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News

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THINK PINK, HULLO SPRING!

 

With a trio of rosés, two of them maiden vintages, arriving on my doorstep during an unseasonably warm spell, it is clearly time to welcome spring with fragrant aromas and mouthfuls of berry and melon flavours.

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First up is an appealing pink from Baleia Wines, their 2016 rosé, produced from syrah and enjoying a welcome low alcohol level of 12%. This is not just a pretty pink, but one that is crisp and dry, medium-bodied and with notable backbone alongside the more predictable flavours of strawberries dressed with black pepper.

This south coast olive farm and winery, not far from Riversdale where the Joubert family launched their first wines in 2011, now have a range comprising three reds and two whites, with a bubbly somewhere in the offing. The new rosé sells for R55 online.

Their extra virgin olive oil is a product to be sampled as well, already boasting two awards, the 2015 scooping silver in last years SA Olive Awards in the Intense category and also taking second place in the Medium Fruit category in the international Sol D’Oro contest. It consists of a blend of Frantoio, Coratina, FS17 and Leccino, offers the ideal base for your spring salad dressing, and costs R85 for 500ml.

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There’s a new addition to Steenberg’s covetable range, simply labelled “ROSE Syrah – Cinsault 2016.” The blend is 72 shiraz to 28% cinsaut and it’s a wine that will convert even non-pink drinkers, thanks to its persuasive charms. The nose hints at its shiraz character, and it’s crisp on the palate, with fruit upfront – mixed berries and rose petals, backed by a bouquet of herbs and discernible structure. Alcohol level is a moderate 13%. Selling at R80 from the cellar door, this is a pink to pair with gourmet picnics and al fresco lunches that start at noon and linger on to sunset.

Executive chef of the Steenberg Bistro Sixteen82 Kerry Kilpin recommends partnering this pink with her signature grilled chicken salad. Cool, but don’t over-chill – you will lose its appetising complexity of flavours.

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To conclude, a light-hearted salmon-hued frothy for the ladies who lunch (and picnic and gather for sundowners) the 2016 vintage of Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai pinot noir rosé has made it debut alongside their new whites. With an alcohol level of just 10,5%, a second glass can be happily contemplated: the first can partner your spring salad, the second complement your strawberry pavlova. This is a sweet bubbly, but with zing to add fresh flavours of berries to the palate. It sells for R57, offering good value for many a summer celebration.

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It's got the depth and discernible minerality. The freshness is balanced by full-bodied flavours - from rich grilled pineapple to mango, from a mix of citrus to a hint of cream, into which vanilla essence has been whipped. Every aspect is  beautifully balanced and in tune in this very subtly wooded chard, with 13,5% alcohol levels. It is, without doubt, the chardonnay I have most revelled in sipping this winter. Muratie Isabella  chardonnay 2015 costs R145 and is worth every cent. It makes a superb aperitif on chilly evenings, and goes on to partner sauced fish and seafood  and complex poultry dishes with charm, complementing but never overwhelming. 

When such a star comes your way, one is extra pleased that it emanates from a beautiful Stellenbosch farm, steeped in history, which has, as its custodians, a hospitable family who is very aware of the importance of its conservation for future generations.

For those who haven't treated themselves to experiencing the tangible ambience of a rural complex dating back 330 years, make Muratie your destination when planning your next wineland outing - it's both olde worlde and up -to -the -minute with mountain biking and trail running facilities, and, best of all, its open seven days a week.   

 

 

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Perhaps it’s only when you have taken part in an organic certification audit that you begin to realise the lengths wine farmers and producers need to go to to obtain that international certification.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to sit in on such an audit, and one that had particular significance for both the farmer – Patricia Werdmuller von Elgg – and one of the auditors! But let me set the scene…

If you wish to label your wines as organic, you need to have your farm and cellar certified by one of the international certification organizations. One of these is SGS, an enormous global group which certifies many manufactured as well as natural products. Because of the limited number of serious organic farmers in South Africa, SGS recently appointed a German company specialising in certifying organic agriculture to conduct the final audit and issue the certificates.

Hout Baai farm is a beautiful boutique wine farm just outside McGregor, in a high valley that looks onto the Sonderend mountains which surround it. From the owner’s terrace sweeping views over vines take the eye toward Die Galg – the saddle at the end of the “road to nowhere” - which is really a high meeting place for hikers and travellers who revel in the protea-rich fynbos which cloaks the terrain.

The picture-perfect farm has been certified as fully organic since 2005. This year Hout Baai was chosen by the certification team as an example of just how an organic farm should look and operate with a place for everything and everything in its place. The audit was particularly important as not only was the resident SGS auditor conducting the checking, but the LACON international auditor was present, overseeing the process, and both were under the eagle eye of DAkkS, the German accreditation body for that country’s Federal Republic.

The inspection date for this three-tier audit was set for mid-July, but the three arrived in Mcregor a day ahead of schedule. They settled into the office where the local representative of the certification body started her work with a long list of questions, which needed not only oral answers but proof by way of reams of paperwork. Pat Werdmuller possesses more files than I have ever seen on a farm, where delivery notes, invoices, statements, receipts and printouts provide years of proof of transactions with approved service and material providers. These were hauled out on demand, as they worked their way through how water is tested, how pipes are cleaned, what fertilizers are used. Records of purchase of guano, seaweed and donkey manure were checked then questions turned to frequency of their application and in what concentrate?

Moving to harvest time, when grape picking machines were hired, questions were asked about the possibility of their bringing in unwanted residue of non-organic matter. They are delivered the day before, replied farm manager Del Jones, “so our guys can scrub and wash them down, ready for harvesting which started at 3.30am."

If there is any doubt about dates, the diary is consulted – this set of annual volumes, dating back to when the farm started operations – is filled with daily entries of chores completed, indoors and out, accompanied by photographs as way of proof.

The second half of the audit took the form of a tour of the farm, as the visitors were shown firebreaks, and buffer trees along boundaries (to limit the chance of non-organic sprays drifting over from neighbouring farms). The approved korog, a wheat-like grass planted between the vine rows to provide a nutrient-rich mulch was starting to show green and pruning of the sauvignon blanc vines was under way , each row numbered (and named after an animal or bird that frequents the farm). Del showed the inspectors the sizeable hole dug by a friendly anteater which had these Germans looking a little bewildered. She also pointed out the camera traps which record the visits of caracals, jackals, hares and antelope, as this farm is as much of a nature reserve as it is a wine grape farm.

The compost plant and the worm farm were duly inspected, and then the stores and workshop revealed just how diligently tools are looked after and kept in their place. The farm labourers’ wendy house – cosily furnished with places for both wet and dry weather uniforms and footwear and sporting refreshment facilities – was duly admired and also noted were the required warning signs and notices detailing safety and health information both inside and outside buildings and machinery.

It came as no surprise to any of us that Hout baai farm passed inspection with flying colours and was thanked by SGS for their faultless presentation and co-operation.

Since that day I have been thinking about the number of organic wine and grape producers listed in the latest edition of the SA wine industry directory, which I received recently. In this useful compendium, published annually by WineLand media, a total of 38 organic growers and cellars are listed. According to one Western Cape producer, who shall be nameless at this stage, only three of these are certified organic. While I have not trawled through those 38 to see if they have included details of international certification in their Platter entries (if, indeed, they are all listed in Platter), it does bring up the vexed question of some producers labelling their wines as “organic” without having been certified.

“We’re all organic these days!” was a cheerful comment from one (non-organic) farmer and winemaker. Many would beg to differ.    

Those who are spending inordinate amounts of time and money to transform their farms and cellars to comply with the exacting demands of global organic auditors do so, of course, of their own free will. But it’s unsurprising they also grit their teeth in frustration at the lack of monitoring and control over those who are benefitting from the green and environmentally-conscious consumer through fraudulent labelling.

