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News

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The weather was perfect, a calm early summer day. The road to Goudmyn farm was lined with flowering trees and shrubs, the vines still clothed in that early glorious lettuce-green, here and there deepening to grassy shades of the mature leaves. The placid waters of the Breede river could be glimpsed between the trees fringing the water.

Robertson Wine Valley had – as usual – secured perfect weather for their three-day Wine on the River festival, one of the Western Cape’s most popular celebrations, and with good reason.

This year the organisers added Connoisseurs' Tickets to the choice, an option that gave visitors access to a comfy lounge area and to the Wine Theatre where a programme of tastings and food and wine pairings were among the items on the programme.

First up on Friday morning was the Riedel Tasting, and as I settled onto the tall stool in front of an array of crystal glasses I reflected that this was, indeed, the first time I had attended a glass rather than a wine tasting!

Visitors trickled in along with some media who had just enjoyed a boat ride on the river. Our presenter was polished, professional but quite relaxed and informal. She shed her shoes as she had to stand on a pallet board on the grassy floor of the marquee as she demonstrated the differences between the glasses and poured wine into both her and our glasses.

The Riedel family are Austrians who  have been producing the famous glassware since 1756. The 11th generation is now at the helm although it was only in the late 1950’s that Claus J. Riedel introduced and developed wine-friendly stemware. Today the family is recognised worldwide for making the highest quality glasses and decanters for wine and spirits, also claiming to offer ranges for every lifestyle and price range, for fine dinners and for picnics.

We tasted half a dozen wines from the Robertson valley. After learning about how the rim, bowl and shape influence the wine’s aromas, textures and tastes we started with Graham Beck's Blanc de Blancs 2015,  by trying it from the traditional flute and from the more contemporary champagne wine glass that is now recommended in its place. Yes, I could find more flavour when sipping from the latter, but it was the next sample that did much to destroy my built-in scepticism: We sniffed and sipped Robertson Winery’s Constitution Road wooded chardonnay, a classy and delicious  wine packed with characteristic flavours and creaminess. Nice enough in a riesling glass but in the chardonnay glass with its rounded bowl textures and flavours seem to treble.

We went to on compare a pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz in the “wrong’ and “correct" glasses and by the end of the session there was an audience convinced even if they would not necessarily shell out the substantial amount required to take home a set of this grape-specific glassware. There are several more affordable options, including packs with stemless Riedel glasses for picnics and casual al fresco dining. See also www.riedel.com.

This was an enjoyable session and fine start to Wine on the River 2019.

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Every so often Krone releases another special MCC, offering one or two unique features. This time it’s “a single-vineyard terroir-specific vintage cuvee” called Krone Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blanc 2016. I don’t know if it’s the first time that this renowned Tulbagh cellar uses grapes from another region for their bubbly, but the chardonnay from the high Kaaimansgat vineyards in the secluded Elandskloof ward above Villiersdorp seem to be the first choice of several prominent cellars in other regions.

Viticulturist Rosa Kruger confirms the outstanding quality of these grapes, adding that Krone accessed small crops of chardonnay from 31-year-old vines over three years for this MCC. Although 2016 was a year generally affected by heat and drought in the Cape winelands, Kaaimansgat escaped damage thanks to its high altitude.

The wine was produced in small batches, starting with whole-bunch pressing . Natural wild yeasts fermented the juice in large upright wooden vats. Bottle fermentation followed and the the wine was aged for three years on the lees in the underground cellar at the historic farm.

The handsome dark bottle with its embossed crown on the glass offers some info on the label, including low alcohol levels of 11% and the suggestion that this is a sparkler that is worth cellaring.

There is citrus on the nose which gives way to pure crisp flint on the palate, complemented by apply flavours. The producers predict that the characteristic biscuit notes will develop in time. Meanwhile a range of fine fare is suggested as good partners for this aristocratic Cap Classique, including, surprisingly, T-bone steak with foraged mushrooms. Shellfish, trout, cheese soufflé, roasted cauliflower and pears poached in sparkling wine, accompanied by clotted cream, are also recommended for pairing.

Given input costs and time in the cellar, one is not surprised at the R500 pricetag. Collectors will probably be happy to spend R3 000 for a case of patrician classic bubbles that will just go on and on getting even better...

