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News

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Welmoed is a venerable label, and one of several brands and ranges produced by Stellenbosch Vineyards, a global wine group that exports around 80% of its production, mostly to the Netherlands. They are based on the 17th century Welmoed farm outside Stellebnosch and the recently released range is called the Heritage Selection, which is in keeping with a farm dating back to 1690.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Sauvignon-Blanc-2017.jpgThe wines, all selling at R50 from cellar door, include a sauvignon blanc, cab,  chenin, chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, pinotage and rosé. This re-branding is clearly aimed at the consumer who enjoys easy-drinking wines at affordable prices. The two I sampled – sauvignon blanc 2017  and cabernet sauvignon 2016 fit this description, with the former presenting a well-balanced mix of green and gooseberry flavours with a fresh zing, moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. The cabernet sauvignon should please legions of fans who enjoy reds that display berry flavours, a touch of oak and are full-bodied, but stay with a moderate 13,% alcohol level.

The Heritage Selection complements the other upmarket brands like the Credo Limited Releases and Stellenbosch Vineyard’s Flagship wines.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Cabernet-Sauvignon-2016.jpgI like the story of how Welmoed got its name: the farm, originally granted to Simon van der Stel, was subsequently inherited by one Jacobus van der Heyden who was one of the farmers who rebelled against the infamous governor Willem van der Stel. He was imprisoned, later released in ill-health whereupon the local community exclaimed "Deze vent heft wel moed”  iow this chap does have courage...

A toast to Jacobus is in order!

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It’s still easy to get off the beaten track in the Robertson valley, and, as sophistication threatens to change the nature of some farms on this wine route, the country cellars on roads less travelled gain in appeal.

One such is Windfall, a truly rustic farm that maintains its simple boutique origins even as winemaker Kobus van der Merwe adds new wines to the range  - a maiden Cap Classique will soon join the others.

When I first visited the farm off the Agterkliphoogte road the tasting centre had just been completed. Today there are self-catering cottages, lemon groves along with 63ha of red and white cultivars. The farm's six-year-old potstill brandy, named The Hunter, produced from Chenin Blanc, is attracting considerable praise.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Windfall-Chenin-Blanc-Bottleshot_20171026-141720_1.jpgThe recently released 2017 Chenin Blanc, a fresh and easy-drinking charmer,  offers a range of stone fruit and citrus flavours. It's an appealing partner to casual al fresco fare with  pleasing alcohol levels kept to 12,5%. It sells for R72, which is also the price of the Windfall Grenache Rosé, an off-dry pink presenting melon and berry notes which will find many a fan, and with a moderate alcohol count of just 11,5%.

 Although I have not tasted either, I noticed that Windfall notched up two golds at the 2017 Michelangelo Awards, for their 2015 Cabernet and 2014 Shiraz,  Visitors wanting to sample this boutique collection need to make an appointment before heading to the cellar.

The farm, originally called Spes Bona, was in the Lourens family until cricketing legend Eddie Barlow bought it and changed the name as he watched mists rollling down the mountains that surround the valley. Of course the name also points to unexpected good fortune, a legacy that the present owners, the Alexander family, are busily building on.

To finish on a cricketing note, the owners, winemakers and team at Windfall are on a good wicket, and one that is sure to keep getting better.

See www.windfallwine.co.za for more info.

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Raise your glasses to the short-lived Battle of Muizenberg 222 years ago

The incredible history of Steenberg’s first owner has been well documented (and nicely embroidered) over the centuries. But as the first and feisty woman owner of this early mountainside farm, Catharina certainly made her mark as she worked her way through several husbands while running a farm that also saw travellers overnighting there before continuing to Simons Bay the following day.

More than a century later, other occupants of that old farm stood on that stony mountainside gazing down toward the Indian Ocean lapping at the False Bay beach. This time, there was a war on, known as the Battle of Muizenberg. It was August, 1795.

Former friends, now foes, Holland, who controlled the Cape through the Dutch East India Company no longer allowed Britain access to the Cape, a position that the British East India Company could not tolerate as it was an essential point of supplies in the long journey to the East. A fleet of nine Royal Navy ships, which included two warships, Ruby and Stately and a frigate, Sphynx among them, sailed forth, enabling the British to take control of Simons Town in mid June. The Dutch retreated to their seaside Muizenberg fort, with just 300 men. On August 7 the British sent two battalions to Muizenberg supported by three saips at sea, including Stately. It was all over by 2pm when the Dutch retreat to Zandvlei and the first British Occupation of the Cape was a reality.

