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Posted by on in Wine

After a surfeit of gourmet, gimmicks, leaves and ferments, Myrna Robins is ready for simple, rustic, flavour-packed classics. Turn to bistros, she suggests, to find time-honoured  Gallic  creations, made with love, prepared with  care and offered at palate-pleasing prices.

 


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It’s that time of the year when the best of everything is awarded medals and certificates and, of course, gets welcome publicity. The recent Eat Out awards saw Western Cape restaurants take nine out of the Top Ten places, with a single Gauteng venue taking fifth place. While culinary practices of pickling, smoking, foraging and fermenting continue to be prominent on menus, the Eat Out website suggests that the hottest current trend is that of vegetarian “charcuterie”,  illustrated by colourful pictures of artfully arranged forests of leaves, strewn with edible flowers , funghi  and baby veggies.

While it’s exciting to explore the world of gourmet innovation, few can afford to dine at these exalted venues regularly. The appeal of popular alternatives – burger and pizza joints and Asian noodle bars – can also pall. Time, perhaps,  to consider finding a neighbourhood  bistro, preferably one that offers traditional French  dishes.  If the quality of ingredients and the care taken in combining them are regarded as the yardsticks by which to judge the fare, you probably have a winner. Of less importance is the plating, likely to be straightforward with nary  a wisp of foam, puddle of essence or scattering of crumbs in sight.

French bistro food celebrates generous, full-flavoured cooking, family  fare that includes robust soups, rustic salads, wine-scented stews and casseroles, bubbling gratins and granny’s desserts.  It adds up to inexpensive soul food from small eateries all over France, where pride and tradition ensure maintenance of quality: even truck drivers would not continue to frequent bistros where popular  items like sausage and potato salad, coq au vin, salade niçoise and  lemon tart were not consistently good.  Summer may see pan bagnat or pissaladière on the menu or mussels steamed in white wine, while winter warmth comes as  pot au feu  and chicken with tarragon vinegar. Creations are  usually well-balanced, combining  chicken roasted in chicken fat or butter with fresh watercress to foil the richness and  leg of lamb roasted above a gratin of potato, onion and tomato, the latter flavoured by the meat juices which drip into it.

b2ap3_thumbnail_BISTRO-Christophe.JPGWhere to find these sources of Gallic goodness? Meet one of our most popular of French chefs, known to hundreds of Cape diners: Christophe Dehosse  has lived in  South Africa for some 25 years, where he has delighted  locals and visitors with both gourmet cuisine and now bistro fare in two venues.

Paris-trained, Christophe was working in a well-known restaurant in Cognac country when he met Susan Myburgh, who grew up at the historic Joostenberg farm, near  Klapmuts. The couple relocated  to South Africa where they opened the popular La Maison de Chamonix restaurant on the Franschhoek wine estate in 1992, then  moved to the city and started the Au Jardin restaurant at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands  two years later. Regulars were devastated when they left the suburbs to join the Myburgh family enterprises:  a farm stall and nursery at Klein Joostenberg soon blossomed into a deli and bistro, while a pork butchery, cut flowers, and a winery on the old farm occupy  other family members.

Today the deli and bistro are well established, the wines attract awards and Christophe leaves the kitchen to head chef Garth Bedford, who started as a trainee way back at Au Jardin.  A  peek at the a la carte menu reveals a delectable choice of bistro classics: starters include homemade charcuterie with terrine, rillette, cured pork and ham with a mini-bobotie quiche for local flavour. Mains offer that famous toasted sandwich Croque Monsieur, English-style pork sausage with apple sauce and mashed potato, and braised beef and mushroom ragout in red wine on homemade pasta.  Families that reserve tables for Sunday lunch can expect trays of starters to include items like brawn and pickles, hummus, a vegetarian roulade and salads with homebaked breads.  Their choice of main course could vary from tuna steak with ratatouille and sauce vierge to slow-cooked Karoo lamb or roast shoulder of pork.  The final course is a mélange of local cheeses,  classic floating islands, fresh strawberries and a blueberry cheesecake. This feast costs R205, while children can enjoy two courses for R85. The value is obvious and the culinary standards consistently high, and advance bookings are required.

When I heard that chef patron Dehosse was to open a bistro on the sophisticated Glenelly wine estate outside Stellenbosch, I wondered if the downhome bistro principles could be maintained: a recent lunch there has proved that indeed they can. He continues to be inspired by traditional French fare, sourcing ingredients from local organic growers, adding a soupcon of African  flavours to the mix. A starter of tuna tartare preceded silverfish or beef fillet in red wine sauce  and chocolate fondant with poached pear and yoghurt Chantilly completed the meal. Prices are higher here than at Joostenberg, but, says Christophe firmly, Glenelly is still a bistro where no jacket is required.

It ‘s a measure of his talent that Glenelly’s owner, 91-year-young Madame May de Lencquesaing chose a chef who specializes in rustic  fare to complement her ranges of distinctive estate wines, which offer Old World elegance and New World fruit in appealing combinations. Visitors can choose to dine at long wooden tables on the terrace, or inside where antique chairs and classic Parisian tables offer views of  verdant hills of manicured vineyards. 

 

This article first appeared in the Life section of the Cape Argus on Tuesday November 29.

 

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This inviting, unpretentious Durbanville estate scores on so many levels. That it has managed to fend off suburban creep (which had already reached its boundaries decades ago) is something to celebrate. That the clever Parkers have managed to maintain the original cellar, the ringmuur and slave bell, the ambience of a bygone era are equally important. (the farm was granted by Simon van der Stel in 1698 and named Tygerberg)

And the fact that, along with the lesser-known cultivars that the cellar has been producing (barbera, gewürztraminer) and sauvignon blanc, the winemaking trio have now added a cab to their ranges, rounding out the choices nicely.

To start with the cabernet sauvignon 2015, this is a pleasing example of modern cab-making, easy on the palate, yet with plenty of body, and a delicious freshness. Described as full-bodied, but I found it less so than many others, making it suitable for summer drinking, and as a good partner for fare other than red meat – a mushroom burger for example.

Juicy tannins, a smooth finish, and plenty of lightly spiced berry flavours add up to a well-balanced whole. The grapes came from 17-year-old bush vines, and the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months.

Priced at between R75 and R79 it’s even more appealing to stock up with a case or two as its sure to improve over the next year or two.

The 2016 vintage of sauvignon blanc was a wine I enjoyed very much – firstly because it is not searingly zesty, so no antacid tablets were required. I also loved the wide spectrum of aromas that greeted my nose whenever I unscrewed the cap – some verdant, a little green fig, and far more granadilla and other tropical fruit . These also showed on the palate, but occasional wafts of that distinctive Durbanville verdancy.

This multi-layered wine is sourced from berries from seven separate blocks of dry-land vineyards, ranging in age from 24 down to 10 years old.

This is a most companionable sauvignon, good for an aperitif or partner to summer salads, seafood and poultry. As one of the first Durbanville farms to present their award-wining sauvignon blanc in 1988 – now the region’s rallying cry – Altydgedacht’s version is an essential label on visitor itineraries. And well-priced at around R75.

 

Although gewürztraminer has grown in popularity – thanks perhaps because of its affinity with Thai and other South-east Asian cuisine – but its still fairly uncommon, and the Atltydgedacht gewurz is even more unusual as its made in the style of its European home, Alsace, that is dry rather than the off-dry vintages of other Cape cousins.

This 2015 vintage, produced from bush vines with an average age of 15 years, has just collected gold from the 2016 Michelangelo Awards.  Floral and spice on the nose, and the characteristic combo of rose petals and lychees, is followed by more of the same on the palate, balanced with a crispness and mineral hint that add to its charm. Some will find it an elegant aperitif that offers something more than conventional summer whites, others will pair it with spicy fare with great satisfaction. Expect to pay about R95.

 

 

 

 

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Perhaps it’s only when you have taken part in an organic certification audit that you begin to realise the lengths wine farmers and producers need to go to to obtain that international certification.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to sit in on such an audit, and one that had particular significance for both the farmer – Patricia Werdmuller von Elgg – and one of the auditors! But let me set the scene…

If you wish to label your wines as organic, you need to have your farm and cellar certified by one of the international certification organizations. One of these is SGS, an enormous global group which certifies many manufactured as well as natural products. Because of the limited number of serious organic farmers in South Africa, SGS recently appointed a German company specialising in certifying organic agriculture to conduct the final audit and issue the certificates.

