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Haskell vineyards on the Helderberg.

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It’s really hard to keep up with the four Retief cousins and their marketing manager Bonita Malherbe who seems to

spend most of her life on a mountain bike, but still manages to spread the word on wine in her usual friendly  and efficient manner. This is no mean task, given the six ranges in the stable: Christina Van Loveren, Van Loveren, Papillon, Five’s Reserve, Four Cousins and Tangled Tree. However, with the appointment of

Rensche Schwartz as brand manager for Four Cousins, Bonita;s load will be a little lighter from now on



This year the cellar celebrates its 35th anniversary, and, before 2015 runs out, let me highlight just a few of the recent achievements of this successful family business. Earlier this year they launched new labels for the classic Van Loveren range, largely white with initials VL set in a swoosh of colour, varying according to cultivar. Along with new vintages of standard items – chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, chenin and River Red  – there are a couple of new additions  to consider, and among these is one that is  great value at R44: this is the 2015 pinot grigio, a delightful crisp, flavourful wine with a substantial mineral core. It beats other  higher-priced versions of this cultivar, hands down. More please, Bussell. Next time you are about to pick up a sauvignon blanc, reach for this instead.

In the same range is Daydream, which combines 94% chardonnay with a little pinot noir into the faintly rose-tinted still version of champagne classic varieties, so in vogue right now.

The recently released Rhino Run range consists of a chardonnay 2015 (lightly wooded) ,Ian Player 2014, a cab/merlot blend, a cab 2014, a 2015 pinotage and a fifth wine a limited release shiraz at a high price.

 The white costs R45 and the three reds R55 and a percentage of profit from every bottle goes to the Player Ntombela Foundation: For those looking for a fine gift that supports rhino conservation, the just-released shiraz in this range could be the answer: The Last One shiraz 2013 is a single vineyard limited edtion that is hand-bottled, labelled and boxed. Just 1215 were bottled, this being the number of rhino killed last year and the price is also R1215.

About a month ago I drove into Robertson on the R60 and saw that the landmark Branewynsdraai restaurant building - more recently the Dros - was a heap of rubble. Van Loveren is  building  a Four Cousins  tasting centre here, along with restaurant, wine shop and craft brewery.. This means that the Van Loveren wines will be marketed from the farm, and the entry level Four Cousins from this new venue 9which  will also be one up on rival businesses Roodezandt and Robertson Winery by being the first tasting room in the town on the R60, for those heading in from Worcester.) It is scheduled to open in June next year.


In October both the Four Cousins and the De Goree Boerdery directors and workers celebrated getting the  award  for the Five's Reserve pinotage 2013, as best Fairtrade Red Wine .

 This trophy is proof of the progress and achievements at de Goree, a 138ha grape farm in Robertson valley, which is 52% owned by a Workers' Trust (116 staff members and pensioners) and the balance by the Retief family. The farm provides grapes for the Fives' Reserve range, in which the Trust also owns a share.

Caption: The Four Cousins and the De Goree Board of Directors.

And a final toast to the Retief enterprise for winning the Trails award in this year's Klink Awards - hikers, bikers and outdoor types, there are some great trails to take on this Robertson farm.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_KWV-Mentors_Semillon-2014.JPGUnless you are one of those organised (and justifiably smug) souls that has everythingb2ap3_thumbnail_KWV-Mentors_GrenacheBlanc-2014.JPG bought, wrapped and labelled by the start of November, Christmas shopping starts in December. This entails gifts, plus food and wine for  entertaining, as well as traditional festive meals with New Year celebrations to follow.

This is about  some recently released wines that  are great buys for high days and holidays, more to come in a second blog with reviews of wine guides and books that make very acceptable gifts.



KWV has enjoyed a great year, winning an armful of of medals at the 2015 Veritas Awards, and attracting international recognition with inclusion on Drinks International’s World’s Most Admired Wine Brands 2015.

Chief winemaker Johann Fourie also walked off with the title Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award recently,  clinching a non-stop series of success stories for this most prolific of winemakers.

The flagship  The Mentors wines  have well justified the cellar’s decision to make this a range where the team can experiment with various vineyards, cellar practices and grape varieties. The results speak for themselves: this year the following Mentors wines were awarded Veritas Double Golds: Chardonnay 2012, Orchestra 2011, Sauvignon blanc 2013 and Semillon 2014. The Mentors cab 2012, Orchestra 2013 and Sauvignon blanc/semillon 2013 attracted gold, while the Grenache Blanc 2014 brought home a double gold from the Michelangelo Awards and a gold from the six Nationals Wine Challenge in Australia.

Here’s more on an appealing screwcapped trio from this fine series:

My favourite, the 2014 Grenache Blanc, made from Paarl grapes, is a bold white, characterful, presenting a variety of apple and citrus on the nose, followed by more on the palate, backed by a vanilla core and hints of cream. It will keep well, but can also partner festive fare with more than a hint of spice.

Darling vineyards provided the grapes for the Semillon 2014, so not surprising to find fresh grassiness on the palate, along with green figs and green apples, with a mineral core and refreshing crispness. New, second, third and fourth-fill barrels were used to mature a quarter of the vintage. With a moderate 13,5% alcohol level , a summer wine that makes a great aperitif and accompaniment to seafood.

The Orchestra 2011 is already drinking smoothly well, with fans relishing savouriness followed by berry flavours in a juicy classic Bordeaux-style blend. Made up of 42% cab, 25% merlot, 16% petit verdot, 13% cab franc and finished with a splash or two of malbec, the grapes were sourced from Stellenbosch (64%) Darling (22) Paarl and Wellington (each 7%) this is a wine to open for festive roasts of lamb, beef and venison.

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We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Van Ryn/Klipdrift Brandy competition is Kathleen Hornby Walsh of Hillcrest, Natal. Her prize of two handsome brandies will be delivered to her soon.



Meanwhile thanks to all those who entered and wish we could have all won!



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Worthy winners, fantastic fund-raisers, winning wines and a new club – as 2015 draws to a close, this Paarl-based couple and their many friends (and pack members) have an impressive count to celebrate.



Let’s start with this week’ announcement that the annual EWT Cheetah Awards for advancing conservation efforts in South Africa have been bestowed on Jeremy Borg of Painted Wolf Wines and Angus Burns of WWF SA. In the photo above Jeremy, right poses with EWT's Dirk Ackerman and Kelly Marnewich.

This award goes to individuals who have “ gone beyond the call of duty and extended themselves over a prolonged period of time in support of …the Endangered Wildlife Trust…”

That description certainly applies to Jeremy who, together with wife Emma, have been dedicated in their determination to save the African wild dog, one of our most endangered animals, being hunted to near extinction and with shrinking habitat.

From the date of the launch of their Painted Wolf wines in 2007, they have supported the cause with a donation from every bottle sold. Jeremy works with the Tusk Trust in the UK, which was set up to save elephants in Kenya, but now supports more than 100 wildlife projects in Africa.

Just this year alone, the Borgs have donated just over R300 000 to conservation in the past 12 months, to Tusk and to EWT here to support wild dog conservaron and to Childlren in the Wilderness, which undertakes projects with rural children.

Earlier this year Borg set out on a gruelling 850 mile cycle race from Padstowe to Edinburgh, which he dubbed Pedals 4 Paws, A Celebration of Painted Wolves, raising four thousand British pounds for Tusk. Charity wine tastings, dinner and a pop-up art auction featuring renowned wildlife photographers relieved the cycling monotony..

Earlier this month Jeremy heard that he was shortlisted for Diners’ Club Winemaker of the year for his 2012 Guillermo Pinotage…b2ap3_thumbnail_Painted-wolf-Guillerm.jpg


Which brings us to the exuberant, enjoyable, characterful wines of the Painted Wolf ranges.

The entry level Den comfort wines embrace a cab, pinotage, a pinotage rosé, chenin and sauvignon blanc, none of which I have sampled recently. But I was more than charmed by the twin blends in the Cape Hunting range : the screwcapped Peloton Blanc 2014 , (also labelled Lekanyane which is Tswana for wild dog) is an intense partially wooded meld of viognier, chenin, roussanne, chardonnay and marsanne: bold, fruity, complex with a minerally backbone, while its partner, Peloton rouge 2012 is mostly pinotage, finished with 8% Grenache and 6% cinsaut. It’s drinking well, both juicy and savoury, with some oak on the palate. Earlier vintages have scooped awards in Cape blends contests.

