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Myrna Robins

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News

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Add steam train magic to the Wacky Wine Weekend for a really memorable experience! Trains are romantic, comfortable, and arguably the best way to enjoy this, the 15th WWW, taking place across the Robertson Wine Valley from May 31 – June 03.

Join adventurous winelovers who are taking the train from Gauteng to make this event a holiday - or jump aboard a carriage of the Ceres Rail Company in Cape Town to join the festival in Robertson.

Here’s what Kapenaars can expect when they settle into their carriage at Unity station in the Cape Town harbour . Plentiful refreshments ( alcoholic and non-alcoholic, hot and cold) are on sale during the journey to Wellington, then Worcester, with the first WWW stop at Rooiberg winery. There the team will welcome you to the Wacky gateway, with tastings of their wide choice of quality wines, lunch in their cosy restaurant and goodies in their farm stall. Climb onto their iconic Red chair, take a selfie, post it and be in with a chance to win a box of Red Chair wine. There are also hefty discounts available for those purchasing wine for R1000 or more. For more info, call 023 626 1663 or email info@robertsonwinery.co.za

Back on the train, you will chug along to Robertson Winery for the next halt then alight at Robertson station for your festival weekend. The trip takes around 9 and half hours, costs R500pp, R250 for children under 13 and free of charge for toddlers under two.

Other options include a trip that starts at Robertson station on the Saturday heads to Worcester, then arrives at Rooiberg late morning for a one-hour visit. Robertson Winery is the next stop, followed by Zandvliet, after which the trains returns to Robertson station.

There is also a return trip option from Robertson to Cape Town on the Sunday, where passengers can enjoy a two-hour stop at Rooiberg for breakfast, tastings and browsing before reaching Cape Town around 18h30. For more info, call 079 077 5332 during business hours.

Whether you arrive in the valley by train, bus or car, the number of festival attractions, events and choice of destinations is almost overwhelming. More than 35 wineries and tourism establishments in Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson combine forces to ensure visitors find their favourite wine, food, accommodation and leisure activities. Cellar tours, barrel tastings and pairings await wine enthusiasts while culinary options include dinner among the vines, farm breakfasts, bountiful braais, heritage fare and tastings of olives and olive oils, bubbly and oysters, chocolate and more...

 

Trips down the Breede river, family motorbike races, hiking and biking are all on the menu, as are tractor rides, 4X4 safaris and tours to the recently discovered Muscat caves. And there’s more, much more, while transport choices include booking a taxi, using the shuttles, or appointing designated drivers.

 

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The WWW festival tickets cost R200 which includes glass, 6 wine tasting coupons and a bottle of mineral water. Book through Webtickets. For more info, call the Robertson Wine Tourism office on 023 626 3167. Or send an email to events@robertsonwinevalley.com

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You can only get it from the Perdeberg cellar, and it will be a journey well-rewarded.

 

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Once again I am astounded at the ability of this giant cellar to continue to produce, year after year, chenins of impressive quality - alongside an extraordinary lineup that ranges from chenins easy-drinking and distinguished, sparkling, dessert and in blends to some prized reds in their dryland collection. And the list goes on and on. The cellar takes in some 18 000 tons annually, which would daunt most cellarmasters but this operation, now marking its 77th anniversary, seems to thrive on coping with such quantities.

Now, they have launched a maiden vintage of another dryland chenin: It’s name, Endura refers to the source, a single vineyard, for its ability to continue bearing small, flavourful grapes year after year. And the wine is a fine reflection of its provenance which is a mature vineyard sited at the peak of the Paardeberg , that fascinating lone mountain and home to terroir that yields wines of distinction on all of its slopes.

