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While a visit to Calitzdorp and its hospitable inhabitants is always enjoyable, and there’s much to see and do in every season, winter offers both peace and particular beauty in this Klein Karoo dorp: against a backdrop of the Outeniqua, Swartberg and Rooiberg mountains, probably snow-dusted, wandering around the old part of the village makes a great start to the day, working up an appetite to do justice to robust country fare washed down with a glass or two of the region’s fine wines and world-class ports.

Which brings us, of course to De Krans, on the village fringe, sprawled along the upper reaches of the Gamka river valley. The farm was founded in 1890 by MD Boets Nel’s great-grandfather although many decades passed before the first grapes were planted, mostly for sweet wine and raisin production. Fast forward to 1964 when the existing cellar was built and De Krans soon became known for its fine ports and dessert wines. Dry table wines were to follow.

Today visitors can taste the various ranges every day of the week, relish al fresco lunches at the bistro and contemplate the walking trail to work off the kilojoules. Friendly, enthusiastic staff add to the enjoyment while generosity is another ever-present characteristic.

In reviewing fine wines from three of the four De Krans ranges, we start by going back, way back to 1947 when De Krans planted a vineyard of Palomino (also known as Malvasia Rei) in Gamka river soils for brandy production. Some 70 years on they have survived, now bearing small, intensely flavoured berries: these are blended with verdelho (37%) into an unusual, fascinating golden wine that presents old vine legacy with Klein Karoo flavour. De Krans Tritonia 2017  wafts aromas of citrus and honey, while the palate offers exotic flavours, traces of a spicy Christmas pud balanced by acidity for freshness. I can imagine it enhancing a Cape Malay curry, and certain Portuguese classics, perhaps Arroz de Pato de Braga, that flavourful combo of roast duck with chorizo on ham-flavoured rice from the north. It sells for R150.

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Its red counterpart De Krans Tritonia Calitzdorp Blend 2016 is better known, having already won for itself an impressive list of awards – among these, Platter gives it 4 and half stars, NWC a double gold, the Six Nations Wine Challenge rated  it gold and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine show a trophy. Composed of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barocca it’s hardly surprising that its dark, tannic, and flavour-packed with berry and plums, but also smooth on the palate , a fine winter wine to pair with venison and beef. It costs  around R185 and also offers great ageing potential.

Then there’s De Krans Basket Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 which proves quite a contrast to the above: For R65 winelovers can enjoy an accessible cabernet that not only offers great value, but is an authentic  expression of the grape – the typical aromas of cedar and tobacco are there, as are the flavours of black cherry and plum. This is a comparatively light-bodied cab, with alcohol levels of 13,5% and ready to pair with pizza and pasta, the weekend braai and provide companionable fireside sipping.

When it comes to port, to use the traditional term, Calitzdorp is the local king, and De Krans – through a lucky mistake – was the first to plant the Portuguese varietal of Tinta Barocca, which flourished nicely in the valley. Today, the region is famed for its production of fine port wines, which – after negotiating with the EU in 2011 – are no longer named “port” but are labelled according to the style of port in the bottle, hence “Cape Ruby” or Cape Tawny”. De Krans marketing is also keen to get consumers to replace those teeny liqueur glasses that used to be used for port with decent wine glasses, something we did a while ago. (Most of these ports are just under 20% alcohol strength, so you are not sipping the equivalent of spirits at over 40% )

Their Ruby port can be classed as the entry level port, perhaps, less complex than its cousins, also more affordable, but nonetheless quality wine and a good way for newcomers to this fortified wine to begin their port journey...

The De Krans Cape Tawny Limited Release, a much awarded port wine, and my all-time favourite, is quite delicious, perfect with meatless and poultry dishes, complementing French onion soup and a superb partner to aged cheeses like mature cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan. Its glorious golden hue is the result, I was told, of small oak vats being used which influences the wine along with a greater degree of oxidation, but obviously there is far more to this process. 

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The flagship De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve - 2016 is the current vintage – is  deservedly five-star, rated 96 points in the Tim Atkin 2018 report, was judged SA Fortified Wine of the Year, sports Veritas Gold, Michelangelo platninum, and the brag  list goes on... It's comprised of 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca and finished with Tinta Roriz, yielding a  big, dark wine, offering aromas of berries, nuts and chocolate. It's complex and bold and deserves to be a fine finale to a special meal, perhaps with a cheese platter. While this is a Cape port that one could safely store unopened for three decades or more, once opened, do bring it out on chilly evenings and savour every delicious, complex sip. You are sampling the results of long and meticulous craftmanship practised by some dedicated and talented winemakers.

          

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Winter treats for winelovers and gourmets that are sure to brighten up July and point to early signs of spring in August.

 

Unearth Black Gold at Anthonij Rupert Estate

Gourmets need not head to Europe to find fresh truffles, only to Franschhoek where Anthonij Rupert Wyne inivtes them to sample black gold at their series of four-course Truffle Lunches being presented every . Only 10 diners will be accommodated at a sitting and each course with be paired with Cape oF Good Hope wines . A sampling of estate-raised Black Angus beef will also be included in this gourmands dream meal which costs R950 a head.

Anthonij Rupert estate is the first in South Africa to cultivate black Perigord truffles, grown at their Altima estate near Villiersdrop and hunted by truffle hunter Hanene van Dyk with her specially trained Lagotto Romagnolo dogs.

For more information and bookings, email tasting@rupertwines.com or all 021 874 9041.

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Dress to impress at the Franschhoek Bastille Festival

 

 

As before, the popular Bastille Festival takes place at Franschhoeks Hugueot Monument area over the weekend of July 13 and 14. Adding to the wine, food and fun, visitors can arrive in a red white and blue French-style outfit to be in line to win the Best Dressed title. Along with the valleys fine wines, there will be gourmet fare from the town's top restaurants while events such as the barrel -rolling competition add to the attractions. Tickets to the Food and Wine marquee cost R395 per person, and include tasting glass, wine tasting coupons and a R20 voucher. Pre-booking via www.webtickets.co.za is recommended. Children under 18 enter free. For more info, visit www.franschhoekbastille.co.za.

 

 

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Brian Berkmans next Pringle Bay Banting Pop-Up lunch

 

 

takes place on July 20. New and regular  items on the low-carb, sugar-free fest include courgette and broccoli soup, chicken liver pate, aubergine baked in a cheese and tomato sauce, hake bobotie and his popular spiced beef brisket, smoked and slow-cooked. Lemon cheesecake makes the dessert and tea or coffee is included in the price of R350.

 

Seewww.BrianBerkman.comfor links to Quicket to book.

