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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 Blog

 

 

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Just when I thought I was getting to know most corners of the fair Breede  River valley, I discover another vista as a mountainous green landscape unfolds before me, timeless, beautiful and secluded.

This makes the setting for a tasting of world-class wines on an historic Robertson farm. Created by a highly talented and exuberant winemaker and her hospitable supportive man - current curators of no less than three wine-grape farms - the recently released range is already making its mark among connoisseurs.   

Welcome to Mont Blois!

A scant six kilometres from the suburban boundary of Robertson lies a different world. De Hoop road winds upwards to the foothills of the Langeberg mountains, and, near its end, the signpost for Mont Blois indicates a rustic path threading past stores and outbuildings to reveal a wonderful old silo, a venerable cellar, and two farmsteads on different levels. Immaculately maintained, the mid-19th century gabled home stares east over a  patchwork of vineyards to a series of conical hills. They’re densely cloaked with indigenous bush, interspersed with dark ,deep, dank kloofs, where forestation is reminiscent of the Tsitsikamma, and little sunshine penetrates. Shy baboons forage, keeping clear of human habitation and the Cape leopard stalks the tracks, only the camera trap occasionally recording his presence.

Taking the eye further, the  layer beyond  is the blue-grey ripple of the Langeberg, today pale and somewhat amorphous under a cloudless azure sky.

Nodding in agreement as I exclaim over the beauty, Nina-Mari Bruwer adds: “I said to Ernst that I hope never to wake up to any other view than this!” Well said...

Nina-Mari and ErnstBruwer

 

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The first Bruwer to settle in the broad river valley would surely be amazed at the extent of his family that inhabit the farms, several  of whom make enjoyable wine. Ernst, a sixth-generation descendant, met Nina-Mari at Stellenbosch university, where they both studied oenology and viticulture . Nina-Mari hails from Pretoria, started a BSc, then moved to wine studies in her second  year. After graduating this CWM  enjoyed working stints in a series of top cellars – Boekenhoutskloof, Thelema and a harvest in Bordeaux -, before marrying and settling on Mont Blois, a farm which had a history of producing fine muscadels in the 1980’s before a family tragedy saw production cease.

Ernst  sells grapes to cellars near and far for both bulk and fine wine production,including Franschhoek. Between producing two daughters, Nina-Mari did the farm admin, but made time to experiment in a corner of the old cellar, using its venerable basket press and old French oak barrels. Here she started fulfilling an ambition to  make excellent wine simply in the traditional way, with minimal interference, using mostly natural yeasts. She is lucky enough to have distinctly different terroirs from which to source her harvests; including  limestone, gravel, alluvial clay near the Breede river,and red Karoo clay on Mont Blois. The soils are distributed between Mont Blois, neighbouring farm La Fontaine and Goedemoed near the Breede river.

The wines

 

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Nina-Mari  has released a pair of charming chardonnays, both 2016 single vineyard wines, both having matured in second and third-fill French oak and both unfiltered. They also share hues of pale gold, unusually for young chardonnay, but on the nose and palate differences emerge. Simple traditional winemaking was used, including an old manual basket press.

Kweekamp, sourced from vines rooted in limestone, is the more elegant of the two. Aromas of orange and sweet rough-skin lemon along with flint  are followed by an effortless blend of minerality and fruit on the palate. Making a delightful spring aperitif, it would require delicate fare of gourmet standards not to overwhelm it.

Hoog & Laag,  sourced from vines in red  Karoo clay, has a brisker character, presenting citrus and nuts on the nose, more nuttiness backed by fresh, almost frisky notes on the palate. With alcohol levels of 13,5%, it should make a lively companion to a range of summery fare ,from complex salads to white meat classics.

Nina-Mari’s complex chenin is named, simply Groot Steen 2016, another single vineyard wine from 30-year-old vines planted in riverside alluvial clay.  A powerful, rich chenin,  with a nose that’s almost bewildering in its multitude of aromas, Spices predominate slightly, cardamom is there, a little cinnamon, and a few robust herbs – particularly bay leaves. A little unfashionably high in alcohol levels at 14%, but these are not evident.

