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Posted by on in News

 

 A decade of vinous generosity and a centenary of caring.

 

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One hundred years on we look back at 1918 with compassion. Europe, Britain and Commonwealth countries were still reeling from the aftermath of World War One as the Great ‘Flu pandemic swept across the globe, arriving in South Africa in September, and claiming some 140 000 lives over the next two years.

 

In the wine industry the establishment of the KWV was probably the event of note, while across the winelands, many small towns were left with destitute orphans in the wake of the ‘flu . Robertson – then a small farming town of about 3 500 inhabitants - was no exception….

A home,  Die Herberg, was started in a private house, and, as the number of children increased,  moved to new quarters  when the municipality donated several hectares to the cause. A neglected apricot orchard occupied much of the site.

 

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A century has passed and today Die Herberg cares for just over 120 children of all races, from birth to 18 years of age, in seven homesteads. State grants cover one-third of the costs  so fund-raising is essential and ongoing . In 2003 stone fruit prices had fallen because of a flooded market while bottled wine sales had risen substantially, post 1994. Local wine farmers, eyeing  the fertile soil , offered to replace the orchard with a vineyard that could become a source of income through fine wine.  Local businesses provided equipment and products, farmers provided vines and expertise and three red cultivars were planted. This, the start of an unique fund-raiser, presented an impressive example of generosity, selflessness and compassion by the Robertson community. It fell to Springfield estate to tend the vines and make the maiden blend of cab franc, cab and merlot in their cellar, the Bruwers offering their facilities and services free of charge.

 

The uncrushed berries were  fermented with native yeasts,  matured in French oak, and the wine bottled sans fining or filtration. This maiden 2008 blend was an elegant wine with firm tannins and a savory finish that impressed all who tried it. Three more vintages have since followed

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The wine was named Thunderchild : Just as storms are usually followed by sunshine, and the destruction they can cause can also herald new life, the parallel was drawn with children who came from homes where dark and threatening clouds affected their lives. They have exhibited the ability to overcome sadness and darkness and shine brightly when given love and care. Today many of the children are from such homes, rather than being orphans.

 

When I wrote about the project in 2008 I predicted that when Die Herberg marked its centenary in 10 years time the 2008 vintage of Thunderchild would have probably reached its peak in time to toast 100 years of caring. What I did not forsee is just how rapidly the project  blossomed, as  substantial sales of the wine locally and internationally see impressive revenue flowing to the Home.

 

 

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Thunderchild is managed by the Wingerdprojek Trust and 100% of profits and proceeds from the sale goes to Die Herberg’s educational trust. Only hard costs – vineyard supplies, labour and packaging – are recovered. Marketing and sales are done by the community pro bono. Here the extraordinary and ongoing efforts of Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield estate cannot be over emphasized – thanks to her efforts , Thunderchild is sold in the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, China, Botswana and Namibia. National sales continue to be substantial, with Investec pouring it for their functions and, Woolworths stocking it in their upmarket stores.

Jeanette is always quick to point out local support by wine stores, restaurants and bars and retailer Woolworths has contributed greatly. Several cellars in the Robertson region and further afield stock Thunderchild and display the bottles and their story prominently in their tasting rooms.

 

In need of a warm fuzzy feeling? Then be inspired by the reports of how the Trust funds have benefitted children over the last decade. One important decision with huge impact was to ensure that every child leaves the Home with a driver’s licence, something not paid for by government funds. Teenagers finding employment and apprenticeships in trades after school are at a great advantage by being able to drive..

 

 

The fund pays for a fulltime tutor to help with homework and studies and provide extra maths classes for all. By 2017 five children had enrolled in universities or colleges of their choice, and not only their fees, but books, meals and pocket money were covered by the fund. Those shining at sport have been funded to take part in competitions including an overseas rugby tour to England and Scotland and a dancing competition in Croatia.

 

Others who have special needs are also given the best chance to succeed: Currently 25 of these children are at special needs or technical schools in neighbouring towns as Robertson lacks such an institution. Thunderchild transports them on a weekly basis, pays tuition fees, board and lodging.

 

Time to pour a glass or two of Thunderchild 2015. The current blend consists of half merlot, 30% cab franc and 20 % cab sauvignon, made in the traditional way by fermenting uncrushed berries with native yeast found on the grape skins. It matured for a year in French oak and was bottled sans fining or filtration. It was then bottled aged for another year before being released.   Elegant, delicious, and a tad more accessible than some of the earlier vintages, this is a winner in every way

 

.As Jenna Bruwer put it, every child has the potential to change the world : The Thunderchild Project aims to unlock that potential in those at the Robertson Children’s Home .

 

The Thunderchild necktag urges consumers to “do good while drinking great wine” Perhaps it should add “and raise a glass to celebrate a decade of production and a centenary of caring.”

 

 

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Posted by on in News

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Winelovers who watch their budgets – and that surely applies to most of us – no doubt know  the fine wines of Waterkloof, as well as  that striking building housing gourmet restaurant and cellar on the slopes of the Schapenberg high above the azure waters of False Bay.  But while they have savoured them on special occasions, comparatively few are likely to enjoy them as  regularly as they would like.

How many, I wonder, know of the range called False Bay,  a sister brand of Waterkloof estate wines,  but separate to the extent that they are listed on their own in the Platter guide. They are not new, but I think that talented cellarmaster Nadia  Barnard has taken the range up a notch or three, to the point where  those  sampled recently are on a par with some  Waterkloof labels, such as the Seriously Cool duo

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Barnard says that they have found better sources for the grapes used in the range and have marked the improvement with new labels that are both attractive and informative: The chenin blanc is adorned with a snail to accompany its name Slow Chenin Blanc 2017. The back label expands on the traditional methods used , where the fruit from old vines is fermented with wild yeasts found naturally on the grapes and that the winemaking process takes a least six months.

The grapes were sourced from three bushvine vineyards, one 40-year-old from the Swartland, the other  two from mature Stellenbosch vines.

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The result is quite delicious, a chenin whose fragrant aromas envelop one on unscrewing, followed by stone fruit flavours  on the palate. Its elegant, there’s old vine structure lurking there, all balanced nicely by a welcome freshness.

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he Old School syrah 2017 also impresses hugely. The only wine in the range that has alcohol levels as high as 14% this was sourced from two Stellenbosch vineyards, one in granite, planted in 2000 and the other in sandstone in 2005. Given the same attention and using the same methods as all the wines in this portfolio, there is plenty of fruit, a little white pepper and smooth and accessible tannins.

