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Groenekloof is a hilly ward in the Darling district, acknowledged as an outstanding source of sauvignon blanc grapes. It was Neil Ellis who put these hectares on the wine map, and was the first to release results in 1991 with his Groenekloof sauvignon blanc , described as “breathtaking” in the then current Platter guide. Fast forward 24 years and the 2015 sauvignon blanc has kept up the fine reputation, receiving 5 stars in the 2016 Platter guide, one of of just four to attract top honours.

With every justification – the bush vines in the Groenekloof are now 35 years old, are not irrigated, adding to the grapes' intensity, while ocean breezes and fogs help which the ripening season. Neil Ellis has produced a sauvignon that succeeds on every level – combining minerality with herbaceous notes, offering both granadilla and citrus flavours, and retaining that refreshing friskiness alongside elegance. Selling for around R80.

The ward is now revealing its possibilities as source of  stunning reds, and no more so than the extraordinary Neil Ellis cinsaut noir 2012 that father and son released at a media tasting late last year. If ever cinsaut needs to prove its capability of becoming  the red equivalent of chenin, a sort of Cindarella rags-to-riches cultivar, this is the wine to do so. The bush vines that were the source for this success are 40 years old, and harvesting started in early March. Malolactic fermentation took place in old 500 litre French oak, the wine spent 18 month in barrels, both first and fourth fill. Alcohol levels of 15% do not detract from rave reviews from both London (Tim Atkin) and the USA, (Stephen Tanzer), and local reaction has been on a par. Loads of fruit, especially dark cherry, some spice balanced by tannic backbone, characteristic of cinsaut that has enjoyed TLC, augmented by careful oaking. Chill lightly and enjoy on its own or with venison carpaccio. Not cheap at R275, but connoisseurs have, no doubt, been snapping it up.

To complete the Groenekloof trio, the Neil Ellis Shiraz 2013 won’t disappoint fans, offering classic aromas and berry flavours, along with pepper and whiffs of other spices that recall Cape Malay savoury delights. Expect to pay about R100.

Taste these and other vinous gems at the recently opened Neil Ellis cellar at the start of Helshooste pass outside Stellenbosch. The tasting room is open every day except Sunday, and there are cheese and charcuteries platters to share if you want to make a meal of your visit. Tel: 021 887 0649 or email

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A pair of  superior Cape brandies – great testimony to the impressive quality of South Africa’s most historic spirit - awaits a winner… This could be you, so don’t delay, enter today, and be in with a chance to raise a balloon to spirited craftsmanship.


The Van Ryn’s distillery is a landmark on the Eerste river banks outside Stellenbosch. Established in 1845 by Jan van Ryn, the tradition of fine brandy-making was introduced 170 years back and continues today. Among its range of copper potstills is one dating back nearly two centuries that is still in daily use.

Van Ryn’s 20-year-old Collectors' Reserve is the crown jewel in the Van Ryn collection, a golden spirit that has benefitted from two decades of leisurely maturation in French oak. Sniff it gently, and savour aromas of dried fruit, fresh pears, spice and honey. Sip slowly and let those flavours fill your palate, further enhanced by whiffs of marmalade, citrus, tropical fruit and mellow nuttiness, all enveloped in a satin -smooth mouthful. Since 2008 this brandy has collected an array of gold and double gold awards, both from the IWSC or International Wine & Spirit competition and the SA Veritas Awards. Earlier this year two Van Ryn potstill brandies – The Reserve 15-year-old and the 20-year-old - brought home gold and silver from the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, held in China and competing against nearly 1400 spirits from 43 countries.

The Klipdrift distillery in Robertson is not as old as Van Ryn but boasts an intriguing history which is well illustrated at its fine visitors centre. Their Black Gold brought home a silver medal at the 2015 Concours, where judges clearly enjoyed the uncommon blend of fine potstill brandies with Arabica coffee beans from the Ethiopian highlands and cocoa beans from the Cote d’Ivoire. This is a spirit offering a fine tribute to delectable tastes from the African continent, crafted into an after-dinner liqueur that combines spice, mocha and more,  best served neat, over ice.

