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Many of us know that Bot River is no longer just a quaint part of the Overberg region, alongside Elgin and Walker Bay. It has blossomed into a flourishing district that is producing exciting and impressive wines, attracting young winemakers both innovative and talented.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_gabrielskloof4_20161001-113152_1.jpgPeter-Allan Finlayson has already stamped his name on his highly-rated range of Crystallum wines: Now that he has moved to Gabrielskloof in Bot River – where he is both cellarmaster and married to Nicolene, the co-owner’s daughter – he is making his mark on their wines, while continuing to produce his own .

The farm has just released the first duo of its new Landscape Series, a maiden chenin blanc called Elodie 2015 and a fresh take on an existing  semillon/ sauvignon blanc blend,  Magdalena 2015. The name of the range reflects the rolling hills of the farm’s setting as depicted in a series of landscapes by artist Neil Jonker, who is producing a painting for each label in the range. They form a tranquil if subdued black and white background to the front labels of the two new releases.

Looking at the maiden chenin first, the grapes were sourced from Paardeberg dryland bush vines more than 35 years old, offering very low yields. As we know, these are exactly the vines that are enabling Cape winemakers to produce extraordinarily fine chenin : Finlayson whole-bunch pressed the berries, transferred the juice from tank to old French oak where it was left to ferment wild.

The result is gratifying, golden, bright chenin, with a citrus and floral nose, preceding a host of fruit and nutty flavours and that touch of lanolin that reminds one of semillon. The character is complex and layered, complemented by a brisk and welcome freshness. Alcohol levels are held at 13,6%’ and, for those disciplined enough to tuck away a case or two, they will be rewarded in years to come.

Although this is a patrician chenin, it is not (unlike some of its equally impressive colleagues) too intense or concentrated to drink and enjoy and to pour a second glass. And, while not inexpensive, Gabrielskloof has resisted the temptation to join others that are priced off the market for many South African wine lovers.

The Magdalena, a Bordeaux-style blend of equal quantities of semillon b2ap3_thumbnail_gabriellskloof5_20161001-113118_1.jpgand sauvignon blanc has been produced since 2009. The 2015 vintage was produced from Franschhoek semillon, around 34 years in age and 13-year-old sauvignon from the farm. The wine, made in oxidative style, was matured in French oak and presents a classic meld, that is quite intense but well-balanced. The nose hints of citrus and berry, while on the palate a verdant friskiness dominates. Coming back to the wine after an hour or two, I did ot detect much in the way or cream or waxiness which are mentioned in the tasting notes.  

My only criticism regarding this poised and impressive debut - why the cork closure, which renders them a little stuffy?

Like its companion, alcohol levels are kept at 13,6% and both wines sell for R234 and are stocked by wine stores and some restaurants as well as the farm.

I look forward to making acquaintance with the next three Landscape wines, due for release next year.

 

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It was with keen anticipation that I screwed open a sample of Asara 2015 chenin blanc from their Vineyard Collection range. It has been a long while since I tasted any of their wines, although I often thought about them when swinging past their entrance on route to Stellenbosch.

This wine, states estate manager Pete Gottgens, is the first of a vinous renaissance at Asara, the maiden result of a new regime and team. It’s an impressive chenin on every count, from its nose presenting a meld of honeysuckle and ripe stone fruit followed by a rich and concentrated mix of fruit flavours and subtle oak. The alcohol count is 14%, which is higher than Europe and the UK like, but most South Africans are less concerned about this facet with consumers in the Far East are even less so. The wine has just walked off with an international trophy for Best New World Wine at the 2016 Japan Wine Challenge, bringing home gold as well which is a pleasing start for their quality projections.

The estate grapes were sourced from a 20-year-old block, just short of 2 ha, sited at 200m above sea level. Winemaker Danielle le Roux and consultant Abe Beukes left the berries hang until mid-March before harvesting. After pressing the wine went straight into oak. While the wine is agreeably fresh in spite of its fruit intensity it could be even more palatable if discernible minerality added backbone:   Perhaps this aspect could develop in bottle.

Food wise, this is a chenin that will accommodate complex salads and all manner of poultry dishes, including some Oriental classics.

Priced at R80, it offers good value as well. While I haven’t tasted the 2014 chenin, one thing’s for sure – the 2015 is worth a lot more than the 2 and half stars Platter awarded the previous vintage.

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The Paulina’s Reserve flagship trio is one of the two top ranges from Rickety Bridge, that most picturesque of Franschhoek estates. As regular visitors will know, Paulina was a pioneering widow who acquired the land straddling the river and mountain at the close of the 18th century, one of the Cape’s first woman farmers in wild and woolly Olifantshoek .

 

Cellarmaster Wynand Grobler, appointed winemaker back in ’07, will be celebrating a very successful decade at b2ap3_thumbnail_r-bridge-wynand.jpgRickety Bridge next year: His wines have just gone on improving by leaps and bounds, and the recently launched latest vintages of Paulina’s Reserve  labels are ample proof.

