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Myrna Robins

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Posted by on in Reviews

PLATTER’S by Diners Club International: 2018 South African Wine Guide.

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Can you believe this is the 38th edition of this invaluable guide to wines, cellars, routes, restaurants and more across South Africa.  And, as remarkable, is the fact that its capable, meticulous, urbane and modest editor has seen this, his 20th edition, launched at the Waterfront in early November last year.

In his editor’s note Philip van Zyl briefly covers the scope of the guide, including recent additions to the information like GPS co-ordinates and acknowledges the efforts of his tasting team, one of whom, Dave Swingler, marks his 21st year of contributions.

Of the approximately 8 000 wines assessed, a few make it through to a second and third round tasting, and from these the five-star wines emerge, and ultimately, the Wines of the Year.  There is also a coveted award for Winery of the Year, this year presented to Raats Family wines. Highly recommended is another useful category to peruse, as are the Hidden Gems. Plenty of info for those looking for an industry overview, cultivars, competitions, as well as our wine regions, tours, restaurants and accommodation. The maps seem to be clearer this year as well. (And no, I have not acquired new spectacles).

Recommended price around R260 and of course, in addition to the print version of this comprehensive and essential companion, the guide is also available as an app and a web-based edition. 

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Posted by on in Events

 

Harvest, romance and summer celebrations – the Boland lays them on!

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 The popular Stellenbosch Street Soirees are back. These are bi-monthly events  where quality wines, cool tunes and country fare combine to make street parties to remember. Hosted by the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, visitors can savour sundowner wines and early suppers as street stalls set up to offer their fare and wares under the oaks. Each soiree features a different choice of cellars and caterers. Tickets cost R100 for entry and 12 wine tasting tokens. Events take place from 6 – 8pm. Next one is on January 24 followed by February 7 and 21. For more info, contact 021 886 4310 or go to www.wineroute.co.za

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The annual Stellenbosch Harvest Parade will see the Cape minstrels, drum majorettes and brass bands take over the streets of the city of oaks on Saturday January 27. Marking the start of harvest season, its a tribute to the winemaking community, as decorated tractors and trailers from many cellars start their journey through town from 9am. A harvest blessing and awards ceremony takes place at the town hall an hour later. For more info, visit www.wineroute.co.za.

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The Delheim harvest celebration, a popular annual event, also takes place on Saturday January 27 and a few changes have been introduced to the 2018 programme.  It’s a one-day affair this year, but still includes grape picking and stomping,  good food, fine wine and live music. Guests will be seated at one long table and numbers are limited to 120 so early booking is advised. The fun starts at 11.30, with picking, and the ticket price of R650 includes a bottle of Delheim wine and lunch. Children's tickets cost R120, those under four get in free.To book, email charlotte@delheim.com or contact her at 021 888 4600.

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Cool elegance, white outfits and superb white, rosé, sparkling and light red wines are on the menu at Franschhoek Summer Wines, taking place on February 3 at Leopard’s Leap family vineyards.  These refreshing wnes will be paired with delicious food, while live music will add final touches to a memorable day in the valley.
Tickets, cost R220 per person, and can be purchased through 
www.webtickets.co.za.  Pre-bookin is essential as tickets are limited. The cost includes entry, a complimentary tasting glass and 15 wine tasting coupons,.

 
For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email
info@franschhoek.org.za
 

 

 

Now here's a novel pairing!

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Popcorn may not be the first item to come to mind when contemplating Valentines month, but Stellenbosch Hills  has found some gourmet flavoured corn to complement their Polkadraai range of wines. So for the month of love, the cellar will offer  a delicious lineup that includes the sparkling Polkadraai Sauvignon Blanc Brut with banana-coated popcorn and their moreish Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc 2017 with salted caramel popcorn. Dark chocolate corn  is paired with the Pinotage/Merlot 2015 while the Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé enivens strawberry popcorn.

The pairings cost R50 a head and takes about 30 minutes, although visitors are invited to try the other Stellenbosch Hills  wines as well. As always, visit on a Friday, and buy five Polkadraa wines and get the 6th free of charge!

Opening times are from 9am to 5pm and Saturday from  10am to 3pm. Pop and cheer! Book ahead by calling 021 881 3828.

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Posted by on in Blog

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My admiration for those wineries which  have taken the decision to go organic, both in vineyard and cellar, and get certified to that effect, is considerable and ongoing. Not only does it involve much extra work, both physical and written, but this worthy dimension adds substantially to the cost of wine production.

Reyneke Organic Wines was the first South African wine farm to be certified as such  for both grape growing and production. They have gone one step further, practising biodynamic viti -and viniculture on their Polkadraai farm Uitzicht.

As most readers know, this means firstly that the vineyards are herbicide, pesticide and fungicide-free and, in order to be self-sustaining, they recycle wherever possible. They  work in harmony with the moon, and study the constellations to create fine wines, working at nature’s pace, following natural and cosmic cycles. It all makes for a holistic environment in synergy with their vegetable gardens, animal husbandry and people, along with conserving  pockets of indigenous fynbos..

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Reyneke Biodynamic syrah 2015 has already impressed both local and overseas critics and understandably so.  The nose, aromatic with berry flavours gives way to a palate where fruit and spices mingle, while substantial tannins, add weight. But the freshness and purity – consistently present in Johan’s wines – are there, adding up to well balanced complexity that will continue to develop over the next few years. Moderate 13% alcohol levels are in keeping. At R175 it’s reasonably priced, given its pedigree.

The biodynamic range consists of four reds and four white wines, and there is a pair of organic wines in addition.

It’s worth noting that the farm is open for sales on weekdays,but visitors need to make an appointment for tastings, vineyard walks and cellar tours. Contact 021 881 3517.

