We wanted to share our love for South African wines so we held an evening  in Ely bar and brasserie to promote South African wines and show how well they go with food, particularly meat.  We thought since the South African red wine goes well with meat, why not try a “meat master class” to show how it works.

The executive chef of Ely, Ryan Stringer opened the evening by taking us though some of the cuts of meat that would be served in Ely.  There are three Ely Wine bar brasseries and they have their own farm where they raise organic cattle and slaughter them for the restaurants.  Apparently they use every bit of each cow.

ely bar and brasserie, meat masterclass, ryan stringer, south african wine, wine tasting, matching wine with food

Ryan Stringer

I think he was trying to shock us a bit, or maybe test our mettle because he started with tongue.  Not the most popular cut of meat or a very trendy choice…  The way he described it though actually made me want to try it again.  I haven’t eaten tongue since I opened the fridge in my aunt’s house 30 years ago and saw an entire cow’s tongue on a plate…  He said that they would boil the tongue for 6 hours at 92 degrees and then let it cool in its stock.  When serving tongue as the main dish you would only serve the gland down the middle of the tongue as that is the most tender part.

He gave us all a taste of “one he’d prepared earlier” and it was delicious.


Beef Carpaccio, south african wine, wine matching, wine tasting,

Beef Carpaccio

Then he took out the biggest sirloin steak I’ve ever seen.  He was using this to prepare carpaccio and explained how they cured it for five days and then spiced it for five more.  Spices could include fennel, caraway, pink peppercorns…. The amount of time spent preparing it is why restaurants have to charge so much for carpaccio.  We got to taste some of this too – it’s not something I’d normally have ever ordered in a restaurant, but I will from now on.  It was really good.

Next up was beef cheek.  This particular cut which was usually “the poor man’s cut” and eaten by farmers is coming into fashion as chefs are learning how to get the most out of this most flavoursome cut.  Ryan showed us how to cut off all the sinew (this doesn’t break down in the cooking so it’s very important to remove it).   He said that he’d seal if off in a very hot pan with olive oil and maybe some thyme or rosemary and garlic, and then cook sous vide for 24 hours.  I think I’ll just order it in a restaurant – the cooking method seemed a bit daunting!

He also showed us a huge roll of ribeye and I’ll talk a bit about the best way to cook ribeye steak in another blog post this month with a wine matching suggestion.   It’s worth a blog of its own!

Ribeye steak, south african wine, wine matching, wine tasting,


We got a plate of all of these to taste along with the wine tasting session which followed suit.  The fabulous Jean Smullen was very entertaining and informative and talked us through a selection of South African wines.

Ely bar and brasserie, south african wine, wine matching, wine tasting,

We started with a Nederburg Chardonnay ,  Jean loved this Chardonnay – she’s a huge Chardonnay fan full stop, and was scathing of the ABC club, she was part of the BBC set – Bring Back Chardonnay!  It’s full bodied flavours that aren’t overpowered by oak like some of the other new world Chardonnays.

Jean explained that the reason red wines go so well with meat is that the tannins have a chemical reaction that neutralise the layer of fat that stays on the tongue after a mouthful of meat, so that if you have a sip of wine between each mouthful the next bite tastes as good as the first.  She demonstrated this by encouraging us to try eating steak with Chardonnay and then Merlot and to see the difference.  And once someone points this out to you it’s astonishing how noticeable it is.

Ely bar and brasserie, south african wine, wine matching, wine tasting,

We tasted 6 wines in total (not including the delicious flinty glass of Pongracz we had during the meat master class)- the Chardonnay and then five reds.

First off was a lovely ruby red Drostdy-Hof Merlot 2010, this was the least tannic of the reds so we moved to this after the white.  I drank this with the piece of ribeye steak and its flavours of cherry, raspberry and peppery spices worked really well.

Then we tried Fleur du Cap Shiraz 2009, which was a lot more complex, i.e. less one-sided than the Australian Shiraz that I’d tried recently.  A large, full-bodied wine with blackcurrant and violets on the nose and a slightly peppery taste.  I tried this against the beef cheek stew – a lovely pairing for a wintery Halloween evening!

Next, another Nederburg – Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.  Jean explained this was the most tannic of the wines and Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the best match with meat.  It was rich and full-bodied with ripe fruit, cherry and delicate oak spice flavours and a lingering aftertaste and cut against the fat of the marrow bone nicely.

Finally, two Pinotages – Fleur du Cap 2010 and a Durbanville Hills 2010.  South Africans lead the way in Pinotage production and these were really great examples of this varietal with silky tannins and rich fruit – raspberries and red cherries.  Pinotage is renowned for going with difficult to match foods – I drank this with the tongue, which I thought was a good pairing.   Jean told us about “Coffee Pinotage” which is a new trend started in South Africa.  I’ll write a post on that too when I’ve done more research.

We’re having another event in Cork on the 14th November and as I write this there are still some tickets left.  The details are in our events tab on Facebook.