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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

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Delheim recently released new vintages of two of the estate’s three pinotages, being the 2017 pinotage and 2019 pinotage rosé. Both these are venerable classics, as the farm was among the first in the Cape to produce pinotage during the 1960’s and the first to present a rosé in 1976.

Today they are both well-established classics, the pinotage being medium-bodied, with red fruit on the nose, followed by more on the palate, backed by a little wood from time in French oak. The rosé is a light-hearted wine, with low alcohol levels, its salmon hues offering the promise of fresh and floral notes, ideal sipping on a sunny day. The previous vintage contained a soupcon of muscat, and perhaps this one does too, the label does not say. The rosé labels lists the wine as vegan-friendly as well.

Both wines are undemanding, but , like all Delheim wines, made with care. Their recommended retail prices hover in the region of R80 for the pink and R150 for the red. For more info, visit www.delheim.com.

If you would like to try  a quick Thai soup that will, says Delheim, be enhanced by pairing with the pinotage rose, here's the recipe:

Thai Coconut Milk Noodle Soup (khao soi)

Khao Soi is from Northern Thailand - a noodle soup with an amazing combination of flavours and texture. This soup only takes 15 minutes to make and best of all – it pairs so well with the Delheim Pinotage Rosé.

200g Roka Pad Thai Noodles

2 T coconut oil or olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

A thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 red pepper, cored and diced

1-3 T Thai red curry paste

1 can coconut milk

500ml chicken stock

1 t turmeric

4 T Thai soy sauce

3 T brown sugar

300g chicken fillets, grilled and cubed

Fresh coriander or basil leaves

Bean sprouts

Lime or lemon juice to taste

Prepare noodles by following the instructions on the packet.

In a medium pot, heat oil,. add the onion, red pepper, garlic, ginger, red Thai curry paste and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk bring to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes then taste for flavour and tenderness.

Add the noodles and finish with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and squeeze over lime or lemon juice and serve hot.

 

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While a visit to Calitzdorp and its hospitable inhabitants is always enjoyable, and there’s much to see and do in every season, winter offers both peace and particular beauty in this Klein Karoo dorp: against a backdrop of the Outeniqua, Swartberg and Rooiberg mountains, probably snow-dusted, wandering around the old part of the village makes a great start to the day, working up an appetite to do justice to robust country fare washed down with a glass or two of the region’s fine wines and world-class ports.

Which brings us, of course to De Krans, on the village fringe, sprawled along the upper reaches of the Gamka river valley. The farm was founded in 1890 by MD Boets Nel’s great-grandfather although many decades passed before the first grapes were planted, mostly for sweet wine and raisin production. Fast forward to 1964 when the existing cellar was built and De Krans soon became known for its fine ports and dessert wines. Dry table wines were to follow.

Today visitors can taste the various ranges every day of the week, relish al fresco lunches at the bistro and contemplate the walking trail to work off the kilojoules. Friendly, enthusiastic staff add to the enjoyment while generosity is another ever-present characteristic.

In reviewing fine wines from three of the four De Krans ranges, we start by going back, way back to 1947 when De Krans planted a vineyard of Palomino (also known as Malvasia Rei) in Gamka river soils for brandy production. Some 70 years on they have survived, now bearing small, intensely flavoured berries: these are blended with verdelho (37%) into an unusual, fascinating golden wine that presents old vine legacy with Klein Karoo flavour. De Krans Tritonia 2017  wafts aromas of citrus and honey, while the palate offers exotic flavours, traces of a spicy Christmas pud balanced by acidity for freshness. I can imagine it enhancing a Cape Malay curry, and certain Portuguese classics, perhaps Arroz de Pato de Braga, that flavourful combo of roast duck with chorizo on ham-flavoured rice from the north. It sells for R150.

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Its red counterpart De Krans Tritonia Calitzdorp Blend 2016 is better known, having already won for itself an impressive list of awards – among these, Platter gives it 4 and half stars, NWC a double gold, the Six Nations Wine Challenge rated  it gold and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine show a trophy. Composed of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barocca it’s hardly surprising that its dark, tannic, and flavour-packed with berry and plums, but also smooth on the palate , a fine winter wine to pair with venison and beef. It costs  around R185 and also offers great ageing potential.