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Posted by on in Food

 

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By Durbanville standards, this is a big farm, covering 840ha, supporting grain, cattle and sheep and, more recently, 50ha of vines. It joins others in the region which have  celebrated their tercentenary, as first owner, that prominent pioneer Olof Bergh of the VOC was granted the land by Simon van der Stel as the 17th century drew to a close.

 

It has taken present owners, fourth generation Brinks, André and Ronelle, years of hard work, renovation, restoration, and wine production to reach the stage when they held a media day recently, partly to mark 120 years of Brink family ownership. Simultaneously they celebrated the  release of the new vintages in rebranded packaging, and  of  their maiden cap classique and pinotage.

 

Unlike some of its fellow farms, Groot Phesantekraal is really rustic, with suburbia still some way from its boundaries (long may this continue). The family occupies the main farmstead, while the private tasting room still retains reminders of its early role as hen house. If the weather is kind, visitors can settle on the terrace for wine and order a cheese and charcuterie platter.

 

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 The airy restaurant – one of the oldest buildings - spent its first 250 years as a stable – and the feeding troughs attest to that, as does the old stone floor – where 10cm heels are not recommended!  ChefJean van Deventer presented an early spring menu, that included braised pork belly with Dauphine potatoes, roasted onion puree, apple chutney and fried polenta with beer-battered veggies as a vegetarian option. There was well spiced kabeljou paired with chorizo and a sweet potato risotto, and dessert of apple frangipani tart with roasted apple cinnamon icecream made a fine finale. I would head to this venue for their Saturday morning brunch, as the menu is tempting, and prices, while not in the budget category  , are acceptable given the quality of fare.

 

As I arrived at the farm late, I missed out on a flute of the new cap classique (R120) made by winemaker Etienne Louw, formerly of Altydgedacht. But my colleagues all enjoyed their welcome bubbly, as I did my tasting sample.

 

 Louw also made the 2017 Groot Phesantekraal  sauvignon blanc 2017, (R72) which has already garnered a Veritas Double Gold and made it to the Top 10 in the Sauvignon Blanc awards. It is a beautiful wine, presenting a complex mix of fruit, both tropical and citrus blanced by  crisp but not over-acidic mouthfuls – there's  less of the distinctive  dusty Durbanville verdancy which characterises many of the valley’s sauvignons.

 

I only managed a couple of sips of the 2017 chenin blanc, sourced from 55-year-old bush vines , but I wish I could have tasted more of this dry, fruity, heritage wine, selling at R50. Ditto the 2015 cabernet which has attracted gold from Michelangelo and is, by all accounts, both accessible yet elegant,  and priced at R120.

 

The farm’s flagship white is their Anna de Koning chenin blanc 2016/7, a barrel-fermented single vineyard limited release that is rich, offering concentrated fruit and nuts , opulent, elegant, and a worthy addition to the present generation of fine wooded chenins. mostly found in the  Breedekloof and Swartland regions. Its a wine that could well complement Middle Eastern specialities where fruit and nuts add flavour and crunch to layered rice and chicken or lamb. At R120 its an affordable addition to our ever-increasing choice of champion chenins.

 

I did not get to taste the farm’s pinotage Berliet 2016.

 

 

Groot Phesantekraal is off Klipheuwel Way, and its contact number is 021 825 0060  It’s  great to have another beautiful Durbanville farm to add to the hospitable collection across the Tygerberg, and this destination is one that both history buffs and wine lovers will  enjoy immensely. 

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Posted by on in Reviews

 

Overkill  by  James Clarke. Published by Struik Nature 2017

 

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The subtitle – The Race to Save Africa’s Wildlife – sums up the conservation goal, but the scope of the book is wider, offering readers a comprehensive summary of past and present threats to Africa’s wildlife, both marine and land-based. Describing 2015 and 2016 as “the worst of years and the best of years” Clarke refers to the former as the costliest in terms of the wanton slaughter of the continent’s megafauna. But the 24 months  will  also go down , he thinks, as the time when the tide started to turn...  As he puts it, the lowest ebb is always the turn of the tide

South Africans and those who come from afar to visit our parks and reserves have been reading about and viewing the wanton destruction wrought there in the present century, often with a feeling of helplessness as well as fury.  Plenty of facts in this paperback to add to those sentiments, but also some positive data to offset the gloom as we read of  the extent of international awareness and the gradual increase in African realisation of the benefits of eco-tourism.

Africa is the only continent that survived the disappearance of the world’s megafauna, as early humans migrated from Africa to the rest of the world. Clarke sets out to describe how this happened using the term “overkill” to mean anything done to excess.

In North America the European settlers extinguished whole species as they migrated southwards while similarly humans in Europe and Asia shared in the global overkill – all comparatively recently, geologically speaking.

But in Africa – the continent from which humans originated – this did not happen, and the fauna survived because of, rather than in spite of, the hunters. This was because the big mammals had watched humans graduate from stone-throwing hunters to athletic spear throwers and on to using  more sophisticated weapons and learned to keep their distance. But in  the 19th and 20th centuries this changed as hunters practised “overkill” – slaughtering all they could for the fun of it.  Their exploits, proudly published form the mid-1800s onward, make sickening reading.

With lion populations in steep decline today, Clarke muses that the well-reported killing of Cecil , the renowned Zimbabwean black-maned lion and subject of a research project at Oxford University resulted in international disgust and the start of laws prohibiting the import of hunting trophies in both the USA and the EU. The elephant slaughter is dealt with next, followed by that of the rhino, with the huge demand from China and Vietnam for horns. The shameful story of the recent exploitation of marine life and the pollution of our oceans  presents equaly horrifying reading.

On the positive side,  a year ago, in January 2017 , China announced its reduction and gradual closing down of the ivory industry which was a huge step toward saving the surviving elephant population.Fusing protected areas into mega-parks across Africa is another hopeful sign.

