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b2ap3_thumbnail_Leeuwenkuil--Cinsault-2014-Copy.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Simonsig-Tiara-2011-veritas.jpg

REDS TO WARM THE COCKLES…

Apparently it was minus 8 deg in Sutherland last night, which rendered our five degrees in the McGregor valley comparatively warm. But the nights are still bone-chilling and the air is snowy. Definitely weather for warming, robust reds, and here is a mix of recent releases sampled that all qualify, although each is distinctly different from the next.

I apparently missed a good function at Simonsig recently when the 2011 vintage of their famous Tiara Bordeaux blend was released at the convivial Stellenbosch estate. Not only was there a vertical sampling of the Tiaras but, as always, an excellent lunch at their Cuvee restaurant to savour. The blend is celebrating its 25th anniversary, with the latest vintage melding 66% cab with 21% merlot, 9% petit verdot and 4% cab franc. Unsurprisingly the cab dominates, the other cultivars adding seamless depth, flavour and character to a renowned blend which – already enjoyable – needs a few more years to reach its potential. It sports its double gold from Veritas with pride. Retail price: R245.

 

Next up a 2012 cab from Eikendal which has already collected a couple of awards from Europe and the UK, and made it into the Top 10 dry reds at the Trophy Wine show a month back. It is a classic Helderberg cab, dark and full-bodied yet not heavy, berry flavours nicely balanced with complex structure and well integrated wood. Along with beef, this should complement both ostrich and North African meat dishes well. The 14,5% alcohol level is not readily apparent. In place of the usual description, winemaker Nico Grobler offers a single remark on the back label; “No stone was left unturned to create this quality.” Retail price: R220.

 

Moving from patrician to pleb, I was pleased to see that Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2014 walked off with the trophy for Best Niche Red Variety at this year’s Trophy Wine show. Delighted, in fact, and for two reasons – every wine sampled from this family vineyard in the Paardeberg has proved to be a winner in my book, and secondly, I am nearly as keen on cinsaut as I am on chenin, therefore it’s great to see cinsaut being given attention and making a comeback, so that the red “workhorse” grape is likely to enjoy a renaissance and surge in popularity similar to the one that chenin is experiencing.

As with chenin, old dryland vineyards are being restored, and the Leeuwenkuil has proved that its venerable vines are up to the standard demanded of them. This is a charmer, with berry flavours melded with the savoury earthiness of spiced black olives. Smooth tannins provide agreeable structure and it can be recommended both for a winter lunchtime aperitif, and will go on to enhance robust pasta dishes and Greek classics like moussaka. Retail price: R100.

 

The time is ripe for gluhwein, and Leopard’ Leap Lookout cab sauvignon/shiraz 2014 is the ideal candidate for cooking up this classic warmer. This easy-drinking blend, a mix of cab and shiraz finished with cinsaut, is a lightweight wine with fruit and chocolate on the palate. Leopards Leap recipe for a fireside vitamin-enhanced celebration follows:

1 bottle Lookout cab sauvignon shiraz

75ml sugar

50ml lemon juice

150ml orange juice

1 – 2 cinnamon sticks

6 – 8 cloves

Combine all ingredients and het gently until near boiling point, strain in to a warmed bowl and serve in wine glasses. Garnish with cinnamon sticks or cinnamon sugar if desired.

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In my part of the world – on the edge of the Klein Karoo – winter has not only arrived, but is settling in nicely. Around lunchtime it’s warm, but before and after midday the air has that chill that confirms that snow is not that far away. The time is ripe to haul out the ports and muscadels for fireside sipping – for the former, we look to Calitzdorp, where the quality and choice are both good.

From De Krans I received two “new look” ports a while ago, their Premium Cape Ruby non-vintage and their classic Cape Vintage 2013. The former is a great buy at just R65, a smooth blend of the Portuguese varieties Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Roriz and Souzao. It’s the bottle that’s new rather than the port, as the latter is, as it has long been, a medium,-bodied port, with fruit and spice and 18% alcohol level. Its a four-star Platter wine, a rating it has maintained for a decade, and is ready to be savoured with cheese or chocolate as an evening treat.

The Cape Vintage 2013, rated four and a half stars by Platter, is also in the new classic port bottle, and is as good as its predecessors – fruit filled, complex and with pleasing length. This is excellent value at R89, and at that price one can afford to splash out a little, using it in sauces over warming winter puds.

Although Boets and brother Stroebel Nel are also involved in other activities, and are making some interesting wines from their Portuguese cultivars, its still the tawny, classic and ruby ports that bring in the most medals and – along with their competitors - uphold the claim of Calitzdorp to be South Africa’s port capital.

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Waterkloof-Peacocks01-HR.jpgIt’b2ap3_thumbnail_Waterkloof-Peacock-Wild-Ferment.jpgIt's been a long time since I savoured every wine in a range, but the recently released Peacock Wild Ferment quartet from Waterkloof is one such – a well-crafted collection with more than a nod to the Old World, wines to savour and sip, and wait as flavours continue to titillate the palate even as they open up in glass. There have been many others retailing for far more than these that simply don’t compare in complexity and are way behind in finesse.

As the name implies, they were made using ambient or naturally present wild yeasts which certainly seem to add expression, and grapes from the farms bio-dynamic vineyards were added to their own and bought-in fruit. Minimal intervention and traditional winemaking practices have produced impressive results and winemaker Nadia Barnard can take a bow.

