Category Archives: Food

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.

Exploring heaven and earth in Hermanus

Carla van der Merwe tells of her adventure at the official launch of the Hermanus Wine Route.

Hermanus will soon be filled with teenagers and tourists seeking sunshine and a good time. But this coastal town is not just a whale trail and offers more to visitors this summer. The now officially launched Hermanus Wine Route is packed to the brim with vinous adventures.

The launch of the Hermanus Wine Route took place at Creation Wines on Thursday, 1 December where a few new members were welcomed to the region bringing the total number of wine farms to fifteen. The evening included a tasting of wines from the different farms on the route as divided into four categories; Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Red Blends. Each category was introduced by a Hermanus Wine Route winemaker who broadly defined the varietal and style of the valley. The four categories were also paired with canapés made from local produce by Season Restaurant in Hermanus.

Bartho Eksteen
 from Hermanuspietersfontein (and recent Cape Winemakers Guild inductee) introduced Sauvignon blanc and made the bold statement that South African consumers drink Sauvignon blanc too young and that “we don’t have to force Sauvignon blanc down the throats of consumers in the first year, it should be left to age”. Many of the Hermanus Wine Route producers share Bartho’s sentiments and release their Sauvignon blanc’s later.

Jessica Saurwein, assistant winemaker at Bouchard Finlayson had the following say about Pinot noir; “Pinot noir is the most fickle of grapes that flourishes in a cooler climate with the correct terroir, both of which we have here”.

The task of talking about Chardonnay fell on Kevin Grant from Ataraxia, who recently placed in the top ten Chardonnay’s in South Africa in Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report. Kevin stated that Chardonnay is; “the queen of all white varietals and the most expensive wines in the world are made from Chardonnay grapes”. He further commented on the change in Chardonnay winemaking style in recent years, saying that “consumers prefer the lighter style of Chardonnay due to Chardonnay plantings moving to the coast where this style is best suited”.

Creation Wines’ winemaker JC Martin spoke about the region’s Red Blends and the use of Rhone cultivars to produce these wines in Hermanus Wine Route wines. He continued by saying that the Rhone cultivars, especially Shiraz, has flourished in the coastal climate. This is not hard to believe as the Hermanus Wine Route R320 charity blend consists of predominantly Shiraz.

In addition to the official launch of the Hermanus Wine Route, the evening also saw the launch of the Hermanus Wine Route R320 charity blend. The blend is made from grapes donated by eleven producers from the valley; Southern Right, Bouchard Finlayson, La Vierge, Newton Johnson, Sumaridge, Spookfontein, Ataraxia, Creation, Mount Babylon and Domaine des Dieux and Whalehaven. Hermanuspietersfontein donated funds towards the production of the wine.

The Hermanus Wine Route R320 blend is made from Syrah (73%), Malbec (9%), Pinotage (9%) and Merlot (9%) and is available at R100 per bottle at a number of local stores and restaurants in Hermanus (see below for a complete list of stockists). The proceeds from the sale of the wine will be used for social upliftment of the Hermanus community and the Hermanus Wine Route aims to raise between R150- and R300 thousand by the end of February 2012.

On Friday, 2 December a few members of the media and I were treated to a tour of the Hermanus Wine Route with local wine enthusiast and tour operator Percy as part of his tailor-made Percy Tours packages. Percy Tours specialise in organising completely individualised tours (and transfers) of Hermanus, Cape Town and Western Cape regions, with a fleet of luxury VW minibuses (and Cars) with Chauffeur Tour Guides on board. Each luxury minibus is able to transport up to nine persons per minibus, which you will have exclusively to yourselves, therefore allowing you loads of space to spread out in comfort while on tour with Percy Tours. For more information on what Percy offers visit his website at www.percytours.com.

We visited six wine farms on our tour that included Hermanuspietersfontein, Southern Right, Hamilton Russel Vineyards, Bouchard Finlayson, Newton Johnson and La Vierge. Our personalised tour started off with a scenic drive to the top of Hamilton Russell Vineyards where we were treated to a breathtaking view of Hermanus and a pair of Blue Cranes feeding on the indigenous fynbos vegetation.