Hout Baai farm is a beautiful boutique wine farm just outside McGregor, in a high valley that looks onto the Sonderend mountains which surround it. From the owner’s terrace sweeping views over vines take the eye toward Die Galg – the saddle at the end of the “road to nowhere” - which is really a high meeting place for hikers and travellers who revel in the protea-rich fynbos which cloaks the terrain.

The picture-perfect farm has been certified as fully organic since 2005. This year Hout Baai was chosen by the certification team as an example of just how an organic farm should look and operate with a place for everything and everything in its place. The audit was particularly important as not only was the resident SGS auditor conducting the checking, but the LACON international auditor was present, overseeing the process, and both were under the eagle eye of DAkkS, the German accreditation body for that country’s Federal Republic.

The inspection date for this three-tier audit was set for mid-July, but the three arrived in Mcregor a day ahead of schedule. They settled into the office where the local representative of the certification body started her work with a long list of questions, which needed not only oral answers but proof by way of reams of paperwork. Pat Werdmuller possesses more files than I have ever seen on a farm, where delivery notes, invoices, statements, receipts and printouts provide years of proof of transactions with approved service and material providers. These were hauled out on demand, as they worked their way through how water is tested, how pipes are cleaned, what fertilizers are used. Records of purchase of guano, seaweed and donkey manure were checked then questions turned to frequency of their application and in what concentrate?

Moving to harvest time, when grape picking machines were hired, questions were asked about the possibility of their bringing in unwanted residue of non-organic matter. They are delivered the day before, replied farm manager Del Jones, “so our guys can scrub and wash them down, ready for harvesting which started at 3.30am."

If there is any doubt about dates, the diary is consulted – this set of annual volumes, dating back to when the farm started operations – is filled with daily entries of chores completed, indoors and out, accompanied by photographs as way of proof.

The second half of the audit took the form of a tour of the farm, as the visitors were shown firebreaks, and buffer trees along boundaries (to limit the chance of non-organic sprays drifting over from neighbouring farms). The approved korog, a wheat-like grass planted between the vine rows to provide a nutrient-rich mulch was starting to show green and pruning of the sauvignon blanc vines was under way , each row numbered (and named after an animal or bird that frequents the farm). Del showed the inspectors the sizeable hole dug by a friendly anteater which had these Germans looking a little bewildered. She also pointed out the camera traps which record the visits of caracals, jackals, hares and antelope, as this farm is as much of a nature reserve as it is a wine grape farm.

The compost plant and the worm farm were duly inspected, and then the stores and workshop revealed just how diligently tools are looked after and kept in their place. The farm labourers’ wendy house – cosily furnished with places for both wet and dry weather uniforms and footwear and sporting refreshment facilities – was duly admired and also noted were the required warning signs and notices detailing safety and health information both inside and outside buildings and machinery.

It came as no surprise to any of us that Hout baai farm passed inspection with flying colours and was thanked by SGS for their faultless presentation and co-operation.

Since that day I have been thinking about the number of organic wine and grape producers listed in the latest edition of the SA wine industry directory, which I received recently. In this useful compendium, published annually by WineLand media, a total of 38 organic growers and cellars are listed. According to one Western Cape producer, who shall be nameless at this stage, only three of these are certified organic. While I have not trawled through those 38 to see if they have included details of international certification in their Platter entries (if, indeed, they are all listed in Platter), it does bring up the vexed question of some producers labelling their wines as “organic” without having been certified.

“We’re all organic these days!” was a cheerful comment from one (non-organic) farmer and winemaker. Many would beg to differ.    

Those who are spending inordinate amounts of time and money to transform their farms and cellars to comply with the exacting demands of global organic auditors do so, of course, of their own free will. But it’s unsurprising they also grit their teeth in frustration at the lack of monitoring and control over those who are benefitting from the green and environmentally-conscious consumer through fraudulent labelling.

Even if farms grow grapes and produce wine organically, only those certified by an internationally accredited body – accompanied by a seal of this organisation – are entitled to label their wines as organic. However, some producers who follow organic principles in every respect choose not to be certified, because of the expensive, labour- intensive, regular, obstructive and lengthy inspections.                                                  

And to further muddy the waters, SA producers are allowed, I am told, to state on bottle labels that their wine was produced from organically grown grapes. And, what about the cellars who produce a range of organic wines alongside non-organic …

At which stage, it seems high time for a glass or two of enjoyable wine, made from organically grown and certified grapes in an organically certified cellar. Make mine a Solara sauvignon blanc. Cheers!

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Posted by on in Events

A varied lineup of events as winter gives way to a green and glorious spring!

 

Benguela on Main restaurant is offering a five-course Christmas dinner on Saturday July 30 . Chef Jean Delport is including treats like smoked breast of goose on his menu, which costs R540 a head. Pair your meal with Benguela Cove wines, and Somerset West residents can enjoy a complimentary drive service to and from the restaurant. For more information or to make a reservation to avoid disappointment, visit the website, call 087 357 0637 or email onmain@benguelacove.co.za

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 Steenberg’s Cool Runnings charity trail run takes place through the Constantia vineyards on Saturday August 6. Choose from a 5 or 10km loop. All proceeds to the Mdzananda Vet Clinic in Khayelitsha, a community project that provides quality care for ill and abandoned animals. Finish with a glass of Steenberg sparkling sauvignon blanc and follow with a free wine tasting if you wish. A Mdzananda Vet Donation Box will be available prior to the race where leashes, blankets, dog or cat food and other pet items can be dropped into.The entry fee is R130 per trail runner, R50 per teen between the ages of 12-17, while children under 12 have free entry. Registration opens at 7am outside the Bistro1682 Restaurant. Walkers are welcomed. The briefing takes place 15-minutes ahead of the race at 8am. Pre-booking is essential and can be done online at www.quicket.co.za.

 

Bottelary Hills Wine Route ‘Pop Up’ Lunch

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Savour a slow-cooked Sunday pork lunch with chef Bertus Basson on August 14 at Groenland estate when he will present a three-course lunch that smokes, sears and sizzles. The fires will be lit and guests can enjoy Bottelary Hills wine ahead of their meal. Lunch costs R350 a head, including a wine tasting and glass of wine per course. Book through www.wineroute.co.za or Tel: (021) 886 8275 or marketing@wineroute.co.za

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Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction Showcase of rare, individual wines

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This popular annual event takes place in Cape Town on Thursday, 18 August at the CTICC from 6pm and in Johannesburg on Wed August 24 at the Atrium, Nedbank Sandton at 6pm. Tickets cost R250 which includes a tasting glass.

Wine enthusiasts cantaste these unique collectors’ wines crafted exclusively in small volumes for the 2016 Cape Winemakers Guild Auction by the Guild’s 47 members.Members of the Guild will also be presenting some of their acclaimed offerings sold under their own labels. Guests can also bid on rare signed bottles from previous Guild auctions during the Silent Auction. Founded in 1999, the Development Trust seeks to transform the wine industry by educating, training and empowering young talent through initiatives such as the Protégé Programme, a highly acclaimed mentorship scheme for upcoming winemakers and viticulturists.Tickets can be purchased via www.webtickets.co.za

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“WE LOVE WINE” FEST RETURNS TO CAPEGATE 

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If Calling northern suburbs winelovers! Just ahead of spring, head to Capegate Shopping Centre for a great weekend wine fest, taking place from 5 - 9pm on Friday August 26 and from 12 noon to 6pm on Saturday 27th.

 

 

Festival visitors can taste and buy more than 100 wines directly from the wineries, which include large producers with well-known brands and smaller boutique and family-owned wineries, giving a taste of the best of South Africa’s winelands in one venue.

 

The Cape Wine Academy is presenting a wine theatre (Three sessions on Friday and four sessions on Saturday) with fun tastings and pairings on the programme at set times.

 

Participating wineries include: Alexanderfontein/Ormonde, Arendskloof/Eagle’s Cliff, Beyerskloof Wines, Biocape Wines, Bonnievale Cellar, Diemersfontein Wines, Dieu Donnè Vineyards, Deux Frères Wines, Du Toitskloof Wines, Edgebaston, Eerstehoop Wines, Fledge & Co, Groenland, Imbuko Wines, La Couronne Wine Estate, MWS, Orange River Cellars, Overhex Wines International, Perdeberg Winery, Peter Bayly Wines, Stellenbosch Hills, Villiera Wines, Villiersdorp Cellar, Yonder Hill Wines.