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A FOOD AND WINE AFFAIR PRESENTED BY BUSHMANS KLOOF AND

 

BOUCHARD FINLAYSON

 

Gourmands are invited to savour the union of distinguished wines and gourmet cuisine with a weekend of culinary excellence in a magnificent wilderness setting.

 

 

Bouchard Finlayson has teamed up with sister property Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat to present a gourmet food and wine weekend to be held from 26 – 28 July 2019 at the luxury lodge in the Cederberg. Guests will be taken on a connoisseur’s journey hosted by winemaker Chris Albrecht and Executive Chef Charles Hayward. Highlights comprise of abespoke wine tasting and an inspired food and wine pairing dinner on the Saturday. A variety of exhilarating lodge activities are included, such as nature drives, guided rock art excursions, botanical walks, canoeing, archery, fly fishing and hiking. The 2-night event costs from R3795 per person sharing per night and includes all meals, selected wines and lodge activities.During the extravagant five-course food and wine pairing dinnerdishes will be matched with Bouchard Finlayson vintages that will include flagship wines Missionvale Chardonnay (2016) and Galpin Peak Pinot Noir (2017), as well as the sleek and complex Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (2017) and the 2016 vintage of the unique red blend, Hannibal.

Bookings: Telephone: +27 (0)21 437 9278; Email: info@bushmanskloof.co.za

 

 

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What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, when it comes to wine as captivating titles pique the attention of consumers browsing the wine boutique shelves.

And a better example than those of Journey’s End Vineyards would be hard to find. Even the estate’s name attracts: if I was on a Helderberg wine tour, I would want to finish my journey at this mountainside farm with its panoramic views over False Bay. Hugging the Schapenberg slopes above Sir Lowry’s Pass village, the farm was founded by the Gabb family - a Shropshire import- - in 1995, and bottled their first harvest early in the new century.

Second generation Rollo Gabb has been at the helm since 2007, and has increased the vineyard plantings and built an ultra-modern cellar and a tasting centre, its glass walls leading to a terrace that presents a viewing site of note. Mount Rozier, which I remember visiting way back when three partners were intent on establishing a fine range from their small farm, has been taken over by Journey’s End. The viticultural team of cellarmaster Leon Esterhuizen and winemaker Mike Dawson practise the Gabb-approved philosophy of minimal intervention as Journey’s End launch the rebranding of their products.

Three ranges, or series, are now planned, with the first, Tales Series, already available and comprising four wines with expressive, allusive names.

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All housed in dark bottles with white labels and prominent lettering, under screwcap, the 2018 sauvignon blanc is called Weather Station after the Stellenbosch clone known as the Weerstasiekloon. Agreeably fresh and made for immediate enjoyment, with moderate alcohol levels and medium-bodied, the nose is typically sauvignon, the palate offers friskiness allied to winter stone fruit flavours of apple and pear. Well-balanced and makes both an aperitif and a mate for white meat and seafood.

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Haystack chardonnay 2018 alludes to the venerable practice of planting wheat between the vine rows to encourage pests to focus on that rather than the vines and the label sports an eagle owl which is one of a pair on the farm that helps with pest control. Characteristic citrus flavours are offset by backbone lent from a little oak and the alcohol levels are held at 13,5%. I enjoyed this chardonnay and found that it tasted even better the following day.

 

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To the reds: Two red blends, the first The Huntsman, a 2017 vintage that melds shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier in unknown proportions, but with shiraz dominant. Its name refers to the original buildings on the site used by the Cape Hunt, founded nearly 200 years ago. Susbstantial alcohol levels of 14,5% add to the richness of this full-bodied wine, which matured in 500 litre French oak barrels, the viognier separately in tank, then blended in to produce a dark, luscious, ready- to- enjoy wine.

 

 

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As is the Pastor’s Blend 2018, named after the local pastor who offers communion under the pines just below Journey’s End vineyards. He is also the connection between the farm and the local village, which enjoys support from the estate in terms of education and upliftment of living standards. Moderate alcohol levels characterise a classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc fermented separately and matured in third-fill oak for 14 months. The result is juicy with berry flavours dusted with dried herbs, ready to take on all types of red meat dishes with panache.

The wines sells for between R89 and R99, adding affordability to their attractions. The next two ranges will take the quality to a higher level with prices to match.

The estate embraces sustainable and occasional biodynamic practices, but is not certified for the latter. Trendy winemaking such as the use of (once ancient) amphorae and concrete eggs add to the versatility while drones are employed to survey vineyard blocks, providing high-tech info for micro-management.

Appointments are required for visits and tastings, which can also include snacks while hikes, MTB and horse-riding are also on the menu. For more info see www.journeysend.co.za or call 021 858 1929.

 

                                

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The press release for the latest vintage of this perennially popular white blend is particularly well written, making it difficult to improve on, so i am going to quote the final sentence as is:: “fresh and vibrant with a convincing strength and quality finish.”

The 2018 vintage of this four-star blend offers its usual admirable consistency - both in quality, and its main component which has been riesling for several years.This enables Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer to  differ from  its unwooded white blend competitors. The riesling – 65% here – sets the foundation for a  wine both patrician and characterful, while the viognier and chardonnay, (sharing similar proportions), add floral elements and a medley of fruit to a fragrant nose and flavorful palate. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping, and its priced at R110.

Looking at back issues of Platter, it's interesting to see how cultivars have varied over the last 18 years: Blanc de Mer greeted the new century as an unwooded blend of kerner with gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay...

In  2003 gewurztraminer partnered the riesling, two years later  sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and chard were the chosen companions while by 2006 viognier rather than riesling led the combo.  In 2007 chenin made an appearance but, since then, whatever the variations, quality climbed even as the wine was geared to being a crowd pleaser.

Unsurprisingly a large number of regulars regard Blanc de Mer as an essential companion to seafood whether grilled, fried, baked or raw. I don’t think its fanciful to find whiffs of maritime aromas that emphasise its affinity with the waters of Walker Bay. A summer wine, yes certainly, but with this appealing balance of freshness and depth, it’s also the right choice to celebrate wonderful sunny winter days found in every province of our country.

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A dark heavy bottle, made unique with its imprint of a bird perched on a tobacco pipe next to a flowerhead, the design is repeated on the minimalist white label which informs that it's Nebukadnesar 2017 and this is no. 12 285 of 21 940!. Not a limited edition then!

Babylonstoren often does things differently, and always beautifully, honouring both the farm’s  330- year old history, its venerable buildings and spectacular setting. As its name suggests this is a place of amazing gardens, now 12 years old with more than 300 varieties of culinary and medicinal plants,, offering a garden tour to delight and amaze.