Next we headed off to Bouchard Finlayson where Peter Finlayson conducted a tasting of his multi-award winning wines. Peter even opened a bottle of his 1991 (his first vintage) Blanc de Mer for us to taste and compare to the latest release 2011 vintage. Both wines are Riesling driven and it was amazing to see the evolution of flavours that the wine had undertaken over the past twenty years. The 2011 was fresh, zesty with a dominant fruit and floral character whereas the 1991 has settled into the secondary characteristics associated with an aged white, peas and vegetation were dominant.

Our next stop was a brunch at La Vierge where winemaker Marc van Halderen entertained us with his cheeky humour and equally cheeky wines. After lunch we headed to Newton Johnson where we enjoyed a tasting of their newly released 2008 Full Stop Rock paired with the Sao Tome DV chocolate.

When our tour ended I collected my bags from Sumaridge where I had the fortunate pleasure of spending the night on Thursday. The incredible view and African inspired decor is well worth the visit as the guest house has five bedrooms and can sleep ten people. The staff (and rescued animals) were very welcoming and I even got a send off from Daisy the donkey when I left.

I had an amazing time exploring all that the Hermanus Wine Route has to offer and would recommend a visit to all wine enthusiasts. If you’d like to find out more about the wines and wine farms on the route please visit www.hermanuswineroute.com.

The fifteen wine farms that make up the Hermanus Wine Route are; Ashbourne, Ataraxia, Bouchard Finlayson, Creation, Domaine des Dieux, Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Hermanuspietersfontein, Jakob’s Vineyards, La Vierge, Mount Babylon, Newton Johnson, Southern Right, Spookfontein, Sumaridge and Whalehaven.

To view more pictures from my trip, please click here.

The Hermanus Wine Route R320 blend can be purchased from the following stockists:

Shops: Wine Village (call 028 316 3988 or email winevillage@hermanus.co.za), Hermanus Liquors (call 028 312 3660 or email hmsliqstore@hotmail.com) and Wine & Company (call 028 313 2047 or email wineandco@whalemail.co.za).

Restaurants: Season (call 028 316 2854), Burgundy (call 028 312 2800 or emailinfo@burgundyrestaurant.co.za), Fabios (call 028 313 0532 or email fablen@mweb.co.za) and Harbour Rock (call 028 3122920).

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

Best of Wine Tourism Tour

On Saturday (27 August), I had the opportunity to join the Great Wine Capitals Global Network bus for a tour of the South African winelands with a group of bloggers to help in the evaluation of five wine farms that have entered the Best of Wine Tourism 2012 awards in various categories.

The initial motivation to offer the Best of Tours (or farm trips) to Best of Wine Tourism Awards entrants was twofold: firstly, to reach a different audience as opposed to traditional media in order to create awareness of the Best of and Great Wine Capitals; secondly, to alert wineries to the existence of this initiative, and to the value and promotional opportunities it offers, not only through possibly winning a category, but also the extended exposure via social media.

The initiative to include the opinions of bloggers, tour operators and general consumers in the evaluating of the various estates and their offerings was an initiative of Wines of South Africa (WOSA).

This was the second year that bloggers were included and they fulfilled a dual role of evaluation and advertising as most of the bloggers that were invited to partake over the past three weekends (there may be a fourth) are also very active on Twitter.

According to Andre Morgenthal there was a combined audience of around 12 000 Twitter followers spread over the three Saturday’s (not including re-tweets). This resulted in a captive audience and a measurable value to the promotion of the awards. The majority of the followers that make out the Twitter audience are consumers who view the industry ‘tweeple’ as opinion leaders and value their comments.

Our bus was one of two that was touring the winelands on Saturday, 27 August. Each of the buses took a different route and the route I was on was ‘home’ territory for me in Somerset West.

Our first stop was the iconic Waterkloof Estate perched on the edge of a mountain overlooking False Bay. It is no wonder that this breath-taking building has entered the Architecture and Landscapes category (along with Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices and two other categories as well).

We tasted five wines at Waterkloof (the usual tasting experience includes six wines for R30) and were mesmerized by the view from inside the current tasting room (we were informed that the tasting room and restaurant would soon be split into two different floors in the building).

The five wines which I tasted (we each chose different wines) were:

Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc 2010(their Flagship)
Circumstance Viognier 2010
Circumstance Chardonnay 2008
Circumstance Cape Coral 2010 (a Blanc de Noir made from Mourvedre)
Circumstance Syrah 2008

Waterkloof offers a selection of tour options which include a walking and lunch tour, a cellar and biodynamic tour or a horse riding and lunch tour. These choices definitely put them high on the list of competitors for the Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences category as these options are not (to my knowledge) widely available in the region.

