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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

Posted by on in News

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It proved to be a bitter-sweet occasion, that day in May when a group of wine writers and retailers gathered in Morgenster’s hilltop tasting room. Similar in many ways to past events where the ever-courteous, charming Giulio Bertrand, flanked by cellarmaster Henry Kotze and consultant Pierre Lurton greeted guests ahead of a tasting of new wines and latest vintages.

This time, however, our host was absent, although we were told he was resting in the gabled farmstead which had been his home for more than 25 years. So he was near enough as we sipped the estate’s maiden bubbly, and sampled seven still wines ahead of a tour through the impressive olive oil plant, now graced by even more sophisticated machines. As always, the lunch that followed was an Italian gourmet triumph, from the simple, flavourful green pea soup, topped with a swirl of newly pressed oil, to the buffet of charcuterie, classic salads and cheeses.

A few days later we learned that Giulio Bertrand had died, with his family around him. One of the Cape’s most beautiful 18th century farms had lost a custodian who lavished money, attention and love on his southern home, adding world-class olive oil to its reputation for fine wines.

We started our tasting with the Cuvee Alessandra 2016, a Cap Classique produced from cabernet franc sans dosage. As could be expected, this is a distinctly different MCC which I found intriguing and enjoyable, with a fine mousse and full-bodied and a long finish. It sells for R227 .

The Morgenster sauvignon blanc 2018 is a wine that should enjoy wide popularity – produced from Stellenbosch grapes it is well-balanced, with subtropical fruit flavours and fresh zestiness in enjoyable combination. At around R80 it also offers good value.

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I think that Morgenster’s White Reserve 2015 is a memorable Bordeaux-style white blend that offers elegance, complexity and great character, its components (55% s/blanc 45% semillon) melding into a fragrant, fruit-filled mouthful backed by a well-integrated structure. After being in oak for 12 months, the wine was bottled early in 2016 . Expect to pay about R220.

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On to the reds, starting with the delicious Tosca 2015, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% cab, and finished with a splash of Cab Franc. While its array of aromas, smooth tannins and fruit and spice combo makes it delightful right now, it is sure to improve even further if cellared. Priced at about R230.

Morgenster’s Nabucco 2015 is an expression of Giulio Bertrand’s favourite cultivar and an example of the great quality of much of the 2015 vintage wines. Nabucco takes a while to get to know – presenting an earthiness reminiscent of pinot noir, spice and herb flavours rather than fruit, all backed by prominent tannins. Cellarmaster Kotze added that when paired with food (beef, mature cheese, dark chocolate) it has a notable effect on the latter. It will also benefit from a few years in a dark cool place. About R340.

Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2014 is a wine made in a more accessible style and offers a delightful blend of a merlot lead with cab, some cab franc and 10% petit verdot. Heady aromas of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and licorice are followed on the palate by ripe fruit, backed by elegant tannins. It sells for about R190.

The flagship Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014 proved to be a fine finale, produced by Kotze in collaboration with Lurton. This vintage is comprised of 36% cab, 36% merlot, 14% cab franc and 14% petit verdot. It’s a big wine in every sense, with intense nose of fruit and nut, coffee and cigar box and a blend of flint and fruit on the palate, with agreeable freshness. It costs around R392

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And so, an era has come to a close. A timespan of more than two decades which has seen Morgenster - originally established by one Jacques Malan who acquired Morgenster in 1711 – gain in beauty and value while Signor Bertrand was its custodian. I heard that his grandchildren are interested in keeping the farm in the family, which is encouraging news. Arrivederci and grazie.

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Posted by on in Blog

AN INNOVATIVE DUO FROM THE SILVER CREEK DISTILLERY FOR WORLD GIN DAY

 

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Before I even get to the contents of the bottle, a few words on the label, box and inserts. Founder and chief distiller Mark Taverner and his team have done an impressive job on marketing his two craft gins – few consumers will fail to be impressed by The Gin Box which opens to reveal twin bottles – old-fashioned design, complete with a loop handle for easy carrying. Then there’s the distinctive retro label, announcing that this Prohibition Gin is infused with juniper, coriander, lemon, angelica and cinnamon. The label is signed by the distiller and the bottle numbered – mine was no 143 of the batch produced in June Turn to the back label and there's more info for fans wanting to find out how and where it was produced.

 

The tag that's attached to the handle announces “Helping folk dance since 1933..." which of course demands an explanation.

And so the story of Prohibition in the USA comes to light, when the conservative Temperance Movement managed to get alcoholic drinks banned in 1920. The moonshine industry flourished until 1933 when the law was revoked and the population danced as they celebrated...

Having been inspired by craft distilleries in America, Taverner spent more than two years researching and studying before returning home to found the Silver Creek distillery in Randfontein. Starting with a range of moonshine, he then turned to gin, and recently launched a clear and rose-tinted version, along with a Gin Club for happy fans.

As is standard, the alcohol level is 43%, as are the classic infusions used to flavour the spirit; they do not overpower, and the total effect is crisply smooth with a bouquet of citrus backed by a supporting and diverse cast of flavours.

The Prohibition Pink is tinted and further infused with raspberries and blueberries, while rose water adds an aromatic oriental touch that is reminiscent of Turkish delight.

They both sell for around R360 and make refreshing sundowners with classic tonic or lemon and, of course,  a base for cocktails  with exciting potential. Visit www.silvercreekdistillery.com for more information . 

 Roll on Saturday, when the 10th World Gin Day will be celebrated globally, having been established in the UK – where else, given their long history of producing the spirit and pairing it with tonic?. Did Winston Churchill really say the following: “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire?” Probably. Meanwhile our talented mixologists will be working overtime to create exciting new cocktails in gin bars across South Africa. Time to toast our homegrown distillers who are crafting innovative gins of good quality in surprising corners of our country.

