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Posted by on in Blog

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There are few winelovers who do not enjoy a story or a snippet of history around the wine they are opening. It not only adds interest but brings the producers and their farms and cellars into the homes of consumers, to the benefit of both.

Excelsior estate in the Robertson Wine Valley has a history as colourful as many, and fifth generation owner Peter de Wet is happy to share the family story with visitors to his hospitable farm and with those in the 20-odd countries across the globe who stock his wines.

Two diverse animal species have helped the De Wet family to fame and fortune since 1859 when one Koos de Wet settled near Robertson and started farming at Excelsior. Kowie de Wet became a successful ostrich breeder, as well as a wine producer and the manor guest house is today attractive testimony to his affluence, when it was built and furnished in the Cape Revival style. When ostrich plumes went out of vogue, Kowie and his son Oscar turned to breeding racehorses and cultivating vines, thus saving this feather palace from insolvency.

Two 20th century racehorses owned by the Excelsior stud, both of whom helped bring fame and fortune to the De Wet family, are honoured with a pair of fine red wines. Back in 1913 Excelsior imported a champion Hackney sire, named Evanthius, from overseas who continued his winning streak in South Africa, winning many titles.

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San Louis was a successful racehorse who fell ill in 1979 and was expected to die, but seven months later had recovered and went on to win the 1981 Guineas, one of South Africa’s most prestigious race.

Both the wines are from the Reserve range Their black bottles and gold banding and words on black labels lend sophistication but are moderately priced at R156.

Evanthius 2013 cabernet sauvignon was sourced from berries of 30-year-old vines. Full-bodied, with characteristic nose of dark berry and cedar, the smooth tannins are well-balanced by fruit. Enjoyable now, but should continue ageing well for some years. It’s four-star Platter status is enhanced with platinum from the 2017 Michelangelo contest. Alcohol levels of 14,5% are on the high side for current trends.

San Louis 2015 shiraz from a famous vintage year was chosen as a Platter “hidden gem’ in their 2016 edition. Expect to find the typical shiraz spiciness along with wafts of oak, cherry flavours and a hint of chocolate on the palate. AfFull-bodied wine that will take on rich casseroles of venison and gamebirds with panache.

A third wine from this range, Gondolier, a merlot, was not tasted. For more information, see www.excelsior.co.za

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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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Posted by on in Recipes

ANATOLI: Authentic Turkish Cuisine by Tayfun Aras published by Human & Rousseau, 2018

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Just the name induces memories of exotic meals enjoyed back in the late 80’s when we had to remember to book a table, as Anatoli was usually fully booked.. Dining there inspired me to investigate this wonderful cuisine further, and when I learned  that it's regarded as one of the top five cuisines in the world, I wasn't  surprised.

 

As country-dwellers we have become more reliant on our own cooking skills, and I am often pleased that I have a little store of Turkish  recipes in my handwritten recipe books. But what a treat to get this delectable collection from the present owner of Anatoli restaurant, recipes much embellished by his life story. He enjoyed an enviable childhood in a suburb of Ankara, brought up in a house where the garden fruit trees provided dessert and his mother encouraged him, the eldest of three sons, to take an active interest in family cooking.

 

Although he has a degree in archaeology he spent time selling carpets and souvenirs in Marmaris for several years where he absorbed the seafood and wild greens diet of the locals and, after marrying and starting a family, he and Louise moved to Cape Town in the late 90’s. Here he shared his expertise of Turkish braai-ing with locals . In 2003 he bought Anatoli when it came on the market for the second time and gradually adapted the original menu by introducing a new repertoire of mezzes.

 

The author ascribes the complexity of Turkish fare to influence from the vast territories of the Ottoman Empire, which spanned areas in Europe, the Caucasus, western Asia, north Africa and the horn of that continent. He brought in Turkish apricots, spicy beef sausages, sumac, Turkish coffee, raki and other ingredients at first, but now that Cape Town is more international it is easier to find most of these in the city.

 

Tayfun’s recipes open with a description of basic and essential ingredients that home cooks should have. Mezzes follow, ranging from a simple dish of varied olives to baby marrow fritters, from Circassian chicken paté to hummus, stuffed vine leaves to fava, (broad bean puree), red pepper pesto to borani (spinach with yoghurt and sultanas), tarama to tzatziki. You will also find kofte, (meatballs with tarator sauce), shakshuka (an eggless version) and aubergine dishes.

 

Anatoli’s popular bread recipe precedes main course dishes which are sourced from all regions in Turkey, some adapted to suit local palates. Most are served with fragrant rice but bulgar pilaf makes a good alternative.                                

There are classics like Imam Bayildi,   etli dolma 9mixed vegetables filled with spiced lamb mince), lamb shanks, lamb ribs, sultans delight ( cubed lamb served on smoked aubergine puree). Chicken baked with feta combines enticing flavours, and then we move to a selection of kebabs.                                            

 

Dessert is important in Turkish cuisine, and fruit compotes, milk puddings and of course baklava and kadayfi are classic examples. I like the look of apricots stuffed with almonds and cream and cream-filled stewed quince halves.

