Blog: From BBQ to Braai
For just $35, hundreds of guests flocked to the loft space at Studio 450 on Thursday night, elevated high atop West 31st Street providing panoramic views of Manhattan’s west side. In conjunction with local nonprofit organization Edible Schoolyard, the collective Wines of South Africa organization brought dozens upon dozens of fine regional wines together for a comprehensive tasting event entitled “From BBW to Braai.” With the outdoor grill space being manned by the trained hands of famed Chef Hugo Uys, the multi-level space filled with tastemakers was literally transformed into the sights, smells and even sounds of South Africa.
As we arrived, we quickly grabbed our tasting glasses and sought out some samples- pausing momentarily to grab some bites of beef jerky and handfuls of dried prunes and trail mix which were offered around the space at carefully placed high top tables. Just outside meanwhile, cooking savory meats over an outdoor fire, Chef Uys slaved over the likes of seasoned lamb and Boere Wors Rolls (South African sausage) in the open air terrace space behind many of the wine vendors on the Studio’s second level. Paired with an array of salads and some light seafood, the deliciously charred meats were forced to play second fiddle to a selection of outstanding wines- each organized by their importers and being sold on site courtesy of Tribeca Wine Merchants. Fortunately, the reasonable price points were overshadowed only by the wines’ wide range of distinctive flavors.
Although many of the wines on hand retail at less than $15, we made sure to sip on some of the pricier offerings while our taste buds were still fresh. Our two favorite regional styles happen to be the refreshing ‘Chenin Blanc’ and the bold ‘Pinotage’ and there were plenty of these on hand from which to taste. The 2012 “Bellingham Old Vine Chenin Blanc” ($22) for instance immediately popped with pungency. The golden pour was rich with an apple nose and a smooth buttery finish that was deliciously long. Meanwhile, we supremely enjoyed two separate Pinotages- the 2012 “Warwick Estate Old Vine” ($23) was as big as advertised. With its dark chocolate nose and ripe red dark cherry, the wine is potentially a better fit for colder months, but was among our favorites on this night despite the warm temperature outside. The “Hidden Valley Pinotage” ($22.99) was for us just a notch above its predecessor for its remarkable softness despite equally complex elements in the finish.
If you’re like us, a $25 bottle isn’t necessarily the only way to enjoy a good bottle of wine. Where “From BBQ to Braai” really succeeded was showcasing a plethora of affordably priced special South African wines- some better than others- but we made sure to take note of some of our absolute favorites. Dubbed “The Offical BBQ Wine,” the 2013 “Ribshack Red Wine” was a delicious table wine, perfect for pairing with the savory delicacies being doled out on each plate. Pleasantly robust with a bit of smoke on the nose, $10.99 is a tremendous value for this Pinotage-Shiraz blend which was created specifically for sipping whilst grilling – or in your apartment cooking ‘cue on your stovetop. Other low cost standouts included the the sparkling “Balance Boldly Brut” ($10.99), the uber-light 2013 “Indaba Chenin Blanc” ($11.99) and the 2012 “Nederburg Pinotage” ($9.99), another complex wine that was a steal for the price.
Of all the wines we indulged upon- and there were plenty- the Simonsig table had us returning for repeat visits. The wines perhaps most synonymous with South Africa were our favorites of the evening as their 2012 “Chenin Blanc” ($13.99) was richly full-bodied for a crisp white and their 2010 “Pinotage” ($17.99), which paired excellently with the evening’s fare, was ripe with red fruit with hints of cinnamon throughout each lingering sip. Though the food lines certainly built up as the evening wore on, they moved quickly allowing guests to have plenty of space to imbibe and taste around the room. The outdoor terrace spaces also gave attendees the chance to get some fresh- albeit humid- air and to chat casually with likeminded drinkers, exchanging tasting suggestions about their favorites while peering out toward the City’s skyline. The wide variety of South African cultures and regions were fully on display in Manhattan on Thursday night, despite being some 8000 miles away.
- Jane Van Arsdale