Clarke has been writing articles and books with environmental themes for decades, and writing for newspapers since he was 16. He is one of the three founders of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and one of the most readable of journalists, and his new title confirms this.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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There are very few who do not enjoy riding the rails and many who claim that train  is by far the best way to travel. The experience of rattling along in carriages, especially when pulled by a proper steam engine, is an experience both unique and nostalgic, so that many visitors, local and international, mourned the passing of rail transport to Franschhoek.

The station, however, stayed intact and was maintained , not like other forlorn deserted stations across the South African platteland. Occasionally trips were organised to farms along the line – I remember one, in particular, a splendid journey to Bellingham to mark, I think, both a wine launch and the restoration of the old farmstead.

When doing research for my Franschhoek Food cookbook nearly a decade ago, there was talk of reviving the rail link shared by several farms along the R45 – while nothing has come of that  there was great excitement some five years ago when the Franschhoek Wine Tram service was launched, taking guests on a short journey on rails in a 32-seater open-sided tram which stopped at two wine estates in the village. Brainchild of the Blyth family, who no doubt spent many frustrating hours dealing with the logistics of their venture, from bureaucracy downwards, their vision and persistence are worthy of thunderous applause!

The tram proved to be an instant success, offering local and international visitors a fun way to travel that was adventurous, but less hazardous than tasting wine on horseback.

Earlier this month, the Blyth family and GM Brett Garner hosted officials,  media and  visitors to the new Franschhoek Wine Tram Double Deck trams, at Groot Drakenstein station. The service now embraces some 22 wine farms, spanning the valley’s wine route. Travellers can spend between 30 and 60 minutes on board as part of a full day R220 wine tour which extends as far as Vrede en Lust in Simondium.

From the wine tram website, we learn that a combo of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops. They can choose to hop on and hop off for wine tastings, cellar tours, lunch or just stroll through the vineyards.There are six hop-on hop-off routes to choose from, each visiting eight wine estates in different parts of the beauteous valley, while a narrative covers the history of the valley and its wine.

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As Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde remarked   in his launch address, this new expanded service will allow more than 120 000 guests to enjoy the trip in the current tourist season.

Just another good reason to make sure that the stupendous Franschhoek valley is on every traveller’s must-do itinerary this summer and autumn.

See www.winetram.co.za.  For more information  call Brett Garner on 27(0)83  260 0453.

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Posted by on in News

 

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The  just-released Tanagra Colombard 2017 is, indeed, a maiden release worthy of connoisseur attention, but its also a wine  for all who relish unearthing the unexpected: - In this case finding a Colombard that, having been given star treatment, has risen to the challenge and proved that even cultivars that are not regarded as “noble” can be transformed into classy wines worthy of special status.

The beautiful little Tanagra wine farm and distillery a few kilometres outside McGregor village  has established itself as a hugely popular venue both for locals and international visitors. Beautifully restored by Robert and Anette Rosenbach it is a haven of tranquillity in a valley where vines and orchards roll up to the foothills of the Sonderend mountains. The indigenous flora – mostly Little Karoo but with patches of mountain fynbos – is as lovingly preserved on Tanagra as are the vineyards, and Continental travellers make a beeline for Tanagra’s two “getaway” self-catering cottages – off-the-grid, stylish accommodation complete with plunge pools and sweeping views. There are other cottages to hire on the main farm, within shouting distance of the giant and ancient wild fig tree that shades the tasting room courtyard.

The certified single vineyard that is home to the Colombard grapes that yielded their juice to this golden-hued wine is 20 years old and this maturity is reflected in the structure and complexity of the wine.  The nose offers fruit – subtropical,  stone fruit with a hint of characteristic  guava. Although fairly  light-bodied there are hints of flint to round out the fresh zippiness that accompanies  dry but fruity notes on the palate. Alcohol levels are kept to a moderate 13,5%.  Wild-yeast fermented  the Colombard spent 10 months on the lees before being bottled.

 It’s one of these rare white wines that tastes even better the next day after being opened and having spent a  night in the fridge, and reveals its character better if it’s not over-chilled.  Production was limited to 2 500 bottles, and the cellar door price is R80.

What has been nicely  proven here  is that’s  there is more to Colombard than its capacity as a major component of  base wine for our brandy production.

With this unique release the McGregor valley has added another “first” to its burgeoning   reputation for diverse and quality ranges:  
Another limited edition from Tanagra is their immensely popular Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir, the 2017 vintage having also just been released. Previous vintages have taken little time to sell out, so all wanting this outstanding “pink” (which this year is darker than usual, strawberry-hued, thanks to concentrated berries) should waste no time in stocking up.    As before its dry, packed with berry flavours and presenting a fine balance between fruit and friskiness.

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No blog about Tanagra can be complete without mention of the impressive and substantial ranges of grappa or marc and eaux de vie that Robert Rosenbach crafts in his charming distillery – here, as with his wines, innovation melds with quality to intrigue guests who sample uncommon products  like quince and lemon eau de vie  along with more classic creations. And few leave without clutching a slim bottle of his irresistible Tanagra Orange Liqueur, with its extraordinarily concentrated citrus flavours.  (Tip for a festive finale: pair it with very dark chocolate sprinkled over a vanilla panna cotta.)

Tanagra  is open to the public for tastings and sales seven days a week, but it’s advisable to contact the farm ahead if possible to make sure the owners are there. For more information,  and details of their range of impressive reds not mentioned here, visit www.tanagra-wine.co.za, or send an e-mail to tanagra@tanagra-wine.co.za.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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Tagged in: Wine wine news
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Posted by on in Blog

          

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The fact that Boplaas now makes a substantial range of fine table wines, and brandies, does nottake away from their exceptional reputation for fine Cape port wines and muscadels.  A few years ago they added a complex red blend named Gamka, to their ranges, named  after their lifeblood river that flows past Calitzdorp to the majestic Swartberg mountains which form the picturesque backdrop.