 

The 2013 cabernet sauvignon combines impressive quality with pleasurable drinkability, which is in itself unusual: this wine,  scoring 90/100 in the 2016 Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report and chosen one of the top 12 offers  complex aromas of berries, herbs and spice, and goes on to present silky medium-bodied wine, both fresh and with smooth oaked quality.  It was produced from Franschhoek grapes on the Dassenberg slopes, and sells for R250.

 

The 2015 Reserve chenin blanc is a brilliant example of our ever-improving chenins – I don’t know if it was entered into the Top 10 chenin contest, but, had I been  a judge, it is likely to have made  my top 10 selection. It was sourced from 20-year-old Worcester vines, and Grobler fermented in barrel and then transferred the wine to foudre and casks for six months. The nose is prominently floral, a mixed bouquet  of aromatic spring blossoms along with stone fruit  and honey. The wine is powerful, luscious and rich, packed with fruit, with a creaminess that harks of chardonnay or semillon. Alcohol kept to 13%. Selling for R130.

 

 

The 2013 Reserve semillon, also priced at R130, is a fine example of just how impressive Franschhoek’s mature semillon grapes can be – in this case 24 years old, toddlers compared to some. This really is a connoisseur’s wine, oxidative, waxy as semillon usually is, but here also minerally, powerful, with spice in the background, oak  adding richness. It is a wine that requires the whole sniffing, swirling, sipping routine – more than once –  to begin to take in all the facets.  Not everyone is going to enjoy it, but it is a fascinating wine that I am going to try matching to northern Scandinavian fare, if that doesnt work, then take it to somewhere in the Orient...

 

 

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Always exciting to unearth a winery new to one - and when I received a trio of Groenland wines I found that this Bottelary farm was one I did not know existed, even though it's near well-known cellars like Hazendal.  b2ap3_thumbnail_GROENLAND-2Steenkamp-bottle-shot-NV-resized.jpg

Turning to Platter I found that the Steenkamp family has been farming there since 1932 but only produced their first wine just under 20 years ago.

They now have more than 150ha under red and white cultivars and produce 13 000 cases of wine annually.

There are three ranges: Premium conisting of four reds, all four-star rated,  Classic – which includes a frisky green, slightly dusty sauvignon blanc which I enjoyed -  as well as a cab, shiraz and red blend, and the Landskap range – a 2015 chenin (which was fresh, accessible and very pleasant) and a shiraz-merlot blend.

In July they - father Kosie and son Piet - released a flagship 2013 Bordeaux-style blend, called simply Steenkamp, in honour of  Kosie Steenkamp, the family patriarch. This is a deep, dark wine, well-balanced, with fruit and tannins presenting in appealing meld. It opened up nicely in the glass, and will surely go on improving for several years.

While the limited edition Steenkamp sells for R285 in keeping with its status, the other Groenland wines offer excellent value for money – the Landskap chenin is R37, the Classic sauvignon blanc R49 and two award-winning shiraz (which I haven’t tasted) are R64 and R115 respectively.

The emphasis at Groenland is on friendliness, old-fashioned hospitality and a complete lack of pretension. Sounds like my kind of venue and my favourite sort of people. Their website www.groenland.co.za is very informative.

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Congrats to the winners of the Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Terroir Awards announced recently.

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As usual the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10 award function was a stylish affair, held again at Delaire Graff estate. The lunch menu was particularly long and I had to miss out on some courses and tastings of the accompanying winning wines, but those I tried were both exciting and delicious chenins. Sitting next to Lizelle Gerber was enjoyable as her winner was the first to be served with a cured salmon starter, and it was great to see her Boschendal chenins  making it into the Top 10.

As in previous years, diversity, purity of fruit, more texture and greater structure were characteristics of the winning wines. A total of 124 were entered and seven of the 2016 Top 10 were previous winners. On a personal note, I did not think that the difference in price between several mid-priced  winners and the most expensive chenin was justified.

All the Top 10 winners are donating their prize money to various charities and worthy courses in their areas including Sunfield Home, the Du Toitskloof DGB Mobile Library, the Anna Foundation, Kusasa, The Agroecology Academy and crèches in Mbekweni and at Allée Bleue

 For Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Chenin Blanc Association, this year’s line-up and the overall quality is proof that Chenin is going places. “Across the board the wines are world class.  This is the most excited I’ve ever been for Chenin in South Africa”. 

 For more information, visit www.chenin.co.za.