 

The final chapter, From my Home Kitchen, presents dishes too time-consuming for restaurant inclusion. Readers will find  some appetising salads, delicious brunch choices - including halloumi cheese baked in moskonfyt! -   a mussel stew, shrimp casserole and instructions for making Turkish tea (coffee is dealt with earlier in the book). Adventurous vegetarians will find plenty to chew on in this treasury to expand their repertoires as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A treasury of wise sayings accompanies the recipes in this book which is illustrated with plenty of appetising photographs, with the fare competing with some dishes, beautifully decorated china or metal dishes. Mouthwatering in every sense of the word.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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Posted by on in Events

 

A KOEKSISTER TO FOLLOW...

 

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Stellenbosch Hills is adding a sweet finale to its biltong and wine pairing for the month of September, with a heritage dessert, in form of koeksisters, to be paired with their Muscat de Hambourg. Visitors can start with the pairing of their white and red wines with a range of biltong and droewors , then go on to choose a plaited or Cape Malay-style koeksister to finish. The pairings cost R75, and bookings can be made at 021 881 3828/9.

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DE KRANS BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

 

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A great way to swing into spring! This festival takes place over the weekend of September 1 - 2 and invites guests to jog or wander through vineyards and orchards in full bloom. Prizes await those who take the best photos on September 1. Prebooking is essential. Other activities include a farmers' market on the Saturday, live music, meals at the De Krans Bistro and Deli, wine and port tastings and a champagne breakfast on the Sunday. Bookings for this are advised. For more info contact Bessie Swanepoel at 044 213 3314 or email dekrans@mweb.co.za

 

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BOT RIVER SPRING WEEKEND

 

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Food, wine, music and entertainment for all members of the family is on the menu for this weekend bash, taking place on September 1 & 2.  Events are hosted by the various farms, including a scavenger hunt for grownups where particpants have to complete challenges prompted by a mobile phone app. There's yoga in the vineyards, meeting Nguni cattle, a farmers' market and wine launches on the programmes. Steak and curry nights and an ox braai add choices to dining, while the Bull fest theme gets carried through to clay bull shooting and taurean treasure hunts for children. Tickets cost R100 per day and obtainable through Quicket.  For more info contact  Melissa Nelsen at Melissa@genevievemcc.co.za.

The cellars will also be holding a tasting of new vintages at La Tete restaurant in Bree Street, Cape Town on Wed August 29 at 18h00. Tickets cost R200 and are available on quicket.com.

 

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CWG AUCTION 2018

 

The 2018 Nedbank Cape Winemakers' Guild auction takes place on Saturday 29th September at Spier Conference Centre. Registration closes on September 19. The collection of 48 individual wines that will go under the hammer comprises 31 reds, 14 whites, two Cap Classiques and one port-style wine. For more info visit www.capewinemakersguild.com or call 021 852 0408. A selection of the auction wines will be available for tasting in Cape Town at the CTICC on August 16 at 18h00 and in Johannesburg at the Atrium, Nedbank Sandton, on August 22 at 18h00. Tickets cost R350 and can be purchased via webtickets.co.za

 

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Calitzdorp, like other parts of the Little Karoo is still struggling with drought conditions. Yet nothing seems to stop the wine producers from bringing out great wines, both easy-drinking bargains and superb port wines for which the region is renowned.

De Krans is a fine example of a cellar that continues to produce world-class ports even while releasing an increasing number of white and red wines that are attracting awards at our national contests.

As budgets decrease thanks to rising petrol and other prices, winelovers are looking for affordability along with quality. The De Krans Basket Press cabernet sauvignon 2017 fits the bill nicely, an easy-drinking, warming, ruby red wine, presenting smooth tannins, cherry and plum flavours and offering moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. At R65 it is accompanying many a winter casserole and braai, while also making a cosy fireside aperitif.

 

Looking ahead to a spring that hopefully brings seasonal showers, De Krans released its 2018 Pinotage Rosé a while ago, probably one of the first wines of this tough drought-ravaged vintage. However this attractive salmon-tinged dry blush wine, with very moderate alcohol levels and priced at R65 does not reflect hard times, but invites patrons to enjoy its berry and rose petal aromas, its fruity flavours and inviting hues – lunch time, brunch time, and the perfect complement to good picnics and other moveable feasts.

 

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While De Krans’s flagship port wine, the Cape Vintage Reserve 2015 is deservedly celebrating a double gold award from the 2018 National Wine

Challenge, I still turn to my all-time favourite, their Cape Tawny Limited Release, a non-vintage port blended, reports Platter, from wines five to 15 years old. As always, freshness and elegance accompany the rich flavours of caramel and citrus, fruitcake and nuttiness, and it’s unsurprising to see the bottle adorned with a four-and-half star sticker from Platter, gold from Veritas 2017, platinum from the SA Wine Index and a 92 –rating from Tim Atkins’ 2017 report.

I'm off  to shave slivers of vintage Italian Parmesan as my favourite accompaniment to this tawny delight.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

DELHEIM’S VEGAN-FRIENDLY DUO

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The 2018 white and rosé wines are trickling onto the market, and will soon become a steady stream. Among the early birds are the new vintages of Delheim’s perennially popular pair- their sauvignon blanc and their pinotage rosé.

To start with the latter, this blush has a long and illustrious history, being produced regularly since its launch in 1976, when the late Spatz Sperling first presented it to the local and German markets. It offers a good mix of candy and berry aromas, while the berry flavours on the palate are balanced by crispness and faint floral wafts of perfume , thanks to a tiny portion of Muscat de Frontignan. The prevailing drought has not affected the usual good quality and the moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% add to its attraction. Expect to pay around R75.

