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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rose--Ken-F-Petit-Ros.jpgINb2ap3_thumbnail_Saronsberg-rose.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Muratie-Lady-Alice-Brut-Ros.jpg THE PINK AND LOVING IT

 

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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Calitzdorp, like other parts of the Little Karoo is still struggling with drought conditions. Yet nothing seems to stop the wine producers from bringing out great wines, both easy-drinking bargains and superb port wines for which the region is renowned.

De Krans is a fine example of a cellar that continues to produce world-class ports even while releasing an increasing number of white and red wines that are attracting awards at our national contests.

As budgets decrease thanks to rising petrol and other prices, winelovers are looking for affordability along with quality. The De Krans Basket Press cabernet sauvignon 2017 fits the bill nicely, an easy-drinking, warming, ruby red wine, presenting smooth tannins, cherry and plum flavours and offering moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. At R65 it is accompanying many a winter casserole and braai, while also making a cosy fireside aperitif.

 

Looking ahead to a spring that hopefully brings seasonal showers, De Krans released its 2018 Pinotage Rosé a while ago, probably one of the first wines of this tough drought-ravaged vintage. However this attractive salmon-tinged dry blush wine, with very moderate alcohol levels and priced at R65 does not reflect hard times, but invites patrons to enjoy its berry and rose petal aromas, its fruity flavours and inviting hues – lunch time, brunch time, and the perfect complement to good picnics and other moveable feasts.

 

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While De Krans’s flagship port wine, the Cape Vintage Reserve 2015 is deservedly celebrating a double gold award from the 2018 National Wine

Challenge, I still turn to my all-time favourite, their Cape Tawny Limited Release, a non-vintage port blended, reports Platter, from wines five to 15 years old. As always, freshness and elegance accompany the rich flavours of caramel and citrus, fruitcake and nuttiness, and it’s unsurprising to see the bottle adorned with a four-and-half star sticker from Platter, gold from Veritas 2017, platinum from the SA Wine Index and a 92 –rating from Tim Atkins’ 2017 report.

I'm off  to shave slivers of vintage Italian Parmesan as my favouriteb  companions to this tawny delight.

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DELHEIM’S VEGAN-FRIENDLY DUO

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The 2018 white and rosé wines are trickling onto the market, and will soon become a steady stream. Among the early birds are the new vintages of Delheim’s perennially popular pair- their sauvignon blanc and their pinotage rosé.

To start with the latter, this blush has a long and illustrious history, being produced regularly since its launch in 1976, when the late Spatz Sperling first presented it to the local and German markets. It offers a good mix of candy and berry aromas, while the berry flavours on the palate are balanced by crispness and faint floral wafts of perfume , thanks to a tiny portion of Muscat de Frontignan. The prevailing drought has not affected the usual good quality and the moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% add to its attraction. Expect to pay around R75.

The 2018 sauvignon blanc will please a wide variety of tastes, as its nicely balanced, green fig and citrus notes complementing a hint of flint. Alcohol levels are moderate at 13,5%, and this wine, while fresh as a daisy, is not overly acidic. It sells for R79.

Both wines have a band on their back labels stating Suitable for Vegans. This is a good idea if, as Delheim says, they have had an increase in queries from visitors and diners as to the acceptability of their wines to vegans and vegetarians.

Of course today dozens of producers do not use egg white or fish products in the fining of their wines, while others, choosing the minimimalist approach, are not fining their wines at all. Bentonite is the product most widely in use today, a type of clay that is far less messy than working with egg whites which used to be popular. Delheim is one of the cellars that has been using bentonite for several years.

 

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ROBERTSON WINE VALLEY SLOW FOOD &WINE FESTIVAL

 

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The 12th annual event takes place from August 3 – 5. Always a great way to experience the winelands in slow mode, unearth wonderful wines, dine at farm-to-fork eateries and stock up with value-for-money quality.

Make up your itinerary – fireside dinners with the winemakers, wines in underground cellars, single vineyard tastings, game drives, boat rides – then book each event individually . Finish by spending time at the Family Market on Sunday – it’s always worth the while. Seewww. robertsonslow.com for online bookings, call 023 626 3167 for more info, or email events@robertsonwinevalley.com with questions.

