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Myrna Robins

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It would be difficult to find a better pair of wines with which to toast the forthcoming Heritage weekend. They tick the boxes for venerable vineyards (44-year-old chenin and cinsaut), are adorned with the Old Vine Project Heritage seal, and are nurtured on an 18th century Wellington farm titled “well-bestowed” whose current owners are nearing completing restoration and refurbishment of both vineyards, olive grove and a beautiful early 19th century farmstead.

But – best of all – is that Gavin and Kelly Brimacombe’s maiden releases, a 2017 chenin blanc and a 2015 Rhone-style red blend are noteworthy, both captivating examples of what the Wellington terroir can – and is - producing.

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The old dryland chenin vines with low-yields of around 2,4 tons per ha, deliver berries with concentrated fruit that presents a sophisticated salad of citrus, summer stone fruit, pineapple and lingering citrus on the nose and palate. Yet it’s restrained and elegant with evident complexity: this was achieved, no doubt by part natural, part yeast-added fermentation, plus one third of the wine then barrel-fermented in French oak before final blending. Its moderate 12,5% alcohol levels will please many local and overseas customers while the bottle sports stickers that are testimony to pleasing scores from judges of the National Wine Challenge and Top 100 SA wines.

Turning to the Welgegund Providence – which also sports silver from Decanter and four stars from Platter, - this blend comprises 60% shiraz, 30% cinsaut with carignan making up the balance. All the vines are dryland, the vintage cinsaut complemented by mature shiraz and carignan, the harvest of eachwhich was separately fermented . The wine spent 16 months in mostly French oak with just 5% in American. The full-bodied result balances spice and dark berry flavours with freshness from the cinsaut, with smooth tannins and a hint of oak. Robust alcohol levels for current trends and on the pricy side at R320 excluding VAT.  Only available from the cellar at present.

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The winemaker is Friedrich Kuhne and Emy Mathews has joined the staff as Sales and Marketing Manager. She is the ideal person to promote the charms of farm and wine, and already her efforts on social media have alerted dozens to the renaissance of Welgegund. The farm is open for tastings by appointment only.

In conclusion, a toast to this maiden duo, and in anticipation of the Cinsaut and Grenache which have just been released and which  I hope to sample soon . 

Wellington always intrigues with its mix of beautiful old farms of renowned Afrikaner families and new and restored ones thanks to an influx of enthusiastic 

British investors and producers. Were they perhaps influenced by the fact that this Boland town bears the name of  their most successful Anglo-Irish military hero, former British statesman and 19th century prime minister?  This intriguing intertwining of heritage adds another dimension to vinous journeys to the magnificent Valley of Wagonmakers.

For more information, visit www.welgegund.co.za

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There are few winelovers who do not enjoy a story or a snippet of history around the wine they are opening. It not only adds interest but brings the producers and their farms and cellars into the homes of consumers, to the benefit of both.

Excelsior estate in the Robertson Wine Valley has a history as colourful as many, and fifth generation owner Peter de Wet is happy to share the family story with visitors to his hospitable farm and with those in the 20-odd countries across the globe who stock his wines.

Two diverse animal species have helped the De Wet family to fame and fortune since 1859 when one Koos de Wet settled near Robertson and started farming at Excelsior. Kowie de Wet became a successful ostrich breeder, as well as a wine producer and the manor guest house is today attractive testimony to his affluence, when it was built and furnished in the Cape Revival style. When ostrich plumes went out of vogue, Kowie and his son Oscar turned to breeding racehorses and cultivating vines, thus saving this feather palace from insolvency.

Two 20th century racehorses owned by the Excelsior stud, both of whom helped bring fame and fortune to the De Wet family, are honoured with a pair of fine red wines. Back in 1913 Excelsior imported a champion Hackney sire, named Evanthius, from overseas who continued his winning streak in South Africa, winning many titles.

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San Louis was a successful racehorse who fell ill in 1979 and was expected to die, but seven months later had recovered and went on to win the 1981 Guineas, one of South Africa’s most prestigious race.

Both the wines are from the Reserve range Their black bottles and gold banding and words on black labels lend sophistication but are moderately priced at R156.

Evanthius 2013 cabernet sauvignon was sourced from berries of 30-year-old vines. Full-bodied, with characteristic nose of dark berry and cedar, the smooth tannins are well-balanced by fruit. Enjoyable now, but should continue ageing well for some years. It’s four-star Platter status is enhanced with platinum from the 2017 Michelangelo contest. Alcohol levels of 14,5% are on the high side for current trends.

San Louis 2015 shiraz from a famous vintage year was chosen as a Platter “hidden gem’ in their 2016 edition. Expect to find the typical shiraz spiciness along with wafts of oak, cherry flavours and a hint of chocolate on the palate. AfFull-bodied wine that will take on rich casseroles of venison and gamebirds with panache.