The extensive vineyards which stretch from 170 metres above sea level to 600 metres – incorporating poor sand, deep shale and rich loam - have yielded pampered berries, allowing the range of wines flowing from the cellars  to increase.. This vintage of the flagship blend has attracted more awards than any previously, particularly from the National Wine Challenge: it brought home Double Platinum, Grand Cru for best in category, and was also crowned Best Wine from among the 600 entries.

Components of this blend (49% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot and 5% malbec), were separately pressed and matured for 23 months in new French oak . The new blend was left in tank for a month before bottling took place, then given five months maturation before being released.

Its a big, bold, full-bodied wine, impressive already, but deserves to be cellared so that the prominent tannins can soften and meld with the flavours of dried herbs, black berries and tobacco, for maximum enjoyment. The palate will then offer sophisticated integration that should go on improving for up to a decade .

 

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The cellar team at Babylonstoren comprises Charl Coetzee, Klaas Stoffberg and Marina Loubser who are making magic with the wide variety of farm cultivars available, including a highly-rated chenin-based white blend with three additional components that I hope to sample soon.

Those who are happy to pay nearly R500 a bottle or R3 000.00 a case for a fine Cape Bordeaux-style blend, will surely be prepared to cellar their purchase, (or at least most of it), to enable the wine to mature further, to reach its (very considerable) peak in, perhaps, five years time.

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Elgin Ridge 282 Pinot Noir 2016 

 

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Certified organic wines are thin on the ground in this country and those which go a step further – to be fully registered as biodynamic – are even more rare.

Having been involved (as a keen spectator) with an organic wine farm, seeing what has to be undertaken to reach this status, sitting through an international inspection by a tough team from Europe and South Africa as they toured vineyards and farm buildings, examining everything from implements to employees work apparel, then probing records and asking the most detailed questions, I greatly admire those who undertake the arduous and expensive process to get certified.

Brian and Marion Smith of Elgin Ridge state on their website that their vineyards have been free of chemical sprays for more than 10 years, while Maddox their gentle percheron ploughs between the vineyard rows to remove weeds and pest control is handled with enthusiasm by resident ducks. Currently on the website are photos of an appealing pair of lambs who, we are told, will soon join the rest of the little flock to help with cover crop management.

The 2016 vintage of their Elgin Ridge 282 pinot noir was recently released. Grapes were sourced from four vineyards between10 and 11 years old and were vinified separately. Natural malolactic fermentation took place in second- and third- fill oak for 10 months before blending and bottling took place.

This is a cultivar that benefits from organic viticulture partly because of its inherent earthiness. Elgin minerality complements, but these characteristics are balanced by the berry fruit on the nose, and a a juicy freshness. Tannins are integrated, and the whole offers medium-bodied well-balanced enjoyment, along with that purity that is usually discernible in organic wines.

Another plus is that fact organic wines contain little, if any, sulphur, a chemical which affects a number of winelovers – particularly senior consumers - adversely.

This pinot noir will make a fine companion to a variety of winter warmers,

including, of course any mushroom dish where the earthiness of both will complement nicely.

It sells for R250 from cellar door and some wine outlets.

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Stellenbosch Hills has long been known for value-for-money wines, and no range proves this better than the Polkadraai - which notches up a decade of success this year. The anniversary is marked with a young rosé, vintage 2019, produced from shiraz grapes that grow in the Polkadraai district of Stellenbosch.This is where the winery’s 16 member farms are situated, in that scenic region where the terroir offers a wide spectrum of soil and climate.

 

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The new addition to the range is crisp and fresh, offering a bouquet of fruit that is followed on the palate by very accessible fruit and medium alcohol levels of 13%.

As with all labels in this light-hearted range, a percentage of money from sales of the new label go to the Polka kids Community Project through which Stellenbosch Hills contribute to education at the Vlottenburg Primary school. This is where most of the younger children of the vineyards and winery’s employees attend school.

There are not that many well-made wines retailing for less than R50 these days, but this is one of them – priced at R48 from cellar door.

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Cultivar association Shiraz SA awarded the winners in this year's Challenge earlier this month at Ashanti wine estate. In alphabetical order the one dozen champions  are:

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Babylonstoren shiraz 2017, Bellingham The Bernard series syrah 2016, Driehoek shiraz 2017 and their 2016 vintage, Flagstone Dark Horse 2015, KWV Cathedral Cellar 2016, Neethlingshof shiraz 2015, Quoin Rock shiraz 2015, Rhebokskloof Black Marble Hill 2016, Kruger Family Reserve 2016 (Stellenview), Strandveld first Sighting 2017 and La Cave 2017 from Wellington Wines.

There were three winning shiraz blends: Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Bismarck 2017, Babylonstoren Babel 2017 and Eikendal Charisma 2017.

 

A total of 207 wines were entered in to the competition, of which 36 were blends. The judging panel comprised of Shiraz SA chair Edmund Terblanche of La Motte, De Grendel cellarmaster Charles Hopkins, Samarie Smith of Benguela Cove, CWM Elsie Pells and wine consultant Jeanne-Marie de Villiers.

While I was sorry to have missed out on tasting these winners, I not only congratulate the victors but also like the Association’s pithy and effective marketing slogan:

‘I say Syrah, you say Shiraz’ – we’ll raise a glass of our stylish winter reds to that!

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Turning to that other wintertime favourite, delicious warming muscadel, the SA Muskadel Awards 2019 were announced last week and I find it unsurprising that the valleys and mountainside regions that surround my home walked off with all but two medals in this year contest, sponsored as before, by Enartis SA.

Attracting three top awards is Badsberg Cellar from the Breedekloof, with a platinum and two golds, for the 2017 red muscadel  with the 2008 and 2009 vintages following just behind. The only other platinum was garnered by Mont Blois wine estate on the Langeberg slopes behind Robertson, for their limited edition Pump house White Muscadel 2016. The Robertson Wine Valley was home to three gold winners, Bon Courage for their red and white muscadels, both 2008 vintage while Montagu Wine & Spirits’s white muscadel made the third.

Cellars from the Breedekloof valley collected five golds: these were Du Toitskloof for red muscadel and henepoot jerepigo 2014, Slanghoek for two red muscadels and their 2017 hanepoot jerepigo. De Wet cellar from the Worcester wine and olive route was awarded gold for their white muscadel 2017. Looking north, Orange River Cellars attracted gold for their white muscadel 2017 and hanepoot 2017.

The wines were tasted blind by the judges who also went on to assess the uniqueness of the packaging for final points.