Even if farms grow grapes and produce wine organically, only those certified by an internationally accredited body – accompanied by a seal of this organisation – are entitled to label their wines as organic. However, some producers who follow organic principles in every respect choose not to be certified, because of the expensive, labour- intensive, regular, obstructive and lengthy inspections.                                                  

And to further muddy the waters, SA producers are allowed, I am told, to state on bottle labels that their wine was produced from organically grown grapes. And, what about the cellars who produce a range of organic wines alongside non-organic …

At which stage, it seems high time for a glass or two of enjoyable wine, made from organically grown and certified grapes in an organically certified cellar. Make mine a Solara sauvignon blanc. Cheers!

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As I write this a galeforce wind buffets our garden, sending lemons flying off the tree as the last of the vine leaves lose their battle to cling to the stems. The temperature is plummeting, and it’s time to light fires, dream up cosy suppers and good red wine to partner them.

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tamboerskloof-Syrah-2013.jpgWe start our vinous journey at Kleinood, that enchanting boutique farm in the Blaauwklippen valley where a stunning cellar is home to Tamboerskloof wines. Traditional and minimal winemaking methods are used to transform the shiraz berries into complex and sophisticated syrah, enlivened with the addition of a splash of viognier and 4% mourvèdre. The 2013 vintage, recently released, is a fascinating wine, broody and earthy, rather than fruity, yet there’s underlying elegance in its characterful mouthfeel. Alcohol levels of 14,5% are not obvious and this shiraz is hugely appealing. Highly scored by Wine Advocate and awarded four stars by Platter, this is a connoisseur’s shiraz that will develop substantially over the next decade.

 

Moving to the Simonsberg ward we pause at the historic farm Muratie with its absorbingb2ap3_thumbnail_Muratie-shiraz.jpg centuries of stories highlighted by a fascinating mix of owners, from resolute to colourful, talented to hospitable. Their 2013 shiraz has also just been released, named after larger-than-life personality Ronnie Melck who became custodian in 1987, thus returning the farm to the Melck family after a break of almost a century.

Here the terroir yields a more typical shiraz, with plenty of pepper and other spices, backed by Christmas pudding fruit and dark chocolate. Its smooth and juicy and fulfils all expectations that fans anticipate of this all-popular cultivar. This is another wine that will benefit from further ageing, and, at R140, it won’t break the bank to squirrel away a case or two. In fact it offers very good value.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off the R44, backed by the Helderberg’s verdant slopes,

Yonder Hill Wines cultivates just 6ha of vineyards that are now reaching theirb2ap3_thumbnail_Nicola-2010-Platter-4-star.jpg peak at 20 years old. Their recently released red blend is named Nicola, after the only daughter of owners Frikkie and Danila Naudé. As this is a shared characteristic, I was keen to sample this limited edition and second vintage of a four-star cab-led blend with 22% cab franc and 18% merlot completing the mix. Grapes were hand-picked, sorted and fermented in an oak open fermenter. Only new oak was used for maturation and the results are fresh and succulent, with fairly dominant cab character and rounded tannins, a wine that will make a fine accompaniment to grilled steak and rich beef casseroles. It sells for R255.

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Gauteng winelovers are in for a treat of a wine show next month.

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The Unusuals is a wine show with a difference. Corlien Morris of the popular outlet Wine Menu will present an amazing range of top wines all of which are the lesser-known varietals. Think grenache noir, malbec, mourvedre and roussanne - to name just a few. Or try barbera, nebbiolo, petit verdot, sangiovese and zinfandel... Where else could one get a chance to taste these under one roof? Complementary canapes will be offered as well.

The venue is the Wanderers Club in Illovo, and the  show takes place on Thursday, August 18 from 6pm.

Tickets - which are in limited supply - cost R200 from Webtickets or from the shop at Blu Bird Centre. If still available, buy at the door on the night for R220.

Your host, Corlien Morris, has personally invited producers with labels that are both uncommon and of superb quality to take part. If there are wines that you fancy, you can buy at the show  at less than regular prices. In fact several of these wines are no longer available in the market.

 

 

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