The Pack range includes the distinctive Guillermo pinotage, an impressive 4-star example of our indigenous grape, sourced from organically grown Swartland bush vines. Fragrant, fruity, and sophisticated,

The Penny viognier - also from organically grown grapes, wild yeast fermented - is a joyful wine, very moreish, offering a feast of fruit and a dash of vanilla. Citrus and summer stone fruit merge seamlessly with a little spice to a lengthy finish.

Wooded, rich and somewhat elegant describes the 4-star Roussanne 2014 , from Paarl grapes, recently released, this well balanced niche white can take on any competitor.

The Borgs use friends or “pack members” as sources for their grapes in several regions, from Darling to the Swartland, Paarl and Stellenbosch, acknowledging their input, even naming two of their wines after Billy and Penny Hughes, who make their own distinctive wines as well as supplying the Borgs.

Emma and Jeremy met at a bush camp in Botswana which where they came to admire the wild dog teamwork and sociable nurturing, and proved their admiration by structuring their new wine company using a similar hierarchy.

If you are new to these wines, with their appealing hand-drawn labels from artist friends, you are in for a treat. Those who are already fans can now join the new wine club where members can access the rarer labels or attend special events like wild dog safaris. E-mail

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Neethlingshof-Cape-Dutch.JPGNeethlingshof, ob2ap3_thumbnail_The-Wolftrap-Viognier-Chenin-Blanc-Grenache-Blanc-2014-cropped.jpgutside Stellenbosch, offers timeless attractions.

November is but a pup but the number of new wines being released is staggering. As usual, I share news of those I enjoyed and admired, and ignore those I find poorly made, very over-priced and just plain boring. 


How does he do it? Cellarmaster Marc Kent’s irresistible Wolftrap White 2014 is selling for - wait for it,- - R40! This is a beautiful blend of nearly equal quantities of viognier and chenin, finished with about 10% of grenache blanc. It is a classy, trendy example of what the Cape is doing brilliantly, but rival blends from other regions are selling for anything up to five times the amount. Grapes have been sourced from Malmesbury and Stellenbosch and the wine offers delicious aromas of fruit and blossom, while on the palate there is a medium-bodied, characterful mix of carefully oaked wine that is also crisp and fruity with definite backbone. Excellent summery aperitif, but equally an accommodating partner for well-dressed poultry salads and spiced Middle East fare. Grab some while you can.


From the Bergkelder, at R70, comes prizewinning Uitkyk’s 2013 chenin, which picked up gold at this year’s IWSC contest, the only SA chenin to do so. Winemaker Estelle Lourens used grapes from a 35-year-old bushvine vineyard, offering a low yield of intensely flavoured berries. She matured half the wine in old and new French oak, the rest stayed on lees in stainless steel tanks, then combined the two into a chenin with several layers of fruity flavour sweetened with a little caramel and spice. This is another wine that makes a great solo wine for sunset sipping, but will also cope effortlessly with summer fare like a complex salad featuring Cape Malay spices. Of course Uitkyk is one of the most charming estates to visit, combining history and beauty in equal proportions, so worth adding to festive itineraries.

As with Uitkyk, so with Neethlingshof, another member of the Cape Legends wine estates, which boasts a long and equally fascinating history as well as enjoyable wines.

Cellarmaster De Wet Viljoen shares the honour with Uitkyk’s Estelle Lourens of attracting  gold from the 2015 IWSC, here for his Neethlingshof Malbec 2013, the only local malbec to achieve this. Not that there that many SA malbecs as this (originally) French cultivar is still popular in Cahors but a very important cultivar in Argentina. De Wet used berries from his 12-year-old vineyard to produce a full-flavoured wine that with a hint of dark chocolate and spice, selling for R80. In the mood for something other than cab and shiraz? Then try malbec.


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