The 2018 sauvignon blanc will please a wide variety of tastes, as its nicely balanced, green fig and citrus notes complementing a hint of flint. Alcohol levels are moderate at 13,5%, and this wine, while fresh as a daisy, is not overly acidic. It sells for R79.

Both wines have a band on their back labels stating Suitable for Vegans. This is a good idea if, as Delheim says, they have had an increase in queries from visitors and diners as to the acceptability of their wines to vegans and vegetarians.

Of course today dozens of producers do not use egg white or fish products in the fining of their wines, while others, choosing the minimimalist approach, are not fining their wines at all. Bentonite is the product most widely in use today, a type of clay that is far less messy than working with egg whites which used to be popular. Delheim is one of the cellars that has been using bentonite for several years.

 

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Posted by on in Events

ROBERTSON WINE VALLEY SLOW FOOD &WINE FESTIVAL

 

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The 12th annual event takes place from August 3 – 5. Always a great way to experience the winelands in slow mode, unearth wonderful wines, dine at farm-to-fork eateries and stock up with value-for-money quality.

Make up your itinerary – fireside dinners with the winemakers, wines in underground cellars, single vineyard tastings, game drives, boat rides – then book each event individually . Finish by spending time at the Family Market on Sunday – it’s always worth the while. Seewww. robertsonslow.com for online bookings, call 023 626 3167 for more info, or email events@robertsonwinevalley.com with questions.

 

REGIONAL SHOWS IN PRETORIA AND BLOEMFONTEIN

 

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Michael Fridjhon will present two regional shows, the first of which is a new event, the Capital City Wine Show taking place at the Maslow hotel in Menlyn on 26 – 27 July. Renowned cellars and boutique producers will be showing their fine wines from 17h00 to 21h00 on both days. Early Bird tickets cost R180 for each night, until July 22, then R200 therafter and at the door. See www.capitalcitywineshow.co.za for list of exhibitors.

The Free State Wine Show takes place on August 2 – 3 at ‘Emoya Estate, Groenvlei, Bloemfontein from 17h00 to 21h00 on both days. Early Bird tickets cost R160 for Thursday and R180 for Friday, thereafter R180 for Thursday and R200 for Friday and at the door. Visit www.freestatewineshow.co.za for list of exhibitors.

 

STELLENBOSCH CELEBRATION OF WINE

 

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This new event takes place from August 2 to Sunday August 5 at the De Warenmarkt in the heart of Stellenbosch. Among the events on the programme are a Boutique wine tasting, a Women-in-Wine brunch, a formal dinner titled In the Company of Legends and a dinner focussing on Father & Son – winemaking duos who will share their stories. The final event on Sunday is the Cabernet Long Table, a four-course meal showcasing cab with every course. To book visit www.wineroute.co.za and for info call Elmarie Rabe on 021 886 8275

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TWO NEDBANK CAPE WINEMAKERS GUILD AUCTION SHOWCASES

 

Meet CWG member winemakers and sample their wines at one of these showcases ahead of the CWG Auction on Saturday September 29.

The Cape Town event takes place on Thurs August 16 at the CTICC from 18h00. Tickets cost R350. Book via www.webtickets.co.za

The Johannesburg event takes place on Wed Aug 22 at the Nedbank Sandton Atrium from 18h00. Tickets cost R350. Book via www.webtickets.co.za

 

FRANSCHHOEK UNCORKED FESTIVAL

 

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Embrace spring in all its rural finery at the weekend Uncorked Festival over September 15 – 16. This is the time to amble from one estate to another, tasting new gems and classic wines, while visitors can also enjoy themed tastings, bespoke meals, old school lawn games and more. Book through www.webtickets.co.za, tickets cost R150 which gives access to all farms taking part, free tastings and glass. For more info contact 021 876 2861 or visit www.franschhoekuncorked.co.za

 

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According to one guest, there wasn’t a bed left in the guest houses and BnB’s of Bonnievale and surrounds! It seems that Bonnievale’s launch of their River Collection was a large and popular event and I was sorry to have missed it.

But I have tried the quartet of 2018 wines that currently is available: three whites and a rosé, which will be joined by some 2017 reds later this year.

 

 

To rewind, for a moment, to the time when Bonnievale wines was founded half a century ago, the cellar produced accessible  ranges to 2006 when a three-way merger saw the winery join forces with Merwespont and Nordale co-ops, under the Bonnievale name. CEO John Barnardt has been at the helm ever since, taking the business to higher levels, so that when their 10th anniversary was celebrated in 2016, the producer was known as a cellar that remains unpretentious while delivering well-made fruit-driven wines at pleasing prices.

 

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Carina Gous joined the team as strategic brand advisor recently, while the winemaking team is headed by Marthinus Rademeyer (who made the chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cinsault rosé), while Jean Slabber’s signature is on the label of the chenin blanc.

Turning to the wines, which form part of a new collection that celebrates the Breede river, the cellar’s lifeline and “the core and heartbeat of our wines” to use Barnardt’s phrase. They are all priced at R57 at cellar door and all share modest alcohol levels - both on-trend and welcome - of 12,5%, with the rosé coming in at 12%.

