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News

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The popular Fat Bastard range of wines, produced by Robertson Winery, has expanded with two new releases, both 2017 vintages. The Pinot Noir Rosé , which has a low alcohol level of just 9,5%, sports a new label featuring the famous hippo, icon of the range. Selling at around R80, this is a dry rosé but offers plenty of berry flavours, along with watermelon and strawberry on the nose. A wine for any summery day and a good companion to picnic fare.

Their new red blend, called The Golden Reserve, is a cab/merlot blend, easy-drinking with smooth tannins and ripe flavours that will accompany any red meat with ease. Medium alcohol levels of 13,5%   and prominent berry and plum flavours to tickle the palate. Expect to pay around R115.

The Fat Bastard range is one starring well- rounded food-friendly wines that has its origins in the UK where they were made by Thierry and Guy. Having moved south it has become one of Robertson Winery’s many popular brands with eight wines from which to choose. The marketing slogan – ‘living large’ – slots in with the image of Mr b, the hippo who appears on every label.

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Old vineyard in Darling

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It’s a reality. The Old Vine Project - which has seen a few dedicated and enthusiastic people beavering away for close to two decades - has spawned a certified seal to be used on bottles of wine made from vines at least 35 years old. They offer consumers a guarantee of authenticity alongside the date the vineyard was planted.

Not only is this visible progress in this hugely appealing project, but it is, according to the OVP team, a world first, as only in South Africa can such claims of venerability be officially approved.

Last month the first wines bearing this seal were showcased at Stellenbosch to trade and media. It was also time to offer congratulations to Rosa Kruger, who is largely responsible for the project’s founding and existence. Andre Morgenthal came on board soon after and sponsorship from Johann Rupert funded initial exploration . The team today also includes Christina Harvett while Johannes van Niekerk, Eben van Wyk and John Lofty-Eaton are directors.

 

Andre and Christina

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Rewind, now to earlier in the new century when a dream involving conservation and heritage, lent practicality with financial benefits, was given expression at Franschhoek, where wine media listened as this project was detailed.

Back in 2002 Rosa Kruger, self-taught viticulturist with a mission, accepted a post at L’Ormarins, historic home of Rupert Wines and soon embarked on a project close to her heart. Having long marvelled at the intensity and fine structure of wines made from venerable vines in Europe, she set out to unearth old vineyards with potential on remote Cape farms. Letters were sent to wine grape farmers to find out who had vines older than 40 years. Her subsequent odyssey took her from the West Coast to the Little Karoo, from Robertson valley to the Helderberg, from Swartland to Stellenbosch.

 Sometmes Eben Sadie accompanied her, as trips yielded a trove of gnarledvinesfrom Lutzville in the west to Calitzdorp in the east. Photographs of rugged farmers,perching with their dogs, among equally rugged bush vines surviving among rooibos bushes and grazing sheep came to typify, for me, the success of ventures in areas seldom visited.

Chenin blanc was most common varietal found, along with cinsaut, palomino, hanepoot, muscat, pinotage and semillon and a few less common cultivars, all ranging from 40 to around 100 years old.

Those worthy of restoration were singled out and their owners advised on treatment. Partnerships with the farmers were formed and the vines nurtured back to fruitful life.

The maiden wines produced from subsequent vintages included a pinotage from a 40-year- old vineyard in the Paardeberg, and a semillon and a chenin from the Skurfberg, both from vines older than half a century. They were founder members of the Cape of Good Hope range and  proved Rosa’s point as these seductive , well balanced wines presented impressive expressions of terroir.

 

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The project grew as adventurous winemakers sought out old restored vines and farmers received double or triple the amount for their harvest than before.

In 2009 Eben Sadie began releasing limited volumes of his brilliant Old Vine series, illustrating the potential of several  aged varietals  in a swathe of regions, which helped put the OVP on the global wine map.

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In 2016 a logo was added to the title enabling Andre Morgenthal to produce a suitable letterhead. More than 10 vineyards that are more than a century old have been listed which is, in itself, worth celebrating.

Meanwhile another aspect – the importance of good care for worthwhile younger vineyards so they will continue to a productive old age – is also being addressed.  UCT, University of Stellenbosch and Winetech are involved in relevant research. Thanks to  Felco, who manufacture pruning shears, vineyard workers entrusted to tending these venerable vines are undergoing specialised pruning courses.

 

The Old Vine Project already has more than 30 members, and while I was writing this summary, Attie Louw of Opstal in the Slanghoek valley added his estate.

It’s a story with, happily, no end in sight and it’s a tale that well illustrates the magic of wine, the mystery that lures men and and women to this ancient craft – no matter how the industry is struggling, what droughts prevail, how markets stagnate and governments remain disinterested.

In a future blog I will review a few of these certified wines from OVP members,. We will also  find some of  them at the OVP stand at Cape Wine 2018 later this year.

OVP team with Rosa Kruger, left

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For more information contact Andre Morgenthal who also undertakes Old Vines Heritage Tours. Send an email to andre@oldvineproject.co.za and see www.oldvineproject.co.za.

 

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Add steam train magic to the Wacky Wine Weekend for a really memorable experience! Trains are romantic, comfortable, and arguably the best way to enjoy this, the 15th WWW, taking place across the Robertson Wine Valley from May 31 – June 03.

