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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_la-petite-ferme1_20170123-131805_1.jpgChardonnay fans will have to visit La Petite Ferme to sample and buy this just-released 2016 chardonnay, but that’s hardly a chore. Take in the changes wrought by the new owners, then sip this impressive wine with its enticing nose offering buttered nuts and citrus followed by a good combo of fruit and well-defined mineral backbone. It’s well-balanced, freshness and body in harmony, the seasonal fruits of the Franschhoek grapes complementing the crisp flint of those from Elim. Also in tune with today’s trends are its 12,5% alcohol levels, while the R200 price tag must amaze visiting connoisseurs from the UK and Europe! It is sure to make an engaging companion for several items on their restaurant’s summer menu as well as an appealing aperitif. Only available from the farm wine shop and restaurant. Visit www.lapetiteferme.co.za for more info. b2ap3_thumbnail_lapetiteferme3.jpg

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Which bubbly? Which red? and - Are you drinking rosé this Christmas? Answer to the last question, yes indeed. Which? Haven’t decided yet. But here is a foursome that will add lustre to many a table over the festive weekend: all special, all appealing, all quality homegrown Cape wines that I am delighted to recommend.

 

WHICH BUBBLY?

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 Festivities start with good bubbles, and the arrival of the limited edition just-released Krone RD 2001 is an event worth some fanfare. This cap classique has spent the last 15 years ageing sur lie in a cool underground cellar at Twee Jonge Gezellen, Tulbagh’s most historic of farms, developing into a sparkler of note. It's rich and concentrated, yet retains the freshness and fruit of others half its age. The classic aromas of green apple and biscuit are there, while your palate will be treated to some butterscotch and honeyed nuttiness. Low alcohol levels of 11,5% means a second flute is in order, while shoppers can expect to pay between R300 – R350 for this elegant aperitif and effervescent partner to memorable fare.

For further information contact: Abigail Rands on abigail@vinimark.co.za or Ginette de Fleuriot on ginette@vinimark.co.za.

 

WHICH WHITE?

b2ap3_thumbnail_GlenwoodSauvignonBlancSemillon2016verklein.JPGAnother five-star blend in the making? Likely to be, this elegant Bordeaux-style white blend, which saw its predecessor, the 2015,  awarded that status. Made from 22-year-old vines, probably at their peak, this GlenWood sauvignon blanc/semillon 2016 (50/50 blend) which spent seven months on lees in tank is a fine example of Franschhoek fruit, GlenWood talent and craftsmanship, producing a delicious meld of sauvignon- granadilla and bracing freshness with the cream and richness of the semillon. Moderate alcohol levels, screwcapped and ready to enhance a feast of seafood, the fact that it sells at a budget R90 ex-farm adds greatly to its appeal. For more info, send an email to info@glenwoodvineayrds.co.za

 

 

WHICH RED

b2ap3_thumbnail_NE-Stellenbosch-Cabernet-Sauvignon-2013.JPGNeil Ellis has long been renowned for his fine wines, including cabs, produced during his illustrious career which saw him buy in parcels of grapes that met his standards, and marketing the impressive results under his own label. Today he has a fine cellar and tasting centre near the foot of the Helshoogte pass, and his three children have taken over winemaking (Warren), Charl (business) and Margot (marketing).

 While the top-of-the-range Jonkershoek Valley 2013 cabernet is just about sold out, fans of this classic cultivar could well invest in a case or two of the regional Stellenbosch cabernet sauvignon 2013 and get a bargain at the same time: For just R145 they will receive a fine, modern cab under screwcap sporting its Veritas gold and Tim Atkin best-of stickers, where Stellenbosch fruit and oak dance nicely together – a quarter matured in new wood, the rest in second, third and fourth-fill. It’s full-bodied, with easy tannins and its berried flavours finish with a dash of black pepper. Rare beef, tender lamb, mixed roast mushrooms will all benefit from pairing with this wine – which will also improve with another year or two in cool darkness. Way to go, Warren. For more info, tel 021 887 0649, email info@neilellis.com or go to www.neilellis.com

 

WHICH LIQUEUR?

 

After a decade of dedicated work, Robert Rosenbach of Tanagra Boutique winery and distillery can take a bow or three.b2ap3_thumbnail_Tanagra-orange-liqueur.jpg

 

Not only are his red wines and fine cab franc rose in demand, but he and Anette have built an enviable reputation for impressvie grappas and eaux de vie, the latter offering adventurous palates exciting fruity flavour including lemon and quince. Just as their farm and guest cottabes are geared to green living and conservation, their products are produced adhering to a similar philosophy. So, its no surprise that their latest, simply labelled Orange Liqueur, is a brilliant distillation of ripe, aromatic, organic oranges - the entire fruit - to which syrup is added as the alcohol is slowly diluted to a level of 25%. It is clear and inviting, unfiltered and its jewel-like orange hue captured in slim 500ml bottles. 

