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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rooiberg-bus.jpgGM Johan Dippenaar andJohn O’Reilly of Matjiesfontein,  Johan du Preez, Rooiberg’s CEO, andJohn Theunissen, who has been the guide for the “Showtime!” mini London-bus tour in the village for more than 30 years.

Matjiesfontein has been in the news recently - partly thanks to the recent  publication of that splendid book of that name by Dean Allen - see my review under Books. The little Victorian village in the Karoo has been on my list for another visit ever since, and then, getting this image of its London bus, splendid in new coats of paint, has strengthened this urge.

Rooiberg has been supplying the hotel's house wine for an impressive 25 years, and marked the occasion by giving the famous red London bus restorative coats of paint. No doubt  it will continue taking passengers for a mini tour of the village attractions for another quarter century or more...

 

  

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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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