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In honour of Braai Day and every South African’s favourite national pastime, here’s why a braai is always a good idea …

Braais spark something primal

Man has been making fires for millennia and yet the thrill of starting one never gets old for most of us. Coaxing a fire from roaring beast to red-hot coals is a form of ancient therapy for the soul.

Braais bring us together

Like moths to a flame, braais bring us together like few other mealtime traditions can. Slowing down time, they’re a surefire way to connect with old friends and family.

Braais pull us outdoors

Braais force us to go alfresco. And, with the faint smell of smoke wafting through the air, the distant splash of a swimming pool and a glass of wine in hand, there’s no place I’d rather be.

As if you needed any more reasons to love a good flame, we also owe fire a debt of gratitude when it comes to fine wine …

Many centuries ago, wily winemakers saw that oak was used for ships to keep water out, so why not for barrels to keep wine in? To bend the oak staves into their round shape, the wood was heated over a fire. The unintended consequence - wines that could get better with age, leaving a telltale hint of flame’s toasty, vanilla imprint on the barrels it helped shape.

So, in honour of finely wooded wine and the flames that helped create them, why not raise a glass in one hand and some braai tongs in the other this Heritage Day!

 

Here are my top picks to enjoy alongside your braai:

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015

Le Riche.
Le Riche.
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One hundred percent cabernet sauvignon, hand-selected grapes from older, lower yielding vines are carefully pressed before being transferred to French oak barrels. Classic cabernet fruits with currants and cassis are supported by a fresh vibrant nose. Lead pencil shavings and cedar aromas complement the overall complexity of the wine, with juicy tannins abounding. I’d suggest an expertly braaied steak beside this beast. Price per bottle: R580.


Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve.
Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve.
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Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve 2016

This blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot is brought together beautifully in French oak barrels, where it stays maturing for 14 months. Expect blackcurrant, cinnamon and vanilla on the nose. Black fruit and sweet spice follow on the palate, with a firm dose of tannin that promises good ageing potential. Enjoy alongside some juicy lamb chops. Price per bottle: R462.


Wade Bales Winemakers Selection Rudi Schultz Shiraz.
Wade Bales Winemakers Selection Rudi Schultz Shiraz.
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Wade Bales Winemakers Selection Rudi Schultz Shiraz 2016 (Thelema Mountain Vineyards)

 A limited-release made by Thelema’s winemaker, prepare for a rich, dark wine, well-rounded with bold berries, smooth tannins and a full finish. Perfect to pair with your favourite boerie. Price per bottle: R150.

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