Waterkloof follows biodynamic farming principles and this was wonderfully demonstrated by the sheep I saw grazing in the vineyards before we left. Waterkloof’s minimalistic approach to winemaking also helps to express the terroir in their wines.

Our next stop was Vergelegen where there is a lot of new development going on as they are busy building a brand new Wine Tasting Centre. The stand in tasting room is being shared with the library and gift shop.

We elected to partake in the weekend’s special tasting in honour of the camellia’s on the Estate which are currently in full bloom and at their best. The Camellia Tasting (at R30) included four wines, each matched to its camellia equivalent.

The four wines were as follows:

Vergelegen Chardonnay
Vergelegen White
Vergelegen Shiraz Reserve 2007
Vergelegen Red 2004

Vergelegen is certainly a great contender for the Architecture and Landscapes category as the old oak trees (over 350 years old) give an unrivalled ambience to the estate. Vergelegen also entered three other categories including that of Art and Culture.

Our third stop for the day was Rust en Vrede. As this was my first visit to the estate I was surprised at the layout of the wine tasting room which was inside the cellar. I asked our hostess if the tasting room operated during harvest time to which she replied yes. After quizzing her on the logistics of the matter she replied that yes they do sometimes get sprayed with water and wine and that it is extremely chaotic but they all make it work.

We decided to go for their shorter wine tasting option which included four wines for R40.

The four wines we tried were:

Rust en Vrede Merlot 2010
Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Rust en Vrede Shiraz 2008
Rust en Vrede Estate 2008

Rust en Vrede has entered both the Wine Tourism Services and Restaurant categories.

Our lunch stop was at Spier where we dinned at their Eight Restaurant. I elected to have the free-range chicken pie which was accompanied by fresh veggies and home-made pastry. We did not have a wine tasting but rather chose to have some wine with our meal; we tried two of Spier’s premium wines:

Spier Private Collection Chenin Blanc 2009
Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2009

After feeling quite satisfied with our meal at Spier (who have entered in five categories including Accommodation and Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices) we headed out to our last stop The House of J.C. Le Roux.

The tasting at J.C. Le Roux was a very interesting match of five meringues / marshmallows paired with five of their sparkling wines. This appealed to me as I have a bit of a sweet tooth and have always been quite fond of their ‘bubbles’.

The pairing was done as follows:

J.C. Le Roux Pinot Noir MCC 2009 with a plain meringue
J.C. Le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé MCC 2007 with a strawberry marshmallow
J.C. Le Roux La Valleé MCC NV with a coffee meringue
J.C. Le Roux Le Domaine with a coconut marshmallow
J.C. Le Roux La Fleurette with a chocolate/espresso meringue

I also learned something new from our very energetic attendant, if you spot a bottle of J.C. Le Roux in a store and it has a ribbon on the label it means it is carbonated wine and if it does not bear this trait it is a wine produced in the classic Méthod Cap Classique style. J.C. Le Roux entered only one category Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences.

For more information on the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards please visit www.greatwinecapitals.com and to have a look at some pictures from our day out please click here.

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

South African Chapter for the Commanderie de Bordeaux

On Wednesday, 24 August at a black tie event hosted by La Motte Estate, the 79th Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux was established. The event started of with a wine tasting of 22 Bordeaux Wines that were brought to South Africa as a gift from the Grand Counseil du Vin de Bordeaux. The tasting was conducted in the barrel cellar at La Motte to celebrate the establishment of the South African Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux.

The South African Chapter is the third chapter to be established in Africa. There are roughly 5000 representatives for the Commanderie de Bordeaux around the world including the 32 South Africa Commandeurs who were inducted at the event.

The induction list of Dame Commandeurs and Commandeurs included the following people:

1. Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg
2. Tinus van Niekerk
3. Etienne le Riche
4. Johan Malan
5. Christine Rudman
6. Razvan Macici
7. Tariro Masayati
8. Debbie Thompson
9. Johan Joubert
10. Neil Ellis
11. Fiona McDonald
12. André van Rensburg
13. Pieter Ferreira
14. Anthony Hamilton-Russel
15. Anne Cointreau
16. Hein Koegelenberg
17. Duimpie Bayly
18. Johan Krige
19. Marilyn Cooper
20. Jean Engelbrecht
21. Jan Coetzee
22. Caroline Rillema
23. Danie de Wet
24. Ray Edwards
25. Jeanri-Tine van Zyl
26. Fortunato Mazzone
27. Carrie Adams
28. Melvyn Minnaar
29. Susan Huxter
30. Neil Pendock

And the two Conseillers d’Honneur:

31. Günter Brözel
32. Emmanuel Cruse

The Induction of the First Commandeurs was followed by an elegant five course meal prepared by Pierneef á La Motte chef Chris Erasmus. The dishes were perfectly matched to the imported wines.

