Sunday, October 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: Cathy Can Zyl, Masters of Wine

Remy Law

Hello everyone, I’m Cathy van Zyl, travelling in Malaysia for the first time and enjoying it immensely. I’m in KL as a guest of Lionel Lau and Chris Low, better known to you as ‘The Cork Brothers’.

To tell the truth, it was a bit of a rush – arriving at my home in Somerset West, South Africa, after from walking the five-day Whale Trail with my husband, Philip, and a group of friends at around 17h00 on the Wednesday and getting to the airport at 08h00 on the Thursday – but I made it. And with 24 hours I was in KK at the instigation of Remi Law, a wine friend who has moved here from Singapore, and who arranged for me to present a master class and wine dinner at the Hyatt Regency using wines selected by Meng Tan of winecellars, a wine distribution company in the city.

Champagne in Heineken Bucket

Remi and another friend, Angela (yes, it seems I have so many friends – you do in the world of wine!) who came over for the weekend and to attend the two events, were very concerned that I eat well so we went to a fish market-cum-restaurant, the docks to watch the catch being offloaded, a morning market in Remi’s new home village and a private home to join about 60 other people in a non-stop feast all within 18 hours of my plane touching down!

After that we had the class and the dinner, which was a very special meal itself. I suspect Remi had forgotten how much I talk or he would have suggested an hour-long presentation instead of two; but the faces of my audiences didn’t slump in despair, or their eyes glaze over, so I’ll notch this one up as a success.

The wines we enjoyed (and contrasted in style and origin) were Bollinger Special Cuvee NV and Bolla Torralta Prosecco NV; Maison Kerlann Chablis 2006, William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2006 and Taylors Clare Valley Chardonnay 2007; and Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2003, Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2004 and Fontana Le Selezioni Barolo Serralunga 2003.
Those in the sparkling and white flights did their jobs admirably, as did the Australian shiraz from South Australia (a blend of Barossa Valley and Eden Valley grapes) but unfortunately neither the La Chapelle or Barolo showed well. The former was just too ripe and lacked depth on the mid-palate while the latter was firstly too young to broach now but also appeared a bit ‘grubby’. Never mind, just gives us all there the opportunity to seek out other bottles and give the wines another go. Their reputations say they deserve it

The G8 with Cathy

The following day, we set off to Kinabalu National Park and here I had my very own ‘Sideways Moment’. Now, I don’t recall ever watching the scene from the movie Sideways in which the neurotic central character, Miles, consumes his beloved 1961 Cheval Blanc from a paper cup in a McDonalds outlet – I tried watching it on a crowed aeroplane, a challenge – but I’ve heard enough about it to know that my experience, while similar, were far happier than his. Miles is a divorced, failed author who takes a bachelor trip with his soon-to-be-married friend to wine-tasting country; a bitter-sweet experience for him, a far less cerebral and more carnal one for the friend.

Mine took place at the dinner Remi and Angela and I shared in a nondescript roadside motel. Here, courtesy of Agnela, we enjoyed a 2000 Réserve de la Comtesse, the second wine of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from decent glasses but a rather unusual decanter – a mid-sized beer jug! The meal was fresh and fantastic, the wine rich and dark-fruited, powerful but supple, and spicy. Angela, whose ambition it seems is to convince me that Bordeaux goes with everything (in Singapore last year, the meal was salmon sashimi), decided that the best match on the table was mushrooms stir-fried in garlic. After I said they had a porcini texture and flavour, she ordered another batch, this time stir-fried in a local sauce called ‘PX’. Bordeaux goes quite nicely with that, too, thank you.

Back in Kota Kinabalu the next evening, we set out to try Bah Kut The and, this time, the wine was a Laurent-Perrier given to me by Meng, because she’d run out of the Bollinger Special Cuvee I wanted to buy. We’d chilled the bubbles in a Heineken-branded ice bucket we’d borrowed from the hotel bar. Once again, the meal was superb and the wine spot-on. I had a smile on my face during my Sideways, I don’t think Miles did.

The trouble cork brothers

Here in KL a day later, I reunited with Lionel and met Chris and have spent several very happy days meeting their wine friends and eating, eating, eating. The Cork Brothers have taken me to some very special restaurants – like one serving Nyonya food in Kota Damansara, Malay food in Rebung at Bangsar, banana leaf indian food at TTDI; another the best roast duck and geese in the city (beforehand, we collected the best roast pork in the city and took it along with us to complement our meal). Let me tell you, wine goes exceptionally well with these dishes – an Australian riesling with the pork and an Amarone (from Italy) with the goose. I’d tell you more but I suspect Chris is already blogging the tale. And also to the oldest Chinese restaurant in KL for a quick but delicious lunch … with Chinese tea, a novel experience for this wine lover!

But, one of my best moments so far, was when The Cork Brothers arrived at the wine tasting dinner without a cork screw. I had to laugh … and so you can laugh along with me, took this snap of them phoning around to fellow tasters who hadn’t arrived yet to ask them to bring along a cork screw.

Till next time.

* ‘Cheers’ in Afrikaans

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