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Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Bouchard-Finlayson-Chris-Albrecht-5.jpg                                                                            b2ap3_thumbnail_Bouchard-Finlayson-2017-Blanc-de-Mer.jpg


The arrival of a new vintage of Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer  is always a pleasure to contemplate. This hugely popular white blend, an annual delight is fairly unique in that it is Riesling-led and usually contains five other white cultivars. As in previous vintages  Riesling predominates with 60% in the 2017, the remaining mélange being 20% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, finished with 2% Semillon.

The bouquet is delicate and flowery, but on the palate there’s both a firm foundation thanks to the personality of Riesling, along with a mix of stone and autumn fruits. A creaminess adds another delicious aspect to this crisp fresh well balanced combo that makes both a charming aperitif as well as a joyful companion to seafood and late summer salads.

All grapes are sourced from the cool South Coast region, where Bouchard Finlayson is beautifully sited in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley . Alcohol levels of 13% are moderate sand the 2017 is fine proof of  consistent quality .

Peter Finlayson has been producing this popular Cape white for many years, and Chris Albrecht has been working alongside him for the last seven years. Now Chris has been appointed winemaker, heading production since the 2017 harvest. Prior to joining Bouchard Finlayson Albrecht gained experience in cellars in New Zealand, France, and back in South Africa spent our years making the wine at Topiary in Franschhoek. The Blanc de Mer is in safe and talented hands.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Carrol-Boyes-Rose_large-2.jpgWine, art and design meld seamlessly in the Carrol Boyes portfolio. It seems  fortuitous  that this renowned designer of fine functional art has a brother – John Boyes – who is not only a farmer but whose partner and friend Neels Barnardt is a wine industry veteran. It must have been a natural progression to introduce wines to complement and enhance the lifestyle products. Winemaker Hendrik Snyman is responsible for the wines in the  Sketchbook Collection, a range of six Intriguing limited edition wines, consisting of  a rosé,  chardonnay, chenin blanc ,cabernet sauvignon, merlot and red blend ( an imported champagne  provides the bubbles). Vintages range from 2014 to 2016, with the bubbly a Gallic museum edition at 2006.

Chenin blanc and rosé were the duo I sampled, both 2016 vintages, and both presenting sensible 13% alcohol levels.

The Sketchbook rosé is an all-cinsaut affair produced from dryland Swartland grapes. Its attractive smoked salmon tint well suits the characterful wine that offers a dry briskness more assertive than most easy-drinking pinks. This is a rosé with attitude, not content just to offer a berry salad but cinsaut backbone in an autumn appetiser. It will also happily complement complex salads featuring seafood or poultry or partner a gourmet picnic with panache.

As with all the Sketchbook wines, Carrol Boyes designed the label, this one featuring her chosen model with a pink gloved hand, beckoning to be unscrewed.... It sells for R90.

To the chenin blanc, which, sadly does not offer a screwcap, but it's well worth hauling out the corkscrew. Like the rosé, bottle age has no doubt benefitted this wine, produced from dryland grapes in the Darling area. Left on the lees for three months before bottling, the press release states that no portion was wooded while Cathy van Zyl’s comment in Platter 2018 refers to a “well-handled 20% oaked portion.” This is a complex chenin, good structure alongside agreeable freshness to complement flavours of stone fruit . (I don’t detect the explosion of green apple mentioned in the press release.) If asked, I would have guessed that some wood was used to add depth to this chenin adorned with our lady, this time green-gloved, who seems to be contemplating the issue. It sells for R130.

The wines are available online and at the Carrol Boyes Waterfront store at the Waterfront. For more, see



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As South Africans discover there is more to white wine than Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Chardonnay, the joys of Riesling are unearthed. Once savoured, many become lifelong fans, eschewing chenin’s fruity charms and chardonnay’s complexity for the delicate crispness of a Riesling, its flintiness offset – sometimes – by whiffs of kerosene alongside the acid/sweet balance.


