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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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Posted by on in Restaurants

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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Posted by on in Reviews

 

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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Just ahead of midwinter, fathers get to enjoy their Sunday, so its not surprising that marketing revolves around comfort fare, snuggly clothes, and warming wines. Groote Post is one of the few cellars that makes a pair of wines specifically for the farm owner, in this case founder Peter Pentz, or the Old Man as he is known. Way back at the start of the new century the maiden vintage of this popular red blend appeared, and found a ready market. The white blend was added much later, and together these make an enjoyable, easy-drinking duo to pair with weekend meals, whether a meaty braai or a favourite roast or casserole.

They are also ideal accompaniments to Father’s Day celebrations. To start with the Old Man’s Blend white, which I preferred, the 2018 vintage is a charming blend of sauvignon and chenin, fresh, fruity and with alcohol levels held at a moderate 13%. As good as an aperitif as an accompaniment to seafood, salads and sunny winter lunches. It sells for around R73.

The 2017 vintage of the Old Man's Blend Red comprises merlot, cab sauvignon, shiraz and cab franc, in what proportions I don’t know. It is still young and I found the tannins a little fierce, but its a robust blend that will take on red meat around a fire or a dining table with ease. Alcohol levels of 14%. It could well reward at least a year’s cellaring, as the potential is discernible. It is priced at R76.

Anyone looking for an appealing venue for a Father’s Day treat need look no further than Groote Post, a farm that combines beauty and history seamlessly, perched in the Darling Hills and offering indoor and outdoor attractions. The long term weather forecast from the Norwegians predict a sunny day for the area, with maximum temperatures of around 16 degrees. Promising indeed.

Tel: 022 492 2825 · Email: wine@grootepost.co.za · Website: www.grootepost.co.za

 

 

Celebrate Father’s Day in the Nuy Valley

 

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If previous meals are anything to go by, the Sunday lunch for Father’s Day is likely to be a generous and traditional treat. Nuy on the Hill is an airy restaurant with sweeping views, a large and diverse menu, and of course a counter where the Nuy wines can be bought by glass and bottle. On June 17 the father in the family will be presented with a mini bottle of Nuy’s delicious red muscadel to savour or take home. To book, call 023 347 0272 or email onthehill@nuywinery.co.za. They are often fully booked, so this is important. Or visit their website www.nuywinery.co.za

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AN INNOVATIVE DUO FROM THE SILVER CREEK DISTILLERY FOR WORLD GIN DAY

 

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Before I even get to the contents of the bottle, a few words on the label, box and inserts. Founder and chief distiller Mark Taverner and his team have done an impressive job on marketing his two craft gins – few consumers will fail to be impressed by The Gin Box which opens to reveal twin bottles – old-fashioned design, complete with a loop handle for easy carrying. Then there’s the distinctive retro label, announcing that this Prohibition Gin is infused with juniper, coriander, lemon, angelica and cinnamon. The label is signed by the distiller and the bottle numbered – mine was no 143 of the batch produced in June Turn to the back label and there's more info for fans wanting to find out how and where it was produced.

 

The tag that's attached to the handle announces “Helping folk dance since 1933..." which of course demands an explanation.

And so the story of Prohibition in the USA comes to light, when the conservative Temperance Movement managed to get alcoholic drinks banned in 1920. The moonshine industry flourished until 1933 when the law was revoked and the population danced as they celebrated...

Having been inspired by craft distilleries in America, Taverner spent more than two years researching and studying before returning home to found the Silver Creek distillery in Randfontein. Starting with a range of moonshine, he then turned to gin, and recently launched a clear and rose-tinted version, along with a Gin Club for happy fans.

As is standard, the alcohol level is 43%, as are the classic infusions used to flavour the spirit; they do not overpower, and the total effect is crisply smooth with a bouquet of citrus backed by a supporting and diverse cast of flavours.

The Prohibition Pink is tinted and further infused with raspberries and blueberries, while rose water adds an aromatic oriental touch that is reminiscent of Turkish delight.

They both sell for around R360 and make refreshing sundowners with classic tonic or lemon and, of course,  a base for cocktails  with exciting potential. Visit www.silvercreekdistillery.com for more information . 

 Roll on Saturday, when the 10th World Gin Day will be celebrated globally, having been established in the UK – where else, given their long history of producing the spirit and pairing it with tonic?. Did Winston Churchill really say the following: “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire?” Probably. Meanwhile our talented mixologists will be working overtime to create exciting new cocktails in gin bars across South Africa. Time to toast our homegrown distillers who are crafting innovative gins of good quality in surprising corners of our country.

