Kevin Swart loves to do things differently. His route into the wine industry was different, his labels are different, and now his team have created a tantalising tasting experience that is (you guessed it) different.
Kevin is the managing director of Black Elephant Vintners, a wine company he started with partners Raymond Ndlovu and Jacques Wentzel. Raymond is the non-executive chairman and Jacques is the winemaker and viticulturalist. Together they have created a range of wines, each with their own personality and story. They best way to get acquainted with their wines is to enjoy their specialised tastings at Ryan’s Kitchen.
When you drive to Franschhoek from Cape Town, Ryan’s Kitchen is on the main road near the entrance of the picturesque town. The tastings take place in a lovely corner of the eatery and on a warm day you can sit outside. You can choose between four courses and seven courses. If you just want to try the wine, you can, but I highly recommend the pairing. The food is meticulously prepared by Chef Ryan Smith and is perfectly paired to the Black Elephant Vintners wine.
The first thing to note is that this is a tasting, not a meal. You receive small portions of each dish to try with the wine. While the are portions made for each person, they are served together for two people to share. This helps create a more social experience, and if you are anything like me, eating off your friends plate is a common occurrence anyway.
We got to try the seven course option that started to everyone’s delight with MCC. This was paired with octopus and apple ceviche and is only served in the seven course option. Both options include the Fox & Flamingo Rosé with fish sashimi, 2 Dogs, a Peacock & a Horse with green peas, gooseberry miso gel, Timothy White with snoek and potatoes, and Nicholas Red with cheese and eggplant croquettes. The seven-course option also includes Amistad Pinotage with linefish and Amistad Syrah with braised lamb.
If the names of the wines got you intrigued, you are not alone. As you go through the wines you get to learn how they got their names and why. The labels of the wine are insanely cool. As his is a fairly new brand, Kevin decided to make his labels as quirky and interesting as their names. The logic behind this is: you judge a book by its cover, so why not wine? The only difference is the wine needs to be good enough to to keep people going back. Spoiler alert: It is. And so is the food.
While the experience as a whole was great, two items stood out for me. First was the Nicholas Red blend. While most winemakers blend wines after each individual wines are made, Jacques blends the wine in barrel from the beginning. It is a risk, but produced a really interesting wine. The second was the Amistad Pinotage and linefish paring. My first instinct was to correct the chef. Serving fish with red wine is highly irregular. But for some reason it works. It is also a testament to how being different can make you stand out, and that is what Black Elephant Vintners is all about.
When Monday – Saturday 12 noon – 3:30 pm
Where Ryan’s Kitchen, 1 Place Vendome, Huguenot Road, Franschhoek
Cost Four courses R235 (R75 wine only), Seven Courses R330 (R125 wine only)
Contact +27 21 8762903, [email protected], www.bevintners.co.za
Photography Melissa Van Der Scholtz