Now there is a partner, in the form of a white blend, called, sensibly Gamka Branca, and this 2016 maiden production of 1400 bottles  add quality diversity to the ever-growing number of fine Cape white blends.

I confess to this being my favourite class of Cape wine, especially when chenin-based, but I savoured this generous, exotic meld of cultivars with distinctive character that reflects the Klein Karoo, even though only two of its components were sourced from Boplaas vineyards

Gamka Branca consists of about 60% Elgin chardonnay, with Stellenbosch grenache blanc and viognier,  Boplaas verdelho and Swartland chenin. After fermentation in old French oak the wine wines spent nine months in more old French oak before selection, blending and bottling, unfined and unfiltered. Alcohol levels have been  kept to a  moderate 13%  The wine presents a complex blend of citrus and stone fruit flavours, a little spicy oak and discernible tannins adding characterful complexity.

While it will no doubt benefit from cellaring, it will also add new and delicious flavours to our sundowners and festive tables during this summer and next autumn . I am looking forward to pairing it with more than seafood, as I think its going to partner  diverse fare with panache.

Gamka Branc already displays on its bottle its impressive scores in the 90’s from Tim Atkins and Platter, alongside its four and half Platter stars.

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Posted by on in News

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Winelovers make Christmas gift shopping painless for the giver, especially if their preference in wine styles is known. If budgets are limited to under R100, the choice is still huge, as there are dozens of good quality, enjoyable Cape wines that sell for less – sometimes a lot less.

Wines that offer something extra include the Anthonij Rupert Protea labels while the range is wide enough to suit every taste. These are wines that are meant to be drunk soon, and they come in bottles designed to be re-used, or upcycled as their marketing department terms it . As the bottles are all decorated with attractive floral designs in white, they can be re-used to make attractive tumblers, vases and other items, given the talents of professional glass-cutters.

The bottles also sport Helix closures, which are usually only found on pricier wines. This innovative design combines cork and glass in a resealable top , as the twist-out cork can be closed by hand in the threaded bottle neck.

The range consists of four whites and a rosé, selling for between R50 and R60 and three reds are priced at between R60 and R70. Find them at the Franschhoek farm or a select outlets countrywide.

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Posted by on in Blog

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With chenin blanc now firmly established as the cultivar that not only celebrates more than 350 years of Cape history and not only occupies more SA vineyard area than any other white varietal, but that produces   top chenin blancs that are being recognised across the globe as the best on the planet. Confirmation of this can be seen in the rave reviews and points awarded to our chenin blancs from acknowledged experts – recently UK guru Tim Atkin MW awarded the trio of 2016 Mulderbosch Single Vineyard chenins scores of 96 (Block A), 95 (Block W) and 93 (Block S2) respectively in his 2017 Special Report on South African wines.

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While the Swartland has happily claimed to be home to the finest chenin terroir, Stellenbosch has quietly been upping its chenin blanc production to prove that this pioneer region can – and does – produce exceptional chenin blancs.  The Mulderbosch trio is a good example, each chenin offering a distinct expression of place, with Block A  - sourced from the southern slopes of the Bottelary Hills -  perhaps the friskiest, with exotic fruit aromas followed by dry but concentrated fruit on the palate.

  Vineyard Block S2, whose grapes  came from the northern slopes of the Bottelary Hills, is more complex, its  golden hue offering hints of the power ahead. Dry and savoury, the nose of caramel is as rich as the flavours that follow, and  there’s a saline hint in the mouthfeel and long finish. A connoisseur chenin to savour now or squirrel away for a future occasion.

Block W also presents a hue of deep gold and is probably the most complex chenin of the three. The vineyard that produced these grapes is sited in granite close to False Bay. 

A wealth of fynbos and herby aromas leads to citrus and flint on the palate in a rich,  powerful but well-balanced wine.

All the vines are more than 30 years old, and the fruits of all three were harvested in the same way, being  whole- bunch pressed. Used 225litre French oak was chosen for fermentation and maturation.

These limited editions make wonderful festive gifts for Christmas and fine partners for New Year al fresco fare.  They are also likely to produce yet more SA chenin fans who will  sing the praises of our superb chenin blancs. The recommended retail price is R250 each.

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Posted by on in News

 

 

 

 

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A  welcome newcomer was released at Morgenster estate last month when Giulio Bertrand and his team presented  the maiden Vespri 2017 to media and friends at his hillside tasting pavilion.

The first white in his Italian opera-themed collection, Vespri is produced from Vermentino grapes, a Sardinian cultivar that is starting to make an appearance at the Cape, although Morgenster’s vineyard is still in its infancy.

Named for  Verdi’s opera VespriSiciliani , the new addition is bright lemon in hue  in spite of its youth. It is fresh and dry with notes of flint to balance stone fruit flavours on the palate, moderate alcohol levels reflecting current tastes, Above all this, like nearly all Italian labels, is a wine made for food, to complement summer fare of seafood, salads and antipasti. It is the ideal partner to festive tables of al fresco Mediterranean dishes, lingered over at long tables in deep shade.

Vespri is a lightweight companion to Tosca, Nabucco and Caruso, rounding off the two reds – former of Sangiovese with Bordeaux blends and with Nabucco starring  Nebbiolo  - along with Caruso, a rosé of Sangiovese. Now there is  a quartet that can elevate every culinary occasion.

Vespri costs R120 from the farm and their online shop http://morgenster.co.za/ and is also available from selected  retailers.