Found mostly in cool climate regions like Elgin and Constantia, the grape only occupies 0,16% of our vineyards, and it is from the cool areas that the Riesling stars usually flow


The Paul Cluver Estate Riesling 2017 presents no trace of petrol, a characteristic probably disliked by many - which could be why cellarmaster Andries Burger works to omit it. But the typical Riesling waxy notes are both on the nose, and present on the palate, which is delicate, crisp, with flint and sweetness in elegant balance. With alcohol levels at a pleasing 10,5%, this is a wine that could complement several courses of a high summer lunch from crisp squid with green apple alioli to duck with fennel salad. Rieslings are   such  companionable wines for a wide range of fare.

The press release does not reveal the age of the vines, but I would hazard a guess that they are fairly mature. Paul Cluver has long been renowned for their beautiful Rieslings and this is one that will endorse the status.

It sells for R100 from the farm’s tasting room and can be bought online at


The estate has also released its first Noble Late Harvest in three years, which is the second of two styles of Riesling being made at the cellar. Not having tasted it, I cannot comment but previous vintages have been very highly rated.

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 A decade of vinous generosity and a centenary of caring.





One hundred years on we look back at 1918 with compassion. Europe, Britain and Commonwealth countries were still reeling from the aftermath of World War One as the Great ‘Flu pandemic swept across the globe, arriving in South Africa in September, and claiming some 140 000 lives over the next two years.


In the wine industry the establishment of the KWV was probably the event of note, while across the winelands, many small towns were left with destitute orphans in the wake of the ‘flu . Robertson – then a small farming town of about 3 500 inhabitants - was no exception….

A home,  Die Herberg, was started in a private house, and, as the number of children increased,  moved to new quarters  when the municipality donated several hectares to the cause. A neglected apricot orchard occupied much of the site.




A century has passed and today Die Herberg cares for just over 120 children of all races, from birth to 18 years of age, in seven homesteads. State grants cover one-third of the costs  so fund-raising is essential and ongoing . In 2003 stone fruit prices had fallen because of a flooded market while bottled wine sales had risen substantially, post 1994. Local wine farmers, eyeing  the fertile soil , offered to replace the orchard with a vineyard that could become a source of income through fine wine.  Local businesses provided equipment and products, farmers provided vines and expertise and three red cultivars were planted. This, the start of an unique fund-raiser, presented an impressive example of generosity, selflessness and compassion by the Robertson community. It fell to Springfield estate to tend the vines and make the maiden blend of cab franc, cab and merlot in their cellar, the Bruwers offering their facilities and services free of charge.


The uncrushed berries were  fermented with native yeasts,  matured in French oak, and the wine bottled sans fining or filtration. This maiden 2008 blend was an elegant wine with firm tannins and a savory finish that impressed all who tried it. Three more vintages have since followed


The wine was named Thunderchild : Just as storms are usually followed by sunshine, and the destruction they can cause can also herald new life, the parallel was drawn with children who came from homes where dark and threatening clouds affected their lives. They have exhibited the ability to overcome sadness and darkness and shine brightly when given love and care. Today many of the children are from such homes, rather than being orphans.


When I wrote about the project in 2008 I predicted that when Die Herberg marked its centenary in 10 years time the 2008 vintage of Thunderchild would have probably reached its peak in time to toast 100 years of caring. What I did not forsee is just how rapidly the project  blossomed, as  substantial sales of the wine locally and internationally see impressive revenue flowing to the Home.






Thunderchild is managed by the Wingerdprojek Trust and 100% of profits and proceeds from the sale goes to Die Herberg’s educational trust. Only hard costs – vineyard supplies, labour and packaging – are recovered. Marketing and sales are done by the community pro bono. Here the extraordinary and ongoing efforts of Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield estate cannot be over emphasized – thanks to her efforts , Thunderchild is sold in the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, China, Botswana and Namibia. National sales continue to be substantial, with Investec pouring it for their functions and, Woolworths stocking it in their upmarket stores.

Jeanette is always quick to point out local support by wine stores, restaurants and bars and retailer Woolworths has contributed greatly. Several cellars in the Robertson region and further afield stock Thunderchild and display the bottles and their story prominently in their tasting rooms.


