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Cannot remember ever being disappointed in a bottle from Rickety Bridge over the last several years. Cellarmaster Wynand Grobler recently released the new vintages of his intriguing Mediterranean-style blends, a voguish and captivating range named The Foundation Stone and sporting labels as trendy as the contents of the bottles.

 Previous vintages  have attracted a steady list of  awards from local competitions as well as from UK’s Tim Atkin and the Far East. Each year the blends evolve as Grobler tweaks varietals and quantities, and  brings in grapes from regions other than Franschhoek.

The Foundation Stone Rosé 2017 offers just what most discerning  winelovers expect in current pinks: this blend of 48% Grenache Noir with 34% Shiraz, 15% Mourvèdre and a splash of Viognier presents Provencal-style wine that’s dry, fresh, and full of berry flavours . Grobler matured just 10% in small French oak, which adds a little spice to a summer wine for every al fresco occasion. Selling at around R80.

Tops of the trio for me is The Foundation Stone White 2016, a Chenin-led (46%) meld with 22% Roussanne, 18% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier and a splash of Nouvelle – unusual add-on. The components spent 10 months in separate barrels before blending, which has help to produce a delicious wine, restrained blossom and stone fruit on the nose, presenting rich, well-balanced flavours on the palate, that can be enjoyed as an aperitif, but will come into its own with gourmet poultry dishes, and some Asian creations. Selling for around R100.

The Foundation Stone Red 2014 is comprised of grapes sourced from Franschhoek, Swartland and the Breede river, consisting of 41% Shiraz, 25% Mourvèdre, 23%Grenache Noir. 6% Cinsaut and 5% Tannat. An interesting mix and a fascinating wine, barrel-matured for 18 months ahead of blending. Along with berry flavours, pepper and tobacco is present on the nose, and layers of flavour follow one another on the palate. Enjoyable already, but could impress further after a couple of years’ cellaring. This will make a fine companion to any red meat, along with ostrich dishes. Selling for around R100.

Hopefuly  these will be available for tasting at the forthcoming Franschhoek Uncorked fest in mid-September. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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When you havekingfor a surname and those who celebrate your 17th century winemaking tradition produce a patrician rosé in your name, the whole concept of provincial Provençal wines is elevated to premium status. This is emphasised by a beautiful bottle embossed with the founders initials – JR – which encloses a delectable pale coppery blend. It presents an unique Cape tribute from Franschhoek to a feisty pioneer from the village of Lourmarin in southern France.

Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rosé  2016  flows from the lovely L'Ormarins estate, where the creators of Anthonij Rupert Wyne have added this new limited edition maiden release -  a blend of 70% Cinsaut, 28%Grenache and 2% Shiraz -  to their ranges. 

 

The nose  offers delicate  wafts of blossom and and melon, preceding flavours of stone fruit and melon and a citrussy friskiness. But this is no fruit salad - on the palate is  a medium-bodied  wine, its backbone presenting quiet characteristics of the trio of components, led by the gentler cinsaut rather than either of the others.. Moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% are in keeping with current trends, although higher than some consumers are demanding. 

Honouring their  founder  is not the sole reason for its production: Good rosés are part of an increasing international trend in the USA as well as the UK as the favourite aperitif and food wines among enthusiasts, gourmets and connoisseurs. High summer there, so the right time for opening Jean Roi morning, noon and night...

Here in South Africa midwinter days that are sun-drenched, windless, with cloudless skies are frequent enough, so no need to wait until spring to open a bottle of this patrician blend to toast the weekend. Or to pair with seafood and salads,  poultry and perfumed creations from Persia, Turkey and Iran. It could also well complement a Cape Malay bobotie that includes dried fruit. You will need a corkscrew, however, something to bear in mind if taking it on a gourmet picnic.

At R300 this rosé announces its intentions to be right on top of its class, with good reason. Available from the farm, online and at select wine shops.

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Jason’s Hill, like the neighbouring Slanghoek cellars, enjoys the benefit of occupying one of the Boland’s most beautiful sites, the secluded valley that produces great wine and fruit with little fanfare.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Jaons-Hill.jpg  Along with a hiking trail and a function facility, the farm offers a range of wines both affordable and enjoyable. Winemaker Ivy du Toit has headed the cellar for many years, and her latest release is in keeping with her individual style: its a new version of her Cape Blend, named Jason’s Creek, sporting a revamped label and two award stickers. The 2015 vintage is made up of half pinotage with 35% petit verdot and finished with 15% tannat. The wine spent 10 months in French oak and offers plenty to chew on, juicy with berry fruit, a touch of spice, tannins quite prominent. If kept these should soften and the results should be smooth and savoury, but its fine for autumn braais, potjies and casseroles right now. Well-priced at R70 from the farm, also available at various city outlets.  For more info, log onto their website at www.jasonshill.co.za  and a plan a trip to this enchanting valley..