Join adventurous winelovers who are taking the train from Gauteng to make this event a holiday - or jump aboard a carriage of the Ceres Rail Company in Cape Town to join the festival in Robertson.

Here’s what Kapenaars can expect when they settle into their carriage at Unity station in the Cape Town harbour . Plentiful refreshments ( alcoholic and non-alcoholic, hot and cold) are on sale during the journey to Wellington, then Worcester, with the first WWW stop at Rooiberg winery. There the team will welcome you to the Wacky gateway, with tastings of their wide choice of quality wines, lunch in their cosy restaurant and goodies in their farm stall. Climb onto their iconic Red chair, take a selfie, post it and be in with a chance to win a box of Red Chair wine. There are also hefty discounts available for those purchasing wine for R1000 or more. For more info, call 023 626 1663 or email info@robertsonwinery.co.za

Back on the train, you will chug along to Robertson Winery for the next halt then alight at Robertson station for your festival weekend. The trip takes around 9 and half hours, costs R500pp, R250 for children under 13 and free of charge for toddlers under two.

Other options include a trip that starts at Robertson station on the Saturday heads to Worcester, then arrives at Rooiberg late morning for a one-hour visit. Robertson Winery is the next stop, followed by Zandvliet, after which the trains returns to Robertson station.

There is also a return trip option from Robertson to Cape Town on the Sunday, where passengers can enjoy a two-hour stop at Rooiberg for breakfast, tastings and browsing before reaching Cape Town around 18h30. For more info, call 079 077 5332 during business hours.

Whether you arrive in the valley by train, bus or car, the number of festival attractions, events and choice of destinations is almost overwhelming. More than 35 wineries and tourism establishments in Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson combine forces to ensure visitors find their favourite wine, food, accommodation and leisure activities. Cellar tours, barrel tastings and pairings await wine enthusiasts while culinary options include dinner among the vines, farm breakfasts, bountiful braais, heritage fare and tastings of olives and olive oils, bubbly and oysters, chocolate and more...

 

Trips down the Breede river, family motorbike races, hiking and biking are all on the menu, as are tractor rides, 4X4 safaris and tours to the recently discovered Muscat caves. And there’s more, much more, while transport choices include booking a taxi, using the shuttles, or appointing designated drivers.

 

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The WWW festival tickets cost R200 which includes glass, 6 wine tasting coupons and a bottle of mineral water. Book through Webtickets. For more info, call the Robertson Wine Tourism office on 023 626 3167. Or send an email to events@robertsonwinevalley.com

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You can only get it from the Perdeberg cellar, and it will be a journey well-rewarded.

 

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Once again I am astounded at the ability of this giant cellar to continue to produce, year after year, chenins of impressive quality - alongside an extraordinary lineup that ranges from chenins easy-drinking and distinguished, sparkling, dessert and in blends to some prized reds in their dryland collection. And the list goes on and on. The cellar takes in some 18 000 tons annually, which would daunt most cellarmasters but this operation, now marking its 77th anniversary, seems to thrive on coping with such quantities.

Now, they have launched a maiden vintage of another dryland chenin: It’s name, Endura refers to the source, a single vineyard, for its ability to continue bearing small, flavourful grapes year after year. And the wine is a fine reflection of its provenance which is a mature vineyard sited at the peak of the Paardeberg , that fascinating lone mountain and home to terroir that yields wines of distinction on all of its slopes.

The nose offers a good promise of what’s to come, presenting both stone fruit and citrus aromas. These flavours are there on the palate, too, in a rich, full-bodied wine that is nicely balanced with both freshness and a good core of minerality. Alcohol levels are held at just under 14%. It’s delicious both on its own and with autumn favourites like poultry dishes with peaches or citrus, mild curries, butternut-filled ravioli with brown butter, rich risottos, North African tagines and some South-East Asian dishes. So, its versatile as well as offering value for money at R200. If you haven’t been to the cellar for a while, you will find several new facilities and attractions that were completed last year.

 

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The arrival of a new vintage of Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer  is always a pleasure to contemplate. This hugely popular white blend, an annual delight is fairly unique in that it is Riesling-led and usually contains five other white cultivars. As in previous vintages  Riesling predominates with 60% in the 2017, the remaining mélange being 20% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, finished with 2% Semillon.

The bouquet is delicate and flowery, but on the palate there’s both a firm foundation thanks to the personality of Riesling, along with a mix of stone and autumn fruits. A creaminess adds another delicious aspect to this crisp fresh well balanced combo that makes both a charming aperitif as well as a joyful companion to seafood and late summer salads.

All grapes are sourced from the cool South Coast region, where Bouchard Finlayson is beautifully sited in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley . Alcohol levels of 13% are moderate sand the 2017 is fine proof of  consistent quality .

Peter Finlayson has been producing this popular Cape white for many years, and Chris Albrecht has been working alongside him for the last seven years. Now Chris has been appointed winemaker, heading production since the 2017 harvest. Prior to joining Bouchard Finlayson Albrecht gained experience in cellars in New Zealand, France, and back in South Africa spent our years making the wine at Topiary in Franschhoek. The Blanc de Mer is in safe and talented hands.

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