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The Cape Winelands and Gauteng are both hosting some tempting wine affairs during June

 

 

Franschhoek Bastille Festival | 14 & 15 July 2018

 

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The - can you believe? -  25th  Franschhoek Bastille Festival takes placeover the weekend of 14 and 15 July. As always the village dresses up in  the French colours of red, blue and white and the focus is on  the Food & Wine Marquee, set against the backdrop of the  Huguenot Monument. Sample the superb Franschhoek wines on offer and treat your tastebuds to delicious gourmet fare on sale from some of Franschhoek’s well-known eateries. 

Tickets to the  Marquee cost R350 (Saturday entry) and R280 (Sunday entry),  and include a tasting glass, five wine tasting coupons and a R20 voucher, redeemable on the day.

 As tickets are limited pre-booking via www.webtickets.co.za  is advised. Children under 18 enter for free. The festival times are 11am to 5pm on the Saturday, and 11am to 3pm on the Sunday For more information visit www.franschhoekbastille.co.za.

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OLD MUTUAL TROPHY SHOW WINE TASTINGS

 

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Time to diarise this year's public tastings of the 171 trophy, gold and silver medal winners which scored highest during the 2018 Old Mutual  Trophy Wine Show.  Meet the winning winemakers as you taste their products which will also be for sale.

Find the results of the 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, and the lists of trophy and medal winners and additional information (such as Top 10 best value wines) at www.trophywineshow.co.za and on the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show website.  Tasters will also be able to download a list of the public tasting wines before attending the event. 

The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show competition took place in Paarl over 4 days from 30 April. The 2018 judging panel, chaired by wine authority Michael Fridjhon, included a number of top international judges.

 

CAPE TOWN PUBLIC TASTING

Date:               Wednesday 13 June 2018

Venue:             CTICC (Ballroom, Level 1), Convention Square, 1 Lower Long Street, Cape Town

Time:               17h00 to 21h00

Parking:           Secure underground parking available in CTICC parkade

 

JOHANNESBURG PUBLIC TASTING

Date:               Friday 15 June 2018

Venue:             Sandton Convention Centre (Bill Gallagher Room), Maude Street, Sandton

Time:               17h00 to 21h00

Parking:           Secure underground parking available at convention centre and neighbouring parkades

  • Bookings: Book tickets online now via Computicket.com for both the Cape Town and Johannesburg events.
  • Ticket price; R200 .  Buy online or at the door, subject to availability. No under 18s, babies nor prams. 
  • Important details: Ticket includes tasting glass, unlimited tastings.
  • Wine Sales: Wines at show prices can be ordered from the Makro ‘pop-up’ store at the tasting.
  • Refreshments:  Light meals are for sale.
  • Enquiries: (011) 482 5936. www.trophywineshow.co.za;www.outsorceress.co.za.  Find us on Facebook and follow @omtrophywineson Twitter; #OMTWS2018, #OMTWS

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Delheim Jazz & Cheese Fondues all jazzed up with  new line-up

 

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The Delheim Jazz & Cheese Fondue series plays an exciting new tune this year thanks to a collaboration with the Cape Town Music Academy (CTMA) and Jazz in the Native Yards. The events .will take place every Sunday from 24 June to 26 Augus.t

The CTMA is a not-for-profit company (NPO) that seeks to create opportunities for local, established and emerging musicians and related artists in the Western Cape. .The Jazz & Cheese Fondues are hosted in Delheim’s cosy ‘downstairs’ wine tasting cellar, snug with low ceilings and intimate tables.

Tickets are R450, which includes  the live  performances, Glühwein and soup on arrival and the hearty fondue meal which will be served with complimentary Delheim wines between the first and second act. There will also be a coffee bar.

 

Delheim Jazz & Cheese Fondues booking details:

Price: R450 per person –  inclusive

Time: 12h00 with the first Jazz gig happening at 12h30. The fondue will be served at 13h15.

Tickets MUST be booked ahead of time at www.webtickets.co.za. No walk-ins will be allowed.

Find Delheim on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/delheim; Twitter @Delheim and Instagram @delheimwines or contact them at Tel: 021 888 4600.

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A TASTE OF TYGERVALLEY

 

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Tygervalley Centre presents wines from all over South Africa at the second Taste of Tygervalley wine festival which takes place on Friday, 29 June from 17h00-21h00 and Saturday, 30 June from 14h00-18h00 in the Arena,

Wineries are offering their wares ranging from pot-stilled brandy, fortifieds like Jerepigo, Port and Muscadel,  through to some serious Reds and full-bodied Whites. In addition Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate have a stand featuring their highly rated olive products and Le Creuset, Lindt and Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts are on site to tempt visitors.

