Category Archives: Festivals

2011: The more things change

Looking back at the past year it is evident that the South African wine industry has seen many changes, controversies and closures but it is important for us to look ahead to the positives that the New Year brings. As stated by Deepak Chopra “All great changes are preceded by chaos”.

This year was not short on controversy, with the most notable of which being the Coffee / Caffeine Pinotage debacle and media onslaught after the University of Pretoria found high levels of caffeine in a few of the coffee Pinotage wines tested in their laboratory. The information was published as a letter in the Sunday Times on the 7th of August. After the publication everyone from WOSA to Harry HaddonNeil PendockOrielle Berry and Cathy Marston commented on the findings.

Another controversial topic that ignited debate in the wine industry was the release of a 96 page report titled “Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries” by an international company called Human Rights Watch. Once again the online media was abuzz with commentary from WOSAVinpro and Fairtrade SA.

The Backsberg Vino Varsity Challenge saw its third year with popular favourites Stellenbosch University failing to impress the judges and losing their undefeated two year champion status to arch rivals UCT. Also in its third year, the Nedbank Green Wine Awards saw a significant decline in the number of entries from the previous two years. The decline could be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the competition’s new home at Getaway Magazine or the fact that it remains a niche market.

2011 was a bumper year for wine festivals with many established festivals standing strong despite a decline in interest (such as WineX Cape Town) and others joining the party for the first time such as the debut Gugulethu Wine Festival. Though there was not a lot of interest from the producers (with less than twenty in attendance), those that did choose to attend were greeted by many eager locals keen to learn more about wine. Every wine journalist and blogger that could attend did and Neil Pendock and Cathy Marston (amongst many) thoroughly enjoyed the festival.

Though there seemed to be a wine festival every weekend, some managed to attract more attention than others. The second Swartland Revolution proved that the ‘cult’ status of the wines from this region is not for nothing. The weekend saw 250 people of a great diversity from across South Africa (and beyond) converge on the small town of Riebeek Kasteel with only one thing on their minds: wine. The well organised and punctual festival was well worth the money as the tutored tastings added value to what could’ve ended up being only a party.

With the world still trying to recover from the economic recession that shows no sign of letting up any time soon, the wine industry has had to adapt to the situation it finds itself in. The industry has subsequently seen a lot of change in the past year. From wineries finding new owners such as Klein Constantia and Mulderbosch to wineries going under the hammer likeQuoin Rock, there has been quite a bit of shuffling around.

Even the two biggest South African Wine Auctions decided to take on new directions. The 37th Nederburg Auction saw a fresh new look and feel with a comprehensive online strategy that stretched across Social Media platforms and a new website. The Cape Winemakers Guild also announced this year that they have introduced new selection criteria to encourage creativity and diversity amongst the wines from their members. This year’s public tasting already showcased some of the guild members’ more unique offerings which indicated that the members had already started experimenting before the announcement was made. This year the CWG Auction also boasted a record turn over of R5 286 700 (up by R1.4 million year on year) indicating that the updated criteria has stimulated some renewed interest.

2011 also saw the last printed publication of WINE Magazine in September and with many other printed publications going the way of the dodo, it is great to know that at least there is an online South African Wine Magazine in the form of Michael Oliver’s Crush!Crush! was also recently shortlisted as one of six finalists in the “Food and Drink Magazine of the Year” category of the 2011 Digital Magazine Awards. Crush! is also the only South African publication to be nominated.

WINE.CO.ZA saw a few big changes this year, with the move to our new offices in April where our entire team and warehouse is housed under one roof. Judy Brower and Kevin Kidson took a three month sabbatical shortly after the move. The team were left to their own devices but managed hold down the fort till Kevin and Judy’s return from Europe.

This year also saw the addition of two new members to the team. Mart-Mari du Preez joined the online shop in February and proved to be not only great at sales and logistics (our online wine shop continues to grow) but also a budding writer/blogger and wine enthusiast. 

Carla van der Merwe took over as WineNews Editor in April and Social Media maven in August, proving she can multi-task like the best of them. WINE.CO.ZA managed to reach several milestones with our Social Media this year with Dusan Jelic managing to get first 1000 and then 2000 Twitter followers while Carla brought the total up to 3000 in November. Our newsletter subscriptions also increased by roughly 1000 new subscribers this year.

