Over the years, I have really come to enjoy and appreciate local wines that are on the sweeter side of the scale.

There is such a variety of types and styles available and a wide price spectrum is covered.

I don’t think that these wines get nearly enough exposure and many of them are really good value for money.

Happily, I’ve just had the pleasure of enjoying one of these – the Stellenbosch Hills Muscat de Hambourg, it was 30 years ago that the winery first produced the wine, South Africa’s only contemporary version bottled as a single cultivar.

Developed in Germany, Muscat de Hambourg is a cultivar derived from a cross of Muscat d’Alexandrie and Frankenthal. Stellenbosch Hills makes the wine in a Jerepigo style, which means fortifying the unfermented grape juice with wine spirit.


Stellenbosch Hills Muscat de Hambourg 2018 styled Hi Res

The Stellenbosch Hills Muscat de Hambourg 2018 has a nose of berries with a slight touch of candy-sweetness and a mild spiciness on the palate. Its sweet notes are moderate and don’t overshadow the wine’s other taste nuances.

With only17% alcohol, my second glass of the Muscat presented no challenge to my sobriety…A pleasant drink and good value for money.

The 2018 Muscat de Hambourg sells for R65/bottle







A truly exciting and important restaurant guide has just been published.

Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery is edited by Jill Dupleix and Giles Coren and is a guide to the truly good restaurants of the world. (Coren you may remember as co-presenter of the television series, Amazing Hotels).

One of the things that separates this guide from any other I have seen is its ethos: “Of all the qualities that distinguish a truly outstanding restaurant or food experience, perhaps truth love and care are the most important.”

“A passion for food that is so good that it will never be forgotten, an environment that makes that food taste even better, and a care for the ground or water from which that food is derived and the community in which it is served. These then are the true food heroes of the world.”

The book lists 400 restaurants from Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean, Middle East, USA & Canada. Africa is not included this time, but a separate volume on our continent is in the pipeline, I believe.

The listings in Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery are well written and not over-wordy. Each entry includes a brief description of the kind of restaurant, who owns it or is its chef, when its open, its address and contact details and a price guide.

But the three sections in each listing: What they say; Signature dishes; and What we say, make for fascinating reading.

One needn’t be a global traveller to enjoy reading this restaurant guide, it is a great read on its own account. But if you are headed to foreign climes and subscribe to the ethical eating mantra (we all should), Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery will be an important and enjoyable companion to inform your dining choices.

It is a magnificent and highly commendable work.

Bon Appetit.


Nederburg Wines invites you to its annual Harvest at Dusk Festival at the farm in Paarl, on Saturday, 16 February 2019. Participate in the fun of picking and stomping grapes, learn from the experts about how the wine grape harvest is progressing, and kick back and relax while feasting on freshly-prepared fare matched with award-winning wines, while listening to the sweet sounds of popular South African musician, Mathew Gold.

A wide selection of Nederburg wines will be available for purchase, as will soft drinks, mineral waters, coffees and teas.

Guests are advised to wear hats, sunscreen, comfortable clothing and shoes.

Time: 16:00 for 16:30 till late
Cost: R460 per person (including Nederburg sparkling wine, the harvest experience, musical entertainment, the harvest feast and service charge)
R220 per child aged 6 to 12 (including a soft drink, juice or water on arrival, the harvest experience, musical entertainment, the harvest feast and service charge)
Free for those aged 6 and under.

Booking is essential. For reservations, go to http://www.webtickets.co.za.

Website: http://www.nederburg.co.za

NEWS: Excelsior launches the chardonnay Norah was not given time to make

Christine Norah-Ann de Wet of Excelsior wine estate was born during the great Laingsburg floods of 1981. Her life had a dramatic start, as she and her mother were trapped for a while in hospital on the far side of the Kogmanskloof river. Conditions were primitive, as they survived on a cup of water a day, minimal food rations and a stub of candle for light.

This unprecedented start to life probably contributed to Norah-Anne’s fighting spirit: She never backed down from a challenge and grew up to became a top academic and athletic achiever. Sadly, nothing could have prepared her for the battle against cancer, yet she faced this hurdle courageously and fought to the very end. She often spoke about making a barrel-aged Chardonnay and so Peter de Wet produced this limited edition in honour of Norah-Ann, the strongest person, he stated, who the family has ever known.

Excelsior Norah Chardonnay 2018 is beautifully fresh and frisky, lent a little complexity from nine months in used French oak. Aromas of citrus and oyster shell greet the nose, followed by mouthfuls of delicious stone fruit flavours on the palate, complemented by hints of vanilla from the barrel-ageing. Just 1 000 bottles were produced, and this limited edition enjoys moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%.

We think that Norah-Ann would have approved. Expect to pay around R199.


Alto Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, is celebrating summer with a series of ‘Friday Sunset Rouge Evenings’. It is a red affair with live entertainment, warm summer laughter and a view like no other.

Entry is free of charge; a complimentary glass of Alto Cabernet Rosé 2018 will be served on arrival. Opening Time: Every Friday from 17h00 to 20h00 – weather permitted.

As Alto wines will be on sale, guests are not permitted to bring their own alcohol. Cheese platters are available at R140.00 per platter; bookings secure your spot.

To reserve your space call 021 881 8334 or e-mail info@alto.co.za / Iboraine@distell.co.za.




Academy Award and Emmy Award winning actress, Sally Field has just brought out her autobiography, In Pieces.