 

The Pebbles Project, which looks after disadvantaged children, especially those impacted by alcohol, is the charity beneficiary of the festival and will be present to spread their message and raise funds and awareness.

 

Tickets from the door or through www.quicket.co.za  cost R70 pp (Includes a branded tasting glass) Bookings for the CWA theatre sessions can be made at the ticket office.

 

For up to date information, visit www.capegatecentre.co.za

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Bot River hosts blooming nice Spring Weekend

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Enjoy a relaxed weekend in the Overberg from September 2 – 4 during the annual fest hosted by the winemaking community. The region features 11 wine farms, each of which will offer attractions ranging from farm fare, olive oils, fine wines and local talent. Attractions include sausage-making course at Luddite, oysters and bubbles from Genevieve MCC, fynbos hikes at Paardenkloof, lunch at Wildekrans and at Gabrielskloof. Plenty to amuse the small fry as well. Farms will be open from 10am to 4pm. Tickets (weekend pass) cost R100 and obtainable from www.quicket.co.za .For more information on the Bot River Spring Weekend 2016 contact Melissa Nelsen at Cell: 083 302 6562 or email Melissa@genevievemcc.co.za.

 

MIKI CIMAN OF LA MASSERIA INTRODUCES SMALLER CHEESE MAKERS

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Be it gorgonzola, pecorino, fontina, mozzarella, provolone, brie, chèvre, blue or cheddar, the Say Cheese! Artisan Cheese Fair will celebrate all things cheese on 24 and 25 September 2016 at the Italian Club, Milnerton. THE event will bring together artisan cheesemakers, cheese lovers, bakers, brewers and visitors. Says Ciman, “The Fair will allow guests to appreciate every step of the farm-to-table process of cheese making, while highlighting the extraordinary local talent we have in this field. Chefs will take part and wine will be on sale. Tickets will be on sale at the door, at R80 for adults and R30 for children from 11 – 18. Children under 10 go in free.For further information, please email Kiki at saycheesefair@gmail.com or phone Elize Nel on 072 795 4214.

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Posted by on in Reviews

A CULINARY JOURNEY OF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIGENOUS FOODS [compiled] by Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga and Ursula Moroane-Kgomo. Published by Indiza Co-operative and Modjaji Books. 2015.

 

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Myrna Robins enjoyed the gastronomic trip through our provinces, but questions the fare included in one of the chapters.

Those following western diets may gulp at thought of a snack of salted stinkbugs fried in butter, while others – who spend as little time as possible in the kitchen – may appreciate the Swati dish Indakala,or boiled,salted peanuts. Both can be found in the second edition of a compilation of our indigenous dishes, following on the original, published in 2000 through the CSIR.

The new and intriguing collection of heritage recipes from 11 ethnic groups across South Africa, reveals that much of the fare is also contemporary, as current generations of rural cooks continue to use local ingredients and traditional recipes to feed their families.

IndiZA Foods is a Pretoria-based company headed by MD Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga and Operations Director Ursula Moroane-Kgomo, both high-powered businesswomen with degrees in food science, business management and considerable experience in the food industry. Both are also passionate about the preservation of indigenous culinary cultures, women empowerment and rural development. Their joint enthusiasm resulted in the publication of this worthy addition to our traditional culinary literature.

Women in the rural communities were invited to submit recipes for the food they cook daily: These reveal simple fare using local ingredients, occasionally enlivened by stock cubes, seasonings, and items like margarine. Several high schools were also involved in the project.

The compilers started in North West, with Tswana dishes and went on to Mpumalanga where Ndebele and Swati specialities were hunted down. The Free State yielded Sotho staple fare and the northern province of Limpopo saw recipes collected from Tsonga, Pedi and Venda cuisines. In the Eastern Cape the Xhosa gastronomic heritage was celebrated and Kwa –Zulu Natal presented Zulu menus. From the Western Cape comes a listing described as Khoisan recipes and the final grouping is Afrikaans marked, somewhat strangely, as centred in Gauteng.

The dishes are, as one would expect, simple, largely straightforward renderings of grains, legumes and leaves, gourds and tubers, sparked by indigenous fruits and enlivened by worms and insects. Beef and chicken feature occasionally. There is not a single seafood recipe in this collection.

Perhaps because of their (comparatively) exotic nature, I enjoyed browsing through the cuisines of the northern groups in particular: Among the Pedi recipes is one labelled baobab-fruit yoghurt, a good start to the day, while Venda cooks lift their protein intake with Mashonzha (mopani worms and peanuts) and Thongolifha (stinkbugs fried in butter ). Several species of Morogo, or wild leaves are used, including Pigweed or Amarinth, Blackjack, Spider plant, pumpkin, and wild jute. Breads are uncommon, but the Tswana make Diphaphata, a flatbread using wheat flour, Ndebele cooks use brown bread flour for their steamed bread, while others are based on mealie meal. Desserts are almost non-existent although there’s a Sotho recipe for bottling peaches in sugar syrup.

I contacted the compilers to ask why Gauteng was used as a source for Afrikaans recipes and was told that they invited several groups in the Western and Northern Cape to take part, without success, so eventually resorted to finding them from Gauteng-based Afrikaners. The recipes are authentic Cape cuisine, dishes that have become South African classics.

I gazed, somewhat incredulously, at the pictures and recipes in the Khoisan section, pages where I expected to find items like shellfish, venison, ghaap, sour figs, veldkool, waterblommetjies, and perhaps drinks based on milk. Instead, there’s a Greek-style salad with feta and olives, a caramel pud and a standard white bread recipe. Liver and onions and a mutton potjie (with red wine and packet soup powder) could just pass muster but there is virtually nothing that says “Khoisan” or “Khoi-khoin” in this mini-collection. The recipes were sourced from a group of cooks in Vredendal, and I contacted one of the contributors to ask her how these came to be regarded as Khoisan. Freda Wicomb is the housekeeper at a local boarding school, and is a popular and capable cook, but she had no answer, saying this was how she cooked.

Khoisan, referring to two distinct groups of early South African inhabitants, is a term that should not be applied to their cuisines, as they were very different. The Bushmen, or San were hunter-gatherers while the Khoi were herders. The latter group’s culinary and cultural heritage has been well researched, by fundis such as Dr Renata Coetzee whose brilliant book Kukumakranka presents an exhaustive discussion on the subject. Ingredients used in the past can still be found today, and cooks of both Griqua and Nama descent use veldkos in their potjies, and make askoek, potbrood and vetkoek, as did their forbears.

I suggested that the compilers also contact Chef Shaun Schoeman of Solms Delta’s Fyndraai restaurant, whose Heritage menu includes Khoe-Khoen breads, waterblommetjie soup and desserts starring herbs like buchu, for their next edition.

Kgaladi Thema-Sethoga assures me this section will be more authentic and will also include Cape Malay cuisine. Sadly we will have to wait until 2024 for the new edition.

Meanwhile, this title, illustrated with photographs of many of the recipes, is well-indexed and includes information on many of the ingredients unknown to western cooking. The book is endorsed by the SA Chefs Association and supported by the Department of Arts and Culture.

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Victorian wine cellar at Mont Rochelle

 

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Great to see winemaker Dustin Osborne back in the mountainside cellar of Mont Rochelle. Pretty sure I recognised one or two of the staff at the Country Kitchen as well; if they were there seven years ago, then I am probably right in thinking I met them when gathering information on this unique farm for my Franschhoek Food cookbook.

Champagne was its first name, given to this picturesque stretch by Abraham de Villiers in 1694. It changed to an equally positive Goedehoop more than a century later, finally was christened Mont Rochelle by a 20th century descendant, Graham de Villiers when he acquired it. Earlier this century then owners of hotel and vineyards, Erwin Schnitzler and Miko Rwayitare merged the two to create Mont Rochelle hotel and Mountain vineyards, and newly appointed winemaker Dustin Osborne started producing some memorable reds, one of which is the farm’s flagship red blend today.

