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Myrna Robins

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News

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Raise your glasses to the short-lived Battle of Muizenberg 222 years ago

The incredible history of Steenberg’s first owner has been well documented (and nicely embroidered) over the centuries. But as the first and feisty woman owner of this early mountainside farm, Catharina certainly made her mark as she worked her way through several husbands while running a farm that also saw travellers overnighting there before continuing to Simons Bay the following day.

More than a century later, other occupants of that old farm stood on that stony mountainside gazing down toward the Indian Ocean lapping at the False Bay beach. This time, there was a war on, known as the Battle of Muizenberg. It was August, 1795.

Former friends, now foes, Holland, who controlled the Cape through the Dutch East India Company no longer allowed Britain access to the Cape, a position that the British East India Company could not tolerate as it was an essential point of supplies in the long journey to the East. A fleet of nine Royal Navy ships, which included two warships, Ruby and Stately and a frigate, Sphynx among them, sailed forth, enabling the British to take control of Simons Town in mid June. The Dutch retreated to their seaside Muizenberg fort, with just 300 men. On August 7 the British sent two battalions to Muizenberg supported by three saips at sea, including Stately. It was all over by 2pm when the Dutch retreat to Zandvlei and the first British Occupation of the Cape was a reality.

I don’t know whose idea it was to honour three of the tall  ships which took part in this short- lived skirmish, but not only is it a brainwave to mark an historic day in the Southern Peninsula chronicles, but wines with a story to tell increase their appeal, and so it is with this maiden trio of enjoyment.

Lift a glass to Ruby, a 2017 rosé with class, made up of just more than half syrah

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and the rest cinsaut, a wine that sings of summer days and long, warm nights. It’s dry, but there’s ample fruit, berries vying for attention with watermelon and a little spice, hints of citrus, an aperitif that will also pair happily with picnics, salads and fruity desserts. Moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% and already sporting its first award, a Double Gold from Rosé Rocks. Selling for R86 at the cellar door

Sphynx 2017 is a charming chardonnay, my favourite of the three, produced from Robertson valley grapes that have been carefully handled to present an elegant

 

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wine, whose stay in oak has added depth and structure without any obvious wood.  Characteristic citrus, caramel and peach, with quince adding a Med flavour. It’s fresh and sprightly, alcohol held at 13,5%, a wine for toasting, for partnering with seafood, poultry and serious salads. It costs R135 at the farm.

The third tall ship is Stately, well depicted here as a 2015 cab-led blend with 37% shiraz making the remainder, a dense wine with elegant smooth texture, both

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accessible and ready to drink. There is a gamut of flavours to identify from olives and berries, black pepper to wafts of licorice. Moderate alcohol levels add to its appeal, and this is the only wine closed with cork. It sells for  R135, and is a versatile red that will adapt to many an occasion.

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Charles Withington - seen here with Gypsy -  is renowned both as a successful négociant and a charming connoisseur in the Cape wine world . He is based in Darling where he presides over his inviting wine boutique The Darling Wine Shop, and he is passionate about the district of Darling as a source of good grapes and fine wine that reflects the terroir.

“A Darling Wine” reads the back label below the name Roan Ranger. This 2015 blend encompasses all that I could ask for in a red – Cinsaut-led, intriguing name,b2ap3_thumbnail_WITHINGTON-Roan-Ranger-Cinsaut-Grenache-Mourvedre-2013-HR.jpg

appealing front label, and a delightful story behind the product. Happily, the wine itself lives up to every expectation, an unshowy blend of immense charm, smooth, beautifully integrated, the Cinsaut dominating while benefitting from vigorous, companionable Grenache and powerful, meaty Mourvèdre.

Charles Withington fulfilled a long-held ambition with the creation and release of this wine, one which saw his quest for the production of  a Rhone-style blend that would combine the harvest of Darling grapes that best reflect the vintage year, while introducing a sense of the communication between man and horse. His firm belief in Cinsaut goes back many years to when he worked at Rustenberg. The Withington association with, and love of, horses is a long-established one, here celebrated by naming the wine after a roan, or horse whose coat consists of more than one colour (an equine blend, suggests Withington.)

Made with immense care which shows in every sip, each of the three components were harvested and vinified separately. Malolactic fermentation took place in lightly oaked French fourth and fifth- fill barrels and the final blend selection made after one month.

Withington’s Nguni Malbec 2015is another wine that presents both a lesser-known cultivar and honours an indigenous beast and celebrates both along with Charles’ love of the Darling wine district. Most of us first encountered Malbec through the Argentinian product, and now  various New World countries are planting the grape and UK sales reveal it to be the fastest growing varietal in sales terms, Darling can boast nine hectares of Malbec, which, Withington points out is four times the national average. Grapes for the Nguni Malbec 2015 were sourced from a dryland single vineyard on Oranjefontein farm.

Charles likens the grape to the patient, tolerant Nguni cattle, which have been produced for beef in the Darling area for decades. Juicy and fruity, more than meaty, this is moreish Malbec, medium-bodied, and enjoyable solo as well as complementing good red meat (Nguni beef?)

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At R90 a bargain buy, and one that could hardly be bettered as an introduction to this dark and ancient French varietal.

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We have all savoured the quality whites from the memorable 2015 vintage. Now some fine reds are emerging to claim their place in the sun. Among the first  is this enjoyable cabernet sauvignon from Boschendal, a powerful and complex wine that is  presenting its  credentials as a Stellenbosch cab with real depth. On the nose, whiffs of berry and cedar, leading to nicely balanced tannins and dark fruit on the palate lent additional interest with  spice from the oak. It can certainly be opened and relished right now – particularly, they suggest, paired with the farm’s  Black Angus biltong – or any other cuts of their pasture-fed free-ranging herd and source of the beef in the restaurants. Alcohol levels are 14%, the cellar door price is R140 and if this wine was to spend another year or two in cool darkness, it is sure to improve even further.

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 The release of the latest vintage of Delheim Grand Reserve is an event that connoisseurs wait for and collectors snap up.

 

The 2014 vintage marks a remarkable 36 years since the cellar introduced their flagship range and celebrates its reputation for pampering some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the Simonsberg sub-region. Cab makes up 85% of the Reserve, with 10% Cabernet Franc and remaining 5% of Merlot contributing to the final blend, an impressive combo of finely tuned structure and elegance.

 

 

Winemaker Altus Treurnicht harvested the estate’s five-star Cabernet grapes, added the Cab Franc from the Vaaldraai block and Merlot from Peperboom at the foot of Klapmutskop. The wine spent 16 months in French oak before being bottled but will go on getting better and better for up to another decade for those winelovers with patience and access to dark, cool places.

 

It is already more than enjoyable, delicious ruby hues offering up complex aromas of berry and spice. On the palate the tannins are robust but contained, the wine is smooth with fruit that comes to the fore in a balanced and pleasing mouthfeel and long finish.

 

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It sells for R285 from the farm and makes a fine companion to gourmet meals where red meat takes centre stage. It also makes an appetising gift for someone who will appreciate its many charms and future promise.

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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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