EVERY wine maker I know loves food. It’s a given: if you make good wine, you care about how it’s served and what it’s served with.
In fact, many wine makers are as skilful in the kitchen as they are in cellar, which is why a book containing the favourite recipes of the country’s best wine makers is a cracking idea.
Cellarmasters in the Kitchen was written to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) by former Wine magazine editor and the author of South African Wine — A Celebration and Wines & Vineyards of South Africa, Wendy Toerien. It profiles each of the organisation’s 45 present members, who have been invited to join the CWG because of "their high standards of craftsmanship".
But Toerien doesn’t focus only on their wine-making skills and triumphs. In an informal style, she includes personal anecdotes, information about their families and their experiences with food.
Every profile is concluded with two of each wine maker’s favourite recipes, matched with one or more of his or her (Rianie Strydom is the CWG’s only female wine maker) top wines.
Toerien has been writing about South African wine for more than 20 years: she knows her stuff and her confidence is evident in her writing. Even so, the effort required to write this comprehensive book is laudable.
Aside from the piece on each wine maker and the recipes, Toerien recalls the history of the CWG and writes about its many initiatives and activities.
It is an attractive, neatly structured book with both a general index and, crucially, one for the recipes only. It also contains ample interesting photographs — by Mike Carelse — of the wine makers and their families, pets, wine and food.
Certainly, Cellarmasters in the Kitchen is a veritable tome of information. But is it an almanac, coffee-table book or cookbook? On the one hand, the extensive information about the guild and its members makes me want to put it in the bookshelf in my office between Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine and Toerien’s earlier books.
But, on the other hand, it also contains more than 90 recipes, which, although there’s a strong South African flavour (there are several braai and seafood recipes), are wonderfully diverse.
Many combinations, such as Carl Schultz’s crayfish risotto with cauliflower purée and lime and vanilla dressing, and Adi Badenhorst’s Swartland Eggs Benedict on sweet potato rosti with fresh asparagus, I have not come across before.
Among others, I’ll also happily apron-up to make Kevin Arnold’s prawn bisque and Danie Steytler’s lamb shank potjie again.
At R395, Cellarmasters in the Kitchen isn’t cheap, but if you’re interested in South African wine, who produces the best and what food they suggest you enjoy it with, this is a worthwhile addition to any bookshelf, whether in the study or kitchen.