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Myrna Robins

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It will come as no surprise to the many fans of Robertson Winery’s products: This year their long-established reputation for consistent quality and affordability has been nicely affirmed with a series of awards.

There are three major contests that focus on value as well as quality in South Africa. These are the Gold Wine Awards, the Ultra Value Wine Challenge and Winemag.co.za’s Best Value Tastings. From all three Robertson Winery brought home pleasing results in the current competitions.

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These comprised five gold medals in the Gold Wine Awards for their chenin blanc 2019, sauvignon blanc 2018, chardonnay 2018 , beaukett 2018 and merlot 2018. This contest judges excellence in wines selling at retail prices of less than R130; as Robertson wines are priced at between R55-60 for whites and about R69 for reds, their labels are competitive indeed.

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Winemag.co.za placed their shiraz 2018 in the Top Five, awarding it joint second place in their recent Best Value Shiraz Tasting. Judges assess examples of shiraz, tasted blind, that sell for between R60 and R120. At R69,the Robertson shiraz is among the most inexpensive.

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The Ultra Value Wine Challenge scored their beaukett 2018 with 95 points, placing it in the Top 14 highest scoring wines. This semi-sweet wine, a blend of colombard and muscadel, was awarded Double Gold and is priced abetween R45 – R50. This contest saw Robertson a multiple winner, with three golds for their gewurztraminer 2018, the shiraz 2017 and the Chapel chenin blanc/colombard 2018, along with six silver medals for two further white and four red wines

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In all, a score sheet worth shouting about! Congratulations to this deservedly popular winery that is so integral a part of the town with which it shares its name.

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What incredible progress we have seen with pinotage over the last four decades. When I first took an interest in wine (beyond just enjoying) I did a wine course in which I had to identify the cultivars in a series of wines that were tasted blind. Pinotage was always, I found, the easiest, as it smelled of nail-polish remover! And some of them didn’t taste much better either.

Today our top pinotages attract serious attention overseas and command impressive prices. Easy-drinking versions are also available, at affordable prices for those on tight budgets. And now there is an a middle-of-the-range selection – and most of them are good pinotages, made with care, offering consumers an enjoyable experience: upfront fruit is well- balanced by sturdy or soft tannins. Prices range approx from R80 to R180 and the fact that this is the only true South African varietal is a good selling point among loyal locals.

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Released in time for Heritage month, Middelvlei Free-Run Pinotage 2018 also marks a centenary of winemaking by three generations of the Momberg family, a hospitable and down-to-earth bunch of friendly people whose lovely farm continues to stave off suburbia on Stellenboschs outskirts.

The straighforward bottle with its simple label tells us that the wine is  made from 100% free-run juice, which is known to produce gentler tannins. Winemaker Tinnie Momberg describes his pinotage as offering berry flavours combined with spices and vanilla from its time in oak. Soft tannins and a long finish add to its appeal, and alcohol levels are held at 14%. Middelvlei is home to 15ha of pinotage bush vines that were planted in 2010, so now reaching maturity.

The pinotage costs R130 from the farm, and at selected liquor outlets countrywide. Middelvlei is well known for its boerebraai, and suggests that this wine is the perfect companion. For animal lovers this is also a delightful destination as, along with friendly tail-wagging dogs you could spot a pair of donkeys, a pair of potbellied pigs and some pygmy goats. There are also mountain tortoises resident on the slopes, while and several of the menagerie inhabiotants are rescue animals.

 For more information visit www.middelvlei.co.za..

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Another pinotage that made its appearance in time for heritage celebrations is Van Loverens Christina Trousseau Reserve Pinotage 2017, a limited edition of nine barrels that pays tribute to the venerable chest that family ancestor Cristina van Loveren brought with her to the Cape back in 1699. She has been honoured with several of the estate wines in the past, but this time the cellar pays homage to her bridal chest that makes a heritage centrepiece in the tasting room. The dark bottle is heavy, topped with a silver sheath over the cork while the black and white front label features the centuries-old lock on the chest.

