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News

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It’s been a while since I was last at Dornier Wines, that imposing estate sprawling across the foothills of the Stellenbosch mountain. Encompassing four farms with  diverse terroir, access is gained via a road off the R44.

Visitors are likely to comment on the contrasting architecture which spans three centuries: the 18th century barn which houses the popular Bodega restaurant, the late 19th century Sir Herbert Baker homestead, now a function venue and guest house and the striking winery: the ultra-modern brick cellar with its sinuous roofline was designed by artist Christoph Dornier.

The restaurant is closed at present, re-opening on October 31. First-time diners should look out for a small model, vintage photograph and map, unobtrusively displayed against one wall. They illustrate a fascinating story of MD Raphael Dornier’s grandfather’s achievements a century ago. Claude Dornier was renowned as the pioneer who replaced wood and paper with metal in the design and construction of early planes (and seaplanes in particular) at the start of the 20th century. The photograph shows his plane, dubbed The Switzerland, arriving in Cape town, marking the first such flight from Zurich to this country. This three-month odyssey ended early in 1927.

Philip van Staden became the estate winemaker in 2015, and heads a cellar that makes the Donatus and Dornier ranges and easy-drinking Cocoa Hill wines.

The six that I was invited to review consisted of the Donatus Red and White which comprise the range of that name, along with four Dornier labels.

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Given my penchant for fine chenins and chenin-based blends, it was unsurprising that my favourite was the 2017 Donatus White (R233) an elegant and delicious blend of 80% chenin, the remaining 20% being home-grown semillon. The chenin grapes were sourced from old bushvine vineyards in Stellenbosch. This rich, full-bodied blend presents stone fruit and floral aromas on the nose, follows with a complex palate where crispness pervades - but does not overpower - flavours of fruit, honey and a little citrus, backed by agreeable minerality. The two components were fermented separately in 300 litre French oak barrels, and spent 10 months in barrel on the lees.

Delicious as an aperitif to seafood feasts or as a partner for shellfish and rich and meaty fish such as tuna. Asian curries could also benefit from this blend, as could northern Indian and Persian vegetarian combos.

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The flagship partner wine, Donatus Red 2016, (R349) is as elegant as its white counterpart, a Bordeaux-style blend of home-grown components: Led by 60% cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot comes in at 20% with malbec at 13% and cabernet franc bringing up the rear. Open- top fermenters were used tostart fermentaton, after which malolactic fermentation took place in oak. A further 18 months saw maturation in barrel, before blending took place.

Berry,  black cherry and cassis flavours combine on the palate in pleasing purity, lent character from smooth tannins, the whole presenting a well-balanced blend that should age well. Alcohol levels are substantial at 14,5%. It already complements all manner of red meat in fine style and will enhance vegetarian dishes like mushroom or root vegetable casseroles.

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From the Dornier range, the Semillon 2018 (R196)  revealed a limited release, golden in hue that offered wafts of apple and honey when uncorked. Produced from grapes on the estate,subtle flavours of buttered brioche meld with citrus in an elegant, almost restrained manner that brings to mind Old World style. There’s no hint of waxiness, but the wine is fresh and sprightly with moderate alcohol levels. As a companionable varietal, semillon has few competitors and can accompany a wide spectrum of vegetarian, fish and white meat fare with panache.

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On to the Dornier reds, housed in elegant dark bottles finished with silver tops, starting with Equanimity Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. This appealingly named cab will find followers among most red wine fans. A well-made classic priced at R176, it presents an opulence that showcases characteristic spice and fruit: cassis and licorice yield to berry and subtle mint flavours, hints of vanilla are balanced by elegant tannins. Substantial alcohol levels do not detract from a cab that is already enticing and will go on developing for some years. A great choice when savouring red meat of every kind.

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The Dornier Siren Syrah 2016 (R176) offers a description of the said siren, pictured on the back label, who lured the artist with aromas of “wild herbs, ripe fruits and violets.” All these can be detected in this shiraz made in contemporary style, that spent 15 months in French oak, none of it new, so that fruit would not be overshadowed by wood. Like the cab, should be enjoyed by a broad swathe of shiraz fans paired with venison, lamb or beef.

