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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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.

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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!

TASTING TULBAGH’S THEUNISKRAAL..AGAIN

Theuniskraal Cape Riesling was the ‘go to’ white wine that peppered the cheese and wine parties of my late 60s/early 70s university years. It was by far the best of the whites that were popular amongst our set.

Has it really been nearly 50 years since I last drank it? It has! (Ek vra verskoning Mnr Jordaan). Luckily the wine and I are still both doing well.

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So, confronted with a bottle of Theuniskraal Cape Riesling 2018 over the holiday period, it was with much nostalgia that I opened the bottle. It was not just memories of the wine flowing and the party atmosphere of those ‘colourful’ cheese and wine parties that caused my cheeks to flush at the memories…..but, it is safer if I focus now on the bottle of wine in front of me….sigh.

The first Theuniskraal Cape Riesling was made in 1948, so this bottle is the 70th Anniversary release.

Good everyday drinking it certainly is. Apples, citrus and some floral notes on the nose and fresh and fruity on the palate.  New memories being created.

Maybe I should get another bottle and try it with tomorrow’s fish braai!

 

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REINFORCING MY LOVE OF PETIT VERDOT

Maybe it’s a bit like liking books that are not on the best seller shelves at your local bookshop, but I really enjoy drinking a Petit Verdot wine.

Yes it is often to be found as part of a red blend, but I prefer it bottled on its own,,,,and sadly, not many wineries offer it.

So when I saw a Petit Verdot listed under KWV’s The Mentors range, my palate did a salsa in anticipation of tasting it.

Luckily I didn’t have too long to wait and I opened a bottle of KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2016 on New Year’s Eve.

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One thing immediately separates this wine from others I have tried, The Mentors Petit Verdot sources its grapes from three areas: Stellenbosch, Walker Bay and Robertson.

I poured myself a glass (a full one, what else?!), gazed momentarily at its ruby redness, and then breathed in its gorgeous complex aroma of dark cherries, black olives and a sweet spiciness.

Palate salsa time, I took a sip and sighed with pleasure. Full of fruit, rich, well-balanced and simply delicious. It may be lowish in alcohol (13.75%) but it certainly punches above its weight with flavour and elegance.

Like Oliver Twist I heard myself thinking: “Please Sir, I want some more” and I did, my first glassful was immediately followed by a second one.

KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2016, one of my favourite wines of 2018.

 

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WOW BENGUELA COVE, WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO YEARS HAS MADE!

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When my wife and I visited Benguela Cove in November 2016, its cellar and other buildings were under construction nearing completion. At the time, Winemaker Johann Fourie painted a picture of the Estate’s exciting plans and they certainly sounded impressive.

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Fast forward to December 2018 when we paid our second visit. From the moment we turned off the R43, we were impressed by the Estate’s spectacular rolling vineyards and their sea-side location.
Our yellow, hard-hatted experience and hearing about the future has been replaced by the breath-taking site of the main buildings and the adjacent winery. On entering, we liked our first impression – modern and spacious with understated elegance. There are gorgeous works of art on display, thankfully not too many, but enough to beautifully enhance the interior ambience.

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We sat in the wine tasting area and I tried the few of the Benguela Cove range of wines with which I was not already familiar. I particularly liked their 2016 Benguela Cove Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, melon and floral tones and a note of maritime influence befitting its location. Had I not needed to do some driving later, I would have happily had a couple of glasses of it then and there.

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Instead I enjoyed a glass of it with the light lunch – battered fish – we had at the Moody Lagoon restaurant, which I would rename the Good Moody Lagoon! Sea view, fresh fish, good wine made for a delicious three way pairing indeed.

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Now here’s a “must do”, highly recommended – after lunch we took an hour long Pontoon Cruise on the lagoon aboard the Estate’s Lady Bonnie. One has the option to buy some wine to drink on the cruise, I took mine along already consumed. The pontoon heads towards the sandbank that separates the lagoon from the sea……and beaches itself on it! Because I am of that age, when we jumped out into the shallow waters and onto the whiter than white sand, I imagined I was part of the Normandy landing of World War Two and careered along the sand…unarmed though and to gain a view of the sea. One is allowed one’s fantasies, isn’t one?

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After the cruise we headed for Pirate Golf, which is a beautifully equipped outdoor kiddies play area, with Adventure Golf and an eatery for kids called Blackbeard’s Diner.

Johann Fourie, I challenge you to a pairing of adventure golf and wine tasting!

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Afterwards, we peeped in at the, not yet opened when we visited but open now, Tea Terrace, overlooking the lagoon – what else! As per its name, teas are served, pastries and wine. The place is elegant and tastefully decorated. We’ll certainly try it on our next visit.

Benguela Cove certainly offers a diverse range of experiences, we had a blast there!

WELL-BESTOWED THREE TIMES OVER

I recently visited Welegegund Heritage Wines in Wellington and spent some time with Friedrich Kűhne, its winemaker and vineyard manager and Emy Mathews its sales and marketing manager.

One drives up an oak-lined cul-de-sac and is soon surrounded by a cluster of heritage building and some beautiful scenery. Central amongst these buildings is the recently restored and refurbished Manor House, which dates back to 1820. It is now a beautiful family home. The views from it are spectacular.

The other buildings are being restored and will house a tasting room and some guest suites.

In the genial company of Emy and Friedrich, I got to introduce myself to four of Welgegund’s wines:

The Welgegund Heritage Wines Chenin Blanc 2017, made from 44-year old dryland bush vines, is beautifully fruit forward with stone fruit, some citrus and a floral touch on the aroma. It should go very well with sea food or with lighter meats. I am a chenin fan and really enjoyed this one.

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Welgegund Heritage Wines Providence 2015 is a shiraz-dominant red blend (60%) with cinsault (20%) and carignan (10%). It offers dark berries and that hint of pepperiness that I like about shiraz.

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Cinsault has in recent times become one of my favourite grapes and the Welgegund Heritage Wines Cinsault 2017 is another beautiful example of just why. A single vineyard special release, full of dark berries on the nose and dark fruit on the palate. A really lovely, gentle, fruit forward wine.

 

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I have tasted very few grenache noirs but enjoyed the Welgegund Heritage Wines Grenache Noir 2017, it had an almost rich, winter desserty flavour about it.

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Welgegund means ‘well-bestowed’ and with their fine range of wines, ever improving built environment and gorgeous natural environment, the name certainly is appropriate.

 

For more information about Welgegund Heritage Wines phone: 021 873 2123

 

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