 On re-tasting the following morning, this chenin revealed its chameleon character, with flavours developing to offer  spiced preserved fruit beautifully balanced by discernible backbone. It could make a fine match for several Cape Malay classics, along with North African tagines. Up there with the best from any region!

The tasting ended with the Mont Blois single vineyard Pomphuis Muscadel 2016, 500ml of dessert pleasure produced from 26-year-old vines sited on a hot rocky gravel slope. Unfiltered, having spent a year in old French oak it’s packed with  stone fruit, melon, raisins and more, yet also fresh and sprightly. Delightful in youth, but will gain character and offer more syrupy enjoyment as the years tick on.

The whites retail at R295, the muscadel at R250. These are connoisseur products that raise the Robertson bar to new and exciting heights.

Looking back, looking forward

Winemaker Bruwer has several reds up her sleeve, - a pinotage, cab, shiraz and petit verdot are all maturing in second and third-fill barrel. They may be released singly, they may end up in a fine blend – that’s a decision for the future.  And she’s contemplating a dry muscat, among other ideas

Mont Blois – which enjoyed a fine reputation for superior muscadels back in the 1980’s – is back on the Robertson wine map in a significant way. The venerable silo, with its warm patina of age, is set to play a new role as the farm’s tasting centre – simple  renovations,  just installing electricity and running water, nothing glitzy, I am happy to hear.

Curious to find out about the original Blois, I went to Wikipedia which  reveals that it’s an ancient city on the banks of the Loire,  regional capital of Loir-et-Cher, between Orléans and Tours. Chenin country, I surmise. No sign of vineyards there today, Nina-Mari tells me, when she and Ernst visited recently. And – in the town museum – no visible record of a Bruwer either! Ah well, maybe it took travel to a new continent to establish his legacy. He could hardly hope for a better one than that which the owners of Mont Blois are providing.

Where to find them

The Mont Blois quartet is stocked by some good wine boutiques in Cape Town. Winelovers are welcome to contact the farm for tastings and more info. Email info@montblois.co.za or call 023 626 4052.

                        

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Posted by on in News

 

WE LOVE WINE FEST CELEBRATES 6TH ANNIVERSARY

 

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The annual Capegate We Love Wine fest 2017 takes place on Friday and Saturday, August 25 – 26 with a programme designed to delight all palates and purses.

 

Not only is there an impressive lineup of Cape wine producers, but the itinerary at the Wine Theatre offers a wealth of free experience for those keen to learn and entertain at home in style. Tastings include Perdeberg’s Barrels and Hops, Orange River Cellar’s Create your own cocktails and Nibbles and Wine by Overhex, while themed tastings include Budget Beaters, Sweet Treats and The Diversity of Pinotage.  

 

Cellars taking part are: Badsberg, Bonfire Hill Wines, Bonnievale Wines, DeuxFreres Wines, Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate, Front Row Wines, Fryer’s Cove Winery,  HauteEspoir, Imbuku Wines, Kingna Distillery, MWS - Montagu Wine & Spirits, Overhex Wines, Louisvale, Orange River Wines, Perdeberg Wines, Peter Bayley Wines, Roger Clayton Wines, Ruitersvlei, Stellenbosch Hills, The Fledge& Co, Triple Three Gin, Villiersdorp Cellar, Winkelshoek Cellar, Yonder Hill Wines.

 

Tickets are R75 each from www.computicket.com or R90 at the door.  The ticket price includes the tastings, a branded glass and free entry into the CWA Theatre. The show hours are 17h00-21h00 on August 25 and 13h00-18h00 on Saturday 26.

Visit the Capegate Facebook page for the latest news and updates or www.capegatecentre.co.za.

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Rare wine gems at Nedbank CWG Auction Showcase

 

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This popular annual event takes place in Cape Town and Johannesburg on August 17 and 23 respectively. As a preamble to the Auction which follows in September, the showcase provides a valuable meeting place with our top winemakers and samples of the treasury of hand crafted wines that will go under the hammer.