Although Franschhoek is a sophisticated village growing increasingly used to foreigners buying bits and pieces, the acquisition of the estate by Virgin Limited Edition collection, and Richard Branson in particular, caused a buzz, which died down while renovations were undertaken at the hotel and gourmet restaurant, and at the rustic Country Kitchen and picturesque cellar.

The latter two venues have not changed much – the 150 year-old-cellar, a former fruit packshed, is as appealing as ever, although Dustin is happier with new flooring and updated machinery. The restaurant, open to terrace and lawns lining a big dam, is still relaxed, serving deli-type fare inside and out, along with picnics.

During a recent visit, a handful of wine writers started their tasting in the cellar, with a charming sauvignon blanc 2015, grapes from the farm’s 22 -year-old vineyards, the fresh wine with subtle fruit lent complexity by 10% semillon and 2and half % viognier. Well-balanced and a great buy at R85.

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Osborne has long been a champion chardonnay maker, and his latest, Mont Rochelle’s 2015 chardonnay is as good as any I remember. It’s elegant, fresh, with tangible minerality, full-bodied, with a long finish. Limited edition from vines planted in ’94, just over half barrel-matured, this is equally delicious as an aperitif or complementing voguish salads and well-bred poultry. We paired

[Caption: Dustin Osborne, Enrico Jacobs and Jenny Prinsloo in picnic mode] Photograph: Shantelle Visser

it with an inspired cauliflower and vanilla risotto – memorable. The wine is also reasonably priced at R100 from farm.

More good news is the launch of an easy-drinking red, Little Rock Rouge 2014, a cab-based blend with merlot and splashes of mourvèdre and petit verdot adding aroma and flavour to a vibrant, enjoyable wine with smooth tannins. Along with its 2015 white counterpart, not yet released, these cost R72 each.

During Dustin’s first stint at the farm he created a fine syrah-based blend named Miko in honour of former owner the late Miko Rwayitare. This flaghip 2009 vintage wine, intense, complex, and well-balanced with dark fruit, spice and savoury undertones, is showing well and is an impressive introduction to the potential of the farm’s terroir.

Our little group had moved through cellar to lawns to tasting cellar to terrace, where we teamed this vinous star with tender venison on sweet potato. Dustin then produced a number of aged cabs which had been discovered under a floor in the adjoining manor house during renovations and an informal vertical tasting commenced, starting off with the ’96 vintage… A few of these may be added to the cellar stock for those seeking museum class reds.

 

We did not see the hotel or more formal Miko restaurant during our visit but heard that the hotel is just about full until Easter, with bookings for weddings increasing nicely. What impressed me at the winery and Country Kitchen was the informality, the friendly yet efficient service, and an atmosphere that is far from stiff or grand. One gets the impression that Branson, having appointed good staff, is content to leave his estate in capable hands. Global visitors can now move from his private game reserve, Ulusaba, in the north of South Africa to our incomparable winelands, for a holiday that can compete with the best on the planet.

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We all knew that Kleine Zalze's new cellarmaster had big boots to fill, as he took over from Johan Joubert. Alastair Rimmer's maiden chenin blanc and chardonnay are both ample, enjoyable proof that he will be carrying on the cellar's impressive reputation for over-delivery on quality and pure enjoyment with a range of wines that have attracted strings of awards both here and internationally.

The farm's Vineyard Selection chenin blanc 2015 follows in the tradition of a beautifully balanced meld of fruit with structure lent from subtle oak. Enough acidity to keep everything fresh, ideal late summer wine for both aperitifs and al fresco fare, but can safely be kept for a few years as well. A very good buy at R77.

In similar style, the Vineyard Selection chardonnay 2015, selling for R80 from cellar door is a fine example of Rimmer's talent: both Stellenbosch and Robertson grapes were sourced for this wine, which spent seven months in oak before blending and bottling. The citrus, pear and stone fruit, with apple providing a floral note, fulfil chardonnay fans' expectations, there's a mineral core, and overall elegance which combines to make this a classic with complexity that should develop further if cellared.

In best Kleine Zalze tradition, these constitute another pair of winners.

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rose--Ken-F-Petit-Ros.jpgINb2ap3_thumbnail_Saronsberg-rose.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Muratie-Lady-Alice-Brut-Ros.jpg THE PINK AND LOVING IT

 

The focus has been on rosé recently,as these wines are promoted for Valentines day – or weekend as it is this year. I’ve been sampling enjoyable examples while putting together a story for the national lifestyle pages of the Independent group. And, doing it during a heatwave made me appreciate the charms of a well -chilled pink, particularly those with some backbone along with berry flavours.

I am sure that the first Rickety Bridge rosé fest on Saturday the 13th is going to be a sellout – the attractions are wide-ranging and the heatwave should be past its worst, according to predictions. It’s been a while since I tasted examples of their winemaker, Wynand Grobler’s craft, but I have long regarded him as one of the valley’s most talented – and his Foundation Stone rosé (shiraz/Grenache/mourvèdre) and his scintillating NV Cap Classique brut rosé confirm my opinion.

Meanwhile, up the Franschhoek pass to La Petite Ferme, that perennially popular destination for thousands of repeat visitors, now under new Swiss ownership. There’s a new winemaker too, but the 2015 rosé, a largely merlot affair with a dash of sauvignon blanc, is still a product of the Dendy-Youngs. This salmon-tinted summer charmer presents an aroma of rose petal, with berry and cinnamon flavours, with a little sauvignon zest. It finished dry on the palate.

Staying in the Franschhoek valley, Vrede en Lust's enjoyable dry rose, named  Jess, has become a firm favourite in the Vrede en Lust range. Named after the owner's eldest daughter, this crisp wine with its berry and melon notes is a blend of mostly pinotage, with some shiraz and a dash of grenache.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Glenrose-3rd-attempt.jpgThe L’Avenir team from Stellenbosch is not content to produce admirable conventional pinotage, but has added a fine pinotage rosé to the range, its patrician status emphasized by an unique bottle featuring a protea-shaped punt. Glenrosé is made in the Provencal style, its nose of rose petals and strawberry and citrus ahead of a crisp, dry but fruity flavours on the palate, along with a mineral presence. This top of the range example sells for R200. b2ap3_thumbnail_Glenrose-3rd-attempt.jpg

 

 

Turning to my adopted wine region, there are two rosés that I strongly recommend to visitors heading Robertson  way soon: Tanagra’s superb example produced from cab franc has just one fault, and that is there isn’t enough of it. The other is the 2015 rosé from Quando, Fanus Bruwer’s boutique cellar near Bonnievale. He use mourvèdre for this charmer.

I also enjoyed Saronsbergs all-shiraz rosé from their Provenance range. Cellarmaster Dewaldt Heyns specializes in shiraz, among other reds, and this offers a light-hearted aside, complete with sculptor Angus Taylor’s Earth Mother on the label. Tulbagh has acquired a major red wine player with the establishment of this art-filled estate.

One would hardly know where to start when contemplating pinks from the vast Stellenbosch region, but for good value for consistent quality, the dry, fruity and flavour-packed rosé in Ken Forrester’s Petit range is ready to complement many a late summer al fresco meal.

When it comes to rosé Cap Classique bruts, I always enjoy Allee Bleue’s, the NV from Graham Beck and have heard great reports about Webersburg’s NV pinot noir/pinotage brut. Finally, its been a long time since I tasted it, but if memory serves me well, the patrician Lady Alice all-pinot, MCC from Muratie, which comes complete with tales of memorable early 20th century parties, is a bubbly to consider.

A word of thanks to those marketing colleagues who obtained rosé samples for me at such short notice – Posy, Nicolette, Melissa, hugely appreciated.

Whatever fare you’re planning for the coming weekend it’s likely that a crisp pink will pair well. Picnics, salads, sushi, shellfish, salmon, berry finales, you name it, rosé will enhance it.

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Winemaker Nadia Barnard-Langenegger has joined other talented young Cape winemakers in their quest to re-introduce cabernets that are lent berried elegance from cinsaut, a practice that produced many of the long-lived cabs of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s of the last century.

This makes the Revenant title of this False Bay Vineyards red particularly relevant, just as it applied to the maiden wine in this range, the blend of sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc, which made a stellar debut.

Revenant Red 2017 is the second, combining 80% cabernet from vineyards varying in age from 10 to 15 years with grapes from cinsaut bush vines up to 40 years old.

