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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


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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