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Myrna Robins

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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

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Posted by on in Blog

 

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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Posted by on in News

 

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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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Posted by on in News

 

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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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Posted by on in Blog

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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Stellenbosch Hills has long been known for value-for-money wines, and no range proves this better than the Polkadraai - which notches up a decade of success this year. The anniversary is marked with a young rosé, vintage 2019, produced from shiraz grapes that grow in the Polkadraai district of Stellenbosch.This is where the winery’s 16 member farms are situated, in that scenic region where the terroir offers a wide spectrum of soil and climate.

 

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The new addition to the range is crisp and fresh, offering a bouquet of fruit that is followed on the palate by very accessible fruit and medium alcohol levels of 13%.

As with all labels in this light-hearted range, a percentage of money from sales of the new label go to the Polka kids Community Project through which Stellenbosch Hills contribute to education at the Vlottenburg Primary school. This is where most of the younger children of the vineyards and winery’s employees attend school.

There are not that many well-made wines retailing for less than R50 these days, but this is one of them – priced at R48 from cellar door.

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