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Mont Blois and Badsberg were the  only winners of platinum for their muscadels.

 

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Number 2339 of 3550 arrived at my wine collection point nearly two months ago and I decided then and there it should be opened, reviewed – and then shared – on Mother’s Day. Named after La Motte’s owner Hanneli Rupert, this is a very special shiraz-based blend, produced only when the component grapes are of exceptional quality.

The grapes for 2013 Hanneli R from la Motte Private Cellar were sourced and harvested from three wine regions: Elim provided more than half the syrah berries, Walker Bay yielded grenache, which makes 30% of the blend and the home terroir provided petite sirah, just 10% (and occupying a miniscule 0.16% of vineyard area in South Africa).

It’s not that easy to obtain winemaking details as neither the back label nor the website yield much information. But we know that new French oak was used to age the wine for more than three years and the result is a hugely enjoyable – and approachable – red blend: The nose offers aromas of cherry and dark fruit, the palate presents a slightly sweeter fruit tone than one initially expects, allied to softer tannins. This adds up to a glassful that can be enjoyed by a wider circle of winelovers than some aristocratic reds, (which call for consumers who appreciate austerity or those who are prepared to cellar their purchase for several years.)

It's elegant, charming, a tad feminine and a wonderful companion to fine fare (especially meals involving good red meat) – all of which could well describe the hostess after which it is named.

Moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% add to the attraction, as does its minimalistic front label, in keeping with the stylish contents. It is priced at R1 300.

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The Messiah’s Dream Machine by Jennifer Friedman. Published by Tafelberg, 2019.

 

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Like  many other South Africans I devoured Jennifer Friedman’s first memoir, Queen of the Free State with relish. So I was anticipating the sequel with enthusiasm, especially since the first title ended with Jennifer about to leave for boarding school in Cape Town, unhappy and furious with her parents for being sent away from her beloved Free State. In the epilogue she sums up the years at boarding school as ‘a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from’, and also packed away her dream of learning to fly, pushing it “far, deep into the furthest corner of my mind."

I had to wait to find answers to several questions as this second part of her life story took us back to her home town, where Jennifer reminisces on the excitement of circus acts, human and animal, in the big tent before she turns to the train journey to Cape Town and boarding school. With that incredible ability of hers to recall in such detail scenes, events, action, and most of all landscapes far and near – we read about life in the boarding house (and hope she is exaggerating, just a little, about the appalling food served up to the girls!)

Next she is back in her beloved home province, plus a fiancé, introducing Allan to her Uncle Leslie as her own parents have departed the Free State. The wedding is in Cape Town and the newly-weds settle in Johannesburg.

Not one but two family members – Jennifer’s great-uncle John followed shortly by her grandfather, die, and stories follow around the customs that precede and follow death, until the deceased are buried in the family cemetery on the Free State farm - and even that event descends into a fiasco...  The stories of the exploits of these two men during their lives   range from sentimental to uproarious.

In 1977 we find the family – Allan, Jen and little Adam in Haifa, about to return to Johannesburg where a baby girl Leah takes the family count to four and Allan’s mother seals her fate as an unwelcome visitor. But its her house that becomes their chosen home in Morningside when mama joins the exodus to Australia. They followed, but settled in Sydney where they were happy for three years until Allan is diagnosed with a cancerous ulcer in his mouth. Jennifer starts flying lessons, Allan’s gift to her, as his cancer spreads and they know their time together is limited. Her description of the pain-filled months ahead until his death just before his 49th birthday makes poignant reading, and so well illustrates her story-telling brilliance.

But there’s plenty of humour  to offset the sadness, wherever she lives, even when she goes back for a visit to the Free State farm and joins her cousin Wilfrid for a trip up the mountain in a fearsome truck that ends on the summit, where she describes in brilliant detail, the view, the colours, the hills and sky, the distant farms that encompassed her childhood.

We are told in publicity releases that Jennifer lives in Australia where she flies herself  all over that vast continent, sometimes just heading off to a dot on the map to a lunch date. So, there’s a lot more to tell her readers. The third title is no doubt in the making and will update us with laughter and sighs.

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One of the most popular of the several festivals hosted by Robertson Wine Valley every year is the Wacky Wine Weekend. This year’s three-day celebration takes place from 7 – 9 June and attracts a diversity of visitors, from wine connoisseurs to keen novices, from those wanting a country escape to families & friends travelling to this fair valley to “taste the lifestyle”.

There is so much more to do than sample and buy your favourites from the wide variety of quality wines being poured by more than 30 wineries in Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson region. Along with tours and pairings, live music and food stalls, some farms are serving impressive country cuisine while others are offering hands-on winemaking experiences with a difference.

Here are three of the many vinous highlights of this year’s WWW:

*Arendsig is a family wine farm in the Bonnievale area where Lourens van der Westhuizen makes some of the finest single vineyard wines in the Cape. Sample these including some rare older vintages along with hearty food on Friday evening or book for a gourmet dinner paired with his wines on the Saturday night.

 

*Head to McGregor where resident garagiste Ilse Schutte will pair her unique Bemind wines with delectable fare created by talented cook (and family member) Corli van Wyk on Saturday evening. The quality of both wine and fare is guaranteed! Book soon.

 

* Go  to Weltvrede estate on the Breede banks near Bonnievale to learn how to  make your own Cap Classique. This is an hour long lesson, costs R150 and requires booking. A bubbly time is guaranteed!

 

Weekend pass tickets are available at www.howler.co.at R200pp and R150pp for pensioners. Children under 18 enter for free. Visitors should go to the festival website www.wackywineweekend.com to tailormake their own itineraries.

And be proud that your tickets are helping to raise funds for the Thunderchild project, one of the most inspiring and successful charities I have ever come across .See www.thunderchild.co.za. The wine is wonderful, by the way!

 

Book accommodation soon as this is one of the most popular festivals in the country. Contact the Robertson Wine Valley office on 023 626 3167, emailadmin@robertsonwinevalley.com or visit www.robertsonwinevalley.com

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Launches and celebrations at the venerable Rietvallei estate outside Robertson are always specials events, memorable for Burger hospitality at one of the valley’s most historic estates. Close family loyalties combine with a fine winemaking tradition going back six generations to 1864 and the results can be as fascinating as proven by this multi-faceted sauvignon blanc.

For many years sauvignon blanc has formed the core of the estate’s wine production, and this barrel-fermented star is the first single cultivar wine in the Esteanna range which was launched in 2009. Previous white vintages saw unwooded sauvignon blanc blended with barrel-fermented chardonnay, chenin blanc and even viognier, with the 2017 blend garnering Veritas Gold at the 2018 contest.