The cab harvest was slow fermented with natural vineyard yeasts, was foot-stomped twice daily after a three-day whole-bunch carbonic fermentation. The cabernet and cinsaut were aged separately for nine months in older oak before being blended and then matured in 600 litre barrels for a year before bottling.

The nose presents vibrant red fruit aromas, while the palate is well-balanced, with quite firm tannins and is medium-bodied with moderate 13,5% alcohol levels. As with its predecessor, the wine also reflects something of a light, feminine touch that distinguishes it from most other cabs, a feature that winemaker Nadia integrates into her creations with charming results. At R100 it is also competitively priced in a market where Stellenbosch cabs often command stellar prices. It's certain that many will welcome this rebirth of a classic cab.

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Waterkloof owner Paul Boutinot has established his biodynamic vineyards and cellar on the hillside above False Bay. False Bay Vineyards, his second range, is not biodynamic, but its wines are treated in similar environmentally-friendly ways, using natural yeasts, minimal processing, and sans fining before bottling. 

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Going, going gone! It could be something of a record: The Bruwer family launched their maiden Albariño in Hout Bay on the first Monday in February and by mid-month the last of the 600 cases had sold, both from cellar door and the online shop.

Frustrating both to those Springfield wine fans who didn’t move fast enough and to newcomers who thought they would sample the new addition on their next visit to Robertson.

Better news is that the 2019 vintage is likely to be a little larger in quantity – the grapes were harvested yesterday, February 13, so let me tell you more about this irresistible white wine that the Bruwer family enjoy as much as do those lucky customers who  hugging their case closely to their chests...

Albariño is a new cultivar – new that is to the Cape winelands - but a Spanish varietal widely grown in Galicia, in the north-west. It made its 

 way to Portugal where it's known as Alvarinho, used in vinho verde, familiar to legions of South African travellers to Mozambique, and also to South America where Uruguay produces a fine example, and one that enchanted the Bruwer family while on holiday there. They returned, determined to acquire some vines for their farm.

Luck was on their side as the Newton Johnson family of the Hemel-en-Aarde valley had had similar ideas and kindly offered Springfield some of their cuttings.

These were carefully planted and nurtured, slowly multiplying over three years until a single block was established, and one that meets the demanding standards that Springfield estate sets for their grapes.

Earlier this month Abri, Jeanette and Jenna Bruwer gathered at Hout Bay to host curious media to the official launch of their limited edition Springfield Albariño 2018, its retro front label eye-catching, brick-red writing on a cream background, the language of choice pertinently Spanish, with just a strap at the bottom in English, identifying this unique Robertson estate.

This is a full-bodied wine, yet pleasing in having alcohol levels of just 12,5% . It is unwooded, the grapes having been harvested exactly a year ago. The wine spent more than 3 months on primary lees before bottling. There is complexity in its structure, offering the palate a delightful balance of stone fruit and the flint that wines from this terroir usually display. It’s also as fresh as a daisy without being over-acidic: All in all this South African Albariño yields mouthfuls of deliciousness that are a little redolent of the ocean: one does not need a dish of prawns on the table to know that it will partner shellfish with panache. But it also makes a charming aperitif and I imagine that the Uruguayan Albariño would have a tough time competing with its Cape counterpart.

Just 6 000 bottles of numbered bottles were produced, selling at R115 a bottle  from the cellar door. Perhaps Springfield will start a waiting list after harvest for the 2019 vintage - happily they have assured us that their journey with Albariño has only just begun.

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Popular and prolific wine and food writer and broadcaster Michael Olivier has just launched the first of a new series of podcasts, featuring noteworthy wines he regards as worthy of special attention. Called Michael's Minute of Wine, each podcast will be pithy and informative, both characteristics his legions of followers have come to expect.

 

The series kicked off this week with Asara’s The Bell Tower 2013, a fine Bordeaux style blend from the historic Stellenbosch estate in the Polkadraai Hills. The podcast  offers listeners an informative and tempting portrait of this  flagship , voiced in clear and simple terms that do not require specialist knowledge to absorb.

If you missed it you will find it at http://bit.ly/2DZx9XZ. Visit Michael’s website at www.michaelolivier.co.za for this and many more wine stories, suggested pairings with recipes from local foodie and up-to-date events across the South African winelands. He also reviews new cookbooks and new non-fiction that he has enjoyed.

 

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Country cuisine and al fresco feasts

    

This hugely popular late summer harvest celebration takes place over three days from Friday March 1 to Sunday the 3rd with towns and farms in the Robertson, Ashton, McGregor and Bonnievale areas taking part. As before, all ages and tastes are catered for in this food and wine affair, along with activities ranging from energetic to pampering the senses.

Experience the grape’s journey from vine to barrel to glass by picking & stomping, vineyard safaris and blending & tasting experiences. Enjoy riverside lunches, gourmet dinners, vineyard picnics and food & wine pairings. Vineyard runs and mountain biking both make great starts to the day or try a game of croquet.

Among the attractions are a terroir tour at Bushmanspad, or working for your breakfast at Jan Harmsgat by harvesting a basket of grapes before enjoying your al fresco meal under the pecan nut rrees. Lords Wines are hosting a special McGregor market at their superb mountainside location on the Saturday and Tanagra hosts will be offering wine and grappa tastings between distilling their worldclass marc on their picture-perfect farm outside McGregor. Along with conventional wine-tasting and pairings, Weltevrede estate is presenting cheese and wine and chocolate and wine pairings with their Simplicity range.

Entry to the big family market at Viljoensdrift on Sunday March 03 is free of charge. See www.handsonharvest for the full programme. Book directly with the farm offering the event of your choice. For accommodation, contact the local tourism offices in Robertson, Bonnievale, Ashton and McGregor. Call Robertsonwinevalley for more info on 023 626 3167.

 

 

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Underground tastings in old candelit cellars

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Things are hotting up in every sense of the word. With harvest in full swing in many regions, the weather in some areas is sizzling, in others just offering enjoyable late summer warmth. Wine-lovers, travellers and adventurous spirits have a wealth of harvest fests and, of course, Valentine events to contemplate as February gives way to March.

G&T’s and more at Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill

 

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Sunday February 24 see the fourth Gin & Tonic Fest take place at this vibey venue, where popular and new gin brands are showcased to fans. The gin makers will be there to tell their stories, the Neighbourgoods Market will operate alongside, local performers will adda musical background and tempting artisanal food will be displayed.

Early Bird tickets have sold out and General Admission Tickets are live and going fast. There are three different group ticket options. Buy your whole crews' tickets to attend in one go and get a discount on each ticket purchased… the larger your group, the more you save. Please note that tickets for the day are limited, so we advise purchasing your tickets as soon as possible. 

Join The Gin Revolution… Get tickets here: http://qkt.io/G4C0gD Website:http://ginandtonicfestival.co.za/

 

 

DURBANVILLE HILLS INVITES YOU TO A WEDNESDAY AFFAIR

 

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Every Wednesday at 18h00, from the, 20th of February until the 27th of March wine lovers are invited to enjoy an exceptional harvest experience at just R275 per person.

A glass of Durbanville Hills’ renowned Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc starts proceedings, followed by a cellar tour with one of the expert wine ambassadors. Then a delicious two-course dinner in the restaurant is matched to the cellar’s fine wines. 

As space is limited, prepaid bookings are required. For bookings or enquiries, please contact Stephanie Timm (0) 21 558 1300 or send an email to SLTimm@distell.co.za

 

 

MURATIE'S ANNUAL HARVEST FESTIVAL

 

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 tthere are several options for visitors to this popular celebrations, taking place on Saturday March 02. Good food, fine wine, great company are all on the menu at this celebration hosted by the Melck family at their beautiful and historic farm.

Grape stomping and tractor rides through the vineyards is one activitiy while tastings and a long alfresco lunch with the cellar’s wine is another. Music will be provided by the Kitchen Jammin Blues band. Entrance tickets cost from R120 pp depending on what is booked.

For further information and bookings contact Nina Martin at Muratie on 021 865 2330/2336 orinfo@muratie.co.za.

