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BRUNCH ACROSS 11 COUNTRIES: Recipes of a private chef by Alix Verrips, published by Human & Rousseau, 2018.




With Easter round the corner and other autumn long weekends to savour, brunch comes to mind as the perfect meal . Whether on a country excursion, lazing at home, or entertaining friends and family, there’s no better time to combine breakfast and lunch into a long, langorous and relaxed meal, preferably relished outdoors.

All of which makes this new title from local publisher Human & Rousseau both timely and inspirational. Alix Verrips is an adventurous chef who now enjoys life in Knysna, raising money for children’s charities. But she has amassed a wealth of global gastronomic experience of the most delicious kind during her 15 years as chef on luxury yachts. Having cooked for celebrities, royals, rock stars, ambassadors, statesmen and politicians on the world’s largest yachts from Alaska to Australia, she presents readers with a treasury of recipes that evoke memories of cultures and countries. Special occasions and exotic ports called for fare that contribute to irresistible brunch menus.

American Independence day calls for red, white and blue parfaits and beef sliders with blue cheese followed by a berry-filled pie, all accompanied by a seriously super-charged Bloody Mary. By way of contrast, a pheasant shooting party in the British shires features bubble and squeak, toad-in-the-hole, kedgeree and currant scones. Add spice to your brunch with a Bahamian feast, starring a colourful spread of chicken souse, sweet potato fish cakes sauced with Creole aioli and chicken and sweetcorn congee.. Chinese New Year in Sydney harbour, the Monaco Grand Pri,. a Greek Isle cruise and a stay in Capri have all produced menus that are mouthwatering and recipes that I intend to try. Other exotic fare was inspired by time spent in the Emirates, Mexico and Mallorca, while the home country is celebrated with a brunch in the bush. All those longing for that nostalgic experience of a portable feast after an early morning game safari can cook up bobotie cups, biltong, mielie and cheese muffins and malva pudding cupcakes with salted caramel sauce, washed down with gin-spiked rooibos and naartjie iced tea.

Beautifully illustrated with plenty of tempting food photographs, this is a collection that will not collect dust on the kitchen shelf.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_Bouchard-Finlayson-Chris-Albrecht-5.jpg                                                                            b2ap3_thumbnail_Bouchard-Finlayson-2017-Blanc-de-Mer.jpg


The arrival of a new vintage of Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer  is always a pleasure to contemplate. This hugely popular white blend, an annual delight is fairly unique in that it is Riesling-led and usually contains five other white cultivars. As in previous vintages  Riesling predominates with 60% in the 2017, the remaining mélange being 20% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, finished with 2% Semillon.

The bouquet is delicate and flowery, but on the palate there’s both a firm foundation thanks to the personality of Riesling, along with a mix of stone and autumn fruits. A creaminess adds another delicious aspect to this crisp fresh well balanced combo that makes both a charming aperitif as well as a joyful companion to seafood and late summer salads.

All grapes are sourced from the cool South Coast region, where Bouchard Finlayson is beautifully sited in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley . Alcohol levels of 13% are moderate sand the 2017 is fine proof of  consistent quality .

Peter Finlayson has been producing this popular Cape white for many years, and Chris Albrecht has been working alongside him for the last seven years. Now Chris has been appointed winemaker, heading production since the 2017 harvest. Prior to joining Bouchard Finlayson Albrecht gained experience in cellars in New Zealand, France, and back in South Africa spent our years making the wine at Topiary in Franschhoek. The Blanc de Mer is in safe and talented hands.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Carrol-Boyes-Rose_large-2.jpgWine, art and design meld seamlessly in the Carrol Boyes portfolio. It seems  fortuitous  that this renowned designer of fine functional art has a brother – John Boyes – who is not only a farmer but whose partner and friend Neels Barnardt is a wine industry veteran. It must have been a natural progression to introduce wines to complement and enhance the lifestyle products. Winemaker Hendrik Snyman is responsible for the wines in the  Sketchbook Collection, a range of six Intriguing limited edition wines, consisting of  a rosé,  chardonnay, chenin blanc ,cabernet sauvignon, merlot and red blend ( an imported champagne  provides the bubbles). Vintages range from 2014 to 2016, with the bubbly a Gallic museum edition at 2006.

