Strange how something that’s really Portuguese should be so frightfully British. The Brits took to port in a very big way, laying it down for decades and keeping prized stocks of it in their poncy universities, so that half the world just presumed port was a Brit thing. Which of course it isn’t. They don’t even make any. Don’t have the climate for it.
Anyway, port should be anyone’s in a storm, if you think about it, but those of us who aren’t actually making our port wines in the Douro region of Portugal are no longer allowed to call ours “port” even if ours at the Cape is better than theirs. Which I’m not saying it is. Only some of it.
It’s all a bit daft. A name is a name. A word is a word. Let’s look at it this way: If one country built the first port – I mean harbour – and decided, “we’re going to call this new thing a port”, and the whole world saw their port and liked it, and decided to build their own, would the country that built the first one be within their rights to say, “Oh no. Oh no no no … you’ll have to call your port something else. You know, a harbour or something. Only ours is a real port.”
Even if the French with their ungiving claim on the word Champagne – and the Portuguese with their not entirely selfless wish to have the word port all as their own – do have a reasonable case, there’s another factor which comes into play: time. People in other countries were calling sparkling wine Champagne for decades before countries elsewhere in the world who produce bubbly started calling theirs by its logical moniker.
There are still millions of people who continue to call sparkling wine Champagne because they really couldn’t be bothered about a silly rule imposed by the Alcoholic Word Police. What are they going to do, arrest them? And who could police it anyway? Shall we tell our already overworked police, “Sersant, just drop that murder you’re rushing to, we’ve got a serious case at a party in Sea Point of a lady offering her guests Champagne when quite clearly what she is pouring for them is South African sparkling wine, and that’s not all – it’s not even a methode Cap Classique, it’s cheap s***. Bring her in.”
We make good ports and bad ports at the Cape, but boy, when we get it right we can outclass the best of them. Yet now we’re finding our beloved favourite local ports labelled Cape Ruby and Cape Tawny and the like. Even the superb ports of the Calitzdorp area in the Klein Karoo are having to deny the very name of the product they create so lovingly and in honour of the greatest traditions of the drink.
It is a crime to expect them to do that, and quite frankly I think it is the Alcohlic Port Police of the European Union who should be locked up.
Smoked spare ribs with hanepoot and Cape Ruby
300g ribs per person
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
A bunch of hanepoot grapes
1 stick cinnamon or cassia
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup Cape Ruby (or just use port)
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
So anyway, I bought a bottle of “Cape Ruby” the other day at a farm stall near De Doorns. It was Aan de Doorns port, actually (so lock me up), a pleasant, everyday (example of the genre) with no pretensions, which I decided to use when cooking pork spare ribs this week.
These were smoked pork spare ribs and remarkably lean, with surprisngly few bones. I bought them from the German store at Gardens Centre where the quality of meats is in a special class.
I also had a punnet of hanepoot grapes on their stems, also from the Veldskoen [CRT]Farmstall on the Touws River side of De Doorns, so a theme was developing. German spare ribs with sweet wine that is not really Portuguese and some very South African grapes.
There’s now a thing, as Van der Merwe might have said: we should issue a deree that henceforth, only South Africans may call their hanepoot grapes hanepoot grapes, and issue a fatwa (or something) on any infidel from abroad who dares to usurp our word for them. Not that other countries do try to use our word for them but you ever know. If we did issue such a decree, someone out there would probably try to defy it.
Anyway, I made the pork spare ribs in a liquor of port, red wine and chicken stock, flavoured with whole spices, and there were lots of oohs and aahs when I presented it for supper, so it seems I must have got something right.
Saute the onion and garlic gently in olive oil, with the cinnamon and cloves, until translucent. Heat the stock and add the red wine and port/Cape Ruby/whatever to the onions. Add the whole hanepoot grapes (you can deseed them if you like but they have tiny seeds with a crunch that isn’t offputting) and bring the stock to a simmer (the stock being all of that stuff in the pot, Daisy). Lay the pork rashers out in an oven dish and pour the cooking liquor over to cover. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover tightly with foil and cook in a 170degree oven for two to three hours. They’re done wihen the meat is utterly soft but still remaining on the bone. Remove from the cooking stock and keep aside.
Before serving, heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the ribs for a couple of minutes on the fatty side, and serve with the sauce and the hanepoot grapes scattered over.
Drink a toast to Portugal, the British and all of those excellent people down in Calitzdorp.