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  • A festive season promotion featuring a wine range with a quirky name and a reputation that stretches across three continents. The first Fat Bastard wine originated as an experimental chardonnay and was produced by two friends, UK Guy Anderson and French winemaker Thierry Boudinaud.  Delighted with their creation  - which had been left on the lees for far longer than normal – and that  they had produced a big, fat, full-bodied wine, which led one of them to exclaim  “Well now that’s a fat bastard.” The name stuck, and they went on to make a whole range of rich, round, food-friendly wines that have found favour on both sides of the Atlantic.

Back  in SA they are produced by Robertson Winery, and the range offers a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir rose,  merlot, pinotage, shiraz and cabernet. Whites cost around R70, reds sell at R110 and all are widely available.

Winelovers across South Africa can be in with a chance to win a fabulous getaway to a luxurious destination in the spectacular Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga. Take your partner and escape to umVangati House for three nights on a #LiveLarge trip.

To be in line to win, you need to buy a bottle of Fat Bastard wine before the year ends. See  details below, and good luck...

To enter, buy any bottle of Fat Bastard wine with a promotional necktag, from any outlet in SA., before December 31, and follow the instructions on the necktag. OR Enter online before December 23 , go to http://www.fatbastardwine.co.za/pages/greencanyoncomp.php

 

 

 

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Posted by on in Reviews

 

The two titles reviewed here are  publications that will delight many readers, more particularly armchair historians, battlefield enthusiasts, Overberg lovers and travellers who like researching their holiday destinations both before and after their visits.

 

 

Guide to Sieges of South Africa by Nicki von der heyde. Published by Struik, 2017.

 

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Not only is this the perfect pocketbook for the legions of battlefiedl buffs who plan their trips around battlefields of Southern Africa, but it's written with such professional enthusiasm that it will surely draw new supporters to the fascinating  stories of the sieges that accompanied wars over two centuries.

This guide is a companion volume to van der Heyde's Field Gjuide to the Battlefields of South Africa which proved a highly successful publication. This specialist guide presents detailed descriptions of 17 sieges that occurred during the Cape Frontier, Anglo-Zulu, Basotho and Anglo-Boer wars. 

Some are well-known to most South Africans - such as the sieges of Lydenburg, Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. Others less so - I didn't know that Durban had been besieged in 1842 nor had I read about those at Mount Moorosi in what was then Basutoland or the sieges of Fort Cox and Fort Armstrong in the Eastern Cape.

As public fascination with sieges continues, it's good to have a well-qualified historian who is also a woman in the male-dominated battlefield-guiding fraternity turn to writing on her subject. Not only does she present a very readable text, but includes personal stories of heroism and heartbreak that are part of every battle and siege. As the writer points out, with sieges civilians were freqently involved, and some of them kept diaries recording their hardships and personal experiences both tragic and humorous. 

 The pages are brought to even greater life by maps, timelines, many old and some new  photographs that accompany human interest stories gleaned from diaries and letters and records of the time. 

The detailed and professional index compiled by Emsie du Plessis adds considerably to the book's usefulness as a reference tool.

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HERMANUS by Beth Hunt. Published by Struik Travel & Heritage, 2017.

 

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With a subtitle listing Whales, Wine, Fynbos and Art, readers get an immediate picture of what to expect in this appealing hardback with its front and back cover photographs of the town's iconic old harbour.

As one expects in a publication like this, the gallery of fine photographs by Johann and Kobus Kruger play a major role in illustrating both the natural and manmade beauty of the town and surroundings, its people and many attractions.

Chapters on tourist drawcards like whales and sharks are given much space, as is the art scene which thrives there in  all its diversity.The cliff path, and the equally famous Fernkloof Nature reserve and other sources of floral wealth are featured,

 as is the equally lovely Hemel-en-Aarde valley which not only stirs the aesthetic senses but also offer fine New World wines from a number of farms that form one of the most bewitching wine routes in the Cape - and the world.

The fascination of the the past is well-captured taking us back to the time when the Khoi met the first Dutch settlers and a teacher and shepherd made the clifftops near a freshwater spring the site of his summer camps for his sheep. Hermanus Pieters died  in 1837 and was destined to lend his name to the site which became known as Hermanuspietersfontein.

The stories of the shipwrecks on the coast, of the famous long-established hotels  also make fascinating reading, as does the lure of game-fishing. Current tales take in more recent developments, around new suburbs that have sprung up and new communities settled there, adding to the enormous diversity that makes the town and surrounds so attractive to both permanent residents and holiday visitors. 

 

Well-researched and written this is a charming and informative title for both locals, visitors and those planning to make their way to the whale capital of the world.

 

 

 

 

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 A GRAND INTERACTIVE CHAMPAGNE TREE FROM MOET & CHANDON

 

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With the countdown to Christmas under way, the Mother City is hosting a grand Champagne Tree, made entirely from recycled Moët & Chandon champagne bottles, which is also  interactive. Set against the backdrop of the Silo district at the V&A Waterfront, the impressive 10-metre tree, made from over 1 500 recycled bottles collected from all over South Africa,  will be topped with a spinning gold Moët & Chandon crown and decorated with more than 15,300 LED lights, in 26 concentric rows.

 

Anyone within reach can join the fun at the  tree lighting ceremony on  7th December  starting at 19h30. In another first for South Africa, visitors will be able to send messages to friends and family which will appear as scrolling notes on a magnificent light ribbon wrapped around the tree. Tweets and Instagram captions which include the hashtag #moetmomentcapetown will show in real-time and, when visitors engage on social media using the#moetmomentcapetown followed by the popping champagne bottle emoji, the Moët & Chandon crown at the top of the tree will spin!

With a bottle of its champagne opened every second around the globe, Moët & Chandon knows that every second is an experience, and every experience is a #moetmoment to live now.!