The Guild members will also present a range of their own flagship wines sold under their own labels. Another important feature is the Silent Auction where visitors can bid on rare signed bottles from previous Guild auctions. This fundraiser helps contribute toward the Development Trust which supports the education and training of young wine industry talent through the Progege Programme, a mentorship scheme for upcoming winemakers and viticulturists. Tickets cost R300 a head and are obtainable through www.webtickets.co.za. The Cape Town Showcase is at the CTICC ballroom on Thursday Aug 17 from 18h00 – 21h00. The Johannesburg event takes place at The Atrium, Nedbank Sandton on Aug 23 at the same times.

 The CWG Auction takes place on Saturday, September 30 at Spier Conference Centre and is open to the public. Registration closes on September 20 Visit www.capewinemakersguild.com, email info@capewinemakersguild.com or call Tel: +27 (0)21 852 0408 for more info.

 

AUGUST POP UP LUNCH AT BOTTELARY HILLS

 

 

This takes the form of a Scottish braai with chef George Jardine at the helm. The venue is Kaapzicht estate, the date is Sunday August 27 and the event promises to be a memorable Sunday. Accompanied by the acclaimed wines of the Bottelary Hills producers – Kaapzicht, Mooiplaas, Hazendal, Hartenberg and Bellevue – chef Jardine will demonstrate his culinary flair over an open fire around which tables will be set.

 

Tickets are R550pp and include a wine tasting the meal itself, paired with individual wines; and, a bottle of wine from the Bottelary Hills region to take home.

 

To make a reservation or see a map of Bottelary Hills, visit the Stellenbosch Wine Routes website at www.wineroute.co.za. For more information phone (021) 886 8275.

 

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Recently I wrote about the launch of the first Vermentino in South Africa, by Attilio and Michela Dalpiaz of Ayama in the Voor-Paardeberg. The occasion took the form of an auction, local and online, on June 16, Youth Day at the Roodebloem studios in Woodstock.

The event succeeded beyond their expectations, raising a whopping R128 000 which will be used to buy a bus for Perdjie farm school in Paarl, enabling children from  farms on the Voor-Paardeberg to attend the school started by Ayama and neighbouring wine farm Scali.

 

What a great way to introduce an unique wine to South Africa! Vermentino is a cultivar with a long history, originally Spanish, but adopted in Italy, with success, particularly on Sardinia, where it enjoys DOCG status.

 

Ayama's Vermentino comes in a handsome bottle adorned with a label patterned following those made by the must during fermentation. Michela thinks these, in turn, resulted from the classical music tht serenaded the wine in the cellar during this important period. This Single Vineyard maiden vintage started life after harvest in February last year, and spent time in older oak until April this year when bottling took place.

It's an intriguing wine, quite difficult to define: firstly it is distinctly different from local whites,. I detected floral notes and pear aromas on the nose, along with the first hint of minerality. On the palate a little oiliness, similar to some semillon, allied to an elegant mix of citrus backed by flint.  The almond that I  learned is characteristic did not come through to me nor did the bitterness at the finish, but  there was a defnite briskness.  I savoured this complex and fascinating wine and have been thinking about what to pair it with - perhaps stuffed courgette flowers or fritto misto di mare?  Or what about Pollo all Diavola? Perhaps the Dalpiaz couple will suggest further recommended Italian favourites...

Ayama produced a limited edition that includes a few bottles containing 1, 1,5, 3 and even 5 litres. Find out more from their website or call the farm 0n 021 869 8313

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Cannot remember ever being disappointed in a bottle from Rickety Bridge over the last several years. Cellarmaster Wynand Grobler recently released the new vintages of his intriguing Mediterranean-style blends, a voguish and captivating range named The Foundation Stone and sporting labels as trendy as the contents of the bottles.

 Previous vintages  have attracted a steady list of  awards from local competitions as well as from UK’s Tim Atkin and the Far East. Each year the blends evolve as Grobler tweaks varietals and quantities, and  brings in grapes from regions other than Franschhoek.

The Foundation Stone Rosé 2017 offers just what most discerning  winelovers expect in current pinks: this blend of 48% Grenache Noir with 34% Shiraz, 15% Mourvèdre and a splash of Viognier presents Provencal-style wine that’s dry, fresh, and full of berry flavours . Grobler matured just 10% in small French oak, which adds a little spice to a summer wine for every al fresco occasion. Selling at around R80.

