Avontuur launches new vintages of Vintner’s range

Yesterday I attended the informal ‘family-style’ launch of Avontuur’s latest additions.

We were greeted with a glass of the Avontuur Blanc de Blanc MCC NV (which a little bird told me is made predominantly from the 2006 vintage). This wine is in short supply as only 2 000 bottles are produced a year and most of it is sold either through the tasting room or restaurant.

The wine tasting ‘tweet-up’ was led by new winemaker Jan van Rooyen and the Vintner’s range is made up (mostly) by wines from the current 2011 vintage. Jan told of how he has become accustomed to his new wine region and its cooler climate and that the change in style for the wines was done to reflect the terroir.

Jan explains this by saying that there’s “more fruit acidity at a cooler climate which helps a wine to age much longer” and he continues that “wine without acid is like food without salt”.

Jan also explained that the complete range is also dressed up in a brand new silver ‘outfit’ with the capsule’s and logo’s carrying the same horse themed image.

The Vintners Range includes a White (Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay blend), a Blend (Chardonnay and Pinot noir blend) and a Red (Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blend). The White and Blend are both from the 2011 vintage and the Red is from the 2007 vintage (the last vintage to be bottle with a cork).

The range makes a perfect companion to the rest of Avontuur’s stable and over delivers on value for money.

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

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Tips on blogging

On Wednesday, 17 August I attended the Food and Wine bloggers club meeting for the first time at Den Anker Restaurant in the V&A Waterfront.

The format of the evening was simple, two speakers (one on wine and the other on food) told of their experiences as bloggers and in between their musings we were treated to a lovely food and wine pairing.

The two speakers at the August event were Matt Alison from www.imnojamieoliver.com and Nikki Dumas from www.winestyle.biz (not to be confused with the magazine by the same name).

Nikki started off by sharing some tips on blogging which she deemed the ’20 commandments’. Some of her tips were as follows:

1. Write something useful
2. Write something passionately
3. Write something that elicits a response
4. Write something newsworthy
5. Write something humorous

Matt talked about how he got involved in urban farming and was so inspirational that I almost attempted planting a garden when I got home (the paving put a stop my initiative though).

I also saw my competitive side come out in full force when present with the challenge of the evening. The person who generated the most tweets would walk away with a case of the wine from our pairing. Needless to say I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my mixed case of Jordan wines.

The food and wine pairing at Den Anker with six of Jordan’s wines was phenomenal. The menu was as follows:

2009 Jordan Riesling paired with seared and sesame-coated tuna
2009 Jordan Chardonnay paired with truffle enhanced scrambled egg (served in half an egg shell)
2010 Jordan Sauvignon Blanc with a beer poached, katifi-wrapped prawn, draped in a saffron beurre blanc
2008 Jordan Merlot with butter-tender peppered fillet
2008 Syrah with herbed venison with sauce bordelaise

To view some pictures from the event please click here.

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

2011, a difficult but rewarding vintage

With the start of the European vintage coming closer (some wineries in Champagne already started to harvest on Friday, the earliest in 189 years), it is only fitting that we reflect on our own year-to-date.

The 2011 harvest in South Africa was difficult to say the least, with heat waves damaging Chardonnay grapes and affecting Cabernet Sauvignon yields. But it shows great promise none the less as was seen at this year’s SA Young Wine Show held on Friday in Lamberts Bay.

The SA Young Wine Show is an established tradition in South Africa and all of the 145 wineries that competed in this year’s event vied for the prestigious General Smuts trophy (which is enormous and probably weighs more than me!).

The competition was tough with 1911 wines competing for the title where only 65 gold medals were awarded along with 17 trophies, that were impressively displayed at Muisbosskerm. This year’s hosts the West Coast Wine Route put their best dish forward with an impressive spread.

Our finger-licking (literally) meal consisted of crayfish, fish (every way you can think of smoked, baked and fried), paella and a range of other Afrikaner delicacies.

When the time came to announce the winner of the coveted trophy, the mood in the tent was one of elation as all of us were happily satisfied with our local cuisine and wine. Some of the wines on offer included the Fryers Cove Bamboes Bay 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Sir Lamberts Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010and the Bell Post 2007 Ruby Cabernet.

When Riebeek Cellar’s Wooded Viognier walked away with old ‘Jannie’ the entire tent was clapping, laughing and joining in the their joy.

To see the full results of the competition please click here.

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

25 Women and 150 wines

What do you get when you put 25 wine loving women in a room with over a hundred wines?

The pre-judging tasting for a revolutionary new female driven wine competition of course. The task was simple, we needed to eliminate one wine per flight (of which there were five) to reach a grand total of 120 wines for the 100 women 100 wines competition which is taking place on the 27th and 28th of August in Cape Town.

Easier said than done as each of the 25 women present had different backgrounds in wine and obviously different preferences too. We also had to set our snobbery aside and vote on the wines from a commercial perspective.

