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Myrna Robins

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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - Pinotage

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

Young Winemaker of the Year Finalists: Category - White Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

A toast to Jacobus is in order!

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It’s still easy to get off the beaten track in the Robertson valley, and, as sophistication threatens to change the nature of some farms on this wine route, the country cellars on roads less travelled gain in appeal.

One such is Windfall, a truly rustic farm that maintains its simple boutique origins even as winemaker Kobus van der Merwe adds new wines to the range  - a maiden Cap Classique will soon join the others.

When I first visited the farm off the Agterkliphoogte road the tasting centre had just been completed. Today there are self-catering cottages, lemon groves along with 63ha of red and white cultivars. The farm's six-year-old potstill brandy, named The Hunter, produced from Chenin Blanc, is attracting considerable praise.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Windfall-Chenin-Blanc-Bottleshot_20171026-141720_1.jpgThe recently released 2017 Chenin Blanc, a fresh and easy-drinking charmer,  offers a range of stone fruit and citrus flavours. It's an appealing partner to casual al fresco fare with  pleasing alcohol levels kept to 12,5%. It sells for R72, which is also the price of the Windfall Grenache Rosé, an off-dry pink presenting melon and berry notes which will find many a fan, and with a moderate alcohol count of just 11,5%.

 Although I have not tasted either, I noticed that Windfall notched up two golds at the 2017 Michelangelo Awards, for their 2015 Cabernet and 2014 Shiraz,  Visitors wanting to sample this boutique collection need to make an appointment before heading to the cellar.

The farm, originally called Spes Bona, was in the Lourens family until cricketing legend Eddie Barlow bought it and changed the name as he watched mists rollling down the mountains that surround the valley. Of course the name also points to unexpected good fortune, a legacy that the present owners, the Alexander family, are busily building on.

To finish on a cricketing note, the owners, winemakers and team at Windfall are on a good wicket, and one that is sure to keep getting better.

See www.windfallwine.co.za for more info.

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Raise your glasses to the short-lived Battle of Muizenberg 222 years ago

The incredible history of Steenberg’s first owner has been well documented (and nicely embroidered) over the centuries. But as the first and feisty woman owner of this early mountainside farm, Catharina certainly made her mark as she worked her way through several husbands while running a farm that also saw travellers overnighting there before continuing to Simons Bay the following day.

More than a century later, other occupants of that old farm stood on that stony mountainside gazing down toward the Indian Ocean lapping at the False Bay beach. This time, there was a war on, known as the Battle of Muizenberg. It was August, 1795.

Former friends, now foes, Holland, who controlled the Cape through the Dutch East India Company no longer allowed Britain access to the Cape, a position that the British East India Company could not tolerate as it was an essential point of supplies in the long journey to the East. A fleet of nine Royal Navy ships, which included two warships, Ruby and Stately and a frigate, Sphynx among them, sailed forth, enabling the British to take control of Simons Town in mid June. The Dutch retreated to their seaside Muizenberg fort, with just 300 men. On August 7 the British sent two battalions to Muizenberg supported by three saips at sea, including Stately. It was all over by 2pm when the Dutch retreat to Zandvlei and the first British Occupation of the Cape was a reality.

I don’t know whose idea it was to honour three of the tall  ships which took part in this short- lived skirmish, but not only is it a brainwave to mark an historic day in the Southern Peninsula chronicles, but wines with a story to tell increase their appeal, and so it is with this maiden trio of enjoyment.

Lift a glass to Ruby, a 2017 rosé with class, made up of just more than half syrah

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and the rest cinsaut, a wine that sings of summer days and long, warm nights. It’s dry, but there’s ample fruit, berries vying for attention with watermelon and a little spice, hints of citrus, an aperitif that will also pair happily with picnics, salads and fruity desserts. Moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% and already sporting its first award, a Double Gold from Rosé Rocks. Selling for R86 at the cellar door

Sphynx 2017 is a charming chardonnay, my favourite of the three, produced from Robertson valley grapes that have been carefully handled to present an elegant

 

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wine, whose stay in oak has added depth and structure without any obvious wood.  Characteristic citrus, caramel and peach, with quince adding a Med flavour. It’s fresh and sprightly, alcohol held at 13,5%, a wine for toasting, for partnering with seafood, poultry and serious salads. It costs R135 at the farm.

The third tall ship is Stately, well depicted here as a 2015 cab-led blend with 37% shiraz making the remainder, a dense wine with elegant smooth texture, both

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accessible and ready to drink. There is a gamut of flavours to identify from olives and berries, black pepper to wafts of licorice. Moderate alcohol levels add to its appeal, and this is the only wine closed with cork. It sells for  R135, and is a versatile red that will adapt to many an occasion.

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