AS sure as grapes become wine, their vinous journey from budburst to bottle is no small feat, and the 2023 harvest attests to this. At Cathedral Cellar this annual journey reaches its crescendo in April when the final grapes are brought to its eponymous cellar at KWV. This moment also marks a key transition in the winemaking journey, as the proverbial “baton” is passed from the vineyard team to the cellar team – when the hope and hive of activity of harvest turn to a time of settling and ageing in the cellar. It is perhaps appropriate that this moment is also reflected in the change of season, as well as Easter, a religious holiday characterised by reflection and gratitude.
Water into wine
The 2023 harvest for Cathedral Cellar began on 9 January. It concluded on 29 March, requiring nearly three months of constant attentiveness, traversing various regions in the Western Cape to observe intricate details and changes. KWV’s chief viticulturist, Marco Ventrella, says the 2023 harvest was a vintage “driven by water”. This precious resource makes wine possible and experienced hands like Marco and its team know how to preserve supply for the vines – but those who work with the vine also know that nothing is ever guaranteed.
Just as everything was running like clockwork, with the new moon came torrential rains with dry spells in between before the heavens once again drenched the earth. “These rains seriously stuck the cat among the pigeons, compelling us to wait for the sugars to come up and the vineyards to dry before making our next move. Thankfully, the water bearer spared us a break to bring in the last fruit before rot or disease could set in, and we wrapped up the harvest on a healthy and physiologically ripe note,” says Marco.
Still, there is no recipe to mitigate the outcome of a fickle vintage such as 2023 but relying on instinct and experience. “That is why a time of thanksgiving to every hand, raindrop and healthy berry is vital to embrace the year and each wine to follow from this harvest,” says Cathedral Cellar brand manager, Tanya Blokdyk.
To highlight this time of thanks, Cathedral Cellar ambassador chef, Mynhardt Joubert, was asked to develop a series of recipes to highlight the qualities of this exquisite range of wines.
A feast of thanks
Inspired by the spirit of Easter and in true generous form, Mynhardt developed a feast that can only evoke gratitude. His menu includes Italian-style schiacciata bread (made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes), iconic curried pickled yellowtail, white-wine infused Provençal lamb shanks with green olives and artichokes, as well decadent Pinotage chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and sea salt.
“Each of these dishes relates a very special story”, says Mynhardt, “the schiacciata flatbread evokes a sense of togetherness, as guests need to break a piece from the bread and share around the table. The pickled fish has such a deep-rooted cultural base in our South African society, and its smell so synonymous with Easter and its familial connection. A dish of hearty lamb shank heralds the colder winter months, and it is such a fitting meal to have in autumn as we bid farewell to summer. Lastly, the Pinotage cake is just a magical dish that will remain in the minds of diners long after they’ve left the table!”
- Follow Cathedral Cellar on @KWV_CathedralCellar #ALegacyEngraved #ThanksToTheVine
Since time is of the essence with Easter weekend upon us, here is Mynhardt’s pickled fish recipe. We will share the other recipes over the next couple of weeks.
LEMONY PICKLED YELLOWTAIL
“There are a lot of things that excite me about autumn, harvest and the coming easter celebrations but nothing like the hungry expectation of curried pickled fish,” says Mynhardt. “It is ingrained in our society, and I know of few people who can resist this iconic piece of South African heritage cooking. I have read many recipes from many cooks like Errieda du Toit and Michael Olivier over the years and I draw inspiration from all of them. This is our version served warm with an extra helping of preserved lemon mayonnaise. The Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay is a perfect match for this dish with its layered textures and flavours.
Serves: 4 – 6
Preparation Time: 60 minutes and two days in advance to pickle
Easy to prepare
For the fish
- 2kg fillet of fish (I love using a firm fish like yellowtail, but make sure to remove all the bones and cut into large bite sized portions)
- 250ml of Willow Creek lemon-flavoured olive oil
For the Lemony Pickle
- 6 large onions cleaned and cut into large slices
- 100ml of Willow Creek coriander-flavoured olive oil
- 80ml of Rajah Mild and Spicy Curry Powder
- 10ml turmeric – freshly grated turmeric would be first prize
- 25ml coriander roasted in a hot pan and roughly grounded – not too fine
- 30ml allspice
- 5ml sweet smoked paprika
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 15ml dried chilli flakes
- 50g grated ginger
- Salt and black pepper to taste (I love using white pepper)
- Juice and rind of two lemons
- 750ml good quality white wine vinegar
- 300ml water
- 6 each of fresh bay and lemon leaves thinly sliced
- This dish needs be made at least two to three days in advance – it just gets better on standing.
- Cover the fish with flour and in a large frying pan over medium heat, bake each side of the coated fish in the lemon-flavoured olive oiluntill golden brown – drain on paper towels and allow to cool.
- Prepare the pickle by frying the onions on low heat in the coriander-flavouerd olive oil until translucent before adding all the spices, continuing to gently cook on a low heat until cooked through – about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, water, vinegar and sliced leaves and bring to the boil, let it gently simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Start layering the fish into a large glass bottle or ceramic dish and gently cover each layer with the lemony curry sauce.
- Let it cool completely, cover tightly and let it rest in the fridge for at least two to three days.
- Serve with our freshly baked schiacciata harvest bread (look out for this recipe and more next week) and chilled Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay.