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Given the growing trend to produce wines that reflect a sense of place , it’s good to see Stellenbosch Hills join the mode with the release of a pair of classy limited edition wines that now form their flagship duo. The range will soon be expanded with the addition of a MCC.

Both the white, a wooded chenin blanc and the red blend have cork closures and attractive front labels, the former featuring a wild chestnut flower, the latter our beautiful sunbird , his beak deep in a Sugarbush Protea. These features are found on the farm(s) from where the grapes were sourced.

Kastanjeberg 2017 is a wooded chenin, produced from a single vineyard growing high on slopes facing False Bay. This is a bold, full-bodied chenin, offering aromas of honey and stone fruit and whiffs of vanilla from its time in oak. There is more fruit on the palate, where flavours of peach and apricot are complemented with some nuttiness, oak lending tannic structure and vanilla, and acidity assuring freshness. It’s a big wine in every sense (including high alcohol levels at 14,5%) and will make a good partner with complex poultry and game bird dishes, pork and also complement Asian fare from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Suikerboschrand is a Cape blend from that superb vintage year 2015 and comprises one-third pinotage, with 29% shiraz, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot and 10% petit verdot.  All the components were vinified separately and spent 24 months in new French oak before blending and bottling took place. This is a voluptuous blend, where an array of aromas – berries, chocolate, cigar box – are followed by a complexity of flavours on the palate, fruit melding with tannic structure from new oak. Alcohol levels of 14,5% do not overwhelm the wine which is both accessible and well balanced.

As these flagship wines are destined to be savoured by connoisseurs and those keen to know more, both about the “place” or terroir from where the harvests came, the age of the grapes, and – in the case of the chenin – how long the wine spent in wood, and was it first, second or third-fill oak, it seems a pity that these facts are neither on the labels nor can be found on the website. I would like to ask the winemaker why he decided that a bold, wooded chenin would offer a better sense of place, (that is the high single vineyard), than a wine where the grapes could have expressed their particular terroir.

The Kastanjeberg sells for R285 and the Suikerboschrand for about R385 both from the cellar and some boutique wine stores. Email info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za for more info.

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CRADLE OF LIFE: The story of the Magaliesberg and the Cradle of Humankind by Vincent Carruthers. Published by Struik Nature, 2019.

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No matter how dedicated a student, how rapid a reader, how enthusiastic an amateur, no one can absorb this amazing accumulation of knowledge in one sitting. Or even three. This is a treasure house - profusely illustrated - of the evolution of life up to the present, as found in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve.

Author and award-winning environmentalist Vincent Carruthers – who has spent his adult life living and working in the Magaliesberg, takes us along a timeline, from the birth of our planet through to the 21st century. What an extraordianary journey he presents, as we unearth the formation of our landscapes, the emergence of life, the rise of humankind. On we go through the Stone and Iron ages, early settlements, migrations, wars and modern developments.

The greater Magaliesberg has a unique geology, history, and biodiversity. Paleontologists, archaeologists, botanists, military historians and environmental lawyers were all among the academics and specialists that Carruthers worked with during his endeavours to get the entire Cradle-Magaliesberg region registered by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. A decade later the proclamation took place in Paris in 2015.

Main chamber Sterkfontein Caves.

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The book opens with the birth of our planet, 13,800 million years ago. Fast forward to 3,100 million years ago and we learn about the first landmass, then about The Magaliesberg and the Pretoria Group at mere 2,350 million years back. In the section headed Africa, time moves on to the breakup of Gondwana, mammal and primate evolution at 65 million, and climate change and the spread of grasslands at 15 million years ago.

Humans enter the scene in Part 2, sub-headed Evolutionary Science. The section ends with the arrival of Homo sapiens some 200 000 years ago. Part three deals with the First People populating the world, the Stone age hunter-gatherers, early farming at Broederstroom (1 600 years ago) and the development of cattle economy as recently as 200 years back.

Maropeng Visitor Centre

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There’s more detail in the later chapters covering the 19th century, which includes the South African War and revival of Afrikaner nationalism after World War I. Modern developments make the final part, as in engineering (Hartbeespoort dam), and in science (the Leiden telescopes and Hartebeesthoek radio astronomy observatory.)

Carruthers concludes with the sobering thought that human activity is altering many of the evolutionary processes of the planet, including climate, atmospheric conditions, ecosystems and the hydrosphere. In the midst of this evidence (platinum, chrome and manganese mines and urban pollution) the Cradle-Magaliesberg retains much of its rural character and unspoilt natural environment. It is a model to be emulated because of its combination of scientific endeavour, sustainable economic enterprise, environmental responsibility and community development.

A detailed glossary, bibliography and index complete the text.

The back cover describes this book as “spectacular.” To which I would like to add “and awe-inspiring.”

 

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We have come to expect the best from Waterkloof wines, and I have yet to be disappointedThe estate’s fierce commitment to traditional organic and biodynamic methods is well-known and there is no doubt that these are reflected in the purity of their wines,  accompanied by a delicacy that promotes, rather than restrains,  expression of terroir. Add to this a natural elegance that  has long been winemaker Nadia Barnard-Langenegger’s  characteristic style, and you know what to expect as you unscrew the cap of the 2016 vintage of Waterkloof Circle of Life White.

Winelovers will be delighted to find the components listed on the front label – 67% sauvignon blanc, 29% chenin blanc and 4% splash of semillon. I found the sauvignon to be dominant both on the nose and slightly less so on the palate, but there are few typical chenin characteristics. The chenin has, however, softened the sauvignon's acidity and added a backdrop of flint Fruit is restrained, but adds roundness to the blend which lingers to a long, complex,  satisfying and serene finish. Moderate alcohol levels are in keeping.

Winemaker Nadia co-fermented the sauvignon and chenin in a combo of 600 litre barrels and concrete “eggs.” No additives were used, and extended time on the lees and with bottle maturation contribute to the fine integration that is characteristic of this blend.

A persuasive example of the positive effects of eco-farming, organic and biodynamic vini- and viticulture, this retails for around R160.

 

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Tagged in: Wine wine news
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With a bottle each of La Motte’s recently released 2016 Syrah and their 2018 Chardonnay, one is well prepared for weekend celebrations, whatever the weather, whatever’s on the menu.

Even before one has screwed off the Chardonnay cap and pulled the Syrah cork, you know that you have wines in hand that will adhere to the farm’s established reputation for quality and consistency. Further, you can count on elegance without austerity: these are wines to be sipped, enjoyed whether on their own or adding vinous eloquence to a spring luncheon or hearty dinner.

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Starting with the Chardonnay, the cellar reports that after a long dry ripening season, the grape harvest proved healthy with concentrated flavours. Bunches were whole-pressed and juice transferred to 300-litre French oak barrels for fermentation, followed by malolactic fermentation. A third of the juice was fermented in tank without malolcatic fermentation. After 11 months components were blended and the wine bottled in April this year.

Alcohol pleasingly low at 12,5% ,the chardonnay offers citrus and stone fruit aromas preceding similar flavours on the palate. Medium-bodied, fresh and inviting, with no obvious evidence of the wood, as it’s so well integrated. A delightful aperitif that would also partner well with seafood, poultry salads and cream cheeses

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The Syrah grapes were all homegrown , and the harvest endured heatwaves which resulted in a lower yield and earlier harvest, and the shiraz being lighter in style than usual.  Both elegance and appeal have been maintained, however.. Whole berries were placed into tanks, yeasts added and fermentation followed. The wine matured in 300 litre French oak, to which 15 % Durif (Petite Sirah) was added to enhance colour and extraction. Moderate alcohol levels are accompanied by  agreeable fruitiness from berry and plum flavours , with a little pepper on the palate. The vintage offers a good mix of Old and New World styles, increasing its potential for popularity among all who savour syrah. A wine to pair with any red meat, but will enhance, in particular, those meats sauced with fruit or braaied with a sticky marinade.

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Before adding my ten cents worth as to what Voltaire was satirising in his 18th century novella Candide, let’s look at this wine, a charming, even enchanting blend from the historic Babylonstoren estate, home to magnificent gardens along with winery, accommodation and restaurants.

Fruity, satiny, as fresh and moreish as the spring we await, Candide 2018 is a four-way blend of cultivars all grown on the enormous estate: Wine of origin Simonsberg-Paarl, the bottle proclaims – and apart from its moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% - it tells us little else.

Not even on the website will curious consumers find much about Candide, so here are some facts about this captivating wine, gleaned from their efficient marketing professional Lize Grobb and the Platter guide.

Candide is chenin-led, at 45% with 24% viognier, and the remainder almost equal proportions of chardonnay and semillon. The grapes are all grown on the Simonsberg slopes and the chenin and semillon underwent cold fermentation in tanks after pressing, then kept on secondary lees for four months until bottling. The chardonnay and viognier were fermented in French oak and were kept on the lees for four months.

The results are gentle yet quite complex, where a stone and tropical fruit flavours meld with citrus in a crisp medium-bodied wine where each element is in fine balance with the others. There’s a feminine touch to this little gem, which made me wonder if the only female winemaker on the Babylonstoren cellar team, Marina Laubser had significant input to its creation. Both elegant and eminently approachable, Candide serves to strengthen my belief in chenin-led blends being the pinnacle of Cape white wines with regard to quality, diversity and offering great enjoyment.

Apparently the 2019 vintage will be on sale in September, which is definitely an item for the spring shopping list. Meanwhile '18 is not to be missed. It sells for R155 from cellar door.

Back to the choice of name, designed, I am sure, to get winelovers talking over their Candide aperitif: As Voltaire ends his work with its best-known phrase, which, translated, reads “We must cultivate our garden” – it could literally refer consumers to the sumptuous beauty of the estate’s gardens. But that would be a waste of an opportunity to argue about what Voltaire was targeting – optimism? War? Persecution? The tolerance and the rights of the individual were among his concerns and they are there for readers to find in his fast-paced action across 18th century continents.

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Consumers are hurting, and so is the Cape wine industry. With shrinking budgets, winelovers who don’t intend to give up their chenin or chard., shiraz or pinotage, are turning to cheaper labels, with mixed results.

While there are many enjoyable labels in the R50 – 70 range, there are others that may be perfectly drinkable, but are unremarkable, even insipid, leaving one feeling more than a little irritable by the time the bottle is empty.

Move up a few rand and the scene changes – in the field of white wines selling between R80 and R90 and reds between R100 and 110 it is possible to find real class, fabulous whites, reds and blends where nurtured berries are given careful but often minimal treatment, where integrity plays as big a role as talent and dedication.

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Here are two examples recently enjoyed:

Vriesenhof Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2017 costs R100 and is described by winemaker Nicky Claasens as a nod to classic French winemaking. Yet this is no austere blend with tight tannins that should be cellared for a few years before opening – it is ready to drink now, with pizza, pasta, other Med-style fare, but will keep happily for a few years if kept in good conditions. The aromas, flavours and structure were all affected by the severe drought of that vintage, producing, as Claassens says, “not only the memory of terroir, but also the expression of place.” It’s quite rich, offers berry and dark chocolate flavours sprinkled with white pepper. It matured for nine months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak and is a great example of the new generation of wines flowing from the historic Stellenbosch cellar.

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Fat Bastard Chardonnay 2018 sells for about R90 and was the wine with the highest score in the inaugural Best Value Chardonnay Tasting convened by Winemag. co.za last year. It scored 90 points and was described by editor Christian Eedes as follows” “On the nose... seduces with ripe stone fruit, tropical melon too and suble hints of vanilla. There’s good mid-palate fruit intensity... an off-dry impression enhanced by vanilla cream, oak notes and a mere hint of burnt butter. Bold be well-rounded and balanced.” It’s hard to improve on that full description, and I am not going to try, but we enjoyed every sip and found it a chardonnay not only of high quality, but rich, round and well balanced. The range may have a fun name but the wines are serious in that they are made with care, made for enjoyment, and are consistent in quality – Robertson Winery has been making them successfully for the Franco-British pair Guy Anderson and Vigneron Thierry Boudinaud for 21 years.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

 

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Why Monica Lewinsky, I wondered as I savoured my first slice of a delectable pizza, thin, crispy, topped with capers, chopped anchovies and black olives on a tomato and mozzarella base. The flavours were so well integrated, the wedges the right size for eating with fingers, the size generous, that I could find no fault with it.

Vern and I visited Kurt and André’s new gastronomic venture with great anticipation, having heard a series of good reports about pizzas and puds.

Although they have not yet sorted out their liquor licence, the pub section of the FLA was well occupied, the long bar propping up mostly male customers and one couple preferring the sofa option. On to the spacious dining area behind, which is dotted with two long and two small pale blonde tables and trendy stick-leg 60’s-style chairs. Attractive lighting overhead was just becoming functional but there was enough daylight to take in the simple courtyard garden at the back, glimpsed through a wall of full length French windows. Al fresco dining should be popular as the weather warms up, wooden ranch type seating beckons between stone paths and the beginnings of a veggie garden.

Inside the feel is Scandinavian minimalist, with a modern fireplace emitting welcome heat at one end. At the other, Karoo aloes in tall floor vases flower either side a wall of huge butter-coloured platters on the wall. “We’re looking for five more to complete the scene...”

