Free-Run, Platter's new social media feature, got off to a flying start on Friday morning with a lively conversation with Cape Town food and wine bloggers Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert of Batonage - A Journey Into Wine & Food, about ordering wine by the glass in restaurants.
Free-Run, on Facebook and Twitter (@wineonaplatter, #freerunfriday) each Friday at 11h00, is a space for linking up with lovers of South African wine locally and around the globe, and finding out what they think about the topic of the day - which could be anything from choosing housewine by the glass (without setting your teeth on edge!), to selecting a South African dream team for an imaginary Wine Olympics, to creating a nest egg for you and your significant other with investment-grade South African vino.
During Free-Run Friday, Platter's connects with celebrities, bloggers, journalists, cellarmasters, industry professionals, "anoraks" and casual quaffers, and invites all wine lovers to join in the conversation via Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email or any other preferred channel.
Wine lovers are also encouraged to suggest their own topic for the following week’s feature, and thereby get in line to win an invitation to the launch of the 2013 edition of Platter's in Cape Town in November.
The opening Free-Run conversation was about ordering wine by the glass in restaurants, and featured Batonage's Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert.
Platter's: When do you choose to drink wines by the glass, as opposed to ordering a bottle? How useful is wine by the glass in exploring unfamiliar wine styles and varieties?
Batonage: When there are good options available for by-the-glass, we always see if we can order (and thus taste) more than 1 wine. On another note: if we've arrived at the restaurant after a wine tasting, we'll most definitely only want to order a glass! #palatefatigue If there are NOT suitable wine by the glass options, we just won't bother with wine at all.
Platter's: What's most important when choosing wines by the glass: price, brand, quality, the food it's meant to accompany?
Batonage: The quality for sure! We are not insensitive to price and of course, the pairing is important, too. Brand means the least in this instance. Most expensive glass of wine we've ever ordered was R153 (!) from Gevrey-Chambertin but we usually try to not make the bank manager that nervous.That said, it paired beautifully with our food!
Platter's: What's your impression of the term "house wine"? How do you rate the quality of house wine generally?
Batonage: Unfortunately for us it means "cheap & nasty" - it seems as if restaurants go for the cheapest options most of the time. The top end guys do actually list what their house wine is, which makes it easier to make a decision & it could generally be of better quality. Our impression of "house wine" is that it's usually a very cheap Sauvignon Blanc (best drunk with ice) or a palate stripping Pinotage that shows the worst of its characteristics (British wine writers, beware!)
Platter's: What price range do you deem to be acceptable for wines by the glass? At what price point would you rather just order a bottle?
Batonage: With the exception of our 1 splash, we try not to exceed R75, there are superb options even at R19 (at Societi Bistro for example, the Terra de Capo Sangiovese) - I'd say R55 sound about right for decent wine. We often find ourselves paying more for glasses of MCC (WHY?) - eg Steenberg's 1682 MCC selling for R60+ at Balducci's. Ordering a bottle instead actually has nothing to do with price (unless there's a glaring mathematical advantage in it) - if you only want a glass, that's all you buy!
Platter's: Which are some of your favourite restaurants/wine bars to enjoy wines by the glass (which have the biggest range etc.)?
Batonage: Cape Town seems to suffer from a lack of decent wine bars, so we mostly frequent restaurants with good by-the-glass options & wine lists in general. The Twankey at the Taj Hotel has a fabulous (tad pricey) wine list. Service is always great with some cool snackies on the tables. We spend a lot of time at Burrata - Neil Grant has an exceptional wine list at very reasonable prices (by the glass and bottle); he doesn't stock the boring stuff! We like La Mouette and La Boheme for their selection & prices. Societi Bistro (especially with the Italian Tour) they have great options available that you don't see every day. El Burro (yes, you don't expect that from a "Mexican" place) has a good value wine list, given that I'm pretty sure we're the only people ordering wine there (tequila & beer rule them chillies!) And lastly, Dear Me (mostly only open for lunch) always has interesting wine pairing (by the glass) for all menu items - makes your lunch far more interesting! They introduced us to Howard Booysen's fabulous Riesling, by the way!
Platter's: Thanks for that comprehensive list, we're sure many Capetonians - and visitors to the Cape - will find it very useful! Time for a final, bonus question: What are your most and least favourite things about wine-by-the-glass, and what improvement/s would you most like to see in terms of service, availability, quality etc?
Batonage: The place where we order the MOST wine by the glass by far is (unexpectedly) &UNION - they've got a GREAT wine list & we're always trying new stuff by the glass. Their aim is to have only wines that are stocked exclusively by them and it shows! Yes the beer is good, but we always turn to the WINE there... Least favourite: the cheap & nasty stuff served in crappy glasses. TIP: don't go to a restaurant and order "a glass of dry white"... Another problem with by-the-glass is oxidised wines - left in the bottle too long because it's not ordered in great enough volumes. It is obviously a financial burden for the restaurants as well and you cannot expect them to stock a wine just so you and 2 other people can have a glass once a week! Most favourite: The variety & the opportunity to discover new wines. It obviously lends itself to good food pairing (the holy grail and all that). Cost of course - you spend less money!