Idiom is a wine estate that has been on my radar for a long time now. At the Stellenbosch Wine Festival earlier this year, I was attracted to their table by their unusual, single cultivar wines – Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Viognier, Sémillon and a “late harvest” Merlot made from grapes that had been pulverized on the vine during a hailstorm. Talk about making lemonade from lemons. At Taste the Helderberg, I was yet again drawn to Idiom’s table, where I tasted my way through their entire range, neglecting most other wineries.
In short, I have been dying to visit this estate for a long time and as fate would have it, this time of year marks the second anniversary of the restaurant at Idiom Wines and we were privileged enough to be extended an invitation for lunch! The stars aligned and in spite of the spring weather doing its usual schizophrenic thing and the “Total Shutdown” of Cape Town’s roads threatening to rain on my parade (literally and figuratively), I struck out for Idiom with a skip in my step.
Idiom’s Spectacular Restaurant and Winery
Winding your way up through bucolic farmlands and quaint pockets of vineyards on the foothills of Sir Lowry’s Pass, the winery and restaurant at Idiom rears up out of the plush landscape like a dream. The building itself pays homage to its Old World heritage with elegant Roman arches and other classical design embellishments. A clipped, emerald expanse of grass sprawls out at the base of the building, leading to a garden of untamed fynbos vegetation, the olive greens and greys of which are ablaze with blooming pincushion proteas and ericas.
To the east of the winery, the mountains of the Helderberg tower dramatically over the valley; to the north, the land falls away into undulating hills patterned with patches of fynbos and vineyard; and to the west, lies the glittering False Bay. In other words, every facet of Idiom and every view it offers from its altitudinous vantage point is beautiful.
Eye-pleasing aside, the wine that Idiom produces enjoys a lofty position in my list of all-time favourites. I say this without exaggeration or ulterior motive. Quite simply, it is delicious and a pure and loving expression of the fynbos-rich terroir from whence it comes. Where 95% of South African wines are French in provenance, Idiom has dedicated a large portion of its operation to Italian wine of which it produces a handsome collection of single varietal wines: Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo, and the Zinfandel Primitivo.
The latter, my favourite, is rich and sultry, bursting with ripe fruits and berries, velvety in delivery, and has an incredible undercurrent of fynbos and eucalyptus. Actually, this characteristic is present in most of Idiom’s wines and is a testament to the intimate relationship between the vines and a terroir dominated by fynbos and stands of Eucalyptus trees.
Idiom also does a delicious Sémillon and Viognier, as well as a triad of exquisite blends: The Cape Blend (Pinotage with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot), a Bordeaux-style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot); and a Rhône-style blend of Shiraz, Mourvedré, and Viognier. There are more wines still, and you should do yourself a favour and pay Idiom’s tasting room a visit to discover them all!
Three-course lunch with wine
A key Italian wine philosophy is that wine should be made to accompany food. At Idiom, the relationship between wine and food is upheld just as ardently as it is in Italy; however, here, head chef Calum Anderson crafts the food to accompany the wine. Although only two years old, there’s nothing naïve or inexperienced about the food or service in the restaurant. Every dish was a symphony of bright, beautiful colours, fresh ingredients, and juxtaposed yet complementary textures and flavours. And the service was highly attentive, professional, and warm.
For starters, I ordered the cured trout tartare, featuring little nuggets of the bright orange fish arranged in a halo around my plate with pea shoots, capers, dried olives, and dollops of dolce verde and crème fraîche. This perfect spring dish was paired with the lip-smackingly delicious Idiom Viognier 2015, a medium-bodied yet creamy white wine with bold notes of melon, apricots, and nougat.
For mains, I had the tender and flavoursome Chalmar beef fillet, served in a pool of smoked olive jus with crispy fried chickpeas, glazed carrots, and tomato preserve. The pairing for this course was the tall, dark, and handsome Idiom Rhône blend 2011, a powerful, rich, and elegant full-bodied blend.
Dessert wasn’t sweet, but rather an interesting take on a cheese course, featuring frozen mascarpone, burnt butter crumble, salted apricot, and Parmesan cream. And while my tableside neighbours immersed themselves in a fairly spectacular-looking chocolate dessert (accompanied by frequent exclamations of happiness), I enjoyed my somewhat savoury last course with a sweet and golden glass of the Imperium White Gold Viognier.
Idiom lives up to expectations
It’s not often that one falls in love with a winery without at least a little manipulation thrown into the mix – a promotion, a friend’s recommendation, in-your-face marketing, a media event, etc. In this case, however, I spotted Idiom across a crowded room, sampled the estate’s wines, and quite organically, without being goaded along by marketing rhetoric or trickery, fell in love. After a few months’ long distance courtship, I finally set foot upon her soils and had all of my passions affirmed.
Idiom is truly a magnificent winery run by visionary people. I’ve already complimented the food and wine enough and yet I have this nagging urge to sing further praises. Suffice it to say that if you want to fall in love with food, wine, and la dolce vita, get yourself to Idiom, order a glass of the Zinfandel Primitivo (or any of their wines), sit down on her terrace, which overlooks green lawns, a sculpture by Anton Smit, and False Bay, and let love’s sweet anguish wash over you.
This season’s 2-course menu is priced at R315 per person and the 3-course is R390.
Wine pairings range from R30 – R90 per course depending on the wine.
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