Then there’s De Krans Basket Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 which proves quite a contrast to the above: For R65 winelovers can enjoy an accessible cabernet that not only offers great value, but is an authentic  expression of the grape – the typical aromas of cedar and tobacco are there, as are the flavours of black cherry and plum. This is a comparatively light-bodied cab, with alcohol levels of 13,5% and ready to pair with pizza and pasta, the weekend braai and provide companionable fireside sipping.

When it comes to port, to use the traditional term, Calitzdorp is the local king, and De Krans – through a lucky mistake – was the first to plant the Portuguese varietal of Tinta Barocca, which flourished nicely in the valley. Today, the region is famed for its production of fine port wines, which – after negotiating with the EU in 2011 – are no longer named “port” but are labelled according to the style of port in the bottle, hence “Cape Ruby” or Cape Tawny”. De Krans marketing is also keen to get consumers to replace those teeny liqueur glasses that used to be used for port with decent wine glasses, something we did a while ago. (Most of these ports are just under 20% alcohol strength, so you are not sipping the equivalent of spirits at over 40% )

Their Ruby port can be classed as the entry level port, perhaps, less complex than its cousins, also more affordable, but nonetheless quality wine and a good way for newcomers to this fortified wine to begin their port journey...

The De Krans Cape Tawny Limited Release, a much awarded port wine, and my all-time favourite, is quite delicious, perfect with meatless and poultry dishes, complementing French onion soup and a superb partner to aged cheeses like mature cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan. Its glorious golden hue is the result, I was told, of small oak vats being used which influences the wine along with a greater degree of oxidation, but obviously there is far more to this process. 

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The flagship De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve - 2016 is the current vintage – is  deservedly five-star, rated 96 points in the Tim Atkin 2018 report, was judged SA Fortified Wine of the Year, sports Veritas Gold, Michelangelo platninum, and the brag  list goes on... It's comprised of 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca and finished with Tinta Roriz, yielding a  big, dark wine, offering aromas of berries, nuts and chocolate. It's complex and bold and deserves to be a fine finale to a special meal, perhaps with a cheese platter. While this is a Cape port that one could safely store unopened for three decades or more, once opened, do bring it out on chilly evenings and savour every delicious, complex sip. You are sampling the results of long and meticulous craftmanship practised by some dedicated and talented winemakers.

          

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What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, when it comes to wine as captivating titles pique the attention of consumers browsing the wine boutique shelves.

And a better example than those of Journey’s End Vineyards would be hard to find. Even the estate’s name attracts: if I was on a Helderberg wine tour, I would want to finish my journey at this mountainside farm with its panoramic views over False Bay. Hugging the Schapenberg slopes above Sir Lowry’s Pass village, the farm was founded by the Gabb family - a Shropshire import- - in 1995, and bottled their first harvest early in the new century.

Second generation Rollo Gabb has been at the helm since 2007, and has increased the vineyard plantings and built an ultra-modern cellar and a tasting centre, its glass walls leading to a terrace that presents a viewing site of note. Mount Rozier, which I remember visiting way back when three partners were intent on establishing a fine range from their small farm, has been taken over by Journey’s End. The viticultural team of cellarmaster Leon Esterhuizen and winemaker Mike Dawson practise the Gabb-approved philosophy of minimal intervention as Journey’s End launch the rebranding of their products.

Three ranges, or series, are now planned, with the first, Tales Series, already available and comprising four wines with expressive, allusive names.

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All housed in dark bottles with white labels and prominent lettering, under screwcap, the 2018 sauvignon blanc is called Weather Station after the Stellenbosch clone known as the Weerstasiekloon. Agreeably fresh and made for immediate enjoyment, with moderate alcohol levels and medium-bodied, the nose is typically sauvignon, the palate offers friskiness allied to winter stone fruit flavours of apple and pear. Well-balanced and makes both an aperitif and a mate for white meat and seafood.

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Haystack chardonnay 2018 alludes to the venerable practice of planting wheat between the vine rows to encourage pests to focus on that rather than the vines and the label sports an eagle owl which is one of a pair on the farm that helps with pest control. Characteristic citrus flavours are offset by backbone lent from a little oak and the alcohol levels are held at 13,5%. I enjoyed this chardonnay and found that it tasted even better the following day.

 

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To the reds: Two red blends, the first The Huntsman, a 2017 vintage that melds shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier in unknown proportions, but with shiraz dominant. Its name refers to the original buildings on the site used by the Cape Hunt, founded nearly 200 years ago. Susbstantial alcohol levels of 14,5% add to the richness of this full-bodied wine, which matured in 500 litre French oak barrels, the viognier separately in tank, then blended in to produce a dark, luscious, ready- to- enjoy wine.

