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Calitzdorp, like other parts of the Little Karoo is still struggling with drought conditions. Yet nothing seems to stop the wine producers from bringing out great wines, both easy-drinking bargains and superb port wines for which the region is renowned.

De Krans is a fine example of a cellar that continues to produce world-class ports even while releasing an increasing number of white and red wines that are attracting awards at our national contests.

As budgets decrease thanks to rising petrol and other prices, winelovers are looking for affordability along with quality. The De Krans Basket Press cabernet sauvignon 2017 fits the bill nicely, an easy-drinking, warming, ruby red wine, presenting smooth tannins, cherry and plum flavours and offering moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. At R65 it is accompanying many a winter casserole and braai, while also making a cosy fireside aperitif.

 

Looking ahead to a spring that hopefully brings seasonal showers, De Krans released its 2018 Pinotage Rosé a while ago, probably one of the first wines of this tough drought-ravaged vintage. However this attractive salmon-tinged dry blush wine, with very moderate alcohol levels and priced at R65 does not reflect hard times, but invites patrons to enjoy its berry and rose petal aromas, its fruity flavours and inviting hues – lunch time, brunch time, and the perfect complement to good picnics and other moveable feasts.

 

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While De Krans’s flagship port wine, the Cape Vintage Reserve 2015 is deservedly celebrating a double gold award from the 2018 National Wine

Challenge, I still turn to my all-time favourite, their Cape Tawny Limited Release, a non-vintage port blended, reports Platter, from wines five to 15 years old. As always, freshness and elegance accompany the rich flavours of caramel and citrus, fruitcake and nuttiness, and it’s unsurprising to see the bottle adorned with a four-and-half star sticker from Platter, gold from Veritas 2017, platinum from the SA Wine Index and a 92 –rating from Tim Atkins’ 2017 report.

I'm off  to shave slivers of vintage Italian Parmesan as my favouriteb  companions to this tawny delight.

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There are many sunny winter days when one looks for white wines that are alternatives to summer specials like sauvignon blanc. This is the time to sample Rieslings and Gewurztraminer and the 2016 vintages from Paul Cluver make an inspired choice.

I recently enjoyed every sip of the Paul Cluver Dry Encounter Riesling, as elegant as ever, offering a fine combo of citrus notes and flint with a lick of cream on the finish. Not a trace of petrol on the nose or palate, just a delightful aperitif or a companion that quietly enhances sophisticated fare, from white meats and fish to blonde soups and patés. As Riesling was one of the original cultivars planted when the family started making wine, the vines are probably at their peak. Its very moderate alcohol levels of R12 % add to its numerous charms. It sells for R110.

The renowned Elgin farm is also punting its 2016 Gewurztraminer, offering some fascinating tidbits of history about the cultivar in well-written press releases. Describing the vine as culturally confused we learn that it is Italian (Tyrolean in fact) in origin, made famous in France and German in name, it travels further as the ideal partner to Asian and Middle Eastern fare, and can complement chilli-spiked dishes with panache. I think its also worth trying with the gentler curries of the Cape Malay cuisine and some Persian – now Iranian – classics. Cellarmaster Andries Burger describes the nose as reminiscent of pelargonium, honeysuckle and jasmine flowers, whereas most Gewurz presents rose, litchi and melon – so theres a wide choice. I picked up rose, melon and mixed floral scents, leading to a mixed bouquet on the palate alongside a frisky freshness that prevents this wine from becoming overwhelming or too intense. It is, of course, off-dry, is rated four and half stars in the current edition of Platter, and costs R100.

I would have liked to have had more information on the age of the vines, and comments from Andries on the winemaking of this fine duo. For more info, visit www.cluver.com

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Fun! Affordable!  Informal!

That’s the promise from the chefs and caterers, winemakers and hosts of the village of McGregor who are gearing up to welcome visitors during their 2017 Food and Wine fest.

 

Head to the valley along roads fringed with daisies in pastel hues. Cross the Breede river  and cruise along the road to nowhere – until your reach the marketplace in Church street, where the church spire gazes down on tents and stalls, musicians and cooks, as enticing  aromas of fare both local and exotic drift skywards,  offering irresistible temptation.

Tasting glass in hand, sample the new vintages of no less than seven cellars that line the McGregor wine route, and treat your palate to some fine wines, every one of which is created in the valley. The range extends from a choice of bubbly to organic whites, riveting rosé, award-winning reds, warming soetes and world- class grappas and eaux de vies. Stock up for the festive season at prices to please both palate and purse.

The following cellars will be pouring their wines; 

 

Tanagra (don't miss the cab franc); Donkey Sanctuary (off-dry colombar is popular), McGregorWines (good affordable reds), Bemind (cinsaut is a must), Solara (delicious organic s/blanc), Lords (bubbly and new s'blanc) and Buffalo Creek.

Bring the family, as youngsters will be well-catered for – and will be cooking up a storm themselves – under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher. Adults can relish oysters, schwarmas, curry, samoosas and hamburgers, or settle for heritage treats like roosterkoek and boerie rolls, followed by pastries and pancakes.

Bring a basket to take home artisanal fare, and browse among local crafts for gorgeous hessian bags of aromatic herbes de Provence. Choose favourites  from a brand new range of souvenir keyrings and fridge magnets illustrating McGregor’s landscapes,  flora, heritage homes, gardens and more.