WINE.CO.ZA strives to be constantly ahead of trends and embraces new technology, having released free QR-codes for South African wines in September and spotlight focus areas for our Global Partners and Partners in November.

Since the launch of our new website development option in July 2010 our entrepid developer, Garth Hapgood-Strickland, has developed 40 new websites for our clients. Some of the wineries that the sites were designed for include BadsbergBramptonDeWaal Wines,ExcelsiorKen ForresterKleine DrakenLourensfordMiddelvleiRaats Family WinesRaka WinesRidgeback WinesRooiberg WinesRuderaRustenberg WinesSteenberg Vineyards and Waterstone.

Here’s to a festive season filled with good wine, great conversation and amazing memories!

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.


Sweet wine and the best soup in Breedekloof

Carla van der Merwe ventured off the beaten track last weekend to visit the Breedekloof Valley, as they presented their annual ‘Soetes and Soup’ festival. The structure of the event was fairly simple with the cost of a wine pass being only R15. The pass included a ‘Soetes and Soup’ branded enamel mug and coupons for a free portion of soup at each of the twelve participating wine estates.

I decided to take two willing adventurers, Francois Joubert (winemaker at Asara Wine Estate and Hotel) and Alexandra McFarlane (assistant to Mulderbosch Vineyards’ winemaker), along to sample the Breedekloof Valley’s offerings and to help determine the best cup of soup. With a bit of a winter chill in the air we set about our mission, arriving at our first port of call a little after 10am.

Our first stop was Du Toitskloof Wine Cellar where we purchased our passes and promptly presented our mugs for a sampling of their vegetable soup. The Vegetable soup consisted of cauliflower, carrots and a few other winter veggies with a decent helping of cream added for good measure. Alex commented that the soup was “scrumptious” and Francois added that it was “creamy with a good consistency”. The wine pairing at Du Toitskloof was their 2010 Hanepoot Jerepigo.

Next on our route was Badsberg Wine Cellar where we were greeted by extremely friendly staff who exchanged our dirty mugs with fresh new mugs filled with Mushroom and Port soup. Both Alex and Francois complained that the soup was too salty but as a big fan of salt I found the soup just salty enough. The wine pairing with the Port based soup was the Badsberg Vintage Port 2005.

Further up the same road we continued until we found Slanghoek Cellar who generously filled our cups with Biltong and Blue cheese soup which went down very well, with Francois praising the soup as “great, with perfect consistency and clearly defined flavours of both the biltong and blue cheese”. There was also a bread basket available with toasted baguette slices. The wine pairing they offered was their Slanghoek Crème de Chenin 2009.

Our next stop was Opstal Estate where the ambient music by “Kaleidoskoop” urged us to take our seats and stay for a while and enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley. We leisurely sipped on our Roasted red pepper and Tomato soup which had an acquired taste and was a bit of a change from the three previous cream based offerings. There was unfortunately no definitive wine pairing offered to us but I can definitely recommend their Opstal Hanepoot 2008.

Our last stop of the day was at Deetlefs Estate where we had to wait a bit for a helping of soup as it was midday already and most of the festival goers were gearing up for lunch time and the rugby match. The Vegetable and Meat soup was well worth the wait though as it reminded both Francois and me of the way our mothers used to make it at home. The wine pairing was also not as clearly indicated as some of the previous farms but their as yet unreleased Deetlefs Soet Hanepoot 2009 was a nice winter warmer.

After much deliberation and tallying the scores (with some bonus points added here and there for overall experience) we managed to pick our favourite soup of the day. Having won by a landslide I’m proud to announce that the team at Du Toitskloof produced the winning recipe with their creamy vegetable soup.

If you missed the ‘Soetes and Soup’ festival this time round, then make sure you try and visit the Breedekloof Valley in October for their adventurous Outdoor and Wine festival. For more information visit their website at

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

Wine tasting options

To many people think the term wine tasting relates to the activity of visiting a wine farm (or a few farms) over a weekend and sitting in the tasting room with friends while sampling the Estates offerings.

While this is an enjoyable way to spend a day in the winelands, one is often limited by time and the distances between farms. This often means that most winelands visitors often choose a selection of farms in one geographic area to visit.