Settling at a small table, we were given wine glasses and a practical menu – the pizza takeaway list printed on an A4 sheet of white paper which can be replaced and updated with little expense. The pizzas start at R65 for the only vegetarian option, simply entitled Milkmaid. where the basic tomato and cheese base is topped with fresh basil. Six others follow, named after a variety of female celebrities, three of whom are deceased, and ranging in price from R85 to R95. Vern was very happy with his choice, topped with salami, feta and sweet peppadew (not pepperdew, why does no one get this spelling right?). It is dubbed Montserrat Caballe, a Spanish soprano who died in Barcelona last year, Google tells me. Ah.

Mae West lends her name to a topping of smoked chicken breast, more peppadew and smoked cheese, while nonagenarian Gina Lollobrigida is remembered with chorizo and camembert. Social media queen Kim Cardashian tweets about roasted BBQ rib and fresh rocket on her pizza and Mamma Cass’s name graces toppings of green bacon, blue cheese and green fig preserve. (I had to look her up as well – she was a member of the Mammas and Pappas pop group and died at the age of 32 in London.)

Service was solicitous and friendly. The blackboard announced the dish of the day as pork rib and mash, and the dessert was cheesecake (R45. )

And whether or not you appreciate the allure of presidential seductress Monica Lewinsky, succumb to the charms of the Fat Lady in the certain knowledge that your supper should prove to be a delicious experience.

 

A great and affordable addition to the McGregor dining out and takeout scene, The Fat Lady’s arms is open from 5 – 10pm from Wednesday to Sunday. Weekend lunches will follow soon. Find the venue in the middle of McGregor on Voortrekker street, and call them on 082 786 4888 for more info.

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In the winelands the almond trees are blossoming, a welcome sign of spring to come. Food and wine events in city and country to tempt you away from the fireside during August and into September...

 

Balance Wine and Pizza Tasting

 

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What’s for lunch on the R60? Pull into Overhex Winery and Bistro for their Balance pizza wheel tasting: sample Balance sauvignon blanc, cab/merlot and shiraz, each with a slice of pizza, topped with bacon and fig, chicken pesto and prego steak respectively. Cost: R100. Available seven days a week.

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Delheim estate’s live jazz and fondue

 

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This popular Sunday event continues until August 25 in the wine tasting cellar. Take in jazz from the Cape Town Music Academy NPC and Jazz in the Native Yards while enjoying a cheese fondue with bread and veggies for dipping with a glass or two of Delheim cabernet sauvignon or wine of your choice.

 

Cost: R350 a head, which includes gluhwein on arrival. Book through Quicket.

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ROBERTSON WINE VALLEY PRESENTS

 

SLOW FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL:

 



 

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9 – 11 AUGUST 2019

 

 

Head to the countryside for a long weekend in the valley of wine and roses.

 

Soak up the simple pleasures of rustic life at the 13th annual Slow Food & Wine Festival hosted by Robertson Wine Valley members.

 

 

Producers who created the much-loved Route 62 Wine Route will share the many benefits of the slow way of life with food and wine enthusiasts, both with those who have already savoured this experience and to first-timers who prefer to explore wine country at a leisurely pace.

 

All visitors will unearth excellent wines, farm-to-fork eateries, set amid glorious scenery and celebrated by locals who are proud of their heritage, their products and produce.

 

On the programme are fireside dinners in the homes of the winemakers, wining and dining in underground cellars, single vineyard tastings and wine pairings. For those wanting to spend time in our champagne air, there are game drives, horse and boat rides and vineyard hiking trails.

 

Each event can be booked individually, so you can tailormake your festival experience to your liking. Your choice of activities can also be booked online at robertsonslow.com.

 

The warm hospitality of Robertson Wine Valley is renowned far and wide, and during Robertson Slow visitors will have time to relish their itineraries at a leisurely pace designed to counteract stress and rush. You will also be able to take home reminders of a memorable long weekend in the form of valley wines to enhance your meals for months to come.

 

Discover the stories behind the vine, embrace country life and come taste the lifestyle!

 

 Find accommodation options online at robertsonwinevalley.com. For more festival information email admin@robertsonwinevalley.com or call 023 626 3167.

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De Krans Blossom Festival | 31 August 2019

 

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 De Krans Wine Cellar’s annual popular Blossom Festival,  takes place on Saturday, 31 August. De Krans Wine Cellar is situated in Calitzdorp, in the heart of the Klein Karoo and world famous Route 62.  The beautiful Spring blossoms symbolise the start of a new year for the fruit and wine industry in Calitzdorp, and it is  the perfect time  to say goodbye to winter,.

The 2019 festival promises to be an event  for all visitors.

This year’s fun run/fun walk (5 or 10km) will take place through the orchardsand the vineyards of De Krans. The entry fee will be R20 per person, or more if you want to make an extra donation to our charity of choice, Friends of Calitzdorp Animals, which will receive all  fees and donations on the day. Starting time is 10am on the 31st of August. Pre-enter by submitting an email to dekrans@mweb.co.za, or enter on the day from 9am at De Krans. 

From 11am on the day Matt Hatters will get the feet tapping with their live music performance at De Krans. This is also the time to  taste 20 different award-winning wines from De Krans, including the 2019 Chenin Blanc, Pinotage Rosé and Moscato wines.

The bistro will be ready to serve  excellent meals and the deli will offer a variety of tasty produce made in our area. It will also serve two of our favourite cocktails made from our wines. It is recommended to book your table well in advance.

 

For bookings or more information on De Krans and its wines, bistro & deli, visit our website www.dekrans.co.za, or phone us on 044 – 213 3314/64.

 

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THE GRAPE ESCAPE WINE FESTIVAL

 

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Join our second exclusive The Grape Escape Wine Festival at The historic  Vineyard Hotel in September. Guests will be treated to a fine selection of enticing wines from unusual varieties such as Cinsaut,Gamay Noir, Verdelho, Mouvedre, Roussanne, Riesling, Clairette Blanche, Carignan and Zinfandel.

We’ll also have some prominent Chenin Blanc and Chenin driven blends along with captivating Rhone varieties such as Viognier, Marsanne, Syrah and Grenache form 40 of our top producers. Delicious snacks will accompany the tastings. The wines will be for sale at discounted prices.

 

Venue:           The Vineyard Hotel, Colinton Road, Newlands,

Date:              Friday 6th September 2019

Time:              17.00 – 20.00

Cost:              R200.00 per person – includes entrance, wine glass and light snacks.

 

Get your tickets via www.webtickets.co.za, or at any of the Wine Concepts branches.Telephone Newlands at (021) 671 9030 or Kloof Street at (021) 426-4401 Email: admin@wineconcepts.co.za or at the door on the evening subject to availabilityhttp://www.wineconcepts.co.za

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The Chocolate Festival is back!

31 August - 1 September

 

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Chocolate, chocolate and even more chocolate! This two-day chocolate extravaganza takes place over the weekend of 31 August and 1 September (10am to 4pm daily) at The Woodmill in Stellenbosch.

Expect to find a chocolate line up with oodles of chocolate, macaroons, brownies, donuts, creamy (and dreamy) ice-cream, liquorice, marshmallows, candyfloss and so much more..Balancing the sweetness will be a selection of non-chocolate offering, including charcuterie,  hamburgers, pizzas, artisanal cheeses and breads and more. While the little ones are kept entertained in a supervised area mom and dad can relax and unwindwith live music, gin, bubbly, wine and craft beer offerings. 

  Tickets cost R180 per person . Children under 18 pay R50. Pre-booking via www.webtickets.co.zais essential.

 

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FRANSCHHOEK UNCORKED FESTIVAL

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Swing into Spring over the weekend of 14 and 15 September for this year’s Franschhoek Uncorked Festival.  

Participating wineries in and around the valley welcome the new season to showcase new vintages and releases, as well as putting on special events. Be sure not to miss the live entertainment as you plan your voyage of discovery. With most of the Franschhoek wineries participating in this fun two-day festival, there promises to be something for everyone, which includes cellar and vineyard tours, barrel tastings, food and wine pairings, old school lawn games, to name but a few.

Pre-book your Uncorked Weekend Pass through www.webtickets.co.za. Pre-booked tickets cost R180 per person. Tickets purchased on the day, at the participating wine farms, will cost R200 each. Your Uncorked Weekend Pass (valid for both days) allows you access to all of the participating wine farms as well as a complimentary tasting glass and free wine tastings.

 For more info and accommodation availability contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861, visit www.franschhoekuncorked.co.za

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A history stretching back 320 years. Renowned Polkadraai Hills terroir. A five-star   hotel, gourmet and bistro restaurants. A Gin bar with impressive stock. A wide choice of wines in two ranges. An estate managed by hosts with heart.

 

 

Michael Olivier, who handles their PR, is meticulous in recording developments, events and releases on this large and diverse estate and sharing them on his widely read blog. While international visitors dominate at the height of the tourist season, now is the ideal time for locals to investigate and enjoy the many attractions available at Asara.

 

As always, I find the early history of our Cape wine farms a source of endless fascination with Verdun no exception. Back in the latter part of the 18th century the farm was part of Vredenburg , which, together with Vlottenburg was bought in 1772 by Paul Roux and inherited by descendant Kosie Roux, who named his farm Verdun after the WW I battle of Verdun which was raging at the time. Some decades later he and his son, also Kosie, marketed their Gamay , then the only one bottled under this name in the Cape.

 

In the mid-1990’s the farm’s fortunes were revived when Francois Tolken bought Verdun and committed to planting a full 83ha to vine, rebuilding the old cellar and appointing a highly regarded winemaker to oversee the project.

 

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By 2 000 Verdun estate wines began making gentle waves on the Stellenbosch scene and its gamay production was revived after a break of about 15 years.

Four years on and the estate had changed ownership and was now called Asara (after a trio of venerable gods.)The wines continued increasing in quality, collecting both local and international awards.

 

Development in the form of luxury hotel, restaurant and specialty bar were in place a few years later, and today the Sansibar bistro and gin lounge bar boasts the largest selection of gin in the southern hemisphere. There is a choice of dining venues to follow visitors’ tastings. And there are vineyard walks to start the day after a good night’s sleep.

 

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The staff at Asara find time to support those less fortunate than they are, and this extends to donations to animal welfare and the well-run Stellenbosch branch of the Animal Welfare society in particular. So it was in July, Mandela month, that their chef produced large quantities of peanut butter dog biscuits for the Society kennels, now headed by efficient animal lover and former winemaker Lorna Hughes. Buy a packet or two from the Asara Tasting room and deli, or from the society offices close by. They look tempting, but are not recommended for pairing with Asara’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, the Bell Tower.

 

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Tagged in: Food Restaurants Wine
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GREENFEAST by Nigel Slater, published by 4th Estate, London 2019.

 

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Let’s start with the design of this hardback, which does not resemble a cookbook at all. Shocking pink cover, featuring a swathe of gold, a single brushstroke by artist and calligrapher Tom Kemp which, he points out, are not pictures or representing anything, but a small aside to remind readers about the” nature of nature... where ultimately the food in this book comes from.”

Glued onto this hard cover is a half-page , glossy red, listing author and title on the front, and a photo and quote from the author on the back.

Unconventional. Intriguing. But as every foodie knows, we can rely on Nigel Slater to produce another title that features his simple prose that is English culinary writing at its relaxed best. Seldom prescriptive yet always thorough, so that beginner cooks are guided unobtrusively to success. (An occasional command “Don’t even think of using horseradish from a jar.”)

 

Slater tells us that this collection of about 110 recipes is what he eats when he finishes work every day. It’s meant for those like-minded readers who find themselves wanting inspiration for a supper that owes more to plants than animals. In all but name, it’s a vegetarian treasury, that could, with some tweaking, also be suitable for vegans. It’s the way his eating has grown to be over  recent years, and we know that across the world, there thousands of others who have followed suit, whether for ethical, health or environmental reasons – or all three.

 

Recipes are grouped into chapters that reflect cooking method or preparation. Thus, ‘In a bowl’,’In a pan’, "On the grill’, "On the hob" and so on. Having shared his penchant for eating from a bowl, often using a spoon, Slater offers a variety of recipes best served in a bowl – a simple miso soup containing cauliflower, garlic and root ginger, colourful  paneer with aubergine and cashews, a golden crunch of carrot, pawpaw and radish topped with Asian dressing, . Supper from a pan includes roasted, creamed augbergine, topped with crisp, fried halloumi, finished with pomegranate seeds and mint.

 

Slater does love aubergine in every guise and  also uses a variety of grains from freekah to couscous or quinoa as a base for many creations. He combines fruit with pulses, with veggies, pickles and herbs – take his plate of green falafel, watermelon and yoghurt, where canned chickpeas, broad beans and green peas are blended with green herbs to a paste, formed into balls, baked until puffed and dry, served with a salsa of cherry tomato, red onion and watermelon and accompanied by garlicky yoghurt. Fans of Asian fare will find recipes of steaming sushi rice topped with nori flakes and crisp pickles of carrot and shallot, topped with tsukemono (pickled vegetables).

But there are other, more familiar combos, such as asparagus baked in an egg custard seasoned with ricotta and parmesan, which resembles a Tuscan classic whose name escapes me right now. An easy traybake for two consists of new potatoes, red and yellow peppers, simmered with garlic in olive oil, finished with spring onions.

 

The final chapter is called, simply, Pudding. It focuses on seasonal fruits like blackberries, cherries and currants, Mediterranean stone fruit and figs, mangoes and finishes with watermelon prosecco. My favourite here is an easy finale of perfect, ripe peaches sharing a plate with mascarpone mixed with double cream and biscuit crumbs garnished with finely grated orange zest. Yum

 

Recipes are illustrated with full page colour photographs, The index is professional and particularly useful, given the unusual organisation of the recipes. The book’s subtitle “ spring summer” gives an indication of the sequel to come, covering autumn and winter.

 

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It’s been a while since I was last at Dornier Wines, that imposing estate sprawling across the foothills of the Stellenbosch mountain. Encompassing four farms with  diverse terroir, access is gained via a road off the R44.

Visitors are likely to comment on the contrasting architecture which spans three centuries: the 18th century barn which houses the popular Bodega restaurant, the late 19th century Sir Herbert Baker homestead, now a function venue and guest house and the striking winery: the ultra-modern brick cellar with its sinuous roofline was designed by artist Christoph Dornier.

The restaurant is closed at present, re-opening on October 31. First-time diners should look out for a small model, vintage photograph and map, unobtrusively displayed against one wall. They illustrate a fascinating story of MD Raphael Dornier’s grandfather’s achievements a century ago. Claude Dornier was renowned as the pioneer who replaced wood and paper with metal in the design and construction of early planes (and seaplanes in particular) at the start of the 20th century. The photograph shows his plane, dubbed The Switzerland, arriving in Cape town, marking the first such flight from Zurich to this country. This three-month odyssey ended early in 1927.

Philip van Staden became the estate winemaker in 2015, and heads a cellar that makes the Donatus and Dornier ranges and easy-drinking Cocoa Hill wines.

The six that I was invited to review consisted of the Donatus Red and White which comprise the range of that name, along with four Dornier labels.

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Given my penchant for fine chenins and chenin-based blends, it was unsurprising that my favourite was the 2017 Donatus White (R233) an elegant and delicious blend of 80% chenin, the remaining 20% being home-grown semillon. The chenin grapes were sourced from old bushvine vineyards in Stellenbosch. This rich, full-bodied blend presents stone fruit and floral aromas on the nose, follows with a complex palate where crispness pervades - but does not overpower - flavours of fruit, honey and a little citrus, backed by agreeable minerality. The two components were fermented separately in 300 litre French oak barrels, and spent 10 months in barrel on the lees.

Delicious as an aperitif to seafood feasts or as a partner for shellfish and rich and meaty fish such as tuna. Asian curries could also benefit from this blend, as could northern Indian and Persian vegetarian combos.

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The flagship partner wine, Donatus Red 2016, (R349) is as elegant as its white counterpart, a Bordeaux-style blend of home-grown components: Led by 60% cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot comes in at 20% with malbec at 13% and cabernet franc bringing up the rear. Open- top fermenters were used tostart fermentaton, after which malolactic fermentation took place in oak. A further 18 months saw maturation in barrel, before blending took place.

Berry,  black cherry and cassis flavours combine on the palate in pleasing purity, lent character from smooth tannins, the whole presenting a well-balanced blend that should age well. Alcohol levels are substantial at 14,5%. It already complements all manner of red meat in fine style and will enhance vegetarian dishes like mushroom or root vegetable casseroles.

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From the Dornier range, the Semillon 2018 (R196)  revealed a limited release, golden in hue that offered wafts of apple and honey when uncorked. Produced from grapes on the estate,subtle flavours of buttered brioche meld with citrus in an elegant, almost restrained manner that brings to mind Old World style. There’s no hint of waxiness, but the wine is fresh and sprightly with moderate alcohol levels. As a companionable varietal, semillon has few competitors and can accompany a wide spectrum of vegetarian, fish and white meat fare with panache.

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On to the Dornier reds, housed in elegant dark bottles finished with silver tops, starting with Equanimity Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. This appealingly named cab will find followers among most red wine fans. A well-made classic priced at R176, it presents an opulence that showcases characteristic spice and fruit: cassis and licorice yield to berry and subtle mint flavours, hints of vanilla are balanced by elegant tannins. Substantial alcohol levels do not detract from a cab that is already enticing and will go on developing for some years. A great choice when savouring red meat of every kind.

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The Dornier Siren Syrah 2016 (R176) offers a description of the said siren, pictured on the back label, who lured the artist with aromas of “wild herbs, ripe fruits and violets.” All these can be detected in this shiraz made in contemporary style, that spent 15 months in French oak, none of it new, so that fruit would not be overshadowed by wood. Like the cab, should be enjoyed by a broad swathe of shiraz fans paired with venison, lamb or beef.

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The Dornier Merlot 2017 was produced from vineyards on the estate, and berries were picked at optimal ripeness, They were fermented in open stainless steel tanks, followed by 12 months maturation in French oak. This is a juicy, delicious merlot with soft tannins, adding up to well balanced, well-made quality that offers pleasing versatility. A good buy at R159.

For more information, visit www.dornier.co.za. It’s an efficient, user-friendly site that well reflects the entire operation.

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Sited in the supremely beautiful Devon Valley, and named after the friendly Zulu greeting that can be translated as “Hi, how are you?” Kunjani wines start any encounter with the twin advantages of an enviable location and a companionable  name.

Comparatively new on the block, this multicultural enterprise is owned by German entrepreneur Paul Barth and South African businesswoman Pia Watermeyer, while the wines are made by well-known, well-travelled  winemaker Carmen Stevens. Their website reveals that they also operate a restaurant and cottages for travellers to hire.

Their trio of warming reds arrived , each in a dark bottle, with cork closures, adorned with black labels bearing gold lettering. The back labels offer brief notes on the nose, palate, and expected life of the contents.

 

 

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Kunjani Shiraz 2015 sports a gold from Michelangelo 2018, produced from homegrown grapes, which underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel. The wine matured in French oak for 12 months in a combo of new, second- and third fill French oak. The characteristic white pepper is there, spicing up the juicy flavours of red and black berries, balanced by some acidity for freshness. Alcohol levels of 15% are on the hefty side. The website lists the price at R220.

 

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Grapes for the Kunjani merlot 2017 were also sourced on the farm. They  were destemmed and cold -soaked for a few days before pressing. Secondary fermentation took place in barrel and the wine matured for 14 months in French oak. Moderate alcohol levels are in keeping with this medium-bodied merlot that presents tobacco and spices along with fruit on the palate, with no trace of greenness. It is priced at R190 and will pair happily with a wide range of winter fare, both casual and formal.

 

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As with the other two, homegrown grapes were harvested for the Kunjani cabernet sauvignon 2017 , then sorted into two lots to provide blending components. Yeast was added to one after four days but the second lot was left to ferment spontaneously for some time. The blend was matured for 14 months in French oak. Characteristic hints of chocolate, mint, blackcurrant and dried herbs are there, along with a hint of vanilla. This Stellenbosch cab has good ageing potential and costs R220.

Visitors can head to the tasting centre on any day of the week. For more info, visit www.kujaniwines.co.za.

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Delheim recently released new vintages of two of the estate’s three pinotages, being the 2017 pinotage and 2019 pinotage rosé. Both these are venerable classics, as the farm was among the first in the Cape to produce pinotage during the 1960’s and the first to present a rosé in 1976.

Today they are both well-established classics, the pinotage being medium-bodied, with red fruit on the nose, followed by more on the palate, backed by a little wood from time in French oak. The rosé is a light-hearted wine, with low alcohol levels, its salmon hues offering the promise of fresh and floral notes, ideal sipping on a sunny day. The previous vintage contained a soupcon of muscat, and perhaps this one does too, the label does not say. The rosé labels lists the wine as vegan-friendly as well.

Both wines are undemanding, but , like all Delheim wines, made with care. Their recommended retail prices hover in the region of R80 for the pink and R150 for the red. For more info, visit www.delheim.com.

If you would like to try  a quick Thai soup that will, says Delheim, be enhanced by pairing with the pinotage rose, here's the recipe:

Thai Coconut Milk Noodle Soup (khao soi)

Khao Soi is from Northern Thailand - a noodle soup with an amazing combination of flavours and texture. This soup only takes 15 minutes to make and best of all – it pairs so well with the Delheim Pinotage Rosé.

200g Roka Pad Thai Noodles

2 T coconut oil or olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

A thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 red pepper, cored and diced

1-3 T Thai red curry paste

1 can coconut milk

500ml chicken stock

1 t turmeric

4 T Thai soy sauce

3 T brown sugar

300g chicken fillets, grilled and cubed

Fresh coriander or basil leaves

Bean sprouts

Lime or lemon juice to taste

Prepare noodles by following the instructions on the packet.

In a medium pot, heat oil,. add the onion, red pepper, garlic, ginger, red Thai curry paste and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk bring to a simmer and add the diced chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes then taste for flavour and tenderness.

Add the noodles and finish with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and squeeze over lime or lemon juice and serve hot.

 

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LUCKY PACKET by Trevor Sacks published by Kwela Books, Cape Town, 2019.

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This is a book that drew me in, quicker and deeper as I turned the pages. I seldom review novels, but Lucky Packet is different, it’s more like an autobiography, that is not only well-written, but clever: As Ben tells his story, as a 12-year-old, he brings in everything from family history to small town prejudices along with a broad sweep of South African politics in the 1980’s. Apartheid practices and their effects on locals, the reaction of those who tried to ameliorate these, are all dealt with in a way that is verycredible, as Sacks’ writing as a young Jewish teenager is so convincing.

What he presents is a picture of a Jewish family living in a conservative Northern Transvaal town during the State of Emergency in the 1980s. Ben Aronbach, the writer, feels as if he doesn’t fit in anywhere, as his schoolmates are Afrikaans-speaking Christians and - as his family is not religious - they don’t fit in with the Jewish community either. Ben also missed out on having a father to look up to as he died when Ben was just six years old.

While life, and school, and school tours and meeting girls go on, and Ben experiences the embarrassments and anguish that teenagers are subjected to, the family business is failing and the local bank manager is not being co-operative about loans. With the entry of one Leo Fein onto the scene Ben’s life got more complicated, more so after it was revealed that this “uncle’ who had chatted up his mother, and befriended Ben, was escorted from Ben’s bar mitzvah by two government men (who “lifted Leo Fein up under his armpits...”) Whatever else he had done, it turned out he had also stolen a large part of the Aronbach fortune.

Guilt consumes Ben as he feels that a job he did for Fein contributed to the family loss, and only years later, as South Africa prepared for the 1992 Referendum, could he confront the charlatan . Meanwhile, to try and make large sums of money to help the family, Ben undertook jobs for Leo Fein after his return to the town, which included a trip to Moria to meet the bishop of the Zion Christian church and an encounter with the AWB.

Ben spent much time with his mother before her death, during which they shared thoughts with each other that helped him, to an extent, deal with his guilt.

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While a visit to Calitzdorp and its hospitable inhabitants is always enjoyable, and there’s much to see and do in every season, winter offers both peace and particular beauty in this Klein Karoo dorp: against a backdrop of the Outeniqua, Swartberg and Rooiberg mountains, probably snow-dusted, wandering around the old part of the village makes a great start to the day, working up an appetite to do justice to robust country fare washed down with a glass or two of the region’s fine wines and world-class ports.

Which brings us, of course to De Krans, on the village fringe, sprawled along the upper reaches of the Gamka river valley. The farm was founded in 1890 by MD Boets Nel’s great-grandfather although many decades passed before the first grapes were planted, mostly for sweet wine and raisin production. Fast forward to 1964 when the existing cellar was built and De Krans soon became known for its fine ports and dessert wines. Dry table wines were to follow.

Today visitors can taste the various ranges every day of the week, relish al fresco lunches at the bistro and contemplate the walking trail to work off the kilojoules. Friendly, enthusiastic staff add to the enjoyment while generosity is another ever-present characteristic.

In reviewing fine wines from three of the four De Krans ranges, we start by going back, way back to 1947 when De Krans planted a vineyard of Palomino (also known as Malvasia Rei) in Gamka river soils for brandy production. Some 70 years on they have survived, now bearing small, intensely flavoured berries: these are blended with verdelho (37%) into an unusual, fascinating golden wine that presents old vine legacy with Klein Karoo flavour. De Krans Tritonia 2017  wafts aromas of citrus and honey, while the palate offers exotic flavours, traces of a spicy Christmas pud balanced by acidity for freshness. I can imagine it enhancing a Cape Malay curry, and certain Portuguese classics, perhaps Arroz de Pato de Braga, that flavourful combo of roast duck with chorizo on ham-flavoured rice from the north. It sells for R150.

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Its red counterpart De Krans Tritonia Calitzdorp Blend 2016 is better known, having already won for itself an impressive list of awards – among these, Platter gives it 4 and half stars, NWC a double gold, the Six Nations Wine Challenge rated  it gold and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine show a trophy. Composed of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barocca it’s hardly surprising that its dark, tannic, and flavour-packed with berry and plums, but also smooth on the palate , a fine winter wine to pair with venison and beef. It costs  around R185 and also offers great ageing potential.

Then there’s De Krans Basket Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 which proves quite a contrast to the above: For R65 winelovers can enjoy an accessible cabernet that not only offers great value, but is an authentic  expression of the grape – the typical aromas of cedar and tobacco are there, as are the flavours of black cherry and plum. This is a comparatively light-bodied cab, with alcohol levels of 13,5% and ready to pair with pizza and pasta, the weekend braai and provide companionable fireside sipping.

