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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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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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