Though this allows one more leisurely time, most people don’t take the time to visit areas that are harder to come by and often off the beaten track.

There are a few ways that I have come across that allows a person the freedom to taste wines from multiple farms without needing to drive too far or waste a lot of time. For ease of explanation I have broken the options down below.

Option 1: Attend a regional festival

Regional festivals allow visitors the opportunity to drive to one central point and taste wines from the entire region’s farms thereby providing ease of navigation and more time to visitors who prefer to move at a more leisurely pace. This also makes it easier for wine tasters to identify similarities in wines from the same region. The only down side to regional festivals is that due to popularity it does often become a bit crowded. Popular festivals which are coming up in the next couple of months are:

Franschhoek Bastille Festival 16-17 July
Breedekloof Soetes and Soup Festival 22 – 23 July
Stellenbosch Wine Festival and Wine Week 23 – 31 July
Robertson Slow Festival in August
Swartland Revolution in November

Option 2: Attend a public tasting

Public tastings are great due to the fact that they offer a wide selection of wines from different regions for the eager wine taster to try in one location. This makes it possible for people to try wines which they would not otherwise have been able to try as the sheer distances between most regions makes them difficult to visit. Public tastings are often linked to either competitions or other events such as auctions.

The fact that the public tastings are linked to such prestigious events means that the wines on offer have been put through a rigorous selection panel and are well worth the taste.

The two public tastings which I had the fortunate pleasure of attending recently were the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show public tastings, where I was able to taste the high scoring and extremely rare 1933 KWV White Jerepigo, and last night’s Nederburg Pre Auction public tasting where I was also fortunate enough to try some rare stand out wines.

The three wines which took my fancy at last night’s event were:

Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Bellevue Pinotage 2002
Le Bonheur Prima 2001

If you have missed both of these public tastings, don’t worry as they are annual events which you’d be able to visit next year. Just keep an eye out for the announcements as these tastings are very popular and tickets sell fast. If you are however keen to attend a public tasting you are still able to attend the Nederburg Pre Auction Tasting in Johannesburg on the 27th of July. The Top 100 SA wines consumer festival public tastings are also around the corner with the date set as 21 July for the Johannesburg festival.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

Having a wacky good weekend in Robertson

My first visit to the Wacky Wine Weekend festival in Robertson led to a greater appreciation for supporting local produce and also showed me some warm hospitality. I started my journey to Robertson in the early morning of Thursday, 2 June 2011. The first stop on my Robertson itinerary was a visit to Rooiberg Cellar’s where I had a candid conversation with Cellar Master Andre van Dyk who fondly reflected on how the festival had evolved over the past eight years and how it had aided in the change in perception of Robertson wine.

Van Dyk continued that Robertson was always seen as a “bulk wine producer”, but that the decision to market Robertson “as a valley and no longer as individual producers” has helped to highlight the quality wines that the area produces. Van Dyk also adds that “the quality of wine in Robertson has improved through the use of viticulturalists” and that “classification is done in the vineyards, by an external panel who decides on the classes for each block and they are managed according to their classification”.

My next stop took me to Rietvallei Estate which boasts six generations of winemakers and the oldest block of Red Muscadel in South Africa (the block was planted in 1908). I had the chance to talk to general manager and winemaker Kobus Burger and marketing manager Colyn Truter. Burger said that he was looking forward “to a more relaxed and wine focused festival” and that there would be “a relaxed vibe with food and wine at Rietvallei”.

With regards to what made their ‘wacky’ experience different to that offered by neighbouring farms, was their four shot golf challenge which allowed members of the public to try their luck at putting into the vineyards. Truter mused that the golf challenge had become so popular (it has been offered since the first Wacky Wine Festival) that people now bring their own clubs.

When asked to comment on the Wacky Wine festivities in the valley, Truter adds that “from a marketing perspective the Robertson valley producers have always wanted each farm to offer something different to consumers to attract different crowds”.

My last stop for Thursday was the Graham Beck master class tasting where new winemaker Pierre de Klerk conducted the tasting. The informal and interactive tasting involved smelling a number of glasses that contained real world examples of the flavours most commonly found in wine. The glasses contained, amongst others, spices, coffee, butter, toast, fynbos, chocolate, various fruit and vegetables and wood chips.