Tops of the trio for me is The Foundation Stone White 2016, a Chenin-led (46%) meld with 22% Roussanne, 18% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier and a splash of Nouvelle – unusual add-on. The components spent 10 months in separate barrels before blending, which has help to produce a delicious wine, restrained blossom and stone fruit on the nose, presenting rich, well-balanced flavours on the palate, that can be enjoyed as an aperitif, but will come into its own with gourmet poultry dishes, and some Asian creations. Selling for around R100.

The Foundation Stone Red 2014 is comprised of grapes sourced from Franschhoek, Swartland and the Breede river, consisting of 41% Shiraz, 25% Mourvèdre, 23%Grenache Noir. 6% Cinsaut and 5% Tannat. An interesting mix and a fascinating wine, barrel-matured for 18 months ahead of blending. Along with berry flavours, pepper and tobacco is present on the nose, and layers of flavour follow one another on the palate. Enjoyable already, but could impress further after a couple of years’ cellaring. This will make a fine companion to any red meat, along with ostrich dishes. Selling for around R100.

Hopefuly  these will be available for tasting at the forthcoming Franschhoek Uncorked fest in mid-September. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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Can it really be nine years ago that the Burger family celebrated the 100th anniversary of the planting of their 1908 muscadel vineyard, the oldest of its kind in the country? I do remember it was a party of note, one of those Robertson valley occasions that linger in the memory.

 

Fast forward six years and the family marked 150 years of Rietvallei being owned by the same family: Six generations of the Burger family have contributed significantly to the fine heritage that Robertson enjoys in the field of viticulture that moved, in the early days,  from fortified reds to quality white, red, rosé and bubblies over the decades.

The estate lies in the KlaasVoogds ward , about eight km east of Robertson off the R60. Vineyards of diverse cultivars flourish there, enabling cellarmaster Kobus Burger to produce a comprehensive range of wines, along with the current vintage – 2013 – of the unique renowned 1908 Red Muscadel

The popular, well-priced John B wines make up an entry-level range that has 

.just undergone a change of label – the new ones reflect the trendy retro-type of graphic art so in vogue today. The wines are noted for delivering quality at a pleasing price, with still wines selling for R46 and the pair of bubblies for R73.

 

I find this characteristic  particularly evident with the sauvignon blanc 2017, which b2ap3_thumbnail_rietvallei-Sauv-Blanc-2.jpgI enjoyed more than some at near double the price. It’s one of those well -balanced sauvignons that is neither over-acidic nor floral and flabby: winemaker Kobus Burger has crafted a fresh and flavourful wine offering some grassy and citrus flavours, followed by wafts of melon and sub-tropical flavours and backed by a hint of flint . Alcohol levels at just over 12% add to its charm

Its red 2016 counterpart, with an equally moderate 12,8 alcohol level, presents an attractive, moreish blend of 56% cab with 44% Tinta Barocca. Presenting easy-drinking pleasure around the braai or the fireplace, this screwcapped red is medium- bodied, fruity and smooth with spice from the Tinta Barocca adding interest. A great everyday red for pairing with informal meals, both indoors and out.

The John B rosé 2017 is a semi-sweet charmer, that will appeal to many who savour floral aromas and berry flavours in a crisp pale salmon wine. Produced from cinsaut, with low 12,23% alcohol levels, easy to understand its popularity, while I would like Rietvallei to come up with a gourmet cinsaut, dry and succulent, which could be a spring sensation.

The duo of sparkling wines are priced at R73 each, the Chardonnay Brut 2016 offering a light, lively, dry bubbly, with characteristic apply flavours: Carbonated class that makes a perfect brunch aperitif, solo or combined with fresh peach juice. Its pink companion, selling at the same price, is a fruity semi-sweet rosé 2016, berry-rich with a touch of Muscat to finish, that will fit the bill for many an occasion throughout the seasons.

More to come, as I look forward to trying the new estate vintages when released next month.   

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