 

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They are approachable, enjoyable and well-made, offering good value: the chenin is, in particular, a pleasing addition as there are few offering such good value in the Robertson valley. I also liked the chardonnay which is well rounded, offering citrus and stone fruit balanced by a little oak. The sauvignon blanc is crisp without being over acidic and leans to the tropical fruit rather than green style, while the rosé is  very light-bodied, with  little cinsaut character evident.

 

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Over the last few years the quality and diversity of wines available from the producers in the McGregor valley have rocketed, When talking to visitors and wine lovers in other centres it was clear that few people knew just how good and diverse the offerings are. This led to my creating the McGregor Wine Meander which forms an informal link between the local outlets and provides travellers and locals a vinous route that can be visited over a weekend or longer stay. 

We invite you to ramble or run, hike or bike, trot on horseback or just drive your four-wheeled chariot through the valley, pausing wherever you feel like sampling one of our charming wines or sipping a grappa or eau de vie.

Here below are a couple of excerpts from the website, starting with the introduction.

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At present there are six members, and this number is set to rise by one or two more. Starting at the Robertson end of the McGregor/Robertson road, the first cellar is Tanagra Winery & Distillery, followed by McGregor Wines. Bemindwyne and Grape De-Vine are in the middle of the village, with the latter acting as tasting centre for Solara Organic Wines. Beyond the village, some 10km uphill, lies Lord's Wines, the highest cellar in the Robertson Wine Valley. 

 

Please log on to www.mcgregorwinemeander.co.za to plan your route and click on each member to obtain their details.

 

 

McGregor Wine Meander

Amazing diversity. Consistent qualityGreat value for money.

This best describes the wines and spirits that flow from the farms and cellars of the valley that encompasses the magical village of McGregor.

Where else would one find such extraordinary variety within one small wine-producing district ? Cellars ranging from garagiste through boutique to a large co-operative. Single vineyard white, red and rosés. Fine Cinsaut and Colombard that take these former humble – now trendy – grapes to new levels. Irresistible award-winning Cap Classiques. Internationally registered unforgettable organic sauvignon blanc and pinotage. Highly rated popular cabernet sauvignon and, of course, soetes, in the form of warming red and white muscadels.
And, from a small distillery, a range of world-class grappa or marc as its also known, along with eau de vie produced from both red and white wines. And there’s more in the guise of a fruit-based range where apricots, peaches, lemons and organic quinces play starring roles. An inviting village wine boutique doubles as a tasting centre for one farm while providing locals with a meeting place of note.

Only in McGregor!

This little route can be compared to a jewelled necklace, along which a handful of farms and cellars perch as gems waiting to be unearthed. The winemakers, viticulturists and farmers (sometimes all-in-one) share qualities like talent, passion and hospitality – the old adage, ‘arrive as strangers, leave as friends’ – could have been coined especially for this valley.

Welcome to The McGregor Wine Meander,

a slow and winding 15km route through vine-clad hills, past orchards, farmsteads and between stretches of veld where nature rules supreme. After leaving the village the road climbs to the foothills of the Sonderend mountains, where the final destination boasts heart-stopping views over the valley.
In anticipation of your tastings, we would like to raise a glass in welcome with traditional toasts of Cheers! Gesondheid! And, with a nod to our Scottish heritage, Slainte!

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Posted by on in Reviews

 

KAROO FOOD by Gordon Wright, published by Struik Lifestyle, 2018.

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This second title from Gordon Wright is another "must-have" for every keen cook and for those aiming to become hosts whose meals are memorable and hospitality unsurpassed.

Chris Marais, who spends his life writing about the Karoo, describes Wright in his foreword as “an ambassador for the Karoo,... the life and soul of our party... as a chef who “lives, breathes, laughs, drinks with and cooks for his Karoo people...”

Wright lives up to this description with enthusiasm as he shares his expertise, starting, naturally, with Karoo lamb and mutton. Lots of advice interspersed with recipes less obvious than roast leg or shoulder, here we find roasted lamb belly, lamb sausage, roasted rump and mutton confit. On to beef, with tips on ageing, making broth and rubs preceding recipes for  oxtail, skirt steak and rib-eye with marrow bone sauce.

Venison gets special treatment with Wright presenting a friend's blueberry and sage wors, bobotie, sautéed kidneys, sosaties, fillet, biltong, even venison crisps as snacks, meaty alternatives to crisps. We also find venison meatballs, pie, tartare and skilpadjes (liver in caul fat).

His poultry and wild fowl chapter offers a creative variety, opening with homemade chicken nuggets served with black olive ratatouille dip – great for a first course while the braai is doing the main. Peanut chicken in cream is an easy oven -to- table dish with Indonesian overtones, andthere’s a delicious looking guinea fowl stew which is,  Wright says, a Karoo version of a cassoulet.

A chapter on charcuterie and curing will delight those wanting to get down to more than frying and braai-ing,  and then the scene turns to seafood (enjoyed during holidays on the coast) and a few vegetable soups and salads. The smoking and braai chapter will please outdoor cooks who are adventurous, and prepared to spend time on prepping their meat or poultry.  The book concludes with a few heritage desserts. Every item is photographed superbly by Sean Calitz, while his landscape shots add the perfect  ambience to this out -of -the- ordinary collection of modern Karoo cuisine with a nod to traditional favourites.