 

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CEO and winemaker Kobus Burger realised the potential of the 2018 harvest early and decided to add a new and wooded sauvignon blanc to the farm’s four ranges of this popular varietal. He used juice from vineyards occupying various unique locations on the estate, including alluvial soils on the Breede river banks and red calcareous soil on the south-east-facing slopes. After harvesting, free-run juice was selected and settled for three weeks before being racked and transferred to steel tanks. The must was then moved to second-fill French oak and fermented dry. After nine months and after regular batonage, the wine was stabilised , fined and bottled without filtration.

This is a big wine, presenting an array of aromas ranging from passionfruit to citrus, green fig and little green pepper. These are followed by a complexity of flavours, lent crispness from acidity and agreeable backbone from the oak. A touch of cream adds to the nice balance of a serious sauvignon, which can pair more than seafood with panache – think of classic French poultry dishes, especially rich versions like chicken with morels and cream from the Jura region.

The alcohol levels are held at just over 14% and the retail price is around R185.

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TASTING PLEASURES IN THE SPOTLIGHT AT HERMANUS FYNARTS WINE PLUS 2019

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The sixth Wine Plus programme – now a firm favourite of the dynamic Hermanus FynArts festival – takes a few new turns this year. Although each of the seven presentations is a well-worth stand-alone, the complete series is designed to fulfil  the theme of offering instruction on enhancing the pleasure inherent in tasting a range of fine wines.

 

This year Wine Plus has a new home and date slot, the latter scheduled for Thursday to Sunday, June 13-15 taking place at The Wine Glass in Hermanus, a venue well geared to provide sustenance from their popular menu.

 

Exploring the theme - the tasting pleasures of  fine  wine – will offer those less familiar with the how and what with an introduction and guide to tasting today.

 The programme will  offer ‘snapshots’ of three of today’s newsworthy regions and three varietal wines that define our unique winelands. 

Wine Plus is curated for its sixth iteration by Melvyn Minnaar, who was honoured last year by Veritas for his contribution to SA wine. Presenters comprise some of the movers and shakers in contemporary local world of wine.

To start the series,  Master of Wine, Cathy van Zyl will share her passion, labelled “Discovering the Pleasure” on Thursday, 13th. Her choice of eight wines include both the reinvented classics and the thrill of the new.

Later that afternoon Bevan Newton Johnson of the well-known wine family will join Cathy van Zyl to present their selection of the super stars in A Snapshot of Hemel-en-Aarde. Once again expect the unusual and the well-known.

 

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Friday, 14th, sees A Snapshot of Constantia with  Boela Gerber, celebrated winemaker at Groot Constantia, and his regional colleagues Danna de Jongh of Constantia Uitsig and Brad Paton of Buitenverwachting together with  eight super wines.

 

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For A Snapshot of the Swartland, the international-acclaimed winemaking team Chris and Andrea Mullineux have selected wines from the likes of David & Nadia, JC Wickens, The Sadie Family, AA Badenhorst and their own.

Saturday, 15th, the tasting-talks focus on two of South Africa’s standout individual varietals.

Celebrating, as it turns out, International Chenin Blanc Day, A Snapshot of Chenin Blanc brings Alastair Rimmer, cellarmaster at Kleine Zalze, to the morning session. Supported by the SA Chenin Blanc Association, expect showstoppers.

 

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The latter too will feature  Mr Pinotage himself, Beyers Truter who presents A Snapshot of Pinotage in the afternoon session. Supported by the SA Pinotage Association, he will show regional styles and ageability.

Wine Plus concludes on a fitting sparkling note on Sunday morning, June 16 with the now traditional bubbly presentation. MCC master Pieter Ferreira is joined for A Snapshot of Méthode Cap Classique by Paul Gerber of Colmant to showcase the latest of the best. Supported by the Cap Classique Producers’ Association.

Bookings via www.webtickets.co.za or www.hermanusfynarts.co.za

More Information, call  0609575371 or 0283122629

            

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As the wall calendar flips over to May, bringing a public holiday for starters and probably another on election day, winemakers look back on an odd 2019 harvest. (One farm in Tulbagh has yet to harvest its cab, a fact echoed by at least one other in Constantia). Chardonnay and Pinot Noir star in festivals both in the Cape and Gauteng, while looking ahead to June, some fun events should draw the crowds to both the Boland and the Robertson valley.

WINTER OF WANDER AT DURBANVILLE HILLS

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Durbanville Hills will be hosting a series of food and wine evenings over the winter months, where the fare of one of four countries will be matched to the cellar’s cool climate red wines from Collector’s Reserve range. France leads the way on Thursday May 9, followed by Brazil, Austria and Spain in June, July and August.

The evening includes a tutored tasting and a three-course menu with each wine of the evening. Booking is essential and tickets cost R325 per person. For more information or to book please contact Kamo Malaza on mkmalaza@durbanvillehills.co.za or 021 558 1300.

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CAB FRANC CARNIVAL CELEBRATES NICHE VARIETAL

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The 2019 Cabernet Franc Carnival takes place on Saturday, 18 May from 11am -4pm at scenic Avontuur Estate between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. Twenty of South Africa’s most passionate producers of this fascinating varietal will offer their wines for tasting and sale.

Participating wineries are: Avontuur Estate, Bushmanspad Estate, Delaire Graff Estate, Druk my Niet Wine Estate, Hillcrest Estate, Holden Manz Wine Estate, Keermont Wines, Landskroon Wines, Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate, Mulderbosch Vineyards, My Wyn, Nelson Wine Estate, Onderkloof, Ormonde Vineyards, Raats Family Wines, Rainbow’s End Estate, Spookfontein Wines, The Garajeest, Vrede en Lust and Whalehaven.

Good wine and food go together and delicious  food from the Avontuur Estate Restaurant is sure to be popular, while there's another option of selected fare from a food truck..

Don't miss out on the interactive tutored tastings of the Top Six finalists of the  2019 Cab Franc Challenge; These are  presented by convenor of the judging panel, Christine Rudman. Tickets cost R150pp extra and only 20seats per session are available at 11h30, 13h00 and 14h30.

Tickets:

At www.plankton.mobi .R250pp on-line and R280 at the gate. (Includes the tastings, a branded glass and R50 coupon to spend on food.)

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Wine Menu's Chardonnay & Pinot Noir Festival in Joburg

 

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The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Festival takes place at The Crystal Room at the Killarney Country Club on Thursday, May 30, from 18h00. It includes more than 80 high-end, award-winning Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Many of these are not shown at other festivals because they are expensive and production is limited.

