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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rhino-Tears-ShirCabPino2.JPG

Every project established to raise funds toward the war against rhino poaching is welcome. When one comes with impressive credentials that can be checked, it’s a lot easier to support, especially when you get a pair of enjoyable wines in return.

Mount Vernon is a Klapmuts wine estate, in existence for less than 20 years, about which I knew little. Thanks to a recent press release updating us on Rhino Tears, I know now more, having visited their website.

Last year their MD John Hooper spent a few days in the bushveld with namesake John Turner, chairman of the SANParks Honorary Rangers Conservation Services Unit and a Hoedspruit restaurateur . This meeting resulted in Mount Vernon making a red and white wine with a cause which was in store before Christmas last year. Rhino Tears chenin blanc and red blend both sport similar labels, the back labels clearly spelling out that proceeds from sales go to anti-poaching projects in SANParks in co-operation with the Unite against Poaching initiative and the honorary rangers.

Both wines retail at R55 and R15 from every bottle goes directly to Unite Against Poaching (see www.uniteagainstpoaching.co.za. Earlier this month nearly 9 000 bottles had sold, raising more than R100 000 and this figure will surely go on rising, as most major supermarkets, (with the exception of Shoprite/Checkers) stock the pair as do independent wine shops.

Both wines are easy-drinking non-vintage quaffers, designed to appeal to a large number of consumers. The chenin is at 12% alcohol levels, gently fruity with plenty of crisp acidity. The cab/shiraz/pinotage blend is fairly lightweight, plenty of upfront fruit offering an enjoyable balance of cab and shiraz with pinotage playing a lesser role.

Great idea from the Hooper family – I presume Debbie Hooper made the wine, she is listed as the estate winemaker – that deserves our support. Raise a glass or two in a toast to the volunteers who give of their time and skills to support conservation in our national parks. See www.sanparksvolunteers.org for more info.

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NEW VINTAGES FROM PETER FINLAYSON

It’s always a pleasure to contemplate new releases from Bouchard-Finlayson, whether white or red. In the past Peter has sometimes been a little dismissivb2ap3_thumbnail_Bouchard-Finlayson-unw-chard.JPGe about his Blanc de Mer whereas I have nearly always applauded it as a blend of consistent quality and enjoyment.

The 2014 vintage, recently released, is, quite simply, the best and most delicious ever sampled. Then I read the press release and see that Peter has changed from a sauvignon/semillon combo to one that is nearly 70% Riesling, melded with 24% viognier, finished with splashes of chardonnay and chenin blanc. This accounts for the fragrant nose, luscious fruitiness and subtle structure. The predictable Bouchard-Finlayson fresh elegance is also very much in evidence. A beautiful buy at R85.

I have long been a fan of unwooded chardonnay, often preferring them to their well-wooded heavy cousins. Among my favourites is Bouchard Finlayson Sans Barrique. The 2014 vintage is sourced from the Elands Kloof valley behind Villiersdorp – where Rupert and others are also growing chardonnay. This vintage is particularly flinty, with wafts of green apple reflecting the orchards in front of the vines. Elegant, frisky and patrician, it will complement scallops and lobster with distinction.

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WINSOME WHITES FOR LATE SUMMER SIPPING

Since the start of the year , many white wines have come my way. Nearly all of them were quaffable, some were boring, a few were wildly acidic and several were pleasant, if forgettable. Then there were a few that were good to the point you didn’t want to finish them…

SPRINGFIELD ESTATE MISS LUCY 2014

This maiden white blend in its attractive, tissue-wrapped screwcapped bottle with its fishy label instantly transported me down the long drive to the Springfield cellars and lakeside tasting room just outside Robertson.

Twelve years in the making before Miss Lucy was ready to be presented to the world, the blend was produced from grapes especially planted for this purpose. Over the following decade several vineyards were uprooted and replaced before the maiden harvest. Four years of ageing and blending in the cellar followed before results were considered to be the perfect partner to a beautiful just-braaied red Stumpnose, both to be savoured preferably at the seaside.

For Miss Lucy is one of seven nicknames given to the delicious, and now, sadly endangered species that fishermen love to catch along the Cape southern coast. For Abrie Bruwer and his family, summer holidays were always beach holidays, where daily fishing produced the supper braai . The memories that those weeks engendered are dear to the Bruwers, and this’ summer in a bottle’, as Abrie calls it, was created as an ode to the bounty of our ocean. The farm’s renowned sauvignon blanc grapes (46%) are blended with 35% semillon and 19% pinot gris into a dry, crisp wine with discernible structure, offering a racy mouthfeel . The explosion of grapefruit that follows fills the palate with citrus zing. Any grilled or fried white fish would be hugely enhanced by this companion. Best enjoyed on board or at the beach, but make sure you have a few bottles to pair with your seafood over Easter. R90 from farm.

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