It’s good to see the same professional publishing team still working together to produce the most appealing cookbooks, food with flair and stories to digest, as well as  photographs to admire even as our mouths water. As always, Linda, Cecilia, Bev and others combine talents seamlessly and, for me, evoke happy memories that go back a good decade.

                                

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There are many sunny winter days when one looks for white wines that are alternatives to summer specials like sauvignon blanc. This is the time to sample Rieslings and Gewurztraminer and the 2016 vintages from Paul Cluver make an inspired choice.

I recently enjoyed every sip of the Paul Cluver Dry Encounter Riesling, as elegant as ever, offering a fine combo of citrus notes and flint with a lick of cream on the finish. Not a trace of petrol on the nose or palate, just a delightful aperitif or a companion that quietly enhances sophisticated fare, from white meats and fish to blonde soups and patés. As Riesling was one of the original cultivars planted when the family started making wine, the vines are probably at their peak. Its very moderate alcohol levels of R12 % add to its numerous charms. It sells for R110.

The renowned Elgin farm is also punting its 2016 Gewurztraminer, offering some fascinating tidbits of history about the cultivar in well-written press releases. Describing the vine as culturally confused we learn that it is Italian (Tyrolean in fact) in origin, made famous in France and German in name, it travels further as the ideal partner to Asian and Middle Eastern fare, and can complement chilli-spiked dishes with panache. I think its also worth trying with the gentler curries of the Cape Malay cuisine and some Persian – now Iranian – classics. Cellarmaster Andries Burger describes the nose as reminiscent of pelargonium, honeysuckle and jasmine flowers, whereas most Gewurz presents rose, litchi and melon – so theres a wide choice. I picked up rose, melon and mixed floral scents, leading to a mixed bouquet on the palate alongside a frisky freshness that prevents this wine from becoming overwhelming or too intense. It is, of course, off-dry, is rated four and half stars in the current edition of Platter, and costs R100.

I would have liked to have had more information on the age of the vines, and comments from Andries on the winemaking of this fine duo. For more info, visit www.cluver.com

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Friday July 6 2018

 

 

Two days ago, Renata Coetzee’s latest work – another striking social history dealing with early South African cuisine – was shown to the committee of the McGregor Heritage Society. Recently released, a local resident had given a copy to the Society, a gesture much appreciated. Unknown to us, the author had recently died, bringing an era of impressive and prolific research to a close.

 

According to the notice in today’s Cape Times, Renata was born in 1930, and certainly lived life to the full to the age of 88. Her research in to our early eating habits saw a number of titles published, and these were readable, enjoyable books, rather than dusty tomes. Her interests were not only acadaemic, but practical, as her weighty manual on creative catering proved.

 

But let’s backtrack for a minute, and have a quick look at her impressive career. Her initial degree in dietetics was awarded at Potchefstroom, but she received her Masters degree in home economics at Stellenbosch University. She studied food and nutrition at three universities in the US of A between 1959 and 1974 and lectured at the University of Pretoria for some years .

 

Her first title The South African Culnary Tradition was published in 1977, a delicious mix of social history and eating habits of the early Cape Dutch community from 1652 to 1800, with more than 100 authentic recipes. It’s a title that has always been at my side when writing about the historic aspect of our cuisine , whether for the Cape Argus, for magazines or for any of my own titles.

 

Her interest in the food of Southern African tribes saw intensive research being conducted over several years, at a time when this received scant coverage in English and Afrikaans cookery books. Renata’s second book, Funa, Roots of traditional African food culture was the result, and one on the customs and traditional fare of the Batswana followed.

 

As the new South Africa came into being, Renata was ready on the gastronomic front with a large manual containing the fruits of long labour. Cost-Consious Creative Catering was launched to provide mass-catering for every cultural taste in South Africa. In a hand-written note she told me that this ground-breaking achievement presented user-friendly recipes , with clear instructions, for caterers to provided “Africa’s Natural Nourishment” as she termed it, in portions ranging from 50 through 200 to 1000.

 

Here her experience as Anglo American’s Gold and Uranium division manager of dietetics and catering becomes clear, as does her decade as senior dietician for Stellenbosch university. As a commercial venture she packaged traditional ingredients like sorghum, marogo, isjingi into quick-cooking food packs for caterers and included dozens of dishes that used traditional fare, with western ingredients (pilchards, bread, cheese, salads) to produce healthy and varied menus for balanced meals.

 

Fast forward to 2010 when Coetzee and photographer Volker Miros launched Kukumakranka: a triumph of a title embracing Khoi-Khoin Culture, Customs and Creative Cooking. Acknowledging contributions from those who talk about Griqua and Nama diets, this precious item of Africana is dedicated to the Khoi-Khoin women, who showocase their art of cooking on these beautifully designed and illustrated pages.

 

Around this time Renata advised the owner and chef of Solms-Delta near Franschhoek on what to plant in their veld-food garden and what to put on the menu to reflect the fare enjoyed by the region’s early inhabitants. The results have seen travellers from across the globe sit down and try ingredients truly foreign to them, but well received in the farm’s restaurant.

 

I presumed that Renata was enjoying well earned retirement in Stellenbosch. What a thought! Her latest and final title is a culinary and historical swansong that will surely complete some forgotten aspects of our nutritional habits that she wrapped up quite recently. I have not yet got hold of a copy, but will do so very soon.

 

In the meantime, my admiration and heartfelt thanks  to this amazing lady, whose unfailing enthusiam,  talent and work lives on between the covers of her titles.