Five of the 22 Bordeaux wines we tasted were:

1. Château Latour-Martillac 2006 – Graves
2. Clos De l’Oratoire 2004 – Grand Crus Saint-Émilion
3. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2000 – Second Growth Pauillac
4. Château Figeac 2001 – Premier Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion
5. Château Rieussec 2003 – Premier Cru Classé Sauternes

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

Blaauwklippen Reserve range, Brandy and Aperitif launch

Carla van der Merwe tells of her unusual cooking class at the launch of Blaauwklippen’s latest editions at Cooks Playground in Cape Town.

Upon arrival at Cooks Playground yesterday, I noticed several cooking stations and immediately realized that it would be a very unconventional wine launch.

We were greeted by Rolf Zietvogel, Managing Director and Winemaker at Blaauwklippen Vineyards, who introduced the four wines we would taste and explained them briefly stating that he did not like to prescribe what we should taste or smell in the wine as wine is a subjective matter.

The two red wines offered on tasting are part of the Blaauwklippen Reserve Collection which is produced only when the fruit quality is optimum and availability of the range will be vintage dependent.

The first of the wines we tasted was the Blaauwklippen Shiraz Reserve 2009, made from the youngest vines on the estate which were planted to reflect ‘the ultimate expression of their terroir’. The Shiraz was fermented in both French and Romanian Oak Casks and matured for 18 months in French Oak barrels.

The second reserve collection wine we tasted was the Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Reserve 2009, made from the oldest vineyards on the estate (and also the oldest block of Zinfandel in South Africa, planted in 1982). The Zinfandel was made in the same style as the Shiraz with both Romanian and French oak fermentation and maturation. Both of these wines are available for R275 from the estate’s tasting room.

Next up on our tasting list was the unusual Blaauwklippen Before and After Aperitif, which was originally made as Christmas gifts for colleges, family and close friends in 2009. The wine is an interesting twist on a fortified red noble late harvest and as its original name ‘Christmas Liquor’ suggests, it conjures up a fruitcake taste profile. The Aperitif is elegantly packaged and available for R195 from the estate.

The last wine on our tasting list was the Blaauwklippen Potstilled 8 year old Brandy, which was distilled in an old copper potstill which was originally used at Oude Molen in Stellenbosch. The brandy is made from Colombard, Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc grapes and is similarly packaged to the Aperitif and can be purchased at the cellar door for R260.

After our tasting we were all handed Blaauwklippen aprons and divided into groups. This was where the real fun began as we were ushered towards the cooking stands by Jenny Morris. I was lucky enough to have been assigned a fairly simple dish to prepare as part of our starters.

The menu was expertly designed to utilize both the Brandy and Aperitif as ingredients for the various dishes prepared. The dish I helped prepare was the Apple and brandy Tarte Tatin which was fairly simple to make and only required some skill when it came to flambéing the apples with brandy.

My team members included Nicolette Waterford, Dusan Jelic, Rolf Zietvogel and Elona Nel from Wineland Magazine. Fortunately enough my team mates were better acquainted with a kitchen than I am and could assist me when it came to the point where fire was involved.

The day was truly an experience and epitomized Rolf’s philosophy that ‘wine warrants interaction’. For more information on Blaauwklippen’s wines please visit their website at www.blaauwklippen.com and for more information on Cooks Playground please visit Jenny Morris’ website at www.jennymorris.co.za.

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 www.breedekloof.com.

This article was first published 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.

Experiencing the ‘Valley of the Wagon Makers’

Wellington is home to a rich history steeped in culture, agriculture and breathtaking natural beauty. With the second oldest co-operative cellar in the country and a farm that boasts eight generations of farmers, this hidden gem offers a lot to be discovered. Though rainy weather does not necessarily make for the best conditions to be outside, it certainly did not put a damper on our adventure into the Bontebok Ridge Reserve. We were greeted at the cosy outdoor venue with hospitality, KWV 1975 ‘long neck’ Muscadel and a breakfast crafted from Wellington produce.

