New sponsors, Absa, pick Annual Port & Wine Festival as a winner

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 29th, 2011

Is South African Port in crisis? You certainly wouldn’t think so if you were in Calitzdorp last weekend when the (fingers crossed) annual Port and Wine Festival was held.

New sponsors, Absa, had picked it as a winner (and will hopefully return for more next year), the restaurants were packed, the guesthouses overflowing and the streets were full of people enjoying the weather and the wines. Certainly Calitzdorp is one of the best places to hold a drinking festival as its compact size and the close proximity of most of the cellars means leaving the car behind is not only sensible, but a darned sight easier as well.

Many of the events were aimed at broadening the appeal of Port – trying to take away its crusty image as a digestif for old men and encourage people to drink more by giving it funky names, highlighting flavours or matching it with food. I would say that the organised events definitely succeeded in that aim – the Boerekos, Bollywood and Ballroom presentation by Francois Ferreira was a case in point where Port beat still wine on four out of five occasions – but really, they were preaching to, if not exactly the converted, then definitely those interested enough to trek all the way to Calitzdorp in the first place.

Sure, there is room for growth in the Port market, but I suggest that it is relatively limited and may well be slow. And although new versions are emerging such as pink ports or Boplaas’s Chocolate Port and De Krans’s Espresso, this may not be enough to make us all drink fortified wine. So what can the Port producers do about it?

Nearly 20 years ago, the Portuguese cellar, Quinta do Crasto hit the headlines by winning Wine of the Year at the London Wine Trade Show for a still wine made from Port varieties. Their success led to a flurry of imitators and nowadays, most Port producers make a still wine – in fact, some of them do better with them than their Port! Our local producers have been doing that for some time as well with De Krans, Boplaas, Calitzdorp Cellars and more, all making still versions of Touriga, Tempranillo or a Tinta of some sort. I tasted my way through them all this last weekend, and on the whole I was very impressed with the exciting possibilities these varieties offer to palates jaded by the ‘same old same old.’ Plenty of fruit, lots of spice and well-managed tannins were the hallmarks of the best on offer.

The only problem I can see with switching the emphasis to making still wines from Port varieties is the names. These are strange words to the majority of wine-drinkers in South Africa and the risk of making these relatively-unknown varieties the star on the label, is that their very unfamiliarity may turn off more people than they thrill, sending them scampering back to the safer territories of Shiraz and Cabernet. Perhaps with that in mind, Boets Nel of De Krans believes that the best way forward for Port varieties, Port producers and Calitzdorp as a whole, is a blend. His niece, Margaux Nel, is already making a particularly toothsome one at Boplaas called Ring of Rocks – a combination of Cabernet, Merlot and Touriga offering ripe black fruit and a spicy finish – and there are others from Axe Hill and Du’SwaRoo as well. But Boets wants to make a real statement and create a ‘Calitzdorp Blend’ as a brand new category, made solely from Port grape varieties.

At present there are two cellars making pure Port varietal blends, my favourite being the ‘III’ from Peter Bayly which is a combination of Tinta Barocca, Touriga Nacional and Souzao – he only made 280 bottles of the 2010 which will be released in the next few weeks. The wine itself is spectacularly good, with dense, black fruit, ripe plummy mouthfeel and silky tannins (“It’s the Souzao which makes the difference!” claims Peter) and if this is the kind of thing Boets has in mind, then I’d say he’s onto a winner. Much discussion needs to take place before this gets adopted as a way forward for the region, so don’t expect to see a ‘Calitzdorp Blend’ on the shelves anytime soon. But with the EU finally getting its way and all new bottlings of fortified wines having to remove the word ‘Port’ from their label from January 2012 onwards, perhaps this is as good a time as any to introduce something proudly South African into the world of Port.

Article by Cathy Marston

The most fickle red variety of them all – Pinot Noir

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 29th, 2011

Without doubt the centre of the Cape wine universe, Stellenbosch boasts a myriad of producers, varieties and styles but only a handful are dedicated to the most fickle red variety of them all – Pinot Noir.

Those who can be singled out for particular dedication to the grape include Meerlust, Muratie, Vriesenhof and relative newcomer Pepin Conde, all of whom are beginning to master – if it’s possible – the heart break grape.

All have been fine tuning things according to her capricious demands including relocating vineyards (I want a view please), planting of modern clones (only the best gear will do), and experimenting with fermentation techniques and oaking (The best spa treatments please).

It was first planted on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s Simonsberg in 1927 while 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Stellenbosch Wine Route and the 10th of its Wine Festival (28-31 July 2011).

Muratie – site of the first plantings – have re-located their modern clone vineyard lower down the valley after discovering that higher is not always cooler and have found that gentler extraction is more suited to the new site. This wine (‘09) showed good purity of fruit and was the most structured of the four with firm tannins – for Pinot that is. Oaking here is 30% new from Burgundian coopers. (R150 per bottle ex farm). Winemaker Francois Conradie has been the impact player but he plans on making it a longer tenure.

On the other side of town, Vriesenhof are establishing Burgundy-like higher density vineyards with modern clones. Until their new plantings come on stream they are increasing intensity through higher extraction during fermentation including rack & return (délestage) and punch downs (pigeage). Oaking here is also around 30% new. This wine (‘08) was the more traditional of the flight in that it displayed some attractive earthy – and delicious curry leaf notes – rather than straight up fruit (R215 per bottle ex farm).

Meerlust have relocated some of their Pinot vineyard to higher Southern and False Bay-facing slopes and like Muratie are opting for more gentler extraction during fermentation. Here the difference is greater amount of new oak and the fruit (’09) is clearly up for it, displaying lovely texture – the signature of good Pinot – and perfumed intensity on the nose. (R200 per bottle ex farm). Winemaker Chris Williams says using some older BK5 clone with the modern clones adds to the wine’s texture.

Pepin Conde (Stark-Conde) is made from Elgin fruit at their Stellenbosch cellar where you can buy the 2010. Using only pigeage, Jose Conde has gone for greater extraction of the fermentation cap followed by mostly 3rd and 4th fill and about 10% new French oak. After working with growers for some 7 years, the fruit is from a very low-yielding site on the Palmiet River facing the Koegelberg Nature reserve. Judicious oaking of Elgin fruit has allowed for bright cherry and raspberry fruit expression (R95 per bottle ex farm).

Now Pinotphiles are accustomed to higher prices for the sexiest variety and although not always vindicated, bear in mind that all these wines are from low yielding vines – as low as 2t/ha – and that good Pinot is far trickier to grow and make than say Cabernet Sauvignon for example. There is also a premium for its rarity.

Cape Pinot has improved greatly in terms of quantity and quality in recent years and it was not easy to pick a favourite. All of them displayed, in varying degrees, typical cherry aromas – although Vriesenhof was more in the savoury and earthy style – but as the older vintage probably had the most character. The Muratie for its black cherry aromas and mid-palate crunch, Pepin Conde is the good value all-rounder and Meerlust for poise, integration and intensity. Although one or two had hefty alcohols none were over-extracted or unbalanced.

Starting at either Muratie or Meerlust all of them are off the R44 with the exception of Stark Conde in Jonkershoek which makes for a good mid point and lunch stop at Post Card Café, a favourite among locals.

Article by by Jonathan Snashall, Hunter Gatherer Vintner

Past greatness reveals the depth of South African Wine potential

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 24th, 2011

Given the remarkable advances in South African wine in the past 15 years, it’s easy to assume that before then all was dross.

Much was indeed drear then — but the danger was always that the finest part of the Cape winemaking tradition would be chucked out when winemakers turned to the challenges of pleasing new international markets after 1994.

Now that a realistic self-confidence is justifiably returning to local wine-makers (different from earlier strident claims made on the basis of ignorance), the possibility of Cape wine’s older greatness is also becoming clearer to those who get to taste a few wines of the decades before the 1980s. It was during the 1980s when, for several reasons (too much irrigation, worsening virus, ignorant and overzealous oaking all contribute) problems set in, although a few good wines were still made.

It’s important now to recognise this great tradition, partly to invoke the encouragement of knowing that greatness is possible here and to build on local achievements rather than trying to compete with bland internationalism that has no roots other than immediate market forces. Even if the knowledge is only in the air (actually sampling such wines is a rare privilege), young winemakers must know their place in a tradition with a history as well as, let’s hope, a future.

For three years the chairperson and part-owner of the Trophy Wine Show, Michael Fridjhon, has organised a remarkable tasting on the day before the judges, local and foreign, start their work.

Impressive and exhilarating
Through useful contacts and friends and colleagues with interesting cellars, he assembles a few dozen wines: reds more than 25 years old, whites more than 15. Some are legendary (such as the Nederburg Auction Cabernet Sauvignon 1974, GS Cabernet 1966 and 1968, and Chateau Libertas 1940) but many are decidedly not (a majestic, concentrated Swartland Co-op Pinotage 1971 was a 2010 triumph). Some wines, from both categories, are valiantly tired, some are frankly dead and others gloriously triumph over time.

Tasting them never fails to impress and exhilarate those lucky enough to attend with the primary tasters — the foreign judges with little idea of the historical background to the wines they have come to assess.

This year the star white performers included a brilliant bottle of the famous Klein Constantia Sauvignon 1986 and two chardonnays:

Backsberg 1985 and Overgaauw 1986 — not great wines, definitely past their best, but surprisingly drinkable and interesting still. Among the reds (the majority of the wines), my heroes were Alto Rouge 1974, Rustenberg Cabernet Sauvignon 1971, GS Cabernet 1966, KWV Pinotage 1974 and the oldest, a half-bottle of Zonnebloem Cabernet 1959.

Rich and lingering
It is notable how well old pinotages often perform.
The KWV was much admired by Neal Martin, a Brit who has recently become the official taster of South African wines for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, an immensely important publication for the American market. He tweeted his appreciation around the world.

Of the 1959 Zonnebloem, still full, rich and lingering after 52 years, Martin remarked: “If you put that in a line-up of 1959s from Bordeaux it would have knocked most of them out of the field.”

He said later how the tasting had surprised him and given him an entirely new perspective on Cape wine.

Article by Tim james

Best New World imported Chardonnay – Waterford Estate

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 23rd, 2011

Waterford Wine Estate is delighted to share with you its most recent accolade announced out of Holland a few days ago.

Waterford Estate Chardonnay 2009 was chosen out of 500 wines as “The best Chardonnay from The New World (Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, USA) imported into Holland under €12.50” (ZAR 125.00). This is an annual award organized by Holland’s largest and most popular wine magazine – “Perswijn’ – and the first time that Waterford Estate has won it. The panel judging the award is made up of renowned wine writers, sommeliers and journalists, and the tasting is conducted blind.

Although the 2009 vintage has now sold out in South Africa, the 2011 production is due for release in November this year. The 2010 vintage was short lived in the market, due to crop losses of 65% due to Black South Easter winds in October 2009.

However, each vintage of Chardonnay has come from the same vineyard on the Waterford Estate, one of the oldest blocks on the 120 hectare property in the Blaauwklippen Valley, and as such has been registered as a single vineyard with SAWIS from 2005 onwards. “Due to the above, there has always been uniformity and consistency in its style” says Francois Haasbroek, Wine Maker at Waterford Estate. The wine although enjoyable when young, is made in such a style that rewards cellaring and ageing of 4 to 8 years.

The Waterford Estate Chardonnay has traditionally been sold out in a short space of time due to the quality of the wine far outweighing the price.

Beaumont House has the 2009 vintage for guests to enjoy.

Top cellars in Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show have much to offer

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 22nd, 2011

1. Spier

Over the last 10 years, Spier has established itself as a one-stop shop for tourists and locals alike. Visitors staying at the 155-bedroom hotel and spa could easily be forgiven for not venturing off the premises for the duration of their stay and, in fact, many of them see no reason to do so. A choice of four different restaurants, animal encounters, kids activities, art and, of course, an extensive range of wines offering some of the best value and highest quality in the country, all mean that a day spent at this dynamic farm is almost certainly not enough!

Spier cellarmaster Frans Smit’s interest in viticulture began at an early age and informed his career choice, starting with a diploma in cellar technology. Frans spent his third year studying oenology, and joined Spier on graduating in 1995.
Since its inception, Spier has been one of the leading examples of sustainability practices and both the hotel and winery have won numerous awards for their efforts to conserve water, reduce their carbon footprint, preserve the indigenous flora and fauna, and provide jobs and education for local people. It was the first winery in South Africa to receive certification from the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association and is a key player in the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative. The newest addition to the farm’s culinary offerings, Eight at Spier, only uses ingredients either grown on the farm (thus providing employment) or sourced from around the local area, and Spier believes this is proof that a restaurant can offer great food while still being socially and environmentally conscientious.

Part of Spier’s appeal to visitors is the fact that it offers activities for all ages. The Cheetah Outreach programme is one of the most popular attractions and the chance to get up close and personal with a big cat in an enclosure is only surpassed by the fact that it is not uncommon to see one enjoying a ride in the back of a bakkie as it cruises around the farm. The Eagle Encounters project rehabilitates injured birds and holds flying demonstrations on a daily basis and, if you feel like a bit of activity yourself, Spier has a stable-full of horses, plus ponies and carriages which can take you all over the extensive grounds.

Cellarmaster Frans Smit has been with Spier for over 15 years and enjoys a high level of control over what the cellar produces. The farm’s flagship wine which bears his name is a regular 5 Star winner in the Platter’s Wine Guide and his most recent project – the Creative Block range – makes reference to the various art projects hosted by the winery. The name refers to Smit’s use of blocks of different grape varieties to blend and create exciting new wines and, as the results show, he has done this with considerable success. The other ranges – the Private Collection, the Signature range and the easy-drinking Savanha wines offer outstanding quality and value for money to suit all pockets.

Tel 021 809 1143; www.spier.co.za
Baden Powell Drive, Stellenbosch
Tasting room open daily, 9:00 to 16:30

2. Thelema Mountain Vineyards

It’s been almost 30 years since Gyles and Barbara Webb bought a run-down fruit farm at the top of the Helshoogte Pass, the link between Stellenbosch and the Drakenstein Valley. Much work was needed to grub up the old orchards and replant with vines, but they were excited about the cool slopes and the decomposed granite soils of the farm and firmly believed it had potential to become something truly wonderful. They quickly established themselves as one of the leading producers of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, while their Merlot is widely recognised as one of the few good examples of this variety in the Cape. Just over 10 years ago, they bought another ex-fruit farm, this time in Elgin. The Sutherland vineyards are planted with a much wider range of varieties, allowing for more experimentation and innovation in the blends – their success in this competition tends to suggest they are on the right track!

Thelema is very much a family affair with both Gyles and Barbara being directors along with sister-in-law Jenny de Tolly. Son Thomas is involved in the sales and marketing and, until a few years ago, matriarch Edna Maclean ran the tasting room – the Ed’s Chardonnay is a tribute to her energetic personality. The farm itself remains focused on its core product and so far has eschewed the example of its neighbours Tokara and Delaire Graff to open restaurants onsite. But the welcome here is genuine, the tasting room is relaxed and friendly and visitors are warmly invited to bring their own picnic baskets and enjoy them in the grounds with a bottle or two of Thelema’s finest. Just don’t bring a dog with you – the Thelema pack of pooches are particularly possessive about their farm!

Tel 021 885 1924; www.thelema.co.za
Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch
Tasting room open Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 17:00, Saturday, 10:00 to 15:00

3. Hillcrest Estate

It’s the first release of Hillcrest’s Metamorphic range – named after the unique geological topography of the estate – and success has been with them from the start. Winemaker Graeme Read is a big believer in cool-climate red wines and has long been a champion of Merlot from Durbanville. The intention is for the Quarry Merlot and the Hornfels red blend (named after the baked shale deposits from prehistoric volcanic eruptions) to be joined eventually by a white Bordeaux-style blend and an additional 1 000 Semillon vines have already been planted in anticipation.

Clearly, the new big thing in the life of Hillcrest Estate is the Quarry. However, it’s not just the new Merlot, but also the brandnew entertainment venue which is causing a thrill. Fashioned out of an old quarry on the estate, the Quarry provides an incredible backdrop and wonderful acoustics for a whole host of different occasions. Already it has been used for concerts and live music events and plans for a full programme are on track for later in the year. The farm was also excited to host a Bollywood film shoot recently, complete with helicopter explosions and car rolls!

The farm restaurant is spreading its wings and now caters for a variety of different functions and events, accommodating larger parties and weddings in marquees on the elegant lawns. But weekends still see many families enjoying a wholesome breakfast or lunch on the sunny stoep and the tasting room buzzes with people enjoying the wines or sampling some of Hillcrest’s award-winning olives and olive products. Other attractions on the estate include trout-fishing in the quarry’s dam and a 13km cycle track around the vineyards.

Tel 021 976 1110; www.hillcrestfarm.co.za
Racecourse Road, Durbanville
Tasting room open daily, 9:00 to 17:00

4. KWV

The KWV iconic red blend Roodeberg uses ‘Making memories’ as its strapline, harking back to a past which stretches over the last century to a time when nearly all wine and brandy production was controlled by the cooperative. The company has seen a lot of changes in recent years, refocusing and re-evaluating brands and systems. Now 65% black-owned and with plenty of ideas and creativity bubbling out, the company is enjoying its new reputation for quality wines (as opposed to the mass-produced crowd-pleasers of the past), and success in competitions such as the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

One of the reasons for KWV’s success has to be the appointment of Australian Richard Rowe as head winemaker. With The Mentors range, he has allowed his team of young winemakers the freedom to experiment intelligently, while ensuring that the wines are rooted in good vineyard practices, clean winemaking and that they display the key to all good wines – balance. In addition to newer brands, KWV also has a horde of vinous treasures squirrelled away in its vaults, several of which it is now making public to great acclaim, as these results show.

A visit to the Wine Emporium offers plenty of attractions for visitors, most popular being the guided tours through the world’s largest wine cellar complex to view the world’s largest wine vats. Tastings available include brandy and chocolate, biltong and wine and an introduction to food and wine matching and, if you want to stick just to wine, then the Emporium offers tastings across all the KWV brands. A coffee bar and wine curio shop, featuring an entertaining line of quirky vinobilia and souvenirs, complete the experience.

Tel 021 807 3007; www.kwv-wines.com
KWV Wine Emporium, Kohler Street, Paarl
Tasting room open Monday to Saturday, 9:00 to 16:30, Sunday, 11:00 to 16:00

5. Paul Cluver Estate Wines

The past 12 months have been celebratory ones for the Clüver family – Dr Paul Clüver Senior was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Drinks Business Green Awards, winemaker Andries Burger was invited to join the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild, the Green Mountain Eco Route (the world’s first Wine and Biodiversity Route, situated around the Groenland Mountain) was launched and Paul Clüver Junior got married! And just one year after their 2009 Chardonnay carried off the Old Mutual Trophy for Best Chardonnay, the same wine (although a different bottling) has done it again, this time with an even higher score – yet one more indicator that South African wines can definitely improve with age.

The Clüvers have been busy in other ways too. Following on from a friendship with Norwegian celebrity chef Andreas Viestad, a restaurant called Fresh was opened to take advantage of some of the weird and wonderful fruit and vegetables planted by Andreas and the family on the farm. The restaurant is operated by Joan Lancefield who offers seasonal, homegrown dishes throughout the summer with dishes changing on a daily basis. A tour of the orchards to see the bizarre ‘finger lemons’ is highly recommended!

Joan also provides the picnic baskets which can be pre-booked if you are heading to the Clüvers’ other main attraction – the Amphitheatre. This is a rustic semicircle, surrounded by ghost gum trees, which plays host to a series of Summer Sunset Concerts between September and March every year.

Tel 021 844 0605; www.cluver.com
De Rust Estate, Grabouw, Elgin
Tasting room open Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 17:00, Saturday and public holidays, 9:00 to 15:00 in summer (10:00 to 14:00 in winter)

6. Delaire Graff

Previously owned by John Platter, Delaire has completed the redevelopment programme started in 2003 by new owner Laurence Graff. The Delaire Graff Estate now comprises luxury lodges, a spa, two restaurants, an art collection featuring the best of South African contemporary art, designer boutiques and, of course, the awardwinning wines which are beautifully showcased against the backdrop of the Wine Lounge – surely one of the most glamorous tasting rooms in the country.

For the last two years, making wine at Delaire has been Morné Vrey. Under his guidance and that of viticulturist Kevin Watt, an extensive replanting programme has formed part of Graff’s redevelopments. This has included much analysis and research as to the soil types and aspects of the steeply sloping vineyards, most of which have now been planted with specifi cally chosen clones. The cellar boasts some of the most technically advanced winemaking equipment in the world and, since Morné believes that he now has access to some of the fi nest fruit in the area, this clearly makes for an awardwinning combination and wines.

Visitors to Delaire Graff can expect jawdropping views of the scenic Banhoek Valley which are probably best enjoyed from the terraces of one of the two restaurants. The signature restaurant, Delaire Graff, is presided over by chef Christiaan Campbell who uses many fresh vegetables and herbs from the estate’s own garden in his cuisine. And if Asian food is your thing, then Indochine restaurant makes use of various exotic ingredients, many of them grown in the estate’s greenhouses and gardens.

Tel 021 885 8160; www.delaire.co.za
Helshoogte Pass, Banhoek Valley
Tasting room open Monday to Saturday, 10:00 to 17:00, Sunday, 10:00 to 16:00

7. Bergkelder

The famous ‘cellar in the mountain’ has been home to Fleur du Cap wines since it was built in 1968 with the first vintages being released shortly afterwards. Stretching deep into the Papegaaiberg mountainside, the cellar is home to some of South Africa’s most famous wines stored in the dimly lit bins of the Vinoteque. Huge oak casks carved with views of the Cape are lined up at the end of the corridors, and several of the alcoves contain tables around which tastings can be conducted for the lucky few whose wines are stored within the cellar.

More history and tradition can be found at the visitor centre a little way down the hill which houses the Stellenryck Museum collection showing the history of winemaking in the Cape. The tasting facility offers samples of all the Fleur du Cap wines, but other Distell brands are also available to sample.

Cellarmaster Andrea Freeborough and her team are enjoying a wellearned run of success with awards flooding in from shows both at home and overseas. The Noble Late Harvest has been particularly successful, currently flagged up as Platter’s White Wine of the Year and garnering Andrea the title of Woman Winemaker of the Year into the bargain. The awardwinning Unfi ltered Range was launched in 1998 with the aim of showcasing the pure fruit flavours. The grapes used come from either single vineyard blocks or a combination of two different sites and, because they are bottled without filtration, they show added complexity and depth of flavour.

Tel 021 809 7000; www.fleurducap.co.za
Die Bergkelder, Plankenbrug Road, Stellenbosch
Tasting room open Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 17:00, Saturday 9:00 to 14:00

8. Tokara

Passing the 10-year milestone seems to have triggered off a whole raft of changes at this modern designer winery right at the top of the Helshoogte Pass. Owned by dynamic businessman GT Ferreira, and with the avowed aim to ‘See how high we can raise the crossbar’, it’s not surprising that they refuse to rest on their laurels and previous successes. Even though those successes have been tremendous, including Top Producer at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show last year, 5 Star wines in Platter’s and awards aplenty both at home and overseas.

So what’s new? A reorganisation of the different labels now sees the Zondernaam range renamed as Tokara, the Tokara range renamed as Reserve Collection while the two top wines (a red and a white blend, both Bordeaux-style) are now known as the Director’s Reserve. Winemaker Miles Mossop is able to draw on fruit from three different vineyards, all owned by Tokara, to produce several versions of Chardonnay and Sauvignon using much cooler, more elegant fruit from Walker Bay and Elgin. His own range of wines also continues to do well with the red blend snapping up yet another medal at this year’s awards.

The other newsworthy change at Tokara is the exciting arrival of celebrated chef Richard Carstens into the kitchen. Richard was previously at Lynton Hall and Nova and cites Ferran Adrià of El Bulli as a major infl uence on his cooking. His return to the kitchen looks set to ‘raise the bar’ and probably gain him yet another entry into the Eat Out Top Ten this year. For families and for those wanting a lighter bite, the Tokara delicatessen goes from strength to strength, while The Olive Shed continues to produce a variety of extra-virgin olive oils, all of which are available for tasting and purchase in-store.

Tel 021 808 5900; www.tokara.com
Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch
Tasting room open Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 17:00, weekends and public holidays, 10:00 to 15:00

9. Lomond

As you drive towards the edge of the Gansbaai peninsula at Cape Agulhas, it seems as if you are entering another world, one which is bereft of any human life and utterly desolate and barren. But tucked away behind the sweeping sand dunes lie the vineyards of Lomond, flanking the dam and facing the ocean which is a mere 8km away. The Atlantic is possibly the most important factor affecting the Lomond wines with the cooling sea breezes helping the whites to ripen slowly and the Syrahs to develop that distinctive peppery characteristic. But the soil types also play their part – all 21 of them – making for unique wines which clearly reflect the terroir from whence they come.

Winemaker Kobus Gerber has been making wine here since the vineyards were first developed seven years ago and his passion for this extreme region is evident as he enthuses about the health of the vines and the benefits of the soils and the winds. Visiting the vineyards is by appointment only (although all the wines can be tasted and purchased at Die Bergkelder in Stellenbosch) but a visit to the region is worthwhile if only to experience the beauty of the coastline and the surrounding areas. The rich diversity of indigenous flora and fynbos attracts many different species of birdlife to the area and the nearby towns of Bredasdorp, Struisbaai and L’Agulhas offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy a bottle of Lomond in one of their many restaurants and bars.

Tel 021 809 8330; www.lomond.co.za
Tasting and sales at Die Bergkelder, Plankenbrug Road, Stellenbosch
Tasting room open Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 17:00, Saturday, 9:00 to 14:00

10. Chamonix

It’s been 10 years since Gottfried Mocke took up the post of winemaker at Cape Chamonix and just over 20 years since Chris Hellinger bought the farm previously known as Waterval. Renamed Chamonix because its picturesque mountain location reminded the former owner of a holiday in France, Hellinger also bought neighbouring farm Uitkyk a few years later and converted the manor house into what is now the restaurant, joining it to the ‘Blacksmith’s Cottage’ tasting room via an underground barrel cellar. Offering more than just wine, the farm is also famous for the bottled Chamonix Spring Water which comes from mountain streams running through the farm as well as the Chamonix Schnapps which uses fruit from Chamonix’s own orchards which is then fermented and distilled on-site.

Hellinger originally opened the award-winning La Maison du Chamonix restaurant in the Uitkyk manor house. Now renamed as Mon Plasir and run by Celine Mandaglio and David Sadeh, the restaurant focuses on authentic French cuisine served in summer on a shady terrace. With views overlooking the entire Franschhoek Valley, many guests want to linger a little longer and accommodation is provided in one of the 13 self-catering cottages dotted at scenic intervals around the farm.

But the focus remains very strongly on the wines, with Gottfried having won Diners Club Winemaker of the Year halfway into his current tenure at Chamonix – to date, the youngest person ever to win this award. The winning wine then was a Chardonnay, which is still considered the most successful variety for the farm, but the reds are coming up on the rails – as the results for this year testify. With awards for Pinotage and Cabernet as well as a fistful of medals for the white wines, it seems this Burgundy-loving winemaker can turn his hand to almost anything.

Tel 021 876 2494; www.charmonix.co.za
Uitkyk Street, Franschhoek
Tasting room open daily, 09:30 to 16:30

Author: Cathy Marston

Cape Legends to take 2011 Stellenbosch Wine Festival by storm

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 21st, 2011

The upcoming Stellenbosch Wine Festival, week-long extravaganza of world-class wines, fine food, and fun, takes place in the much-loved university town from July 22 to 31, 2011.

The annual celebration will see leading wine producers in Cape Legends’ portfolio showcase their wines in creative and innovative ways. These producers include Alto, Uitkyk, Le Bonheur and Neethlingshof. Ranging from R35 to R250 per offer, the activities on offer will suit any pocket.

Neethlinghshof will be hosting ‘First Love’ in the estate’s magnificent red wine maturation cellar, which promises to be an exclusive evening where the marriage of food with wine is celebrated. Katinka van Niekerk, known as the great dame of food and wine pairing, will treat guests to a tutored session in which a sumptuous three- course meal will be paired with some of Neethlingshof’s finest wines. Co-author of The Food and Wine Pairing Guide and former lecturer at the Cape Wine Academy, this passionate foodie will also be sharing stories from her interesting life.

For an evening of laughter and hysterical confusion make your way in teams of three to Uitkyk Estate to participate in a game of ’30 Seconds’, followed by a heart- warming meal of winter soups and freshly baked bread. At the event, aptly named ’30 Seconds to Dine’, you’ll stand a chance to win exciting prizes such as picnic sets, Uitkyk wine gift packs and brandy and chocolate hampers.

Classic musical favourites will be screened in Le Bonheur’s manor house, preceded by mouth- watering tapas, accompanied by Le Bonheur’s award-winning wines, to suit the theme of the film being shown.

Popular Alto Estate offers visitors a delicious combination of its reds, teamed up with melt-in- the-mouth home-made pâtés. Each of the three wines in the range will be combined with a pâté and be served with artisanal 100% rye bread made in the area. Guests are encouraged to end off this experience with Alto Port served with cranberry and dark chocolate biscotti.

The Stellenbosch Wine Festival has become a Cape Winelands institution during the winter months and is a popular attraction for both local and international wine enthusiasts. The exciting activities offered by Neethlingshof, Uitkyk, Alto and Le Bonheur are not to be missed!

article by Cape Legends

SA Wine Featured on Bloomberg News | Beaumont House

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 20th, 2011

Chenin specialist Bruwer Raats once again made international headlines when his 2009 Raats Original Chenin Blanc was recently featured on Bloomberg News. Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan recommended four wines to the viewers as perfect for the Memorial Day weekend and included Raats as the only South African in the line-up.

Simonetti-Bryan is one of only five female Masters of Wine in the States and has become a regular face on the small screen as an industry expert commenting on wines and consumption trends. During the interview, she revealed that Americans are now the top wine consuming country in the world and explained that the American wine market is distinctly demarcated into generation segments.

According to Simonetti-Bryan, the over 45 bracket is much more brand focused and tend to buy highly recognisable brands, while the under 45 market is more adventurous and willing to try different varietals. For this market segment, she highly recommended the South African Chenin Blanc.

Raats was delighted to be included in the segment after meeting Simonetti-Bryan during a recent trip to the States. “It is fantastic to be featured on a prominent TV news station such as Bloomberg, which is watched by literally millions of viewers globally. It is great when South African wines receive the recognition they deserve and I’m very excited by the exposure for local Chenin Blanc, which I’ve always believed to be the unsung hero of the local wine industry,” mentioned Raats.

The SA wine industry power list today | Beaumont House

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 18th, 2011

 The latest issue of UK magazine Decanter includes the fourth edition of its biennial Power List billed as “the people influencing what’s in your glass today”. Top of the list is Pierre Pringuet, CEO of Pernod Ricard, which according to Decanter is “arguably today’s most diverse, far-reaching major wine producer”, brands including Mumm, Perrier-Jouët, Campo Viejo (Spain) , Jacob’s Creek (Australia) and Brancott Estate (New Zealand). In second place, Eric de Rothschild, president of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, for his success with Lafite in China and third Robert Parker, influential US wine critic.

Wine magazine did a similar exercise back in 2006 coming up with the top 10 individuals defining the South African wine industry, the list running as follows: 1) Nelson Mandela (as the key figure in political transformation); 2) Charles Back of Fairview and Spice Route; 3) wine critic and consultant Michael Fridjhon; 4) John Platter as founder of wine guide Platter’s; 5) Linley Schultz, then chief winemaker at Distell; 6) Danie de Wet of De Wetshof but included for his general involvement in the industry; 7) Carrie Adams, partner in Johannesburg retailer Norman Goodfellows; 8 Stephanus Eksteen, national wine buyer for the Shoprite group; 9) Tim Rands, managing director of wholesaler and distributor Vinimark and 10) Mike Paul of Western Wines, then responsible for Kumala, which was then the largest South African brand and fourth overall in the UK, the country’s most important export market.

Looking at that list it is quite extraordinary how little has changed in the five years since. Mandela at the top of the list was a figurehead for the change that the industry underwent post apartheid and could arguably remain there as industry continues to undergo fundamental restructuring; Schultz has left Distell for Alvi’s Drift, the Worcester operation processing 6 700 tons of grapes a year; Eksteen symbolised the power of supermarkets and he or any of his competitors in that market sector have to remain somewhere on the list; Mike Paul drops off the list – First Cape is currently South Africa’s biggest wine brand in the UK, Kumala has changed hands a number of times, Paul himself is now in consultancy.

What has changed recently? Major producer-wholesaler KWV has experienced a fundamental shake-up: it now has 60% black ownership, chairman of the board is former trade unionist Marcel Golding, while the chief winemaker is Australian Richard Rowe but could either Golding or Rowe yet said to be shaping what’s in your glass right now?

For me, however, an obvious omission from the original list is the private cellar winemaker, the “unknown soldier” of the South African wine industry. The number of wine cellars crushing grapes has increased dramatically in the last two decades or so, up from 212 in 1991 to 604 in 2009, this due in the unabated rise in private cellars, 19 being registered during the course of 2009 alone bringing the total to 524. Though static at 46%, micro-cellars vinifying fewer than 100 tons remain a powerful force in the industry, with them being among the most cutting-edge producers in terms of both production techniques as well as marketing.

Author: Christian Eedes

Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage wins Decanter Gold

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 16th, 2011

Stellenzicht winemaker Guy Webber, has seen his unwavering pleasure in Pinotage rewarded yet again – this time with a gold medal at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards for the 2008 vintage of Stellenzicht’s Golden Triangle Pinotage.

An avowed Pinotage-lover, he believes the appeal of this wine lies in its attractive “cedar and toasty oak scent, balanced by hints of ripe berries and touch of sweet vanilla”. Its tannins are “wonderfully ripe and integrated to leave a very friendly, unobtrusive and lasting finish”.

“Elegance is what I look for when making wine” he adds, in his typically understated way; “If you have good grapes, just treat them well and let them do what they naturally will do.”

Nevertheless, he does concede the importance of nuanced blending to achieve his desired result. “After 19 months of barrel maturation, the different batches were blended and returned to wood for an extra three months, producing sweet characters echoed in the sweet ripe berry and prune flavours of the Pinotage. I think this has added a rich, plush, mouth-filling dimension.”

The wine was aged in a combination of French, Eastern European and American oak barrels.

The 2009 vintage of the wine, now on the local market, expresses the same integrity of pure Pinotage fruit as the 2008 but is slightly more restrained. The wine was matured in oak barrels for 21 months and after blending was returned to wood for an extra month.

Webber says its full and rich flavours of stewed fruit on the palate pair extremely well with hearty home-cooked lamb and also with chicken curry.

For those with a palate for traditional South African fare, he suggests matching the wine with meat and bean casserole served with “stampkoring”, or even with “smoorsnoek” and “korrelkonfyt”.

A perfect companion for a cosy indoors winter’s evening and comfort food, the 2009 Golden Triangle Pinotage retails for about R82 a bottle.

Boplaas Vintage Reserve Ports vertical tasting – 1986 to 2006

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on June 15th, 2011

A vertical is always special; one of Cape Vintage Ports is more than that, it’s a new experience.

The opportunity for such an experience was afforded to a small group of wine folk by Carel Nel and family of Boplaas Calitzdorp, surely a name to conjure up some of the best Cape Port styles produced today.

In the convivial atmosphere of 96 Winery Road, we were treated to 11 vintages, starting with the regular 1986 Vintage before moving on to the Vintage Reserves from that vintage as well as 1989, 1991, 1994 1999, 2001 (CWG), 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. The difference between standard and Reserve vintages as described by the South African Port Producers Association (now re-named the Cape Port Producers Association) is that the Reserve should come from a year of recognised quality and be aged for a minimum of a year in wood.

The quality of that screwcapped 1986, from 100 per cent Tinta Barocca and still drinking well, illustrates both the suitability of the Calitzdorp area is for this style of wine and the speed with which the Nels grasped how to make them. They’ve come a long way since then, to the extent that Paul Symington of the family behind the Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s Ports, has remarked, ‘There is nothing in the New World that compares with South African Port styles.’

Perhaps the major improvement, apart from experience, is the introduction of the king of Port varieties, Touriga Nacional, planted in 1991 and incorporated in the blend from the mid-90’s. No, that’s jumping the gun; the remarkable 1989 CVR, again a Tinta-only vintage from ungrafted, 21 year old vines, reflects the trend for drier wines, around 90 grams of residual sugar, and higher alcohols, between 19% to 20% alc. Better structure, some traditional grip and good freshness enlivens the rich, complex fruit. Don’t rush to open this great one.

Regrettably and at the grand age of 42 years, that vineyard was uprooted after succumbing to nematodes, rather than the phylloxera one might have imagined.

The Nels started to make contact with the Symingtons in 1989, a meeting that gave them an entrée to valuable advice and experience. In the vineyards the goals are low yields with harvesting around 26.5º Balling – lower and the grapes aren’t fully ripe; higher and unwanted raisiny flavours intrude. Quality in the cellar has gained from acid adjustments of around 1.5 g/l, a better understanding of blending and the oaking regime. ‘In 1986 we used new, small oak,’ Nel remembers, ‘never now, new oak flavours are the last thing we want in the wine. Today we use 500 litre barrels, some 80 years old. Of course, you have to be careful to keep the barrels clean, especially as we bottle the wine unfiltered.’

The lodestar for determining vintage quality is most likely still Cabernet from the hub of the Western Cape (Stellenbosch, Paarl etc); Ports from the Calitzdorp area don’t follow obediently. For instance, both 1991 and 1999 were cooler years; in the former, Boplaas Vintage Reserve lacked the fruit richness of 1989 but, in contrast 1999 has more grunt and grip with a beguiling violet fragrance, hinting at the Touriga in the blend with Tinta Barocca; it is still remarkably young. A much hotter year in 1994 produced a big structured wine replete with earthy, sweet fruit from its Tinta, Souzão blend and a warming spirity finish. It too can benefit from further ageing.

But if any vintage demonstrated how careful one has to be to pin an overall quality assessment to Cape wines, it is 2002. After a terrible, wet 2001 spring, when downy mildew ran rampant and then an early onset of winter, it proved one of the worst years for Cabernet and most reds, apart from some Shiraz, in the main areas. Not so for Boplaas Port, a Platter five star wine with incredible concentration and orange peel scents among its complexities. The structure just seems to grow and grow.

It’s difficult to believe it was pipped by the 2001 sold on the Cape Winemakers Guild auction, but it was. This classic – in build as well as in its 50% touriga, 35% tinta and 15% souzão make up – is reminiscent of Portuguese Ports in that it is nowhere near ready to drink. In all respects it has great balance and would make a welcome present for any Port lover turning 21 in 2022 and probably age well for much longer.

If 2003 shows more forward fruit without the concentration of the brilliant, intense 2005 or 2006 (announced the morning of our tasting as winner of the 2011 SAPPA Cape Port Challenge), all three illustrate an upward quality curve thanks to older vines and the Nels’ greater experience. In other words, the vintages shown differed in many respects but there were no poor wines.

There was much discussion about the spirit used for fortification. The Portuguese use an un-aged wine spirit from Cognac. Here a blend of brandy (pot stilled spirit) and wine spirit (column stilled) fortifies the wine, the actual quantities being determined by the desired goal of a final alcohol level of around 18.5% to 20% alc. Nel warns that the fortification should have no brandy flavours, which overrides the fruit, a character I don’t like at all. Surprisingly, Nel claims that if the same spirit as used by the Portuguese was employed in our Ports, the difference between the two wines would be minimal.

There is a bigger difference coming. Nel says from 1st January 2012, ‘Port’ will be dropped from the label locally. Despite the fact that the Wine and Spirits Agreement with the EU has yet to be ratified and the €15 000 000 promised for the restructuring of the SA wines and spirits sector as well as for marketing and distribution of these products has yet to be paid, the Port producers have agreed to drop Port from the label for local sales. Any reference not on the label is permissible, eg Calitzdorp is the Port capital of South Africa. Expect to hear that often!

In my previous blog I mentioned disappointment that no Ports had been awarded gold medals at the last two Trophy Wine Shows. The possible reason is that as the wines have improved, they take longer to show well and have been entered when too young. Certainly Christian Eedes and I agreed we would without question give the 2005 a gold; it received silver last year.

Only 750 cases of the Vintage Reserve are made; much is sold from the farm. It’s worth the detour.

Article by Angela Lloyd

 

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