 
Some of those taking part this year:

  • Oak Valley (Groenlandberg Chardonnay, Tabula Rasa Chardonnay and Pinot Noir)
  • Hartenberg (Eleanor Chardonnay)
  • Jordan (Nine Yards Chardonnay)
  • Eikendal (Infused by Earth Chardonnay)
  • La Brune (Pinot Noir)
  • Groot Constantia (Chardonnay)
  • Ataraxia (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir)
  • Bouchard Finlayson (Pinot Noir)
  • Creation (Reserve Pinot and Chardonnay)
  • Thelema (Ed's Reserve Chardonnay)
  • Radford Dale (Freedom Pinot Noir)
  • Lismore (Chardonnay)
  • Almenkerk (Chardonnay)
  • Laarman (Focal Point Chardonnay)
  • Uva Mira (The Single Tree Chardonnay)
  • Springfield (Methode Ancienne Chardonnay)

Only 300 tickets are available at R250. The price includes a tasting glass and light snacks chosen to complement the styles of wine. The wines will also be on sale at discounted prices. Some are no longer available in the general marketplace.
 Booking is essential.  Tickets can be purchased via www.webtickets.co.za  or from Wine Menu in Kramerville.
 

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Wine Concepts 9th exclusive Chardonnay & Pinot Noir Celebration at The Vineyard Hotel

 

 

Guests will be treated to a fine selection of charming Chardonnays and praiseworthy Pinot Noirs from a select 40 of the country’s top producers.

Some of the names you can expect to see are: Thorne & Daughters, Hamilton Russel, Tesselaarsdal, Radford Dale, Shannon, Ataraxia, Kruger Family Wines, Almenkerk, Uva Mira, Lothian, Jordan, Paul Cluver, La Bri, Chamonix, Laarman, Mulderbosch, Glen Carlou, De Grendel, Springfield

Delicious snacks that complement the styles of wine will be served throughout the evening.All the showcased wines will be available at discounted prices from Wine Concepts on the evening.

Venue:             The Vineyard Hotel, Colinton Road, Newlands,

Date:               Friday 31st May 2019

Time:               17.00 – 20.00

Cost:                R200.00 per person – includes entrance, wine glass and light snacks

 

Only 200 tickets are available and these can be purchased via www.webtickets.co.za, or at any of Wine Concepts branches. Telephone Newlands at (021) 671 9030 or Kloof Street at (021) 426-4401 or at the door on the evening subject to availability. See http://www.wineconcepts.co.za

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16th Wacky Wine Weekend is growing in size and sophistication

 

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The famed Wacky Wine Weekend takes place from 7 – 9 June 2019. The event attracts wine connoisseurs, novices and families & friends alike travelling far and wide to “taste the lifestyle”.

The programme includes products and producers from over 30 wineries and tourism establishments in the Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson region. The cellars will be opening their doors to showcase the finest vintages in the Robertson Wine Valley, Award-winning wines can be savoured through tours, pairings and interactive tastings by exceptional winemakers. Live music, food stalls with hearty country cuisine and fun activities for children complete the well-rounded entertainment experience.

Weekend pass tickets are available at www.howler.co.at R200pp and R150pp for pensioners. Children under 18 enter for free. Visitors should go to the festival website www.wackywineweekend.com to tailor-make their own itineraries..

Book accommodation soon as this is one of the most popular festivals in the country. Contact the Robertson Wine Valley office on 023 626 3167, email admin@robertsonwinevalley.com or visit www.robertsonwinevalley.com

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Franschhoek Winter Wines | 15 June 2019

 

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As the southern hemisphere heads toward midwinter, diarise Saturday June 15 and head to Franschhoek for their winter warmer festival, Franschhoek Winter Wines.

The venue is the Franschhoek Cellar, the opening times are 11am – 4pm and tickets, available from www.webtickets.co.za cost R295.

The valleys finest red wines will be there for sampling and pairing with seasonal inspired soul food.

Live music will add to the ambience . Tickets include glass, all tastings and a R20 voucher. Ticket numbers are limited, so booking is essential.

For more information contact 021 876 2861 or info@franschhoek.org.za.

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La dolce vita can be savoured anywhere in South Africa where fine Italian fare is paired with Terra del Capo wines – especially the recently released 2016 vintage of the Sangiovese.

If you drink it in Franschhoek, at the inviting tasting room that is named for the range at LOrmarins, the exquisite farm where it is produced, you will have the best of both worlds – an enjoyable wine, designed to complement food, especially Italian classics, in an historic Cape setting with its Mediterranean climate similar to that of Italys.

This Sangiovese is an accessible wine, where austerity has given way to a fruity, inviting red, the berry flavours backed by a little oak and mineral notes that add complexity while the finish has a sweetish note. The late Anthonij Rupert was the first to produce wines from Italian cultivars in South Africa, starting with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Today, the range consists of the Sangiovese, a Sangiovese/Merlot blend and a Pinot Grigio.

The wine matured in 500 litres French oak for 15 months before being bottled, then left to develop in bottle for another 10 months before being released. Alcohol levels are held at 14%. It is available from the farm at R85.

As one of the lighter Italian-style reds, it is a versatile food wine, happy to add enjoyment to Italian platters of olives, salami and ciabatta, to perk up a spaghetti sauced with wild mushrooms in tomato or take on classic lasagna or rigatoni with lamb ragu. For more information and to book a tasting of the Terra del Capo wines, call 021 874 9074 or email tasting@rupertwines.com

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HOME COOKING BY Esther Malan published by Human& Rousseau, Cape Town, 2019.

 

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Drawn from You, Huisgenoot and Drum magazines, this collection of 100 recipes was created by the magazine team’s assistant food editor. It is Esther Malan’s first book and readers will surely know what sort of fare to expect, given that these magazines are among the longest-running, most popular weeklies in South Africa.

The majority are South African to the core – staples that could be Afrikaans, Dutch, British, Cape Malay, Portuguese or Italian in origin - but are now firm favourites among all races. There are a few low-carb dishes, one or two that are based on African ingredients like samp and several that owe their popularity to vendors of street food in Europe and the Americas: Think empanadas and arancini, corn dogs and patatas bravas...

Above all this is a compilation that readers can rely on, being well tried and tested, produced for keen cooks who work to a budget, but who will appreciate new ideas to spice up old favourites.