 

REGIONAL SHOWS IN PRETORIA AND BLOEMFONTEIN

 

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Michael Fridjhon will present two regional shows, the first of which is a new event, the Capital City Wine Show taking place at the Maslow hotel in Menlyn on 26 – 27 July. Renowned cellars and boutique producers will be showing their fine wines from 17h00 to 21h00 on both days. Early Bird tickets cost R180 for each night, until July 22, then R200 therafter and at the door. See www.capitalcitywineshow.co.za for list of exhibitors.

The Free State Wine Show takes place on August 2 – 3 at ‘Emoya Estate, Groenvlei, Bloemfontein from 17h00 to 21h00 on both days. Early Bird tickets cost R160 for Thursday and R180 for Friday, thereafter R180 for Thursday and R200 for Friday and at the door. Visit www.freestatewineshow.co.za for list of exhibitors.

 

STELLENBOSCH CELEBRATION OF WINE

 

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This new event takes place from August 2 to Sunday August 5 at the De Warenmarkt in the heart of Stellenbosch. Among the events on the programme are a Boutique wine tasting, a Women-in-Wine brunch, a formal dinner titled In the Company of Legends and a dinner focussing on Father & Son – winemaking duos who will share their stories. The final event on Sunday is the Cabernet Long Table, a four-course meal showcasing cab with every course. To book visit www.wineroute.co.za and for info call Elmarie Rabe on 021 886 8275

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TWO NEDBANK CAPE WINEMAKERS GUILD AUCTION SHOWCASES

 

Meet CWG member winemakers and sample their wines at one of these showcases ahead of the CWG Auction on Saturday September 29.

The Cape Town event takes place on Thurs August 16 at the CTICC from 18h00. Tickets cost R350. Book via www.webtickets.co.za

The Johannesburg event takes place on Wed Aug 22 at the Nedbank Sandton Atrium from 18h00. Tickets cost R350. Book via www.webtickets.co.za

 

FRANSCHHOEK UNCORKED FESTIVAL

 

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Embrace spring in all its rural finery at the weekend Uncorked Festival over September 15 – 16. This is the time to amble from one estate to another, tasting new gems and classic wines, while visitors can also enjoy themed tastings, bespoke meals, old school lawn games and more. Book through www.webtickets.co.za, tickets cost R150 which gives access to all farms taking part, free tastings and glass. For more info contact 021 876 2861 or visit www.franschhoekuncorked.co.za

 

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According to one guest, there wasn’t a bed left in the guest houses and BnB’s of Bonnievale and surrounds! It seems that Bonnievale’s launch of their River Collection was a large and popular event and I was sorry to have missed it.

But I have tried the quartet of 2018 wines that currently is available: three whites and a rosé, which will be joined by some 2017 reds later this year.

 

 

To rewind, for a moment, to the time when Bonnievale wines was founded half a century ago, the cellar produced accessible  ranges to 2006 when a three-way merger saw the winery join forces with Merwespont and Nordale co-ops, under the Bonnievale name. CEO John Barnardt has been at the helm ever since, taking the business to higher levels, so that when their 10th anniversary was celebrated in 2016, the producer was known as a cellar that remains unpretentious while delivering well-made fruit-driven wines at pleasing prices.

 

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Carina Gous joined the team as strategic brand advisor recently, while the winemaking team is headed by Marthinus Rademeyer (who made the chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cinsault rosé), while Jean Slabber’s signature is on the label of the chenin blanc.

Turning to the wines, which form part of a new collection that celebrates the Breede river, the cellar’s lifeline and “the core and heartbeat of our wines” to use Barnardt’s phrase. They are all priced at R57 at cellar door and all share modest alcohol levels - both on-trend and welcome - of 12,5%, with the rosé coming in at 12%.

 

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They are approachable, enjoyable and well-made, offering good value: the chenin is, in particular, a pleasing addition as there are few offering such good value in the Robertson valley. I also liked the chardonnay which is well rounded, offering citrus and stone fruit balanced by a little oak. The sauvignon blanc is crisp without being over acidic and leans to the tropical fruit rather than green style, while the rosé is  very light-bodied, with  little cinsaut character evident.

 

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Over the last few years the quality and diversity of wines available from the producers in the McGregor valley have rocketed, When talking to visitors and wine lovers in other centres it was clear that few people knew just how good and diverse the offerings are. This led to my creating the McGregor Wine Meander which forms an informal link between the local outlets and provides travellers and locals a vinous route that can be visited over a weekend or longer stay. 