 

PERDEBERG CELEBRATE THE PAARL HARVEST FESTIVAL

 

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Perdeberg Wine Cellar will celebrate their annual Harvest Festival on 02 March, 2019 from 10am. The cellar is off the R44, on the Voor-Paardeberg road in the Windmeul district. Entrance costs R60 a head, which includes wine glass and 10 tasting tickets while youngsters younger than 18 go in free of charge. Buy at the gate or online at

https://itickets.co.za/events/416910.html

Tastings of wine, craft beer and a bubbly bar will be offered, while food trucks, cheese platters, a biltong stall and an oyster bar should keep guests well fed. Live entertainment adds to the vibe, and there is a children’s area with recreational activities charged at R20 per child.

 

FAMILY FUN AT NEDERBURG DURING PAARL HARVEST FESTIVAL

 

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The Paarl Harvest Celebration takes place on Saturday, 2 March 2019. 

Nederburg’s programme starts with an hour-long yoga session presented by The Om Revolution, from 9:00 -10:00, on the lawn in front of the manor house. Follow this with brunch from their picnic basket costing R225 per head.

From 10:00 until 18:00, visitors can sample some of Nederburg’s young wines join the adult lawn games and stomp newly harvested grapes. A variety of fun activities will be lined up for children.

Live music by popular South African artists will keep visitors entertained and various food, ice cream and drink stalls will offer  country-style fare to enjoy with Nederburg wines. 

Free guided tours of Nederburg’s state-of-the-art cellar and Old Cellar Museum will take place every hour from 11:00 until 17:00

The Red Table restaurant in the manor house, will be serving its à la carte menu between 11:00 and 16:00. Restaurant reservations are advised, and picnics need to be booked and paid for in advance.

Book through www.webtickets.co.za at R50 per adult (free for those under the age of 18 accompanied by an adult). 

 

 

MONTH LONG VALENTINES AT ANTHONIJ RUPERT WYNE

 

Sweet treats and Rosés are being paired during February at this Franschhoek estate, with free tastings of rosé wines, both still and sparkling. Partner them with a gourmet salad if liked, and finish dinner with a rose bubbly and strawberry tart.

Buy a case of rose wines and get the 6th bottle free.

Book for a MCC and Sweet Treat tasting with three bubblies paired with four treats, including  citrus and dulce fudge, a raspberry blondie and a cherry and white chocolate truffe. This costs R95 a head and is available Mon – Saturday, booking  essential. To book email tasting@rupertwines.com or call 021 874 9041.

 

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Huge, hospitable and a hive of activity. That sums up the scene at the Perdeberg cellar now and over the next few weeks with harvest in full swing. At least seven ranges of pocket-friendly wines of consistent quality flow from this impressive set-up, but the winery is first of all known for putting chenin blanc on the map before the trend became universal.   It also makes fullest use of the fact that among its 37 member-growers there are many who supply the cellar with the fruit-intense grapes from thousands of hectares of bush vines, many of them venerable and influenced by varying micro-climates

Recently I sampled wines from four of the ranges , adding up to a delicious and diverse case of enjoyment.

I started with the 2018 chenin blanc from the Perdebeg Classic range: Just as expected, mouthfuls of fresh and fruity flavour, notably peach and melon, delivering the characterful Swartland flavours that no other region can duplicate.  A crisp wine that will happily take on the roles of both sundowner and partner summer brunch and autumn picnics. It’s a wine that complements a wide range of vegetarian and poultry-based savoury fare with imperceptible ease. R43 from cellar door.

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Rossouw’s Heritage takes chenin blanc up a notch or three, leading a patrician blend, with grenache blanc and viognier bringing up the rear in the 2017 vintage. I opened the 2015 wine, which is made up of 40% chenin, 27% Roussanne, 13% viognier, finished with 10% each of clairette blanche and sauvignon blanc.

The wine pays tribute to Jan Rossouw of the farm Vryguns, who, 78 years ago suggested to his fellow grape farmers in the Perdeberg area, that they should join forces and increase marketing strength. Which is exactly what they did, to become producers of mostly dryland, or non-irrigated vines, many of them venerable, yielding intensely flavoured grapes.  

This is a memorable wine, showing off the Cape ‘s ability to make outstanding white blends. The  nose offers a mix of stone, citrus and sub-tropical fruit, followed by the spectrum of summer fruit flavours on the palate along with vanilla from 20% oaking. The fruit is well balanced by fresh crispness, adding up to rich and memorable mouthfuls. Deserves to accompany gourmet creations based on shellfish, duck and chicken and Moroccan tagines. R120 from cellar door.

 

 

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Perdeberg has added a new rosé to the substantial Vineyard Collection. The label of the 2018 Cinsault Dry Rosé is self-explanatory – the alcohol levels are a pleasing low 11,5%, the dryland cinsault adds its own distinctive character to this light-bodied, fruity summer sipper that will also make an excellent autumn picnic mate. R70 from cellar door.

Another rosé from the Vineyard Collection, this time a Cap Classique sparkler produced from pinot noir. Silver-topped, offering inviting hues of salmon pink, the Perdeberg pinot noir rosé MCC 2015 combines bubbles with berry and watermelon flavours, medium-bodied with whiffs of characteristic biscuit on the palate. A delicious choice for Valentine celebrations..R120 from cellar door..

 

On to the reds, starting with the Perdeberg SSR, (Soft Smooth Red) 2017 from the recently introduced Soft Smooth range (just three labels, white, rosé and red), an entry-level, easy-drinking blend of shiraz, cinsault, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Partly wooded to add a little body to the juicy fruit and soft tannins, with alcohol levels at 14% this is a sweetish wine  that will go down well at braais and happily accompany pizza parties. The mountain zebra image is repeated in the markings of the screwcap. R45 from cellar door.

 

And, finally, back to The Vineyard Collection fo the Perdeberg Malbec 2017, a dark-hued medium-bodied wine lent backbone by a year in French oak. Accessible and destined to partner red meat dishes throughout the cooler months. R80 from cellar door.

            

 

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FIELD GUIDE TO WILD FLOWERS OF SOUTH AFRICA by John Manning, Struik Nature, 2019

FIELD GUIDE TO FYNBOS by John Manning, published by Struik Nature, 2018.

Invaluable and beautiful, these substantial paperbacks are both new editions, fully updated by author John Manning, an internationally respected botanist at the SA National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town. He is also renowned for his botanical illustrations and flower photographs, many of which feature in both titles. Manning is a world authority on the Iris and Hyacinth families, has written and co-authored several other books on South African flora and is the recipient of several awards in recognition of his work.

He appears on the back cover of both books, against different floral backgrounds, along with his dachshunds adding a human and canine touch to the galleries of magnificent flowering species within the covers.

 

Field Guide to Wild Flowers of South Africa

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The title presents nearly 500 pages of more than 1,100 flower species, and focuses on the more common, conspicuous and showy plants found in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. The text opens with an introduction covering diversity patterns, floral regions and vegetation types. with a key to identifying plant groups.

The preface points out that around 20 000 wild flowers are indigenous to the region, along with grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes with insignificant flowers and no single book can attempt to cover even a small percentage of all these. Those that have been included are all carefully described, for easier identification, along with their scientific details.

Each entry is accompanied by its botanical name, common names, its family, genus and species a clear colour photograph, a distribution map and a key to the plant’s flowering season.

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Advice on how to use this guide to the best advantage makes important reading for any new enthusiast to the fascinating hobby of identifying what they find on hikes.  First find the right group, where plants have been divided into three categories, then consult the pictorial guide to wild flower families, then turn to the page where the relevant family is listed in the main body.

The entries for the 10 groups of flowering plants form the main body of the text, followed by a glossary of terms, further reading list and a detailed index of scientific names.

 

Field guide to Fynbos

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Another new edition, updating the original best-seller published in 2007, this one updated to reflect recent findings and taxonomy. More than 1 000 species are described,

The introduction identifies fynbos, offers a history of this unique and extraordinary African flora, defines it and describes its distribution. Its diversity, adaptations, reliance on fire, pollination and conservation.  There’ a guide to family groups, useful when accessing the entries which are arranged by these eight groups under which the entries are organised.

Each lists the scientific and common name, offers comparisons with  similar species, traditional uses, distribution map and key to flowering season, The captivating clear, colour photographs were taken by the author or by Colin Paterson-Jones, another renowned natural history photographer and writer. A detailed index of scientific names and glossary of terms completes the text.

