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A maiden bubbly and a pair of lightly sparkling sippers allow summer to be celebrated with effervescence at prices to please.

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Stellenbosch Hills has added a lively bubbly to its popular Polkadraai range:- Their Sauvignon Blanc Sparkling Brut 2017, priced at just R60, is dry, with plenty of zing, offering an easy-drinking sparkler for brunch, lunch and sundown gatherings. Just 12,5% alcohol levels will add to its appeal for many, while it’s good to remember that Stellelnbosch Hills gives a percentage of profits from every bottle from the Polkadraai range to the Polka Kid Community Project, a fund that helps provide teaching aids to the Vlottenburg Primary School. And, consumers can beneft by buying a six-bottle case of Polkadraai Brut (or any other wine in this range) on a Friday, when they will pay for only five.

From Stellenbosch to Robertson where the ever-innovative Robertson Winery has released the 2016 vintages of their  lightly sparkling summer sippers:    a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir Rosé, both captured in attractive skittle-shaped  bottles starring colour-coded screwcaps, complete with polka dots.

Senior winelovers will recall that affordable petillant whites from Paarl were all the rage among young budget-conscious party-goers, who – having been to Mozambique and enjoyed Portuguese “green” wine – wanted something similar back home.

The sauvignon is crisp and dry, the rose hints at berry and watermelon flavours. Both the white and the pink sparklers are low in alcohol – 10% and 9% respectively and both are priced at around R55.

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Just a fortnight to go before the finalists in this year’s Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year get to know who made it to the top . Nail-biting times for them and their cellars, while usually these announcements signal the end of annual competitions and awards and the start of the silly season.

Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - Pinotage

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  • André Scriven - Rooiberg Pinotage Reserve 2016
  • Christiaan Groenewald - New Cape Wines - Arendskloof Pinotage 2015 and Eagles Cliff Pinotage 2017
  • Clayton Reabow - Môreson Widowmaker Pinotage 2015
  • De Wet Viljoen - Neethlingshof Pinotage 2016
  • Niël Groenewald - Bellingham Homestead Pinotage 2016

Young Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - White Wines

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  • Charl Schoeman - Simonsig Roussanne 2016 and Roussanne Marsanne 2016
  • Murray Barlow - Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016
  • Philip Viljoen - Bon Courage Chardonnay Unwooded 2017 and Noble Late Harvest 2016 (Weisser Riesling/Gewürztraminer)
  • Wade Roger-Lund - Jordan Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2015

The winners of both titles will be announced at a gala dinner at La Residence Hotel in Franschhoek on 25 November . The winning Winemaker receives R50 000 and the Young Winemaker R25 000. Both winners also receive two return tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA.

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Welmoed is a venerable label, and one of several brands and ranges produced by Stellenbosch Vineyards, a global wine group that exports around 80% of its production, mostly to the Netherlands. They are based on the 17th century Welmoed farm outside Stellebnosch and the recently released range is called the Heritage Selection, which is in keeping with a farm dating back to 1690.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Sauvignon-Blanc-2017.jpgThe wines, all selling at R50 from cellar door, include a sauvignon blanc, cab,  chenin, chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, pinotage and rosé. This re-branding is clearly aimed at the consumer who enjoys easy-drinking wines at affordable prices. The two I sampled – sauvignon blanc 2017  and cabernet sauvignon 2016 fit this description, with the former presenting a well-balanced mix of green and gooseberry flavours with a fresh zing, moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. The cabernet sauvignon should please legions of fans who enjoy reds that display berry flavours, a touch of oak and are full-bodied, but stay with a moderate 13,% alcohol level.

The Heritage Selection complements the other upmarket brands like the Credo Limited Releases and Stellenbosch Vineyard’s Flagship wines.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Cabernet-Sauvignon-2016.jpgI like the story of how Welmoed got its name: the farm, originally granted to Simon van der Stel, was subsequently inherited by one Jacobus van der Heyden who was one of the farmers who rebelled against the infamous governor Willem van der Stel. He was imprisoned, later released in ill-health whereupon the local community exclaimed "Deze vent heft wel moed”  iow this chap does have courage...

A toast to Jacobus is in order!

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When the pile of healthy eating/diet/Banting/superfood cookbooks on my study table threatened to keel over, it was clearly time to tackle the range of diets they recommended. Looking back over my decades as a food writer, I lived through a fair number of diets, fads, claims and crazes, good, bad and indifferent, some of them extreme. They came, they flourished, then faded while most sensible people carried on eating moderate portions of a good, varied diet to maintain good health. Of them all, I have always fancied the Mediterranean diet as a lifestyle worth following.

I recall the Mayo Clinic diet that seemed heavy on hard-boiled eggs and grapefruit, with halitosis a common side effect. Then the sugar scare where everyone – not just those overweight - tried to cut out sugar completely and the Sugar Board spent much time and money on telling South Africans that sugar was OK – it offered energy  and had been eaten by humans for many centuries.

The salt scare was next, and as people struggled to enjoy their meals without salt, pretending that crushed dried herbs made a good substitute, others guiltily dropped salt into their vegetable water while cooking even if they left the salt cellar off the table. Butter became an enemy when the focus switched to cholesterol and margarine manufacturers scored big time. (Butter, now unaffordable to most, is now a Banting hero.) How many remember the grape diet which had followers crunching on pips, skins and even leaves off the vine, to be replaced by the avocado diet, which pleased the marketing staff of that particular board no end. And so it went, although none of those has probably had the same influence as the so-called Banting diet of recent years.

With the increase in diabetes among South Africans, a low-carb diet seems to be most beneficial for sufferers, with Vickie de Beer’s family - as reported in her cookbook – offering impressive proof . For those who are over-weight because they eat too much and the wrong food, the jury is still out... But here are some recent titles in our bookshops for readers, cooks and slimmers to digest and compare.

MY LOW CARB KITCHEN  by Vickie de Beer. Published by Quivertree, Cape Town and also available in Afrikaans.

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Vickie is an experienced, professional and popular food writer among both English and Afrikaans readers. Nine years ago her eight-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a potentially life-threatening condition. His parents followed the advice of both doctors and dietitians,  putting him on a low-GI wholegrain diet, with some success but when Vickie read Tim Noakes’ first diet book, The Real Meal Revolution and complemented this with articles by an American physician, the family changed their diet to one of low- carb food, sans all starches, sugars, processed and refined wheat products and processed foods. The results were impressive as their son responded positively, and she reports that the whole family has benefitted on every level, from mood to sleep patterns, energy levels, digestion and improved concentration.  She offers advice on how to achieve this major change of diet, replacing carbohydrate foods with proteins, fats and fibrous vegetables. No more takeaways, ready made supermarkets foods, cook- in sauces and pre-mixes, but plenty of full cream yoghurts, cheese, butter... she offers a weekly meal plan, a supermarket shopping list, and suggests weaning the family off sweetness rather than indulging in artificial sweeteners. The recipes are often aimed to produce leftovers  - roast two chickens at a time – for busy weekday suppers, while bolognaise recipes feature extra veggies, and form the base of cottage pie (topped with cooked mashed cauliflower), crustless quiches, or moussaka. Almond flour and ground sunflower seeds substitute wheat flour in pastry.