We invite you to ramble or run, hike or bike, trot on horseback or just drive your four-wheeled chariot through the valley, pausing wherever you feel like sampling one of our charming wines or sipping a grappa or eau de vie.

Here below are a couple of excerpts from the website, starting with the introduction.

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At present there are six members, and this number is set to rise by one or two more. Starting at the Robertson end of the McGregor/Robertson road, the first cellar is Tanagra Winery & Distillery, followed by McGregor Wines. Bemindwyne and Grape De-Vine are in the middle of the village, with the latter acting as tasting centre for Solara Organic Wines. Beyond the village, some 10km uphill, lies Lord's Wines, the highest cellar in the Robertson Wine Valley. 

 

Please log on to www.mcgregorwinemeander.co.za to plan your route and click on each member to obtain their details.

 

 

McGregor Wine Meander

Amazing diversity. Consistent qualityGreat value for money.

This best describes the wines and spirits that flow from the farms and cellars of the valley that encompasses the magical village of McGregor.

Where else would one find such extraordinary variety within one small wine-producing district ? Cellars ranging from garagiste through boutique to a large co-operative. Single vineyard white, red and rosés. Fine Cinsaut and Colombard that take these former humble – now trendy – grapes to new levels. Irresistible award-winning Cap Classiques. Internationally registered unforgettable organic sauvignon blanc and pinotage. Highly rated popular cabernet sauvignon and, of course, soetes, in the form of warming red and white muscadels.
And, from a small distillery, a range of world-class grappa or marc as its also known, along with eau de vie produced from both red and white wines. And there’s more in the guise of a fruit-based range where apricots, peaches, lemons and organic quinces play starring roles. An inviting village wine boutique doubles as a tasting centre for one farm while providing locals with a meeting place of note.

Only in McGregor!

This little route can be compared to a jewelled necklace, along which a handful of farms and cellars perch as gems waiting to be unearthed. The winemakers, viticulturists and farmers (sometimes all-in-one) share qualities like talent, passion and hospitality – the old adage, ‘arrive as strangers, leave as friends’ – could have been coined especially for this valley.

Welcome to The McGregor Wine Meander,

a slow and winding 15km route through vine-clad hills, past orchards, farmsteads and between stretches of veld where nature rules supreme. After leaving the village the road climbs to the foothills of the Sonderend mountains, where the final destination boasts heart-stopping views over the valley.
In anticipation of your tastings, we would like to raise a glass in welcome with traditional toasts of Cheers! Gesondheid! And, with a nod to our Scottish heritage, Slainte!

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KAROO FOOD by Gordon Wright, published by Struik Lifestyle, 2018.

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This second title from Gordon Wright is another "must-have" for every keen cook and for those aiming to become hosts whose meals are memorable and hospitality unsurpassed.

Chris Marais, who spends his life writing about the Karoo, describes Wright in his foreword as “an ambassador for the Karoo,... the life and soul of our party... as a chef who “lives, breathes, laughs, drinks with and cooks for his Karoo people...”

Wright lives up to this description with enthusiasm as he shares his expertise, starting, naturally, with Karoo lamb and mutton. Lots of advice interspersed with recipes less obvious than roast leg or shoulder, here we find roasted lamb belly, lamb sausage, roasted rump and mutton confit. On to beef, with tips on ageing, making broth and rubs preceding recipes for  oxtail, skirt steak and rib-eye with marrow bone sauce.

Venison gets special treatment with Wright presenting a friend's blueberry and sage wors, bobotie, sautéed kidneys, sosaties, fillet, biltong, even venison crisps as snacks, meaty alternatives to crisps. We also find venison meatballs, pie, tartare and skilpadjes (liver in caul fat).

His poultry and wild fowl chapter offers a creative variety, opening with homemade chicken nuggets served with black olive ratatouille dip – great for a first course while the braai is doing the main. Peanut chicken in cream is an easy oven -to- table dish with Indonesian overtones, andthere’s a delicious looking guinea fowl stew which is,  Wright says, a Karoo version of a cassoulet.