The rest of the range consists of the Windswept sauvignon blanc 2017, Crystalline chardonnay 2017, a Whole Bunch  2017 rosé  sourced from cinsaut and mourvèdre anda Bush Vine pinotage 2014,

Owner Paul Boutinot has been on a mission to find and rescue old, under-appreciated vineyards with potential since 1994, in order to  transform their fruit into wines made with minimal intervention, using  wild yeast sans  added. acid...  Trendy now, but not then !

 

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Waterkloof estate is one of the Cape’s prized showcases, from the sustainable farm, a conservation champion which achieved fully certified organic and biodynamic status 4 years ago, to its cheese tastings, fine Gallic dining, walking tours,  horse riding, even an art collection to contemplate – and a range of quality wines, this one offering extraordinary value for money. All the False Bay wines retail at R58.and are widely available from small retail outlets.

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Posted by on in News

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Long, languorous  summer days seem to demand a Cap Classique and the current trend of rosé bubblies just adds positive energy to the sharing of beautiful bubbles. There are many good examples on the local market, with the L’Ormarins non-vintage MCC  a delicious choice to have in your cellar or fridge, ready to impress and please from noon to midnight.

Rosy-hued, a fine mousse, bright berry aromas lead to a satisfying explosion of long-lasting bubbles. Crispness and berry fruit flavours are  followed by cream and biscuit notes, and this all adds up to an irresistible non-vintage classic MCC, L’Ormarins Brut Classique Rosé, from by Anthonij Rupert Wyne in Franschhoek.

The pinot noir component of 58% is sourced from four vineyards – mostly from the home vines, with the rest from Elandskloof, Darling and Robertson. Most of the 42% chardonnay contribution came from the  Darling area, with the remainder from L’Ormarins and Robertson.

 With alcohol levels at a moderate 12,5%, this pinot noir/chardonnay blend makes the perfect partner to any romantic occasion, and can complement gourmet picnics, al fresco brunches, lunch, supper, high tea or just make a sundowner to remember. At R120, it offers good value as well.

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Posted by on in Events

Franschhoek Summer Wines

 

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Start the shortest month of the year in style. Book your tickets for Franschhoek Summer Wines  taking place on Saturday February 3 at Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards.

This is a showcase for the Franschhoek Vigneron’s choices for summer, comprising a selection of white, rosé,  Cap Classiques and light red wines.

Chef Pieter de Jager and his team will be on hand to present delicious fare that not only matches the wine, but the weather too. Live music will add the final touch to a perfect day out in the Franschhoek Wine Valley.

 Keep things cool, and dress elegantly in white. Tickets, cost R220 per person, and can be bought  via www.webtickets.co.za.  Pre-booking is essential as tickets are limited. The cost includes entry, a complimentary tasting glass and 15 wine tasting coupons, which can be redeemed on the day of the show between 12 noon and 5pm. 

For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email info@franschhoek.org.za

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28 DAYS OF VALENTINE  TREATS AT ANTHONIJ RUPERT WYNE

 

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High tea and bubbly or a sparkling tasting and pairing of three MCCs  with  nougat crafted  to complement the wine.?  Both these can be savoured by couples who visit the farm during February, and both make romantic interludes of the finest kind.

High Tea for Two costs R180 pp and is served in the historic tasting room, where gourmet sweet and savoury items will accompany afternoon tea and a glass of L'Ormarins Brut Rosé makes the perfect finale.

There are no less than three L'Ormarins MCCs to pair with delectable nougat in the tasting room at just R60 per couple

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Booking for these treats are essential, either call 021 874 9074 or email tasting@rupertwines.com

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LANZERAC'S MENU OF VALENTINE SPECIALS

 

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The estate has dreamed up a quartet of treats to woo visitors in February, which they term the month of love.

The Valentine’s Wine Hamper comprises the estate’s renowned pinotage rosé, the chenin blanc and their sauvignon blanc, all 2017 vintage, packaged into a gift box at R250, selling from the Tasting Room during the entire month.

Their Wine & Dine package consists of tutored tasting preceding a light lunch at the Lanzerac Deli. The trio of wines – as in the hamper above – will be followed by a ploughman’s platter  for two, with home backed breads, cheese, charcuterie and preserves, plus a sweet finale . The cost is R300 for two and the package is available from February 12 – 18.

Add a luxurious spa treatment for two to the above package and you get the Couple’s Escape package, available for the same week for R800 per couple.

Or, go one step further and add a Back Couples massage to the tasting and, for R950 you experience the Spa Couple’s Retreat Package, offered from February 12 – 18.

. For bookings and more info, please contact Eske Cilliers on winesales@lanzerac.co.za or 021 886 5641.

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HANDS ON HARVEST CELEBRATES THEIR 10TH BIRTHDAY AND YOU’RE INVITED!

 

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Robertson Wine Valley is marking the completion of a decade of  Hands On fests with a compacted festival that has everything on the menu that guests of all ages and tastes could dream of! the dates to diarise are February 23 - 25

As always, the local wines flow, the country hospitality is warm and genuine, the valley fare is varied, delicious and the activities range from relaxed to strenuous! The cellars and the venues in Robertson, McGregor, Bonnievale and Ashton present programmes that explore the grape’s journey from vine to glass, present master classes in wine tasting, get visitors to blend their own wines, and that’s just the wine part!

Log onto  handsonharvest.com and compile your itinerary, then book online, and make space for the renowned Family Market on Sunday before you head home. Free entry and a fabulous array of stalls, activies, products, to sample and relish. This year the venue is Viljoensdrift and the fun starts at 10am and finishes at 2pm.

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Hands on Harvest at Lord’s Wines

 

This charming hillside cellar 10km from the village of McGregor promises to offer visitors a special and memorable day on Saturday,
 24 February.

 

Their delicious bubblies will be paired with oysters, gourmet street food, icecream and more, to a background of jazz.

See how their award-winning Cap Classiques are riddled then move onto view co-host  Jenna Clifford’s exhibition of  her ROSE  Collection at this glorious venue. Tickets  cost  just R50 and can be bought online using this link.


https://www.quicket.co.za/events/31815-lords-wines-hands-on-harvest/#/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
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Posted by on in Reviews

THE PALESTINIAN TABLE by Reem Kassis, published by  Phaidon Press, London 2017

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Let’s start with the author – a Palestinian professional who offers a fascinating self-portrait in her introduction, also of her family,and  follows with the complex composition of the Palestinian table

Kassis’sr mother is a Palestinian Muslim from a rural village in Palestine’s centre, her father a Palestinian Christian from a mountain village in the far north. Kassis grew up in Jerusalem, a melting pot of food and cultures, where her parents ensured that their daughter took a route other than aspiring to marriage:  So, having focussed on her schooling, Reem was accepted, at 17, at several top American universities. A decade in the USA saw her attain professional degrees, followed by glamorous jobs and a hectic lifestyle. Then  after she met and fell in love with a fellow Palestinian, the couple moved to London and married there.