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GROOTE POST’S

CHRISTMAS MARKET ON SUNDAY 17THDECEMBER

 

As always, the terrace alongside the Groote Post Cellar will be a hive of activity, brimming with delicious and beautiful country offerings, while visitors relaxi in the shade under the trees in front of Hilda’s Kitchen  tucking into their delicious eats from the market. And the market will be a perfect playground for children who love the rolling lawns, playground, horse-riding, tractor rides and face painting, to name a few of the activities on offer.

 

Expect ‘ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS’ at Groote Post’s December Market - with decorations and gifts and Father Christmas entertaining the children.

 

Groote Post’s award-winning restaurant, Hilda’s Kitchen, will be open as usual, but please note that booking is essential.Although pets are most welcome – all dogs must be on a leash at-all-times. The market takes place from 10am to 3pm

 

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Eikendal Vineyards adds a Christmas and wine pairing to the options at the estate

 

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It’s the Festive Season andEikendal Vineyards is bringing the flavours of Christmas to their Tasting Centre with a delicious  Christmas & Wine Pairing.

Expect a truly German  Lebkuchen, with its nuances of honey, spices and cloves, covered in a thin layer of icing with the Pinotage 2016, which adds flavours of red and black cherries. The Charisma 2016, a blend of Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese, and the Mince Pie envelope  offers a rich and sensory tastte explosion.the bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 steps up to join a slice traditional, South African Christmas cake, straight from Granny’s recipe book.   

 

The exclusive Eikendal Christmas & Wine Pairing, which costs R100 per person, will keep visitors in the holiday spirit from 1 to 31 December, Tuesdays to Sundays between 10:00 and 16:30.To book for this decadent indulgence or for any queries relating to the Eikendal Experience, contact Chantal-Lee at 021 855 1422 or send an email toinfo@eikendal.co.za.

 

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CONGRATS TO BOTH OF THEM

 

The winners of the 2017 Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year Awards were announced at a black-tie gala dinner at La Residence Hotel in Franschhoek on  25 November,.

 

Christiaan Groenewald (Eagle’s Cliff Wines) and Wade Roger-Lund(Jordan Estate) claiming top honours respectively.

 

Christiaan Groenewald, delighted the judges with his Eagle’s Cliff Pinotage 2017. This is the second time he has been honoured with this distinguished accolade, having won Winemaker of the Year in 2013 for his ArendskloofVoetsporeTannat Syrah 2011 (Non-Bordeaux Red Blends category). Christiaan is one of only five winemakers to have won this award twice.

 

The 2017 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year, Wade Roger-Lund, received his award for the Jordan Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2015 (White Wines category).

 

The winning Winemaker receives R50 000 while the Young Winemaker, R25 000.  Both winemakers get two return businessclass tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA.

 

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A NEW AND RUSTIC COUNTRY EATERY IN THE ELGIN VALLEY

 

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  Rojaal IS  an authentic country eatery housed in a former flower-packing shed overlooking one of the  region’s many valleys, Rojaal (the Afrikaans word for Royal) was established just over a year ago by enterprising apple farmer Arno Reuvers. It boasts a heritage decor and offers soul-stirring views from its grassy ridge. Its interior is homely with farmhouse furniture and crockery completing the scene. The verandah offers al fresco seating, overlooking the childrens playgournd and a vista that stretches to distant mountains.

 

. In her tiny kitchen, chef Orscilla Hitchcock  applies her loving touch to ingredients to create timeless country classics.  Originally from Prince Albert, she completed her studies at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Hotel School in Granger Bay, Cape Town, before joining the Volkskombuis in Stellenbosch. Her path then led her to Leeuwenhof, where she headed the kitchen team. 

                                                                                                                 

Rojaal is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 8am to 5pm.                                                                                                                                                                   Turn off the N2 at the Viljoenshoop Road, just after the Peregrine Farm Stall and keep left for 4km For enquiries, call 021 204 1085 or email bestuurder@rojaal.co.za and chef@rojaal.co.za.

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There are many winelovers who would not think of tucking into a festive feast of beef fillet, leg of lamb of a haunch of venison without a bottle or two of excellent Cape cabernet sauvignon. Their source of origin is likely to be Stellenbosch or Paarl, both regions which have proven over decades to be home to the terroir required to produce acclaimed cabs.  Here’s news of three champions, each one of whom will grace tables set for holiday fare, from gourmet braais to trad and trendy menus for Christmas and the New Year that follows.

 

NEDERBURG II CENTURIES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013

 

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Ladies first, so take a bow Andrea Freeborough, cellarmaster at Nederburg, who is celebrating the fact that the 2013 Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon has been judged the best cab at the IWSC 2017 competition. It triumphed against others from several countries, scooping the Warren Winiarski Trophy, following on a similar victory last year when its companion cab, the Nederburg Private Bin R163 cab collected the trophy for best cabernet at the show.

This year’s winner, part of the II Centuries range, was made from low- yielding dryland Paarl vineyards, and spent 30 months in new, second and third-fill oak. It is a compelling cab, rich yet fresh, with ripe tannins and the characteristic cabernet flavours of dark berries and plums, with notes of cassis and aromatic wood. It packs an alcoholic punch at 15% and in something of a hat trick, its successor, the 2014 vintage, is Platter’s Red Wine of the Year in its just-released 2018 guide.

My 2013 sample was packaged to impress in a leather banded black velvet-lined case, which must have added considerably to the costs. It makes a fine gift for any and every occasion.

 

LE RICHE 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND 2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE

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There can be very few people in the wine world who do not share Etienne le Riche’s well-deserved reputation as 'king of South African cabernet' although as modest as he is, he would not flaunt that informal title. But he does say with conviction that Stellenbosch is Cabernet country, and has spent more than three decades proving this statement through a succession of brilliant vintages. The Le Riche cabs have now officially come of age as its 21 years since Etienne went on his own, setting up his cellar in the Jonkershoek valley and sourcing the best grapes for his wine across the region.