The winning wines:

Allée Bleue 2015

Price: R65

Total production: 7 500 bottles

93% Chenin Blanc, 7% Viognier from Franschhoek and Walker Bay vineyards. Matured in 400-litre French oak barrels, 20% new. Citrus and white peach plus a hint of vanilla. Pure and focused with bright acidity before a savoury finish.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine 2015

Price: R160

Total production: 60 000 bottles

From Agter-Paarl, Bottelary and Durbanville vineyards, with an average age of 45 years. Matured for 12 months in French oak, 50% new. Stone fruit, spice as well as lots of yeasty complexity on the nose. Rich and broad on the palate, the finish long and savoury.

Boschendal Sommelier Selection 2015

Price: R85

Total production: 12 000 bottles

From old Agter Paarl, Bottelary and Somerset West vineyards. Largely unwooded, 15% fermented in oak. The nose shows a fynbos top note before pear, citrus, white peach and a hint of spice. Excellent fruit concentration and particularly bright acidity before a long and pithy finish.

DeMorgenzon Reserve 2015

Price: R225

Total production: 18 500 bottles

From Stellenbosch vines planted in 1972. Matured for 11 months in French oak, 25% new. Citrus, stone fruit and spice on the nose. Rich but impeccably balanced – possesses both depth and breadth, tangy acidity ensuring refreshment.

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2015

Price: R160

Total production: 16 374 bottles

From three different wards of Stellenbosch, vineyards approximately 35 years in age. Matured for eight months in old 400-litre French oak barrels.  A very attractive nose showing honeysuckle plus plenty of stone fruit and spice. The palate shows particular richness and intensity, the acidity nicely coated and the finish long and savoury.

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Barrel Fermented 2015

Price: R80

Total production: 66 613 bottles

From Stellenbosch vineyards ranging from 25 to 40 years old. Matured for six months in old 400-litre French oak barrels. Flowers, pear, citrus and white peach plus a little spice on the nose. Lovely fruit purity and zesty acidity making for a very well-balanced wine.

Leopard’s Leap Culinaria Collection 2015

Price: R80

Total production: 6 000 bottles

From Voor-Paardeberg vineyards with an average age of 20 years. Matured in 500-litre French oak barrels, none new. A complex nose of potpourri, citrus and white peach plus an intriguing leesy note. The palate has a weightless intensity about it thanks to concentrated fruit and fresh acidity.

Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Barrel Fermented 2015

Price: R77

Total production: 20 048 bottles

From two vineyards in the Agter Paarl area, one 26 years old and the other 32. Matured for 10 months in 500-litre French oak barrels, 20% new. A subtle but compelling nose showing flowers and dried herbs before pear, citrus and white peach. The palate shows great fruit purity and lovely freshness before an ultra-long finish.

Rijk’s Private Cellar Barrel Fermented 2013

Price: R140

Total production: 10 500 bottles

WO Tulbagh. Grapes from 17-year-old trellised vines and seven-year-old bush vines. 20% fermented in tank, 80% fermented and matured for 11 months in 300-litre French and Hungarian oak, 40% of which was new. Citrus and peach plus a little spice on the nose. Rich and full on the palate, the texture pleasantly oily with lively acidity lending balance.

Spier 21 Gables 2015

Price: R150

Total production: 32 808 bottles

From Tygerberg vineyards with an average age of 43 years. Matured for 14 months in a combination of 300-, 400-, 500- and 2 500-litre French oak barrels, 60% new. The nose shows citrus and peach plus a hint of vanilla and spice. The palate has a real succulence to the fruit and a pleasantly creamy texture while fresh acidity lends balance – a wine of precision.

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ABSA TOP 10 PINOTAGE AWARDS 2016

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The 20th Pinotage Award competition took place recently with 144 wines being judged and the results being announced last month at the Cavalli estate near Stellenbosch. Kanonkop and Rijk’s made history by both attracting their 11th Top 10 Award

Top 10 winners 2016:

2015

Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve

2014

Flagstone Writers Block Pinotage

2014

Fleur du Cap Pinotage Unfiltered

2010

Kanonkop Pinotage

2015

Knorhoek Two Cubs Pinotage

2013

KWV The Mentors Pinotage

2014

L'Avenir Single Block Pinotage

2014

Perdeberg The Dry Land Collection Pinotage

2013

Rijk's Reserve Pinotage

2015

Rooiberg Winery Reserve Pinotage

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SA Terroir Awards

After judging of a record 322 entries for the 11th Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards, two Cape estates stood out  with top achievements.

Bergsig Estate in the Breedekloof produced two National Winners for Top Red Blend with the Bergsig Icarus 2011, and for the Top Port-style wine with the Bergsig Cape LBV 2003. The latter was also adjudged one of the SA Terroir Top 5 Estate Wines and is the wine with the highest score among all the entries. In addition, another four wines from Bergsig received high scores and three of them were designated area winners.

Bergsig Estate took home both the Novare Trophy for the SA Terroir Top Wine Estate and the SA Terroir Top Producer.

Plenty more to digest on the website, which contains the complete results; visit www.terroirwineawards.co.za.

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