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Myrna Robins

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News

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With a long-established reputation for consistent quality, Stellenbosch Hills cellar continues to uphold this worthy reputation. While it is widely known for well-priced quality, its sauvignon blanc, in particular, has established a fine record for over-delivering on quality.

I am happy to report that the 2018 vintage, a single vineyard wine, upholds the reputation with panache. It’s all that most of us want from a sauvignon blanc – crisp freshness, not over-acidic, enough body to lend it character, a fine meld of green notes with melon, citrus and a little stone fruit coming through. Perfect for casual sunset and weekend get-togethers, on its own or with fish, salad, chicken, and vegetarian meals. Its moderate alcohol levels of R13% are pleasing and its priced at about R50.

The winery recently released a whole range of new vintages, the only other white being the chenin blanc 2018, along with several 2016 reds – pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and their popular fortified Muscat de Hambourg. The reds sell for around R80.

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We all know we shoud squirrel away good barrel-fermented whites along with our reds, but we seldom do. Most of don’t keep our fine chardonnays for long enough, just until the next occasion that sees a luxurious seafood feast or a special poultry creation grace the table.

So it's good to know that Whalehaven decided to cellar their Conservation Coast chardonnay for us - leaving the 2014 vintage maturing for more than two years before releasing it. This premium wine was produced from a vineyard of 14-year-old vines in the famed  UpperHemel-en-Aarde region, where Whalehaven is the third-olest winery in the area.

Co-owner Silvana Bottega released the wine recently, and its gorgeous golden hue is the first sign of its maturity, followed by tempting wafts of butterscotch on the nose. This is a rich, full-bodied chardonnay, with a firm mineral backbone, offering lightly toasted crumbs along with citrus flavours. With moderate alcohol levels, it makes an impressive appetiser but comes into its own with celebration fare, either shellfish, rich duck liver paté or complex Middle Eastern chicken dishes.

Bearing stickers from Tim Atkin who scored it 92 and approval from the current Sommeliers Selections results, expect to pay around R360.

The Conservation Coast range also boasts a 2014 Pinot Noir whch I have not tasted.

To find out more about these wines, visit www.whalehaven.co.za

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Marketing is all important when competing in the well-priced segment of South African wines. Overhex Wines International have always come up with interesting labels with a tale to tell and their new range is no exception.

The Mensa range is the first to offer an augmented reality app for smartphones which, when scanned in, brings the story behind the Mensa label to life.

Story-telling, the accompanying maxim – ‘Live a great story’ – and the label (which features everywoman relaxing in a library, its wall lined with books, a glass of wine at her feet) all contribute to appeal both to curious consumers and , I would guess, especially to the female winelover.

This is a range also designed to appeal to book clubs , both visually and price-wise, while the practical Helix cork closure eliminates the need for corkscrews.

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The sauvignpn blanc is fruity and easy-drinking, with alcohol levels of just 12% while the cabernet sauvignon offers a considerably higher level at 14,5% but also slips down easily, its berry flavours backed by a full-bodied character. The trendy chardonnay/.pinot noir comes in at 13% and combines citrus notes with moderate alcohol levels. Whites cost R75 and the red R85 at the Overhex cellar door, are stocked by Checkers countrywide and can be bought online.

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Many entrepreneurs were inspired to launch new products or projects at the dawn of the new millennium. Looking back 18 years on, that of the Retief cousins of Robertson’s Four Cousins range of easy-drinking, affordable wines stands out as one of the most successful in South Africa.

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Today they can claim that their range is the country’s biggest selling bottled wine brand. Given their family background and compare that to some of the giants in the industry, one has to applaud this achievement with admiration. The cousins – two sets of brothers – launched not only the wines, but themselves as an intrepid foursome as they marketed their friendly affordable wines country-wide with skill and determination.

 

Today Phillip Retief, the marketing and finance member of the quartet notes that Four Cousins has been “embraced by South Africans” both in the Cape, in Soweto and Gauteng, in KwaZulu-Natal, by university students and in general the young consumer. They saw that the untapped market preferred sweeter wines, so that’s what Four Cousins gave them.

The group are marking their 18th birthday by revamping the packaging , putting all wines under screwcap, making their labels bigger and better.

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The range consists of five still wines – dry red and white, sweet red and white and sweet rosé while there is a quartet of sparkling wines, rosé, blush, red, sauvignon blanc and white which they suggest will make a fine pairing with macaroons, the trendy sweet snack that is a must- have item at every occasion. As the younger consumer is targeted, its pleasing to note that these wines generally sport low alcohol levels, ranging between 8 and 12.5% 

 

An awesome achievement Bussell, Phillip, Hennie and Neil - here’s to the next decade and continued success as the Four Cousins reach every corner of our country and  find even more fans in the  62+ countries across the globe. Wow!

 

 

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Having made a sizeable splash on the Cape wine scene with their captivating Carménère 2016, it’s time to look at the other reds flowing from Lozärn Wines at Doornbosch farm in the Bonnievale area.

 

Appearances do matter, and the first impression of the two reds I was about to open is one of sauve elegance – Black bottles, black labels, minimal text. In front the labels just inform, in bronze lettering that this is Lozärn shiraz 2016 and Lozärn Kay’s Legacy 2016, but down the sides of the wrap-around label, there is more info.

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To the shiraz first, made from 16-year-old wines – this is medium-bodied, offering wafts of berried fruit with more on the palate. There is an attractive purity, which, (dare I say it?) could be attributed to a woman winemaker, as I have experienced this characteristic far more with wines made by females. The tannins are still quite grippy but are sure to soften over the next year or two to meld happily with the fruit.  Tasters could (or should?) also detect coriander, cranberries, cloves and goji berries in this wine, which is enjoyable already, but is going to improve even more with time. Alcohol levels of 14% do not intrude, and the wine is aimed at the upper end of the middle market, retailing at R260.

Kay’s legacy is a red blend made up of 53% cab sauvignon, 33% merlot and the remainder cab franc, a Bordeaux mix that promises a portent of pleasure to come... Winemaker Salome Buys-Vermeulen has crafted this as a legacy to family matriarch Kay Sedgwick (of sherry fame) who married Sebastian Smuts who managed the vast Vergelegen farm for some years, so the vinous connection was present in both sides of the family. Kay farmed in the Robertson valley from 1923, mostly with ducks and chickens and named her farm Lucerne (or Luzärn). Her son added vineyards when he took over and his son and grandsons, the fourth generation, now run the farm in the Bonnievale area.

The wine came with suggestions that we could expect to find fennel, mint, star anise and dandelion – I detected a little mint but the others escaped me. But it is a wine that one can linger over and find new aromas and flavours as the levels in the bottle drop... Alcohol 13,5% and retail price of R300

The tasting samples sent to media were stylishly presented, complete with little packets of spices which added agreeable aromas to the air in my study.

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