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Myrna Robins

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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

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It’s always a special occasion when La Motte releases a new edition of their Hanneli R, a flagship tribute to the estate owner that is only produced during exceptional harvests. As

The 2012 vintage matured in French oak for more than three years, then was cellared on the farm for a further four years before being released as it nears its peak. That said, collectors will argue that they will squirrel their case away for a further four years to demonstrate how the wine will scale ever further heights to delight connoisseurs.

The Hanneli R 2012 consists of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and is finished with 10% Petite Sirah. Half the Shiraz came from Franschhoek, the other half from Elim. Walker Bay supplied the Grenache and Franschhoek the Petite Sirah, a southern French cultivar that is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin that produces tannic, long-lived wines. It occupies a miniscule 0.02% of our vineyard area.

This is a wine to open with great expectations  which are sure to be met, given the talent and sources behind it. It offers  beautifully expressed complexity and is as elegant as it is excellent. First impressions are that the tannins dominate, but the fruit comes through on the palate along with welcome freshness, balanced with the richness which one expects. If there is some over, the enjoyment is likely to be increased when more glasses are poured the following day, a bonus to be appreciated.

Just 3 600 bottles were produced, which increases its appeal to those who demand the best, from the Cape, from France, or wherever the  Old or New World produces outstanding wines.

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this is a wine to grace the table when memorable events and occasions are celebrated – when the menu is geared to the wine, rather than the other way round. What better place to do this than book a table at La Motte’s delightful Pierneef restaurant and select a main course from Michelle’s menu  that will be further enhanced by this worthy wine. Now, next year or any time up to 2022 ....

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There’s just one day to go before Heritage month comes to an end, and I still have several new wines to report on that reached me before this unique trio did. But, because these are so connected to our Cape history in terms of viticulture, architecture and hospitality – not to forget the Matieland aspect -  I am breaking my self-imposed rule to write about them first, before September has past.

 

Local and international travellers everywhere rave about Lanzerac – in terms of fine fare, iconic wines, or simply as one of the most beautiful of the many historic wine estates in Stellenbosch. Its cellar has been  renowned for perennially popular rosé, for pioneer pinotage, and more recently, for fine chardonnay, among others. Now cellarmaster  Wynand Lategan is offering the world of wine a new and maiden trio entitled the  Keldermeester Versameling, and this cellarmaster’s collection introduces several innovative touches – both the minimalistic front label and more informative back label use only Afrikaans, the heavy bottles are sealed with wax in good heritage style, and the contents consists of cultivars and combinations  not commonly found today.

One gets the sense that winemaker Wynand had a good time creating these wines, limited editions,  each one of which is linked to a renowned personality and to the University of Stellenbosch.

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The single white is a 2016  Pinot Blanc sourced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek Valley, making it something of a rarity in itself, as this grape occupies just 0.01% of vineyard area in south Africa. Its appealing name, BERGPAD, refers to the famous mountain path from the university sports grounds at Coetzenburg toward Lanzerac. The Italian varietal produces an appealing summer wine, this one at 14% alcohol levels on the high side, but which adds body: there is a slight hint of oiliness, reminiscent of Semillon as well. I did not get tasting notes, so don’t know details of the age of the vines and other factors.  Just over 1 000 bottles were produced, selling at R190.

Wynand repeats viticultural history with his 2016 blend entitled PROF – it’s a tribute to the renowned academic Prof Abraham Perold who created Pinotage by crossing Cinsaut, then called Hermitage, with Pinot Noir back in 1925. Why, we are not sure, but today the result, along with Chenin blanc, are the two cultivars  that overseas gurus are naming as the iconic South African pair producing the most exciting and pleasing wines . Prof Perold cultivated the first Pinotage vines, but, sadly,  never tasted the maiden bottled wine. Today’s blend of 60% Cinsaut and 40% Pinot fills just more than 1 000 bottles,  and sells for R310, which is not a bad price for recreated history in a bottle.

And finally, we have DOK, a 2015 Malbec sourced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley. This diminutive term, usually of affection,  refers to a doctor and was always used back in the last century when Afrikaners were talking about legendary rugby giant Dr Danie Craven. He regularly visited Lanzerac with his dog Bliksem in tow, and I remember my mother revealing, in a rare moment about her youth, that she and he went on a couple of dates at some stage.  DOK, just over 1 000 bottles, sells at R280 from  the farm.

 

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The bottles are numbered and signed by Lategan, the stock is limited to the farm, selling from the Lanzerac tasting room, while members of the Lanzerac Wine Club also have access to this trio, which is going to make a talking point for summer affairs this festive season, and a nostalgic one for oldtimers who know and revere the historic heart of Stellenbosch. 

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When one samples new vintages emanating from the cellar of a person of Jan Boland Coetzee’s stature, two points arise: one is heightened expectation and the other is a certain difficulty in separating the man from the wine. In keeping with Heritage month. Vriesenhof’s new-look wine range sports labels that pay tribute to a handsome gabled farmstead,  set against the rugged Stellenbosch mountain.