The maiden vintage in 1997 was voted five stars in the Platter guide and this was followed by a succession of acclaimed cabs. His son grew up at his side, went on to study viti- and viniculture and joined his father as winemaker in 2010. Today Etienne continues to be the driving force behind the winery, while Christo adds a modern touch while maintaining the philosophy of quality, consistency and elegance.

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In 2013 the family built a new winery on the lower slopes of the Helderberg but grapes are still sourced from Stellenbosch growers in different microclimates.  

I was unable to attend the Le Riche family’s recent vertical tasting of their cabernet, but have been  privileged to sample the  two 2014 vintages, the flagship Reserve and the  cabernet sauvignon that's the backbone of the range.

The Reserve is, as its name implies, the wine that embodies the best that can be made, where no effort or cost is spared to ensure quality that is  made to age. The 2014 spent 22 months in French oak, 62% of it new, and presents an impressive  classic cab, with prominent  freshness as wafts of cedarwood and blackcurrant are repeated as flavours, alongside juiciness , lively tannins, and a long finish. Already rich and elegant, but will continue to improve for up to a decade, its an aristocrat whose qualities are reflected in  retail prices of around R550.

The Cabernet 2014 does not suffer by comparison, as it's a hugely enjoyable wine that delivers everything cabernet fans look for: berry and plum aromas dominate, but there’s a hint of vanilla and cedarwood. The tannins are smooth and nicely balance the juicy fruit and agreeable freshness which adds up to pleasure that is also so approachable: this style adds appeal to a wider market who may have found earlier Le Riche cabs on the austere side.  Like the Reserve, alcohol levels are kept at 14%  and consumers can expect to pay between R210 and R250 in stores countrywide. Both wines will elevate main courses of beef, lamb, meaty fish and game bird dishes to memorable celebrations.

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From Stellenbosch, McGregor and Elgin, three delightful examples that express diverse regionality in appealing fashion and reviewed below in alphabetical order.

 

Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc 2017 

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The Morkel family have been making wine at Bellevue on the Bottelary road for than 150 years and their experience is clearly evident in this delicious single vineyard sauvignon blanc that also offers exceptional value.  The 19-year-old vineyard, dubbed Dodo, yields grapes to result in a wine that presents a bouquet of tropical flavours with autumn  fruit to follow on the palate. The wine is agreeably frisky, but there is a long finish where its fine balance is discernible.  The over-used phrase summer in a glass is really applicable here. Expect to pay R60 from the cellar door .

 

Lords Sauvignon Blanc 2017

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Lords wines just go on getting better and better. The new vintage sauvignon blanc is a case in point – it is  a moreish wine whatever your preference when it comes to this cultivar. This is because there is a good balance between fruity tropical flavours and crisp green ones, captured in a characterful wine that is tangy and refreshing with a hint of minerality. It made it into the Top 20 in this years Sauvignon Blanc contest and sells for R95 from the charming mountainside cellar in the McGregor highlands.

 

Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc

 

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It is not often that one finds a sauvignon blanc that improves with time after being opened. But this is what I found with this elegant offering from Elgin, it seemed to acquire more fruit allied to an agreeable richness  after 24 hours, while crisp verdancy was predominant on first unscrewing the cap. The Elgin character – which can be on the restrained and severe side is contained here to provide a fine balance to fruit, while the Semillon addition adds  creamy complexity. Whether as an aperitif or partner to summer fare, a winner both ways. It costs R90 ex-cellar.

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 THE THIRD FNB EASTERN CAPE WINE SHOW

 

The  FNB Eastern Cape Wine Show in Port Elizabeth takes place  at The Boardwalk in Summerstrand on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 November.  Book your date-night to taste a choice selection from the Cape’s best -  from scintillating sparklings and crisp whites to voluptuous reds, Cape Ports and fine brandies.  Around 40 exhibitors will be on show, several of which are already 2017 award winners

Wine lovers can plan their tasting experience  by visiting  www.easterncapewineshow-pe.co.za for a full list of exhibitors and wines in the lead-up to the showthe FNB Eastern Cape Wine Show is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to shop for wine favourites at the Shop@Show stand, facilitated by local retailer Preston’s. 

                                                                                                                                                                                    DaDates:      Thursday 23 and Friday 24 November 2017

Venue:       Tsitsikamma Rooms, The Boardwalk, Beach Road, Summerstrand

Time:         18h00 -21h00

Ticket Prices:  R170 per night (includes unlimited tastings, wine tasting glass and wine show guide). 

Refreshments: Light meals will be on sale in the wine hall.

Queries: 011 482 5936/5/4

Tickets: Ticket sales are open and can be purchased at one of options

  • Online www.computicket.com
  • Money Market counters in Shoprite Checkers stores
  • At the door (subject to availability)

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Fruit pickings and leisurely lunches at De Krans this summer

From November to March De Krans Cellar in Calitzdorp invites visitors to join in a farm favourite of  seasonal fruit picking.

From 22 November - 3 December  Bulida Apricots will be available to pick at R6.50 per kg. If you prefer peaches best you diarise 16 to 27 December when the Oom Sarel Cling Peaches will be ready for perfect pickings at R8.00 per kg. End off the  season by picking Hanepoot Grapes from 7 February to 4 March 2018 at R7.50 per kg. These dates are weather dependent, and may change slightly at short notice. The perfect family outing De Krans will be open seven days a week from 9am until 4pm for the picking of these fruits, with the exception of Christmas Day.

For more information contact the farm on 044 213 3314, or email at dekrans@mweb.co.za.

 

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 Stellenbosch Hills adds bacon to the biltong pairings.

