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As I write this the 10th Robertson Wine on the River is in full swing. Along the banks of the Breede river cheerful crowds chill to live music, small children tumble around adults perched on straw bales, and the air is filled with aromas of shellfish, wors, sosaties and more. As usual the weather is perfect – the organisers nearly always get it right – and in celebrating a decade of October festivals, Robertson Wine Tourism can take a bow as the team behind one of the most successful, enjoyable and well-organised food and wine festivals in the country. I am sure many visitors are also stocking up with their choice from among more than 300 wines from more than 40 cellars to take home for the festive season.

Yesterday, while some of the stalls were still getting organised, we were treated to an informal  bubbly tasting: Seated in a marquee with one side open to the Breede river and vine-clad hills beyond, we sampled two Cap Classiques each from six Robertson valley producers. As always, the winemakers and viticulturists who poured their products were great company; relaxed, ready to tell their stories, often against themselves, as they don't shy away from mistakes made as well as successes chalked up. What is it about this valley that produces such talented people from various walks of life, who are modest, hospitable, and who regard neighbours as friends rather than competition.

In no particular order, bubblies that I really enjoyed include Bon Courage’s Jacques Bruere brut reserve 2009 – a classic 60/40 pinot noir/chardonnay that was disgorged just five months ago. It’s beautifully balanced, developing into a stunner that makes it a great buy at R120. This cellar is deservedly renowned for its consistently pleasing sparkling wines that are as delightful aperitifs as they are partners to seafood and a range of summer fare.

Wonderfontein introduced a new  brut rosé, called Paul René, comprising 75% pinot and 25% chardonnay, a non-vintage limited edition winner that may have to be limited to regular customers. At R160 its going to be as popular as their all-chardonnay brut which also costs  R160.

Peter de Wet poured two delightful MCC’s, while sharing his story of his long, hard journey to reach this point, as father Danie was not convinced that De Wetshof estate should go in for bubbles. At R190 the pinot noir brut 2008 is a salmon-tinted triumph, selling at R190.

No RWV bubbly tasting would be complete without sipping a couple of Philip Jonker’s classics: It was a treat to try his classic Entheos from Weltevrede again, which is a four-star essential for warm weather enjoyment, both lively and invigorating.

Windfall farm tucked away in the Agterkliphoogte sent their viticulturist to pour their all-chardonnay 2007 Mendola cap classique, a characterful chardonnay that is probably at its peak, golden and offering caramel on the palate.

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It's still cool enough to appreciate two recently-released classics from La Motte - in fact the weather this week has called for good reds and substantial suppers. The 2012 cab already boasts a winning sticker from the 2015 Sommeliers Selection and its easy to see why, as this beautifully balanced wine satisfies on every level, with juicy fruit offering berry and herby flavours, firm tannins adding structure and a slight earthiness in the long finish. Grapes from Stellenbosch, Paarl, Durbanville, Walker Bay and Franschhoek contribute complexity from assorted terroirs. Open and serve with confidence to enhance good red meat or squirrel away for a couple of years.

Also from the 2012 vintage is an intriguing syrah, enjoyable now with its savoury flavours, but will benefit from cellaring. Fruit is partnered by berry flavours along with a hint of both aniseed and mint. The winemaker has added splashes of grenache, tempranillo, cinsaut and durif, the last-named being also known as Petite Sirah and is a cross between syrah and peloursin. Fascinating sipping...

 

A little earlier I tried the Pierneef 2014 sauvignon blanc and found what I expected: a fresh, green, wine with mineral notes complemented by wafts of apple, green fig and grassiness that reflects the terroir, which, I guess, is a vineyard within spitting distance from Cape Agulhas. A wine to relish as temperatures soar and the yellowtail move into the Southern Cape waters. It sports gold from this year's Mundu Vini, while its companion wine, the Pierneef 2013 syrah-viognier is gilded with stickers from the Old Mutual Trophy show, Concours International, and Top  100. As with previous vintages, an elegant, gently spicy, silky classic that will complement good fare, but is a solo wine of distinction.

 

 

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They win global awards year in and year out, yet our own cabinet insists on quaffing whisky from Scotland (and bubbly from France, but that's another story). The quality of top Cape brandies is simply superb, and that goes for the well-known names, along with some little gems from rural cellars across the winelands.

 

You can be in with a chance to find out more about a couple of these prize-winning spirits early in November, as I have been given two pricy patricians from the House of Van Ryn to give away to you, the reader, in a festive e-mail competition:  Look out for this blog next month. 

 

The SA Brandy Foundation has updated the two main Cape brandy routes, one in the Boland area, the other through the Klein Karoo, which together offer visitors 21 destinations, or 'brandy homes' as they are now being dubbed. There are a couple of lone cellars in other areas, such as Oude Molen in Grabouw and Kaapzicht in Cape Town. The Northern Cape now boasts one too, near Upington.

 

 

 

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Those looking for a few venues to visit, should spend time trawling the website www.sabrandy.co.z/brandyhomes to compile an itinerary. Directions and opening hours are  given,. Some offer tours, others present brandy and food pairings, while others are open only by appointment.