As a young mother at home with a small daughter Kassis had time to enjoy cooking trad dishes from her childhood,  and shortened  and simplified some of them. She noted that British restaurants serving Middle Eastern dishes displayed little Palestinian cuisine, and decided to share with the world family recipes  and others from various villages: the collection doubles as  something of a Palestinian chronicle as she weave tales of identity. Even in this fractured land, regional culinary variations persist, from the mountains of the Galilee to the southern valleys, and from the coast of Yaffa to the West Bank.

 Kassis starts with basic recipes that she deems essential to to exploreing the cuisine. Foundational food she calls these, comprising a spice mix, a broth and fried nuts, elements that lend dishes depth of flavour. They also include labaneth, tahini sauce, vermicelli rice and a sugar syrup flavoured with orange blossom water and rosewater. It’s easy to recognise similarities with the basics of other Middle Eastern fare.

Being a cornerstone of all meals, the chapter on bakes is largely about breads: Along with  pita and taboon other flatbreads resemble pizza bases topped with  ingredients such as  cooked red bell peppers, and also used as dipping tools. Elaborate pastry bases  are filled with vegetables and cheese or used as turnovers with similar fillings. Crackers, spiced and seeded,  can be savoury or sweet.

Palestinian breakfasts are  family affairs  where eggs play a major role in some delicious dishess. They well  illustrate how Middle Eastern  spices and classics transcend borders from Syria to Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and beyond. Eggs fried in olive oil scented with za’atar and sumac perch on pita breads with a slice of  labaneh. Frittatas are spiced and herbed and served with olives, spring onion, mint and tomato. The Tunisian shakshuka is a favourite in many countries, the Palestinian version using fewer vegetables than most. The   “Middle Eastern peanut butter and jelly sandwich”  is how  Kassis describes the popular tahini and grape molasses spread  paired with warm pita bread. The Egyptians use grape molasses, the Gulf States prefer  date molasses.

The custom of a table laden with dishes, large and small, for diners to help themselves is universal in the region. We are offered recipes for several dips like hummus,  snacks like kubbeh, deep-fried cheese and za’atar parcels, pine nut rolls, which can be served either for lunch or supper,

Salads are sturdy affairs, often based on tomato, cucumber and mint around a grain base. Simple soups and substantial stews are based on vegetables and pulses and grains like freekah,  (cracked green wheat) while others star  lamb, beef or chicken.  There are a couple of intriguing seafood dishes as well.

Sweet finales in Palestine are usually seasonal or  defined by the occasion, religious or family celebration with which they are associated. Some of them are complicated and time-consuming. Think of baklawa, shredded phyllo and cheese pie, semolina cake. However their fragrant milk pud with pistachios is closely related to panna cotta and easy to make.

Attractive food photographs and a glossary of ingredients add to the attraction of this hardback which is a significant addition to the cookbooks of the region. It is delectable proof that food can transcend  divisions of religions and politics  if allowed to do so. 

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Posted by on in Reviews

PLATTER’S by Diners Club International: 2018 South African Wine Guide.

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Can you believe this is the 38th edition of this invaluable guide to wines, cellars, routes, restaurants and more across South Africa.  And, as remarkable, is the fact that its capable, meticulous, urbane and modest editor has seen this, his 20th edition, launched at the Waterfront in early November last year.

In his editor’s note Philip van Zyl briefly covers the scope of the guide, including recent additions to the information like GPS co-ordinates and acknowledges the efforts of his tasting team, one of whom, Dave Swingler, marks his 21st year of contributions.

Of the approximately 8 000 wines assessed, a few make it through to a second and third round tasting, and from these the five-star wines emerge, and ultimately, the Wines of the Year.  There is also a coveted award for Winery of the Year, this year presented to Raats Family wines. Highly recommended is another useful category to peruse, as are the Hidden Gems. Plenty of info for those looking for an industry overview, cultivars, competitions, as well as our wine regions, tours, restaurants and accommodation. The maps seem to be clearer this year as well. (And no, I have not acquired new spectacles).

Recommended price around R260 and of course, in addition to the print version of this comprehensive and essential companion, the guide is also available as an app and a web-based edition. 

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Posted by on in Events

 

Harvest, romance and summer celebrations – the Boland lays them on!

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 The popular Stellenbosch Street Soirees are back. These are bi-monthly events  where quality wines, cool tunes and country fare combine to make street parties to remember. Hosted by the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, visitors can savour sundowner wines and early suppers as street stalls set up to offer their fare and wares under the oaks. Each soiree features a different choice of cellars and caterers. Tickets cost R100 for entry and 12 wine tasting tokens. Events take place from 6 – 8pm. Next one is on January 24 followed by February 7 and 21. For more info, contact 021 886 4310 or go to www.wineroute.co.za

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The annual Stellenbosch Harvest Parade will see the Cape minstrels, drum majorettes and brass bands take over the streets of the city of oaks on Saturday January 27. Marking the start of harvest season, its a tribute to the winemaking community, as decorated tractors and trailers from many cellars start their journey through town from 9am. A harvest blessing and awards ceremony takes place at the town hall an hour later. For more info, visit www.wineroute.co.za.

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The Delheim harvest celebration, a popular annual event, also takes place on Saturday January 27 and a few changes have been introduced to the 2018 programme.  It’s a one-day affair this year, but still includes grape picking and stomping,  good food, fine wine and live music. Guests will be seated at one long table and numbers are limited to 120 so early booking is advised. The fun starts at 11.30, with picking, and the ticket price of R650 includes a bottle of Delheim wine and lunch. Children's tickets cost R120, those under four get in free.To book, email charlotte@delheim.com or contact her at 021 888 4600.

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Cool elegance, white outfits and superb white, rosé, sparkling and light red wines are on the menu at Franschhoek Summer Wines, taking place on February 3 at Leopard’s Leap family vineyards.  These refreshing wnes will be paired with delicious food, while live music will add final touches to a memorable day in the valley.
Tickets, cost R220 per person, and can be purchased through 
www.webtickets.co.za.  Pre-bookin is essential as tickets are limited. The cost includes entry, a complimentary tasting glass and 15 wine tasting coupons,.

 
For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email
info@franschhoek.org.za
 

 

 

Now here's a novel pairing!