In need of a warm fuzzy feeling? Then be inspired by the reports of how the Trust funds have benefitted children over the last decade. One important decision with huge impact was to ensure that every child leaves the Home with a driver’s licence, something not paid for by government funds. Teenagers finding employment and apprenticeships in trades after school are at a great advantage by being able to drive..



The fund pays for a fulltime tutor to help with homework and studies and provide extra maths classes for all. By 2017 five children had enrolled in universities or colleges of their choice, and not only their fees, but books, meals and pocket money were covered by the fund. Those shining at sport have been funded to take part in competitions including an overseas rugby tour to England and Scotland and a dancing competition in Croatia.


Others who have special needs are also given the best chance to succeed: Currently 25 of these children are at special needs or technical schools in neighbouring towns as Robertson lacks such an institution. Thunderchild transports them on a weekly basis, pays tuition fees, board and lodging.


Time to pour a glass or two of Thunderchild 2015. The current blend consists of half merlot, 30% cab franc and 20 % cab sauvignon, made in the traditional way by fermenting uncrushed berries with native yeast found on the grape skins. It matured for a year in French oak and was bottled sans fining or filtration. It was then bottled aged for another year before being released.   Elegant, delicious, and a tad more accessible than some of the earlier vintages, this is a winner in every way


.As Jenna Bruwer put it, every child has the potential to change the world : The Thunderchild Project aims to unlock that potential in those at the Robertson Children’s Home .


The Thunderchild necktag urges consumers to “do good while drinking great wine” Perhaps it should add “and raise a glass to celebrate a decade of production and a centenary of caring.”



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Winelovers who watch their budgets – and that surely applies to most of us – no doubt know  the fine wines of Waterkloof, as well as  that striking building housing gourmet restaurant and cellar on the slopes of the Schapenberg high above the azure waters of False Bay.  But while they have savoured them on special occasions, comparatively few are likely to enjoy them as  regularly as they would like.

How many, I wonder, know of the range called False Bay,  a sister brand of Waterkloof estate wines,  but separate to the extent that they are listed on their own in the Platter guide. They are not new, but I think that talented cellarmaster Nadia  Barnard has taken the range up a notch or three, to the point where  those  sampled recently are on a par with some  Waterkloof labels, such as the Seriously Cool duo



Barnard says that they have found better sources for the grapes used in the range and have marked the improvement with new labels that are both attractive and informative: The chenin blanc is adorned with a snail to accompany its name Slow Chenin Blanc 2017. The back label expands on the traditional methods used , where the fruit from old vines is fermented with wild yeasts found naturally on the grapes and that the winemaking process takes a least six months.

The grapes were sourced from three bushvine vineyards, one 40-year-old from the Swartland, the other  two from mature Stellenbosch vines.


The result is quite delicious, a chenin whose fragrant aromas envelop one on unscrewing, followed by stone fruit flavours  on the palate. Its elegant, there’s old vine structure lurking there, all balanced nicely by a welcome freshness.


he Old School syrah 2017 also impresses hugely. The only wine in the range that has alcohol levels as high as 14% this was sourced from two Stellenbosch vineyards, one in granite, planted in 2000 and the other in sandstone in 2005. Given the same attention and using the same methods as all the wines in this portfolio, there is plenty of fruit, a little white pepper and smooth and accessible tannins.

The rest of the range consists of the Windswept sauvignon blanc 2017, Crystalline chardonnay 2017, a Whole Bunch  2017 rosé  sourced from cinsaut and mourvèdre anda Bush Vine pinotage 2014,

Owner Paul Boutinot has been on a mission to find and rescue old, under-appreciated vineyards with potential since 1994, in order to  transform their fruit into wines made with minimal intervention, using  wild yeast sans  added. acid...  Trendy now, but not then !



Waterkloof estate is one of the Cape’s prized showcases, from the sustainable farm, a conservation champion which achieved fully certified organic and biodynamic status 4 years ago, to its cheese tastings, fine Gallic dining, walking tours,  horse riding, even an art collection to contemplate – and a range of quality wines, this one offering extraordinary value for money. All the False Bay wines retail at R58.and are widely available from small retail outlets.

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