Chenin blanc and rosé were the duo I sampled, both 2016 vintages, and both presenting sensible 13% alcohol levels.

The Sketchbook rosé is an all-cinsaut affair produced from dryland Swartland grapes. Its attractive smoked salmon tint well suits the characterful wine that offers a dry briskness more assertive than most easy-drinking pinks. This is a rosé with attitude, not content just to offer a berry salad but cinsaut backbone in an autumn appetiser. It will also happily complement complex salads featuring seafood or poultry or partner a gourmet picnic with panache.

As with all the Sketchbook wines, Carrol Boyes designed the label, this one featuring her chosen model with a pink gloved hand, beckoning to be unscrewed.... It sells for R90.

To the chenin blanc, which, sadly does not offer a screwcap, but it's well worth hauling out the corkscrew. Like the rosé, bottle age has no doubt benefitted this wine, produced from dryland grapes in the Darling area. Left on the lees for three months before bottling, the press release states that no portion was wooded while Cathy van Zyl’s comment in Platter 2018 refers to a “well-handled 20% oaked portion.” This is a complex chenin, good structure alongside agreeable freshness to complement flavours of stone fruit . (I don’t detect the explosion of green apple mentioned in the press release.) If asked, I would have guessed that some wood was used to add depth to this chenin adorned with our lady, this time green-gloved, who seems to be contemplating the issue. It sells for R130.

The wines are available online and at the Carrol Boyes Waterfront store at the Waterfront. For more, see



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As South Africans discover there is more to white wine than Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Chardonnay, the joys of Riesling are unearthed. Once savoured, many become lifelong fans, eschewing chenin’s fruity charms and chardonnay’s complexity for the delicate crispness of a Riesling, its flintiness offset – sometimes – by whiffs of kerosene alongside the acid/sweet balance.


Found mostly in cool climate regions like Elgin and Constantia, the grape only occupies 0,16% of our vineyards, and it is from the cool areas that the Riesling stars usually flow


The Paul Cluver Estate Riesling 2017 presents no trace of petrol, a characteristic probably disliked by many - which could be why cellarmaster Andries Burger works to omit it. But the typical Riesling waxy notes are both on the nose, and present on the palate, which is delicate, crisp, with flint and sweetness in elegant balance. With alcohol levels at a pleasing 10,5%, this is a wine that could complement several courses of a high summer lunch from crisp squid with green apple alioli to duck with fennel salad. Rieslings are   such  companionable wines for a wide range of fare.

The press release does not reveal the age of the vines, but I would hazard a guess that they are fairly mature. Paul Cluver has long been renowned for their beautiful Rieslings and this is one that will endorse the status.

It sells for R100 from the farm’s tasting room and can be bought online at


The estate has also released its first Noble Late Harvest in three years, which is the second of two styles of Riesling being made at the cellar. Not having tasted it, I cannot comment but previous vintages have been very highly rated.

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Harvest fun, eastern wine show, cheese fest and more as the advent of autumn heralds mellow days and cool nights. The events are in date order.


Eikendal’s annual Weintaufe Harvest Carnival



This popular one-day family fest takes place on Sunday March 4 with plenty of action alongside great wine, pop-up food stalls and live music. Grape stomping, performing artists, a visit by cheetahs, tractor rides and golf challenges are all on the menu. The annual baptism of the new Chardonnay at 12 noon will precede tastings from the barrel and cellarmaster Nico Grobler will do the honours.

Plenty of entertainment for children too, so parents can relax. Tickets cost R120, available at the gates, and under 18s go in free. Gates open at 10am .

For more info contact the estate on 021 855 1422 or email




The ninth FNB Mpumalanga Wine Show takes place at Emnotweni on March 8 and 9 . Around 200 great wines from top Cape producers will see guests connect with the winemakers  and sample a stellar collection of bubbles, red, white and rose wines.

