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Swartland Hanepoot - Ancient grape, modern pleasure

Written by  Harry Haddon | June 25, 2014

The door slams shut behind you. You shake the drizzle from your coat. A cold wind lifts and throws a billows rain against the windowpanes. As the sound of the drumming rain fades you know its time to choose a drink. It has been a long day, it’s cold, and you are in need of something restorative.

You open your fridge. A half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc stares out at you. Impossible in this weather.
        Your gaze moves to the meager selection of red wines in a 12- bottle wine rack. Starke Conde Cabernet Sauvignon 2009? As good a defense against the inclement weather as any, but it would be better with dinner later, surely? A robust and meaty Shiraz? The Hartenberg and Saronsberg lie there waiting to be picked up.
        No. You need something quick; a one glass wonder to warm your bones. Something with the special reward of sweetness that’s always somehow more satisfying on a blustery winter’s eve.
        You need a sweet wine.  But, as with most South Africans, there is none to be found in your house. Despite having access to numerous delicious, affordable, and eminently drinkable sweet wines, your larder is bare.
        What to do?  Well we can give you a hand. This month our featured wine is the Swartland Hanepoot.  A perfect starting point for your departure into sweet wines.
        Winter is a good time to begin your enjoyment of the decadent side of winemaking. While they can just as easily be sipped and savored in the heat of the summer – a little Cape Tawny over a few ice-cubes does a miraculous job if  you’ve taken too much sun – there is something about the warmth of a rich dessert wine that takes the edge off almost any winter chill.
Untitled-18        One reason that  we suggest starting off with a Hanepoot is that the grape used to make them - Muscat of Alexandria (we call it Hanepoot) – is one of great historical importance in the South African wine scene.
        It is one of the early varieties planted in the Cape by that intrepid fellow Jan van Riebeeck. An ancient grape, it is believed to be one of the oldest genetically unmodified vines still around.
        Researchers think that the  vines of this venerable grape originated in North Africa (possibly Egypt) and were spread around the Mediterranean by the Romans. The vine is grown in warm climates as it is sensitive to cool weather during flowering and needs good heat for the grapes to ripen.
        While it can be used for everything from dry wines, dessert wines to Brandy, Swartland Winery have chosen to produce a fortified dessert wine out of it.
        With this type of wine the grapes are pressed and to maintain a high sugar-level grape spirit is added to halt fermentation. The result is a spicy, warming draft with a good dose of alcohol.  
        The wine is full flavoured, with rich aromas of dried-banana and peach and the typical spicy floral aromas of the Muscat grape. The grapes themselves are so delicious that in some old wineries they are planted amongst the other vines to give the workers something to munch on.
        The Swartland Hanepoot also gives some toffee flavours, reminiscent of the Wilsons toffees we all know from road trips around the country. The perfect snack to keep the kids’ jaws clenched so, “Are we theeeere yeeet?” turns into “are we therennom nom nom…..”
        And just how those chewy Wilsons toffees keep the kids in the back quiet, so as the Swartland Hanepoot keeps the winter chills at bay. The rich sugar filled (176-odd grams per litre) wine with its 16% alcohol will warm even the coldest cockle of a drinker’s heart.
        If you feel the need to take your bottle of Hanepoot passed the first drink of a chilly evening and into dinner, you’ll do well to serve something with lots of Asian spices, or come back to the bottle later with dessert; maybe a hot apple crumble with cream.
        South Africa has been making excellent sweet and fortified wines for hundreds of years, yet they still languish on the supermarket shelves. Pick up just one bottle of well-priced Hanepoot this winter and we promise you by the time summer comes around you will start to miss these chilly evenings.

’N SOETETJIE VIR DIE WINTER OF SOMER?

         As jy mense vra of hulle ʼn soet wyntjie soos Hanepoot in die winter of somer geniet, gaan jy uiteenlopende antwoorde kry. Vir die een is ʼn soetetjie iets wat jy in ʼn lekker bolglas voor die kaggel geniet, en vir ʼn ander is dit ʼn somerdrankie wat jy met fyngekneusde ys rondom die braaivleisvuur moet nuttig. Nie eens gepraat van saam met ʼn lamsboud in die oond rooster of as ʼn heerlike sousie oor jou roomys of ander nagereg nie. En dan kry jy diegene wat hul neus optrek vir die vol muskaat- en toffiegeure van Hanepoot. So vertel een vriend dat hy glad nie aan ʼn soetetjie raak nie want dit herinner hom net te veel aan daai studente-dae-hoofpyn die volgende oggend na die jool. Natuurlik te veel daarvan geniet! Hoe dit ook al sy, ons het vandeesmaand ons lesers en die hoof van die jaarlikse Grahamstadse kunstefees gevra wat hul beskeie menings oor ʼn Hanepoot vir die winter of die somer is, en op die koop toe ʼn paar lekker snaakse reaksies ontvang.

ISMAIL MAHOMED

Ismail        Jy kan goeie wyn enige tyd van die jaar drink glo ek. Of dit nou winter of somer is, proe die wyn mos net so lekker. En na my mening gaan goeie wyn saam met goeie kos eerder as ʼn spesifieke wyn saam met ʼn spesifieke seisoen van die jaar. Gehaltewyn is soet, droog, wit of rooi – laat hom nie deur winter of somer voorskryf nie.  Ismail Mahomed is die fees-direkteur van die Grahamstad- Nasionale Kunstefees wat vanjaar weer vanaf 3 tot 13 Julie in Grahamstad plaasvind. Die kunstefees wat die grootste in suidelike Afrika is, bied ʼn verskeidenheid van teater, musiek, kuns en stalletjies vir elke smaak aan.

LESERMENINGS

Hoe geniet jy jou Hanepoot?
Voor die kaggel in die Winter, of op ys in die Somer?

In die kerk so saam met nagmaal. – Juvan Nortjé
Ek was 'n bottelbaba. Grootgemaak op dit. - Niël Ackermann
Ek noem dit die bottelkombers as dit so koud is. – Klaus-Dieter Henning
Ag, gee my sommer net ʼn ou lekker Hanepootjie vanaand . Dan vergeet ek van ʼn kaggel-vuurtjie, of hoe? – Naomi Janet Pienaar
In die winter voor die kaggel mense. – Veronica Esther Fuller
Yskoud winter en somer, dit maak nie saak nie. – Leonie Vermeulen
Deur die mond en dan in die keel af tot die lekker warm gevoel in die maag.
Pas net op vir die klop in die kop môreoggend wat jou hare seermaak.
– Desmond Schultz
In ʼn vloeibare vorm vir my, dankie! – Amanda Lombaard-Booyzen
ʼn Hanepootjie is heerlik of hy uit die yskas kom in die somer of by slaapkamertemperatuur in winter, dit skep ʼn gesellige atmosfeer. – Lorraine Slabbert