tastes of the wine.

The 2021 Essay (“S A” get it?) is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier from the Coastal Region. This wine is slightly off-dry with generous fruit and a palate of pineapple and guava. It is a dynamite food fine and glasses were refilled and the bottle emptied as we tasted the succulent seared scallops and shrimp served with oranges and rocket salad. At an SRP of $11.99, this is a steal.

Bobotie is a South African casserole with minced beef at the bottom and a thin layer of egg custard on the top. Diane and Gary seasoned it to perfect. The KaraTara Pinot Noir was striking with the bobotie. I couldn’t imagine a better match. A touch of pepper is typical from Pinots in this area and it really worked with this dish. It also had classic cherry and strawberry notes.

Exploring South African Cuisine

Sosatie is a lamb kebab from South Africa with Cape Malay roots. Arthur whipped this up with three different sauces, including one with apricot. In the past, the only really good Pinotage I’ve had is what I tasted in South Africa. The Lievland Bushvine Pinotage from Paarl turned my preconception upside down. This was an elegant Pinotage with luscious raspberry and hints of oak and vanilla. It is a smooth and savory wine. SRP is $18.99.

Caprese salad and rich dessert

Do they love dark chocolate in South Africa? We don’t know, but the Green Dragon decided that a Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake would be the ideal pairing with the 2018 Stark-Condé Syrah. She was right. The key to pairing with Syrah is to have dark or bittersweet chocolate desserts. Something sweet would be a recipe for disaster. This was a scrumptious highlight of the evening. The Syrah is one of the best I’ve tasted this year, rich with dark fruit and jammy currant. The tannins are silky smooth and there is a touch of savory mushroom on the close.

Our guests were quite tickled with the fantastic food and wine feast, but we were not done. As we continued to savor the cheesecake, I opened a bottle of Amarula. Amarula is often shared during a South African braai, a gathering of friends and family around a wood-fired grill. The creme liqueur is made from the Marula fruit, which is the favorite food of African elephants. It is creamy with a fruity, toffee-like flavor.

It was an evening to remember thanks to a culinary marriage of great food and exemplary South African wines.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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