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Hard to believe that it was as recently as 2006 that Hermanuspietersfontein Wynkelder produced their first vintage! Those maiden wines enjoyed fine reviews in the 2007 edition of Platter, where the two sauvignon blancs, and Die Arnoldus and Die Martha were all rated 4 stars. Winemaker Bartho Eksteen had already put his maverick touch on those bottles, as one of the first, if not the first, to use only Afrikaans on his labels, a decision that still holds good 12 years on.

 

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Today HPF winery is still owned by the Pretorius family with Gerrie Heyneke and the talented winemaker is Wilhelm Pienaar . The quirky names continue to pique the interest of potential customers while the range is well established, with appealing whites and complex reds that exhibit styles reminiscent of the Old World with many a nod to the New.

The cellar team decided to keep the original name for Hermanus as its title, although its better known today as HPF. Most of its berries are sourced from the Sunday’s Glen ward in the Walker Bay region. In the 6-bottle case the winery sent me to sample, there were two whites, a rosé and four reds, and that’s the order in which I tried them.

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Kaalvoet Meisie 2017 - described on their website as a sauvignon blanc that epitomises “...the soul of Sondagskloof”” -  is a moreish, and sophisticated sauvignon despite its name. The addition of Semillon helps soften acidity while  nouvelle adds crisp green apply freshness.  There is a hint of maritime flint, citrus and fynbos both on the nose and palate. Moderate alcohol levels adds to this enjoyable aperitif, which also makes a fine partner to seafood and summer salads. Sells for R110.

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Why a cat with a wooden leg? No idea, but this Kat met die Houtbeen wooded sauvignon blanc 2016 vintage is a fine example of the genre, which is slowly creeping back into popularity. Semillon adds waxy complexity to an already characterful wine which presents fynbos and fig on the nose. On the palate herbiness and fynbos are layered in the structure from time in first, second and third-fill oak. A wine to mull over, to pair with ocean bounty and to keep for another year or two. Could partner a gourmet paella for festive occasions with panache.

Priced at R150.

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HPF Bloos 2019 is a rosé with class. All five Bordeaux red varietals feature in this appealing salmon- hued wine, that invites sniffing with its strawberries and cream aromas . But it is both dry and more complex than many of its cousins, having spent time with French oak “alternatives”. Fresh as a daisy, it sings of summer, with 12,5% alcohol levels,and versatile enough to make a mate for fare from picnics to wedding feasts. One of the nicest pinks I have tried recently. Costs R100.

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HPF Kleinboet 2016 is comprised of the same five classic Bordeaux reds – being cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, - but probably cabernet- led. Litte brother, perhaps to the flagship Arnoldus, but nothing junior about this fine blend with its complex nose of berry, olive, and whiffs of fynbos and I also picked up a little smokiness. Well balanced, all five varietals blended and matured together in French oak for two years before being bottled and bottled-aged for another year before being released. Alcohol levels of 14%, it offers excellent ageing potential. Worth investing in at R185.

 

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Swartskaap cabernet franc 2016 is both elegant and full-bodied reflecting something of an Old World style, with some restraint discernible and where flint and fynbos dominate rather than fruit. , After malolactic fermentation the wine matured in new and second-fill French oak for 18 months and spent a further year in bottle before release. Sells for R305.

 

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The renowned HPF flagship Arnoldus 2015 is a five-way Bordeaux blend from one of the most outstanding vintages of this century. Impressive in every aspect, from its nose of fruit and that characteristic olive and fynbos to the palate where tannin, some spice and berry flavours are so well balanced, integrated into an intense mouthful with a long finish. A wine to pair with good red meat that has enjoyed gourmet nurturing. It costs R420.

For further info visit www.hpf855.co.za

 
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When the second vintage of a new wine is even better than the first – and the first was memorable – then you know you have found a label to love. When the winery does not raise the price to unaffordable levels just because it’s attracting awards, the said label becomes even more attractive.

So it was with the release of the 2018 vintage of Tanagra Colombard, which I sampled at the 10 year anniversary celebration of this beautiful boutique wine cellar, distillery and guest farm, a few kilometres from the village of McGregor.

Colombard (or Colombar) is not a noble cultivar., but a modest varietal occupying just more than 1,9% of South Africa’s vineyard area. It is used largely as a major component of base wine for our illustrious brandy production. And, has now proven to the wine world that it can yield grapes that – having been nurtured in the vineyard and enjoyed careful and talented attention in the cella -, it can produce a fine wine of quality.