Pairing wines with Lindt chocolates is another attraction.

Participating producers include: Bayede Royal Wines , Benguela Cove, Devonvale Golf and Wine Estate, Du Toitskloof Wines, Franschhoek Cellar, Glenwood, Hill & Dale, Imbuku wines, Kunjani Wines, Le Pommier Wine Estate, Montpellier de Tulbagh, Montagu Wine and Spirits, Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate, Orange River Cellar, Perdeberg Cellar, Peter Bayley Wines, Spookfontein and Triple Three Estate Distillery.

Festival visitors will receive a booklet of discount  coupons for some of the eateries in the Centre and are welcome to have a bite to eat and return to the event afterwards

Tickets at R100 from www.computicket.com or at the door.This includes  tasting glass and most of the tastings, but some of the cocktails might carry a small additional fee.  . For more information visit www.tygervalley.co.za

 

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DEATH CUP by Irna van Zyl, published by Penguin Random House South Africa, 2018.

 

 

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How could I resist? A thriller sub-titled Murder is on the Menu, set against an Overberg background dripping with fickle foodies, on-trend restaurateurs and self-important chefs, followed by a series of deadly dishes and human corpses.

This is van Zyl’s second detective novel and is translated from the Afrikaans original, titled Gifbeker. I was impressed by the author’s culinary knowledge of gastronomic contests, trends and top restaurants. Having raced through the book, I came across pages of generous acknowledgements where she listed cookbooks that afforded her culinary knowledge both trendy and basic, chefs who shared their passion and knowledge especially with regard to foraging, both seafood and funghi and techniques like open fire cooking in the kitchens.

From page one the tension is tangible, as a well-known and not always popular food blogger keels over in a top restaurant and dies – a highly poisonous mushroom provomg responsible for her untimely death. Zebardines is one of the top restaurants in the country and is gearing up for the chef of the year and restaurant awards so timing could not be worse –Zeb the chef is celebrated, awarded, young and black – with everything going for him

Detective Storm van der Merwe is on the case, helped by a couple of colleagues, some friendly, others wary. Storm has her own problems to contend with , not least of which is Moerdyk, a former policeman who had quit the force ahead of being fired. He usually turns up at Storm’s doorstep when least wanted, such as just after the first murder. He is determined to stay, and help her find a new place to rent as the owner (also a restaurateur) has complained about her three dogs.

Tracey the waitress and seducer of Zeb is found dead in the restaurant wine cellar – victim number two and the plot thickens as Zeb is attacked by unknown men but survives and is taken to hospital. And Storm has to contend with Pistorius, her supervisor, a molester with past history and now transferred to Hermanus. Two men break into her bedroom and steal her phone and iPad, and her favourite dog Purdey disappears as they run away.

Protesters outside Zebardines, rumours of a food website takeover, a smooth property developer (and old boyfriend of Storms) add complexity to an already crowded scene. Tension reaches breaking point , as a third victim, Maria Louw Zebardine’s maitre ‘d is attacked but survives and the glitzy restaurant awards event in Cape Town take place with heightened security in place . Storm herself is in danger before the murderer is stopped – and as in all good thrillers, not many readers will guess who this is.

Topical, fast-paced, complex and accurately depicting Hermanus backgrounds, this is a well-executed and gripping crime novel.

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It’s housed in a bottle that announces it’s very special Anno 1918 -  KWV Proud Pioneer -  Limited edition the top label announces,  followed by The Centenary Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2011 down below. Festive in gold with a stylised old-world drawing of Paarl valley as background.

 

There can be few in the world of Cape wine who don’t know that this global wine and spirits producer is marking the  100th anniversary of its founding this year. Among the events is the production of this handsome sparkler, an all-chardonnay MCC that’s set to become a classic souvenir of a notable celebration

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There are times – and this is one of them – when one would rather not open such a milestone product in order to assess its colour, its mousse, aromas and flavours on a mundane work day. The occasion – sitting in front of a computer – is not worthy of popping such an illustrious cork... But that’s the (very occasional) downside of reviewing wines, and there are always neighbours and friends in the village who will happily come and help finish it later!

 

The 2011 harvest followed a warm dry season, reducing the quantity of chardonnay available for this wine. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and the juice used in the final blend. After the first fermentation, half underwent malolactic fermentation after which blending and bottling took place, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. Maturation of 72 months followed after which it was disgorged, corked and labelled.