A chapter on charcuterie and curing will delight those wanting to get down to more than frying and braai-ing,  and then the scene turns to seafood (enjoyed during holidays on the coast) and a few vegetable soups and salads. The smoking and braai chapter will please outdoor cooks who are adventurous, and prepared to spend time on prepping their meat or poultry.  The book concludes with a few heritage desserts. Every item is photographed superbly by Sean Calitz, while his landscape shots add the perfect  ambience to this out -of -the- ordinary collection of modern Karoo cuisine with a nod to traditional favourites.

It’s good to see the same professional publishing team still working together to produce the most appealing cookbooks, food with flair and stories to digest, as well as  photographs to admire even as our mouths water. As always, Linda, Cecilia, Bev and others combine talents seamlessly and, for me, evoke happy memories that go back a good decade.

                                

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There are many sunny winter days when one looks for white wines that are alternatives to summer specials like sauvignon blanc. This is the time to sample Rieslings and Gewurztraminer and the 2016 vintages from Paul Cluver make an inspired choice.

I recently enjoyed every sip of the Paul Cluver Dry Encounter Riesling, as elegant as ever, offering a fine combo of citrus notes and flint with a lick of cream on the finish. Not a trace of petrol on the nose or palate, just a delightful aperitif or a companion that quietly enhances sophisticated fare, from white meats and fish to blonde soups and patés. As Riesling was one of the original cultivars planted when the family started making wine, the vines are probably at their peak. Its very moderate alcohol levels of R12 % add to its numerous charms. It sells for R110.

The renowned Elgin farm is also punting its 2016 Gewurztraminer, offering some fascinating tidbits of history about the cultivar in well-written press releases. Describing the vine as culturally confused we learn that it is Italian (Tyrolean in fact) in origin, made famous in France and German in name, it travels further as the ideal partner to Asian and Middle Eastern fare, and can complement chilli-spiked dishes with panache. I think its also worth trying with the gentler curries of the Cape Malay cuisine and some Persian – now Iranian – classics. Cellarmaster Andries Burger describes the nose as reminiscent of pelargonium, honeysuckle and jasmine flowers, whereas most Gewurz presents rose, litchi and melon – so theres a wide choice. I picked up rose, melon and mixed floral scents, leading to a mixed bouquet on the palate alongside a frisky freshness that prevents this wine from becoming overwhelming or too intense. It is, of course, off-dry, is rated four and half stars in the current edition of Platter, and costs R100.

I would have liked to have had more information on the age of the vines, and comments from Andries on the winemaking of this fine duo. For more info, visit www.cluver.com

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Friday July 6 2018

 

 

Two days ago, Renata Coetzee’s latest work – another striking social history dealing with early South African cuisine – was shown to the committee of the McGregor Heritage Society. Recently released, a local resident had given a copy to the Society, a gesture much appreciated. Unknown to us, the author had recently died, bringing an era of impressive and prolific research to a close.

 

According to the notice in today’s Cape Times, Renata was born in 1930, and certainly lived life to the full to the age of 88. Her research in to our early eating habits saw a number of titles published, and these were readable, enjoyable books, rather than dusty tomes. Her interests were not only acadaemic, but practical, as her weighty manual on creative catering proved.

 

But let’s backtrack for a minute, and have a quick look at her impressive career. Her initial degree in dietetics was awarded at Potchefstroom, but she received her Masters degree in home economics at Stellenbosch University. She studied food and nutrition at three universities in the US of A between 1959 and 1974 and lectured at the University of Pretoria for some years .

 

Her first title The South African Culnary Tradition was published in 1977, a delicious mix of social history and eating habits of the early Cape Dutch community from 1652 to 1800, with more than 100 authentic recipes. It’s a title that has always been at my side when writing about the historic aspect of our cuisine , whether for the Cape Argus, for magazines or for any of my own titles.

 

Her interest in the food of Southern African tribes saw intensive research being conducted over several years, at a time when this received scant coverage in English and Afrikaans cookery books. Renata’s second book, Funa, Roots of traditional African food culture was the result, and one on the customs and traditional fare of the Batswana followed.

 

As the new South Africa came into being, Renata was ready on the gastronomic front with a large manual containing the fruits of long labour. Cost-Consious Creative Catering was launched to provide mass-catering for every cultural taste in South Africa. In a hand-written note she told me that this ground-breaking achievement presented user-friendly recipes , with clear instructions, for caterers to provided “Africa’s Natural Nourishment” as she termed it, in portions ranging from 50 through 200 to 1000.