The maiden vintage, 2017 presented us a golden-hued wine that, along with being delicious , enjoyed the element of surprise. Would its successor maintain the quality?   It did, in every aspect, adding something of a polished character as if to say – I’m here and ready to stay! The grapes come from a single vineyard on the farm, 22 years old, yielding enough berries to produce 2 300 bottles. The early-morning harvest was gently crushed, and natural or wild yeasts used to ferment the juice .

The wine spent a month in third-fill oak barrels before bottling Alcohol levels are held at a modest 13%. The wine offers flavours of sub-tropical and stone fruit on the palate, including a hint of the characteristic guava. Medium-bodied with some flint, it is fresh without being acidic and a hint of cream adds to well -rounded happiness

A charming aperitif for spring days and summer nights that comes into its own as a companionable partner for many an al fresco dish, including tomato-based fare which is usually difficult to pair well. Robert and Anette Rosenbach have received reports from far and wide on how well their Colombard adds enjoyment to both luncheon and supper menus, while it’s equally happy to partner local cheese.

It sells for R100 and details of stockists and deliveries can be found on their website www.tanagra-wines.com. Visitors to the Robertson Wine on the River festival in mid-October will be able to taste it at the Tanagra stand.

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Heritage month makes a great excuse, should we need one, to focus on our Cape history – its viticulture, architecture and cuisine, among other aspects. So when a trio of Lanzerac wines arrived that all embody this colourful heritage, the subject of this September blog required no further debate.

A few years back cellarmaster Wynand Lategan added the maiden vintages of a new range to the Lanzerac wine portfolio. Headed the Keldermeester Versameling he focussed on fine harvests of uncommon cultivars, bottled them in heavy glass bottles closed with wax and added a minimalistic white label. The back label offers some info, and only Afrikaans is used.

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There are two whites in this range, both of which are worth sampling when next you visit the tasting centre. There’s very little pinot blanc in South Africa, but Lanzerac boasts a single, low-yield vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley which Lategan used to make Christina in 2001, a rare example of this varietal, launched to coincide with the arrival of the new millennium and given the thumbs up by Tim James in the 2002 edition of Platter’s wines. Fast forward to 2017 when the first vintages of the Keldermeester Versameling were released, one of which is a limited edition, named Bergpad, a wooded pinot blanc which I enjoyed enormously. Golden in hue, it makes quite a bold statement, (I received the 2016), full bodied, old oak melding with flavours of pineapple and semi-tropical fruit, freshness thanks to muted acidity.  The wine is  a fine example of well-balanced handling, just different enough to offer a nice altlernative to the usual whites. It is a fine tribute to the famous mountain path that stretches from Coetzenberg sports ground to Lanzerac, that has seen generations of Stellenbosch students tramp their way to the famous bar on the farm.

Bergpad was joined by Bergstroom last year, a 2017 vintage blend of homegrown sauvignon blanc and semillon from Elgin. Fermentation took place in old French oak, using mostly natural yeast, and six months of maturation preceded blending and bottling. It is a charming example of a classic blend, offer ing green fruity flavours of kiwi and gooseberry, a long delicious mouthfeel that lacks the acidity that often dominates sauvignon blanc. Alcohol levels of 14% are not obvious, and this makes both a moreish aperitif and fine partner for local salmon trout with beurre blanc. Bergstroom also pays pleasing tribute to mountain streams, both those of Stellenbosch and of many a small South African dorp, offering irrigation lifelines to people, livestock and crops.

Both these delightful whites, limited editions and numbered, are available only from Lanzerac, priced at a reasonable R200.

No vinous discussion about heritage could exclude our one true indigenous grape – pinotage is not only enjoying global acclaim at present, but Lanzerac estate is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Lanzerac pinotage which was produced by then owners,  SFW co-operative, under the Lanzerac label. Created by Stellenbosch universty’s Professor Abraham Perold who cross-pollinated pinot noir and cinsaut to produce just four seeds in 1925, the new cultivar, pinotage flourished and was first used in blending with other dry reds.

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Today cellarmaster Lategan continues to specialise in pinotage, offering winelovers and connoisseurs an easy-drinking rosé, a full-bodied classic pinotage from the premium range and the flagship Pionier Pinotage, a single vineyard champion .

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Iconic wine from an iconic Cape estate: Having been fully restored after a major fire two years ago, Lanzerac is back on the winelands map, as beautiful and elegant as ever. More than three centuries of history can be experienced in the special ambience found in some sections where old walls and woodwork retain the patina of many an ancestral presence. Beauty abounds in a magnificent setting, as the estate wears its three centuries with effortless grace.

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