Both these brandies are among a stable of spirits whose quality is recognised globally as world class, as well as being proudly South African. We need more consumers to discover this, after which they are likely to become enthusiastic converts, and resist the temptation of rivers of diverse – and sometimes inferior - competitors' products  that flow south from Scotland!

When it comes to creating trad Christmas fare, it’s brandy that we need for the cake, the brandy butter, the fruity pud – although using the prize bottles below would be a touch extravagant.





A pair of brilliant brandies is awaiting a winner somewhere in South Africa. The prize consists of a bottle of Van Ryn’s 20-year-old Collectors Reserve and another of Klipdrift Black Gold, Together they are worth nearly R1 800.00, and will make an opulent and impressive addition to your home cellar.

To be in line to win the pair, send an e-mail to by close of business on Friday, November 13. Include your full name, daytime telephone number and address. Put Brandy competition in the subject line. The winner will have his prize delivered to his doorstep.

The winning entry will be randomly drawn and the winner contacted by e-mail and telephone. Good luck. The winner's name will be published on this website.


  1. Only one entry per email address please.
  2. Judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
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b2ap3_thumbnail_Perdeberg-cellarmaster-Albertus-L-ouw.jpgPerdeberg cellarmaster Albertus Louw

Any cellar that releases 22 million litres of wine a year and still maintains a reputation for consistent quality - along with regularly attracting awards - deserves both attention and pats on the back, no matter what geeks may pronounce about their ranges.

Perdeberg Winery is the giant producer in the Voor Paardeberg ward, a former co-operative, now a limited company,that has been going strong for more than 70 years. Some 60-plus producers, most of whom are in the ward, are contracted to grow grapes of all kinds, although it is chenin blanc for which the winery is best known.

Visit the site at harvest time and you will have to negotiate your way around the queue of trucks carrying bins piled high with grapes that snakes around the yard and out of the gate. If you get to look inside the large cellar, you will see rows of giant stainless steel tanks in the gloom.

Along with its very affordable standard range, there is the Vineyard Collection and, more recently, the Dry Land range, which have upped the quality and choice considerably. Fine chenin, wooded and unwooded, leads the whites, which include chardonnay/viognier and pinot noir/chardonnay blends. Chenin is also used for two bubblies, a maiden four-star Cap Classique and sparkling chenin in the standard range.

The cellar is celebrating a pleasing total  from 2015 Veritas at present, having scooped 24 awards from 29 entries, including double gold for its Dry Land sauvignon blanc 2014 and gold for the Dry Land chenin 2014. I would have reversed these two.

A recent sampling of half a dozen of the newly-relased vintages confirms Perdeberg’s ongoing commitment to value for money. Starting at the top, the star of the show for me was the Dry Land 2014 unwooded chenin, a prime example of how the Cinderella cultivar has blossomed into princess garb, offering delicious aromas of citrus and tropical fruit followed by more on the palate, encased in a crisp summery wine, selling at R70. The chenin from the Vineyard range (R55) is less intense, but presents plenty of stone and tropical fruit, while the Vineyard sauvignon blanc (R55) should please most fans, as it offers a spectrum of flavours along with some grassiness.

I find the whites a step ahead of the reds when it comes to quality: that said, the Vineyard Collection 2013 shiraz is a very acceptable example, medium-bodied, offering classic white pepper, and plum on the palate,(R65) and the 2013 pinotage at the same price will satisfy many fans. The Dry Land 2012 cab (R82) is a typical example of contemporary ready-to-drink red with some backbone and spice along with berry fruit. And that really is what sums up Perdeberg products – if you choose to keep them they will surely improve, but the vast majority of consumers will open them soon after purchase, to toast the sunset, to sip ahead of the weekend braai or to enhance al fresco fare, whether salad, seafood or good Karoo lamb.

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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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