The contents are organised by the classic menu formula: Good breakfast and brunch ideas include baby marrow fritters with cottage chese, avocado and biltong, and eggs partnered with hummus and chimichurri. Among the tarts and pies you’ll find old-fashioned Marmite tart side by side with easy mini- onion and garlic tarts topped with herb drizzle. There’s a chapter of street food – the naan sandwiches filled with roast masala chicken and yoghurt look good – followed by a bunch of salads that precede a group of family classics. Here pumpkin fritters get scattered with dukkah rather than the trad cinnamon sugar, and lasagne sheets are rolled around a filling of butternut, spinach and biltong before being baked in cheese sauce.

A good selection of chicken dishes precede mostly meaty ideas under the comfort food heading: the latter includes hearty soups, oxtail stew and samp risotto. Braais are not forgotten – along with chops, ribs, steak and kebabs, fish features in the  form of mullet and sardines, the only seafood in the book.

Sweet bakes are mostly trad in nature, from pancakes to lemon meringue custard slices. Desserts make the finale, classic favourites, sometimes with a twist, including a recipe for red velvet beetroot cupcakes , which seems to have become the trendy bake that cannot be omitted.

Good full-page colour photographs contribute eye appeal and the index is comprehensive. Only niggle I have is rather slack proof-reading: in the recipe below there were both spelling errors and duplication of phrases.

Suitable for any Easter feasting is Esther’s recipe for chocolate swirl brownies, also gracing the book’s front cover. They look as good as any I’ve tried, the cheesecake filling adding a degree of decadence and extra expense, but this could be omitted – as could the chocolate sauce . Here is the recipe:

 

CHOCOLATE SWIRL BROWNIES

From Home Cooking by Esther Malan. Illustrated on front cover.

Cheesecake mixture:

1X250g tub cream cheese

60-80ml castor sugar

1 egg

Brownies:

250g butter or hard margarine, cubed

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

250ml light brown sugar

4 eggs

80ml cream

310ml cake flour

Half t baking powder

Pinch salt

Chocolate sauce to serve, optional

Preheat oven to 160 deg C. Line a 25cm square cake tin with baking paper and grease paper with non-stick spray.

For the cheesecake, beat all ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.

For the brownies, heat butter in saucepan until melted. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted, off the heat. Set aside.

Beat sugar and eggs together in bowl. Add a quarter of chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat well. Add remaining chocolate mixture and beat well.

Sift the cocoa, cake flour, baking powder and salt over the egg mixture. Fold the dry ingredients into the chocolate mix and then spoon mixture into prepared cake tin. Smooth the surface, then make random dents in the surface before spooning over the cheesecake mixture. Transfer to oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until baked through.

Let brownies cool slightly in tin, then turn out and cut into squares. Chill until completely cooled. Serve with chocolate sauce if wanted. Makes about 45 small or 20 large brownies.

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Just as Robertson Winery has long upheld a reputation for honest, consistent, value-for-money wines, so does it maintain a fine tradition of top quality and well-balanced complexity for its flagship pair, the Constitution Road Range. Add to that flavourful, well-priced enjoyment and you have a description that applies to both the chardonnay and the shiraz.

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The maiden shiraz appeared in 2004, and was joined by the chardonnay some years later. Today fans eagerly await new releases which are not made annually, but when speciality winemaker Jacques Roux finds the right grapes, produces wine to his demanding standard and releases them when they are market-ready.

The latest pair have been adorned with a new label: designer Anthony Lane illustrates four pillars of the SA constitution – liberty, governance, justice and equality and provenance. Robertson Winery applies these as freedom for winemakers to innovate, knowledge shared between generations of winemakers, balance and consistency through understanding of cultivars and vineyards and a sense of place, through creating wines that express their origin.

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The 2016 chardonnay was produced from grapes at the winery’s Wandsbeck farm. Natural fermentation took place in new and second- fill French oak barrels, left on primary lees and underwent malolactic fermentation before aging for 18 months in barrel.

This is a classic chard, presenting aromas of citrus, toast and vanilla, followed by layers of fruit and butterscotch on the palate witha hint of cream and welcome freshness. It has already collected accolades from the 2018 Chardonnay du Monde, and local competitions and sells for around R150.

The 2015 shiraz is a good example of one of the finest vintages of the new century, presenting a vibrant mix of dark fruit, warm spices and a hint of chocolate. Grapes were sourced from Robertson’s Wolfkloof farm, malolactic fermentation took place in new 225 and 300 litre French oak where it matured for three years. It combines opulent complexity with accessibility, and is sure to continue offering pleasure for several years. Alcohol levels are on the high side for modern trends but that has not affected its attracting local and international accolades and four and half stars from Platter. It sells for around R220.

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Tasting the wines of young and adventurous men and women who go solo is always a pleasure: No matter how difficult the marketplace, there are always those willing to take the chance and demonstrate their talent in creating a range of wines for the curious consumer.

Suzanne Coetzee is one such entrepreneur: Having gained experience at Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch, she branched out on her own with a boutique range of wines called Nuiba, which is the name of the Namibian farm on which she grew up. Her love of her family home is further expressed in the names given to the four wines, namely First, Second, Third and Fourth Posts, reflecting the farm’s cattle drinking stations.

The 2018 quartet includes one white and a rosé, and these were the ones I asked to taste, as best suited to high summer temperatures.

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The First Post is a limited edition Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blend, with the back label informing me that the wine is unfiltered and is wine of origin Stellenbosch. As the press release and the tasting notes on her website refer to her 2016 vintage, I had no way of knowing if the new release is also a 60/40 blend but well could be: it’s also pale yellow, offers subtle fruity aromas leading to flavours of citrus and melon on the palate with a little grassiness in the background. There’s both purity and zest discernible, balanced by a hint of cream adding up to a very enjoyable wine that differs from the usual blends where the sauvignon dominates. It sells online for R190.

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The Fourth Post is a 2018 wooded rosé where Semillon has taken on salmon hues thanks to a little Malbec. Notes apply to the 2017 vintage which is also a product of Stellenbosch grapes and the wine matured in third-fill oak. The back label informs that the wine is unfiltered and alcohol levels held at  13,5%. It a is priced at R115 and is available only online, as it the rest of the range.

The Third Post consists of a blend of Pinotage with Cabernet and Grenache. If it follows the specs of the 2016 vintage, (which is highly rated) the grapes were sourced from venerable Piekenierskloof vines, while the Second Post is a Shiraz, with the 2016 grapes coming from Paarl and Simonsberg. Neither of the reds were tasted. For more information, visit www.nuibawines.co.za.

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BOOKLOVER’S ESSENTIAL WEEKEND EVENT – ESELTJIESRUS DONKEY SANCTUARY’S THREE-DAY BOOK FAIR

 

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The dates to diarise for the 2019 Giant Book Fair are May 17 – 19. The venue is, as always, the magical village of McGregor, and it’s not too early to book accommodation through the Tourism office if you require this.