As an avid reader of the genre and an admirer of this hugely talented actress, I was particularly eager to get “into it”.

From the first couple of pages I soon realised that it was not going to be your average, or even above average, showbiz memoir.

I have longed for more introspection from many of the autobiographies I have read in recent times, this one is exceptionally generous in this regard.

With superb literary skills, authenticity and much introspection, Field has delivered a regal work of autobiography that is deep, powerful and inspiring.

As one would expect, one enjoys reading much about her acting career and some of her defining roles. But this book, is much more than a chronological journey through a remarkable career.

The off-screen Sally Field life revealed was full of challenges.

She had a lonely childhood, one that included years of sexual abuse from her step-father.
“Instead of trying to verbalize what I was feeling, even to myself, I’d shove them away. I would pack them up and send those parts of me out the window to stay safe with the tree, while only one piece remained, muted and dulled, though dutifully performing the required tasks.”

Many of her lifelong relationships were deep and complicated, particularly that with her mother. The depiction of the climax of the latter is powerful stuff and brought a tear or two to my eyes.

Sally Field’s story and the eloquent, charming and graceful way she has told it, elevate In Pieces into the higher echelons of the Hollywood autobiography genre. It is four hundred pages long and I would have happily read four hundred more.

Brava Ms Field and thank you for allowing us in.


A bottle of Backsberg in my wine collection has been eyeing me for some time and I happily responded to it last night.

Already a fan of their Pumphouse Shiraz, this one was the Backsberg Klein Babylons Toren 2015 and I decided not to wait until dinner to try it but to rather pair it with a tranquil late afternoon ‘stoep-sit’.

Made by Alicia Rechner, it is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Backsberg Klein Babylons Toren Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

As I removed its cork, an aroma of blackcurrants with some gentle spice was in the air and my first sip revealed some dark berries with a hint of sweetness (maybe from the oak?). Gorgeously full-bodied, it drank beautifully and a second glass soon got filled.

Two lovely big reds from Backsberg….time for me to visit the Estate again and explore their range for more goodies.


We spent a recent weekend at a house on Clanwilliam Dam, it was one of those glorious braai-, beer- and wine-filled times.

The question is often asked, What is the right temperature to serve a wine? Well, it was 38 C + for most of the weekend, reaching 42 C on Sunday!

One of the wines I took with me was a new red produced for False Bay Vineyards by Waterkloof, the Revenant Red 2017. Immediately on our arrival we put it into the fridge, to have later with our dinner braai.

When the meat landed on our plates, I went to the fridge, poured myself enough wine to taste and then took the bottle to the table and poured a glass for each of us. I took a bite of the braaid steak and then a sip of the Revenant….it had reached close to room temperature already, a warm room at that. We all put a small ice cube in our glasses (I don’t normally like doing that normally, ‘maar ‘n baie warm boer maak ‘n plan’) and we sipped a little faster than we usually would, before the wine rapidly heated up again!

Enough with the scene-setting, on to the Revenant. (It gets this name from the term describing one returned from death or long absence.}

Revenant Red 2017


Many of the great, long-lived Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignons of the 1950s, 60s and 70s conspired over a secret ingredient. Cinsault was hidden within the wines without mention on the label.

The Revenant Red is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cinsault. That first sip was gorgeous, this wine is certainly full of flavour – dark berries in particular. I loved its elegance and finish. A delicious red and at R100 a bottle, a pocket-kind wine.

We all enjoyed the Revenant. I think I’ll have to get myself another bottle and drink it again on a more moderately-temperatured day.

EVENT: Stellenbosch 2019 Harvest Parade

On Saturday, February 2 Stellenbosch farm locals take to the streets accompanied by musicians and a festive entourage for the celebration and blessing of this year’s grape harvest.

The Harvest Parade sets off from the Van der Stel Sports Grounds at 09:00 and leads down Alexander Street to the Town Hall where the harvest blessing will take place. From there, it returns along Merriman Avenue to conclude in the delightful Agri-worker Crafts and Family Day.

Expect tractors decorated with grand flair; the lively sounds of trumpets and drums and tambourines; glittering costumes; and, plenty of smiling faces as the happy convoy makes its way through the leafy streets of the City of Oaks to usher in the hustle-and-bustle of harvest.

The Crafts and Family Day takes place at the Town Hall, from around 10:00 to 15:00. Entrance is free of charge. Handmade homeware, including preserves and bakes, will be available for purchase from farmstalls. Well-known TV personality, comedian and performer Laetitia Solomons will be the MC.
For more information visit http://www.wineroute.co.za; or phone 021 886 8275


‘tis the season for enjoying summer-friendly wines and recently sampled two from Excelsior Wine Estate in Robertson, a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc.

The Excelsior Chardonnay 2018 was recently awarded a Gold at the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards and it certainly lives up to that accolade.

excelsior chardonnay

I find some chardonnays a little ‘harsh’ and happily this one didn’t fall into that category. It offered some stone fruit and citrus on the nose and was soft and fresh on the palate. At about R60 a bottle, it is amazing value for money.

excelsior sauvignon blanc

Likewise, the Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc 2018 is not a pocket challenger (R50 a bottle). Sauvi’s too can be a little ‘aggressive’ but I found this wine comparatively gentle. It had a pleasant fruity aroma and this fruitiness continued on the palate. A nice drink….

Two very decent whites and I look forward to tasting some of their reds as well….