Visitors can stock up their favourite wines at show prices through the Shop@Show facility. Tickets at the door and from


Venue: Emnotweni Riverside Park Mbombela (Nelspruit)

Time: 17h00 – 21h00

Price: R180 on Thur and R200 on Friday

Queries: tel 011 482 593





Saturday 10th March 2018





The Melck family will be host their annual Harvest Festival at Muratie Estate in Stellenbosch on Saturday 10th March 2018 under the venerable oaks on this most historic of Stellenbosch wine estates. Visitors will enjoy welcoming drinks then can stomp grapes, go on tractor rides or sit and sip the Muratie wines. There’s a long alfresco lunch from the Farm Kitchen to savour, and live music from the Kitchen Jammin Blues band

Entrance tickets cost R100, tastings are charged at special festival prices. To book and for more info contact Jean-Mari reyneke at 021 865 2330 or email



The terrace at the estate Tasting Room will make the venue for an appetising three-course harvest lunch throughout the day on Saturday March 24. After a welcome glass of L’Ormarins Blanc de Blancs 2012 guests will enjoy the brilliant Cape of Good Hope wines with their meal. The menu incorporates elements of the grape, such as verjuice, raisins and vine leaves.

The cost of R550 a head includes food, wines and gratuity. To book call 021 874 9074 or email


Pizza & Wine Festival | 21 & 22 April 2018


Vergenoegd estate makes the venue for a Pizza & Wine fest over the weekend of April 21 – 22, from 11am – 4pm. Live music and superb wines will accompany the pizzas, while parents  relax while children are entertained with fun activities. Producers will pour a selection of fine wines and guests can purchase their choice to take home.

Tickets cost R180 for adults and R60 for children which includes tasting glass and five tasting coupons. Also on offer are VIP tickets at R300 which allow unlimited offerings of the Runner Duck range and exclusive seating area.

Book directly via to avoid disappointment as tickets are limited.


2018 Barrels & Beards day at Bot River.


The date to diarise is Saturday April 21 when the end of harvest is celebrated at the Bot River wineries, this year focussing on a Taurean theme of the bull.

The participating farms are:

1.         Anysbos

2.         Barton

3.         Beaumont

4.         Arcangeli

5.         Eerste Hoop

6.         Gabriëlskloof

7.         Luddite

8.         Genevieve

9.         Goedvertrouw

10.        Thorne & Daughters

11.        Momento

12.        Maremmana

13.        Paardenkloof

14.        Rivendell

15.        Wildekrans

Proceeds from the auction of Bot River wines benefit various educational projects in the region. The dinner will showcase local produce and specialities.

The annual Beard-off contest sees judges deciding on which winemaker is voted owner of the year’s Best Bot Beard.

The festival venue is Wildekrans Estate, starting at 5pm. Tickets cost R450 for adults.

Online tickets obtainable through For enquiries and pre-bookings contact Ilse Henderson at Wildekrans Wine Estate at 028 284 9488 or email





Agri-Expo has announced that the 2018 SA Cheese Festival, taking place over the Freedom Day long weekend from April 27 – 29 at the usual venue, Sandringham, off the N1 will be a water-wise event.

In response to Wesgro’s call to keep the Western Cape economy growing and create jobs, Agri-Expo has consulted roleplayers to find ways to minimise impact on water resources, by removing the festival from the water grid. Temporary chemical toilets, borehole water, drinking water from non-drought areas, waterless recipes for cooking demos are some of the items that visitors will find.

Tickets are available at Computicket (online and in Shoprite and Checkers stores) at R180 per person per day. Senior citizens pay R120 and children from 2 to 13 years pay R20. No tickets will be sold at the gates.

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 A decade of vinous generosity and a centenary of caring.





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


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

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




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


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


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


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






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

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


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



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


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


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


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


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



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

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



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

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


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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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Franschhoek Summer Wines




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

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

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

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

For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email







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

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

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



Booking for these treats are essential, either call 021 874 9074 or email







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

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

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

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

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

. For bookings and more info, please contact Eske Cilliers on or 021 886 5641.







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

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

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



Hands on Harvest at Lord’s Wines


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


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

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
















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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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




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



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


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

For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email



Now here's a novel pairing!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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






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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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Overkill  by  James Clarke. Published by Struik Nature 2017




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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