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Popcorn may not be the first item to come to mind when contemplating Valentines month, but Stellenbosch Hills  has found some gourmet flavoured corn to complement their Polkadraai range of wines. So for the month of love, the cellar will offer  a delicious lineup that includes the sparkling Polkadraai Sauvignon Blanc Brut with banana-coated popcorn and their moreish Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc 2017 with salted caramel popcorn. Dark chocolate corn  is paired with the Pinotage/Merlot 2015 while the Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé enivens strawberry popcorn.

The pairings cost R50 a head and takes about 30 minutes, although visitors are invited to try the other Stellenbosch Hills  wines as well. As always, visit on a Friday, and buy five Polkadraa wines and get the 6th free of charge!

Opening times are from 9am to 5pm and Saturday from  10am to 3pm. Pop and cheer! Book ahead by calling 021 881 3828.

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My admiration for those wineries which  have taken the decision to go organic, both in vineyard and cellar, and get certified to that effect, is considerable and ongoing. Not only does it involve much extra work, both physical and written, but this worthy dimension adds substantially to the cost of wine production.

Reyneke Organic Wines was the first South African wine farm to be certified as such  for both grape growing and production. They have gone one step further, practising biodynamic viti -and viniculture on their Polkadraai farm Uitzicht.

As most readers know, this means firstly that the vineyards are herbicide, pesticide and fungicide-free and, in order to be self-sustaining, they recycle wherever possible. They  work in harmony with the moon, and study the constellations to create fine wines, working at nature’s pace, following natural and cosmic cycles. It all makes for a holistic environment in synergy with their vegetable gardens, animal husbandry and people, along with conserving  pockets of indigenous fynbos..

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Reyneke Biodynamic syrah 2015 has already impressed both local and overseas critics and understandably so.  The nose, aromatic with berry flavours gives way to a palate where fruit and spices mingle, while substantial tannins, add weight. But the freshness and purity – consistently present in Johan’s wines – are there, adding up to well balanced complexity that will continue to develop over the next few years. Moderate 13% alcohol levels are in keeping. At R175 it’s reasonably priced, given its pedigree.

The biodynamic range consists of four reds and four white wines, and there is a pair of organic wines in addition.

It’s worth noting that the farm is open for sales on weekdays,but visitors need to make an appointment for tastings, vineyard walks and cellar tours. Contact 021 881 3517.

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Posted by on in Food

 

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By Durbanville standards, this is a big farm, covering 840ha, supporting grain, cattle and sheep and, more recently, 50ha of vines. It joins others in the region which have  celebrated their tercentenary, as first owner, that prominent pioneer Olof Bergh of the VOC was granted the land by Simon van der Stel as the 17th century drew to a close.

 

It has taken present owners, fourth generation Brinks, André and Ronelle, years of hard work, renovation, restoration, and wine production to reach the stage when they held a media day recently, partly to mark 120 years of Brink family ownership. Simultaneously they celebrated the  release of the new vintages in rebranded packaging, and  of  their maiden cap classique and pinotage.

 

Unlike some of its fellow farms, Groot Phesantekraal is really rustic, with suburbia still some way from its boundaries (long may this continue). The family occupies the main farmstead, while the private tasting room still retains reminders of its early role as hen house. If the weather is kind, visitors can settle on the terrace for wine and order a cheese and charcuterie platter.

 

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 The airy restaurant – one of the oldest buildings - spent its first 250 years as a stable – and the feeding troughs attest to that, as does the old stone floor – where 10cm heels are not recommended!  ChefJean van Deventer presented an early spring menu, that included braised pork belly with Dauphine potatoes, roasted onion puree, apple chutney and fried polenta with beer-battered veggies as a vegetarian option. There was well spiced kabeljou paired with chorizo and a sweet potato risotto, and dessert of apple frangipani tart with roasted apple cinnamon icecream made a fine finale. I would head to this venue for their Saturday morning brunch, as the menu is tempting, and prices, while not in the budget category  , are acceptable given the quality of fare.

 

As I arrived at the farm late, I missed out on a flute of the new cap classique (R120) made by winemaker Etienne Louw, formerly of Altydgedacht. But my colleagues all enjoyed their welcome bubbly, as I did my tasting sample.

 

 Louw also made the 2017 Groot Phesantekraal  sauvignon blanc 2017, (R72) which has already garnered a Veritas Double Gold and made it to the Top 10 in the Sauvignon Blanc awards. It is a beautiful wine, presenting a complex mix of fruit, both tropical and citrus blanced by  crisp but not over-acidic mouthfuls – there's  less of the distinctive  dusty Durbanville verdancy which characterises many of the valley’s sauvignons.

 

I only managed a couple of sips of the 2017 chenin blanc, sourced from 55-year-old bush vines , but I wish I could have tasted more of this dry, fruity, heritage wine, selling at R50. Ditto the 2015 cabernet which has attracted gold from Michelangelo and is, by all accounts, both accessible yet elegant,  and priced at R120.

 

The farm’s flagship white is their Anna de Koning chenin blanc 2016/7, a barrel-fermented single vineyard limited release that is rich, offering concentrated fruit and nuts , opulent, elegant, and a worthy addition to the present generation of fine wooded chenins. mostly found in the  Breedekloof and Swartland regions. Its a wine that could well complement Middle Eastern specialities where fruit and nuts add flavour and crunch to layered rice and chicken or lamb. At R120 its an affordable addition to our ever-increasing choice of champion chenins.

 

I did not get to taste the farm’s pinotage Berliet 2016.

 

 

Groot Phesantekraal is off Klipheuwel Way, and its contact number is 021 825 0060  It’s  great to have another beautiful Durbanville farm to add to the hospitable collection across the Tygerberg, and this destination is one that both history buffs and wine lovers will  enjoy immensely. 

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Overkill  by  James Clarke. Published by Struik Nature 2017

 

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The subtitle – The Race to Save Africa’s Wildlife – sums up the conservation goal, but the scope of the book is wider, offering readers a comprehensive summary of past and present threats to Africa’s wildlife, both marine and land-based. Describing 2015 and 2016 as “the worst of years and the best of years” Clarke refers to the former as the costliest in terms of the wanton slaughter of the continent’s megafauna. But the 24 months  will  also go down , he thinks, as the time when the tide started to turn...  As he puts it, the lowest ebb is always the turn of the tide

South Africans and those who come from afar to visit our parks and reserves have been reading about and viewing the wanton destruction wrought there in the present century, often with a feeling of helplessness as well as fury.  Plenty of facts in this paperback to add to those sentiments, but also some positive data to offset the gloom as we read of  the extent of international awareness and the gradual increase in African realisation of the benefits of eco-tourism.