 

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Just what many of us need right now! Midwinter blues increased by rocketing petrol and other prices. Depressing ongoing national political news and Cape shenanigans that don’t inspire trust in municipal or provincial management.

Perfect timing, then to find a red and white wine that manage to offer cheer on several fronts: Stellenbosch Hills – long known for affordable quality wines - launches a pair of blends that retail for just under R45 each, which doesn’t dent the budget much.

Then, having tried both of them, one finds that – as expected – they offer uncomplicated sipping, but a lot more. Both these wines offer enjoyment way beyond their price – they are well-balanced, presenting fruit, freshness and enough backbone to make them meaningful wines.

And thirdly, there’s a feel-good angle as well: A percentage of Polkadraai wine sales is channelled to the Vlottenburg Primary School through the Polka Kids Community Project. Stellenbosch Hills has been a patron for a decade now, and shows no signs of stopping. Even if that percentage is very small, after 10 years the cellar’s contribution has made a good deal of difference to those 400 pupils.

The 2017 Polkadraai Pinotage/Merlot slips down like silk, easy enjoyment as a fireside aperitif, comfortable companion to pizza, pasta, sausage and mash and a whole menu of comfort suppers. At 14,5% alcohol levels, the second bottle needs to be watched with some care.

By way of contrast the 2018 Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc is a mere 12,5% alcohol-wise, is fruity and gentle and not bone-dry, but not flabby, and will accompany easy dishes like apricot chicken bakes happily.

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The pair make  the maiden vintages of his Focal Point Collection and there’s more in the pipeline, with a cab to come. Arco Laarman, whose name is almost synonomous with fine chardonnay after his long stint at Glen Carlou, went solo a few years ago, presenting his Cluster Series last year, and this impressive pair, both 2017 vintage, a couple of months ago.

Dubbed the Focal Point, Laarman explains that this range concentrates on specific vineyard sites to express their character, by making a wine that reflects a specific place and time. Deciding on Chardonnay as the maiden white was a given, while settling on Cinsault for the red was influenced both by the existence of fine old vineyards to tap into and the fact that its star is on the rise, just as chenin’s was a decade agao – and look at that so-called humble grape now.

 

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Laarman found his chardonnay grapes in a vineyard in limestone on the banks of the Duiwenhoks river near Vermaaklikheid, a cool southern region that’s been spotted by several adventurous winemakers in recent years. He does not reveal their age, but he harvested quite late, whole bunch-pressed them and used four different fermentation techniques before maturing the wine – half in new French oak, half in neutral oak for 10 months.

The result is impressive on every count. Elegance and freshness are both prominent, the nose offers citrus and pineapple, while rounded flavours and minerality come through on the palate, with a hint of nougat. Alcohol levels of 14% are unobtrusive. Laarman suggests pairing the wine with sophisticated seafood or roast chicken with asparagus and white wine sauce. I think there are several French gourmet chicken classics that would make an excellent companion, especially those from the north and French Alpine regions. At over R300, it’s a chardonnay to match  with patrician fare.

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To the Cinsault, which Laarman made from berries of 35-year-old vines in the Bottelary Hills. After natural fermentation had taken place and the skins pressed in a large basket press, the wine spent 10 months in 300 litre neutral oak barrels. The result is a delicious violet-tinged cinsaut, where purity reigns supreme, tannins are gentle, fruit, a distinct herbiness and earthiness add to the typical cinsaut character. Moderate alcohol levels of 13% add to its attraction. Those who favour light-bodied reds will be delighted with this fine example, which will enhance warming game bird casseroles, and mushroom dishes – eat your heart out, pinot noir, you have an affordable rival to contemplate. Recommended retail price is R210.

Final comment is on  the distinctive and attractive closure of the bottles which sees conventional cork topped with an innovative cork capsule for re-sealing the bottle. It's made by hand locally, it looks good and, being a natural product, beats plastic and wax seals both in looks and practicality.

For more info, see www.laarmanwines.com.

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As I write this, the snow lies thick on the upper reaches of the Sonderend mountains above McGregor. 

Encompassing the  narrow Slanghoek valley, according to the Opstal receptionist, “ it's white all round” powdering the Badsberge, Limietberg and Dutoitskloof peaks.

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In front of me a trio of Opstal estate’s recent releases, the first of which is Attie Louw’s 2017 chenin blanc, one of the farm’s annual stars, where fruit, freshness, and complexity meld into a delicious whole. Aromas of stone fruit and pineapple greet the nose, while the grapes, sourced from various chenin blocks, after  spontaneous fermentation spent  eight months on the lees, mostly in large French oak, the remainder in stainless steel. Moderate alcohol levels of 13,3% add to the charms of this perennial best-seller, and of course the venerable chenin blanc vines of Opstal add that concentrated character that is so distinctive.

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Next up is Opstal Cabernet Sauvignon & Cinsault, which is how the label lists it, 2017, a 50/50 blend with huge appeal. The cab character – cherry on the nose mingling with herbiness, followed up fruit upfront, the cinsaut contributing its distinctive laidback  freshness, adding up to a delightful wine to complement pizzas, pastas, Sunday suppers, homely fare like cottage pie, toad -in- the- hole, mushrooms on toast... the list is endless. Alcohol levels kept at 13,3%.

