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Myrna Robins

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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

Posted by on in Events

 

WILD KAROO by Mitch Reardon, published by Struik Nature, 2018.

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The subtitle offers a good summing-up of this gem of a title: ‘A journey through history, change and revival in an ancient land’. While it hints at the enormous timespan that Reardon encompasses, it does not offer readers the wide range of subject matter that he includes as he travels though our dry heartland. He focuses on nature conservation, game - including birds, reptiles and invertebrates, the unique flora, landscape and geology and the history and lifestyle of the Karoo people. He also shares the plans to combine public and private protected land to create wildlife corridors between isolated parks, re-establishing old migration routes, and in this way helping to reverse some effects of human settlement.

Quite a task for this wildlife writer and photographer and former ranger to embrace, but he does it superbly well. It could be as dry as its parched subject, but Mitch Reardon writes so well that he takes us, his readers, as enthusiastic fellow travellers,aboard his vehicle as he sets out on a 4 000km journey through the high central plateau that constitutes the Karoo. 

After a comprehensive introduction on the vast landmass of the Karoo and a brief history of the various regions he starts his travels at the Bontebok national park in the southern Cape , then moves on to the Langeberg and Little Karoo. As this is where I have lived for nearly two decades, I focussed on this chapter for starters and absorbed so much in the process. From the Grootvadersbosch nature reserve in the Langeberg foothills Reardon moved on through Barrydale to Sanbona Wildlife reserve, a private enterprise that has seen former sheep farms transformed into an ecosystem similar to that of a pristine landscape 300 years back. From the endangered riverine rabbit to the re-introduction of elephant and cheetah the reserve is a five-star experience all around. The little-known Anysberg reserve is next on his itinerary with some fascinating conservation projects and then he heads to the Karoo National park which stars in the following chapter.

Each chapter has added information on the reserves visited, with contact details.

There is a whole chapter on the plight of the springbok, before Reardon heads to the desolate Tankwa Karoo and on to the Cederberg, then north west to Namaqualand and the Great River area, ie the Orange river. He also describes his visit to the Camdeboo area, and the Mountain Zebra national park, The text ends with a bibliography and detailed index.

This is an average-size softback that will slip easily into pockets in cars where it is likely to live after being first digested at home. The colour photos are plentiful and varied, from caterpillars to elephants, from landscapes to close-ups of locals, with some drawings and paintings from early travellers adding to the historic interest. A fine addition to South African and Karoo literature.

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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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Posted by on in News

 

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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Posted by on in News

 

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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 News

 

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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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