 

 

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As is the Pastor’s Blend 2018, named after the local pastor who offers communion under the pines just below Journey’s End vineyards. He is also the connection between the farm and the local village, which enjoys support from the estate in terms of education and upliftment of living standards. Moderate alcohol levels characterise a classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc fermented separately and matured in third-fill oak for 14 months. The result is juicy with berry flavours dusted with dried herbs, ready to take on all types of red meat dishes with panache.

The wines sells for between R89 and R99, adding affordability to their attractions. The next two ranges will take the quality to a higher level with prices to match.

The estate embraces sustainable and occasional biodynamic practices, but is not certified for the latter. Trendy winemaking such as the use of (once ancient) amphorae and concrete eggs add to the versatility while drones are employed to survey vineyard blocks, providing high-tech info for micro-management.

Appointments are required for visits and tastings, which can also include snacks while hikes, MTB and horse-riding are also on the menu. For more info see www.journeysend.co.za or call 021 858 1929.

 

                                

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The press release for the latest vintage of this perennially popular white blend is particularly well written, making it difficult to improve on, so i am going to quote the final sentence as is:: “fresh and vibrant with a convincing strength and quality finish.”

The 2018 vintage of this four-star blend offers its usual admirable consistency - both in quality, and its main component which has been riesling for several years.This enables Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer to  differ from  its unwooded white blend competitors. The riesling – 65% here – sets the foundation for a  wine both patrician and characterful, while the viognier and chardonnay, (sharing similar proportions), add floral elements and a medley of fruit to a fragrant nose and flavorful palate. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping, and its priced at R110.

Looking at back issues of Platter, it's interesting to see how cultivars have varied over the last 18 years: Blanc de Mer greeted the new century as an unwooded blend of kerner with gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay...

In  2003 gewurztraminer partnered the riesling, two years later  sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and chard were the chosen companions while by 2006 viognier rather than riesling led the combo.  In 2007 chenin made an appearance but, since then, whatever the variations, quality climbed even as the wine was geared to being a crowd pleaser.

Unsurprisingly a large number of regulars regard Blanc de Mer as an essential companion to seafood whether grilled, fried, baked or raw. I don’t think its fanciful to find whiffs of maritime aromas that emphasise its affinity with the waters of Walker Bay. A summer wine, yes certainly, but with this appealing balance of freshness and depth, it’s also the right choice to celebrate wonderful sunny winter days found in every province of our country.

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A dark heavy bottle, made unique with its imprint of a bird perched on a tobacco pipe next to a flowerhead, the design is repeated on the minimalist white label which informs that it's Nebukadnesar 2017 and this is no. 12 285 of 21 940!. Not a limited edition then!

Babylonstoren often does things differently, and always beautifully, honouring both the farm’s  330- year old history, its venerable buildings and spectacular setting. As its name suggests this is a place of amazing gardens, now 12 years old with more than 300 varieties of culinary and medicinal plants,, offering a garden tour to delight and amaze.

The extensive vineyards which stretch from 170 metres above sea level to 600 metres – incorporating poor sand, deep shale and rich loam - have yielded pampered berries, allowing the range of wines flowing from the cellars  to increase.. This vintage of the flagship blend has attracted more awards than any previously, particularly from the National Wine Challenge: it brought home Double Platinum, Grand Cru for best in category, and was also crowned Best Wine from among the 600 entries.

Components of this blend (49% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot and 5% malbec), were separately pressed and matured for 23 months in new French oak . The new blend was left in tank for a month before bottling took place, then given five months maturation before being released.

Its a big, bold, full-bodied wine, impressive already, but deserves to be cellared so that the prominent tannins can soften and meld with the flavours of dried herbs, black berries and tobacco, for maximum enjoyment. The palate will then offer sophisticated integration that should go on improving for up to a decade .

 

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The cellar team at Babylonstoren comprises Charl Coetzee, Klaas Stoffberg and Marina Loubser who are making magic with the wide variety of farm cultivars available, including a highly-rated chenin-based white blend with three additional components that I hope to sample soon.

Those who are happy to pay nearly R500 a bottle or R3 000.00 a case for a fine Cape Bordeaux-style blend, will surely be prepared to cellar their purchase, (or at least most of it), to enable the wine to mature further, to reach its (very considerable) peak in, perhaps, five years time.

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