Come for the day, or make a weekend of it and revel in the peace  of  traffic-free roads under starry night skies. Bring your hiking boots, your bikes, and savour handmade hospitality during a memorable taste of McGregor

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The festival runs from 10am – 4pm on Saturday September 30. Tickets, which include a wine glass and 10 tastings, cost R80 a head. For more info, and to book tickets, call 023 625 1954 or send an e-mail to info@tourismmcgregor.co.zaTanagra

 

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SPRING SPECIAL AT DE KRANS

 

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Orchards in blossoms, crystal clear air, and vines  shooting with beautiful lime green  leaves. Thats the background to the Spring Blossom Festival taking place at De Krans cellar in Calitzdorp as Heritage month unfolds. Diarise September 2 and 3 for a superb start to the new season.

Before contemplating tasting De Krans ranges of award-winning wines and ports, jog or walk through hte vineyards on a five or 10km trail. Wander through the peach and apricot orchards, and take some photographs – theres a prize for the best spring pictures of the winners weight in wine and port. Adopt a vine – it costs R20 which helps fund the Hope Options Centre in Calitzdorp.

The local Saturday market will be filled with indigenous plants and trees, while herbs, produce and homemade bread will tempt as well. The De Krans Bistro and Deli will be open all day, offering brunch and lunch. On Sunday there is a high tea with a difference, starting at 11am which is port-based paired with treats. Booking essential.

Spring means refreshing white wines, and De Krans should be releasing their new

chenin, and sauvignon blanc, alongside  pinotage and moscato perlés. And Sunday also offers a range of port cocktails from lunchtime.

For more info and bookings email dekrans@mweb.co.za or contact Bessie Swanepoel on 044 213 3314.

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UNLOCK THE UNUSUALS!

 

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 Calling Gauteng winelovers! The popular Unusuals Wine Festival is back to showcase South Africa’s lesser known varietals in the only focused platform in Gauteng of these wines. This not-to-be-missed display of exceptional wines takes place at the Killarney Country Club on Thursday, September 7, at 18h00. Try some of the finest Tempranillo, Semillon, Cinsaut, Grenache, Carignan, Tinta Barocca and many more delicious wine varietals. Tickets at R250 are available from Webtickets and Wine Menu at Blu Bird Centre. The price includes unlimited tasting and light snacks. Go to www.winemenu.co.za or book tickets on http://www.webtickets.co.za/events/festival/unlock-the-unusuals-by-wine-menu/1472704606
 
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Bot River 2017 Spring Weekend

 

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Follow the rainbow for fanciful farm hopping and pantry shopping in and around Bot River over the first weekend in September. Organisers have selected a host of activities that showcase the region, while the wineries get ready to pour their diverse ranges for visitors.

The weekend starts with a Best of Bot wines, a food and wine pairing dinner presented by Forage executive chef Gregory Henderson with Higgo Jacobs and fellow sommelier Ewan Mackenzie on Friday evening. Tickets cost R850. During Saturday and Sunday the cellars – Arcangeli, Barton, Villion, Luddite, Genevieve, Beaumont, Gabrielskloof, Rivendell, Paardenkloof and Maremmana will present their wines, lay on fine fare, ranging from smorgasbord to burgers, lamb on the spit, Cape heritage dishes,  dinner dances and more.  Children will be well catered for as well.

Tickets for the 2017 Bot River Over the Rainbow Spring Weekend cost R100 per person and can be purchased, along with tickets to individual events, at www.quicket.co.za unless specified otherwise. The weekend pass includes an armband and wine glass, which you may collect at the Bot River tourism office. Quicket stations will also be at Beaumont, Gabriëlskloof, and Wildekrans on the weekend. Youngsters under 18 years may enter for free.For accommodation options in the area visit: www.botriverwines.com.

For more information on the Bot River Over the Rainbow Spring Weekend 2017 contact Melissa Nelsen at cell: 083 302 6562 or email Melissa@genevievemcc.co.za

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Sommeliers Selection Wine Festival – learn about wine that goes well with food

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The Sommeliers Selectionwine festival takes place at the Tsogo Sun Hyde Park Hotel on Thursday, September 28, from 17h00. Wine lovers will have the opportunity to try wines, from top estates, voted the best by South Africa’s top sommeliers and those that pair well with food and offer competitive value against other contenders.Tickets, which are limited to 150 people,are R200 which includes a glass and are available from Webtickets. Go to www.thesommeliersselection.co.za or book on https://www.webtickets.co.za/event.aspx?itemid=1472721056

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It’s not only the Orange River winemakers that are notching up praise – and medals – for their wines, but there are now a couple of fine craft beers flowing out of Upington, that can take on any of the others being produced in various South African provinces.

Early this year Kalahari Craft Beer was launched in Upington, one of the first from that arid region. Playing on the desert theme, founder Renier Baard chose to name his creations after animals that cope particularly well with the hot dry climate: so there is a Gemsbok Lager and a Puffadder Weiss, both 440ml bottles retailing for around R23,50.

They share alcohol levels of 5% and taste great to me, but then I am no expert on beer. So I got keen beer drinkers to try them, and the result was what I expected – these are fine examples of the burgeoning craft beer industry, and you definitely don’t need to be in the Kalahari to enjoy them.

To order or to find your nearest stockist, log on to www.kalaharicraft.co.za  or contact Renier on 072 827 0009. I predict we are going to see a great deal more of these attractive bottles across the country this summer.

Here’s to the Kalahari, both the dry land and its excellent wet beer!

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