From small beginnings, this hugely popular event has blossomed into one of South Africa’s major book sales of used books of every kind, plus new titles that are donated by generous publishers. There are always a few treasures – usually Africana – waiting to be snapped up by keen collectors, and the vast range of non-fiction attracts its own fans: cookbooks and gardening titles, travel and decor publications, self-help books and, of course, a wealth of biographies and autobiographies. There is always a fine collection of novels by popular overseas and local authors to browse through and the organisers keep prices very reasonable to attract buyers to this important annual fund-raiser. 

For those new to this event, it takes place in the village’s large municipal hall, from 10am to 4pm over the three days. Light refreshments are on sale in the hall.

Having done your browsing for the day, why not pay a visit to the beneficiaries at the welcoming sanctuary a few kilometres back on the Robertson road? Find out more about the amazing work the founders Annemarie and Johan van Zijl undertake to rescue and care for abused and elderly donkeys, finding foster homes for others and running an educational programme that see school children visit the sanctuary, and often adopt a donkey for a school year.

Adoptions are a wonderful source of revenue for the sanctuary, and visitors are encouraged to adopt one of the donkeys of their choice and so contribute to his or her welfare.

The sanctuary is also a great place to enjoy lunch, offering affordable, enjoyable fare, which can be accompanied by their own white, red and rosé wines or a handcrafted Saggy Stone beer from the Breede river valley.

If you have books you would like to donate, these, too, will be welcomed with open arms. Email bookfair@donkeysanctuary.co.za.

For more information, email info@donkeysanctuary.co.za. Visit their website at www.donkeysanctuary.co.za. And also log onto www.donkeysforafrica.org. an international organisation that spreads information, education and helps co-ordinate donkey projects and programmes across the continent.

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A SHORT HISTORY OF MODERN ANGOLA by David Birmingham. Published by Jonathan Ball publishers, Cape Town, 2019.

 

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Did you know that a Jewish colony was nearly created in Angola in 1912 backed by the Jewish community on the Witwatersrand and those on the Congo copper belt?

Or, that in the 1840’s, in Luanda’s  small stone prison one prisoner was being held in solitary confinement: He was a royal prince who had fallen foul of the authorities through non-payment of taxes due to the Portuguese. He insisted he had been wrongly accused so he was allowed to exchange his prison rags for his full dress uniform with braids and epaulettes once a month and march to the palace where he petitioned for a reprieve. This was always turned down, so he had to return to his cell and don his convict rags once again.

These are just two of several little-known vignettes in this very readable history. First published in the UK four years ago, Birmingham’s own experiences in Angola make fascinating reading in his preface, which also offers a useful summary of its history to this western land which has seen such flows of migrant peoples. During the 19th century more than half a million Africans were taken to work the coffee estates of the newly independent Brazil and the cocoa plantations of the island-colony of Sao Tome. During the 20th century the flow was reversed as close to half a million European migrants arrived in Angola, from northern Portugal, Madeira and the Azores. After 1975 change occurred again when the white population flowed back to Europe leaving black nationalists to struggle for control of their rich economic heritage.

Birmingham starts his tale early in the 19th century when the Portuguese colony of Angola was formed as Portugal gradually replaced their former Asian empire with an African one. By 1960 Angola had become Portugal’s most treasured overseas possession. The slave trade proved profitable until the anti-slave movement in Europe saw Portugal follow other countries outlaw the trans-Atlantic trade in 1836. But labour remained the main theme of Angola’s history until after 1910.

The influence of the missionaries in Angola was important – with the Jesuits and the Franciscans taking Christianity inland. In the second half of the 19th century       a fine mix of French Catholic, British Baptist, American Methodist and Swiss Congregationalist brought religion, education and hospitals to various parts of the country.

The story of capital city of Luanda makes the subject of the second chapter - from mid-19th century when it was a picturesque market town where the wealthy households were run by armies of slaves of all ages. Along with blacks and whites the population of mixed race pointed to colonisation which had been almost exclusively male.

Life and trade in the inland areas varied immensely, with the Ambaca district, some 200 miles north of Luanda, standing out from neighbouring territories. The population considered themselves Portuguese , spoke the language, were educated , baptised as Christians and had a fine sense of dress style.

After the end of World War 2, Portugal – which had been neutral territory during the war - was debarred from joining the UN. The country and its colonies was the poorest in Europe, only Albania suffering worse poverty. In Angola life started to improve thanks to the world’s craving for coffee as planters and peasants began to meet this need. Labour practices and the rise of nationalism led to an uprising in Luanda in 1961, emphasising the the winds of change speech made by British PM Harold Macmillan. A violent outbreak followed in northern Angola weeks later, resulting in a huge conscript army being assembled in Portugal and dispatched to Angola . This saw the start of guerrilla warfare, led by Agostinho Neto in the north while in the south UNITA gained an exile base in Zambia, led by Jonas Savimbi.

After years of guerrilla warfare the coup of 1974 saw the Lisbon government overthrown mounted by young military captains in the Portuguese army. This led to a re-alignment of forces in Angola as the Portuguese prepared to leave Africa. In January 1975 an interim government was established that included Portugal, the FNLA, the MPLA and UNITA. Sadly instead of peace, a new war of foreign intervention ensued: the Congolese, Russian, Cuban, South African and American interests vied with locals in an offensive that saw South African troops invade along the coast . The extent of the horror endured by civilians and soldiers were made known, to some extent, to South Africans who had sons, brothers, uncles and friends doing their compulsory national service who were sent into Angola as part of the South African invading army.

As foreign forces withdrew, only the MPLA remained strong enough to eventually take control of Angola which had gained independence from Portugal. The fruits of freedom were not experienced by the people and a revolution took place in 1977 which was shortlived but violent. The liberation wars of liberation of the 70’s were followed by others through the 80’s with many causes – the Soviet Union, the Americans, the oil wells, Cuban support and South African destabilisation efforts among others: its intricacies and corruption make depressing reading. Worse was to come after a brief period of celebration of peace in 1991 with a civil war in late 1992 .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               After another peace accord negotiated by the UN, dos Santos became president and proceeded to develop the country into a presidential state with his power emanating from his vast palace complex.

The saga of violence and corruption is countered to some extent at the end of the text by optimism increasing in the 21st century as hope  centred around the energy and inventiveness of the women of Luanda and inland areas. They had developed giant markets which kept the city fed and clothed and inland by establishing many small scale business enterprises.

This softback contains no illustrations but there is a bibliography and an extensive index.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

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