 

When the Little Karoo route was launched many years ago, press members were treated to a short but hugely enjoyable weekend sampling the hospitality and spirits of a few of the members - and those in the Oudtshoorn and De Rust areas are people and places I still recall - overwhelming hospitality, historic farmsteads and cellars, ostriches and six-course dinners that went on until the early hours.  If you enjoy history with your tastings, and are in the De Rust area, don't miss Mons Ruber, housed in an old toll house, with photographs of the 1947 British royal tour on the walls (apparently the royal train stopped there).

 

 

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It’s seldom that I write a blog devoted to a single wine, however much I admire it. But there’s always an exception to any rule: one such is Jane and Basil Landau’s brilliant Landau du Val semillon, the recently released vintage 2013. There are two reasons for this, firstly it is superb, presenting a fine balance between a minerally backbone from venerable vines and the wonderful bouquet of citrus and apple, followed by rich flavours of honey, butterscotch and cream. I don’t detect much in the way of lanolin that typifies semillon, and neither do I miss it in this dry, full-flavoured aristocrat with a lingering finish. Its press release suggests pairing with chicken curry, roast pork, seafood and “even paella.” After much thought I decided that an elegant Normandy-inspired dish of duck, (free-range, of course) baked slowly in semillon with green apple, fnished with a little cream and good Cape brandy could fit the bill.

On the other hand – just sitting on the stoep, watching the guinea-fowl getting broody among the olive trees as the distant Langeberge darkens from soft blue to purple is enough accompaniment to my glass of Landau , it really requires no food at all.

The second reason for celebrating this distinctive wine at the start of Heritage Week, is naturally, its impressive ancestry – made from bush vines that mark their 110th birthday this year, surviving for more than a century on an historic farm off the Robertsvlei road in Franschhoek. La Brie (also known in the past as Laborie) was granted to Huguenot Jacques de Villiers in 1712, although he had been living there since 1694 – this enterprising immigrant also bought Boschendal some years later. Basil and Jane Landau live in the 18th century farmstead which they restored after buying the farm in 1986.

When the semillon vines were planted in 1905, Franschhoek was a small, but reasonably self-sufficient village, although telephones were only installed in 1911 and electricity arrived 23 years later. Winelovers can be grateful that the vines escaped uprooting, even though their yield ranges from small to minute.

The Landaus chose their winemaker wisely – Wynand Grobler is a sensitive and talented craftsman who whole-bunch presses the harvest, natural fermentation taking place in French oak, old and new, followed by 12 months maturation. The wine should last well for at least a decade, if you can resist your purchase for that long. Selling from the farm and at La Cotte boutique in Franschhoek for R250.

 

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Not quite September, but McGregor is full on with spring today - apricot blossom, yellow daisies, Namaqua daisies and indigenous jasmine flowering - no matter which direction I look from my two study windows, a riot of colour greets the eye. 

These are days when the house wine can stay in the fridge: time to celebrate with something special and one can hardly do better than  sipping a glass of Muratie's scintillating Laurens Campher white blend. The 2014 vintage is as tempting as its predecessor - just under half chenin from an old block, 27% sauvignon blanc, a little less than 20% of verdelho and finished with viognier. Its a gorgeous meld, elegance in evidence but the typical chenin and sauvignon honey and citrus are there, along with floral notes from viognier and a zippiness, perhaps the verdelho component. Eight months in French oak have added complexity and structure to the mix. Well worth its R120 price tag.

Muratie never fails to intrigue with its fascinating history, and this wine, named after original farm owner Laurens Campher who was granted tenure of this farm in 1685 and continued his courtship of Ansela van de Caab, a slave at the Castle, for 14 long years until she was freed and could marry him. To Laurens and Ansela, a toast to perseverance!

Another piece of Muratie history worth recording is that a later custodian, artist George Paul Canitz, was the first to cultivate pinot noir in south Africa, planting a vineyard in 1927. This renowned bon vivant is well celebrated at the farm with an art gallery in the refurbished concrete wine tanks and self-catering accommodation for visitors in his original art studio.While I cannot admit to sharing all the current enthusiasm for pinot noir - some of which is pretty forgettable - it's apt that Muratie's 2012 vintage is a delicious wine, combining earthiness with berry, spicy and licorice flavours in a smooth mouthful followed by a satisfying long finish. Selling at R180, this a red that greets spring with panache from an estate whose 330- year- history is on record for all to see.

 

Staying in Stellenbosch region, an update on Eikendal, which recently released its 2013 cab, a wine that is always worth pondering on. This one is particularly Old World in style, a connoisseur's choice, reserved and elegant, restrained even, but undeniably a classic Stellenbosch cabernet, which spent 16 months in French oak before the various blocks were blended. Well balanced, fresh and clean, and one to put away if possible as its sure to develop well. But, if you have to open it now, it will complement any red meat, particularly simply cooked roasts and grills,  with style. It costs R185.

 

 

 

 

 

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