Opstal’s cinsaut vineyards, planted in 1997 are celebrating their coming of age, and I hope the Attie will produce a cinsaut soon to mark the occasion.

 

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Both wines sell for R95, while the third, Opstal Blush 2018, costs R70. Described on the back label as 'a bottle of fun', this popular pink is comprised of 70% shiraz and  30% viognier. First made back in 2006 by Opstal MD Stanley Louw , it has remained a popular annual and  best-seller, particularly in Holland . Unique, says Attie, because all the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented together, so this early combo of berry aromas of the shiraz meet the stone fruit flavours of the viognier to produce a characterful rosé that will take on sushi with panache. It will come into its own in spring, but will happily accompany your chicken pie on a crisp sunny winter’s day.

Talking of which, its time to diarise the annual Breedekloof Soetes & Sop festival taking place over the weekend 20 – 22 July. Get your tickets, plan your itinerary, book your stayover and experience an amazing weekend of outdoor activities, warming fare and both bargain-priced and top of the range wines.

 

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THE AMAZING AFRICAN ANIMAL ALPHABET written and illustrated by Kristina Jones published by Struik Children, Cape Town, 2017.

 

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When reviewing books produced for small children, criteria change dramatically: one is more concerned with visual impact, simplicity of text, subjects that will appeal than looking at plots, language and other points applied to books for adults and young adults. 
So, first impressions are important, and here we have an interesting cover where a giraffe, buffalo, crocodile and zebra watch while an elephant is scooping up the “z” of Amazing in the title with his trunk. Sunny yellow endpapers are followed by a title page and then we are straight into A, featuring Amahle the Aardvark, who is contemplating a halved avocado adorned with a few ants.

Bandile the baboon is next, and he holds a birthday balloon while over the page, upper and lower case C’s are given life by Chris the crocodile who is in cooking mode, holding a sauce with corn and carrots. 

And so we work through the alphabet with a gallery of mostly wild animals – many of whom have culinary accompaniments, while others are reading, making music, even tying a knot (a pair of kingfishers). So we not only encounter a series of animals who illustrate the letter of alphabet, but are given names that also do this, and  are surrounded by yet more objects starting with the same letter.  In this book Jackals juggle with pots of jam and impala lick icecream, while Emma the elephant contemplates a soft-boiled egg and Doug the dolphin contemplates a doughnut... What does Zandile the zebra do, you ask? Ah, buy the book and find out...

They add up to a colourful collection presented in African style, the stylised drawings also reflecting some of the collage elements from the author’s  own collection of original Shweshwe fabrics.  A hardback of immense appeal and one whose anthropomorphic nature will be enjoyed by both adult and little children.

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It proved to be a bitter-sweet occasion, that day in May when a group of wine writers and retailers gathered in Morgenster’s hilltop tasting room. Similar in many ways to past events where the ever-courteous, charming Giulio Bertrand, flanked by cellarmaster Henry Kotze and consultant Pierre Lurton greeted guests ahead of a tasting of new wines and latest vintages.

This time, however, our host was absent, although we were told he was resting in the gabled farmstead which had been his home for more than 25 years. So he was near enough as we sipped the estate’s maiden bubbly, and sampled seven still wines ahead of a tour through the impressive olive oil plant, now graced by even more sophisticated machines. As always, the lunch that followed was an Italian gourmet triumph, from the simple, flavourful green pea soup, topped with a swirl of newly pressed oil, to the buffet of charcuterie, classic salads and cheeses.

A few days later we learned that Giulio Bertrand had died, with his family around him. One of the Cape’s most beautiful 18th century farms had lost a custodian who lavished money, attention and love on his southern home, adding world-class olive oil to its reputation for fine wines.

We started our tasting with the Cuvee Alessandra 2016, a Cap Classique produced from cabernet franc sans dosage. As could be expected, this is a distinctly different MCC which I found intriguing and enjoyable, with a fine mousse and full-bodied and a long finish. It sells for R227 .

The Morgenster sauvignon blanc 2018 is a wine that should enjoy wide popularity – produced from Stellenbosch grapes it is well-balanced, with subtropical fruit flavours and fresh zestiness in enjoyable combination. At around R80 it also offers good value.

 

 

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I think that Morgenster’s White Reserve 2015 is a memorable Bordeaux-style white blend that offers elegance, complexity and great character, its components (55% s/blanc 45% semillon) melding into a fragrant, fruit-filled mouthful backed by a well-integrated structure. After being in oak for 12 months, the wine was bottled early in 2016 . Expect to pay about R220.

 

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On to the reds, starting with the delicious Tosca 2015, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% cab, and finished with a splash of Cab Franc. While its array of aromas, smooth tannins and fruit and spice combo makes it delightful right now, it is sure to improve even further if cellared. Priced at about R230.

Morgenster’s Nabucco 2015 is an expression of Giulio Bertrand’s favourite cultivar and an example of the great quality of much of the 2015 vintage wines. Nabucco takes a while to get to know – presenting an earthiness reminiscent of pinot noir, spice and herb flavours rather than fruit, all backed by prominent tannins. Cellarmaster Kotze added that when paired with food (beef, mature cheese, dark chocolate) it has a notable effect on the latter. It will also benefit from a few years in a dark cool place. About R340.

Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2014 is a wine made in a more accessible style and offers a delightful blend of a merlot lead with cab, some cab franc and 10% petit verdot. Heady aromas of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and licorice are followed on the palate by ripe fruit, backed by elegant tannins. It sells for about R190.

The flagship Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014 proved to be a fine finale, produced by Kotze in collaboration with Lurton. This vintage is comprised of 36% cab, 36% merlot, 14% cab franc and 14% petit verdot. It’s a big wine in every sense, with intense nose of fruit and nut, coffee and cigar box and a blend of flint and fruit on the palate, with agreeable freshness. It costs around R392

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And so, an era has come to a close. A timespan of more than two decades which has seen Morgenster - originally established by one Jacques Malan who acquired Morgenster in 1711 – gain in beauty and value while Signor Bertrand was its custodian. I heard that his grandchildren are interested in keeping the farm in the family, which is encouraging news. Arrivederci, grazie.

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Just ahead of midwinter, fathers get to enjoy their Sunday, so its not surprising that marketing revolves around comfort fare, snuggly clothes, and warming wines. Groote Post is one of the few cellars that makes a pair of wines specifically for the farm owner, in this case founder Peter Pentz, or the Old Man as he is known. Way back at the start of the new century the maiden vintage of this popular red blend appeared, and found a ready market. The white blend was added much later, and together these make an enjoyable, easy-drinking duo to pair with weekend meals, whether a meaty braai or a favourite roast or casserole.

They are also ideal accompaniments to Father’s Day celebrations. To start with the Old Man’s Blend white, which I preferred, the 2018 vintage is a charming blend of sauvignon and chenin, fresh, fruity and with alcohol levels held at a moderate 13%. As good as an aperitif as an accompaniment to seafood, salads and sunny winter lunches. It sells for around R73.

The 2017 vintage of the Old Man's Blend Red comprises merlot, cab sauvignon, shiraz and cab franc, in what proportions I don’t know. It is still young and I found the tannins a little fierce, but its a robust blend that will take on red meat around a fire or a dining table with ease. Alcohol levels of 14%. It could well reward at least a year’s cellaring, as the potential is discernible. It is priced at R76.

Anyone looking for an appealing venue for a Father’s Day treat need look no further than Groote Post, a farm that combines beauty and history seamlessly, perched in the Darling Hills and offering indoor and outdoor attractions. The long term weather forecast from the Norwegians predict a sunny day for the area, with maximum temperatures of around 16 degrees. Promising indeed.

Tel: 022 492 2825 · Email: wine@grootepost.co.za · Website: www.grootepost.co.za

 

 

Celebrate Father’s Day in the Nuy Valley

 

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If previous meals are anything to go by, the Sunday lunch for Father’s Day is likely to be a generous and traditional treat. Nuy on the Hill is an airy restaurant with sweeping views, a large and diverse menu, and of course a counter where the Nuy wines can be bought by glass and bottle. On June 17 the father in the family will be presented with a mini bottle of Nuy’s delicious red muscadel to savour or take home. To book, call 023 347 0272 or email onthehill@nuywinery.co.za. They are often fully booked, so this is important. Or visit their website www.nuywinery.co.za

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AN INNOVATIVE DUO FROM THE SILVER CREEK DISTILLERY FOR WORLD GIN DAY

 

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Before I even get to the contents of the bottle, a few words on the label, box and inserts. Founder and chief distiller Mark Taverner and his team have done an impressive job on marketing his two craft gins – few consumers will fail to be impressed by The Gin Box which opens to reveal twin bottles – old-fashioned design, complete with a loop handle for easy carrying. Then there’s the distinctive retro label, announcing that this Prohibition Gin is infused with juniper, coriander, lemon, angelica and cinnamon. The label is signed by the distiller and the bottle numbered – mine was no 143 of the batch produced in June Turn to the back label and there's more info for fans wanting to find out how and where it was produced.

 

The tag that's attached to the handle announces “Helping folk dance since 1933..." which of course demands an explanation.

And so the story of Prohibition in the USA comes to light, when the conservative Temperance Movement managed to get alcoholic drinks banned in 1920. The moonshine industry flourished until 1933 when the law was revoked and the population danced as they celebrated...

Having been inspired by craft distilleries in America, Taverner spent more than two years researching and studying before returning home to found the Silver Creek distillery in Randfontein. Starting with a range of moonshine, he then turned to gin, and recently launched a clear and rose-tinted version, along with a Gin Club for happy fans.

As is standard, the alcohol level is 43%, as are the classic infusions used to flavour the spirit; they do not overpower, and the total effect is crisply smooth with a bouquet of citrus backed by a supporting and diverse cast of flavours.

The Prohibition Pink is tinted and further infused with raspberries and blueberries, while rose water adds an aromatic oriental touch that is reminiscent of Turkish delight.

They both sell for around R360 and make refreshing sundowners with classic tonic or lemon and, of course,  a base for cocktails  with exciting potential. Visit www.silvercreekdistillery.com for more information . 

 Roll on Saturday, when the 10th World Gin Day will be celebrated globally, having been established in the UK – where else, given their long history of producing the spirit and pairing it with tonic?. Did Winston Churchill really say the following: “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all the doctors in the Empire?” Probably. Meanwhile our talented mixologists will be working overtime to create exciting new cocktails in gin bars across South Africa. Time to toast our homegrown distillers who are crafting innovative gins of good quality in surprising corners of our country.

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