I don’t know whose idea it was to honour three of the tall  ships which took part in this short- lived skirmish, but not only is it a brainwave to mark an historic day in the Southern Peninsula chronicles, but wines with a story to tell increase their appeal, and so it is with this maiden trio of enjoyment.

Lift a glass to Ruby, a 2017 rosé with class, made up of just more than half syrah

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and the rest cinsaut, a wine that sings of summer days and long, warm nights. It’s dry, but there’s ample fruit, berries vying for attention with watermelon and a little spice, hints of citrus, an aperitif that will also pair happily with picnics, salads and fruity desserts. Moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% and already sporting its first award, a Double Gold from Rosé Rocks. Selling for R86 at the cellar door

Sphynx 2017 is a charming chardonnay, my favourite of the three, produced from Robertson valley grapes that have been carefully handled to present an elegant

 

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wine, whose stay in oak has added depth and structure without any obvious wood.  Characteristic citrus, caramel and peach, with quince adding a Med flavour. It’s fresh and sprightly, alcohol held at 13,5%, a wine for toasting, for partnering with seafood, poultry and serious salads. It costs R135 at the farm.

The third tall ship is Stately, well depicted here as a 2015 cab-led blend with 37% shiraz making the remainder, a dense wine with elegant smooth texture, both

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accessible and ready to drink. There is a gamut of flavours to identify from olives and berries, black pepper to wafts of licorice. Moderate alcohol levels add to its appeal, and this is the only wine closed with cork. It sells for  R135, and is a versatile red that will adapt to many an occasion.

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Charles Withington - seen here with Gypsy -  is renowned both as a successful négociant and a charming connoisseur in the Cape wine world . He is based in Darling where he presides over his inviting wine boutique The Darling Wine Shop, and he is passionate about the district of Darling as a source of good grapes and fine wine that reflects the terroir.

“A Darling Wine” reads the back label below the name Roan Ranger. This 2015 blend encompasses all that I could ask for in a red – Cinsaut-led, intriguing name,b2ap3_thumbnail_WITHINGTON-Roan-Ranger-Cinsaut-Grenache-Mourvedre-2013-HR.jpg

appealing front label, and a delightful story behind the product. Happily, the wine itself lives up to every expectation, an unshowy blend of immense charm, smooth, beautifully integrated, the Cinsaut dominating while benefitting from vigorous, companionable Grenache and powerful, meaty Mourvèdre.

Charles Withington fulfilled a long-held ambition with the creation and release of this wine, one which saw his quest for the production of  a Rhone-style blend that would combine the harvest of Darling grapes that best reflect the vintage year, while introducing a sense of the communication between man and horse. His firm belief in Cinsaut goes back many years to when he worked at Rustenberg. The Withington association with, and love of, horses is a long-established one, here celebrated by naming the wine after a roan, or horse whose coat consists of more than one colour (an equine blend, suggests Withington.)

Made with immense care which shows in every sip, each of the three components were harvested and vinified separately. Malolactic fermentation took place in lightly oaked French fourth and fifth- fill barrels and the final blend selection made after one month.

Withington’s Nguni Malbec 2015is another wine that presents both a lesser-known cultivar and honours an indigenous beast and celebrates both along with Charles’ love of the Darling wine district. Most of us first encountered Malbec through the Argentinian product, and now  various New World countries are planting the grape and UK sales reveal it to be the fastest growing varietal in sales terms, Darling can boast nine hectares of Malbec, which, Withington points out is four times the national average. Grapes for the Nguni Malbec 2015 were sourced from a dryland single vineyard on Oranjefontein farm.

Charles likens the grape to the patient, tolerant Nguni cattle, which have been produced for beef in the Darling area for decades. Juicy and fruity, more than meaty, this is moreish Malbec, medium-bodied, and enjoyable solo as well as complementing good red meat (Nguni beef?)

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At R90 a bargain buy, and one that could hardly be bettered as an introduction to this dark and ancient French varietal.

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We have all savoured the quality whites from the memorable 2015 vintage. Now some fine reds are emerging to claim their place in the sun. Among the first  is this enjoyable cabernet sauvignon from Boschendal, a powerful and complex wine that is  presenting its  credentials as a Stellenbosch cab with real depth. On the nose, whiffs of berry and cedar, leading to nicely balanced tannins and dark fruit on the palate lent additional interest with  spice from the oak. It can certainly be opened and relished right now – particularly, they suggest, paired with the farm’s  Black Angus biltong – or any other cuts of their pasture-fed free-ranging herd and source of the beef in the restaurants. Alcohol levels are 14%, the cellar door price is R140 and if this wine was to spend another year or two in cool darkness, it is sure to improve even further.

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