The Women’s day pre-judging forms part of the second stage in the competition and serves as the precursor to the main event where the 100 women, chosen from a cross section of the country’s demographic, will represent female intuition in their final top 100 selection. The women will be tasting the wines sighted (whereas us ‘professional wine lovers’ tasted blind) and per occasion.

As Clare Mack pointed out at our elimination tasting, the purpose of the competition is “to accelerate wine down the road of accessibility”.

Our task was no small feat (as indicated by the raised voices towards the end of the tasting) and resulted in some heated debates amongst the tables.

Once we were done we were allowed to view our favourite wines and my top selection from each of the five flights is as follows:

Sauvignon Blanc flight – De Morgenzon 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Red Blends flight – Le Bonheur Prima 2007 Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Sparkling Wines flight – JC le Roux La Fleurette NV
Cabernet Sauvignon flight – Les Coteaux 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Sweet White Wines flight – Obikwa Moscato NV

Some of the ladies also present at the event were (in no particular order):

Lauren Cohen (@laurencohen)
Maggie Mostert (@Blackdelilah)
Skye Grove (@SkyeGrove)
Ishay Govender-Ypma (@Foodandthefab)
Karen Glanfield (@kgbwine)
Sam Linsell (@drizzleanddip)

What a lovely afternoon spent with fellow women in wine.

Be sure to pop over to our Facebook page to view some of the photos.

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

Wine, women and pink drinks

With our August theme of ‘women in wine‘ in full swing, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to have a look at the wonderful women winemakers and viticulturalists that make up our beloved industry.

To name but a few, Carmen Stevens from Amani, Rolani Lotz and Karin Louw from Rhebokskloof, Bonny van Niekerk, Elize Coetzee and Anneli Viljoen from Zonnebloem and also Maria Botha and Rosa Kruger from Solms-Delta.

These are only some of the women who’ve made their careers in what was previously a male dominated industry and I take my hat off to them.

If you’re wondering what to do to celebrate the women in your life, have a look at the following events:

Women of Wines August 2011 event at Asara
Mont Rochelle serves up High Tea for Women’s Day

Or if you’re intending to stay home, I’d like to recommend the newly released Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 which I had the fortunate pleasure of tasting at the launch they held in Cape Town on Bastille Day.

The wine is incredibly expressive of the cultivar’s characteristics and is both light feminine and flirty (just like the woman in your life). This wine is available in our online wine shop at R90 a bottle and can be purchased by clicking here.

If you’re in the mood for something sweeter you can also try the sexy De Krans Pink Port or the ever seductive light and girly Waterkloof Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvèdre 2010Blanc de Noir also at R90 a bottle.

Whatever you do this Women’s Day, remember to honour the women in your life.

This article was first published as a blog post 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.

Sticky, Sweet and well Aged

I have found lately that as the winter months move on I’ve become quite fond of a glass or two of sweet wine.

Though this could (in part) be attributed to my untrained pallet and sweet tooth, I’m inclined to also mention that I have come to appreciate both the skill it takes to produce such a wine as well as their age ability.

But before I get to the wines, just a note on the matter of age. I am not ashamed to admit that I am new at being a wine editor / writer / enthusiast and that my relatively young age does not afford me much authority as yet.

I too have noticed, as both Christian Eedes and Cathy Marston have noted, that there is quite a big gap in terms of age demographics in the wine journalist landscape. I can easily count on one hand the number of writers under 30 years of age that I have met in this profession. This startling fact also makes me wonder (as Angela Lloyd mentioned) where we will be creating a platform for ‘inexperienced’ writers to get their name out, with print publications no longer being able to survive in the current economy and changing times.

Is blogging and online writing (for wine.co.za) the way of the future for young wine writers? And how important will their role in the industry become if the proposed ban on alcohol advertising takes effect?

I guess only time will tell …

Back to the topic of sweet wines. I have had the privilege in the last two months to taste the following wines (many of which outrank me in age):

The first of the ‘golden oldies’ that I’d like to make mention of is:

1933 KWV White Jeripigo, which was the oldest entry into the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show competition this year where it walked away with the Best Fortified Sweet Wine Trophy (in the Museum Class). I was fortunate enough to taste a sip of this at the Old Mutual Awards Public Tasting in June. Some comments on this was the fact that it was still very fresh for its age and many commented on the coffee colour and nuttiness of the wine.

My second opportunity to try a few sweets was when I went to visit the team at Rietvallei in Robertson. Rietvallei boasts the oldest certified muscadel vineyard in South Africa which was planted in 1908. The quarter hectare block is used to produce the Estate’s flagship 1908 Muscadel wine.

I was fortunate on my visit to be able to do a vertical tasting of the Rietvallei Red Muscadel which included the 1980, 1998 and latest 2010 vintages.

Our comments on the different vintages were:

1980 Rietvallei Red Muscadel – coffee character with some cooked and stewed fruit. This was also (in John Burger’s opinion) the best vintage at Rietvallei.

1998 Rietvallei Red Muscadel – strong cinnamon and caramel characters. The different vintages were all made with vines other than the 1908 block. The age range of the vineyards used was between 30 and 70 years old.