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Stellenbosch Hills set tongues a-wagging in 2005 when it paired wines with that quintessential South African snack, biltong and droëwors. Now, bacon is also offered but only  for December and January, That means a single ticket of only R65 per person gets you not only the traditional six awesome portions, but a magnificent seventh too! 

The new addition to the food and wine spread offers Bacon “biltong” barbeque spiced and paired with Stellenbosch Hills Chenin Blanc.

The other pairings are: 

Springbok Biltong & Stellenbosch Hills 1707 Reserve White: a perfect balance between lean, dry gaminess and the wine’s sumptuous citrus and buttered toast flavours;

Moist Beef Biltong & Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai Pinotage/Merlot: succulent complexity matched with sweeter notes of the premier red blend;

Ostrich Droëwors & Stellenbosch Hills Merlot: milder game meat perfectly complemented by the plummy, ripe fruit flavours of a well-rounded companion;

Smoked Beef Biltong & Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz: A unique oak-smoked and cured biltong, gently spiced connect seamlessly with smoky flavours of a wine that exhibits a hint of dark chocolate;

Kudu Droëwors & Stellenbosch Hills Cabernet Sauvignon: Subtle yet rich game flavours perfect match for silky tannin and notes of ripe black fruit; and,

Traditional Beef Droëwors & Stellenbosch Hills 1707 Reserve Red: Exotic zest of roasted coriander offsets the wine’s clean spice and ripe tannin.

Book  by sending an email to info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za or call 021 881 3828.

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A maiden bubbly and a pair of lightly sparkling sippers allow summer to be celebrated with effervescence at prices to please.

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Stellenbosch Hills has added a lively bubbly to its popular Polkadraai range:- Their Sauvignon Blanc Sparkling Brut 2017, priced at just R60, is dry, with plenty of zing, offering an easy-drinking sparkler for brunch, lunch and sundown gatherings. Just 12,5% alcohol levels will add to its appeal for many, while it’s good to remember that Stellelnbosch Hills gives a percentage of profits from every bottle from the Polkadraai range to the Polka Kid Community Project, a fund that helps provide teaching aids to the Vlottenburg Primary School. And, consumers can beneft by buying a six-bottle case of Polkadraai Brut (or any other wine in this range) on a Friday, when they will pay for only five.

From Stellenbosch to Robertson where the ever-innovative Robertson Winery has released the 2016 vintages of their  lightly sparkling summer sippers:    a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir Rosé, both captured in attractive skittle-shaped  bottles starring colour-coded screwcaps, complete with polka dots.

Senior winelovers will recall that affordable petillant whites from Paarl were all the rage among young budget-conscious party-goers, who – having been to Mozambique and enjoyed Portuguese “green” wine – wanted something similar back home.

The sauvignon is crisp and dry, the rose hints at berry and watermelon flavours. Both the white and the pink sparklers are low in alcohol – 10% and 9% respectively and both are priced at around R55.

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Just a fortnight to go before the finalists in this year’s Diners Club Winemaker and Young Winemaker of the Year get to know who made it to the top . Nail-biting times for them and their cellars, while usually these announcements signal the end of annual competitions and awards and the start of the silly season.

Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - Pinotage

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  • André Scriven - Rooiberg Pinotage Reserve 2016
  • Christiaan Groenewald - New Cape Wines - Arendskloof Pinotage 2015 and Eagles Cliff Pinotage 2017
  • Clayton Reabow - Môreson Widowmaker Pinotage 2015
  • De Wet Viljoen - Neethlingshof Pinotage 2016
  • Niël Groenewald - Bellingham Homestead Pinotage 2016

Young Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - White Wines

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  • Charl Schoeman - Simonsig Roussanne 2016 and Roussanne Marsanne 2016
  • Murray Barlow - Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2016
  • Philip Viljoen - Bon Courage Chardonnay Unwooded 2017 and Noble Late Harvest 2016 (Weisser Riesling/Gewürztraminer)
  • Wade Roger-Lund - Jordan Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2015

The winners of both titles will be announced at a gala dinner at La Residence Hotel in Franschhoek on 25 November . The winning Winemaker receives R50 000 and the Young Winemaker R25 000. Both winners also receive two return tickets on Delta Airlines to any wine producing region in the USA.

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Welmoed is a venerable label, and one of several brands and ranges produced by Stellenbosch Vineyards, a global wine group that exports around 80% of its production, mostly to the Netherlands. They are based on the 17th century Welmoed farm outside Stellebnosch and the recently released range is called the Heritage Selection, which is in keeping with a farm dating back to 1690.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Sauvignon-Blanc-2017.jpgThe wines, all selling at R50 from cellar door, include a sauvignon blanc, cab,  chenin, chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, pinotage and rosé. This re-branding is clearly aimed at the consumer who enjoys easy-drinking wines at affordable prices. The two I sampled – sauvignon blanc 2017  and cabernet sauvignon 2016 fit this description, with the former presenting a well-balanced mix of green and gooseberry flavours with a fresh zing, moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. The cabernet sauvignon should please legions of fans who enjoy reds that display berry flavours, a touch of oak and are full-bodied, but stay with a moderate 13,% alcohol level.

The Heritage Selection complements the other upmarket brands like the Credo Limited Releases and Stellenbosch Vineyard’s Flagship wines.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Welmoed-Cabernet-Sauvignon-2016.jpgI like the story of how Welmoed got its name: the farm, originally granted to Simon van der Stel, was subsequently inherited by one Jacobus van der Heyden who was one of the farmers who rebelled against the infamous governor Willem van der Stel. He was imprisoned, later released in ill-health whereupon the local community exclaimed "Deze vent heft wel moed”  iow this chap does have courage...

A toast to Jacobus is in order!

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