 

To conclude, these two indispensable treasure chests of information for botanists and amateurs  are each packed into handy-sized formats where no square centimetre of paper is wasted!

Endpapers are used to illustrate flower parts and leaf shapes to complement the glossaries, while the edge of the back cover can be used as as a 20cm ruler to measure your floral finds.

 

Some fynbos beauties:

 

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Mimetes hottentoticus on Kogelberg peak

 

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Aspalathus costulata

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Muraltie spinosa

 

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THE WOMAN IN THE BLUE CLOAK by Deon Meyer, published by Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2018.

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As usual, diverse strands of a necklace are  interwoven in Meyer’s impressive yet almost nonchalant way, as readers get caught up in a tale that strides across centuries and continents with consummate ease.

A woman’s body is discovered, naked and washed with bleach, on a rocky ledge at the top of Sir Lowry’s pass, on route to Elgin and the Overberg.

Detective Captain Benny Griessel is focussed on buying an engagement ring for his singing star friend Alexa, and wondering how he is going to pay for it.

In Holland a young man is fleeing from would-be captors as he runs through the night toward Rotterdam, then diverts to head to Delft....

Back in Cape Town the dead woman is identified, and Detectives Benny Griessel and his partner Cupido are on the case, wondering why a foreign visitor, who had been in the country just one day, was the murderer’s victim, and why she had wanted to go to Villiersdorp, a dorp near Elgin, that was not on the usual tourist trail.

Readers are taken to London to find out that the victim, Alicia Lewis,  was an expert in classical and antique art, who worked for an art loss register that searched for and recovered stolen art.

A painting now takes centre stage, a portrait of a woman, naked except for a blue cloak, attributed to Rembrandt ‘s star pupil Fabritius, and painted in Amsterdam in 1654. The woman was Rembrandt’s mistress and the painting had arrived at the Cape soon after where it ended up being sold to a member of the Van Reenen family who lived at that time in  Papenboom in Newlands. It was traced to a family descendant farming in the Villiersdorp district.

Of course Benny and Cupido get their man, an unlikely murderer, and it seems as if Alexa is going to receive a beautiful diamond ring from her lover, so all ends reasonably well, as things do in real life.

As always, the conversations between our much-loved detective Benny, and his partner Cupido, along with the action that moves across the city to the Cape winelands are realistic, accurate and convincing. 

Afrikaans fans got their dose of Griessel and co for Christmas, English addicts had to wait a little longer but both raced through this 140-page novella, finishing with appreciation and just one complaint. “It’s so short – hope the next one is back to normal. “

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The Platter’s 2019 SA Wine Guide by Diners Club International was launched, as usual, in November. Its dusky pink cover manages to be another first, its 712 pages means it’s quite a lot fatter than the 2018 edition and, as usual, its meticulous editor and his team and publisher Jean-Pierre Rossouw have produced another indispensable handbook for the wine industry.

A total of 90 five-star wines for 2019 were announced and the hghest-scoring in each category was named the category Wine of the Year.

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The top accolade, Winery of the Year was expanded to encompass three pinnacles of winemaking: The Newcomer Winery of the Year recognises the cellar that records the best results as a first-time participant in the guide. Erika Obermeyer Wines was the recipient, and it was indeed so satisfying to see this talented, determined solo player receive the recognition she richly deserves. Mullineux winery scooped the award for Top Performing Winery of the Year, having built up an impressive track record in the years that the pair have produced wines in their Swartland cellar. The third accolade, the Editor’s Award went to Newton Johnson Vineyards in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde which is sure to be a hugely popular choice, given both the scintillating and consistent quality of their wines and the popularity of the producing family.

The 2019 edition also introduces 100-point scores, alongside the ‘Platter’s Stars’. This global standard, now combined with the Platter’s own star-rating system, should give international readers a better understanding of the Platter judges’ assessments.

For the rest, the usual popular and essential features are there, although one new icon will be very popular with winelovers seeking out wines produced from vines 35 years or older. The Old Vine Project has taken off both here and overseas, and it is thought that this country posseses more surviving old vines than any other in the world. The quality of many of the wine that are being produced from these survivors is little short of stupendous.

There is a wealth of information on routes, cellars, restaurants and more for travelers to the winelands, and the maps seem to be clearer than last y ears. The RRP is R270.

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Make time for at least one visit to the Cape winelands this summer, as cellars gear up for harvest and aromas of crushed berries fill the air.

 

Delheim’s 2019 Harvest Festival

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This perennially popular event takes place on Saturday January26 with a pink theme to celebrate Delheim’s famed pinotage Rosé, one of the country’s first, launched back in 1976.

Tickets, which will be limited to 120 adults and 30 children cost : R650 per person and R150 for children (5-17 years old). Activities include grape-picking and stomping, vineyard tours and tractor rides, followed by a relaxed harvest feast: Think fresh salads, dolmades, baked breads, cheese & preserves, pickles, a variety of meats and fruit. Cheese straws, olives and grapes. Fynbos cupcakes and pinotage icecream round off the meal. Delheim wines are included, with juice for the small fry.

Book through Quicket. For more information, visit www.delheim.com or contact Delheim on marketing@delheim.com or 021 888 4600

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GROOTE POST’S FIRST 2019 COUNTRY MARKET ON 27TH JANUARY

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Start the  year off with a day of family fun and relaxation at the Groote Post Country Market in the Darling Hills.

 Arts, crafts, homeware and décor, clothing, jewellery, accessories, toys, plants, flowers, delicious eats galore and more are on the menu, including Darling gourmet produce like  Weskus Worswa, Darling Honey, Darling Olives, the popular Darling Brew and of course Groote Post’s well-loved wines

Relax on the lawns under the trees and enjoy the popular music and entertainment provided by DJ Riaan. The little one will be kept busy with a variety of kiddies’ activities: tractor trips, guided horse rides, face painting, sand art and zorb balls to name a few. 

The Three Market Lucky Draws will take place at 12h30, 13h30 and 14h30, the winners each receiving a hamper with products from the market and Groote Post wine, but you must be present at the draw to win.

Groote Post’s award-winning restaurant, Hilda’s Kitchen, will be open as usual, but please note that booking is essential. Dogs are welcome but  must please be kept on a leash at all times.  

  • Entry to the Groote Post Country Market is free of charge.
  • Groote Post Country Market opening hours: 10h00 to 15h00
  • For further information on the Groote Post Country Market

Contact I Love Yzer: 022 451 2202 or info@iloveyzer.co.za

www.grootepostcountrymarket.co.za · Facebook.com/GrootePostCountryMarket · @GPCountryMarket

 

 

 

 

 

Franschhoek Summer Wines

 

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Another popular annual event, the 2019 garden party takes place on Saturday, February 02, from noon at the Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards . Wines being poured included the Vigneron’s choice of MCC, white, rosé and light reds. They will complement the fare prepred by Chef Pieter de Jager and his team. Live music will add to the enjoyment.

Tickets, cost R280 per person, and pre-booking via www.webtickets.co.za is essential, as tickets are limited. The cost includes entry, a tasting glass, tastings of the wines on show as well as discount voucher to be used for the purchase of any show wines on the day. 

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

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CELEBRATE THE 2019 WINE GRAPE HARVEST WITH NEDERBURG

 

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Nederburg Wines invites you to its annual Harvest at Dusk Festival at the farm in Paarl, on Saturday, 16 February 2019.  Join in the fun of picking and stomping grapes, and kick back and relax while feasting on freshly-prepared fare matched with award-winning wines, while listening to the sweet sounds of popular South African musician, Mathew Gold

Chef Lisa Cilliers of The Red Table restaurant, situated in Nederburg’s historic manor house, will be serving up a bountiful harvest feast of family-style table platters, delicious mezze, ; farm-fresh salads and vegetables to accompany delicious slow-roasted meat; as well as ‘korrelkonfyt’ and peach upside down cake served with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Nederburg wines will be available for purchase, as will soft drinks, mineral waters, coffees and teas. 

Date:               Saturday, 16 February 2019

Time:              16:00 till late

Cost:               R460 per person (including Nederburg sparkling wine, the harvest experience, musical entertainment, the harvest feast and service charge)

R220 per child aged 6 to 12 (including a soft drink, juice or water on arrival, the harvest experience, musical entertainment, the harvest feast and service charge)

Free for those aged 6 and under.