Africa is the only continent that survived the disappearance of the world’s megafauna, as early humans migrated from Africa to the rest of the world. Clarke sets out to describe how this happened using the term “overkill” to mean anything done to excess.

In North America the European settlers extinguished whole species as they migrated southwards while similarly humans in Europe and Asia shared in the global overkill – all comparatively recently, geologically speaking.

But in Africa – the continent from which humans originated – this did not happen, and the fauna survived because of, rather than in spite of, the hunters. This was because the big mammals had watched humans graduate from stone-throwing hunters to athletic spear throwers and on to using  more sophisticated weapons and learned to keep their distance. But in  the 19th and 20th centuries this changed as hunters practised “overkill” – slaughtering all they could for the fun of it.  Their exploits, proudly published form the mid-1800s onward, make sickening reading.

With lion populations in steep decline today, Clarke muses that the well-reported killing of Cecil , the renowned Zimbabwean black-maned lion and subject of a research project at Oxford University resulted in international disgust and the start of laws prohibiting the import of hunting trophies in both the USA and the EU. The elephant slaughter is dealt with next, followed by that of the rhino, with the huge demand from China and Vietnam for horns. The shameful story of the recent exploitation of marine life and the pollution of our oceans  presents equaly horrifying reading.

On the positive side,  a year ago, in January 2017 , China announced its reduction and gradual closing down of the ivory industry which was a huge step toward saving the surviving elephant population.Fusing protected areas into mega-parks across Africa is another hopeful sign.

Clarke has been writing articles and books with environmental themes for decades, and writing for newspapers since he was 16. He is one of the three founders of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and one of the most readable of journalists, and his new title confirms this.

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There are very few who do not enjoy riding the rails and many who claim that train  is by far the best way to travel. The experience of rattling along in carriages, especially when pulled by a proper steam engine, is an experience both unique and nostalgic, so that many visitors, local and international, mourned the passing of rail transport to Franschhoek.

The station, however, stayed intact and was maintained , not like other forlorn deserted stations across the South African platteland. Occasionally trips were organised to farms along the line – I remember one, in particular, a splendid journey to Bellingham to mark, I think, both a wine launch and the restoration of the old farmstead.

When doing research for my Franschhoek Food cookbook nearly a decade ago, there was talk of reviving the rail link shared by several farms along the R45 – while nothing has come of that  there was great excitement some five years ago when the Franschhoek Wine Tram service was launched, taking guests on a short journey on rails in a 32-seater open-sided tram which stopped at two wine estates in the village. Brainchild of the Blyth family, who no doubt spent many frustrating hours dealing with the logistics of their venture, from bureaucracy downwards, their vision and persistence are worthy of thunderous applause!

The tram proved to be an instant success, offering local and international visitors a fun way to travel that was adventurous, but less hazardous than tasting wine on horseback.

Earlier this month, the Blyth family and GM Brett Garner hosted officials,  media and  visitors to the new Franschhoek Wine Tram Double Deck trams, at Groot Drakenstein station. The service now embraces some 22 wine farms, spanning the valley’s wine route. Travellers can spend between 30 and 60 minutes on board as part of a full day R220 wine tour which extends as far as Vrede en Lust in Simondium.

From the wine tram website, we learn that a combo of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops. They can choose to hop on and hop off for wine tastings, cellar tours, lunch or just stroll through the vineyards.There are six hop-on hop-off routes to choose from, each visiting eight wine estates in different parts of the beauteous valley, while a narrative covers the history of the valley and its wine.

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As Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde remarked   in his launch address, this new expanded service will allow more than 120 000 guests to enjoy the trip in the current tourist season.

Just another good reason to make sure that the stupendous Franschhoek valley is on every traveller’s must-do itinerary this summer and autumn.

See www.winetram.co.za.  For more information  call Brett Garner on 27(0)83  260 0453.

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The  just-released Tanagra Colombard 2017 is, indeed, a maiden release worthy of connoisseur attention, but its also a wine  for all who relish unearthing the unexpected: - In this case finding a Colombard that, having been given star treatment, has risen to the challenge and proved that even cultivars that are not regarded as “noble” can be transformed into classy wines worthy of special status.

The beautiful little Tanagra wine farm and distillery a few kilometres outside McGregor village  has established itself as a hugely popular venue both for locals and international visitors. Beautifully restored by Robert and Anette Rosenbach it is a haven of tranquillity in a valley where vines and orchards roll up to the foothills of the Sonderend mountains. The indigenous flora – mostly Little Karoo but with patches of mountain fynbos – is as lovingly preserved on Tanagra as are the vineyards, and Continental travellers make a beeline for Tanagra’s two “getaway” self-catering cottages – off-the-grid, stylish accommodation complete with plunge pools and sweeping views. There are other cottages to hire on the main farm, within shouting distance of the giant and ancient wild fig tree that shades the tasting room courtyard.

The certified single vineyard that is home to the Colombard grapes that yielded their juice to this golden-hued wine is 20 years old and this maturity is reflected in the structure and complexity of the wine.  The nose offers fruit – subtropical,  stone fruit with a hint of characteristic  guava. Although fairly  light-bodied there are hints of flint to round out the fresh zippiness that accompanies  dry but fruity notes on the palate. Alcohol levels are kept to a moderate 13,5%.  Wild-yeast fermented  the Colombard spent 10 months on the lees before being bottled.

 It’s one of these rare white wines that tastes even better the next day after being opened and having spent a  night in the fridge, and reveals its character better if it’s not over-chilled.  Production was limited to 2 500 bottles, and the cellar door price is R80.

What has been nicely  proven here  is that’s  there is more to Colombard than its capacity as a major component of  base wine for our brandy production.

With this unique release the McGregor valley has added another “first” to its burgeoning   reputation for diverse and quality ranges:  
Another limited edition from Tanagra is their immensely popular Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir, the 2017 vintage having also just been released. Previous vintages have taken little time to sell out, so all wanting this outstanding “pink” (which this year is darker than usual, strawberry-hued, thanks to concentrated berries) should waste no time in stocking up.    As before its dry, packed with berry flavours and presenting a fine balance between fruit and friskiness.

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No blog about Tanagra can be complete without mention of the impressive and substantial ranges of grappa or marc and eaux de vie that Robert Rosenbach crafts in his charming distillery – here, as with his wines, innovation melds with quality to intrigue guests who sample uncommon products  like quince and lemon eau de vie  along with more classic creations. And few leave without clutching a slim bottle of his irresistible Tanagra Orange Liqueur, with its extraordinarily concentrated citrus flavours.  (Tip for a festive finale: pair it with very dark chocolate sprinkled over a vanilla panna cotta.)

