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Myrna Robins

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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 The moonshine industry flourished until 1933 when the law was revoked and the population danced as they celebrated...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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When’s the right time for bubbly? Any time is the correct answer, especially as we have so many delicious sparkling wines vying for our attention today. But, when it comes to fine Cap Classiques, aka South African “champagnes” we often wait for an occasion of sorts to pop the cork and raise our flutes.

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Come May and its Mother’s Day that’s being used by advertisers to sell anything from flowers to chocolates, and, of course bubblies galore. This is one occasion when packaging plays a significant role and influences decisions when purchasing

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The Krone MCC’s score well here for a start – the rosés in particular come encased in bottles adorned with rosy-tinted labels and foil tops edged with black and gold. These go into distinctive packs which are popped into a classy carrier, adding up to a persuasive package!

But of course, the proof is in the pud, and here, as always, Krone continues the fine tradition at Twee Jonge Gezellen of producing four-star Cap Classiques that charm both connoisseurs and newcomers to the world of fine bubbles. The 2017 vintages of both the Rosé Cuveé Brut and the Night Nectar Demi-Sec Rosé have been released: The former is a blend of mostly pinot noir with 15% chardonnay and is a classic of its genre. Salmon pink and bone dry, the nose presents a meld of floral and appley aromas, while the palate is tickled with a fine mousse and swathe of berried flavours.

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Until fairly recently the semi-sweet sparklers were usually of dubious quality, and shunned by knowledgeable fans. Happily this has changed as we have producers like Krone offering fine MCC’s like their Night Nectar Demi-Sec which make wonderful companions to a range of shellfish, grilled chicken and meats with sweet marinades as well as berried puds and gateaux. Comprising a similar blend to its drier cousin, this bubbly takes you through a bouquet of berry aromas to a smooth sweep of strawberries finished with cream and laced with tiny bubbles.

Both sell for around R145.

If you haven’t been to this historic and very beautiful Tulbagh farm with its treasured three-century history for a while, it could be time for another visit. Buildings and cellar have been extensively restored offering a wonderful venue for sampling the Cap Classique range in a magnificent mountainous setting.

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Those with deeper pockets and a yen to spoil mother with a Gallic treat also have a good range of French champagnes to contemplate. Among the comparatively recent brands to enjoy international success is Nicolas Feuillatte, who offers two rosés, both non-vintage: the Graphic Ice Rosé , a demi-sec that is hugely popular in France and across the world (R760) and the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé priced at R745. Perhaps even better known in this country is the Bollinger name, and their two rosés are also stocked locally. The non-vintage is a blend of pinot noir,chardonnay and meunier (R1200) while the 2006 vintage of Bollinger Cuvée Rosé is the maiden vintage dedicated to rosé which, after a decade of ageing, has developed a distinctive and unique character. It costs abour R1300.

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Frisky and flavourful or complex and creamy - sauvignon blanc comes in both styles – and many more besides. With International Sauvignon Blanc Day being celebrated globally on Friday, May 04, it will be the wine of choice for get-togethers, at many an end -of -week party.

It’s a good idea to have both unwooded and wooded sauvignons in stock, to please all palates and to team with sunny autumn days and chilly evenings.

Neil Ellis fits the bill beautifully with his pair of 2017 sauvignon blancs of exceptional quality – both rate four and half stars in Platter – as son Warren continues to produce impressive wines to further his father’s fine reputation. They source grapes from exceptional vineyards and treat them with infinite care, continuing an established tradition which now encompasses a beautiful cellar, tasting centre and vinotheque at the foot of Helshoogte pass.

 

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To the wines: Back in 1986 when Neil Ellis started using grapes from the Groenekloof ward in the Darling district for his sauvignon blancs, the maiden wine, released in 1991, not only attracted acclaim but put the area on the Cape wine map. The 2017 Groenekloof sauvignon blanc continues the tradition, elegantly and expressively, allowing the 20-year-old bush vines to express terroir with complex structure and some flint backing the tropical fruit and friskiness. A round mouthfeel is followed by a long, satisfying finish. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping and the wine retails between R95 and R110.

