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Muscat de Hambourg is a German cultivar that is uncommon in South Africa, with Stellenbosch Hills being one of two local cellars that processes it. Cellarmaster P-G Slabbert told us this German cultivar reached our shores in the 19th century – I cannot find it listed under any variations of muscat/moskat/etc in my Sothebys wine encyclopedia.

But these grapes were responsible for the fine aperitif or digestif that is La Serena, an aristocratic blend of Muscat de Hambourg with seven-year-old potstill brandy. La Serena is seductive to the eye, offering brilliant shades of ripe pomegranate, with a nose that incorporates rose petals and also  offers a diverse flavours to the palate, including nuttiness. There is no doubt that its handsome packaging matches its patrician status, being housed in a black box, lettered in gold, that requires some ingenuity to open. Childproof? Probably, and possible adult-proof too if being opened after a long liquid dinner… Only 1400 bottles of this anniversary tribute have been made, and it sells for R350. Wonderful birthday gift for anyone reaching their three score and 10 …. And equally appetising well chilled and paired with a variety of good SA cheeses.

But before we reached the stage of sampling this unique liqueur, Stellenbosch Hills had lined up an enjoyable function at the equally serene Signal restaurant of the Cape Grace hotel, where an impressive menu had been created to pair with the Stellenbosch Hills range.

The first course of citrus cured salmon was partnered by new vintages of the cellar’s sauvignon and chenin blancs. These two popular summer wines have always offered very pleasant quaffing at equally pleasing prices. The current prices –R45 and R35 respectively – seem to have stayed much the same, but the quality of the 2015 vintages has rocketed onto a higher plane indeed: the fruity, medium-bodied crisp sauvignon is fresh, flavourful and impressive, while the fresh and zingy chenin presents a tropical fruit salad with underlying minerality – a bargain buy of note.

Staying with whites to counter temperatures in the 30’s, the fine 1707 Reserve White 2013 made an excellent  accompaniment to a delectable porcini mushroom risotto topped with truffle foam. This opulent blend of mostly chardonnay with some semillon, finished with 10% viognier, enjoyed 10 months in French oak, each component maturing separately. It’s a limited edition, and one that can take on all kinds of spicy seafood, poultry and Middle Eastern layered compositions like B’stilla with panache. Also well priced at R70.

To Stellenbosch Hills and its team, including family member and voluntary PR Nicolette Waterford, a toast to the next three decades!


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