School lunches proved a challenge – but there is a delicious section of alternatives to sandwiches and packet chips. In all this is an exceptional cookbook for families coping with a diabetic where the experience of the de Beer family is sure to help and inspire .            

500 low-carb dishes by Deborah Gray. Published by Struik Lifestyle.

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This series of small, fat 500 -recipe compendium is both successful and very useful, no matter what subject they cover. The basic recipes, plus a number of variations offers the cook more choice than found in conventional cookbooks. I have always found the recipes to be of a high standard and those in this title are no exception. They have been designed for a low-calorie/ low-carbohydrate diet and aim to show that it’s not difficult to eat healthy, easily- prepared and tasty food without having to resort to faddy foodstuff or strange concoctions that usually cause dieters to abandon their diets pretty rapidly.

Calorie and carbohydrate counts are given for every recipe. Sugar is regarded as the main culprit behind the increase in obesity around the world – these recipes contain little or no-added sugar and a few of the dessert recipes use sugar replacements. Fats have been cut to a minimum in this collection to reduce calorie counts, unlike in Banting recipes, and portion sizes are recommended ( which I regard as so important, but often neglected). From breakfasts to sweet treats these well illustrated suggestions present a wealth of appetising choices for early starts, packed lunches, skinny snacks and complete meals.

THE MIDLIFE KITCHEN by Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice, published by Mitchell Beazley, London, 2017.

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I approached this book with some scepticism partly because the two authors, featured on the front cover, look far too young to know what those from 50 to 70- plus want from the kitchen. But I’m happy to admit that this is an intriguing collection of recipes for senior readers ready to change culinary direction and eat fare that helps meet the changing needs of elderly bodies. I learnt a new word from the introduction: “nutri-epigenetics” which has become a major focus of scientific enquiry, as certain vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals have found to be powerful potentials for reducing the risk of age-related disease.

Many older people are cutting their meat intake, lowering consumption of processed food, eating consciously to protect their bodies and the environment. This book, say the authors capitalises on this process, often inspired by the culinary traditions of Bali, Japan, Peru, India and the Mediterranean, all of which have  long acknowledged the symbiosis between health and nutrition. We apparently need a lean protein, moderate amount of slow-burn carbohydrates, plenty of gut-friendly probiotics, green leafy veg and legumes.  The book aims to make these as tasty as possible.

An unusual rating is the use of a star anise logo where each petal is a different colour, and each colour represents a health factor such as digestive health, energy boosting, bone and joint health, heart health, mind, memory and mood etc. Recipes are rated accordingly.The recommended ingredients in the midlife larder include a wide choice of fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs grains, nuts and seeds.  Only yoghurt and eggs in the dairy slot, only olive oil in the cupboard, and dark chocolate makes the list.

The recipes open with recommended mixes of spices, raw seeds, granola, dukkah , salad dressing, curry paste, a sugar-free sweetener and more. These are frequently used ingredients in the recipes that follow. Some recipes will take readers aback, others are familiar enough: Take the breakfast section – a yoghurt topped with citrus segments and pistachios, sweetened with a little honey and spiced with a few saffron threads will tempt western palates.  An oriental option suggests a dish of sweet and salty Balinese black rice, cooked in coconut mil, sweetened with date syrup and finished with the addition of seasonal fruit.

You will find seafood and chicken in the main course section but red meat is very scarce.  Sugar makes a rare appearance. This hardback is well illustrated and is as appetising as it is informative.

JUMP ON THE BANT WAGON by Nick Charlie Key published by Human & Rousseau, 2017. Also available in Afrikaans.

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A self-explanatory title and one on which first-time cookbook writer, regular blogger and Banting devotee Key expands as he shares 90 recipes that are low in carbs, gluten- and sugar-free and aimed at those on a budget. He lost 22kg on this diet after getting a wake-up call from his doctor reporting high insulin levels. He was 29. He also reports other health benefits,

The recipes will appeal to those who enjoy snack fare and fast food as Key has spent time creating equivalents that follow Banting principles. Think onion rings with sour cream dip, garlic butter prawns,  sweet potato nachos, cauliflower ‘pizza’ bases, ‘burgers’, tacos and crustless quiches. He uses xylitol extensively in his desserts and bakes and almond and coconut flour instead of wheat flour.

The subtitle proclaims “Quick and easy on a tight budget “ – I find little evidence of low-cost ingredients in his recipes – just the opposite in most cases.

DELICIOUS LOW CARB by Sally-Ann Creed, published by Human & Rousseau, 2017.

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The writer first leapt into prominence as a co-author of The Real Meal Revolution which started the Banting diet craze and the hullabaloo between Prof Tim Noakes and his detractors.

This new collection of low-carb, gluten-free, sugar-free recipes offer those already on a LCHF diet further culinary choices, It combines eye appeal with all the dishes that most families cook, including sauces and trendy pestos from ingredients like nasturtium leaves.  Pizza and quiche bases from coconut flour resemble traditional wheat flour ones. There’s a baby potato salad – surprise! – as she says our gut flora need resistant starch now and then.

Creed seems to concentrate on Banting-style versions of those goodies that most families love, therefore are hard to give up – finger foods,breads and pizzas , snacks, cakes cookies and desserts. There are also chapters with soups, breakfast, and main courses, and sides (which seems the preferred term today for veggies and salads). I think that nutritionists are focussing on making items like bread and pastry resemble traditional flour recipes, both in appearance and taste. Some of the early Banting loaves tasted pretty awful and were a (pricy) pain to make

iIn her introduction she relates how this diet enabled her to give up the numerous medicines she had been taking for chronic asthma. Her other culinary titles, also recommend  banning sugar, seed oils, margarine and microwave cooking . In one cookbook she bans all grains as they “...have a devastating effect on the intestines and digestive system in general... fattening, make you sluggish and lethargic...” all of which is unlikely to go down well with a few billion Asians who consume rice twice daily.

Creed describes herself as a FINT or Functional Integrative Nutritional Therapist, which – dare I say this – I find somewhat over the top. However, as a successful clinical nutritionist in private practice, she finds joy in “seeing lives changed daily”.

HOW TO EAT BETTER  by James Wong, published by Mitchell Beazley, London, 2017.

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It’s taken a cookbook written by a Kew-trained botanist, science writer and broadcaster to really tickle my tastebuds. Wong’s obsession with food equals his love of plants, which has seen him present BBC programmes like Grow Your Own Drugs and publish best-sellers on similar subjects.