Bontebok Ridge Reserve owner Tom Turner is proud of his status as the first contractual nature reserve in South Africa which as he explains was assigned to them purely for the preservation of the indigenous Renosterveld. Bontebok Ridge is part of the Renosterveld Conservancy and Tom and his wife Katja are proud to be part of preserving the remaining four percent of Renosterveld left in the world.

The Bontebok Ridge Reserve encompasses 560ha in total of which 40ha is undervine and a further 500ha is home to several Quagga’s who are part of the Quagga breeding project, as well as Zebra, Eland, Bontebok, Fish Eagles and the recently acquired Pinotage loving Wild Boars.

Our next stop took to us to the Bosman Family Vineyards where we were treated with a wine tasting of their Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2009 and the 2010 Rosé 30 in their cellar of which the oldest part dates back 250 years.

Bosman Family Vineyards winemaker Corlea Fourie led the tasting and explained that the Optenhorst Chenin Blanc was made from old vines which date back to 1952. The Rosé 30 as Corlea explained, is an extremely interesting wine made from 30 cultivars grown in the Bosman Family’s vine nursery in the Upper Hemel and Aarde Valley. The vine nursery is 80ha at present but due to its dynamic character it is increasing in size every year as the area around it is cleared for further planting.

After Corlea concluded the tasting of the first two wines, Frank Meaker took the floor and presented a tasting of two vintages of the Bovlei Merlot, the 2006 and the 2007. Frank’s passion for Merlot is clearly evident in his statement, “merlot is my favourite grape, a lot of people don’t have a passion for merlot but that’s their problem”.

Once we had completed our wine tasting we were free to roam about the cellar and there I discovered an old barrel marked with the initials H.L. Bosman and 1801 in white. After enquiring about the authenticity of the barrel I was informed by Bosman Family Vineyards’ Neil Büchner that the barrel was indeed authentic and was used by third generation winemaker Hermanus Lambertus Bosman to produce wine for Oude Plantasie.

Next up on our agenda was lunch in recently renovated manor house on the estate which Petrus and Carla Bosman had only moved into a month before. There we were treated to dishes prepared by Chef Johan van Schalkwyk who cooks at The Stonekitchen on neighbouring Dunstone wine estate.

The meal consisted of a starter soup made from freshly picked Porcini mushrooms (Johan informed us that he had gone picking before we arrived), Eland and Wild boar meat from Bontebok Ridge and mozzarella made from buffalo milk from Buffalo Ridge to name but a few. For a list of some of the dishes (and a few recipes) please click here.

On our way back to the Cape Grace Hotel (where we started our journey with breakfast pastries) we were all satisfied and happy at having experienced ‘the cradle of the South African wine industry’ for ourselves thanks to showcook.com.

For more information on the wine estates mentioned please visit www.bosmanwines.com and www.bovlei.co.za and for further information on the Stonekitchen please email stonekitchen@dunstone.co.za.

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

Pierneef a La Motte’s Chris Erasmus dishes at the Taste of Cape Town

Chris Erasmus chats about what inspired his menu at the Taste of Cape Town

During a quick break at the extremely popular Pierneef a La Motte stand at the festival, the surprisingly relaxed Executive Chef outlined his selection of dishes:

Cape bokkom salad, dried apricots, almonds and wild garlic dressing
Chris Erasmus explained the interesting combination of the above flavours as a play on the traditional South African favourite snoek and apricot jam dish. Erasmus noted that the South African pallet favours the combination of either sweet and salt or sweet and sour tastes.

Lacquered pickled, smoked lamb’s rib, pickled tongue, dried pear dumplings and verjuice poached pear
Erasmus detailed this dish as a very old traditional recipe of which there are only traces of people still preparing it. The dish is similar to the Namibian Kliprib where two heated rocks are placed above and below the lamb rib to facilitate the cooking thereof.

Milk tart milkshake
Erasmus’s description of this dish was simply that it was a fun twist to a traditional recipe.

On his inspiration for the above dishes (and his menu at the restaurant) Erasmus said that he chooses to focus on simpler food which is organic, seasonal and a step back to more traditional European cuisine. Erasmus cited the 1658 book “The sensible cook” as part of the inspiration for his style of cooking. Erasmus also deems new vintages of La Motte wines as the key ingredient to his culinary creations.

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.