When it comes to port, to use the traditional term, Calitzdorp is the local king, and De Krans – through a lucky mistake – was the first to plant the Portuguese varietal of Tinta Barocca, which flourished nicely in the valley. Today, the region is famed for its production of fine port wines, which – after negotiating with the EU in 2011 – are no longer named “port” but are labelled according to the style of port in the bottle, hence “Cape Ruby” or Cape Tawny”. De Krans marketing is also keen to get consumers to replace those teeny liqueur glasses that used to be used for port with decent wine glasses, something we did a while ago. (Most of these ports are just under 20% alcohol strength, so you are not sipping the equivalent of spirits at over 40% )

Their Ruby port can be classed as the entry level port, perhaps, less complex than its cousins, also more affordable, but nonetheless quality wine and a good way for newcomers to this fortified wine to begin their port journey...

The De Krans Cape Tawny Limited Release, a much awarded port wine, and my all-time favourite, is quite delicious, perfect with meatless and poultry dishes, complementing French onion soup and a superb partner to aged cheeses like mature cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan. Its glorious golden hue is the result, I was told, of small oak vats being used which influences the wine along with a greater degree of oxidation, but obviously there is far more to this process. 

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The flagship De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve - 2016 is the current vintage – is  deservedly five-star, rated 96 points in the Tim Atkin 2018 report, was judged SA Fortified Wine of the Year, sports Veritas Gold, Michelangelo platninum, and the brag  list goes on... It's comprised of 74% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barocca and finished with Tinta Roriz, yielding a  big, dark wine, offering aromas of berries, nuts and chocolate. It's complex and bold and deserves to be a fine finale to a special meal, perhaps with a cheese platter. While this is a Cape port that one could safely store unopened for three decades or more, once opened, do bring it out on chilly evenings and savour every delicious, complex sip. You are sampling the results of long and meticulous craftmanship practised by some dedicated and talented winemakers.

          

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Posted by on in Events

Winter treats for winelovers and gourmets that are sure to brighten up July and point to early signs of spring in August.

 

Unearth Black Gold at Anthonij Rupert Estate

Gourmets need not head to Europe to find fresh truffles, only to Franschhoek where Anthonij Rupert Wyne inivtes them to sample black gold at their series of four-course Truffle Lunches being presented every . Only 10 diners will be accommodated at a sitting and each course with be paired with Cape oF Good Hope wines . A sampling of estate-raised Black Angus beef will also be included in this gourmands dream meal which costs R950 a head.

Anthonij Rupert estate is the first in South Africa to cultivate black Perigord truffles, grown at their Altima estate near Villiersdrop and hunted by truffle hunter Hanene van Dyk with her specially trained Lagotto Romagnolo dogs.

For more information and bookings, email tasting@rupertwines.com or all 021 874 9041.

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Dress to impress at the Franschhoek Bastille Festival

 

 

As before, the popular Bastille Festival takes place at Franschhoeks Hugueot Monument area over the weekend of July 13 and 14. Adding to the wine, food and fun, visitors can arrive in a red white and blue French-style outfit to be in line to win the Best Dressed title. Along with the valleys fine wines, there will be gourmet fare from the town's top restaurants while events such as the barrel -rolling competition add to the attractions. Tickets to the Food and Wine marquee cost R395 per person, and include tasting glass, wine tasting coupons and a R20 voucher. Pre-booking via www.webtickets.co.za is recommended. Children under 18 enter free. For more info, visit www.franschhoekbastille.co.za.

 

 

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Brian Berkmans next Pringle Bay Banting Pop-Up lunch

 

 

takes place on July 20. New and regular  items on the low-carb, sugar-free fest include courgette and broccoli soup, chicken liver pate, aubergine baked in a cheese and tomato sauce, hake bobotie and his popular spiced beef brisket, smoked and slow-cooked. Lemon cheesecake makes the dessert and tea or coffee is included in the price of R350.

 

Seewww.BrianBerkman.comfor links to Quicket to book.

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A FOOD AND WINE AFFAIR PRESENTED BY BUSHMANS KLOOF AND

 

BOUCHARD FINLAYSON

 

Gourmands are invited to savour the union of distinguished wines and gourmet cuisine with a weekend of culinary excellence in a magnificent wilderness setting.

 

 

Bouchard Finlayson has teamed up with sister property Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat to present a gourmet food and wine weekend to be held from 26 – 28 July 2019 at the luxury lodge in the Cederberg. Guests will be taken on a connoisseur’s journey hosted by winemaker Chris Albrecht and Executive Chef Charles Hayward. Highlights comprise of abespoke wine tasting and an inspired food and wine pairing dinner on the Saturday. A variety of exhilarating lodge activities are included, such as nature drives, guided rock art excursions, botanical walks, canoeing, archery, fly fishing and hiking. The 2-night event costs from R3795 per person sharing per night and includes all meals, selected wines and lodge activities.During the extravagant five-course food and wine pairing dinnerdishes will be matched with Bouchard Finlayson vintages that will include flagship wines Missionvale Chardonnay (2016) and Galpin Peak Pinot Noir (2017), as well as the sleek and complex Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (2017) and the 2016 vintage of the unique red blend, Hannibal.

Bookings: Telephone: +27 (0)21 437 9278; Email: info@bushmanskloof.co.za

 

 

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What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, when it comes to wine as captivating titles pique the attention of consumers browsing the wine boutique shelves.

And a better example than those of Journey’s End Vineyards would be hard to find. Even the estate’s name attracts: if I was on a Helderberg wine tour, I would want to finish my journey at this mountainside farm with its panoramic views over False Bay. Hugging the Schapenberg slopes above Sir Lowry’s Pass village, the farm was founded by the Gabb family - a Shropshire import- - in 1995, and bottled their first harvest early in the new century.

Second generation Rollo Gabb has been at the helm since 2007, and has increased the vineyard plantings and built an ultra-modern cellar and a tasting centre, its glass walls leading to a terrace that presents a viewing site of note. Mount Rozier, which I remember visiting way back when three partners were intent on establishing a fine range from their small farm, has been taken over by Journey’s End. The viticultural team of cellarmaster Leon Esterhuizen and winemaker Mike Dawson practise the Gabb-approved philosophy of minimal intervention as Journey’s End launch the rebranding of their products.

Three ranges, or series, are now planned, with the first, Tales Series, already available and comprising four wines with expressive, allusive names.

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All housed in dark bottles with white labels and prominent lettering, under screwcap, the 2018 sauvignon blanc is called Weather Station after the Stellenbosch clone known as the Weerstasiekloon. Agreeably fresh and made for immediate enjoyment, with moderate alcohol levels and medium-bodied, the nose is typically sauvignon, the palate offers friskiness allied to winter stone fruit flavours of apple and pear. Well-balanced and makes both an aperitif and a mate for white meat and seafood.