He maintains that the recent advice to ban everyday foods like wheat, dairy and potatoe -, in fact most affordable staples - is not the only way to eat and be healthy. He focuses on careful selection, storage and cooking of your ingredients which can make a huge difference to the nutritional value they yield. And he stays with the more traditional advice that eating lots of fruit, veg, and whole grains, and going easy on the red meat, fat and sugar, are the best ways to go.

Some of his advice we have known about for some time – don’t refrigerate tomatoes, and cook them to get more nutritional benefit. Cooking also does this for carrots, squash and sweet potato.  Avoid processed foods, favour organic, local and seasonal produce.

When faced with the current insistence that we should all switch to a low-carb regime, Wong gently points out that diets based on complex carbohydrates pre-date the modern rise of diseases like obesity and diabetes by tens of thousands of years. In fact the total portion of carbs in many diets has actually fallen in recent years. And, very simply, all human civilisations evolved eating carbo-rich foods, grains especially, as their key energy source because these crops yield maximum calories per minimum land areas. 

Starting with vegetables Wong deals with the health benefits of each, tells us how to store them and cook them for maximum benefits. Which of the cabbage family for example, offers the ability to stop call-damaging free radicals that associated with developing cancer?

Cooking tomatoes more than doubles the quantity of bright red lycopene  in the fruit, also making it easier for us to absorb this antioxidant which is thought to lower risk of stomach and lung cancers. Good to see fruit praised after reading Banting books, such as bananas (“enjoy in all the ways you know and love”) but also trying cooking green bananas (a recipe for Singaporean green banana curry follows.) Grains and  pulses follow, along with discussions on the benefits of various teas, coffee, chocolate and alcohol.   How to make any food a superfood is the claim on the front cover of this hardback.  Living in a country like ours, with abundant sunshine that allows us to produce so much of our foodstuffs locally makes his advice that much easier to follow.

 

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It’s still easy to get off the beaten track in the Robertson valley, and, as sophistication threatens to change the nature of some farms on this wine route, the country cellars on roads less travelled gain in appeal.

One such is Windfall, a truly rustic farm that maintains its simple boutique origins even as winemaker Kobus van der Merwe adds new wines to the range  - a maiden Cap Classique will soon join the others.

When I first visited the farm off the Agterkliphoogte road the tasting centre had just been completed. Today there are self-catering cottages, lemon groves along with 63ha of red and white cultivars. The farm's six-year-old potstill brandy, named The Hunter, produced from Chenin Blanc, is attracting considerable praise.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Windfall-Chenin-Blanc-Bottleshot_20171026-141720_1.jpgThe recently released 2017 Chenin Blanc, a fresh and easy-drinking charmer,  offers a range of stone fruit and citrus flavours. It's an appealing partner to casual al fresco fare with  pleasing alcohol levels kept to 12,5%. It sells for R72, which is also the price of the Windfall Grenache Rosé, an off-dry pink presenting melon and berry notes which will find many a fan, and with a moderate alcohol count of just 11,5%.

 Although I have not tasted either, I noticed that Windfall notched up two golds at the 2017 Michelangelo Awards, for their 2015 Cabernet and 2014 Shiraz,  Visitors wanting to sample this boutique collection need to make an appointment before heading to the cellar.

The farm, originally called Spes Bona, was in the Lourens family until cricketing legend Eddie Barlow bought it and changed the name as he watched mists rollling down the mountains that surround the valley. Of course the name also points to unexpected good fortune, a legacy that the present owners, the Alexander family, are busily building on.

To finish on a cricketing note, the owners, winemakers and team at Windfall are on a good wicket, and one that is sure to keep getting better.

See www.windfallwine.co.za for more info.

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Raise your glasses to the short-lived Battle of Muizenberg 222 years ago

The incredible history of Steenberg’s first owner has been well documented (and nicely embroidered) over the centuries. But as the first and feisty woman owner of this early mountainside farm, Catharina certainly made her mark as she worked her way through several husbands while running a farm that also saw travellers overnighting there before continuing to Simons Bay the following day.

More than a century later, other occupants of that old farm stood on that stony mountainside gazing down toward the Indian Ocean lapping at the False Bay beach. This time, there was a war on, known as the Battle of Muizenberg. It was August, 1795.

Former friends, now foes, Holland, who controlled the Cape through the Dutch East India Company no longer allowed Britain access to the Cape, a position that the British East India Company could not tolerate as it was an essential point of supplies in the long journey to the East. A fleet of nine Royal Navy ships, which included two warships, Ruby and Stately and a frigate, Sphynx among them, sailed forth, enabling the British to take control of Simons Town in mid June. The Dutch retreated to their seaside Muizenberg fort, with just 300 men. On August 7 the British sent two battalions to Muizenberg supported by three saips at sea, including Stately. It was all over by 2pm when the Dutch retreat to Zandvlei and the first British Occupation of the Cape was a reality.

I don’t know whose idea it was to honour three of the tall  ships which took part in this short- lived skirmish, but not only is it a brainwave to mark an historic day in the Southern Peninsula chronicles, but wines with a story to tell increase their appeal, and so it is with this maiden trio of enjoyment.

Lift a glass to Ruby, a 2017 rosé with class, made up of just more than half syrah

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and the rest cinsaut, a wine that sings of summer days and long, warm nights. It’s dry, but there’s ample fruit, berries vying for attention with watermelon and a little spice, hints of citrus, an aperitif that will also pair happily with picnics, salads and fruity desserts. Moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% and already sporting its first award, a Double Gold from Rosé Rocks. Selling for R86 at the cellar door

Sphynx 2017 is a charming chardonnay, my favourite of the three, produced from Robertson valley grapes that have been carefully handled to present an elegant

 

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wine, whose stay in oak has added depth and structure without any obvious wood.  Characteristic citrus, caramel and peach, with quince adding a Med flavour. It’s fresh and sprightly, alcohol held at 13,5%, a wine for toasting, for partnering with seafood, poultry and serious salads. It costs R135 at the farm.

The third tall ship is Stately, well depicted here as a 2015 cab-led blend with 37% shiraz making the remainder, a dense wine with elegant smooth texture, both

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accessible and ready to drink. There is a gamut of flavours to identify from olives and berries, black pepper to wafts of licorice. Moderate alcohol levels add to its appeal, and this is the only wine closed with cork. It sells for  R135, and is a versatile red that will adapt to many an occasion.

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SEASON OF SAUVIGNON SETS DURBANVILLE A-TINGLE!

 

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A bakers dozen of inviting farms makes up the Durbanville Wine Valley, a group that is popular both collectively and individually. The annual Season of Sauvignon takes place over the weekend of October 28 -29, and is a celebration that needs little publicity, as its hugely popular with both locals and visitors. This year 11 farms are taking part, offering a variety of festivities, pouring their sauvignons and offering entertainment and good food to boot.