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Posted by on in Events

 

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It’s housed in a bottle that announces it’s very special Anno 1918 -  KWV Proud Pioneer -  Limited edition the top label announces,  followed by The Centenary Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2011 down below. Festive in gold with a stylised old-world drawing of Paarl valley as background.

 

There can be few in the world of Cape wine who don’t know that this global wine and spirits producer is marking the  100th anniversary of its founding this year. Among the events is the production of this handsome sparkler, an all-chardonnay MCC that’s set to become a classic souvenir of a notable celebration

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There are times – and this is one of them – when one would rather not open such a milestone product in order to assess its colour, its mousse, aromas and flavours on a mundane work day. The occasion – sitting in front of a computer – is not worthy of popping such an illustrious cork... But that’s the (very occasional) downside of reviewing wines, and there are always neighbours and friends in the village who will happily come and help finish it later!

 

The 2011 harvest followed a warm dry season, reducing the quantity of chardonnay available for this wine. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and the juice used in the final blend. After the first fermentation, half underwent malolactic fermentation after which blending and bottling took place, with the secondary fermentation in bottle. Maturation of 72 months followed after which it was disgorged, corked and labelled.

 

Classic aromas of citrus and apple greet the nose. In flute the fresh zestiness is nicely balanced with the characteristic buttered toast and nuttiness on the palate, offering a delicious mouthfeel and a long finish. As expected, alcohol levels are kept at 12,5%.

 

At present the bubbly is stocked only at Makro outlets and sells at R249. During the remainder of 2018 KWV will release further products that will be stocked at its Paarl Emporium and some liquor stores.

 

With flute in hand it’s easy to think back to what one knows of the founding of KWV, at a time when South Africa was reeling from the aftermath of the first World War, followed by the great ‘flu epidemic, a turbulent period in its history. The wine industry was in a sad state, and farmers endorsed the establishment of the organisation that was able to introduce some order into their working lives. At time went on there were farms and cellars who rebelled against the tight control and legislation of the KWV, but that changed as the 20th century came to a close. Today the giant producer is renowned for its brandies, some of the best in the world as well as a fine range of wines.

 

Time to fill up the flutes as we turn to the back label and the eye falls on a handwritten message from cellarmaster Wim Truter: “Here’s to the next 100 years” he writes, with his name and signature. We’ ll raise a flute to that, even as we turn our thoughts to what another 10 decades will bring. Happy birthday, KWV.

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Posted by on in News

 

 Peter Finlayson, founder and cellarmaster of Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley recently released the 2016 vintages of the two wines for which he is most renowned.

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From his dozen hectares of pinot noir he regularly crafts a cultivar champion that attracts local and international acclaim, and the 2016 Galpin Peak pinot noir proves the point, having already claimed two trophies in the 2018 International Wine Challenge, being best South African pinot noir and best South African red wine.

 

 

The varietal is known as being one of the trickiest with which to work, and the 2016 harvest was not the easiest, offering twin challenges that Finlayson no doubt relished. Pinots can often be difficult to pin down when writing about them as they present seemingly diametrically opposed characteristics – earthy yet delicate, rich in fruit yet savoury on the palate. And yes, the new vintage offers all those and more: as usual, it’s a complex wine where dark fruit and a little spice is balanced by the backbone provided by 11 months in French oak. It’s particularly expressive of its fine viticultural terroir and will benefit from several years of cellaring. Those who choose to enjoy it this winter could find it complements classic Occidental cuisine such duck with cherries, or beef casserole and mild cheese better than fare that is highly spiced or fiery. Alcohol levels of 14% are unobtrusive and the wine sells for R355 from the cellar .

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To flavours of Italy now, and the 18th vintage of Hannibal, a hugely popular blend where Finlayson combines a varying number and variety of mostly Italian cultivars to produce a wine that sings of Tuscan reds enhancing al fresco fare at a long table... As one expects there’s fruit including olive and prominent tannins although tempered somewhat by the inclusion of some pinot and shiraz – the lineup is 45% sangiovese, 18% pinot noir, 15% nebbiolo, 12% shiraz, 7% mourvèdre finished with splashes of barbera. Moderate alcohol levels are held at 13,5% . Another wine to squirrel away for a few years then unearth and savour even further. It costs R309 from the cellar.

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It sports gold from Vitis Vinifera’s 2017 contest and a Hidden Gem sticker from

 

Platter’s current edition while its Royal Rhino logo testifies to its registration as a

 

donor to rhino conservation. All good reason s to consider The Rhino Run Ian

 

Player red blend vintage 2015, and there’s another as well: this is a delicious

 

blend of cab and merlot, medium bodied and juicy with soft tannins, and a berried

 

collection of dark flavours to please a vast number of consumers. Fireside sipping

 

at home, or, even better, round flickering flames in a bushveld camp or safari

 

lodge, where the plight of rhinos becomes tangible and taut. You may find that only

 

the 2016 is available now, but my 2015 sample celebrates one of the finest

 

vintages the Cape has enjoyed recently, so look for that one if you have a choice.

 

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Van Loveren make one white in their Rhino Run range, a lightly wooded

 

chardonnay, medium-bodied, offering citrussy aromas and flavours in the 2017

 

vintage, alcohol levels of 13,5% and a pleasing companion to seafood and poultry

 

both on the braai or baked in rich sauces for winter.

 

 

Van Loveren have been making the Rhino Run range for several years and are

 

keeping the quartet affordable at R61 for the reds and R53 for the single white.

 

There is also a cabernet sauvignon and and pinotage, not tasted, both 2015

 

vintage. A limited edition collector’s item, The Last One Shiraz 2013 completes the

 

range – selling for R1 215 and packaged in its own box.

 

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