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Paris is passé – its Rooiberg for  lovers


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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Philip Jonker has always been aware of the importance of remembering and sharing the heritage of Weltevrede, the serene, green farm outside Bonnievale, that has seen four generations of Jonkers as productive custodians. With his latest duo of releases he acknowledges the contibution of generations of workers who have lived on and worked the land alongside the family. Labelled Weltevrede1912, the year of their maiden wines, the rather crowded front labels of the 2014 chardonnay and the 2013 cab offer a brief description of the wine in Afrikaans, followed by a list of names of every worker on the farm. The back label presents the story in English.

The pair are both accessible wines, priced at around R100 for the white and R119 for the red. The chardonnay is full-bodied with a hint of sweetness alongside a vibrant mix of fruit, including pear, lemon and dried pineapple and mango. The cab is medium-bodied, also with plenty of upfront fruit and a little spice, and both wines have moderate alcohol levels. They should be widely available from large stockists as well as the farm and are good choices when toasting tradition in any form.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_Spier_FKS__64463.1405397125.700.535.pngThe second vintage of Frans K Smit, the much-anticipated 2009 vintage, is due for release soon. A few wine writers were sent a sample recently, and I opened mine over the weekend, tasted it, and then took it to Karoux, our local gourmet restaurant in McGregor, where it teamed beautifully with a silky duck liver pate, partnered a  steak and shortrib creation with panache, and added style to a sophisticated rendering of skilpadjies on white onion puree.

It is a splendid Cape blend with cab predominating but not overpowering,  the merlot, shiraz and pinotage each adding significant elements to a very classy wine. I think it should be left to its own devices for another few years, when it could deliver quality that will prove that the 2009 vintage attained its predicted heights.

The 2004 was the maiden vintage of this one-bottle range, produced as a tribute to the talent and commitment of cellarmaster Frans Smit and the 2009 marks his 20th year at the historic farm. Along with his impressive list of vinous achievements, Frans is also a hugely popular, modest, friendly, down-to-earth winemaker, which makes reviewing his products even more enjoyable.

The 2009 vintage should be available from specialist wine outlets and online from around three months at R745 a bottle.

As it falls into the super-price category, I am going to add my usual comment about any South African wine retailing at R500 and more:  at this price level I think that some percentage of the considerable profit margin  should be channelled to a wineland charity, as no wine, however fine, costs that much more to make, bottle and label than its cousins selling at R450. I know Spier does great community work in the vicinity of the home farm, but I think Frans should be asked to choose a charity of his choice which will benefit from sales of this beautiful blend.


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Snug cottages, superb wines, soaring surroundings – that’s Saronsbergb2ap3_thumbnail_Dewaldt---Saronsberg-1.jpg

It has been too long since I last visited Tulbagh and my recent sojurn was too short, but better than nothing. After chatting to Flippie Jordaan of Theuniskraal about his indigenous planting programme along the banks of the Klein Berg rivier, we popped into Readers for an early lunch – but, alas, hit on the one day that Carol Collins isn’t open. But she was there doing admin – and ever hospitable, offered to rustle up salads and more. We declined this kind gesture and bought the makings of a picnic, before heading to Saronsberg for an appointment with cellarmaster and farm manager Dewaldt Heyns.

Everywhere in Tulbagh you are surrounded by mountains, but at Saronsberg I felt particularly encompassed by the Winterhoek, Witzenberge and other peaks enfolding the vineyards, the modern cellar and tasting centre, the beautiful statues outside and within. The artwork in that building calls for a lengthy visit with a glass of Saronsberg viognier in hand.

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Having missed the recent vertical tasting of Saronsbergs fine shiraz, held at the Waterfront, my daughter and I were treated to a solo presentation by Dewaldt of these and other Saronsberg fine vintages, as the sun slipped lower behind the peaks and an almost tangible peace descended on the farm.

Later we drove past paddocks to our well-equipped cottage with two en-suite bedrooms, every kitchen appliance one could think of, and decided to stay inside for sundowners and supper as the temperature dropped dramatically. After a snug night we were reluctant to pack and leave the next morning, but its easy to recommend this little horseshoe of self-catering cottages for anyone looking for a home base while exploring the Land van Waveren. And Church Street is as beautiful as ever.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_GB-Pieter-in-cellar.JPGPerfect autumn weather saw the Graham Beck cellar outside Robertson gear up for a few hectic days of celebration, as media and trade were invited to share in a toast to 25 years of quality sparkling wine production.

The timeline was presented in a press release, showing just how Madeba farm developed from the time the late Graham Beck bought it, through plantings of chardonnay and pinot, building of one cellar, then two more, and how cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira moved from 1994 and the maiden vintages to the day the first exports left for Europe. As production expanded rapidly, 2004 saw a major replanting programme start, and fast forwarding to 2009 when Michelle Obama chose Graham Beck bubbly for her husband’s inauguration celebrations. From then on royalty and prominent celebrities in both the USA and Britain turned to this renowned label when looking for sparkling wine that would complement special occasions. Last year the Blancs de blanc ’09 won the IWSC trophy as best sparkling wine in the world, a fitting prelude to this year’s silver jubilee celebration while it’s the 09 rosé that is among my favourite sparkles, a flute-fill to celebrate with any time, any place.

At the cellar, after a fascinating presentation by Pieter and Pierre, his likely successor in the cellar, guests enjoyed a vertical tasting of bubblies ranging right back to the 90’s before savouring a menu created by Margot Janse that was as inspired as any of the bubblies with which it was paired.

A GB magnum specially bottled for the silver Jubilee made an outstanding souvenir to carry home with care. Gauteng – I hear its your turn in a couple of month’s time!


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