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The Dornier Merlot 2017 was produced from vineyards on the estate, and berries were picked at optimal ripeness, They were fermented in open stainless steel tanks, followed by 12 months maturation in French oak. This is a juicy, delicious merlot with soft tannins, adding up to well balanced, well-made quality that offers pleasing versatility. A good buy at R159.

For more information, visit www.dornier.co.za. It’s an efficient, user-friendly site that well reflects the entire operation.

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Delheim recently released new vintages of two of the estate’s three pinotages, being the 2017 pinotage and 2019 pinotage rosé. Both these are venerable classics, as the farm was among the first in the Cape to produce pinotage during the 1960’s and the first to present a rosé in 1976.

Today they are both well-established classics, the pinotage being medium-bodied, with red fruit on the nose, followed by more on the palate, backed by a little wood from time in French oak. The rosé is a light-hearted wine, with low alcohol levels, its salmon hues offering the promise of fresh and floral notes, ideal sipping on a sunny day. The previous vintage contained a soupcon of muscat, and perhaps this one does too, the label does not say. The rosé labels lists the wine as vegan-friendly as well.

Both wines are undemanding, but , like all Delheim wines, made with care. Their recommended retail prices hover in the region of R80 for the pink and R150 for the red. For more info, visit www.delheim.com.

If you would like to try  a quick Thai soup that will, says Delheim, be enhanced by pairing with the pinotage rose, here's the recipe:

Thai Coconut Milk Noodle Soup (khao soi)

Khao Soi is from Northern Thailand - a noodle soup with an amazing combination of flavours and texture. This soup only takes 15 minutes to make and best of all – it pairs so well with the Delheim Pinotage Rosé.

200g Roka Pad Thai Noodles

2 T coconut oil or olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

A thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 red pepper, cored and diced

1-3 T Thai red curry paste

1 can coconut milk

500ml chicken stock

1 t turmeric

4 T Thai soy sauce

3 T brown sugar

300g chicken fillets, grilled and cubed

Fresh coriander or basil leaves

Bean sprouts

Lime or lemon juice to taste

Prepare noodles by following the instructions on the packet.

In a medium pot, heat oil,. add the onion, red pepper, garlic, ginger, red Thai curry paste and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk bring to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes then taste for flavour and tenderness.

Add the noodles and finish with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and squeeze over lime or lemon juice and serve hot.

 

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The press release for the latest vintage of this perennially popular white blend is particularly well written, making it difficult to improve on, so i am going to quote the final sentence as is:: “fresh and vibrant with a convincing strength and quality finish.”

The 2018 vintage of this four-star blend offers its usual admirable consistency - both in quality, and its main component which has been riesling for several years.This enables Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer to  differ from  its unwooded white blend competitors. The riesling – 65% here – sets the foundation for a  wine both patrician and characterful, while the viognier and chardonnay, (sharing similar proportions), add floral elements and a medley of fruit to a fragrant nose and flavorful palate. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping, and its priced at R110.

Looking at back issues of Platter, it's interesting to see how cultivars have varied over the last 18 years: Blanc de Mer greeted the new century as an unwooded blend of kerner with gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay...

In  2003 gewurztraminer partnered the riesling, two years later  sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and chard were the chosen companions while by 2006 viognier rather than riesling led the combo.  In 2007 chenin made an appearance but, since then, whatever the variations, quality climbed even as the wine was geared to being a crowd pleaser.

Unsurprisingly a large number of regulars regard Blanc de Mer as an essential companion to seafood whether grilled, fried, baked or raw. I don’t think its fanciful to find whiffs of maritime aromas that emphasise its affinity with the waters of Walker Bay. A summer wine, yes certainly, but with this appealing balance of freshness and depth, it’s also the right choice to celebrate wonderful sunny winter days found in every province of our country.

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A dark heavy bottle, made unique with its imprint of a bird perched on a tobacco pipe next to a flowerhead, the design is repeated on the minimalist white label which informs that it's Nebukadnesar 2017 and this is no. 12 285 of 21 940!. Not a limited edition then!

