16 March 2007

Spit Lamb, not Pinotage!

Talking of lamb and Pinotage reminds me that last week I called in at Backsberg Estate Cellars near Paarl to update myself with their wine range.
Lennox is ready to carrve Backsberg's Karoo Lamb on Spit

Walking towards the winery I noticed people were dining at tables placed on the lawn under the shade of the numerous trees. I wandered over to see an entire lamb slowly rotating on a spit and a cheerful chef wielding a long carving knife. (Lennox - pictured right)

A glimpse of the menu promised “Karoo Lamb on the Spit - A South African tradition served with a house salad or farm style vegetables and Backsberg’s famous roast potatoes. Have your lamb sliced exactly as you like it at the spit. R90.”

A moment later I was sitting at one of those tables, studying the wine list and nibbling on some bread. Lamb wasn’t the only dish on the menu but it is the only item I had eyes for. What to drink? Water obviously and a bottle of Backsberg Pinotage 2006 at R45. Obviously. The waitron* said she would bring my veggies and then I could go and get my meat.

A long empty table filled up with a large group under the guidance of a tour guide and although there were a few calls for vegetarian dishes the majority chose the lamb, and without waiting for their potatoes they took their bread plates and formed a line by the spit. I was fearing all the lamb would all be gone by the time I was served, but the cheerful waitron, returning with my platter, assured me that the tour group was expected and there was plenty of meat for everyone. And so it proved to be.
Lunch at Backsberg
The chef asked which part the animal I preferred (the leg) and how I wanted my meat cooked (medium), and expertly and efficiently carved me off slices of lamb. A nearby table held ample jars of Colmans Hot English mustard (the only one that matters) and thickly gloopy mint sauce – lovely!!

The meat was deliciously succulent and tender, cooked exactly as I had chosen. The ‘famous’ roast potatoes were crisp on the outside and creamily soft inside and the roasted veggies (aubergine, courgettes, carrot, peppers) were a tasty colourful accompaniment. (picture left)

Backsberg Pinotage 2006 was very ripe, soft and plummy with some jammy fruit, very drinkable and approachable. A friendly wine and a truly new world Pinotage. I replaced the cork and took the bottle with me and returned to it the following evening when it was just as delightful. It was 14.5% but didn’t show it and, surprisingly Wine of Origin Coastal when I was expecting from the word Estate in the winery name that it would be WO Paarl.

Simon Back, son of Backsberg owner Michael Back (who was at another table in the restaurant. I tipped my straw hat to him, but didn’t interrupt what looked like – from his unhappy expression – a business meeting), blogs at B’s Blog so I asked him.

Simon explained “We declassified ourselves as Estate wine producers several years ago and changed the name from being simply Backsberg Estate to being Backsberg Estate Cellars. This was done so as to comply with the law governing Estate wine production but at the same time staying as close as possible to the original name. In some cases where we have bought in fruit and or wine we can keep the classification of Paarl in others it becomes more complex as we may have fruit and or wine from different areas and then it becomes easier to refer the classification as coastal which is more generic. The main driver behind this is simply flexibility in the pursuit of quality.”

Backsberg vineyards seen from access road

Backsberg vineyards as seen from access road.

*Waitron is a most useful South African non-gender specific word for a waiter or waitress.


  1. That looks like a fantastic place for a gorgeous lunch. I would have found it hard to cork the wine and keep it though!

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