Booking is essential. For reservations, go to www.webtickets.co.za.

 

 

 

Grande Provence Harvest Festival  -  a barrel of family fun 

 

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February is harvest time in the winelands and the date to diarise for the Grande Provence Harvest festival is  Saturday, 23 February 2019.

 

Get ready to pick and stomp grapes with the whole family to the jovial beat of the Kaapse Klopse  followed by a harvest table  laden with delicious fare and the  sounds of live contemporary music.  With plenty of action for the children including a jumping castle, face painting,  lawn games and tractor rides, adults can look forward to a laidback day of country food, fine wines and a cellar tour and tasting.

Festivities kick off at 10h00. Tickets cost R650 for adults and R325 for children under 12. Booking is essential. For more information call: (021) 876 8600 or email reservations@grandeprovence.co.za

 

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“PESTO & WINE PLAY” AT NEIL ELLIS WINES

 

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At this family-owned winery on the Helshoogte pass slopes, visitors can take part in a food and wine adventure called Pesto and Wine Play. Four pesto recipes have been created to pair with four Neil Ellis wines and visitors can discover their own choice of combos. The four, which are served with pita bread, are Chickper curry pesto, beetroot and almond pesto, mint and pecan nut pesto and kale and cashew nut pesto.

The four wines with which to pair them are

Amica Sauvignon Blanc: A complex, vibrant, barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek Valley with notes of white florals, nectarines, lime and lemon.

Whitehall Chardonnay: An elegant Burgundian-style Chardonnay from a single vineyard in the Elgin Valley with youthful lime and melon aromatics, gorgeous ripe citrus notes, great texture and freshness.

Bottelary Hills Pinotage: A multi-faceted Pinotage from 20-year-old bush vine vineyards in the Bottelary Hills, showing dark plum, cherry and blackberry fruit with elegant floral notes and a touch of dark chocolate.

Jonkershoek Cabernet Sauvignon: The estate’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon with all the hallmarks of the Jonkershoek Valley. Known for its classical structure and perfect balance of elegance and fruit power, it has complex notes of blue and black small berry fruit with touches of cedar and mint. 

The cost of the experience is R100 pp. For enquiries and bookings (bookings only essential for groups): 021 887 0649 or info@neilellis.com. The venue is open Mon – Fri from 10h00 – 16h30, and on Sat and public hols from 10h00 – 17h00/

 

Tel: 021 887 0649 · Email: info@neilellis.com · Website: www.neilelllis.com

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Wine of Malgas is the phrase under the Sijnn name on the contemporary labels. A name long connected with holiday homes, great angling and a venerable ferry, but now also a wine ward with a single cellar producing singular, exceptional and delicious wines.

The black and white photograph below graphically illustrates the stony path – well, a road of sorts – to the low cellar with its curved roof .

A trio of recent releases took me right back to the memorable evening when the cellar, nearly but not quite complete, opened its doors to visitors for a celebration –

 

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Founder and co-owner David Trafford took us through the young vineyards where bush vines had settled as part of the indigenous landscape, among two distinct soils which vie for sheer quantities of stone they carry . They did not deter vines from not only surviving, but thriving in this apparently inhospitable climate with its low rainfall and constant wind.

The Breede river made a  blue and placid contrast as, far below, it snaked around hills and through dales on its last 25km to the Indian Ocean.

During that evening I sampled the maiden vintage of Sijnn White, and became a fan for life. As I have said before, more than once, white blends, especially when chenin-based are perhaps the Cape’s finest achievement . The Sijnn example is not only as fine as any other but offers unique characteristics that can be attributed to both terroir and minimalist handling.

 

 

 

 

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The team has now released the Sijnn white 2017 and, unsurprisingly, this is what I opened first, knowing well that I was going to savour every sip.

Comprising 84% chenin, 13% viognier with roussanne making the remaining 3% , this is the 10th vintage , from vines now 12 and seven years old. A good year for the vintage. grapes were picked early, some bunch- pressed the balance basket- pressed. The wine was fermented in French oak, of which 11% was new, for 10 months before being lightly fined and bottled, unfiltered, in December 2017.

The wine is golden straw-coloured, with a nose presenting wafts of fruit sparked with wild fennel. On the palate, layers of complex flavour to relish, some peach  and a little lemon, overlaid with dusty spices which don't  mask the essential  freshness. I did not detect as much fruit as the tasting notes suggest, but came across a subtle wildness – herbs and minerals – with hints of maritime brine. Irresistible .

Their tasting notes suggest that its ideal on its own or with fish and seafood. Agreed. But it’s also a white that can enhance several Cape Malay classics, -including bobotie, especially when made with fish, chicken curry and chicken breyani. R280 at the cellar.

Sijnn Reds 2011 and 2015

 

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The 2015 vintage is acknowledged as one of the Cape’s finest, and equally so for Sijnn, where the wine was made in the stone cellar for the first time, avoiding the long journey to Stellenbosch. It was also winemaker Charla Haasbroek’s maiden vintage as she produced the 2015 Red using 47% syrah, 19% touriga nacional, 19% trincadeira, finished with nearly equal quantities of mourvèdre and cabernet. The vines, now 10 and 11 years old reaching maturity and – with the weather playing its part – the harvest was picked and sorted early, fermented in small open tanks and oak vats. Natural fermentation preceded a basket pressing and malolactic fermentation in 225 litre French oak for the first year. Bottled by hand in December 2016, unfined and unfiltered.

Already hugely enjoyable, but worth squirreling away as well, the freshness is there, no cultivar dominating; on the palate concentrated fruit and a little fennel well balanced by tannic structure. Spicy, rich and with a long finish, it features . alcohol levels of  just over 14%, This wine  calls for red meat given gourmet treatment, but will also complement rich dishes based on black mushroom. R350 from the cellar.

Because it took a while to open up and show its charms, the 2011 Sijnn Red has been released only now. The year saw a dry windy summer and the vines were irrigated during the growing and again during the ripening process, but otherwise left to themselves. Back in Stellenbosch the grapes were crushed into open tanks and oak vats. Spontaneous natural fermentation followed with maturation  in barrel for two years before bottling in January 2013. The nose says Malgas, the palate is rich with firm tannins and its easy to see this is a wine that will go on offering enjoyment for several years to come. The wildness of venison and game birds will be enhanced by this blend – with syrah comprising over half along with 19% touriga nacional, 17% each of trincadeira and mourvèdre,  finished with 6% each trincadeira and cab. It sells for R250 at the cellar door.

Finally, a word of appreciation to the team who compiled the information: well-written, concise and accurate, comprising everything a reviewer would like to know. If all the spec sheets and releases that come my way were as smart as these, my emails would be reduced by half.

For more info see www.sijnn.co.za

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Before we get to the bottle, the carton warrants a word or two – so cleverly designed it doubles as a display unit, opening on both sides to reveal the custom-made regal bottle, embossed with the initials JR, perched on a raised platform.

Salmon pink in hue, the wine adds to the patrician air with its simple front label, with little more than title and its 2017 vintage visible, although if you have very sharp eyes you will find more info on the producer – Anthonij Rupert Wyne and its Franschhoek setting in minute print along the bottom.

The wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz, is made in the Provençal style – as homage to the founder of L’Ormarins, home to Anthonij Rupert Wyne. Jean Roi, one of the French Huguenots who settled in 1694 in the wilds of what was to develop into Franschhoek, was born in the southern French village of Lourmarin.

Fresh and zippy, aromas of summer seasonal fruit precede the fruit on the palate which finishes with a touch of citrus. Alcohol levels are held at a modest R13%, and the whole effect is celebratory and festive, perfect for the time of the year.

It makes the ideal partner to glamorous menus, enjoyed on shady terraces, with the sound of water as background music.

This limited release sells at R290, which is steep for a pink – but for Christmas, or New Year or any other summer celebration, many will fork out to highlight the holiday or to greet 2019 in fine style. It is also available in a 1,5 litre bottle for R600.

One word puzzles me – why is it called Cap Provincial Rosé instead of Provençal? The rest of the title is French, why the English insert, which has nothing to do with the region, but simply means “of the province” and often is less than complimentary when attributed to its inhabitants.

 

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 For more information, visit www.rupertwines.co

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