Late in June I was also one of the lucky guests to sample some of Norman McFarlane’s apple crumble with a glass of 1984 L’Ormarins Bukettraube Noble Late Harvest which one can (surprisingly) still purchase in a local wine merchant.

And then lastly my most recent encounter with older sweet wines was at this past Monday’s Nederburg Auction Media tasting at the Nederburg Estate in Paarl. I felt very honoured to have been invited as this was my first time at such an event.

We made our way rather quickly through the white wines before settling into the sweet wines where the stand out for me was most definitely the 1979 vintage Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur. Both the Nederburg Eminence and Edelkeur sweet wines have consistently been produced from the same vineyard blocks. This means that the spores have been given the chance to settle and happily live in the vineyard to help with forming botrytis.

1979 Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur – a note on the 1979 vintage was that many of the sweet wines made in that year lost their colour very early on (which gives me some indication of what to expect from the 1979 De Wetshof Edeloes which I’m saving for a special occasion).

Just in closing, if you have the opportunity to drive through to the Breedekloof Soetes and Soup festival this weekend do pop in at Opstal Estate where they will be conducting a vertical tasting of a few vintages of their Hannepoot.

This article was first published as a blog post 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.

La Vierge wines seduces followers at tweet-up

The Twitter chatter for the first WINE.CO.ZA and La Vierge Wines international, two countries, four cities tweet-up started days before the simultaneous intercontinental event took place on Thursday, 30 June.

The first tweets to go out were from wine.co.za’s very own Twitter account to get the participants to start a buzz on Monday, 27 June. Soon thereafter popular wine review website Real Time Wine posted a competition to their followers on their Facebook and Twitter feeds for seats to the three South African venues (which were filled up in only a few hours).

The evening started with some frustration as most of the mobile networks were experiencing loss of signal which resulted in static twitter conversations with tweets getting out long after they’d been sent or not at all. But this didn’t seem to hamper the tweeters too much as a total of 388 tweets containing the trending topic #LaViergeWines were sent as well as a total of 110 tweets mentioning La Vierge’s Twitter handle @LaViergeWines.

The four cities of Amsterdam, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town all started at the tweeting at the same time but soon it was clear that each team proffered their pace. The Cape Town team seemed to be the most active users with the top five users (calculated on amount of tweets) having been present at the Cape Town tasting (@LaViergeWines, @kungfukittypow, @StefanLuka, @winecoza and @carla_wino).

The tasting kicked off in Cape Town with the 2010 La Vierge Noir which was served with a French Onion soup topped with a cheesy crust and Johannesburg chose to enjoy theirs with duck spring rolls. The top flavour components identified in the 100% Pinot noir were rosewater, strawberries, Turkish delight and mushrooms with the most entertaining tasting tweet made by @dannyrocketer: “Pinot Noir! Like being stroked by a strawberry ghost! In the mouth.”

The next wine on the menu was the 2010 Last Temptation Riesling which showed peach, apricot and floral characters with a fresh acidity as noted by the tasters. Pretoria paired their Riesling with oysters whereas Cape Town chose to pair it with a selection of cheeses. One of the stand out tweets on the Riesling was made by @kgbwine: “Surprisingly beautiful match of blue cheese and Riesling. Brings out the melon, apricot type characteristics loooong finish”.

As the decision to switch to the next white was announced @Merlot_Girl commented on the cheeky names of the wines: “From temptation to original sin, oooh how indulgent & sexy”. The 2009 Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc was next out the bottle and lead to an interesting discussion with both Marc van Halderen (Winemaker) and Krige Visser (General Manager) on labels and the decision that La Verge made to break from convention to create a collection of wines with different personalities rather than a range with identifiable traits.

The characteristics identified in the Sauvignon blanc were asparagus, green pepper, apples and passion fruit and @samswaine summed up the winemaking / marketing team’s sense of humour perfectly with her comment: “La Vierge original sin sauvignon blanc. I’ve just smelt it, not even tasted it. Better than an orgasm!”

The last of the whites the 2010 Jezzebelle Chardonnay was also a big hit, even with those who didn’t normally enjoy Chardonnay. The reds kicked off with the 2009 La Vierge Nymphomane Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend that showed herbs and fruit and was paired at Balducci’s with Lamb barbeque-relish burgers.

When the next two wines, the 2009 La Vierge Anthelia Shiraz / Mourvedre and 2009 La Vierge Satyricon Barbera / Sangiovese / Nebbiolo were tasted the twitter chatter started to die down as the noise level in Balducci’s started to rise. The conversations were mostly centred on the nudes on the Satyricon label which refers to a Roman novel of lust and desire.

The evening ended with the last few tweets proclaiming their favourite wines and their enjoyment of the event. @Blackdelilah‘s tweet summed up the sentiments shared by all: “When visiting Hermanus visit @LaViergeWines, unpretentious, sexy, fun but most of all damn good wines”.

To view a selection of images from the intercontinental tasting please click here. For a list of the venues used for the tasting and the names of all the tasters at the tweet-up please click here.

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