The wine spent 18 months in French oak and offers plenty of fruit along with vanilla and whiffs of dark chocolate on the palate. Alcohol levels of 14,5% are higher than prevailing trends prefer, but are not obvious. This new addition to the Christina range is priced at R250.

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The weather was perfect, a calm early summer day. The road to Goudmyn farm was lined with flowering trees and shrubs, the vines still clothed in that early glorious lettuce-green, here and there deepening to grassy shades of the mature leaves. The placid waters of the Breede river could be glimpsed between the trees fringing the water.

Robertson Wine Valley had – as usual – secured perfect weather for their three-day Wine on the River festival, one of the Western Cape’s most popular celebrations, and with good reason.

This year the organisers added Connoisseurs' Tickets to the choice, an option that gave visitors access to a comfy lounge area and to the Wine Theatre where a programme of tastings and food and wine pairings were among the items on the programme.

First up on Friday morning was the Riedel Tasting, and as I settled onto the tall stool in front of an array of crystal glasses I reflected that this was, indeed, the first time I had attended a glass rather than a wine tasting!

Visitors trickled in along with some media who had just enjoyed a boat ride on the river. Our presenter was polished, professional but quite relaxed and informal. She shed her shoes as she had to stand on a pallet board on the grassy floor of the marquee as she demonstrated the differences between the glasses and poured wine into both her and our glasses.

The Riedel family are Austrians who  have been producing the famous glassware since 1756. The 11th generation is now at the helm although it was only in the late 1950’s that Claus J. Riedel introduced and developed wine-friendly stemware. Today the family is recognised worldwide for making the highest quality glasses and decanters for wine and spirits, also claiming to offer ranges for every lifestyle and price range, for fine dinners and for picnics.

We tasted half a dozen wines from the Robertson valley. After learning about how the rim, bowl and shape influence the wine’s aromas, textures and tastes we started with Graham Beck's Blanc de Blancs 2015,  by trying it from the traditional flute and from the more contemporary champagne wine glass that is now recommended in its place. Yes, I could find more flavour when sipping from the latter, but it was the next sample that did much to destroy my built-in scepticism: We sniffed and sipped Robertson Winery’s Constitution Road wooded chardonnay, a classy and delicious  wine packed with characteristic flavours and creaminess. Nice enough in a riesling glass but in the chardonnay glass with its rounded bowl textures and flavours seem to treble.

We went to on compare a pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz in the “wrong’ and “correct" glasses and by the end of the session there was an audience convinced even if they would not necessarily shell out the substantial amount required to take home a set of this grape-specific glassware. There are several more affordable options, including packs with stemless Riedel glasses for picnics and casual al fresco dining. See also www.riedel.com.

This was an enjoyable session and fine start to Wine on the River 2019.

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Every so often Krone releases another special MCC, offering one or two unique features. This time it’s “a single-vineyard terroir-specific vintage cuvee” called Krone Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blanc 2016. I don’t know if it’s the first time that this renowned Tulbagh cellar uses grapes from another region for their bubbly, but the chardonnay from the high Kaaimansgat vineyards in the secluded Elandskloof ward above Villiersdorp seem to be the first choice of several prominent cellars in other regions.

Viticulturist Rosa Kruger confirms the outstanding quality of these grapes, adding that Krone accessed small crops of chardonnay from 31-year-old vines over three years for this MCC. Although 2016 was a year generally affected by heat and drought in the Cape winelands, Kaaimansgat escaped damage thanks to its high altitude.

The wine was produced in small batches, starting with whole-bunch pressing . Natural wild yeasts fermented the juice in large upright wooden vats. Bottle fermentation followed and the the wine was aged for three years on the lees in the underground cellar at the historic farm.

The handsome dark bottle with its embossed crown on the glass offers some info on the label, including low alcohol levels of 11% and the suggestion that this is a sparkler that is worth cellaring.

There is citrus on the nose which gives way to pure crisp flint on the palate, complemented by apply flavours. The producers predict that the characteristic biscuit notes will develop in time. Meanwhile a range of fine fare is suggested as good partners for this aristocratic Cap Classique, including, surprisingly, T-bone steak with foraged mushrooms. Shellfish, trout, cheese soufflé, roasted cauliflower and pears poached in sparkling wine, accompanied by clotted cream, are also recommended for pairing.