Tanagra  is open to the public for tastings and sales seven days a week, but it’s advisable to contact the farm ahead if possible to make sure the owners are there. For more information,  and details of their range of impressive reds not mentioned here, visit www.tanagra-wine.co.za, or send an e-mail to tanagra@tanagra-wine.co.za.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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The fact that Boplaas now makes a substantial range of fine table wines, and brandies, does nottake away from their exceptional reputation for fine Cape port wines and muscadels.  A few years ago they added a complex red blend named Gamka, to their ranges, named  after their lifeblood river that flows past Calitzdorp to the majestic Swartberg mountains which form the picturesque backdrop.

Now there is a partner, in the form of a white blend, called, sensibly Gamka Branca, and this 2016 maiden production of 1400 bottles  add quality diversity to the ever-growing number of fine Cape white blends.

I confess to this being my favourite class of Cape wine, especially when chenin-based, but I savoured this generous, exotic meld of cultivars with distinctive character that reflects the Klein Karoo, even though only two of its components were sourced from Boplaas vineyards

Gamka Branca consists of about 60% Elgin chardonnay, with Stellenbosch grenache blanc and viognier,  Boplaas verdelho and Swartland chenin. After fermentation in old French oak the wine wines spent nine months in more old French oak before selection, blending and bottling, unfined and unfiltered. Alcohol levels have been  kept to a  moderate 13%  The wine presents a complex blend of citrus and stone fruit flavours, a little spicy oak and discernible tannins adding characterful complexity.

While it will no doubt benefit from cellaring, it will also add new and delicious flavours to our sundowners and festive tables during this summer and next autumn . I am looking forward to pairing it with more than seafood, as I think its going to partner  diverse fare with panache.

Gamka Branc already displays on its bottle its impressive scores in the 90’s from Tim Atkins and Platter, alongside its four and half Platter stars.

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Winelovers make Christmas gift shopping painless for the giver, especially if their preference in wine styles is known. If budgets are limited to under R100, the choice is still huge, as there are dozens of good quality, enjoyable Cape wines that sell for less – sometimes a lot less.

Wines that offer something extra include the Anthonij Rupert Protea labels while the range is wide enough to suit every taste. These are wines that are meant to be drunk soon, and they come in bottles designed to be re-used, or upcycled as their marketing department terms it . As the bottles are all decorated with attractive floral designs in white, they can be re-used to make attractive tumblers, vases and other items, given the talents of professional glass-cutters.

The bottles also sport Helix closures, which are usually only found on pricier wines. This innovative design combines cork and glass in a resealable top , as the twist-out cork can be closed by hand in the threaded bottle neck.

The range consists of four whites and a rosé, selling for between R50 and R60 and three reds are priced at between R60 and R70. Find them at the Franschhoek farm or a select outlets countrywide.

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With chenin blanc now firmly established as the cultivar that not only celebrates more than 350 years of Cape history and not only occupies more SA vineyard area than any other white varietal, but that produces   top chenin blancs that are being recognised across the globe as the best on the planet. Confirmation of this can be seen in the rave reviews and points awarded to our chenin blancs from acknowledged experts – recently UK guru Tim Atkin MW awarded the trio of 2016 Mulderbosch Single Vineyard chenins scores of 96 (Block A), 95 (Block W) and 93 (Block S2) respectively in his 2017 Special Report on South African wines.

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While the Swartland has happily claimed to be home to the finest chenin terroir, Stellenbosch has quietly been upping its chenin blanc production to prove that this pioneer region can – and does – produce exceptional chenin blancs.  The Mulderbosch trio is a good example, each chenin offering a distinct expression of place, with Block A  - sourced from the southern slopes of the Bottelary Hills -  perhaps the friskiest, with exotic fruit aromas followed by dry but concentrated fruit on the palate.

  Vineyard Block S2, whose grapes  came from the northern slopes of the Bottelary Hills, is more complex, its  golden hue offering hints of the power ahead. Dry and savoury, the nose of caramel is as rich as the flavours that follow, and  there’s a saline hint in the mouthfeel and long finish. A connoisseur chenin to savour now or squirrel away for a future occasion.

Block W also presents a hue of deep gold and is probably the most complex chenin of the three. The vineyard that produced these grapes is sited in granite close to False Bay. 

A wealth of fynbos and herby aromas leads to citrus and flint on the palate in a rich,  powerful but well-balanced wine.

All the vines are more than 30 years old, and the fruits of all three were harvested in the same way, being  whole- bunch pressed. Used 225litre French oak was chosen for fermentation and maturation.

These limited editions make wonderful festive gifts for Christmas and fine partners for New Year al fresco fare.  They are also likely to produce yet more SA chenin fans who will  sing the praises of our superb chenin blancs. The recommended retail price is R250 each.

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A  welcome newcomer was released at Morgenster estate last month when Giulio Bertrand and his team presented  the maiden Vespri 2017 to media and friends at his hillside tasting pavilion.

The first white in his Italian opera-themed collection, Vespri is produced from Vermentino grapes, a Sardinian cultivar that is starting to make an appearance at the Cape, although Morgenster’s vineyard is still in its infancy.

Named for  Verdi’s opera VespriSiciliani , the new addition is bright lemon in hue  in spite of its youth. It is fresh and dry with notes of flint to balance stone fruit flavours on the palate, moderate alcohol levels reflecting current tastes, Above all this, like nearly all Italian labels, is a wine made for food, to complement summer fare of seafood, salads and antipasti. It is the ideal partner to festive tables of al fresco Mediterranean dishes, lingered over at long tables in deep shade.

Vespri is a lightweight companion to Tosca, Nabucco and Caruso, rounding off the two reds – former of Sangiovese with Bordeaux blends and with Nabucco starring  Nebbiolo  - along with Caruso, a rosé of Sangiovese. Now there is  a quartet that can elevate every culinary occasion.

Vespri costs R120 from the farm and their online shop http://morgenster.co.za/ and is also available from selected  retailers.

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  • A festive season promotion featuring a wine range with a quirky name and a reputation that stretches across three continents. The first Fat Bastard wine originated as an experimental chardonnay and was produced by two friends, UK Guy Anderson and French winemaker Thierry Boudinaud.  Delighted with their creation  - which had been left on the lees for far longer than normal – and that  they had produced a big, fat, full-bodied wine, which led one of them to exclaim  “Well now that’s a fat bastard.” The name stuck, and they went on to make a whole range of rich, round, food-friendly wines that have found favour on both sides of the Atlantic.