On Saturday I set off to De Wetshof where I attended their Voyage of discovery Chardonnay tasting where Johann and Peter de Wet showcased their various Chardonnay’s alongside two of the best French examples made in similar styles.

The tasting was conducted in the De Wetshof barrel cellar where the brothers explained that the climate and soil was always taken in to account in the production of their wines. The limestone found naturally in the valley contributed to the strong minerality in their unwooded Chardonnay’s the Bon Vallon 2009 and the Limestone Hill 2010 which kicked off the tasting. The two afore mentioned unwooded Chardonnay’s were compared to their French counterpart the Domaine La’roche Saint Martin 2007 from Chablis.

The lightly wooded Finesse / Lesca Chardonnay 2009 and the newly released Site Chardonnay 2009 were next. The Site Chardonnay is made from 28 year old vines and boasts the GPS co-ordinates on the label.

The final two Chardonnay’s were De Wetshof’s flagship Bateleur 2007 and the Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007 from Burgundy. Both wines were made in a similar manner were similar soil types and climates and were perfect examples of how terroir influences wine.

After my educational morning I headed off to Excelsior where their ‘My Own Creation’ wine stand allowed patron’s to blend, bottle, cork and label a bottle of wine.

My last stop before heading home was the local Dros which (just like the Spur) boasts two wine lists, one which offers national and another which lists only Robertson wines to keep it local.

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

Tasting Cape Town

I was fortunate enough to attend the Taste of Cape Town festival this weekend and as always it was quite the treat.

I took the guided sensory tour through the Johnnie Walker Whisky Theatre where I learnt that whisky tasting is much the same as wine tasting (except you need to be careful when sniffing the whisky so as not to inhale).

I was also able to taste the newly released Bernini Blush before getting down to the serious business of food and wine tasting.

My first stop on the gastronomic route was at Pierneef a La Motte’s stand where I tried both the Cape Bokkom Salad and the Smoked Lamb’s Rib which I paired with the La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Next followed the Mustard marinated Beef Fillet at Planet Restaurant which was paired with Hermanuspietersfontein’s Klein Bartho 2007 Bordeaux Blend.

Savour Restaurant’s stand followed where I tried both the Norwegian Salmon and Slow-roasted Springbok Loin. I paired the salmon dish with Pieter Falke’s Blanc de Noir and the springbok with the newly released Mont Rochelle Shiraz 2006.

I then went on to try some more exotic dishes from Taj Cape Town (Spicy Chicken Fingers), Simply Asia (Duck Spring Rolls) and Wang Thai (Butternut Chicken). I paired the lot with De Wetshof’s Finesse / Lesca Chardonnay 2009.

All in all it was a wonderful experience which I would most definitely recommend you visit next year.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

Cheese, wine, traffic jams and a cow

I love the South African Cheese Festival and have been attending it every year for the past four years. It is one of the highlights on my calendar.

However this year with its 10th anniversary having relocated to new a venue, something seemed to be lacking. Whether it was the fact that we left a bit late and couldn’t find Sandringham on our GPS or the fact that the map provided on their website gave incorrect GPS coordinates or the fact that the first sign post for the Cheese Festival was placed 500 meters away from the turn off to Sandringham or even the fact that no-one was using the R101 (a less congested and less complicated route) to reach the venue due to no signs. It could be any of the above mentioned reasons which put a slight damper on my day, especially after I had to spend over an hour in my car before even reaching a parking area and then had to walk 30 minutes to reach the venue itself.

Once I overcame the hurdle of reaching the venue and was inside, the joy of South African cheese and wine came over me and I set about finding new tastes to experience. Among my samplings were, Boland Kelder’s new eco-friendly Flutterby range of wines. The Flutterby wines are packaged in the same polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle used by Backsberg in the production of their Tread Lightly range. The Flutterby range was released over Easter weekend and is not yet featured on their site. It is light and fruity as well as consumer and environmentally friendly.

One of the most innovative ideas I saw on the day was the stall manned by the Animal Welfare Society. The stall was located at the entrance to the children’s area and they were selling cow and dog shaped balloons for R30 each and the entire proceeds went to the AWS. What a great idea for an even greater cause. Though the new venue has a few growing pains to still address, I’m sure that this festival will continue to develop and might just blow your socks off.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.