 

Here her experience as Anglo American’s Gold and Uranium division manager of dietetics and catering becomes clear, as does her decade as senior dietician for Stellenbosch university. As a commercial venture she packaged traditional ingredients like sorghum, marogo, isjingi into quick-cooking food packs for caterers and included dozens of dishes that used traditional fare, with western ingredients (pilchards, bread, cheese, salads) to produce healthy and varied menus for balanced meals.

 

Fast forward to 2010 when Coetzee and photographer Volker Miros launched Kukumakranka: a triumph of a title embracing Khoi-Khoin Culture, Customs and Creative Cooking. Acknowledging contributions from those who talk about Griqua and Nama diets, this precious item of Africana is dedicated to the Khoi-Khoin women, who showocase their art of cooking on these beautifully designed and illustrated pages.

 

Around this time Renata advised the owner and chef of Solms-Delta near Franschhoek on what to plant in their veld-food garden and what to put on the menu to reflect the fare enjoyed by the region’s early inhabitants. The results have seen travellers from across the globe sit down and try ingredients truly foreign to them, but well received in the farm’s restaurant.

 

I presumed that Renata was enjoying well earned retirement in Stellenbosch. What a thought! Her latest and final title is a culinary and historical swansong that will surely complete some forgotten aspects of our nutritional habits that she wrapped up quite recently. I have not yet got hold of a copy, but will do so very soon.

 

In the meantime, my admiration and heartfelt thanks  to this amazing lady, whose unfailing enthusiam,  talent and work lives on between the covers of her titles.

 

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Just what many of us need right now! Midwinter blues increased by rocketing petrol and other prices. Depressing ongoing national political news and Cape shenanigans that don’t inspire trust in municipal or provincial management.

Perfect timing, then to find a red and white wine that manage to offer cheer on several fronts: Stellenbosch Hills – long known for affordable quality wines - launches a pair of blends that retail for just under R45 each, which doesn’t dent the budget much.

Then, having tried both of them, one finds that – as expected – they offer uncomplicated sipping, but a lot more. Both these wines offer enjoyment way beyond their price – they are well-balanced, presenting fruit, freshness and enough backbone to make them meaningful wines.

And thirdly, there’s a feel-good angle as well: A percentage of Polkadraai wine sales is channelled to the Vlottenburg Primary School through the Polka Kids Community Project. Stellenbosch Hills has been a patron for a decade now, and shows no signs of stopping. Even if that percentage is very small, after 10 years the cellar’s contribution has made a good deal of difference to those 400 pupils.

The 2017 Polkadraai Pinotage/Merlot slips down like silk, easy enjoyment as a fireside aperitif, comfortable companion to pizza, pasta, sausage and mash and a whole menu of comfort suppers. At 14,5% alcohol levels, the second bottle needs to be watched with some care.

By way of contrast the 2018 Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc is a mere 12,5% alcohol-wise, is fruity and gentle and not bone-dry, but not flabby, and will accompany easy dishes like apricot chicken bakes happily.

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The pair make  the maiden vintages of his Focal Point Collection and there’s more in the pipeline, with a cab to come. Arco Laarman, whose name is almost synonomous with fine chardonnay after his long stint at Glen Carlou, went solo a few years ago, presenting his Cluster Series last year, and this impressive pair, both 2017 vintage, a couple of months ago.

Dubbed the Focal Point, Laarman explains that this range concentrates on specific vineyard sites to express their character, by making a wine that reflects a specific place and time. Deciding on Chardonnay as the maiden white was a given, while settling on Cinsault for the red was influenced both by the existence of fine old vineyards to tap into and the fact that its star is on the rise, just as chenin’s was a decade agao – and look at that so-called humble grape now.

 

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Laarman found his chardonnay grapes in a vineyard in limestone on the banks of the Duiwenhoks river near Vermaaklikheid, a cool southern region that’s been spotted by several adventurous winemakers in recent years. He does not reveal their age, but he harvested quite late, whole bunch-pressed them and used four different fermentation techniques before maturing the wine – half in new French oak, half in neutral oak for 10 months.

The result is impressive on every count. Elegance and freshness are both prominent, the nose offers citrus and pineapple, while rounded flavours and minerality come through on the palate, with a hint of nougat. Alcohol levels of 14% are unobtrusive. Laarman suggests pairing the wine with sophisticated seafood or roast chicken with asparagus and white wine sauce. I think there are several French gourmet chicken classics that would make an excellent companion, especially those from the north and French Alpine regions. At over R300, it’s a chardonnay to match  with patrician fare.