Babylonstoren often does things differently, and always beautifully, honouring both the farm’s  330- year old history, its venerable buildings and spectacular setting. As its name suggests this is a place of amazing gardens, now 12 years old with more than 300 varieties of culinary and medicinal plants,, offering a garden tour to delight and amaze.

The extensive vineyards which stretch from 170 metres above sea level to 600 metres – incorporating poor sand, deep shale and rich loam - have yielded pampered berries, allowing the range of wines flowing from the cellars  to increase.. This vintage of the flagship blend has attracted more awards than any previously, particularly from the National Wine Challenge: it brought home Double Platinum, Grand Cru for best in category, and was also crowned Best Wine from among the 600 entries.

Components of this blend (49% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot and 5% malbec), were separately pressed and matured for 23 months in new French oak . The new blend was left in tank for a month before bottling took place, then given five months maturation before being released.

Its a big, bold, full-bodied wine, impressive already, but deserves to be cellared so that the prominent tannins can soften and meld with the flavours of dried herbs, black berries and tobacco, for maximum enjoyment. The palate will then offer sophisticated integration that should go on improving for up to a decade .

 

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The cellar team at Babylonstoren comprises Charl Coetzee, Klaas Stoffberg and Marina Loubser who are making magic with the wide variety of farm cultivars available, including a highly-rated chenin-based white blend with three additional components that I hope to sample soon.

Those who are happy to pay nearly R500 a bottle or R3 000.00 a case for a fine Cape Bordeaux-style blend, will surely be prepared to cellar their purchase, (or at least most of it), to enable the wine to mature further, to reach its (very considerable) peak in, perhaps, five years time.

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Cultivar association Shiraz SA awarded the winners in this year's Challenge earlier this month at Ashanti wine estate. In alphabetical order the one dozen champions  are:

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Babylonstoren shiraz 2017, Bellingham The Bernard series syrah 2016, Driehoek shiraz 2017 and their 2016 vintage, Flagstone Dark Horse 2015, KWV Cathedral Cellar 2016, Neethlingshof shiraz 2015, Quoin Rock shiraz 2015, Rhebokskloof Black Marble Hill 2016, Kruger Family Reserve 2016 (Stellenview), Strandveld first Sighting 2017 and La Cave 2017 from Wellington Wines.

There were three winning shiraz blends: Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Bismarck 2017, Babylonstoren Babel 2017 and Eikendal Charisma 2017.

 

A total of 207 wines were entered in to the competition, of which 36 were blends. The judging panel comprised of Shiraz SA chair Edmund Terblanche of La Motte, De Grendel cellarmaster Charles Hopkins, Samarie Smith of Benguela Cove, CWM Elsie Pells and wine consultant Jeanne-Marie de Villiers.

While I was sorry to have missed out on tasting these winners, I not only congratulate the victors but also like the Association’s pithy and effective marketing slogan:

‘I say Syrah, you say Shiraz’ – we’ll raise a glass of our stylish winter reds to that!

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Turning to that other wintertime favourite, delicious warming muscadel, the SA Muskadel Awards 2019 were announced last week and I find it unsurprising that the valleys and mountainside regions that surround my home walked off with all but two medals in this year contest, sponsored as before, by Enartis SA.

Attracting three top awards is Badsberg Cellar from the Breedekloof, with a platinum and two golds, for the 2017 red muscadel  with the 2008 and 2009 vintages following just behind. The only other platinum was garnered by Mont Blois wine estate on the Langeberg slopes behind Robertson, for their limited edition Pump house White Muscadel 2016. The Robertson Wine Valley was home to three gold winners, Bon Courage for their red and white muscadels, both 2008 vintage while Montagu Wine & Spirits’s white muscadel made the third.

Cellars from the Breedekloof valley collected five golds: these were Du Toitskloof for red muscadel and henepoot jerepigo 2014, Slanghoek for two red muscadels and their 2017 hanepoot jerepigo. De Wet cellar from the Worcester wine and olive route was awarded gold for their white muscadel 2017. Looking north, Orange River Cellars attracted gold for their white muscadel 2017 and hanepoot 2017.

The wines were tasted blind by the judges who also went on to assess the uniqueness of the packaging for final points.

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Mont Blois and Badsberg were the  only winners of platinum for their muscadels.

 

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