Nicole’s Hat 2001 Riesling and Chenin Blanc from South Africa (WBW4) Recipe

Nicole's Hat 2001 Riesling and Chenin Blanc from South Africa (WBW4)

Wine Blogging Wednesday, 4th edition. Host : Derrick. Theme : New World Riesling.

After one near-miss and two full-fledged misses, I was determined to plan for this one well in advance. Hence, a couple of weeks ago, I stepped inside one of the three wine stores that the rue des Martyrs boasts. This one is called Le Repaire de Bacchus (Bacchus’ lair), and it belongs to a franchise of forty such stores in France — when the national leader, Nicolas, has over 400.

I explained to the caviste that I was participating in a wine treasure hunt of sorts, for which I needed to procure a bottle of new world Riesling. He had one match, a South African blend of Riesling and Chenin Blanc from 2001, called Nicole’s Hat. I wondered for half a second if the presence of Chenin Blanc would disqualify it for this WBW, but decided, considering the limited new world choices you get in France, that I would give Nicole and her hat a chance.

I paid the 9.90€ and asked the salesguy if he could tell me a bit about the wine. He said that like most Rieslings it had a mineral and pétroleux taste, that the Chenin Blanc made rounder and fruitier. He recommended I cool it in the fridge for an hour before drinking it, on its own as an apéritif, or with fish and other light courses.

On the label, it said : “This zesty white wine is a celebration of crispy fruit flavours so typical of South African noble white varietals. Blended from selected Chenin Blanc and Riesling grapes of Paarl, Nicole’s Hat is made to be enjoyed on its own and will complement salads, fish and light pastas. Produced and bottled by Ashanti of Paarl, South Africa.” Alrighty.

After letting it freshen up a bit in the fridge, we uncorked the bottle using our tip-top deluxe wall-mounted corkscrew, a housewarming gift from our friend Baptiste a couple of years ago, and a cool home appendage that even your most blasé visitors are sure to comment upon. It just so happens that I have not yet mastered the noble art of wall-mounted bottle opening — I seem to have just a tad less triceps strength than is required and have sent artful splatters of wine onto our eggshell white wall on more occasions than I care to count — so Maxence is usually head of operations in that department.

The wine poured clear and liquid, and it revealed the lovely color of pink gold in the glass. I smelled sweet ripe pears very distinctly, but that smell wore off later, as the wine came closer to room temperature (and no smell of gasoline that I could trace). It was rather short-bodied (court en bouche in French), much more so than the Alsace Rieslings we’re used to, but fruity and fresh, the kind of light wine that’s pleasant for a pre-dinner drink. A wine that “drinks itself” as we say in French — “ça se boit tout seul!”.

I don’t think I would buy it again though, for a simple price reason : as much as I like the idea of drinking wine from South Africa, new world wines are rather pricy here (probably because of the import costs and because they order a small number of bottles to face the timid demand), and I could find a French wine of equivalent or higher quality for fewer euros…


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  • deeleea

    My sister once told me that if you smell a wine (in that fancy way wine conisseurs do) and you get a whiff of kerosene or diesel it’s a Riesling.

    Guess that’s what petrolous is… It’s the reason Riesling is the only wine I ever get right if I am called to guess what I am about to drink and the reason Riesling is my least favourite white…

    Thank you waiter I’ll have a New World (read NZ) Sauvingon Blanc …

  • Kate

    the etymology of petrolous is petrolium, which is a scent that is usually found in rieslings… not one that I personally fine appealing, but it’s supposed to be a good thing!

  • Clotilde you made it! I think Derrick will let you slide with the little Chenin Blanc!

    I’m glad you were able to find one at all!

    Thanks for participating…maybe I can convince you to host sometime? :)

  • Gillian

    As an Australian I wish you had been able to find an aussie Riesling. I love them. My almost favourite wine in the world is the Delatite Reisling from Mansfield in the “High” country of Victoria near our snowfields.
    Delatite Winery
    If you ever see it available it would be worth trying.

  • Alisa

    well, the photograph is superb!

  • Well done on finding a South African Riesling! I’m know I’d struggle to find a European Riesling in South Africa… and as you found, the price would be prohobitive. I think that when a country produces a lot of wine (as France and South Africa do), imports are almost always a luxury and are priced accordingly. You should come over to London for a shopping trip – there are PLENTY of really good South African wines available here!

  • Charlotte Freeman

    Yargh! Nine euros is the expensive end of wines where you are> Wine was the only bargain I found in France this last trip. Very sad. Here in the wilds of Montana, it’s nearly impossible to find anything other than plonk for less than about fifteen dollars.

  • Robin

    having lived most of my life in Francophone Europe I know how difficult it is to find New World wines over in the old continent – and I never saw Canadian wines during the period 92-03 I lived in the UK as a student – but since my move to Vancouver a year ago, I have been amazed by Canadian, in particular British Columbia Riesling (and also Gewurtztraminer & Ehrenfelser) – there are some absolute stunners over here. By every stretch of the imagination they match the Chilean and Australians I got used to on a 5-8 pound budget in the UK, and my Euro-sophisticated parents with bigger wallets were also VERY impressed with their vinological experiences over here with all colours of grape.

    Love the site… keep it up!

  • Ah, the picture. I totally meant to make a reference to it, ’cause it’s such a great shot. But, alas, I was too scatterbrained to remember.

  • As I scrolled down on the English glossary for tasting wine, I was amused to see the explanation for the entry ‘feminine,” the first half of it is quite straightforward while the second half of it says “…Don’t even think of using this unless you’re French.” Ha, is it just the opinion of the editor or is it the consesus among French? Does it mean it won’t do for me even if I say it with a French accent?

  • gaëtan

    RE: New World Rieslings – FYI, I run a small company that imports wines from the Southern Hemisphere called South World Wines, based in Paris. If anyone is interested, they can find two Australian Rieslings at the downstairs cave of Drugstore Publicis (next to l’Arc de Triomphe), that are both sealed with screwcaps (no cork taint allowed!!). The first is Wirra Wirra ‘Hand Picked’ Riesling 2002, the second is a top class wine from one of Australia’s best producers, Henschke Lenswood ‘Green’s Hill’ Riesling 2001. Try them out and let me known what you think?!
    ps. Great site

  • I am from the US and even though I like the Rieslings from my state, Washington. I would say I am also partial to Australian Rieslings.

    If you ever get a chance, please try two of Washington’s best Rieslings. (Houge and also Eroica)

  • Kim

    Where can I find this in the states or online? I’ve been looking over a year!!!

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