Vriesenhof Pinotage 2016 is the simple heading above the B&W photograph while the back label offers more info:  it’s fruity, medium-bodied and meant for drinking now; alcohol levels are a medium 13,5%. Tradition, quality and enjoyment combine smoothly in this screwcapped product, a contemporary expression of a grape for which Jan Boland Coetzee has been renowned for decades. It was produced from a small vineyard of old bush vines at the top of the hill.

While Pinot noir has been his focus for some 30 plus years, Jan started his career at Kanonkop back in the ‘60s where he produced fine Pinotage. He bought Vriesenhof in 1980, which then boasted cab, cinsaut and pinotage vineyards. At the start of the new millennium his Pinotage of ’96, ’97 and ’98 from Vriesenhof-Talana Hill-Paradyskloof - were described by John Platter as four-star wines, offering “medley of intriguing flavours result of blending batches of fruit handled different ways.”

Jan soon planted Chardonnay, Merlot and Cab Franc, added Pinot Noir in the’ 90s then Grenache in 2009.

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Today his winemaker Nicky Claasens crafts each wine in the new-look range to a specific style: – along with Pinotage the reds comprise two blends, a Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre  and Kallista (traditionally Cab/ Cab Franc/ Merlot) and Grenache.  It's been observed that Claasens, who started as understudy to Coetzee some nine  years ago, seems to be countering the patriarch’s anti-modernist approach somewhat.

To the whites:  a pair of chardonnays, of which I sampled the unwooded 2016. Against the connoisseur trend  I have long been a fan of unwooded chard, and this is one of the most enjoyable I have drunk in a long while:  Its meant for immediate consumption, offering  freshness, fruitiness, well balanced structure and immense charm. With moderate alcohol levels this delicious summer aperitif sells for R95, whiel the pinotage is R125.

It is apposite that Jan Boland Coetzee, a winelands character whose down-to-earth attitude is tempered by a huge respect for nature, represents the  current generation of a family who arrived in Table Bay 27 years after Jan van Riebeeck .  As he and Claasens unveil wines that offer expression of place even while they appeal to a broader spectrum of wine lovers, those wishing to celebrate our viticultural heritage alongside a braai of distinction, could hardly ask for better.

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Some 80 years back,  grapes were planted on Buffelsvallei farm, soon to be renamed De Krans, for the first time. They were destined to produce raisins and a little sweet wine. Forward nearly 30 years to 1936 and we find that this farm on the outskirts of Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo has acquired a cellar, that’s still  in service today, housing the production of a range of quality ports and Muscat wines. More recently, a bigger range of table and dry wines were added to the list, offering consumers a fine choice from this friendly operation.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DK-Chardonnay.jpgDe Krans has just released the new vintages ofb2ap3_thumbnail_DK-Chenin-Blanc-Free-Run.jpg its 2017 Wild Ferment Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, a pair of unwooded whites which call for long summer days and slow al fresco meals with which to pair them.

 The Chenin is produced from only free-run juice, and winemaker Louis van der Riet chalked up gold from last year’s Michelangelo and the Champion White Wine award from the 2014 Klein Karoo Young wine show with previous vintages. This is a sprightly wine, its zing great for sultry days, where the tropical fruits pair well with marinated braaied chicken and salads or grilled fish. Low alcohol levels at 12,63% are a bonus, as is its price of just under R60.

The Chardonnay, harvested from low-yielding vines on the banks of the Gamka river is  wild or naturally fermented with no yeast added. It presents an appealing hue of limey yellow and offers characteristic aromas of citrus and caramel. Followed by similar flavours, in a mouthful that is also frisky and refreshing with alcohol levels of 13,22. As a lively aperitif, it’s delightfully easy to enjoy, but will also take on pasta, salads and simple poultry dishes with ease. Also selling at R59, which is  easy on the purse as on the palate.

Both these wines are geared to long hot days and balmy evenings, for  informal occasions that do not demand sniffing and swirling and serious discourse. Effortless pleasure, easy drinking, screwcapped whites that spell out Come on Summer, come on!

If you are heading for the Spring Blossom Fest at De Krans this weekend, you will be on the spot for sampling. But they are also stocked at outlets nationwide.

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As always, August teases with a hint or two of spring growth and welcome warmth then reverts to form with snow, gales and freezing temperatures. The wet is of course both welcome and essential, and we should remember that sustaining soups and warming reds are still on the menu for a few weeks.

Some fine releases from the brilliant 2015 vintage are trickling from Cape cellars. We have savoured several impressive whites, and now the reds are following, although – as Hartenberg states in their press release – their admirable 2015 Merlot should only reach its full potential in a decade’s time. Hmm – how many consumers will take note and tuck away a case for 2025?b2ap3_thumbnail_Hartenberg-Merlot-NV.jpg

As most won’t, its good to report that it’s already more than enjoyable, fruity wine with a little spice adding interest to the dark fruit, and a silkiness lending elegance to the finish. It’s a merlot to pair with pasta and sauces, and it can cope with tomato with ease, or accompany gourmet pizzas and items like savoury cheesecakes.

Alcohols levels of 14% are unlikely to put off many merlot fans, while Hartenberg points out that previous merlots have rated gold in both Veritas and Councours Mondial de Bruxelles. It sells at R175.

 

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