UNDER APPRECIATED?

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

https://www.stellenbosch-hills.co.za/

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TRUTH, LOVE & CLEAN CUTLERY

 

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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.

SALLY FIELD IN PIECES

 

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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.

NOTHING SMALL ABOUT THIS RED

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.

DEFINITELY NOT SERVED AT ROOM TEMPERATURE

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.

SOME SUMMER FRIENDLY WINES FROM EXCELSIOR

‘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.

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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….

 

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SUMMER DRINKING FROM WINDFALL WINES

I love tasting wines from wineries new to me and have just tried two from  Windfall Wine Farm in Robertson – their Sauvignon Blanc and their Grenache Rosé.

Both are easy drinking and would be perfect with the summer ‘alfresco’ lifestyle we are enjoying.

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The Windfall Sauvignon Blanc 2018 has the minerality I enjoy in a sauvi and a softening taste of tropical fruit. The wine has garnered two recent awards – an award for Excellent Wine at the Price at the 2018 Gold Wine Awards and is listed on The Sommeliers Selection for 2018 as a Fresh and Crunchy White.

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Their Grenache Rosé 2018 is gently sweet and offers some berries and melon on the palate. Slightly lower in alcohol (10.5%) making for enjoyable unchallenging tipple. We drank it with some pesto pasta and the pairing was lovely.

 

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THANKS FOR THE WINE, DARLING

Amongst the wines I tried over the holiday season was a bottle from Darling Cellars, their Pyjama Bush Rosé 2018.

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Its label refers to it as Pyjama Bush Sauvignon Blanc/Grenache, but it is definitely a rosé wine. An award-winning one at that – Gold at Rose Rocks 2018, and Double Gold at Vitis Vinifera 2018.

It is a vibrant pink colour, and is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (99%) and Grenache (1%). Its nose is a proverbial fruit salad with an aroma of berries and cherries and a gorgeous fruity aftertaste that lingers on . Two glasses down and I was ready for more…

The Darling Pyjama Bush Rosé is a hugely gluggable wine and is my ‘taste of Summer 2018/19”. Cheers!

EVENT: Stellenbosch Street Soirees

With its Stellenbosch Street Soirees, Stellies shares its vibrant street culture, enviable lifestyle and cosmopolitan charm in the heart of town – all blended with cool tunes, sizzling street food and superb wines.

It all goes down in one central place, Drostdy Street.

Each Soiree features a different selection of cellars and street fare caterers and entry costs R150 per person which gets you a glass and 12 wine tasting tokens. You can also buy wine to take away. Food dishes are priced individually by vendors. These communal parties are from 18h00 till 20h00 and children are welcome.

The next two Stellenbosch Soirees are on: Wednesday 16 & Wednesday 30 January

For more information contact Tel: 021 886 4310, visit http://www.wineroute.co.za

EVENT: Franschhoek Summer Wines

Celebrate the height of Summer in style in your elegantly white attire at the ultimate garden party. Sip on seasonal inspired wines showcased by the Franschhoek Vignerons, at this year’s Franschhoek Summer Wines, which takes place at the spectacular Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards on Saturday, 2 February (12pm to 5pm).

Tickets, cost R280 per person, and pre-booking via http://www.webtickets.co.za is essential, as tickets are limited. The cost includes entry, a complimentary tasting glass, tastings of the wines on show as well as discount voucher to be used for the purchase of any show wines on the day.

For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or email info@franschhoek.org.za.