 

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See www.durbanvillewine.co.za for the detailed programme and contemplate your chosen itinerary. Book your festival tickets via www.webtickets.co.za.

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FRANSCHHOEKS BUBBLY FEST MARKS THE START OF THE FESTIVE SEASON.

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The Magic of Bubbles, the annual Cap Classique and Champagne Festival takes place on December 2 and 3, and guests are asked to dress to impress in black and white. As in previous years the grand marquee will be pitched at the Huguenot Monument, and the local and imported bubblies will be accompanied by stylish fare from local restaurants.

Tickets cost R375 a head, and include tasting glass and coupons. Children under 18 enter free of charge. Book through www.webtickets.co.za. Those paying with Mastercard receive a 10% discount on ticket prices and purchases.

 

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Eikendal Vineyards swirls Cheesecake & Wine Pairings

 

 

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This popular Stellenbosch destination always pops up with a new way to pair their fine wines with tasty bites. This summer it's cheesecake and wine pairings, where the cellar’s crisp sauvignon blanc is matched to lemon cheesecake, the berry cheesecake with their sauvignon blanc/chardonnay blend and their Janina unwooded chardonnay is partnered with salted caramel cheesecake.

The Eikendal Cheesecake & Wine Pairing Experience costs R80 per person and will be swirling the senses from October 2017 until April 2018, Tuesdays to Sundays between 10:00 and 16:30. To book contact Chantal-Lee at 021 855 1422 or send an email toinfo@eikendal.co.za.

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Charles Withington - seen here with Gypsy -  is renowned both as a successful négociant and a charming connoisseur in the Cape wine world . He is based in Darling where he presides over his inviting wine boutique The Darling Wine Shop, and he is passionate about the district of Darling as a source of good grapes and fine wine that reflects the terroir.

“A Darling Wine” reads the back label below the name Roan Ranger. This 2015 blend encompasses all that I could ask for in a red – Cinsaut-led, intriguing name,b2ap3_thumbnail_WITHINGTON-Roan-Ranger-Cinsaut-Grenache-Mourvedre-2013-HR.jpg

appealing front label, and a delightful story behind the product. Happily, the wine itself lives up to every expectation, an unshowy blend of immense charm, smooth, beautifully integrated, the Cinsaut dominating while benefitting from vigorous, companionable Grenache and powerful, meaty Mourvèdre.

Charles Withington fulfilled a long-held ambition with the creation and release of this wine, one which saw his quest for the production of  a Rhone-style blend that would combine the harvest of Darling grapes that best reflect the vintage year, while introducing a sense of the communication between man and horse. His firm belief in Cinsaut goes back many years to when he worked at Rustenberg. The Withington association with, and love of, horses is a long-established one, here celebrated by naming the wine after a roan, or horse whose coat consists of more than one colour (an equine blend, suggests Withington.)

Made with immense care which shows in every sip, each of the three components were harvested and vinified separately. Malolactic fermentation took place in lightly oaked French fourth and fifth- fill barrels and the final blend selection made after one month.

Withington’s Nguni Malbec 2015is another wine that presents both a lesser-known cultivar and honours an indigenous beast and celebrates both along with Charles’ love of the Darling wine district. Most of us first encountered Malbec through the Argentinian product, and now  various New World countries are planting the grape and UK sales reveal it to be the fastest growing varietal in sales terms, Darling can boast nine hectares of Malbec, which, Withington points out is four times the national average. Grapes for the Nguni Malbec 2015 were sourced from a dryland single vineyard on Oranjefontein farm.

Charles likens the grape to the patient, tolerant Nguni cattle, which have been produced for beef in the Darling area for decades. Juicy and fruity, more than meaty, this is moreish Malbec, medium-bodied, and enjoyable solo as well as complementing good red meat (Nguni beef?)

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At R90 a bargain buy, and one that could hardly be bettered as an introduction to this dark and ancient French varietal.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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As I write this the ever-expanding rock – and green – outdoor festival Rocking the Daisies in is full swing near Darling. Not only is this becoming an international event, as claimed by the organisers, but this year’s events caused ructions in the academic world as UCT students requested being excused for exams as they had booked tickets for the fest.  In our era we would have probably been carted off to psychiatrists if we’d tried that one on...

But I digress. A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days with my family in Darling, just ahead of their annual flower festival which marked its centenary this year. While we missed this impressive milestone. we were in good time to wander among fields  of daisies in pastel hues in the tranquil Tienie Versfeld reserve as the bulbs were poking up stems with the promise of blooms to come. Rolling hills  of canola made a golden backdrop.

Darling town is laidback and hospitable, rustic but efficient when it comes to meeting visitor needs. We had booked for a matinee of Adapt or Fly at Evita se Perron, it was a magical hour that finished with the promise of Uys impersonating Julius Malema next time around – I can hardly wait. We spent a happy half hour at Darling Sweet – along with a sizable group of enthusiastic customers – sampling the irresistible toffees produced by the Hentie van der Merwe and Frits van Ryneveld’s staff in a glassed-off section of the shop. This is a success story based on hard work, good marketing and fail-proof recipes for both confectionery and human resources: In a handsome Edwardian building , once the home of Darling’s General Dealer, the partners’ sweet production is in full swing on one side, while on the other free samples of their considerable range of toffees and toffee spreads invite tasting. Then choices are made, and the till rings constantly as happy customers leave clutching their goodies. The enterprise has provided employment for 20 locals, has become a must-see destination on  the tourist itinerary, and, best of all, these handmade toffees contain no artificial flavourings, or colorants and cont no preservatirves. What, I asked Fritz, do you use for the fat ingredient? Butter, of course, only butter” came the answer. I am hooked!

We went to sample local artisanal beer and agreeable fare at a evening show in the industrial area, and by way of contrast, joined an elegant midday wine and olive tasting at Ormonde farm Their recently released NJB sauvignon blanc 2017, only available from the farm is a tribute to a former patriarch and is a classy, if fairly pricy, wine.

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For me, a highlight was a visit to The Darling Wine Shop, the little emporium of well-known négociant Charles Withington, and stocked with a delicious mélange of vinous delights. I was sorry that the owner was not there, having met him previously years ago, but as we left the shop, he and his wife Janet arrived. As it was closing time, there was little time to talk, but we have since corresponded on email, while savouring two of Withington’s wines, which I have reviewed separately. See WITHINGTON DUO – Winning wines of Darling

We ordered takeout pizza, and ambled through streets lined with both Victorian and Edwardian homes, - gentle, unshowy architecture in keeping with the atmosphere prevailing in the town. When the international sophistication of glamorous wineland destinations threatens to overwhelm, turn tail and head for Darling, an inexpensive and soothing remedy presided over by real people. As a bonus, you may discover some fine wines.