It offers intense, delicious bursts of flavour - orange juice, peel, blossom - that's fresh and moreish and lingers on the palate. Don't know which is better - to dilute it with bubbly and serve as a unique aperitif or keep it neat and partner it with seriously dark chocolate at the close of the meal. Either way, it should be really cold, and it you want a bottle or two, don't leave it too long, as its a limited edition and there's not much left. Priced at R180, enjoy every sip. Visit  www.tanagra-wines.co.za or call 023 5251780 for details.

 

 

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This inviting, unpretentious Durbanville estate scores on so many levels. That it has managed to fend off suburban creep (which had already reached its boundaries decades ago) is something to celebrate. That the clever Parkers have managed to maintain the original cellar, the ringmuur and slave bell, the ambience of a bygone era are equally important. (the farm was granted by Simon van der Stel in 1698 and named Tygerberg)

And the fact that, along with the lesser-known cultivars that the cellar has been producing (barbera, gewürztraminer) and sauvignon blanc, the winemaking trio have now added a cab to their ranges, rounding out the choices nicely.

To start with the cabernet sauvignon 2015, this is a pleasing example of modern cab-making, easy on the palate, yet with plenty of body, and a delicious freshness. Described as full-bodied, but I found it less so than many others, making it suitable for summer drinking, and as a good partner for fare other than red meat – a mushroom burger for example.

Juicy tannins, a smooth finish, and plenty of lightly spiced berry flavours add up to a well-balanced whole. The grapes came from 17-year-old bush vines, and the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months.

Priced at between R75 and R79 it’s even more appealing to stock up with a case or two as its sure to improve over the next year or two.

The 2016 vintage of sauvignon blanc was a wine I enjoyed very much – firstly because it is not searingly zesty, so no antacid tablets were required. I also loved the wide spectrum of aromas that greeted my nose whenever I unscrewed the cap – some verdant, a little green fig, and far more granadilla and other tropical fruit . These also showed on the palate, but occasional wafts of that distinctive Durbanville verdancy.

This multi-layered wine is sourced from berries from seven separate blocks of dry-land vineyards, ranging in age from 24 down to 10 years old.

This is a most companionable sauvignon, good for an aperitif or partner to summer salads, seafood and poultry. As one of the first Durbanville farms to present their award-wining sauvignon blanc in 1988 – now the region’s rallying cry – Altydgedacht’s version is an essential label on visitor itineraries. And well-priced at around R75.

 

Although gewürztraminer has grown in popularity – thanks perhaps because of its affinity with Thai and other South-east Asian cuisine – but its still fairly uncommon, and the Atltydgedacht gewurz is even more unusual as its made in the style of its European home, Alsace, that is dry rather than the off-dry vintages of other Cape cousins.

This 2015 vintage, produced from bush vines with an average age of 15 years, has just collected gold from the 2016 Michelangelo Awards.  Floral and spice on the nose, and the characteristic combo of rose petals and lychees, is followed by more of the same on the palate, balanced with a crispness and mineral hint that add to its charm. Some will find it an elegant aperitif that offers something more than conventional summer whites, others will pair it with spicy fare with great satisfaction. Expect to pay about R95.

 

 

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Oude-Molen-1.jpgOnce again, a fine Cape brandy has proved to the world of connoisseurs that top South African cognac-style brandies are up there with the best, and are, in some cases, judged as best in the world. In May this year it was the turn of Oude Molen's XO to bring home gold for its distillers, the only South African entry to win gold in the 2016 Global Spirits Masters.

This London based competition is renowned as impartial and credible, using only independent judges who rate entries through blind tastings.

It was, naturally, great news for Oude Molen distillery MD Andre Simonis, who emphasises that the description of Cape Brandy pays off in marketing both locally and in export markets.

But of course it's basically the impressive quality of this aristocratic spirit that attracts awards, and this is a brandy that offers consumers an almost overwhelming combination of aromas, fruit and layered flavours on the palate with a long, lingering finish. Grapes used in this distillation include colombar, chenin blanc and ugni blanc.

Tropical fruit dominates on the nose, with a little coconut discernible, while the palate will also detect stone fruit flavours, both fresh and dried, before the vanilla undertones from the oak add depth to the meld.

The fact that it is also encased in a beautiful bottle and presented in a stylish box add to the visual appeal and no doubt help account for a hefty retail price of R800. So, the average brandy lover is going to keep Oude Molen XO for auspicious occasions and use nothing except an ice block or two to dilute the mastery in the balloon.

Those consumers whose budget won't stretch to these heights can find more affordable pleasure in the consistently high quality of the Joseph Barry brandies, made at Barrydale, which, incidentally, brought home silver in the same international competition and are also products of the Edward Snell company.

There will be additional reasons to pause at this delightful Barrydale cellar soon as a restaurant is scheduled to open in spring. Apparently the delay is owing to waiting for approval of their liquor licence... a rather ironic situation one would think, given the site of the restaurant...

Meanwhile, hearty congrats to all concerned in the production of Oude Molen XO, available from the distillery in Elgin, as well as other liquor outlets. Edward Snell & Co is the largest family-owned wine and spirit merchant in South Africa.

 

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