 

Classic aromas of citrus and apple greet the nose. In flute the fresh zestiness is nicely balanced with the characteristic buttered toast and nuttiness on the palate, offering a delicious mouthfeel and a long finish. As expected, alcohol levels are kept at 12,5%.

 

At present the bubbly is stocked only at Makro outlets and sells at R249. During the remainder of 2018 KWV will release further products that will be stocked at its Paarl Emporium and some liquor stores.

 

With flute in hand it’s easy to think back to what one knows of the founding of KWV, at a time when South Africa was reeling from the aftermath of the first World War, followed by the great ‘flu epidemic, a turbulent period in its history. The wine industry was in a sad state, and farmers endorsed the establishment of the organisation that was able to introduce some order into their working lives. At time went on there were farms and cellars who rebelled against the tight control and legislation of the KWV, but that changed as the 20th century came to a close. Today the giant producer is renowned for its brandies, some of the best in the world as well as a fine range of wines.

 

Time to fill up the flutes as we turn to the back label and the eye falls on a handwritten message from cellarmaster Wim Truter: “Here’s to the next 100 years” he writes, with his name and signature. We’ ll raise a flute to that, even as we turn our thoughts to what another 10 decades will bring. Happy birthday, KWV.

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 Peter Finlayson, founder and cellarmaster of Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley recently released the 2016 vintages of the two wines for which he is most renowned.

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From his dozen hectares of pinot noir he regularly crafts a cultivar champion that attracts local and international acclaim, and the 2016 Galpin Peak pinot noir proves the point, having already claimed two trophies in the 2018 International Wine Challenge, being best South African pinot noir and best South African red wine.

 

 

The varietal is known as being one of the trickiest with which to work, and the 2016 harvest was not the easiest, offering twin challenges that Finlayson no doubt relished. Pinots can often be difficult to pin down when writing about them as they present seemingly diametrically opposed characteristics – earthy yet delicate, rich in fruit yet savoury on the palate. And yes, the new vintage offers all those and more: as usual, it’s a complex wine where dark fruit and a little spice is balanced by the backbone provided by 11 months in French oak. It’s particularly expressive of its fine viticultural terroir and will benefit from several years of cellaring. Those who choose to enjoy it this winter could find it complements classic Occidental cuisine such duck with cherries, or beef casserole and mild cheese better than fare that is highly spiced or fiery. Alcohol levels of 14% are unobtrusive and the wine sells for R355 from the cellar .

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To flavours of Italy now, and the 18th vintage of Hannibal, a hugely popular blend where Finlayson combines a varying number and variety of mostly Italian cultivars to produce a wine that sings of Tuscan reds enhancing al fresco fare at a long table... As one expects there’s fruit including olive and prominent tannins although tempered somewhat by the inclusion of some pinot and shiraz – the lineup is 45% sangiovese, 18% pinot noir, 15% nebbiolo, 12% shiraz, 7% mourvèdre finished with splashes of barbera. Moderate alcohol levels are held at 13,5% . Another wine to squirrel away for a few years then unearth and savour even further. It costs R309 from the cellar.

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It sports gold from Vitis Vinifera’s 2017 contest and a Hidden Gem sticker from

 

Platter’s current edition while its Royal Rhino logo testifies to its registration as a

 

donor to rhino conservation. All good reason s to consider The Rhino Run Ian

 

Player red blend vintage 2015, and there’s another as well: this is a delicious

 

blend of cab and merlot, medium bodied and juicy with soft tannins, and a berried

 

collection of dark flavours to please a vast number of consumers. Fireside sipping

 

at home, or, even better, round flickering flames in a bushveld camp or safari

 

lodge, where the plight of rhinos becomes tangible and taut. You may find that only

 

the 2016 is available now, but my 2015 sample celebrates one of the finest

 

vintages the Cape has enjoyed recently, so look for that one if you have a choice.

 

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Van Loveren make one white in their Rhino Run range, a lightly wooded

 

chardonnay, medium-bodied, offering citrussy aromas and flavours in the 2017

 

vintage, alcohol levels of 13,5% and a pleasing companion to seafood and poultry

 

both on the braai or baked in rich sauces for winter.

 

 

Van Loveren have been making the Rhino Run range for several years and are

 

keeping the quartet affordable at R61 for the reds and R53 for the single white.

 

There is also a cabernet sauvignon and and pinotage, not tasted, both 2015

 

vintage. A limited edition collector’s item, The Last One Shiraz 2013 completes the

 

range – selling for R1 215 and packaged in its own box.

 

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