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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

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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



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


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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 or contact Bessie Swanepoel on 044 213 3314.







 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 or book tickets on

Bot River 2017 Spring Weekend




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 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:

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



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



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 or book on

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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  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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Whether it's a treat of a meal for Father’s Day or a supper to mark mid-winter, June is the right month to create a menu that incorporates our fabulous South African brandies, from cocktail to dessert.

Brandy imparts a special flavour when used in cooking, enhancing the final taste of any dish. The spirit can be flamed, simmered, stewed, or used to deglaze a pan in order to produce an irresistible sauce.

Don’t be bound by quantities of brandy as listed in recipes, as you may prefer less or more – but note that too much brandy will simply overpower the flavours of the food it is supposed to embellish. You want aroma and flavour of the spirit to elevate your creation to gourmet heights. The alcohol evaporates during cooking so there is no need to worry about after-effects.

South Africans are so fortunate when it comes to brandy – we really do make some of the best in the world – not that this is always appreciated. But the top judges in the northern hemisphere do – they are continually placing our brandies up there on top where they belong: the results below are two of the latest stash of awards scooped by our clever craftsmen and blenders.

Our brandies made a clean sweep at the 2017 World Drinks Awards recently, claiming gold, plus the title of World’s Best Brandy for the Oude Meester Demant. This contest takes place in London, hosted by with a judging panel of respected and experienced authorities from the drinks and hospitality industry. They score entries on nose, palate, finish, balance, character and quality. 

Last month our brandies wowed the judges in America’s prestigious San Francisco’s World Spirits Competition. The SFWSC awarded Oude Meester three Double Golds  for their 12- year-old, 18-year-old and Demant brandies. Van Ryn’s Distillery claimed two Double Gold medals for the Van Ryn’s 12-Year-Old Distiller’sRreserve and the Van Ryn’s 20-Year-Old Collectors Reserve respectively.This competition is among the most widely respected in the world, attracting more than 2 100 entries of spirits for evaluation by a judging panel comprising of 43 international experts.

Now to a celebratory meal: I have started the dinner with my own version of  brandied mushroom soup – if this doesn’t appeal, think about a delicious chicken liver terrine flavoured with fresh orange and brandy or a brinjal paté, baked and mashed with cottage cheese, brandy, yoghurt and fresh herbs for a trendy vegetarian first course.

For the main course I settled for a quickly prepared lamb chop recipe, Banting-friendly, a change from casseroles, curries, potjies and the like, which can be teamed with seasonal veggies or  salads.  It comes from a well-used book entitled California Brandy Cuisine written some years ago to mark 200 of Californian brandy production.

And then a trad Cape finale, given a twist, which you can find in Bertus Basson’s enjoyable cookbook Homegrown, published by Jacana Media and released earlier this year.


I have deliberately left off quantities, but have mentioned approximate ones in the method. They can be increased or decreased according to the cook’s taste.

Butter or  butter and olive oil

IX 350g punnet portabellini mushrooms, wiped and sliced, reserving a few left whole

1X350g  punnet white mushrooms, wiped and sliced

I large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Fresh herbs tied together – eg thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, lovage

Chicken or vegetable stock



Salt and white pepper

Creamed horseradish

Fresh lemon juice



Heat a generous quantity of butter or a mixture of butter and oil, and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened. Add garlic, stirring, then increase heat and toss mushrooms in the pan until their juices run, stirring frequently. Add the herb bunch, then about 2 cups of stock, bring to a simmer. After a few minutes add milk to taste – up to 2 cups if you want a cream of mushroom soup, less if not. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes, then take off the heat and stir in cream – quantity depends on how rich you want the soup to be. Stir, then season with the salt, pepper, horseradish and lemon juice to taste. (The horseradish can be omitted, but I love the combination of this herb with mushrooms, they seem synergetic). Add more stock if you want increased quantities or a thinner soup. Finally mix brandy ( I use about 40ml or 3 scant tablespoons) into a spoonful of cornflour until well mixed, add to soup, bring back to a simmer, stir and remove from heat. Remove herbs. Cool, then using a hand held mixer, puree a soup a little, but still leaving it partly chunky.  Chill until serving time. Reheat and serve, topping each serving with a spoonful of grated raw portabellini mushrooms that you have tossed in a little lemon juice.  Serves 4 or more as a first course.


4 or more thick beautiful free-range lamb chops

Butter – about 4T

Finely chopped mild onion, red if possible – about 4T

Finely chopped Italian parsley – about 2T

Worcestershire sauce, about 2T

Salt and ground black pepper

Brandy, up to half a cup

Heat half the butter and sauté the chops over high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Remove chops from pan. Add the onion and cook gently until soft and golden. Return chops to pan, add the remaining butter,  parsley, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning to taste. Cook about one minute more, then heat the brandy, ignite and pour over chops and sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


Bertus describes this recipe as a kind of gentrification “of a church bazaar pannekoek by introducing it to some alcohol and a chafing dish.”


375ml flour

Pinch of salt

Half tsp baking powder

250ml milk

125ml buttermilk

125ml water

2 eggs

30ml vegetable oil


3T sugar

2T butter

2 oranges, zest grated and juiced

2 oranges, segmented

2 naartjies, segmented

 2 lemons, zest grated and juiced

45ml good brandy

100ml van der Hum liqueur

Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl and whisk the milk, buttermilk, water, eggs and oil together in another bowl. Slowly pour the liquid mix into the dry ingredients, whisking continuously to form a smooth batter. Rest the batter for at least an hour, preferably overnight, in the fridge.

Rub a good quality 24cm non-stick pan with a drop of vegetable oil. Heat to moderate heat and add about 80ml of batter. Roll the pan around to spread batter evenly. Cook until lightly browned on one side, flip over and lightly brown the other side. Fold into quarters, allocating two pancakes per person. Repeat process until batter is used up.

For sauce, heat a large pan, big enough to fit 8 folded pancakes. Sprinkle the sugar onto the dry pan and let it caramelise lightly. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the orange and lemon juices and stir vigorously to form a syrup. Place the folded pancakes into the pan and coat with syrup. Add the orange and lemon zests Warm the brandy and van der Hum and ignite. Tilt the pan toward the flame  and add the flaming spirits to the pan. When flame dies, add the orange segments to the pan. Serve immediately with vanilla icecream. Serves 4.

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