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Haystack chardonnay 2018 alludes to the venerable practice of planting wheat between the vine rows to encourage pests to focus on that rather than the vines and the label sports an eagle owl which is one of a pair on the farm that helps with pest control. Characteristic citrus flavours are offset by backbone lent from a little oak and the alcohol levels are held at 13,5%. I enjoyed this chardonnay and found that it tasted even better the following day.

 

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To the reds: Two red blends, the first The Huntsman, a 2017 vintage that melds shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier in unknown proportions, but with shiraz dominant. Its name refers to the original buildings on the site used by the Cape Hunt, founded nearly 200 years ago. Susbstantial alcohol levels of 14,5% add to the richness of this full-bodied wine, which matured in 500 litre French oak barrels, the viognier separately in tank, then blended in to produce a dark, luscious, ready- to- enjoy wine.

 

 

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As is the Pastor’s Blend 2018, named after the local pastor who offers communion under the pines just below Journey’s End vineyards. He is also the connection between the farm and the local village, which enjoys support from the estate in terms of education and upliftment of living standards. Moderate alcohol levels characterise a classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc fermented separately and matured in third-fill oak for 14 months. The result is juicy with berry flavours dusted with dried herbs, ready to take on all types of red meat dishes with panache.

The wines sells for between R89 and R99, adding affordability to their attractions. The next two ranges will take the quality to a higher level with prices to match.

The estate embraces sustainable and occasional biodynamic practices, but is not certified for the latter. Trendy winemaking such as the use of (once ancient) amphorae and concrete eggs add to the versatility while drones are employed to survey vineyard blocks, providing high-tech info for micro-management.

Appointments are required for visits and tastings, which can also include snacks while hikes, MTB and horse-riding are also on the menu. For more info see www.journeysend.co.za or call 021 858 1929.

 

                                

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The press release for the latest vintage of this perennially popular white blend is particularly well written, making it difficult to improve on, so i am going to quote the final sentence as is:: “fresh and vibrant with a convincing strength and quality finish.”

The 2018 vintage of this four-star blend offers its usual admirable consistency - both in quality, and its main component which has been riesling for several years.This enables Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer to  differ from  its unwooded white blend competitors. The riesling – 65% here – sets the foundation for a  wine both patrician and characterful, while the viognier and chardonnay, (sharing similar proportions), add floral elements and a medley of fruit to a fragrant nose and flavorful palate. Alcohol levels of 13% are in keeping, and its priced at R110.

Looking at back issues of Platter, it's interesting to see how cultivars have varied over the last 18 years: Blanc de Mer greeted the new century as an unwooded blend of kerner with gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay...

In  2003 gewurztraminer partnered the riesling, two years later  sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc and chard were the chosen companions while by 2006 viognier rather than riesling led the combo.  In 2007 chenin made an appearance but, since then, whatever the variations, quality climbed even as the wine was geared to being a crowd pleaser.

Unsurprisingly a large number of regulars regard Blanc de Mer as an essential companion to seafood whether grilled, fried, baked or raw. I don’t think its fanciful to find whiffs of maritime aromas that emphasise its affinity with the waters of Walker Bay. A summer wine, yes certainly, but with this appealing balance of freshness and depth, it’s also the right choice to celebrate wonderful sunny winter days found in every province of our country.

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A dark heavy bottle, made unique with its imprint of a bird perched on a tobacco pipe next to a flowerhead, the design is repeated on the minimalist white label which informs that it's Nebukadnesar 2017 and this is no. 12 285 of 21 940!. Not a limited edition then!

Babylonstoren often does things differently, and always beautifully, honouring both the farm’s  330- year old history, its venerable buildings and spectacular setting. As its name suggests this is a place of amazing gardens, now 12 years old with more than 300 varieties of culinary and medicinal plants,, offering a garden tour to delight and amaze.

The extensive vineyards which stretch from 170 metres above sea level to 600 metres – incorporating poor sand, deep shale and rich loam - have yielded pampered berries, allowing the range of wines flowing from the cellars  to increase.. This vintage of the flagship blend has attracted more awards than any previously, particularly from the National Wine Challenge: it brought home Double Platinum, Grand Cru for best in category, and was also crowned Best Wine from among the 600 entries.

Components of this blend (49% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 16% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot and 5% malbec), were separately pressed and matured for 23 months in new French oak . The new blend was left in tank for a month before bottling took place, then given five months maturation before being released.

Its a big, bold, full-bodied wine, impressive already, but deserves to be cellared so that the prominent tannins can soften and meld with the flavours of dried herbs, black berries and tobacco, for maximum enjoyment. The palate will then offer sophisticated integration that should go on improving for up to a decade .

 

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The cellar team at Babylonstoren comprises Charl Coetzee, Klaas Stoffberg and Marina Loubser who are making magic with the wide variety of farm cultivars available, including a highly-rated chenin-based white blend with three additional components that I hope to sample soon.

Those who are happy to pay nearly R500 a bottle or R3 000.00 a case for a fine Cape Bordeaux-style blend, will surely be prepared to cellar their purchase, (or at least most of it), to enable the wine to mature further, to reach its (very considerable) peak in, perhaps, five years time.

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Elgin Ridge 282 Pinot Noir 2016 

 

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Certified organic wines are thin on the ground in this country and those which go a step further – to be fully registered as biodynamic – are even more rare.

Having been involved (as a keen spectator) with an organic wine farm, seeing what has to be undertaken to reach this status, sitting through an international inspection by a tough team from Europe and South Africa as they toured vineyards and farm buildings, examining everything from implements to employees work apparel, then probing records and asking the most detailed questions, I greatly admire those who undertake the arduous and expensive process to get certified.

Brian and Marion Smith of Elgin Ridge state on their website that their vineyards have been free of chemical sprays for more than 10 years, while Maddox their gentle percheron ploughs between the vineyard rows to remove weeds and pest control is handled with enthusiasm by resident ducks. Currently on the website are photos of an appealing pair of lambs who, we are told, will soon join the rest of the little flock to help with cover crop management.

The 2016 vintage of their Elgin Ridge 282 pinot noir was recently released. Grapes were sourced from four vineyards between10 and 11 years old and were vinified separately. Natural malolactic fermentation took place in second- and third- fill oak for 10 months before blending and bottling took place.

This is a cultivar that benefits from organic viticulture partly because of its inherent earthiness. Elgin minerality complements, but these characteristics are balanced by the berry fruit on the nose, and a a juicy freshness. Tannins are integrated, and the whole offers medium-bodied well-balanced enjoyment, along with that purity that is usually discernible in organic wines.

Another plus is that fact organic wines contain little, if any, sulphur, a chemical which affects a number of winelovers – particularly senior consumers - adversely.

This pinot noir will make a fine companion to a variety of winter warmers,

including, of course any mushroom dish where the earthiness of both will complement nicely.

It sells for R250 from cellar door and some wine outlets.

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