 

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The Neil Ellis Amica 2017, a fully barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc whose simple white label belies a connoisseur’s choice and limited edition produced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and the wine spent nine months in 500 litre barrels. The nose offers a posy of floral and herby aromas, which are followed on the palate by flavours of stone fruit and some citrus beautifully balanced with mineral notes. There’s also a creaminess that’s complemented with freshness to complete a memorable tasting experience. On its own, very special, but paired, would lift a range of elegant seafood and white meat dishes to gourmet heights. It sells for between R225 and R275.

See www.neilellis.com for more information.

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How interesting. The back label of this polished, elegant and most inviting white blend defines ‘Revenant’ as “one that returns after death or a long absence.” Hmm. My trusty (and admittedly old) Cassell’s French -English dictionary lists the word as meaning “pleasing, prepossessing, charming or a ghost”. Well - leaving aside the spooky one - all these definitions apply to Revenant from False Bay Vineyard rather well.

This is another delicious wine from cellarmaster Nadia Barnard - who has helped make the False Bay range a firm and affordable favourite – this time a classic blend that mirrors the first white wine made by owner Paul Boutinot in France back in 1984. The blend of sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc brought fame to the Loire, but went out of fashion as the world turned to single cultivar wines. A decade later Boutinot established False Bay Vineyards in the Helderberg, followed by the renowned biodynamic Waterkloof 10 years on.

It is well known that our top white blends are among the finest wines to flow from Cape cellars, and Revenant can join them with pride, and, given the retail price of less than R100, comes in at considerably less than some of its competitors . As with other products from this cellar, it is made in the traditional way, with minimal intervention, maturing in old wood and concrete eggs, being left for 10 months on lees.

Comprising 80% sauvignon and the remainder chenin blanc , most of the grapes were sourced from Waterkloof’s own vineyards, some of which having reached 35 years in age. This has lent both personality and depth to the wine, which is quietly assertive and beautifully balanced, offering subtle fruity elegance with moderate alcohol levels. It will make a fine companion for a wide range of sophisticated fare, both Gallic and international gourmet but is also a delightful aperitif to sip while savouring spectacular autumn sunsets.

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I found both these Garden Route wines very charming – partly because they seem to tick all my boxes and perhaps because they encapsulate so many features that the majority of winelovers look for – from palate to purse to provenance.

As a wine writer I also appreciated a press release that that was both compact and well-written and happily sans endless pages of indulgent hyperbole and meaningless high falutin phrases.

Boets Nel, MD of the hospitable cellar of De Krans in Calitzdorp bought sauvignon blanc and pinot noir grapes from the Waboomskraal valley in the foothills of the Outeniqua range. They reached his cellar within an hour of harvesting, where highly competent winemaker Louis van der Riet made this complementary pair over the next several months.The berries were slow -ripening and intensely flavoured for both cultivars, we are told – and this is certainly borne out by the end products.

The Garden Route sauvignon blanc 2017 presents both verdant and tropical fruit aromas, which are followed on the palate by green notes and some passion fruit. While crisp, there is a pleasing lack of searing acidity, while more than a hint of flint adds structure. Moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% complete a well-balanced, appealing summer wine that is adorned with four-star Platter and Vitis Vinifera stickers and costs R70.

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Turning to the 2016 Garden Route pinot noir, its fairly pale hue forecasts the lighter, prevalent style in which its made, The wine is packed with berried fruit along with the characteristic savory character, the tannins are soft and smooth but a year in French oak has added backbone to add  appeal.

Slips down nicely on its own, but is equally happy to accompany red and white meat, meaty fish and – as always – mushrooms. Selling at R110, this wine also boasts a four-star rating and gold from Vitis Vinifera 2017.

Both wines are available only from De Krans cellar or online through www.dekrans.co.za. For more info, email dekrans@mweb.co.za or call 044 213 3314.

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