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We have all savoured the quality whites from the memorable 2015 vintage. Now some fine reds are emerging to claim their place in the sun. Among the first  is this enjoyable cabernet sauvignon from Boschendal, a powerful and complex wine that is  presenting its  credentials as a Stellenbosch cab with real depth. On the nose, whiffs of berry and cedar, leading to nicely balanced tannins and dark fruit on the palate lent additional interest with  spice from the oak. It can certainly be opened and relished right now – particularly, they suggest, paired with the farm’s  Black Angus biltong – or any other cuts of their pasture-fed free-ranging herd and source of the beef in the restaurants. Alcohol levels are 14%, the cellar door price is R140 and if this wine was to spend another year or two in cool darkness, it is sure to improve even further.

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 The release of the latest vintage of Delheim Grand Reserve is an event that connoisseurs wait for and collectors snap up.

 

The 2014 vintage marks a remarkable 36 years since the cellar introduced their flagship range and celebrates its reputation for pampering some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the Simonsberg sub-region. Cab makes up 85% of the Reserve, with 10% Cabernet Franc and remaining 5% of Merlot contributing to the final blend, an impressive combo of finely tuned structure and elegance.

 

 

Winemaker Altus Treurnicht harvested the estate’s five-star Cabernet grapes, added the Cab Franc from the Vaaldraai block and Merlot from Peperboom at the foot of Klapmutskop. The wine spent 16 months in French oak before being bottled but will go on getting better and better for up to another decade for those winelovers with patience and access to dark, cool places.

 

It is already more than enjoyable, delicious ruby hues offering up complex aromas of berry and spice. On the palate the tannins are robust but contained, the wine is smooth with fruit that comes to the fore in a balanced and pleasing mouthfeel and long finish.

 

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It sells for R285 from the farm and makes a fine companion to gourmet meals where red meat takes centre stage. It also makes an appetising gift for someone who will appreciate its many charms and future promise.

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It’s always a special occasion when La Motte releases a new edition of their Hanneli R, a flagship tribute to the estate owner that is only produced during exceptional harvests. As

The 2012 vintage matured in French oak for more than three years, then was cellared on the farm for a further four years before being released as it nears its peak. That said, collectors will argue that they will squirrel their case away for a further four years to demonstrate how the wine will scale ever further heights to delight connoisseurs.

The Hanneli R 2012 consists of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and is finished with 10% Petite Sirah. Half the Shiraz came from Franschhoek, the other half from Elim. Walker Bay supplied the Grenache and Franschhoek the Petite Sirah, a southern French cultivar that is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin that produces tannic, long-lived wines. It occupies a miniscule 0.02% of our vineyard area.

This is a wine to open with great expectations  which are sure to be met, given the talent and sources behind it. It offers  beautifully expressed complexity and is as elegant as it is excellent. First impressions are that the tannins dominate, but the fruit comes through on the palate along with welcome freshness, balanced with the richness which one expects. If there is some over, the enjoyment is likely to be increased when more glasses are poured the following day, a bonus to be appreciated.

Just 3 600 bottles were produced, which increases its appeal to those who demand the best, from the Cape, from France, or wherever the  Old or New World produces outstanding wines.

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this is a wine to grace the table when memorable events and occasions are celebrated – when the menu is geared to the wine, rather than the other way round. What better place to do this than book a table at La Motte’s delightful Pierneef restaurant and select a main course from Michelle’s menu  that will be further enhanced by this worthy wine. Now, next year or any time up to 2022 ....

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There’s just one day to go before Heritage month comes to an end, and I still have several new wines to report on that reached me before this unique trio did. But, because these are so connected to our Cape history in terms of viticulture, architecture and hospitality – not to forget the Matieland aspect -  I am breaking my self-imposed rule to write about them first, before September has past.

 

Local and international travellers everywhere rave about Lanzerac – in terms of fine fare, iconic wines, or simply as one of the most beautiful of the many historic wine estates in Stellenbosch. Its cellar has been  renowned for perennially popular rosé, for pioneer pinotage, and more recently, for fine chardonnay, among others. Now cellarmaster  Wynand Lategan is offering the world of wine a new and maiden trio entitled the  Keldermeester Versameling, and this cellarmaster’s collection introduces several innovative touches – both the minimalistic front label and more informative back label use only Afrikaans, the heavy bottles are sealed with wax in good heritage style, and the contents consists of cultivars and combinations  not commonly found today.

One gets the sense that winemaker Wynand had a good time creating these wines, limited editions,  each one of which is linked to a renowned personality and to the University of Stellenbosch.

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The single white is a 2016  Pinot Blanc sourced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek Valley, making it something of a rarity in itself, as this grape occupies just 0.01% of vineyard area in south Africa. Its appealing name, BERGPAD, refers to the famous mountain path from the university sports grounds at Coetzenburg toward Lanzerac. The Italian varietal produces an appealing summer wine, this one at 14% alcohol levels on the high side, but which adds body: there is a slight hint of oiliness, reminiscent of Semillon as well. I did not get tasting notes, so don’t know details of the age of the vines and other factors.  Just over 1 000 bottles were produced, selling at R190.

Wynand repeats viticultural history with his 2016 blend entitled PROF – it’s a tribute to the renowned academic Prof Abraham Perold who created Pinotage by crossing Cinsaut, then called Hermitage, with Pinot Noir back in 1925. Why, we are not sure, but today the result, along with Chenin blanc, are the two cultivars  that overseas gurus are naming as the iconic South African pair producing the most exciting and pleasing wines . Prof Perold cultivated the first Pinotage vines, but, sadly,  never tasted the maiden bottled wine. Today’s blend of 60% Cinsaut and 40% Pinot fills just more than 1 000 bottles,  and sells for R310, which is not a bad price for recreated history in a bottle.

And finally, we have DOK, a 2015 Malbec sourced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley. This diminutive term, usually of affection,  refers to a doctor and was always used back in the last century when Afrikaners were talking about legendary rugby giant Dr Danie Craven. He regularly visited Lanzerac with his dog Bliksem in tow, and I remember my mother revealing, in a rare moment about her youth, that she and he went on a couple of dates at some stage.  DOK, just over 1 000 bottles, sells at R280 from  the farm.

 

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The bottles are numbered and signed by Lategan, the stock is limited to the farm, selling from the Lanzerac tasting room, while members of the Lanzerac Wine Club also have access to this trio, which is going to make a talking point for summer affairs this festive season, and a nostalgic one for oldtimers who know and revere the historic heart of Stellenbosch. 

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As Heritage month heads to a climax with the public holiday - and a long weekend to boot – we know that millions of South Africans will be lighting braai fires across the nine provinces as the recent tradition of combining heritage with a National Braai Day as been enthusiastically adopted.