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To the Cinsault, which Laarman made from berries of 35-year-old vines in the Bottelary Hills. After natural fermentation had taken place and the skins pressed in a large basket press, the wine spent 10 months in 300 litre neutral oak barrels. The result is a delicious violet-tinged cinsaut, where purity reigns supreme, tannins are gentle, fruit, a distinct herbiness and earthiness add to the typical cinsaut character. Moderate alcohol levels of 13% add to its attraction. Those who favour light-bodied reds will be delighted with this fine example, which will enhance warming game bird casseroles, and mushroom dishes – eat your heart out, pinot noir, you have an affordable rival to contemplate. Recommended retail price is R210.

Final comment is on  the distinctive and attractive closure of the bottles which sees conventional cork topped with an innovative cork capsule for re-sealing the bottle. It's made by hand locally, it looks good and, being a natural product, beats plastic and wax seals both in looks and practicality.

For more info, see www.laarmanwines.com.

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As I write this, the snow lies thick on the upper reaches of the Sonderend mountains above McGregor. 

Encompassing the  narrow Slanghoek valley, according to the Opstal receptionist, “ it's white all round” powdering the Badsberge, Limietberg and Dutoitskloof peaks.

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In front of me a trio of Opstal estate’s recent releases, the first of which is Attie Louw’s 2017 chenin blanc, one of the farm’s annual stars, where fruit, freshness, and complexity meld into a delicious whole. Aromas of stone fruit and pineapple greet the nose, while the grapes, sourced from various chenin blocks, after  spontaneous fermentation spent  eight months on the lees, mostly in large French oak, the remainder in stainless steel. Moderate alcohol levels of 13,3% add to the charms of this perennial best-seller, and of course the venerable chenin blanc vines of Opstal add that concentrated character that is so distinctive.

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Next up is Opstal Cabernet Sauvignon & Cinsault, which is how the label lists it, 2017, a 50/50 blend with huge appeal. The cab character – cherry on the nose mingling with herbiness, followed up fruit upfront, the cinsaut contributing its distinctive laidback  freshness, adding up to a delightful wine to complement pizzas, pastas, Sunday suppers, homely fare like cottage pie, toad -in- the- hole, mushrooms on toast... the list is endless. Alcohol levels kept at 13,3%.

Opstal’s cinsaut vineyards, planted in 1997 are celebrating their coming of age, and I hope the Attie will produce a cinsaut soon to mark the occasion.

 

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Both wines sell for R95, while the third, Opstal Blush 2018, costs R70. Described on the back label as 'a bottle of fun', this popular pink is comprised of 70% shiraz and  30% viognier. First made back in 2006 by Opstal MD Stanley Louw , it has remained a popular annual and  best-seller, particularly in Holland . Unique, says Attie, because all the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented together, so this early combo of berry aromas of the shiraz meet the stone fruit flavours of the viognier to produce a characterful rosé that will take on sushi with panache. It will come into its own in spring, but will happily accompany your chicken pie on a crisp sunny winter’s day.

Talking of which, its time to diarise the annual Breedekloof Soetes & Sop festival taking place over the weekend 20 – 22 July. Get your tickets, plan your itinerary, book your stayover and experience an amazing weekend of outdoor activities, warming fare and both bargain-priced and top of the range wines.

 

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THE AMAZING AFRICAN ANIMAL ALPHABET written and illustrated by Kristina Jones published by Struik Children, Cape Town, 2017.

 

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When reviewing books produced for small children, criteria change dramatically: one is more concerned with visual impact, simplicity of text, subjects that will appeal than looking at plots, language and other points applied to books for adults and young adults. 
So, first impressions are important, and here we have an interesting cover where a giraffe, buffalo, crocodile and zebra watch while an elephant is scooping up the “z” of Amazing in the title with his trunk. Sunny yellow endpapers are followed by a title page and then we are straight into A, featuring Amahle the Aardvark, who is contemplating a halved avocado adorned with a few ants.

Bandile the baboon is next, and he holds a birthday balloon while over the page, upper and lower case C’s are given life by Chris the crocodile who is in cooking mode, holding a sauce with corn and carrots. 