Back  in SA they are produced by Robertson Winery, and the range offers a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir rose,  merlot, pinotage, shiraz and cabernet. Whites cost around R70, reds sell at R110 and all are widely available.

Winelovers across South Africa can be in with a chance to win a fabulous getaway to a luxurious destination in the spectacular Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga. Take your partner and escape to umVangati House for three nights on a #LiveLarge trip.

To be in line to win, you need to buy a bottle of Fat Bastard wine before the year ends. See  details below, and good luck...

To enter, buy any bottle of Fat Bastard wine with a promotional necktag, from any outlet in SA., before December 31, and follow the instructions on the necktag. OR Enter online before December 23 , go to http://www.fatbastardwine.co.za/pages/greencanyoncomp.php

 

 

 

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The two titles reviewed here are  publications that will delight many readers, more particularly armchair historians, battlefield enthusiasts, Overberg lovers and travellers who like researching their holiday destinations both before and after their visits.

 

 

Guide to Sieges of South Africa by Nicki von der heyde. Published by Struik, 2017.

 

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Not only is this the perfect pocketbook for the legions of battlefiedl buffs who plan their trips around battlefields of Southern Africa, but it's written with such professional enthusiasm that it will surely draw new supporters to the fascinating  stories of the sieges that accompanied wars over two centuries.

This guide is a companion volume to van der Heyde's Field Gjuide to the Battlefields of South Africa which proved a highly successful publication. This specialist guide presents detailed descriptions of 17 sieges that occurred during the Cape Frontier, Anglo-Zulu, Basotho and Anglo-Boer wars. 

Some are well-known to most South Africans - such as the sieges of Lydenburg, Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. Others less so - I didn't know that Durban had been besieged in 1842 nor had I read about those at Mount Moorosi in what was then Basutoland or the sieges of Fort Cox and Fort Armstrong in the Eastern Cape.

As public fascination with sieges continues, it's good to have a well-qualified historian who is also a woman in the male-dominated battlefield-guiding fraternity turn to writing on her subject. Not only does she present a very readable text, but includes personal stories of heroism and heartbreak that are part of every battle and siege. As the writer points out, with sieges civilians were freqently involved, and some of them kept diaries recording their hardships and personal experiences both tragic and humorous. 

 The pages are brought to even greater life by maps, timelines, many old and some new  photographs that accompany human interest stories gleaned from diaries and letters and records of the time. 

The detailed and professional index compiled by Emsie du Plessis adds considerably to the book's usefulness as a reference tool.

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HERMANUS by Beth Hunt. Published by Struik Travel & Heritage, 2017.

 

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With a subtitle listing Whales, Wine, Fynbos and Art, readers get an immediate picture of what to expect in this appealing hardback with its front and back cover photographs of the town's iconic old harbour.

As one expects in a publication like this, the gallery of fine photographs by Johann and Kobus Kruger play a major role in illustrating both the natural and manmade beauty of the town and surroundings, its people and many attractions.

Chapters on tourist drawcards like whales and sharks are given much space, as is the art scene which thrives there in  all its diversity.The cliff path, and the equally famous Fernkloof Nature reserve and other sources of floral wealth are featured,

 as is the equally lovely Hemel-en-Aarde valley which not only stirs the aesthetic senses but also offer fine New World wines from a number of farms that form one of the most bewitching wine routes in the Cape - and the world.

The fascination of the the past is well-captured taking us back to the time when the Khoi met the first Dutch settlers and a teacher and shepherd made the clifftops near a freshwater spring the site of his summer camps for his sheep. Hermanus Pieters died  in 1837 and was destined to lend his name to the site which became known as Hermanuspietersfontein.

The stories of the shipwrecks on the coast, of the famous long-established hotels  also make fascinating reading, as does the lure of game-fishing. Current tales take in more recent developments, around new suburbs that have sprung up and new communities settled there, adding to the enormous diversity that makes the town and surrounds so attractive to both permanent residents and holiday visitors. 

 

Well-researched and written this is a charming and informative title for both locals, visitors and those planning to make their way to the whale capital of the world.

 

 

 

 

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 A GRAND INTERACTIVE CHAMPAGNE TREE FROM MOET & CHANDON

 

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With the countdown to Christmas under way, the Mother City is hosting a grand Champagne Tree, made entirely from recycled Moët & Chandon champagne bottles, which is also  interactive. Set against the backdrop of the Silo district at the V&A Waterfront, the impressive 10-metre tree, made from over 1 500 recycled bottles collected from all over South Africa,  will be topped with a spinning gold Moët & Chandon crown and decorated with more than 15,300 LED lights, in 26 concentric rows.

 

Anyone within reach can join the fun at the  tree lighting ceremony on  7th December  starting at 19h30. In another first for South Africa, visitors will be able to send messages to friends and family which will appear as scrolling notes on a magnificent light ribbon wrapped around the tree. Tweets and Instagram captions which include the hashtag #moetmomentcapetown will show in real-time and, when visitors engage on social media using the#moetmomentcapetown followed by the popping champagne bottle emoji, the Moët & Chandon crown at the top of the tree will spin!

With a bottle of its champagne opened every second around the globe, Moët & Chandon knows that every second is an experience, and every experience is a #moetmoment to live now.!

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GROOTE POST’S

CHRISTMAS MARKET ON SUNDAY 17THDECEMBER

 

As always, the terrace alongside the Groote Post Cellar will be a hive of activity, brimming with delicious and beautiful country offerings, while visitors relaxi in the shade under the trees in front of Hilda’s Kitchen  tucking into their delicious eats from the market. And the market will be a perfect playground for children who love the rolling lawns, playground, horse-riding, tractor rides and face painting, to name a few of the activities on offer.

 

Expect ‘ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS’ at Groote Post’s December Market - with decorations and gifts and Father Christmas entertaining the children.

 

Groote Post’s award-winning restaurant, Hilda’s Kitchen, will be open as usual, but please note that booking is essential.Although pets are most welcome – all dogs must be on a leash at-all-times. The market takes place from 10am to 3pm

 

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Eikendal Vineyards adds a Christmas and wine pairing to the options at the estate

 

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It’s the Festive Season andEikendal Vineyards is bringing the flavours of Christmas to their Tasting Centre with a delicious  Christmas & Wine Pairing.