The nose offers a good promise of what’s to come, presenting both stone fruit and citrus aromas. These flavours are there on the palate, too, in a rich, full-bodied wine that is nicely balanced with both freshness and a good core of minerality. Alcohol levels are held at just under 14%. It’s delicious both on its own and with autumn favourites like poultry dishes with peaches or citrus, mild curries, butternut-filled ravioli with brown butter, rich risottos, North African tagines and some South-East Asian dishes. So, its versatile as well as offering value for money at R200. If you haven’t been to the cellar for a while, you will find several new facilities and attractions that were completed last year.

 

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The arrival of a new vintage of Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer  is always a pleasure to contemplate. This hugely popular white blend, an annual delight is fairly unique in that it is Riesling-led and usually contains five other white cultivars. As in previous vintages  Riesling predominates with 60% in the 2017, the remaining mélange being 20% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Blanc, finished with 2% Semillon.

The bouquet is delicate and flowery, but on the palate there’s both a firm foundation thanks to the personality of Riesling, along with a mix of stone and autumn fruits. A creaminess adds another delicious aspect to this crisp fresh well balanced combo that makes both a charming aperitif as well as a joyful companion to seafood and late summer salads.

All grapes are sourced from the cool South Coast region, where Bouchard Finlayson is beautifully sited in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley . Alcohol levels of 13% are moderate sand the 2017 is fine proof of  consistent quality .

Peter Finlayson has been producing this popular Cape white for many years, and Chris Albrecht has been working alongside him for the last seven years. Now Chris has been appointed winemaker, heading production since the 2017 harvest. Prior to joining Bouchard Finlayson Albrecht gained experience in cellars in New Zealand, France, and back in South Africa spent our years making the wine at Topiary in Franschhoek. The Blanc de Mer is in safe and talented hands.

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As South Africans discover there is more to white wine than Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin and Chardonnay, the joys of Riesling are unearthed. Once savoured, many become lifelong fans, eschewing chenin’s fruity charms and chardonnay’s complexity for the delicate crispness of a Riesling, its flintiness offset – sometimes – by whiffs of kerosene alongside the acid/sweet balance.

 

Found mostly in cool climate regions like Elgin and Constantia, the grape only occupies 0,16% of our vineyards, and it is from the cool areas that the Riesling stars usually flow

 

The Paul Cluver Estate Riesling 2017 presents no trace of petrol, a characteristic probably disliked by many - which could be why cellarmaster Andries Burger works to omit it. But the typical Riesling waxy notes are both on the nose, and present on the palate, which is delicate, crisp, with flint and sweetness in elegant balance. With alcohol levels at a pleasing 10,5%, this is a wine that could complement several courses of a high summer lunch from crisp squid with green apple alioli to duck with fennel salad. Rieslings are   such  companionable wines for a wide range of fare.

The press release does not reveal the age of the vines, but I would hazard a guess that they are fairly mature. Paul Cluver has long been renowned for their beautiful Rieslings and this is one that will endorse the status.

It sells for R100 from the farm’s tasting room and can be bought online at https://www.shop.cluver.com/buy/wine.

 

The estate has also released its first Noble Late Harvest in three years, which is the second of two styles of Riesling being made at the cellar. Not having tasted it, I cannot comment but previous vintages have been very highly rated.

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 A decade of vinous generosity and a centenary of caring.

 

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One hundred years on we look back at 1918 with compassion. Europe, Britain and Commonwealth countries were still reeling from the aftermath of World War One as the Great ‘Flu pandemic swept across the globe, arriving in South Africa in September, and claiming some 140 000 lives over the next two years.

 

In the wine industry the establishment of the KWV was probably the event of note, while across the winelands, many small towns were left with destitute orphans in the wake of the ‘flu . Robertson – then a small farming town of about 3 500 inhabitants - was no exception….

A home,  Die Herberg, was started in a private house, and, as the number of children increased,  moved to new quarters  when the municipality donated several hectares to the cause. A neglected apricot orchard occupied much of the site.