And so we work through the alphabet with a gallery of mostly wild animals – many of whom have culinary accompaniments, while others are reading, making music, even tying a knot (a pair of kingfishers). So we not only encounter a series of animals who illustrate the letter of alphabet, but are given names that also do this, and  are surrounded by yet more objects starting with the same letter.  In this book Jackals juggle with pots of jam and impala lick icecream, while Emma the elephant contemplates a soft-boiled egg and Doug the dolphin contemplates a doughnut... What does Zandile the zebra do, you ask? Ah, buy the book and find out...

They add up to a colourful collection presented in African style, the stylised drawings also reflecting some of the collage elements from the author’s  own collection of original Shweshwe fabrics.  A hardback of immense appeal and one whose anthropomorphic nature will be enjoyed by both adult and little children.

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It proved to be a bitter-sweet occasion, that day in May when a group of wine writers and retailers gathered in Morgenster’s hilltop tasting room. Similar in many ways to past events where the ever-courteous, charming Giulio Bertrand, flanked by cellarmaster Henry Kotze and consultant Pierre Lurton greeted guests ahead of a tasting of new wines and latest vintages.

This time, however, our host was absent, although we were told he was resting in the gabled farmstead which had been his home for more than 25 years. So he was near enough as we sipped the estate’s maiden bubbly, and sampled seven still wines ahead of a tour through the impressive olive oil plant, now graced by even more sophisticated machines. As always, the lunch that followed was an Italian gourmet triumph, from the simple, flavourful green pea soup, topped with a swirl of newly pressed oil, to the buffet of charcuterie, classic salads and cheeses.

A few days later we learned that Giulio Bertrand had died, with his family around him. One of the Cape’s most beautiful 18th century farms had lost a custodian who lavished money, attention and love on his southern home, adding world-class olive oil to its reputation for fine wines.

We started our tasting with the Cuvee Alessandra 2016, a Cap Classique produced from cabernet franc sans dosage. As could be expected, this is a distinctly different MCC which I found intriguing and enjoyable, with a fine mousse and full-bodied and a long finish. It sells for R227 .

The Morgenster sauvignon blanc 2018 is a wine that should enjoy wide popularity – produced from Stellenbosch grapes it is well-balanced, with subtropical fruit flavours and fresh zestiness in enjoyable combination. At around R80 it also offers good value.

 

 

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I think that Morgenster’s White Reserve 2015 is a memorable Bordeaux-style white blend that offers elegance, complexity and great character, its components (55% s/blanc 45% semillon) melding into a fragrant, fruit-filled mouthful backed by a well-integrated structure. After being in oak for 12 months, the wine was bottled early in 2016 . Expect to pay about R220.

 

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On to the reds, starting with the delicious Tosca 2015, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% cab, and finished with a splash of Cab Franc. While its array of aromas, smooth tannins and fruit and spice combo makes it delightful right now, it is sure to improve even further if cellared. Priced at about R230.

Morgenster’s Nabucco 2015 is an expression of Giulio Bertrand’s favourite cultivar and an example of the great quality of much of the 2015 vintage wines. Nabucco takes a while to get to know – presenting an earthiness reminiscent of pinot noir, spice and herb flavours rather than fruit, all backed by prominent tannins. Cellarmaster Kotze added that when paired with food (beef, mature cheese, dark chocolate) it has a notable effect on the latter. It will also benefit from a few years in a dark cool place. About R340.

Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2014 is a wine made in a more accessible style and offers a delightful blend of a merlot lead with cab, some cab franc and 10% petit verdot. Heady aromas of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and licorice are followed on the palate by ripe fruit, backed by elegant tannins. It sells for about R190.

The flagship Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014 proved to be a fine finale, produced by Kotze in collaboration with Lurton. This vintage is comprised of 36% cab, 36% merlot, 14% cab franc and 14% petit verdot. It’s a big wine in every sense, with intense nose of fruit and nut, coffee and cigar box and a blend of flint and fruit on the palate, with agreeable freshness. It costs around R392

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And so, an era has come to a close. A timespan of more than two decades which has seen Morgenster - originally established by one Jacques Malan who acquired Morgenster in 1711 – gain in beauty and value while Signor Bertrand was its custodian. I heard that his grandchildren are interested in keeping the farm in the family, which is encouraging news. Arrivederci, grazie.

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