Round many a fire family, friends and cooks will be clutching glasses of good Cape wine – both to celebrate the occasion and to accompany the brunch, lunch or supper feast sizzling over the coals.

Some of our cellars have established a heritage legacy through their history, having been in existence for more than 300 years. Others have done so through their products, that have become renowned as wines with a long tradition. Nuy Winery falls into the latter class, having produced fine muscadels since their inception in 1963. Hardly a year passes without these fortified dessert wines being rated as best in the country, both white and red. Former cellarmaster Wilhelm Linde (1971 – 2003 is widely credited with being responsible for the impressive increase in quality of muscadel at Nuy, something that present cellarmaster Christo Pienaar upholds and carries forward.

This month muscadel fans can invest in a case of of Nuy muscadel wines with five year intervals between vintages from 1991 to 2016 along with a 2006 white muscadel. Only 15 of these heritage cases will be released during September, each packed in a wooden case made for the occasion. This heirloom collection costs R1500.

Meanwhile, Nuy has also been increasing its range of wines from other cultivars over the last couple of decades, and one of these, the Mastery range has acquired a sauvignon blanc 2017, just released in time for spring flings. Moderate alcohol levels at just over 13, the back label uses Afrikaans to describe the wine as presenting tropical fruit aromas followed by a combination of fruit on the palate and having a long finish. I found the nose quite shy, but the palate full and fruity with a silkiness that lingered. Mixed fruit, yes, with a little passionfruit and lime, balanced by the freshness of youth and no searing acidity.  Slips down agreeably, both as a aperitif and a companion to a range of summer fare/

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A group of us from the McGregor Heritage society recently lunched at the Nuy hilltop restaurant and I’m pleased to report it's maintaining its well-deserved reputation for both cuisine and service, although the prices have risen. (What hasn’t, I hear you mutter).

 

Earlier this year cellarmaster Christo Pienaar was elected the new chairman of the SA National Wine Show Association, replacing Charles Hopkins who retired after a five-year stint. Pienaar is well qualified to take over, and has been actively involved in the Association for more than a decade.

 

All in all Nuy’s tasting centre and bistro, with its panoramic views, provides both an outlet for some notable wines and spirits, and offers a delectable oasis in the gastronomic desert that exists on the R60 between Worcester and Rooiberg.

 

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Spring has sprung, Heritage Weekend beckons, and the choice of fine wine and food fests, country markets and elegant tasting affairs grows ever wider, across the Western Cape with one in Gauteng. Get your diaries out soon and contemplate these events, here in date order.

COUNTRY MARKET AT GROOTE POST

 

 

Groote Post’s monthly Country Market takes place on Sunday September 24 over the Heritage long weekend. As before, visitors can indulge a wonderful selection of artisanal food and homeware, the estate wines, while children have a host of activities to keep them happy. Entrance is free. For more info contact

I Love Yzer: 022 451 2202 or info@iloveyzer.co.za

www.grootepostcountrymarket.co.za · Facebook.com/GrootePostCountryMarket

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USANA FARM FEAST AT KLEIN WELMOED

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An authentic farm experience awaits visitors to Klein Welmoed outside Stellenbosch over the weekend of October 7 – 8. Bring the family to the Usana Farm Feast and unwind with fine wines, delicious food, and visits to cows, hens and other animals. Plenty of entertainment for all ages. Tickets cost R390 a head which includes lunch, wine-tasting and voucher for discounting wines purchased. Children under 13 and over 7 pay R 80. Prebook via

www.webtickets.co.za to avoid disappointment as limited tickets are available.

 For more information contact us at info@usana.co.za.

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Celebrate International Pinotage Day with Lanzerac Wine Estate

What better way to pay homage to South Africa’s unique grape varietal than at the home of the world’s first Pinotage - Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. Join in the fun and festivities on Saturday, 14 October, for an unforgettable Pinotage Day experience where live music, superb wines and a Pinotage-inspired menu!

  • Lanzerac vertical Pinotage tasting presented by Cellar Master, Wynand Lategan, at 11h00 and 13h00.
  • Stock up on Lanzerac’s acclaimed wines for the festive season. Visitors to the Estate will qualify for a 20% discount when purchasing Lanzerac Pinotage or Lanzerac Pinotage Rosé on the day. 
  • Pinotage picnic baskets will be available to pre-order and enjoy on the day at a cost of R400 per couple. Filled to the brim with delectabledelights and a bottle of Lanzerac Pinotage Rosé. Enjoy your picnic under the giant Oaks in the Deli courtyard or on the picnic terrace overlooking the mountains and vineyards. 
  • The Lanzerac Deli adjacent to the Tasting Room will cater with its Pinotage-inspired menu. Guests can look forward to fresh oysters with Pinotage caviar, Pinotage and rosemary glazed lambburgers, cheese and charcuterie platters and delicious gourmet mini pizzas for the little ones. Executive Chef Stephen Fraser uses only the freshest, locally sourced produce to create artisanal and wholesome meals guaranteed to whet any appetite. 

Entry to Lanzerac is free of charge, but bookings for the vertical Pinotage tasting, Pinotage picnic baskets or the Lanzerac Deli is essential. 

For more information about Lanzerac’s International Pinotage Day festivities contact Zia van Rooyen du Toit at zia@lanzerac.co.za.

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ROBERTSON VALLEY WINE ON THE RIVER


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One of the most popular festivals in the winelands will take place for the 12th successive year over the weekend of October 20 – 22. Wine on the River takes place at Goudmyn farm along the banks of the Breede river, when  the valley winemakers, chefs, producers come together to offer hospitality to visitors from near and far – and often from overseas as well.

New vintages and old favourites from about 30 cellars will be poured.  An irresistible array of brunch and lunch items, simple and trad, trendy and sophisticated, will be served up from a host of stalls  while youngsters can enjoy horse and tractor rides, boat cruises and more. Interactive wine tastings focusing on specific cultivar are offered for winelovers wanting to learn more.  The annual Duck Derby, which raises funds for the Bonnie-People Project in Bonnievale takes place on the Sunday when it’s hoped to raise more than R250 000, last year’s target. Wines will be sold at cellar door prices, so stock up for the festive season and save!


Entrance ticket prices vary from R120 - R280 and children under 18 go in free of charge.  Early Bird Weekend ticket runs till 30 September 2017 for R250pp. Interactive wine tastings at R70pp per slot. All available at Webtickets under the Wine on the River page.

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 RMB WINEX 2017

 

RMB WineX – Jozi’s largest, most enduring and supremely elegant wine show – returns to the Sandton Convention Centre from 25 - 27 October 2017.  Feast your wine soul on the greatest selection of wines under one roof – from the most classical styles to the avant-garde; around 800 wines, artisanal products and accessories from 150 exhibitors are sure to delight all who love wine.  Bespoke tastings, product launches, wine route promotions and art displays are designed to enhance the WineX-lover’s experience of the exciting world of all things vinous. And, the Mastrantonio emporium caters for show visitors ‘on the move’ with easy-to-eat deli meals and sumptuous refreshments. 