The chenin blanc 2014 is sourced from bought-in old bush vines, location not given. Well textured and structured, the fruit is more restrained than in many local chenins. European in style, with a lingering finish, and better with every sip.

The chardonnay 2014 comes from Schapenberg grapes, left six months in tank and barrel before transfer to barrel for a further two month. Its crisp, elegant, delightfully fresh, with minerality on mid-palate and a12,5% alcohol level . Some seafood, fresh linefish, French-style chicken in mustard cream would all pair well with this.

Peacock Wild Ferment merlot 2013 is an excellent example of how good our merlots can be. Dry, medium-bodied wine from Schapenberg grapes that follows with a mouthful of black fruit, tobacco and chocolate. No sign of green notes in this very enjoyable wine with smooth tannins that spent 18 months in French oak.

The Wild Ferment cabernet sauvignon 2013 is the only one of the four that I thought could have benefitted from more timein wood. That said, it’s fresh and smooth and elegant rather than robust, comes from Schapenberg vines, and presents a fine balance between fruit and tannins. Steak and gourmet pasta with meaty sauces would make marvellous partners.

At R65 each, this is a quartet to relish, both for budget-priced pleasure and Continental stylish restraint.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Neil-and-Warren-Ellis.jpgHospitable hosts: Neil and Warren Ellis.

It was a well-timed event. Just ahead of the cold front and driving rain guests gathered at the spacious tasting centre and cellar of Neil Ellis Wines, off the Helshoogte Pass, to taste new vintages ahead of a lunch prepared by gastronomic fundi Etienne Bonthuys,.

It was my first introduction to son, winemaker and viticulturist Warren Ellis and his mother Stefanie. Neil talks from the heart about wine, the industry and his family, presenting his philosophy and opinions with passion and disarming frankness. He feels strongly that South Africa should return to a focus on the wine and to be open to the vulnerability that comes with natural winemaking and concentrate less on the business end of marketing and distribution. This is something he is able to do, perhaps partly thanks to both Warren and his brother Charl who deals with the financial side. (Which, according to Platter, is fairly substantial, encompassing local and international sales of 100 000 cases annually of their own label, plus a brand for Woolworths).

Over the last 30 years Neil Ellis has established a reputation for exceptional quality, with wines that are  elegant, sometimes restrained, others exciting, as he spends time unearthing less common vines of high quality in various Cape regions.

We started with a just-released Groenekloof sauvignon blanc 2015, an intense blend of flint and herbaceous flavours, and followed with the 2014 Amica, a sauvignon from Jonkershoek valley, which I preferred. Plenty of backbone, some verdancy, allied to a fine balance of fruit and minerality. Eight months in barrel has added depth and character to this inviting example that sells for R165. Elgin is the source of the 2014 Reserve chardonnay, which is a perfect white for winter, both solo and accompanying good fare: it’s both elegant and intense, and quite delicious.

The lineup of reds began with a moreish cinsaut 2014, sourced from long-established Groenekloof vines near Darling, on the west coast. Always good to sample a cinsaut that has been given TLC, and this is a great example, the wine having spent 18 months in oak, both new but mostly well-used barrels. The cellar door price of R275 reflects its class.

The 2012 Cabernet is a fine example of Stellenbosch at its best, a patrician classic that offers freshness, elegance and impressive structure, along with a savoury finish. It is already enticing, but will reward those who have the patience to squirrel it away for a few years. A hugely enjoyable function, well organised, with an ambience both relaxed and friendly.

The final wine was a limited edition of 780 bottles, most of which will be sold from the cellar. The Webb Ellis 2010 is a blend of 65% cab from Jonkershoek and 35% syrah from Groenekloof in Darling. It is a special expression of integrity, a single vineyard wine that will only be produced in perfect vintages and the components could vary. Stefanie's maiden name is Webb, so this is not only a wine made with heart, but is the result, Warren says, of a passionate and tenacious wine journey and one that embraces past, present and future of this talented and likeable family.


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Paris is passé – its Rooiberg for  lovers

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Elda Auret and Marianne Lochner with an ample supply of padlocks for Rooiberg romantics.

With the historic Pont des Arts bridge across the Seine buckling under the weight  of lovers' padlocks, the French authorities have cried Assez! and this week officials will be removing around 45 tons of locks from this and other popular Parisian bridges. What started as an expression of eternal love has become a security risk for pedestrians as  romantic visitors from across the globe attached padlocks to the bridge grilles and threw the keys into the river a little too often.

These - and all - young lovers can head to Rooiberg cellar later this week, get a bright red padlock for R30, and attach it to a designated love wall along with their names, when they collect their passports for the Wacky Wine Weekend. The key can be dropped into a barrel, and thus - romance locked and sealed - the visitors can celebrate the liveliest weekend in the Cape in passionate style.

Others, who may be more intent on wining and dining can hone in on Gallic-style soup served in hollowed-out bread crust "bowls". Good red wine overflows from this large cellar, but anyone aiming to invest in  some great reds this winter should make a point of sampling Rooiberg's award-winng Reserve Shiraz 2011 and the prized Reserve Pinotage 2012 - both excellent and affordable buys. And remember that once your wine purchase comes to more than R500, you are in line for some worthwhile lucky draws.

 

 

 

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