Given input costs and time in the cellar, one is not surprised at the R500 pricetag. Collectors will probably be happy to spend R3 000 for a case of patrician classic bubbles that will just go on and on getting even better...

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Hard to believe that it was as recently as 2006 that Hermanuspietersfontein Wynkelder produced their first vintage! Those maiden wines enjoyed fine reviews in the 2007 edition of Platter, where the two sauvignon blancs, and Die Arnoldus and Die Martha were all rated 4 stars. Winemaker Bartho Eksteen had already put his maverick touch on those bottles, as one of the first, if not the first, to use only Afrikaans on his labels, a decision that still holds good 12 years on.

 

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Today HPF winery is still owned by the Pretorius family with Gerrie Heyneke and the talented winemaker is Wilhelm Pienaar . The quirky names continue to pique the interest of potential customers while the range is well established, with appealing whites and complex reds that exhibit styles reminiscent of the Old World with many a nod to the New.

The cellar team decided to keep the original name for Hermanus as its title, although its better known today as HPF. Most of its berries are sourced from the Sunday’s Glen ward in the Walker Bay region. In the 6-bottle case the winery sent me to sample, there were two whites, a rosé and four reds, and that’s the order in which I tried them.

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Kaalvoet Meisie 2017 - described on their website as a sauvignon blanc that epitomises “...the soul of Sondagskloof”” -  is a moreish, and sophisticated sauvignon despite its name. The addition of Semillon helps soften acidity while  nouvelle adds crisp green apply freshness.  There is a hint of maritime flint, citrus and fynbos both on the nose and palate. Moderate alcohol levels adds to this enjoyable aperitif, which also makes a fine partner to seafood and summer salads. Sells for R110.

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Why a cat with a wooden leg? No idea, but this Kat met die Houtbeen wooded sauvignon blanc 2016 vintage is a fine example of the genre, which is slowly creeping back into popularity. Semillon adds waxy complexity to an already characterful wine which presents fynbos and fig on the nose. On the palate herbiness and fynbos are layered in the structure from time in first, second and third-fill oak. A wine to mull over, to pair with ocean bounty and to keep for another year or two. Could partner a gourmet paella for festive occasions with panache.

Priced at R150.

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HPF Bloos 2019 is a rosé with class. All five Bordeaux red varietals feature in this appealing salmon- hued wine, that invites sniffing with its strawberries and cream aromas . But it is both dry and more complex than many of its cousins, having spent time with French oak “alternatives”. Fresh as a daisy, it sings of summer, with 12,5% alcohol levels,and versatile enough to make a mate for fare from picnics to wedding feasts. One of the nicest pinks I have tried recently. Costs R100.

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HPF Kleinboet 2016 is comprised of the same five classic Bordeaux reds – being cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, - but probably cabernet- led. Litte brother, perhaps to the flagship Arnoldus, but nothing junior about this fine blend with its complex nose of berry, olive, and whiffs of fynbos and I also picked up a little smokiness. Well balanced, all five varietals blended and matured together in French oak for two years before being bottled and bottled-aged for another year before being released. Alcohol levels of 14%, it offers excellent ageing potential. Worth investing in at R185.

 

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Swartskaap cabernet franc 2016 is both elegant and full-bodied reflecting something of an Old World style, with some restraint discernible and where flint and fynbos dominate rather than fruit. , After malolactic fermentation the wine matured in new and second-fill French oak for 18 months and spent a further year in bottle before release. Sells for R305.

 

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The renowned HPF flagship Arnoldus 2015 is a five-way Bordeaux blend from one of the most outstanding vintages of this century. Impressive in every aspect, from its nose of fruit and that characteristic olive and fynbos to the palate where tannin, some spice and berry flavours are so well balanced, integrated into an intense mouthful with a long finish. A wine to pair with good red meat that has enjoyed gourmet nurturing. It costs R420.

For further info visit www.hpf855.co.za

 
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