Dates: Wednesday 25 to Friday 27 October 2017

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

Time: 17h00 to 21h00 each night

Bookings:  Book all tickets and packages online via www.computicket.com or call 0861 915 8000. Use the “Print at home” facility for easy access to tickets.

Tickets: Via computicket.com: Early Bird price from R165 to R190 for bookings by 13 October; thereafter and at the door, from R185 to R220   No entry for under 18s, babies or prams. 

Getting there and home:

  • Gautrain (www.gautrain.co.za): Visitors from Pretoria in the North and Benoni in the East catch the train and walk to the Sandton Convention Centre.
  • Uber, or see the website for other responsible rides.

 

Event Queries: See www.winex.co.za for all details, list of exhibitors and wines in the lead-up to the show, and to register for Shop@Show.  Follow on Facebook and Twitter @RMBWineX  #RMBWineX2017 #DiscoverYourTaste

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

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Season of Sauvignon

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The Durbanville Wine Valley is ready to welcome visitors and festival goers to Visit Sauvignon Country at the annual Season of Sauvignon festival 28 - 29 October.  The Durbanville Wine Valley is renowned as an excellent Sauvignon Blanc area and is one of Cape Town’s ‘must-visit’ wine destinations.

The valleys  11 prestigious wine farms,  - Altydgedacht, D’Aria, Diemersdal, De Grendel, Durbanville Hills, Hillcrest, Klein Roosboom, Meerendal, Nitida, Groot Phizantekraal and Signal Gun  - will each be celebrating the start of white wine season in their own individual style. Each winery has its own charm with superb entertainment for adults and children alike.

Festival-goers will guided through the festival offering with a detailed festival program that will be available on www.durbanvillewine.co.zafrom 1 August. Prebook festival tickets via www.webtickets.co.za from 1 August. 

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Curry: Stories & Recipes across South Africa, by Ishay Govender-Ypma. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2017.

 

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An important culinary addition to our indigenous literature was celebrated with the launch of this impressive hardback, its gold design and lettering on the front cover adding decorative gravitas to the contents within. The endpapers inspire with little bowls of spices, pounded and powdered, to be mixed into the aromatic collection that will flavour the veggies, meat, fish and  poultry that simmer in a variety of pots across our country.

Journalist Ishay added a note to reviewers that arrived with the book, telling us of the fulfilling year she spent travelling to towns and townships, cities and farms across South Africa in search of every version of curry that is served up by our diverse communities. She enjoyed great hospitality, entered into an exploration of our past, and unearthed an extraordinary collection of stories and recipes to present to readers in this treasury. As is increasingly becoming common with current South African cookbooks, the stories often centre around hardship – from poverty and more often about suffering under apartheid laws, homes lost under the Group Areas act even as family cooks continued to make food, stretching ingredients, and keeping treats for special occasions.

Close to 90 recipes share the pages between the fascinating story of curry, related by cooks and experts, in every corner of the country. Crab curry from KwaZulu-Natal,. Cape Malay chicken curry, curried offal  from the Northern Cape, beef from Gauteng townships. You will find Karoo venison curries, lamb for the kerkbasaar, and curries featuring vegetables and fruits that are worth contemplating – and not only by vegetarians.

We follow Ishay’s journey through all nine provinces of South Africa. Indian home cooks predominate, unsurprisingly, in every region except for the Western  Cape where we find residents who specialise in Cape Malay cuisine, well-known cook and author Sydda Essop, weskus family cook Lenora Farmer from Paternoster, renowned spice guru Cass Abrahams, Afrikaans creative cook Inez Espost and an English-speaking restaurateur in Knysna who presents the only Thai curry in the book – the final recipe! Also featured is Emily van Sitters of Franschhoek who  I met when collecting recipes for a Cape cookbook way back when. She shared her recipe for seafood masala bobotie, still the finest bobotie dish ever  tasted.

The many black cooks, mostly women, use fewer spices in their curries, although some, like Lisbeth Mametja, of North Sotho origin, living in Hoedspruit, cooks a mean Indian curry thanks to working at game lodge with a chef from  Mumbai. Along with mutton, lamb and many chicken curries, there is a fine selection of meat-free recipes, where veggies, fruit,  pulses, soya, nuts and paneer star, along with  some interesting seafood curries. The recipes conclude with a selection of side dishes to complement curries, including roti, samp, sambals,pickles and atchars.-

This compilation is  set to become a South African classic, and one which even novice cooks can buy knowing that the recipes were all re-tested by Ishay’s husband to make sure they would be in safe hands when trying out a new dish. Now there’s dedication worth acknowledging!

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Fun! Affordable!  Informal!

That’s the promise from the chefs and caterers, winemakers and hosts of the village of McGregor who are gearing up to welcome visitors during their 2017 Food and Wine fest.

 

Head to the valley along roads fringed with daisies in pastel hues. Cross the Breede river  and cruise along the road to nowhere – until your reach the marketplace in Church street, where the church spire gazes down on tents and stalls, musicians and cooks, as enticing  aromas of fare both local and exotic drift skywards,  offering irresistible temptation.

Tasting glass in hand, sample the new vintages of no less than seven cellars that line the McGregor wine route, and treat your palate to some fine wines, every one of which is created in the valley. The range extends from a choice of bubbly to organic whites, riveting rosé, award-winning reds, warming soetes and world- class grappas and eaux de vies. Stock up for the festive season at prices to please both palate and purse.

The following cellars will be pouring their wines; 

 

Tanagra (don't miss the cab franc); Donkey Sanctuary (off-dry colombar is popular), McGregorWines (good affordable reds), Bemind (cinsaut is a must), Solara (delicious organic s/blanc), Lords (bubbly and new s'blanc) and Buffalo Creek.

Bring the family, as youngsters will be well-catered for – and will be cooking up a storm themselves – under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher. Adults can relish oysters, schwarmas, curry, samoosas and hamburgers, or settle for heritage treats like roosterkoek and boerie rolls, followed by pastries and pancakes.

Bring a basket to take home artisanal fare, and browse among local crafts for gorgeous hessian bags of aromatic herbes de Provence. Choose favourites  from a brand new range of souvenir keyrings and fridge magnets illustrating McGregor’s landscapes,  flora, heritage homes, gardens and more.

Come for the day, or make a weekend of it and revel in the peace  of  traffic-free roads under starry night skies. Bring your hiking boots, your bikes, and savour handmade hospitality during a memorable taste of McGregor

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The festival runs from 10am – 4pm on Saturday September 30. Tickets, which include a wine glass and 10 tastings, cost R80 a head. For more info, and to book tickets, call 023 625 1954 or send an e-mail to info@tourismmcgregor.co.zaTanagra

 

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When one samples new vintages emanating from the cellar of a person of Jan Boland Coetzee’s stature, two points arise: one is heightened expectation and the other is a certain difficulty in separating the man from the wine. In keeping with Heritage month. Vriesenhof’s new-look wine range sports labels that pay tribute to a handsome gabled farmstead,  set against the rugged Stellenbosch mountain.

