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Myrna Robins

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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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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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School holidays mean lots of extra traffic on the N2 as families head down to the Garden Route or move inland to Karoo destinations.  It’s also whale-watching time in the Southern Cape when locals argue about which bay is the best from which to watch the great mammals and their offspring cavort in the Indian Ocean .

Baleia means whale in Portuguese which ties in with the vineyard’s location in St Sebastian bay which is known as South Africa’s whale nursery.

Travelling winelovers should note  that there is a fairly unique tasting room, deli and restaurant on the N2 about 1`km from Riversdale as you head to Mossel Bay. There you will find the Baleia Wines cellar and La Bella restaurant and deli, and can taste the small but interesting range of wines and take home their olive oil as well.

Dassieklip  farm is sited near the hamlet of Vermaaklikheid where the Joubert family started producing wine and olive oil a few years ago. Their wine range, made by Abraham de Klerk has caught the eye and palate of many a connoisseur: the vines, rooted in  limestone soil are also conditioned by  the bracing, sometimes windswept Mediterranean climate of that coastal area,

 

The 2013 vintage of their flagship Erhard pinot noir notched up  awards, and the 2014 has nowb2ap3_thumbnail_Baleia-Erhard-Pinot-Noir-2014.jpg been released, a medium-bodied garnet-hued wine with moderate alcohol levels and rich tannins which promise longevity. There’s a herbiness along with the characteristic earthiness of the cultivar, and this could be a pinot to squirrel away for a few years and then open to increased enjoyment. It costs R180.

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The time is ripe for championing chardonnay. The time is always right for chardonnay, I hear some say. Well yes, but autumn bounty means mellow days and cool nights, risottos,  rich seafood pastas and paella,  bouillabaisse and citrussy chicken ,  duck with gingered apples, roasted gourds and much more. This is the perfect season for pairing full-bodied elegant chards with rich seasonal fare that has taken more than a few minutes to stir together.

 

 

On Friday May 26, gourmets and winelovers will celebrate World Chardonnay Day,  another great excuse to indulge in an appetising unwooded chard to start proceedings at sunset, and follow with a choice of complex chardonnays that offer citrus and cream against a structured core of oak and minerality to enhance a menu chosen for the wine and finishing with gourmet cheeses.

 

Three fine chards  sampled recently which more than  lived up to my expectations:

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Glenelly estate makes two chardonnays, with the oaked version being better known and more highly rated in Platter. But I love cellarmaster Luke Cuinneagain's  unwooded chardonnay, a junior sister that displays typical hallmarks of elegance in a fresh but sophisticated wine . Delicious aromas of citrus and honey precede a mouthful of well-balanced fruit and rounded structure, followed a long finish. Alcohol levels at 13% are in keeping .

 

The Cape of Good Hope is a distinguished range of terroir-specific wines, many of which are also produced from venerable vines. Part of Anthonij Ruperts portfolio, the Serruria chardonnay 2015 is another gem, sourced from a vineyard in the Elandskloof, high above Villiersdorp, on the farm Atltima. From a reserved start of wafts of  orange blossom aromas, the wine opens up to  reveal a harmonious combo of oak and citrus flavours and satisfying freshness. Winemaker Mark van Buuren is the talented creator of this range. This wine will enhance a wide range of seafood and poultry fare, along with South-east Asian specialities.

 

Hartenbergs Grande Dame, the Eleanor 2015 is a chardonnay to approach with keen  anticipation. One of the estates Super Premium wines, previous vintages have been rated four and a half and five stars. The 2015 vintage, which has produced superb chards from various corners of Stellenbosch region and from others, is no exception.

Eleanor Finlayson and husband Maurice owned the farm Montagne, as Hartenberg used to be known, from the late 1940s to 1977. She was an exceptional matriarch, multi-tasking as she brought up her sons and dispensed warm hospitality to visitors.  This chardonnay is another fitting tribute, a classic that can compete with any other in South Africa and many from across the globe. Rich, yet fresh, presenting nutty and vanilla flavours along with some citrus, well-balanced complexity and delightful mouthfeel. Cellarmaster Carl Schultz moves from award-winning shiraz to champion chards with equally prestigious results.

 

 

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Hard to believe it's more than  four years since I went to the launch of The Game Reserve wines, an impressive new range created by cellarmaster Erika Obermeyer and destined to raise substantial funds for the Wilderness Foundation.

At that time Erika was making the still wine for Graham Beck Wines and getting numerous awards for her fine efforts. She started the conservation-focussed range with her cabernet sauvignon and chenin blanc, both of which were very  successful and continue to be  top-rated wines of this pleasing line-up today. Front labels illustrate the chosen game reserve animal, back labels offer information on its habitat, along with tasting notes. The trio of whites, a  chardonnay, sauvignon blanc  and chenin blanc , all 2015 vintage, salute the fish eagle, Cape Eagle Owl and highly endangered Riverine rabbit, while the four reds, all 2014 vintage, sees the bat-eared fox on the pinotage label,while  the Cape clawless otter (now thriving in the restored Vink river system, thanks to Rooiberg farmers) graces the merlot bottles. Appropriately the magnificent Cape leopard and Africa’s largest antelope, the eland, are depicted on the cab and shiraz respectively.

To elaborate on my two favourites, the chenin is a beguiling wine, with melon and citrus aromas giving way to a salad of tropical fruit , with pleasing freshness. Makes a great companion to a feast of summery fare and for spicy Asian creations and is an appealing tribute to the long-eared riverine rabbit which is surviving in the reserve.

The cab is a fine example of careful blending of grapes from three regions into a complex mix where berry, dark chocolate, plum and spicy flavours mingle, backed by firm tannins and presenting a long finish. The Cape leopard on its label has been discovered in several areas along the Langeberg mountains  including the Breede conservancy and on other leopard-friendly farms, which are all playing a vital role in maintaining its genetic diversity.

These wines are keenly priced, ranging from R53 to R71, and no less than R3 from the sale of every bottle sold flows to the Wilderness Foundation.  Rooiberg Wines have committed to continuing this arrangement for at least five years, already raising nearly R50 000 between July and October last year.  The funds have been shared  between the Cape Leopard Trust and Conservation @ Work, as well as other projects.

Visitors to the Robertson Wine valley during May can pause at the cellar with its giant red chair and sample the range along with Rooiberg’s other fine wines, before adding a case or two to their car boots. That goes for travellers who intend heading to this year’s Wacky Wine Weekend, as well. Do-good makes for feel-good, adding another layer of enjoyment to some terrific wines.

 

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