A third wine from this range, Gondolier, a merlot, was not tasted. For more information, see www.excelsior.co.za

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When’s the right time for bubbly? Any time is the correct answer, especially as we have so many delicious sparkling wines vying for our attention today. But, when it comes to fine Cap Classiques, aka South African “champagnes” we often wait for an occasion of sorts to pop the cork and raise our flutes.

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Come May and its Mother’s Day that’s being used by advertisers to sell anything from flowers to chocolates, and, of course bubblies galore. This is one occasion when packaging plays a significant role and influences decisions when purchasing

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The Krone MCC’s score well here for a start – the rosés in particular come encased in bottles adorned with rosy-tinted labels and foil tops edged with black and gold. These go into distinctive packs which are popped into a classy carrier, adding up to a persuasive package!

But of course, the proof is in the pud, and here, as always, Krone continues the fine tradition at Twee Jonge Gezellen of producing four-star Cap Classiques that charm both connoisseurs and newcomers to the world of fine bubbles. The 2017 vintages of both the Rosé Cuveé Brut and the Night Nectar Demi-Sec Rosé have been released: The former is a blend of mostly pinot noir with 15% chardonnay and is a classic of its genre. Salmon pink and bone dry, the nose presents a meld of floral and appley aromas, while the palate is tickled with a fine mousse and swathe of berried flavours.

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Until fairly recently the semi-sweet sparklers were usually of dubious quality, and shunned by knowledgeable fans. Happily this has changed as we have producers like Krone offering fine MCC’s like their Night Nectar Demi-Sec which make wonderful companions to a range of shellfish, grilled chicken and meats with sweet marinades as well as berried puds and gateaux. Comprising a similar blend to its drier cousin, this bubbly takes you through a bouquet of berry aromas to a smooth sweep of strawberries finished with cream and laced with tiny bubbles.

Both sell for around R145.

If you haven’t been to this historic and very beautiful Tulbagh farm with its treasured three-century history for a while, it could be time for another visit. Buildings and cellar have been extensively restored offering a wonderful venue for sampling the Cap Classique range in a magnificent mountainous setting.

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Those with deeper pockets and a yen to spoil mother with a Gallic treat also have a good range of French champagnes to contemplate. Among the comparatively recent brands to enjoy international success is Nicolas Feuillatte, who offers two rosés, both non-vintage: the Graphic Ice Rosé , a demi-sec that is hugely popular in France and across the world (R760) and the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé priced at R745. Perhaps even better known in this country is the Bollinger name, and their two rosés are also stocked locally. The non-vintage is a blend of pinot noir,chardonnay and meunier (R1200) while the 2006 vintage of Bollinger Cuvée Rosé is the maiden vintage dedicated to rosé which, after a decade of ageing, has developed a distinctive and unique character. It costs abour R1300.

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Frisky and flavourful or complex and creamy - sauvignon blanc comes in both styles – and many more besides. With International Sauvignon Blanc Day being celebrated globally on Friday, May 04, it will be the wine of choice for get-togethers, at many an end -of -week party.

It’s a good idea to have both unwooded and wooded sauvignons in stock, to please all palates and to team with sunny autumn days and chilly evenings.

Neil Ellis fits the bill beautifully with his pair of 2017 sauvignon blancs of exceptional quality – both rate four and half stars in Platter – as son Warren continues to produce impressive wines to further his father’s fine reputation. They source grapes from exceptional vineyards and treat them with infinite care, continuing an established tradition which now encompasses a beautiful cellar, tasting centre and vinotheque at the foot of Helshoogte pass.

 

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To the wines: Back in 1986 when Neil Ellis started using grapes from the Groenekloof ward in the Darling district for his sauvignon blancs, the maiden wine, released in 1991, not only attracted acclaim but put the area on the Cape wine map. The 2017 Groenekloof sauvignon blanc continues the tradition, elegantly and expressively, allowing the 20-year-old bush vines to express terroir with complex structure and some flint backing the tropical fruit and friskiness. A round mouthfeel is followed by a long, satisfying finish. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping and the wine retails between R95 and R110.

 

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The Neil Ellis Amica 2017, a fully barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc whose simple white label belies a connoisseur’s choice and limited edition produced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and the wine spent nine months in 500 litre barrels. The nose offers a posy of floral and herby aromas, which are followed on the palate by flavours of stone fruit and some citrus beautifully balanced with mineral notes. There’s also a creaminess that’s complemented with freshness to complete a memorable tasting experience. On its own, very special, but paired, would lift a range of elegant seafood and white meat dishes to gourmet heights. It sells for between R225 and R275.

See www.neilellis.com for more information.

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