Vriesenhof Pinotage 2016 is the simple heading above the B&W photograph while the back label offers more info:  it’s fruity, medium-bodied and meant for drinking now; alcohol levels are a medium 13,5%. Tradition, quality and enjoyment combine smoothly in this screwcapped product, a contemporary expression of a grape for which Jan Boland Coetzee has been renowned for decades. It was produced from a small vineyard of old bush vines at the top of the hill.

While Pinot noir has been his focus for some 30 plus years, Jan started his career at Kanonkop back in the ‘60s where he produced fine Pinotage. He bought Vriesenhof in 1980, which then boasted cab, cinsaut and pinotage vineyards. At the start of the new millennium his Pinotage of ’96, ’97 and ’98 from Vriesenhof-Talana Hill-Paradyskloof - were described by John Platter as four-star wines, offering “medley of intriguing flavours result of blending batches of fruit handled different ways.”

Jan soon planted Chardonnay, Merlot and Cab Franc, added Pinot Noir in the’ 90s then Grenache in 2009.

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Today his winemaker Nicky Claasens crafts each wine in the new-look range to a specific style: – along with Pinotage the reds comprise two blends, a Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre  and Kallista (traditionally Cab/ Cab Franc/ Merlot) and Grenache.  It's been observed that Claasens, who started as understudy to Coetzee some nine  years ago, seems to be countering the patriarch’s anti-modernist approach somewhat.

To the whites:  a pair of chardonnays, of which I sampled the unwooded 2016. Against the connoisseur trend  I have long been a fan of unwooded chard, and this is one of the most enjoyable I have drunk in a long while:  Its meant for immediate consumption, offering  freshness, fruitiness, well balanced structure and immense charm. With moderate alcohol levels this delicious summer aperitif sells for R95, whiel the pinotage is R125.

It is apposite that Jan Boland Coetzee, a winelands character whose down-to-earth attitude is tempered by a huge respect for nature, represents the  current generation of a family who arrived in Table Bay 27 years after Jan van Riebeeck .  As he and Claasens unveil wines that offer expression of place even while they appeal to a broader spectrum of wine lovers, those wishing to celebrate our viticultural heritage alongside a braai of distinction, could hardly ask for better.

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EAT YOUR WORDS: THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK by Louise Gelderblom. Published by Quivertree, 2017.

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 Clever title, great concept, and it’s sure to be another Quivertree winner. One look at the appetising cover with its cake-stand holding a featherlight pastry base filled with smoked salmon and a tangle of spring salad ingredients, and readers, cooks, and (of course) book club members will be instantly hooked.

Louise Gelderblom is a keen cook who took over from an equally accomplished mother and whose two daughters have followed in their mother’s culinary  footsteps. So this cook and voracious reader has been catering for her book club (Eat your Words) for decades and where the idea of this recipe collection was mooted.

In her introduction Gelderblom states that she has focussed on do-ahead fare that involves litte fuss, use readily obtainable ingredients and has included a good number of vegetarian options. I warmed to her immediately!

She offers further advice on planning, the advantages of quality ingredients and that only free-range eggs and humanely reared fish and poultry should be options. (What about lamb, beef and pork, I wondered, then noticed that this collection is meat-free. I think I should join that club...)

Many book clubs stay with drinks and snacks before, during or after the agenda, so the first chapter on finger snacks is welcome – with parmesan paprika biscuits taking the savoury cake! For those serving a meal, a few antipasti items make a fine start, such as hummus, marinated feta, harissa, tzatziki and frittata wedges. Informal meals of soup and bread in winter and salads in summer make another option, and the selection in  the chapter is tempting, and could inspire further ideas.

The substantial section of main course ideas varies from quiche (such a useful and variable item), several chicken dishes, fish boboties, along with other fishy bakes, and vegetarian choices like spinach and feta pie and a veggie cashew korma. All are suitable for feeding a crowd with pre-prepared ease. Side dishes precede desserts that include popular classics like crème caramel, lemon tart, melktert and baked chocolate pud. Also pavlova and frangipane tart for more ambitious bakers

Between the recipes you will find comments from book club hosts from across South Africa, describing how they operate and entertain. Some clubs follow a theme every month, others raise funds for charity, others gather for a monthly dose of bubbly and snacks and book exchanges.

There is an easy-to-consult index and the food photographs are simply styled , offering a colourful and tempting aspect so essential to books of recipes.

In retrospect it seems amazing that no one has thought of producing a local title around  book club eats before. Well, now it’s been done, very  well and in delicious style.

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Some 80 years back,  grapes were planted on Buffelsvallei farm, soon to be renamed De Krans, for the first time. They were destined to produce raisins and a little sweet wine. Forward nearly 30 years to 1936 and we find that this farm on the outskirts of Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo has acquired a cellar, that’s still  in service today, housing the production of a range of quality ports and Muscat wines. More recently, a bigger range of table and dry wines were added to the list, offering consumers a fine choice from this friendly operation.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DK-Chardonnay.jpgDe Krans has just released the new vintages ofb2ap3_thumbnail_DK-Chenin-Blanc-Free-Run.jpg its 2017 Wild Ferment Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, a pair of unwooded whites which call for long summer days and slow al fresco meals with which to pair them.

 The Chenin is produced from only free-run juice, and winemaker Louis van der Riet chalked up gold from last year’s Michelangelo and the Champion White Wine award from the 2014 Klein Karoo Young wine show with previous vintages. This is a sprightly wine, its zing great for sultry days, where the tropical fruits pair well with marinated braaied chicken and salads or grilled fish. Low alcohol levels at 12,63% are a bonus, as is its price of just under R60.

The Chardonnay, harvested from low-yielding vines on the banks of the Gamka river is  wild or naturally fermented with no yeast added. It presents an appealing hue of limey yellow and offers characteristic aromas of citrus and caramel. Followed by similar flavours, in a mouthful that is also frisky and refreshing with alcohol levels of 13,22. As a lively aperitif, it’s delightfully easy to enjoy, but will also take on pasta, salads and simple poultry dishes with ease. Also selling at R59, which is  easy on the purse as on the palate.

Both these wines are geared to long hot days and balmy evenings, for  informal occasions that do not demand sniffing and swirling and serious discourse. Effortless pleasure, easy drinking, screwcapped whites that spell out Come on Summer, come on!

If you are heading for the Spring Blossom Fest at De Krans this weekend, you will be on the spot for sampling. But they are also stocked at outlets nationwide.

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