Expect a truly German  Lebkuchen, with its nuances of honey, spices and cloves, covered in a thin layer of icing with the Pinotage 2016, which adds flavours of red and black cherries. The Charisma 2016, a blend of Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese, and the Mince Pie envelope  offers a rich and sensory tastte explosion.the bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 steps up to join a slice traditional, South African Christmas cake, straight from Granny’s recipe book.   

 

The exclusive Eikendal Christmas & Wine Pairing, which costs R100 per person, will keep visitors in the holiday spirit from 1 to 31 December, Tuesdays to Sundays between 10:00 and 16:30.To book for this decadent indulgence or for any queries relating to the Eikendal Experience, contact Chantal-Lee at 021 855 1422 or send an email toinfo@eikendal.co.za.

 

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CONGRATS TO BOTH OF THEM

 

The winners of the 2017 Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year Awards were announced at a black-tie gala dinner at La Residence Hotel in Franschhoek on  25 November,.

 

Christiaan Groenewald (Eagle’s Cliff Wines) and Wade Roger-Lund(Jordan Estate) claiming top honours respectively.

 

Christiaan Groenewald, delighted the judges with his Eagle’s Cliff Pinotage 2017. This is the second time he has been honoured with this distinguished accolade, having won Winemaker of the Year in 2013 for his ArendskloofVoetsporeTannat Syrah 2011 (Non-Bordeaux Red Blends category). Christiaan is one of only five winemakers to have won this award twice.

 

The 2017 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year, Wade Roger-Lund, received his award for the Jordan Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2015 (White Wines category).

 

The winning Winemaker receives R50 000 while the Young Winemaker, R25 000.  Both winemakers get two return businessclass tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA.

 

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A NEW AND RUSTIC COUNTRY EATERY IN THE ELGIN VALLEY

 

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  Rojaal IS  an authentic country eatery housed in a former flower-packing shed overlooking one of the  region’s many valleys, Rojaal (the Afrikaans word for Royal) was established just over a year ago by enterprising apple farmer Arno Reuvers. It boasts a heritage decor and offers soul-stirring views from its grassy ridge. Its interior is homely with farmhouse furniture and crockery completing the scene. The verandah offers al fresco seating, overlooking the childrens playgournd and a vista that stretches to distant mountains.

 

. In her tiny kitchen, chef Orscilla Hitchcock  applies her loving touch to ingredients to create timeless country classics.  Originally from Prince Albert, she completed her studies at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Hotel School in Granger Bay, Cape Town, before joining the Volkskombuis in Stellenbosch. Her path then led her to Leeuwenhof, where she headed the kitchen team. 

                                                                                                                 

Rojaal is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 8am to 5pm.                                                                                                                                                                   Turn off the N2 at the Viljoenshoop Road, just after the Peregrine Farm Stall and keep left for 4km For enquiries, call 021 204 1085 or email bestuurder@rojaal.co.za and chef@rojaal.co.za.

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There are many winelovers who would not think of tucking into a festive feast of beef fillet, leg of lamb of a haunch of venison without a bottle or two of excellent Cape cabernet sauvignon. Their source of origin is likely to be Stellenbosch or Paarl, both regions which have proven over decades to be home to the terroir required to produce acclaimed cabs.  Here’s news of three champions, each one of whom will grace tables set for holiday fare, from gourmet braais to trad and trendy menus for Christmas and the New Year that follows.

 

NEDERBURG II CENTURIES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013

 

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Ladies first, so take a bow Andrea Freeborough, cellarmaster at Nederburg, who is celebrating the fact that the 2013 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon has been judged the best cab at the IWSC 2017 competition. It triumphed against others from several countries, scooping the Warren Winiarski Trophy, following on a similar victory last year when its companion cab, the Nederburg Private Bin R163 cab collected the trophy for best cabernet at the show.

This year’s winner, part of the II Centuries range, was made from low- yielding dryland Paarl vineyards, and spent 30 months in new, second and third-fill oak. It is a compelling cab, rich yet fresh, with ripe tannins and the characteristic cabernet flavours of dark berries and plums, with notes of cassis and aromatic wood. It packs an alcoholic punch at 15% and in something of a hat trick, its successor, the 2014 vintage, is Platter’s Red Wine of the Year in its just-released 2018 guide.

My 2013 sample was packaged to impress in a leather banded black velvet-lined case, which must have added considerably to the costs. It makes a fine gift for any and every occasion.

 

LE RICHE 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE

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There can be very few people in the wine world who do not share Etienne le Riche’s well-deserved reputation as 'king of South African cabernet' although as modest as he is, he would not flaunt that informal title. But he does say with conviction that Stellenbosch is Cabernet country, and has spent more than three decades proving this statement through a succession of brilliant vintages. The Le Riche cabs have now officially come of age as its 21 years since Etienne went on his own, setting up his cellar in the Jonkershoek valley and sourcing the best grapes for his wine across the region.

The maiden vintage in 1997 was voted five stars in the Platter guide and this was followed by a succession of acclaimed cabs. His son grew up at his side, went on to study viti- and viniculture and joined his father as winemaker in 2010. Today Etienne continues to be the driving force behind the winery, while Christo adds a modern touch while maintaining the philosophy of quality, consistency and elegance.

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In 2013 the family built a new winery on the lower slopes of the Helderberg but grapes are still sourced from Stellenbosch growers in different microclimates.  

I was unable to attend the Le Riche family’s recent vertical tasting of their cabernet, but have been  privileged to sample the  two 2014 vintages, the flagship Reserve and the  cabernet sauvignon that's the backbone of the range.

The Reserve is, as its name implies, the wine that embodies the best that can be made, where no effort or cost is spared to ensure quality that is  made to age. The 2014 spent 22 months in French oak, 62% of it new, and presents an impressive  classic cab, with prominent  freshness as wafts of cedarwood and blackcurrant are repeated as flavours, alongside juiciness , lively tannins, and a long finish. Already rich and elegant, but will continue to improve for up to a decade, its an aristocrat whose qualities are reflected in  retail prices of around R550.

The Cabernet 2014 does not suffer by comparison, as it's a hugely enjoyable wine that delivers everything cabernet fans look for: berry and plum aromas dominate, but there’s a hint of vanilla and cedarwood. The tannins are smooth and nicely balance the juicy fruit and agreeable freshness which adds up to pleasure that is also so approachable: this style adds appeal to a wider market who may have found earlier Le Riche cabs on the austere side.  Like the Reserve, alcohol levels are kept at 14%  and consumers can expect to pay between R210 and R250 in stores countrywide. Both wines will elevate main courses of beef, lamb, meaty fish and game bird dishes to memorable celebrations.

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