 

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A century has passed and today Die Herberg cares for just over 120 children of all races, from birth to 18 years of age, in seven homesteads. State grants cover one-third of the costs  so fund-raising is essential and ongoing . In 2003 stone fruit prices had fallen because of a flooded market while bottled wine sales had risen substantially, post 1994. Local wine farmers, eyeing  the fertile soil , offered to replace the orchard with a vineyard that could become a source of income through fine wine.  Local businesses provided equipment and products, farmers provided vines and expertise and three red cultivars were planted. This, the start of an unique fund-raiser, presented an impressive example of generosity, selflessness and compassion by the Robertson community. It fell to Springfield estate to tend the vines and make the maiden blend of cab franc, cab and merlot in their cellar, the Bruwers offering their facilities and services free of charge.

 

The uncrushed berries were  fermented with native yeasts,  matured in French oak, and the wine bottled sans fining or filtration. This maiden 2008 blend was an elegant wine with firm tannins and a savory finish that impressed all who tried it. Three more vintages have since followed

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The wine was named Thunderchild : Just as storms are usually followed by sunshine, and the destruction they can cause can also herald new life, the parallel was drawn with children who came from homes where dark and threatening clouds affected their lives. They have exhibited the ability to overcome sadness and darkness and shine brightly when given love and care. Today many of the children are from such homes, rather than being orphans.

 

When I wrote about the project in 2008 I predicted that when Die Herberg marked its centenary in 10 years time the 2008 vintage of Thunderchild would have probably reached its peak in time to toast 100 years of caring. What I did not forsee is just how rapidly the project  blossomed, as  substantial sales of the wine locally and internationally see impressive revenue flowing to the Home.

 

 

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Thunderchild is managed by the Wingerdprojek Trust and 100% of profits and proceeds from the sale goes to Die Herberg’s educational trust. Only hard costs – vineyard supplies, labour and packaging – are recovered. Marketing and sales are done by the community pro bono. Here the extraordinary and ongoing efforts of Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield estate cannot be over emphasized – thanks to her efforts , Thunderchild is sold in the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, China, Botswana and Namibia. National sales continue to be substantial, with Investec pouring it for their functions and, Woolworths stocking it in their upmarket stores.

Jeanette is always quick to point out local support by wine stores, restaurants and bars and retailer Woolworths has contributed greatly. Several cellars in the Robertson region and further afield stock Thunderchild and display the bottles and their story prominently in their tasting rooms.

 

In need of a warm fuzzy feeling? Then be inspired by the reports of how the Trust funds have benefitted children over the last decade. One important decision with huge impact was to ensure that every child leaves the Home with a driver’s licence, something not paid for by government funds. Teenagers finding employment and apprenticeships in trades after school are at a great advantage by being able to drive..

 

 

The fund pays for a fulltime tutor to help with homework and studies and provide extra maths classes for all. By 2017 five children had enrolled in universities or colleges of their choice, and not only their fees, but books, meals and pocket money were covered by the fund. Those shining at sport have been funded to take part in competitions including an overseas rugby tour to England and Scotland and a dancing competition in Croatia.

 

Others who have special needs are also given the best chance to succeed: Currently 25 of these children are at special needs or technical schools in neighbouring towns as Robertson lacks such an institution. Thunderchild transports them on a weekly basis, pays tuition fees, board and lodging.

 

Time to pour a glass or two of Thunderchild 2015. The current blend consists of half merlot, 30% cab franc and 20 % cab sauvignon, made in the traditional way by fermenting uncrushed berries with native yeast found on the grape skins. It matured for a year in French oak and was bottled sans fining or filtration. It was then bottled aged for another year before being released.   Elegant, delicious, and a tad more accessible than some of the earlier vintages, this is a winner in every way

 

.As Jenna Bruwer put it, every child has the potential to change the world : The Thunderchild Project aims to unlock that potential in those at the Robertson Children’s Home .

 

The Thunderchild necktag urges consumers to “do good while drinking great wine” Perhaps it should add “and raise a glass to celebrate a decade of production and a centenary of caring.”

 

 

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