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Last year the Griers decided that their venerable bush vine (unirrigated) sauvignon blanc vineyard, renowned for  berries that produce an unique, intense wine, was worthy of special treatment. Barrel maturation would allow the intensity to feature, while the trendy egg-shaped tank would be used for partial skin fermentation. French oak – half new wood, half old – was used to complete fermentation, and batonage occurred weekly. The wine was stabilised and bottled after three months.

The result – Villiera Bush vine Blanc Fumé 2016 - a delicious wine that b2ap3_thumbnail_Villiera-Bush-Vine-Blanc-Fume-2016.jpgfascinates while it impresses: Harking back to the era when blanc fumes were much in vogue, yet presenting a thoroughly modern version, where frisky freshness nicely complements the structure and figgy and green notes are mellowed by gentle oaking.  It is certain to age with grace and should partner a range of white meat dishes and autumnal vegetarian combos with panache, including various fungi.  Alcohol levels of 13% and residual sugar of 2,5g/l are, I  am sure, accompanied by a minimal use of sulphites as I experienced no problem in relishing it. It sells for R144 and is pithily described by Jeff Grier as “Grown on old bush vine vineyards. Hatched from an egg. Matured in a barrel.”

 

What other updates from this family farm that does much to conserve the environment without being certified organic? Most winelovers know that the cellar is solar-powered and that both the Owethu clinic and The Pebbles Project,  are  centred at  Villiera: these important facilities continue to progress, while the Early Childhood Development Centre has enjoyed a renovation.

 

New additions to the estate, both four- and two-legged include kudu, waterbuck and wildebeest, with game drives in demand at least twice daily in season.

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The two-legged newcomers are a pair of youthful winemakers, being Nathan Valentine, whose childhood in the Stellenbosch winelands led him to complete a BAgric degree at Elsenburg while spending vacations working in the Villiera tasting centre. He followed this with stints at DeMorgenzon and Chandon in California  before returning to Villiera. A vintage at Domaine Grier in southern France preceded his appointment at the home farm.

Nathan will be joined by another member of the Grier family, namely Xander, sonb2ap3_thumbnail_Villiera-Xander-and-Bianca---DG.jpg of David Grier, known to South Africans as an extraordinary adventurer for worthy causes. Xander has already notched up cellar and viticultural experience in Napa Valley, Australia, France, Tasmania and Elgin before returning to the Cape where he worked at Villiera and at la Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde.

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We wish them well with their careers at an estate where  visits and vision, value and versatility  feature as major attractions.

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Early harvesting seems to have contributed  favourably to the fresh brilliance of the 2015 chardonnays, in the Stellenbosch regions at any rate.  .... just one of many  factors in the makeup of a vintage of champion chards. Right now I confess to choosing them over chenin, a preference which  induces a pang of short-lived guilt...

 

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Over the festive season we savoured every drop of the Neil Ellis Whitehall chardonnay 2015, its Elgin label acknowledging the source of cool-climate grapes

 from a south-facing vineyard in that highland valley. This is a s single vineyard maiden release in the Terrain Specific range, one whose vines have provided Neil Ellis with distinctive chardonnay since the early 1990’s.

Great credit to winemaker-cum-viticulturist and son Warren Ellis for transforming them into a wine that presents a broad palette of  intense appeal: Freshness and elegance meld effortlessly to accompany wafts of citrus. Integral oaking harmonises with Elgin minerality, a hint of richness is restrained even as it’s evident.  Moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% complement this  very impressive Cape chardonnay with more than a nod to its native Burgundy. Make sure the meal is up to accompanying it (or following it, if sipped as a classy aperitif) .

 

As February heat subsided to bearable levels, chilled Eikendal chardonnay 2015 b2ap3_thumbnail_Eikendal-Chardonnay-2015-pack-shot-LR-2.jpgwas opened with care. From the Somerset West cellar whose predecessor, the 2014, was judged overall champion of the Prescient Chardonnay Report, the new release is set to equal or overtake with little difficulty.  Cellarmaster Nico Grobler harvested early in January, and that decision clearly contributes to the purity and freshness evident, while the combo of four clones, cultivated and then vinified in different ways, adds complexity to the wine, most of which matured in untoasted French oak. There’s citrus on the palate, some mineral backbone and the knowledge that this is going to get better over several years is another given. Alcohol levels held at 13% is another factor in its favour. At R155 from cellar door it offers superb value for money.

 

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