Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

Port becomes suddenly hip

Ollie Dabbous / Times Live (p)

Ollie Dabbous / Times Live (p)

Pendock Uncorked

"South Africa's leading independent drinks commentator"

Winston Churchill, greatest Englishman of the last millennium (even if mum was American) has been in the news a lot this month in the run-up to and aftermath of, the pomp and circumstance funeral of another UK PM Margaret Thatcher. Winnie has popped up looking mightily pissed off on the new £5 note (and judging by the state of the UK economy, he has reason to be glum) while his eponymous Port is served at London's trendiest restaurant called Dabbous, whose eponymous chef Olivier also looks distinctly Churchillian circa his capture by Field Cornet Rooi Sarel Oosthuizen in 1899 in Phil Fisk's pic in the Observer Food Monthly, above.

The hipness of Port was confirmed last Saturday at Anysbos in Bot River at the Bears and Barrels festivities when I bumped into clean-shaven Alvaro, winemaker at Quinta do Tedo. Alvaro has made a white Port for Sebastian Beaumont from Chenin Blanc grapes. Far drier (35g residual sugar) and far lighter (17% alcohol) than you'd expect from the Douro, it will also likely be far cheaper although Alvaro was not totally happy with the quality of the grape spirit used to fortify the wine. Served over crushed ice with a sprig of marijuana, is this the aperitif for the coming summer? If Churchill's white Port is a popular aperitif for Londoners in Dabbous, what is to stop it becoming a hit in Bot River?

Of course the most auspicious place for Johnny Graham to list his Graham's Ports is at Hartford House in the Natal Midlands. Food goddess Jackie Cameron puts country cooking onto the next level and down the road is the site of the capture of Winnie during the Anglo-Boer War when the crafty Boers derailed his armoured train. It's been downhill for SA railways ever since. Mahatma Ghandi was a stretcher bearer at the nearby battle of Spioenkop where that Field Marshall of the British Empire, Jan Smuts, was batting for the other side. It's been downhill for SA hospitals ever since.

Come on Johnny: Winnie, Jannie and Gandhi at the same place at the same time, was there ever such a black hole of imperial gravitas? Only Mrs. Brown herself could have trumped it and she was on holiday on the Isle of Wight. Hartford House and Churchill's Port will bring the Dabbous experience to the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal.