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After a surfeit of gourmet, gimmicks, leaves and ferments, Myrna Robins is ready for simple, rustic, flavour-packed classics. Turn to bistros, she suggests, to find time-honoured  Gallic  creations, made with love, prepared with  care and offered at palate-pleasing prices.

 


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It’s that time of the year when the best of everything is awarded medals and certificates and, of course, gets welcome publicity. The recent Eat Out awards saw Western Cape restaurants take nine out of the Top Ten places, with a single Gauteng venue taking fifth place. While culinary practices of pickling, smoking, foraging and fermenting continue to be prominent on menus, the Eat Out website suggests that the hottest current trend is that of vegetarian “charcuterie”,  illustrated by colourful pictures of artfully arranged forests of leaves, strewn with edible flowers , funghi  and baby veggies.

While it’s exciting to explore the world of gourmet innovation, few can afford to dine at these exalted venues regularly. The appeal of popular alternatives – burger and pizza joints and Asian noodle bars – can also pall. Time, perhaps,  to consider finding a neighbourhood  bistro, preferably one that offers traditional French  dishes.  If the quality of ingredients and the care taken in combining them are regarded as the yardsticks by which to judge the fare, you probably have a winner. Of less importance is the plating, likely to be straightforward with nary  a wisp of foam, puddle of essence or scattering of crumbs in sight.

French bistro food celebrates generous, full-flavoured cooking, family  fare that includes robust soups, rustic salads, wine-scented stews and casseroles, bubbling gratins and granny’s desserts.  It adds up to inexpensive soul food from small eateries all over France, where pride and tradition ensure maintenance of quality: even truck drivers would not continue to frequent bistros where popular  items like sausage and potato salad, coq au vin, salade niçoise and  lemon tart were not consistently good.  Summer may see pan bagnat or pissaladière on the menu or mussels steamed in white wine, while winter warmth comes as  pot au feu  and chicken with tarragon vinegar. Creations are  usually well-balanced, combining  chicken roasted in chicken fat or butter with fresh watercress to foil the richness and  leg of lamb roasted above a gratin of potato, onion and tomato, the latter flavoured by the meat juices which drip into it.

b2ap3_thumbnail_BISTRO-Christophe.JPGWhere to find these sources of Gallic goodness? Meet one of our most popular of French chefs, known to hundreds of Cape diners: Christophe Dehosse  has lived in  South Africa for some 25 years, where he has delighted  locals and visitors with both gourmet cuisine and now bistro fare in two venues.

Paris-trained, Christophe was working in a well-known restaurant in Cognac country when he met Susan Myburgh, who grew up at the historic Joostenberg farm, near  Klapmuts. The couple relocated  to South Africa where they opened the popular La Maison de Chamonix restaurant on the Franschhoek wine estate in 1992, then  moved to the city and started the Au Jardin restaurant at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands  two years later. Regulars were devastated when they left the suburbs to join the Myburgh family enterprises:  a farm stall and nursery at Klein Joostenberg soon blossomed into a deli and bistro, while a pork butchery, cut flowers, and a winery on the old farm occupy  other family members.

Today the deli and bistro are well established, the wines attract awards and Christophe leaves the kitchen to head chef Garth Bedford, who started as a trainee way back at Au Jardin.  A  peek at the a la carte menu reveals a delectable choice of bistro classics: starters include homemade charcuterie with terrine, rillette, cured pork and ham with a mini-bobotie quiche for local flavour. Mains offer that famous toasted sandwich Croque Monsieur, English-style pork sausage with apple sauce and mashed potato, and braised beef and mushroom ragout in red wine on homemade pasta.  Families that reserve tables for Sunday lunch can expect trays of starters to include items like brawn and pickles, hummus, a vegetarian roulade and salads with homebaked breads.  Their choice of main course could vary from tuna steak with ratatouille and sauce vierge to slow-cooked Karoo lamb or roast shoulder of pork.  The final course is a mélange of local cheeses,  classic floating islands, fresh strawberries and a blueberry cheesecake. This feast costs R205, while children can enjoy two courses for R85. The value is obvious and the culinary standards consistently high, and advance bookings are required.

When I heard that chef patron Dehosse was to open a bistro on the sophisticated Glenelly wine estate outside Stellenbosch, I wondered if the downhome bistro principles could be maintained: a recent lunch there has proved that indeed they can. He continues to be inspired by traditional French fare, sourcing ingredients from local organic growers, adding a soupcon of African  flavours to the mix. A starter of tuna tartare preceded silverfish or beef fillet in red wine sauce  and chocolate fondant with poached pear and yoghurt Chantilly completed the meal. Prices are higher here than at Joostenberg, but, says Christophe firmly, Glenelly is still a bistro where no jacket is required.

It ‘s a measure of his talent that Glenelly’s owner, 91-year-young Madame May de Lencquesaing chose a chef who specializes in rustic  fare to complement her ranges of distinctive estate wines, which offer Old World elegance and New World fruit in appealing combinations. Visitors can choose to dine at long wooden tables on the terrace, or inside where antique chairs and classic Parisian tables offer views of  verdant hills of manicured vineyards. 

 

This article first appeared in the Life section of the Cape Argus on Tuesday November 29.

 

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This inviting, unpretentious Durbanville estate scores on so many levels. That it has managed to fend off suburban creep (which had already reached its boundaries decades ago) is something to celebrate. That the clever Parkers have managed to maintain the original cellar, the ringmuur and slave bell, the ambience of a bygone era are equally important. (the farm was granted by Simon van der Stel in 1698 and named Tygerberg)

And the fact that, along with the lesser-known cultivars that the cellar has been producing (barbera, gewürztraminer) and sauvignon blanc, the winemaking trio have now added a cab to their ranges, rounding out the choices nicely.

To start with the cabernet sauvignon 2015, this is a pleasing example of modern cab-making, easy on the palate, yet with plenty of body, and a delicious freshness. Described as full-bodied, but I found it less so than many others, making it suitable for summer drinking, and as a good partner for fare other than red meat – a mushroom burger for example.

Juicy tannins, a smooth finish, and plenty of lightly spiced berry flavours add up to a well-balanced whole. The grapes came from 17-year-old bush vines, and the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months.

Priced at between R75 and R79 it’s even more appealing to stock up with a case or two as its sure to improve over the next year or two.

The 2016 vintage of sauvignon blanc was a wine I enjoyed very much – firstly because it is not searingly zesty, so no antacid tablets were required. I also loved the wide spectrum of aromas that greeted my nose whenever I unscrewed the cap – some verdant, a little green fig, and far more granadilla and other tropical fruit . These also showed on the palate, but occasional wafts of that distinctive Durbanville verdancy.

This multi-layered wine is sourced from berries from seven separate blocks of dry-land vineyards, ranging in age from 24 down to 10 years old.

This is a most companionable sauvignon, good for an aperitif or partner to summer salads, seafood and poultry. As one of the first Durbanville farms to present their award-wining sauvignon blanc in 1988 – now the region’s rallying cry – Altydgedacht’s version is an essential label on visitor itineraries. And well-priced at around R75.

 

Although gewürztraminer has grown in popularity – thanks perhaps because of its affinity with Thai and other South-east Asian cuisine – but its still fairly uncommon, and the Atltydgedacht gewurz is even more unusual as its made in the style of its European home, Alsace, that is dry rather than the off-dry vintages of other Cape cousins.

This 2015 vintage, produced from bush vines with an average age of 15 years, has just collected gold from the 2016 Michelangelo Awards.  Floral and spice on the nose, and the characteristic combo of rose petals and lychees, is followed by more of the same on the palate, balanced with a crispness and mineral hint that add to its charm. Some will find it an elegant aperitif that offers something more than conventional summer whites, others will pair it with spicy fare with great satisfaction. Expect to pay about R95.

 

 

 

 

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Perhaps it’s only when you have taken part in an organic certification audit that you begin to realise the lengths wine farmers and producers need to go to to obtain that international certification.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to sit in on such an audit, and one that had particular significance for both the farmer – Patricia Werdmuller von Elgg – and one of the auditors! But let me set the scene…

If you wish to label your wines as organic, you need to have your farm and cellar certified by one of the international certification organizations. One of these is SGS, an enormous global group which certifies many manufactured as well as natural products. Because of the limited number of serious organic farmers in South Africa, SGS recently appointed a German company specialising in certifying organic agriculture to conduct the final audit and issue the certificates.

Hout Baai farm is a beautiful boutique wine farm just outside McGregor, in a high valley that looks onto the Sonderend mountains which surround it. From the owner’s terrace sweeping views over vines take the eye toward Die Galg – the saddle at the end of the “road to nowhere” - which is really a high meeting place for hikers and travellers who revel in the protea-rich fynbos which cloaks the terrain.

The picture-perfect farm has been certified as fully organic since 2005. This year Hout Baai was chosen by the certification team as an example of just how an organic farm should look and operate with a place for everything and everything in its place. The audit was particularly important as not only was the resident SGS auditor conducting the checking, but the LACON international auditor was present, overseeing the process, and both were under the eagle eye of DAkkS, the German accreditation body for that country’s Federal Republic.

The inspection date for this three-tier audit was set for mid-July, but the three arrived in Mcregor a day ahead of schedule. They settled into the office where the local representative of the certification body started her work with a long list of questions, which needed not only oral answers but proof by way of reams of paperwork. Pat Werdmuller possesses more files than I have ever seen on a farm, where delivery notes, invoices, statements, receipts and printouts provide years of proof of transactions with approved service and material providers. These were hauled out on demand, as they worked their way through how water is tested, how pipes are cleaned, what fertilizers are used. Records of purchase of guano, seaweed and donkey manure were checked then questions turned to frequency of their application and in what concentrate?

Moving to harvest time, when grape picking machines were hired, questions were asked about the possibility of their bringing in unwanted residue of non-organic matter. They are delivered the day before, replied farm manager Del Jones, “so our guys can scrub and wash them down, ready for harvesting which started at 3.30am."

If there is any doubt about dates, the diary is consulted – this set of annual volumes, dating back to when the farm started operations – is filled with daily entries of chores completed, indoors and out, accompanied by photographs as way of proof.

The second half of the audit took the form of a tour of the farm, as the visitors were shown firebreaks, and buffer trees along boundaries (to limit the chance of non-organic sprays drifting over from neighbouring farms). The approved korog, a wheat-like grass planted between the vine rows to provide a nutrient-rich mulch was starting to show green and pruning of the sauvignon blanc vines was under way , each row numbered (and named after an animal or bird that frequents the farm). Del showed the inspectors the sizeable hole dug by a friendly anteater which had these Germans looking a little bewildered. She also pointed out the camera traps which record the visits of caracals, jackals, hares and antelope, as this farm is as much of a nature reserve as it is a wine grape farm.

The compost plant and the worm farm were duly inspected, and then the stores and workshop revealed just how diligently tools are looked after and kept in their place. The farm labourers’ wendy house – cosily furnished with places for both wet and dry weather uniforms and footwear and sporting refreshment facilities – was duly admired and also noted were the required warning signs and notices detailing safety and health information both inside and outside buildings and machinery.

It came as no surprise to any of us that Hout baai farm passed inspection with flying colours and was thanked by SGS for their faultless presentation and co-operation.

Since that day I have been thinking about the number of organic wine and grape producers listed in the latest edition of the SA wine industry directory, which I received recently. In this useful compendium, published annually by WineLand media, a total of 38 organic growers and cellars are listed. According to one Western Cape producer, who shall be nameless at this stage, only three of these are certified organic. While I have not trawled through those 38 to see if they have included details of international certification in their Platter entries (if, indeed, they are all listed in Platter), it does bring up the vexed question of some producers labelling their wines as “organic” without having been certified.

“We’re all organic these days!” was a cheerful comment from one (non-organic) farmer and winemaker. Many would beg to differ.    

Those who are spending inordinate amounts of time and money to transform their farms and cellars to comply with the exacting demands of global organic auditors do so, of course, of their own free will. But it’s unsurprising they also grit their teeth in frustration at the lack of monitoring and control over those who are benefitting from the green and environmentally-conscious consumer through fraudulent labelling.

Even if farms grow grapes and produce wine organically, only those certified by an internationally accredited body – accompanied by a seal of this organisation – are entitled to label their wines as organic. However, some producers who follow organic principles in every respect choose not to be certified, because of the expensive, labour- intensive, regular, obstructive and lengthy inspections.                                                  

And to further muddy the waters, SA producers are allowed, I am told, to state on bottle labels that their wine was produced from organically grown grapes. And, what about the cellars who produce a range of organic wines alongside non-organic …

At which stage, it seems high time for a glass or two of enjoyable wine, made from organically grown and certified grapes in an organically certified cellar. Make mine a Solara sauvignon blanc. Cheers!

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A varied lineup of events as winter gives way to a green and glorious spring!

 

Benguela on Main restaurant is offering a five-course Christmas dinner on Saturday July 30 . Chef Jean Delport is including treats like smoked breast of goose on his menu, which costs R540 a head. Pair your meal with Benguela Cove wines, and Somerset West residents can enjoy a complimentary drive service to and from the restaurant. For more information or to make a reservation to avoid disappointment, visit the website, call 087 357 0637 or email onmain@benguelacove.co.za

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 Steenberg’s Cool Runnings charity trail run takes place through the Constantia vineyards on Saturday August 6. Choose from a 5 or 10km loop. All proceeds to the Mdzananda Vet Clinic in Khayelitsha, a community project that provides quality care for ill and abandoned animals. Finish with a glass of Steenberg sparkling sauvignon blanc and follow with a free wine tasting if you wish. A Mdzananda Vet Donation Box will be available prior to the race where leashes, blankets, dog or cat food and other pet items can be dropped into.The entry fee is R130 per trail runner, R50 per teen between the ages of 12-17, while children under 12 have free entry. Registration opens at 7am outside the Bistro1682 Restaurant. Walkers are welcomed. The briefing takes place 15-minutes ahead of the race at 8am. Pre-booking is essential and can be done online at www.quicket.co.za.

 

Bottelary Hills Wine Route ‘Pop Up’ Lunch

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Savour a slow-cooked Sunday pork lunch with chef Bertus Basson on August 14 at Groenland estate when he will present a three-course lunch that smokes, sears and sizzles. The fires will be lit and guests can enjoy Bottelary Hills wine ahead of their meal. Lunch costs R350 a head, including a wine tasting and glass of wine per course. Book through www.wineroute.co.za or Tel: (021) 886 8275 or marketing@wineroute.co.za

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Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Showcase of rare, individual wines

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This popular annual event takes place in Cape Town on Thursday, 18 August at the CTICC from 6pm and in Johannesburg on Wed August 24 at the Atrium, Nedbank Sandton at 6pm. Tickets cost R250 which includes a tasting glass.

Wine enthusiasts cantaste these unique collectors’ wines crafted exclusively in small volumes for the 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction by the Guild’s 47 members.Members of the Guild will also be presenting some of their acclaimed offerings sold under their own labels. Guests can also bid on rare signed bottles from previous Guild auctions during the Silent Auction. Founded in 1999, the Development Trust seeks to transform the wine industry by educating, training and empowering young talent through initiatives such as the Protégé Programme, a highly acclaimed mentorship scheme for upcoming winemakers and viticulturists.Tickets can be purchased via www.webtickets.co.za

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“WE LOVE WINE” FEST RETURNS TO CAPEGATE 

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If Calling northern suburbs winelovers! Just ahead of spring, head to Capegate Shopping Centre for a great weekend wine fest, taking place from 5 - 9pm on Friday August 26 and from 12 noon to 6pm on Saturday 27th.

 

 

Festival visitors can taste and buy more than 100 wines directly from the wineries, which include large producers with well-known brands and smaller boutique and family-owned wineries, giving a taste of the best of South Africa’s winelands in one venue.

 

The Cape Wine Academy is presenting a wine theatre (Three sessions on Friday and four sessions on Saturday) with fun tastings and pairings on the programme at set times.

 

Participating wineries include: Alexanderfontein/Ormonde, Arendskloof/Eagle’s Cliff, Beyerskloof Wines, Biocape Wines, Bonnievale Cellar, Diemersfontein Wines, Dieu Donnè Vineyards, Deux Frères Wines, Du Toitskloof Wines, Edgebaston, Eerstehoop Wines, Fledge & Co, Groenland, Imbuko Wines, La Couronne Wine Estate, MWS, Orange River Cellars, Overhex Wines International, Perdeberg Winery, Peter Bayly Wines, Stellenbosch Hills, Villiera Wines, Villiersdorp Cellar, Yonder Hill Wines.

 

The Pebbles Project, which looks after disadvantaged children, especially those impacted by alcohol, is the charity beneficiary of the festival and will be present to spread their message and raise funds and awareness.

 

Tickets from the door or through www.quicket.co.za  cost R70 pp (Includes a branded tasting glass) Bookings for the CWA theatre sessions can be made at the ticket office.

 

For up to date information, visit www.capegatecentre.co.za

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Bot River hosts blooming nice Spring Weekend

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Enjoy a relaxed weekend in the Overberg from September 2 – 4 during the annual fest hosted by the winemaking community. The region features 11 wine farms, each of which will offer attractions ranging from farm fare, olive oils, fine wines and local talent. Attractions include sausage-making course at Luddite, oysters and bubbles from Genevieve MCC, fynbos hikes at Paardenkloof, lunch at Wildekrans and at Gabrielskloof. Plenty to amuse the small fry as well. Farms will be open from 10am to 4pm. Tickets (weekend pass) cost R100 and obtainable from www.quicket.co.za .For more information on the Bot River Spring Weekend 2016 contact Melissa Nelsen at Cell: 083 302 6562 or email Melissa@genevievemcc.co.za.

 

MIKI CIMAN OF LA MASSERIA INTRODUCES SMALLER CHEESE MAKERS

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Be it gorgonzola, pecorino, fontina, mozzarella, provolone, brie, chèvre, blue or cheddar, the Say Cheese! Artisan Cheese Fair will celebrate all things cheese on 24 and 25 September 2016 at the Italian Club, Milnerton. THE event will bring together artisan cheesemakers, cheese lovers, bakers, brewers and visitors. Says Ciman, “The Fair will allow guests to appreciate every step of the farm-to-table process of cheese making, while highlighting the extraordinary local talent we have in this field. Chefs will take part and wine will be on sale. Tickets will be on sale at the door, at R80 for adults and R30 for children from 11 – 18. Children under 10 go in free.For further information, please email Kiki at saycheesefair@gmail.com or phone Elize Nel on 072 795 4214.

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A CULINARY JOURNEY OF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIGENOUS FOODS [compiled] by Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga and Ursula Moroane-Kgomo. Published by Indiza Co-operative and Modjaji Books. 2015.

 

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Myrna Robins enjoyed the gastronomic trip through our provinces, but questions the fare included in one of the chapters.

Those following western diets may gulp at thought of a snack of salted stinkbugs fried in butter, while others – who spend as little time as possible in the kitchen – may appreciate the Swati dish Indakala,or boiled,salted peanuts. Both can be found in the second edition of a compilation of our indigenous dishes, following on the original, published in 2000 through the CSIR.

The new and intriguing collection of heritage recipes from 11 ethnic groups across South Africa, reveals that much of the fare is also contemporary, as current generations of rural cooks continue to use local ingredients and traditional recipes to feed their families.

IndiZA Foods is a Pretoria-based company headed by MD Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga and Operations Director Ursula Moroane-Kgomo, both high-powered businesswomen with degrees in food science, business management and considerable experience in the food industry. Both are also passionate about the preservation of indigenous culinary cultures, women empowerment and rural development. Their joint enthusiasm resulted in the publication of this worthy addition to our traditional culinary literature.

Women in the rural communities were invited to submit recipes for the food they cook daily: These reveal simple fare using local ingredients, occasionally enlivened by stock cubes, seasonings, and items like margarine. Several high schools were also involved in the project.

The compilers started in North West, with Tswana dishes and went on to Mpumalanga where Ndebele and Swati specialities were hunted down. The Free State yielded Sotho staple fare and the northern province of Limpopo saw recipes collected from Tsonga, Pedi and Venda cuisines. In the Eastern Cape the Xhosa gastronomic heritage was celebrated and Kwa –Zulu Natal presented Zulu menus. From the Western Cape comes a listing described as Khoisan recipes and the final grouping is Afrikaans marked, somewhat strangely, as centred in Gauteng.

The dishes are, as one would expect, simple, largely straightforward renderings of grains, legumes and leaves, gourds and tubers, sparked by indigenous fruits and enlivened by worms and insects. Beef and chicken feature occasionally. There is not a single seafood recipe in this collection.

Perhaps because of their (comparatively) exotic nature, I enjoyed browsing through the cuisines of the northern groups in particular: Among the Pedi recipes is one labelled baobab-fruit yoghurt, a good start to the day, while Venda cooks lift their protein intake with Mashonzha (mopani worms and peanuts) and Thongolifha (stinkbugs fried in butter ). Several species of Morogo, or wild leaves are used, including Pigweed or Amarinth, Blackjack, Spider plant, pumpkin, and wild jute. Breads are uncommon, but the Tswana make Diphaphata, a flatbread using wheat flour, Ndebele cooks use brown bread flour for their steamed bread, while others are based on mealie meal. Desserts are almost non-existent although there’s a Sotho recipe for bottling peaches in sugar syrup.

I contacted the compilers to ask why Gauteng was used as a source for Afrikaans recipes and was told that they invited several groups in the Western and Northern Cape to take part, without success, so eventually resorted to finding them from Gauteng-based Afrikaners. The recipes are authentic Cape cuisine, dishes that have become South African classics.

I gazed, somewhat incredulously, at the pictures and recipes in the Khoisan section, pages where I expected to find items like shellfish, venison, ghaap, sour figs, veldkool, waterblommetjies, and perhaps drinks based on milk. Instead, there’s a Greek-style salad with feta and olives, a caramel pud and a standard white bread recipe. Liver and onions and a mutton potjie (with red wine and packet soup powder) could just pass muster but there is virtually nothing that says “Khoisan” or “Khoi-khoin” in this mini-collection. The recipes were sourced from a group of cooks in Vredendal, and I contacted one of the contributors to ask her how these came to be regarded as Khoisan. Freda Wicomb is the housekeeper at a local boarding school, and is a popular and capable cook, but she had no answer, saying this was how she cooked.

Khoisan, referring to two distinct groups of early South African inhabitants, is a term that should not be applied to their cuisines, as they were very different. The Bushmen, or San were hunter-gatherers while the Khoi were herders. The latter group’s culinary and cultural heritage has been well researched, by fundis such as Dr Renata Coetzee whose brilliant book Kukumakranka presents an exhaustive discussion on the subject. Ingredients used in the past can still be found today, and cooks of both Griqua and Nama descent use veldkos in their potjies, and make askoek, potbrood and vetkoek, as did their forbears.

I suggested that the compilers also contact Chef Shaun Schoeman of Solms Delta’s Fyndraai restaurant, whose Heritage menu includes Khoe-Khoen breads, waterblommetjie soup and desserts starring herbs like buchu, for their next edition.

Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga assures me this section will be more authentic and will also include Cape Malay cuisine. Sadly we will have to wait until 2024 for the new edition.

Meanwhile, this title, illustrated with photographs of many of the recipes, is well-indexed and includes information on many of the ingredients unknown to western cooking. The book is endorsed by the SA Chefs Association and supported by the Department of Arts and Culture.

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Victorian wine cellar at Mont Rochelle

 

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Great to see winemaker Dustin Osborne back in the mountainside cellar of Mont Rochelle. Pretty sure I recognised one or two of the staff at the Country Kitchen as well; if they were there seven years ago, then I am probably right in thinking I met them when gathering information on this unique farm for my Franschhoek Food cookbook.

Champagne was its first name, given to this picturesque stretch by Abraham de Villiers in 1694. It changed to an equally positive Goedehoop more than a century later, finally was christened Mont Rochelle by a 20th century descendant, Graham de Villiers when he acquired it. Earlier this century then owners of hotel and vineyards, Erwin Schnitzler and Miko Rwayitare merged the two to create Mont Rochelle hotel and Mountain vineyards, and newly appointed winemaker Dustin Osborne started producing some memorable reds, one of which is the farm’s flagship red blend today.

Although Franschhoek is a sophisticated village growing increasingly used to foreigners buying bits and pieces, the acquisition of the estate by Virgin Limited Edition collection, and Richard Branson in particular, caused a buzz, which died down while renovations were undertaken at the hotel and gourmet restaurant, and at the rustic Country Kitchen and picturesque cellar.

The latter two venues have not changed much – the 150 year-old-cellar, a former fruit packshed, is as appealing as ever, although Dustin is happier with new flooring and updated machinery. The restaurant, open to terrace and lawns lining a big dam, is still relaxed, serving deli-type fare inside and out, along with picnics.

During a recent visit, a handful of wine writers started their tasting in the cellar, with a charming sauvignon blanc 2015, grapes from the farm’s 22 -year-old vineyards, the fresh wine with subtle fruit lent complexity by 10% semillon and 2and half % viognier. Well-balanced and a great buy at R85.

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Osborne has long been a champion chardonnay maker, and his latest, Mont Rochelle’s 2015 chardonnay is as good as any I remember. It’s elegant, fresh, with tangible minerality, full-bodied, with a long finish. Limited edition from vines planted in ’94, just over half barrel-matured, this is equally delicious as an aperitif or complementing voguish salads and well-bred poultry. We paired

[Caption: Dustin Osborne, Enrico Jacobs and Jenny Prinsloo in picnic mode] Photograph: Shantelle Visser

it with an inspired cauliflower and vanilla risotto – memorable. The wine is also reasonably priced at R100 from farm.

More good news is the launch of an easy-drinking red, Little Rock Rouge 2014, a cab-based blend with merlot and splashes of mourvèdre and petit verdot adding aroma and flavour to a vibrant, enjoyable wine with smooth tannins. Along with its 2015 white counterpart, not yet released, these cost R72 each.

During Dustin’s first stint at the farm he created a fine syrah-based blend named Miko in honour of former owner the late Miko Rwayitare. This flaghip 2009 vintage wine, intense, complex, and well-balanced with dark fruit, spice and savoury undertones, is showing well and is an impressive introduction to the potential of the farm’s terroir.

Our little group had moved through cellar to lawns to tasting cellar to terrace, where we teamed this vinous star with tender venison on sweet potato. Dustin then produced a number of aged cabs which had been discovered under a floor in the adjoining manor house during renovations and an informal vertical tasting commenced, starting off with the ’96 vintage… A few of these may be added to the cellar stock for those seeking museum class reds.

 

We did not see the hotel or more formal Miko restaurant during our visit but heard that the hotel is just about full until Easter, with bookings for weddings increasing nicely. What impressed me at the winery and Country Kitchen was the informality, the friendly yet efficient service, and an atmosphere that is far from stiff or grand. One gets the impression that Branson, having appointed good staff, is content to leave his estate in capable hands. Global visitors can now move from his private game reserve, Ulusaba, in the north of South Africa to our incomparable winelands, for a holiday that can compete with the best on the planet.

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We all knew that Kleine Zalze's new cellarmaster had big boots to fill, as he took over from Johan Joubert. Alastair Rimmer's maiden chenin blanc and chardonnay are both ample, enjoyable proof that he will be carrying on the cellar's impressive reputation for over-delivery on quality and pure enjoyment with a range of wines that have attracted strings of awards both here and internationally.

The farm's Vineyard Selection chenin blanc 2015 follows in the tradition of a beautifully balanced meld of fruit with structure lent from subtle oak. Enough acidity to keep everything fresh, ideal late summer wine for both aperitifs and al fresco fare, but can safely be kept for a few years as well. A very good buy at R77.

In similar style, the Vineyard Selection chardonnay 2015, selling for R80 from cellar door is a fine example of Rimmer's talent: both Stellenbosch and Robertson grapes were sourced for this wine, which spent seven months in oak before blending and bottling. The citrus, pear and stone fruit, with apple providing a floral note, fulfil chardonnay fans' expectations, there's a mineral core, and overall elegance which combines to make this a classic with complexity that should develop further if cellared.

In best Kleine Zalze tradition, these constitute another pair of winners.

 

 

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The focus has been on rosé recently,as these wines are promoted for Valentines day – or weekend as it is this year. I’ve been sampling enjoyable examples while putting together a story for the national lifestyle pages of the Independent group. And, doing it during a heatwave made me appreciate the charms of a well -chilled pink, particularly those with some backbone along with berry flavours.

I am sure that the first Rickety Bridge rosé fest on Saturday the 13th is going to be a sellout – the attractions are wide-ranging and the heatwave should be past its worst, according to predictions. It’s been a while since I tasted examples of their winemaker, Wynand Grobler’s craft, but I have long regarded him as one of the valley’s most talented – and his Foundation Stone rosé (shiraz/Grenache/mourvèdre) and his scintillating NV Cap Classique brut rosé confirm my opinion.

Meanwhile, up the Franschhoek pass to La Petite Ferme, that perennially popular destination for thousands of repeat visitors, now under new Swiss ownership. There’s a new winemaker too, but the 2015 rosé, a largely merlot affair with a dash of sauvignon blanc, is still a product of the Dendy-Youngs. This salmon-tinted summer charmer presents an aroma of rose petal, with berry and cinnamon flavours, with a little sauvignon zest. It finished dry on the palate.

Staying in the Franschhoek valley, Vrede en Lust's enjoyable dry rose, named  Jess, has become a firm favourite in the Vrede en Lust range. Named after the owner's eldest daughter, this crisp wine with its berry and melon notes is a blend of mostly pinotage, with some shiraz and a dash of grenache.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Glenrose-3rd-attempt.jpgThe L’Avenir team from Stellenbosch is not content to produce admirable conventional pinotage, but has added a fine pinotage rosé to the range, its patrician status emphasized by an unique bottle featuring a protea-shaped punt. Glenrosé is made in the Provencal style, its nose of rose petals and strawberry and citrus ahead of a crisp, dry but fruity flavours on the palate, along with a mineral presence. This top of the range example sells for R200. b2ap3_thumbnail_Glenrose-3rd-attempt.jpg

 

 

Turning to my adopted wine region, there are two rosés that I strongly recommend to visitors heading Robertson  way soon: Tanagra’s superb example produced from cab franc has just one fault, and that is there isn’t enough of it. The other is the 2015 rosé from Quando, Fanus Bruwer’s boutique cellar near Bonnievale. He use mourvèdre for this charmer.

I also enjoyed Saronsbergs all-shiraz rosé from their Provenance range. Cellarmaster Dewaldt Heyns specializes in shiraz, among other reds, and this offers a light-hearted aside, complete with sculptor Angus Taylor’s Earth Mother on the label. Tulbagh has acquired a major red wine player with the establishment of this art-filled estate.

One would hardly know where to start when contemplating pinks from the vast Stellenbosch region, but for good value for consistent quality, the dry, fruity and flavour-packed rosé in Ken Forrester’s Petit range is ready to complement many a late summer al fresco meal.

When it comes to rosé Cap Classique bruts, I always enjoy Allee Bleue’s, the NV from Graham Beck and have heard great reports about Webersburg’s NV pinot noir/pinotage brut. Finally, its been a long time since I tasted it, but if memory serves me well, the patrician Lady Alice all-pinot, MCC from Muratie, which comes complete with tales of memorable early 20th century parties, is a bubbly to consider.

A word of thanks to those marketing colleagues who obtained rosé samples for me at such short notice – Posy, Nicolette, Melissa, hugely appreciated.

Whatever fare you’re planning for the coming weekend it’s likely that a crisp pink will pair well. Picnics, salads, sushi, shellfish, salmon, berry finales, you name it, rosé will enhance it.

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Fans of Italian fare (and isn’t that nearly everyone?) should diarise October 5 and 6 when the first Festa Italiana will take place in Milnerton at the Italian Club.

The club will be transformed into an Italian street fair, such as you find in Rome, Milan, Naples, Venice and Palermo. All things Italian will be the focus, with food and cooking playing a major role. Italian cars to drool over will prove popular while wine, fashion, music, arts and crafts are all on the menu.

Author and foodie Grazia Barletti will demonstrate Italian culinary dishes, ahead of launching her third book, Delicious Italian Moments. Expect to see her produce Peperonata and Amaretti Semifreddo. Her demos start at 11am on Saturday and 14,45pm on Sunday.

Giovanni and Gabriella Esposito, a father and daughter duo will also be demonstrating cooking, while Davide Ostuni will show us how to make authentic mozzarella cheese.

The programme is packed with two days of exciting activities with something for all age groups. As the organisers say, Italian brands are highly sought after and popular in every culture. From la Scala Opera to the Florentine arts, fashion icons, gastronomic delights and automotive brands, “Made in Italy “is in class of its own.”

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Tickets can be bought through Webtickets or at the door on the day. Costs are R80 for adults, R55 for pensioners and children from 12 – 18. Children under 12 go in free. The Italian Club is at 16 Donegal Street, Rugby, Milnerton.

 

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When the second vintage of a new wine is even better than the first – and the first was memorable – then you know you have found a label to love. When the winery does not raise the price to unaffordable levels just because it’s attracting awards, the said label becomes even more attractive.

So it was with the release of the 2018 vintage of Tanagra Colombard, which I sampled at the 10 year anniversary celebration of this beautiful boutique wine cellar, distillery and guest farm, a few kilometres from the village of McGregor.

Colombard (or Colombar) is not a noble cultivar., but a modest varietal occupying just more than 1,9% of South Africa’s vineyard area. It is used largely as a major component of base wine for our illustrious brandy production. And, has now proven to the wine world that it can yield grapes that – having been nurtured in the vineyard and enjoyed careful and talented attention in the cella -, it can produce a fine wine of quality.

The maiden vintage, 2017 presented us a golden-hued wine that, along with being delicious , enjoyed the element of surprise. Would its successor maintain the quality?   It did, in every aspect, adding something of a polished character as if to say – I’m here and ready to stay! The grapes come from a single vineyard on the farm, 22 years old, yielding enough berries to produce 2 300 bottles. The early-morning harvest was gently crushed, and natural or wild yeasts used to ferment the juice .

The wine spent a month in third-fill oak barrels before bottling Alcohol levels are held at a modest 13%. The wine offers flavours of sub-tropical and stone fruit on the palate, including a hint of the characteristic guava. Medium-bodied with some flint, it is fresh without being acidic and a hint of cream adds to well -rounded happiness

A charming aperitif for spring days and summer nights that comes into its own as a companionable partner for many an al fresco dish, including tomato-based fare which is usually difficult to pair well. Robert and Anette Rosenbach have received reports from far and wide on how well their Colombard adds enjoyment to both luncheon and supper menus, while it’s equally happy to partner local cheese.

It sells for R100 and details of stockists and deliveries can be found on their website www.tanagra-wines.com. Visitors to the Robertson Wine on the River festival in mid-October will be able to taste it at the Tanagra stand.

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BOEREKOS WITH A TWIST by Annelien Pienaar. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2018 

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This delicious cookbook has been out for more than a year already, but that is not stopping me from reviewing it now, in fine time for Heritage month as Pienaar’s collection presents a collection of time-honoured family favourites, updated, so boerekos with a twist, as the title tells us.

So, you will find basil pesto following biltong paté, koeksusters preceding berry muffins, but most of the fare in this title is traditional, country fare where cooks used to substitute ingredients where necessary. Vegetables are often sweetened, tarts and pies make use of canned and smoked fillings that were available to cooks living far from markets and supermarkets.

The author is as trendy as tomorrow, food scientist, guest farm owner, television cook, cookery school owner and blogger with – wait for it – more than five million followers.

The fact that she teaches cookery shines through every page, as she presents every recipe as a lesson, from the introduction, through the ingredient list (both cup and spoon and metric measurements given) to a step- by -step numbered method with detailed instructions.

The contents follow the traditional menu format, starting with soups and sauces, working through vegetables, meat and fish before extended sections of baking, scones and pies and desserts. Those interested in heritage Cape fare will find recipes for boerewors, for curried brawn, for smoking meat on the stove top using rooibos teabags. Desserts range from a trad favourite – guava foam tart - to a sophisticated and beautiful berry and cream pavlova.

Beautifully illustrated with food photographs by Myburgh du Plessis and Hanneri de Wet , that are as tempting as any I have seen, the text concludes with some suggested menus and a detailed index.

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Unwind, unplug, breathe deep and savour the rural scene.  You're at  one of the most popular annual wine and food festivals in South Africa, with good reason. The 14th Wine on the River festival, hosted by the Robertson Wine Valley and Nedbank will welcome visitors daily from Friday October 11 to Sunday 13th with wonderful wine, fine country fare, a host of activities and memorable hospitality.

 

As before, the lawned and shady banks of the placid Breede river on Goudmyn farm make the perfect setting for the tents, stalls and al fresco restaurants that transform the riverside into a hive of happy festival-goers.

Along with tasting your favourite white, red, rosé and sparkling wines, you are likely to find exciting new varietals to try and buy. Snack on delectable local produce as you wander along, pause for quality coffee and rusks and take your pick from a tempting selection of lunch menus savoured at tables under umbrellas. Children will gravitate to their own area where supervised activities for all ages are offered.

Go one better and indulge in a Connoisseurs ticket which makes you a VIP for the day, with entrance to the Nedbank Lounge, where all kinds of goodies and treats are on tap. Book a seat at the wine theatre for wine and food pairings to remember. And note that stocking your boot with your fine quality wine purchases from this valley makes a far smaller dent in your budget than those from many of the competition!

Travellers booking for the weekend have a wide choice of village and farm accommodation to contemplate, plus luxurious camping, or glamping, presented in a package that includes tickets and transport.

B&B hosts in Robertson, McGregor, Bonnievale, Ashton and Montagu wait to welcome you (and there will be shuttle servces available from all towns to the festival over the weekend. You can even pre-book your shuttle trips on the website.)

The sporting types, both runners and bikers, will want to head to Van Loveren Family Vineyards where the popular Java MTB Challenge takes place on Saturday 12th October. There is a great choice of routes; runners have alternative 10km and 15km trails to consider while biking families can enter for  the non-technical fun ride . Serious riders can choose from more gruelling routes, some for top riders only. Every participant will receive a medal and goody-bag! Visit www.javamtb.co.za for more info, or call Alet on 023 6151505.

 

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Festival visitors enjoy feeling good about something they do or buy, which is why three charitable organisations always book their place at Wine on the River. Those enjoying a boat cruise on the river contribute to the Breede Hospice , which will also be selling snacks from their stall. The acclaimed Thunderchild red blend will also be on sale, every cent of your purchase going to Die Herberg, an orphanage with a century of history of ensuring a loving home and well educated childhood to hundreds of less fortunate children. Look out as well for the craft stall filled with useful items created by the folks at the home for seniors in Robertson – sales of  inexpensive items that boost their funds.

 

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Tickets cost from R150 to R350 a head, with a VIP ticket selling for R750. Buy your tickets online from Howler.co.za. There will be no ticket sales at the entrance gates, so it's essential that you get yours before you go.  For further info on accommodation, transport and wine theatre bookings, visit www.wineonriver.com, email admin@robertsonwinevalley.com or call 023 626 3167.

 

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Heritage month makes a great excuse, should we need one, to focus on our Cape history – its viticulture, architecture and cuisine, among other aspects. So when a trio of Lanzerac wines arrived that all embody this colourful heritage, the subject of this September blog required no further debate.

A few years back cellarmaster Wynand Lategan added the maiden vintages of a new range to the Lanzerac wine portfolio. Headed the Keldermeester Versameling he focussed on fine harvests of uncommon cultivars, bottled them in heavy glass bottles closed with wax and added a minimalistic white label. The back label offers some info, and only Afrikaans is used.

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There are two whites in this range, both of which are worth sampling when next you visit the tasting centre. There’s very little pinot blanc in South Africa, but Lanzerac boasts a single, low-yield vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley which Lategan used to make Christina in 2001, a rare example of this varietal, launched to coincide with the arrival of the new millennium and given the thumbs up by Tim James in the 2002 edition of Platter’s wines. Fast forward to 2017 when the first vintages of the Keldermeester Versameling were released, one of which is a limited edition, named Bergpad, a wooded pinot blanc which I enjoyed enormously. Golden in hue, it makes quite a bold statement, (I received the 2016), full bodied, old oak melding with flavours of pineapple and semi-tropical fruit, freshness thanks to muted acidity.  The wine is  a fine example of well-balanced handling, just different enough to offer a nice altlernative to the usual whites. It is a fine tribute to the famous mountain path that stretches from Coetzenberg sports ground to Lanzerac, that has seen generations of Stellenbosch students tramp their way to the famous bar on the farm.

Bergpad was joined by Bergstroom last year, a 2017 vintage blend of homegrown sauvignon blanc and semillon from Elgin. Fermentation took place in old French oak, using mostly natural yeast, and six months of maturation preceded blending and bottling. It is a charming example of a classic blend, offer ing green fruity flavours of kiwi and gooseberry, a long delicious mouthfeel that lacks the acidity that often dominates sauvignon blanc. Alcohol levels of 14% are not obvious, and this makes both a moreish aperitif and fine partner for local salmon trout with beurre blanc. Bergstroom also pays pleasing tribute to mountain streams, both those of Stellenbosch and of many a small South African dorp, offering irrigation lifelines to people, livestock and crops.

Both these delightful whites, limited editions and numbered, are available only from Lanzerac, priced at a reasonable R200.

No vinous discussion about heritage could exclude our one true indigenous grape – pinotage is not only enjoying global acclaim at present, but Lanzerac estate is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Lanzerac pinotage which was produced by then owners,  SFW co-operative, under the Lanzerac label. Created by Stellenbosch universty’s Professor Abraham Perold who cross-pollinated pinot noir and cinsaut to produce just four seeds in 1925, the new cultivar, pinotage flourished and was first used in blending with other dry reds.

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Today cellarmaster Lategan continues to specialise in pinotage, offering winelovers and connoisseurs an easy-drinking rosé, a full-bodied classic pinotage from the premium range and the flagship Pionier Pinotage, a single vineyard champion .

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Iconic wine from an iconic Cape estate: Having been fully restored after a major fire two years ago, Lanzerac is back on the winelands map, as beautiful and elegant as ever. More than three centuries of history can be experienced in the special ambience found in some sections where old walls and woodwork retain the patina of many an ancestral presence. Beauty abounds in a magnificent setting, as the estate wears its three centuries with effortless grace.

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CHOIRS FOR AFRICA TO RAISE FUNDS FOR AGRICULTURAL YOUTH PROJECTS

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SING! Choir “Extravaganza takes place at the Grand Arena, GrandWest in Cape Town on Saturday September 7 at 18h30 for 19h00. The Ndlovu Youth Choir from Limpopo will be joining the Tygerberg Chrildren’s Choir, the Libertas Choir and the Cape Town Youth Choir in a diverse programme . The Limpopo choir is known for their performance of Afro-Pop classics and traditional music, while the Libertas choir performs a cappella music and trad and contemporary South African songs. The event is organised by Agri-Expo to raise funds for agricultural youth projects.

After their individual performances there will be a mass choir performance. Tickets from Computicket at R200 – R350. See www.singsa.co.za for more information.

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Stellenbosch Hills' Heritage pairing

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September is about roots and this year Stellenbosch Hills gets you back to yours with new tastings to celebrate the diversity of South African heritage.

In partnership with the Private Hotel School, the Heritage Food & Wine Pairing for September 2019 features a line-up of firm favourites for R75pp. 

First up is the 1707 Reserve White 2018 served in a perfect partnership with Cape Malay pickled fish and a slice of crisp, garlic-flavoured bruschetta.

: the 1707 Reserve Red 2015 – a Gold medal winner at Veritas 2017 - shines delectably alongside boerewors-inspired meatballs served on home-made tomato chutney.

The parting is delivered by the stellar Stellenbosch Hills Muscat de Hambourg 2018 – the 30th anniversary vintage of this all-round favourite – paired with orange malva pudding with a rooibos tea infused crème anglaise.

The Stellenbosch Hills Heritage Food & Wine is available Monday to Friday, 09h00 to 17h00, and Saturday 10h00 to 15h00 for R75.pp. Bookings are essential. Call 021 881 3828 or eamail info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za

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TASTING OF TIM ATKIN’S TOP-SCORING WINES

There will be a public tasting of his 95+ point scoring wines with the winemakers in Cape Town on 13 September. To book tickets at a cost of R500, go to: http://www.winecellar.co.za/tim-atkin-tasting-13-sept-cpt-nv.html

UK journalist Tim Atkin, MW is a multiple-award winning journalist, wine taster, photographer and writer with 34 years’ experience. He has just released his seventh annual guide to SA wines, and calls the Cape “one of the most exciting wine-producing countries on the planet”, thanks to a combination of old vines, young winemaking talent, established names, varied terroirs and a can-do spirit.

This year, Atkin singles out Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Syrah for special praise, all of which are established varieties in the Cape, but also highlights the “enormous potential” of Albariño, Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Furmint, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Roussanne and Verdelho. Atkin's 2019 South Africa Special Report runs to over 281 pages and is the product of three trips to the Cape over the last year, as well as further tastings in the UK, and includes:

  • Top wines of the year (white, red, rosé, sweet, fortified and sparkling);
  • Scores for 2,118 wines, with retail prices in South African Rand, ranging from R33 to R4,000;
  • 1,447 tasting notes;
  • Evocative photos of the winelands and winemakers;
  • His controversial 2019 classification of the 250 best South African wineries.
    •  Tim Atkin MW’s 2019 South Africa Special Report is available to download from www.timatkin.com for £20.

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RMB WINEX 2019

 

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RMB WineX turns a proud 20 this year, as it holds its annual wine festival from Wednesday 30 October to Friday 1 November at the Sandton Convention Centre. The

the best of the Cape – and some gems from the international wine scene – will be poured. At least 30 wineries from the inaugural show aret taking part plus a large contingent of next-generation winemakers showcasing their wares to the vibrant Gauteng market. 

The RMB Private Bank Tasting Lounge has become a much anticipated feature at the show over the last five years.  Winemakers present half-hour small-group tastings covering a range of fascinating topics.  Seats are limited and secured on a first-booked-first-served basis, so guests should reserve their attendance immediately on arrival at the show. 

Show visitors won’t go hungry with the array of edibles on show for sampling and sale.  French cheese, Morgenster olives, foie gras, West Coast oysters, sushi from the Sushi Bus, Norwegian smoked salmon, chocolates and nougat will be the order of the day along with the tapas and deli dishes sold at the Mastrantonio Café.  The Shop@Show facility, administered by Norman Goodfellows, offers the convenience of a one-stop wine buying service for home delivery in time for the festive season. 

 

RMB WineX 2019 Details:       

            

Dates: Wednesday 30 October to Friday 1 November 2019 (Wednesday night by invitation only)

Venue: The Pavilion, Sandton Convention Centre, Maude Street, Sandton

Time: 17h00 to 21h00 each night

Tickets for Thursday and Friday nights: www.winex.co.za from 16 September.  Strictly no under 18s. 

Getting there and home:

 

Event Queries: www.winex.co.za for all details, list of exhibitors and wines in the lead-up to the show, and to register for Shop@Show. 

Contact: OutSorceress Marketing, telephone 011 482 5936 or email winex@outsorceress.co.za.

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CELEBRATE CHENIN AT PERDEBERG WINES

 

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Chenin Blanc has made huge strides in quality and popularity over the last few years, with a passionate group of producers aiming for the stars!

 

 

The first “Celebrate Chenin” Festival, presented by Perdeberg Wines will share this passion with wine lovers, showing off styles from serious barrel-fermented whites, easy-drinking fruity summer wine right up to Methóde Cap Classique bubblies and incredible dessert wines.

 

Twenty wineries will offer their wines for tasting and for sale directly to visitors. Food Trucks and live music will round off the experience.

 

DATE:                    Saturday 2 November, 11h00-16h00.

 

VENUE:                                Perdeberg Wines, Windmeul Rd, Agter-Paarl.  Visit www.perdeberg.co.za for more info.

 

TICKETS:               R250 online at Webtickets, R280 at the Box Office on site. Includes: Branded crystal glass, R60 food coupon, live music and free tastings.

 

 

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Given the growing trend to produce wines that reflect a sense of place , it’s good to see Stellenbosch Hills join the mode with the release of a pair of classy limited edition wines that now form their flagship duo. The range will soon be expanded with the addition of a MCC.

Both the white, a wooded chenin blanc and the red blend have cork closures and attractive front labels, the former featuring a wild chestnut flower, the latter our beautiful sunbird , his beak deep in a Sugarbush Protea. These features are found on the farm(s) from where the grapes were sourced.

Kastanjeberg 2017 is a wooded chenin, produced from a single vineyard growing high on slopes facing False Bay. This is a bold, full-bodied chenin, offering aromas of honey and stone fruit and whiffs of vanilla from its time in oak. There is more fruit on the palate, where flavours of peach and apricot are complemented with some nuttiness, oak lending tannic structure and vanilla, and acidity assuring freshness. It’s a big wine in every sense (including high alcohol levels at 14,5%) and will make a good partner with complex poultry and game bird dishes, pork and also complement Asian fare from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Suikerboschrand is a Cape blend from that superb vintage year 2015 and comprises one-third pinotage, with 29% shiraz, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot and 10% petit verdot.  All the components were vinified separately and spent 24 months in new French oak before blending and bottling took place. This is a voluptuous blend, where an array of aromas – berries, chocolate, cigar box – are followed by a complexity of flavours on the palate, fruit melding with tannic structure from new oak. Alcohol levels of 14,5% do not overwhelm the wine which is both accessible and well balanced.

As these flagship wines are destined to be savoured by connoisseurs and those keen to know more, both about the “place” or terroir from where the harvests came, the age of the grapes, and – in the case of the chenin – how long the wine spent in wood, and was it first, second or third-fill oak, it seems a pity that these facts are neither on the labels nor can be found on the website. I would like to ask the winemaker why he decided that a bold, wooded chenin would offer a better sense of place, (that is the high single vineyard), than a wine where the grapes could have expressed their particular terroir.

The Kastanjeberg sells for R285 and the Suikerboschrand for about R385 both from the cellar and some boutique wine stores. Email info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za for more info.

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CRADLE OF LIFE: The story of the Magaliesberg and the Cradle of Humankind by Vincent Carruthers. Published by Struik Nature, 2019.

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No matter how dedicated a student, how rapid a reader, how enthusiastic an amateur, no one can absorb this amazing accumulation of knowledge in one sitting. Or even three. This is a treasure house - profusely illustrated - of the evolution of life up to the present, as found in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve.

Author and award-winning environmentalist Vincent Carruthers – who has spent his adult life living and working in the Magaliesberg, takes us along a timeline, from the birth of our planet through to the 21st century. What an extraordianary journey he presents, as we unearth the formation of our landscapes, the emergence of life, the rise of humankind. On we go through the Stone and Iron ages, early settlements, migrations, wars and modern developments.

The greater Magaliesberg has a unique geology, history, and biodiversity. Paleontologists, archaeologists, botanists, military historians and environmental lawyers were all among the academics and specialists that Carruthers worked with during his endeavours to get the entire Cradle-Magaliesberg region registered by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. A decade later the proclamation took place in Paris in 2015.

Main chamber Sterkfontein Caves.

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The book opens with the birth of our planet, 13,800 million years ago. Fast forward to 3,100 million years ago and we learn about the first landmass, then about The Magaliesberg and the Pretoria Group at mere 2,350 million years back. In the section headed Africa, time moves on to the breakup of Gondwana, mammal and primate evolution at 65 million, and climate change and the spread of grasslands at 15 million years ago.

Humans enter the scene in Part 2, sub-headed Evolutionary Science. The section ends with the arrival of Homo sapiens some 200 000 years ago. Part three deals with the First People populating the world, the Stone age hunter-gatherers, early farming at Broederstroom (1 600 years ago) and the development of cattle economy as recently as 200 years back.

Maropeng Visitor Centre

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There’s more detail in the later chapters covering the 19th century, which includes the South African War and revival of Afrikaner nationalism after World War I. Modern developments make the final part, as in engineering (Hartbeespoort dam), and in science (the Leiden telescopes and Hartebeesthoek radio astronomy observatory.)

Carruthers concludes with the sobering thought that human activity is altering many of the evolutionary processes of the planet, including climate, atmospheric conditions, ecosystems and the hydrosphere. In the midst of this evidence (platinum, chrome and manganese mines and urban pollution) the Cradle-Magaliesberg retains much of its rural character and unspoilt natural environment. It is a model to be emulated because of its combination of scientific endeavour, sustainable economic enterprise, environmental responsibility and community development.

A detailed glossary, bibliography and index complete the text.

The back cover describes this book as “spectacular.” To which I would like to add “and awe-inspiring.”

 

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We have come to expect the best from Waterkloof wines, and I have yet to be disappointedThe estate’s fierce commitment to traditional organic and biodynamic methods is well-known and there is no doubt that these are reflected in the purity of their wines,  accompanied by a delicacy that promotes, rather than restrains,  expression of terroir. Add to this a natural elegance that  has long been winemaker Nadia Barnard-Langenegger’s  characteristic style, and you know what to expect as you unscrew the cap of the 2016 vintage of Waterkloof Circle of Life White.

Winelovers will be delighted to find the components listed on the front label – 67% sauvignon blanc, 29% chenin blanc and 4% splash of semillon. I found the sauvignon to be dominant both on the nose and slightly less so on the palate, but there are few typical chenin characteristics. The chenin has, however, softened the sauvignon's acidity and added a backdrop of flint Fruit is restrained, but adds roundness to the blend which lingers to a long, complex,  satisfying and serene finish. Moderate alcohol levels are in keeping.

Winemaker Nadia co-fermented the sauvignon and chenin in a combo of 600 litre barrels and concrete “eggs.” No additives were used, and extended time on the lees and with bottle maturation contribute to the fine integration that is characteristic of this blend.

A persuasive example of the positive effects of eco-farming, organic and biodynamic vini- and viticulture, this retails for around R160.

 

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With a bottle each of La Motte’s recently released 2016 Syrah and their 2018 Chardonnay, one is well prepared for weekend celebrations, whatever the weather, whatever’s on the menu.

Even before one has screwed off the Chardonnay cap and pulled the Syrah cork, you know that you have wines in hand that will adhere to the farm’s established reputation for quality and consistency. Further, you can count on elegance without austerity: these are wines to be sipped, enjoyed whether on their own or adding vinous eloquence to a spring luncheon or hearty dinner.

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Starting with the Chardonnay, the cellar reports that after a long dry ripening season, the grape harvest proved healthy with concentrated flavours. Bunches were whole-pressed and juice transferred to 300-litre French oak barrels for fermentation, followed by malolactic fermentation. A third of the juice was fermented in tank without malolcatic fermentation. After 11 months components were blended and the wine bottled in April this year.

Alcohol pleasingly low at 12,5% ,the chardonnay offers citrus and stone fruit aromas preceding similar flavours on the palate. Medium-bodied, fresh and inviting, with no obvious evidence of the wood, as it’s so well integrated. A delightful aperitif that would also partner well with seafood, poultry salads and cream cheeses

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The Syrah grapes were all homegrown , and the harvest endured heatwaves which resulted in a lower yield and earlier harvest, and the shiraz being lighter in style than usual.  Both elegance and appeal have been maintained, however.. Whole berries were placed into tanks, yeasts added and fermentation followed. The wine matured in 300 litre French oak, to which 15 % Durif (Petite Sirah) was added to enhance colour and extraction. Moderate alcohol levels are accompanied by  agreeable fruitiness from berry and plum flavours , with a little pepper on the palate. The vintage offers a good mix of Old and New World styles, increasing its potential for popularity among all who savour syrah. A wine to pair with any red meat, but will enhance, in particular, those meats sauced with fruit or braaied with a sticky marinade.

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Before adding my ten cents worth as to what Voltaire was satirising in his 18th century novella Candide, let’s look at this wine, a charming, even enchanting blend from the historic Babylonstoren estate, home to magnificent gardens along with winery, accommodation and restaurants.

Fruity, satiny, as fresh and moreish as the spring we await, Candide 2018 is a four-way blend of cultivars all grown on the enormous estate: Wine of origin Simonsberg-Paarl, the bottle proclaims – and apart from its moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% - it tells us little else.

Not even on the website will curious consumers find much about Candide, so here are some facts about this captivating wine, gleaned from their efficient marketing professional Lize Grobb and the Platter guide.

Candide is chenin-led, at 45% with 24% viognier, and the remainder almost equal proportions of chardonnay and semillon. The grapes are all grown on the Simonsberg slopes and the chenin and semillon underwent cold fermentation in tanks after pressing, then kept on secondary lees for four months until bottling. The chardonnay and viognier were fermented in French oak and were kept on the lees for four months.

The results are gentle yet quite complex, where a stone and tropical fruit flavours meld with citrus in a crisp medium-bodied wine where each element is in fine balance with the others. There’s a feminine touch to this little gem, which made me wonder if the only female winemaker on the Babylonstoren cellar team, Marina Laubser had significant input to its creation. Both elegant and eminently approachable, Candide serves to strengthen my belief in chenin-led blends being the pinnacle of Cape white wines with regard to quality, diversity and offering great enjoyment.

Apparently the 2019 vintage will be on sale in September, which is definitely an item for the spring shopping list. Meanwhile '18 is not to be missed. It sells for R155 from cellar door.

Back to the choice of name, designed, I am sure, to get winelovers talking over their Candide aperitif: As Voltaire ends his work with its best-known phrase, which, translated, reads “We must cultivate our garden” – it could literally refer consumers to the sumptuous beauty of the estate’s gardens. But that would be a waste of an opportunity to argue about what Voltaire was targeting – optimism? War? Persecution? The tolerance and the rights of the individual were among his concerns and they are there for readers to find in his fast-paced action across 18th century continents.

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