BEST BUBBLES RISE TO THE TOP

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) In the wine (in the wine) Make me happy (make me happy) Make me feel fine (make me feel fine)

 Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles) Make me warm all over With a feeling that I’m gonna Love you till the end of time

Don Ho (1967)

That song was a hit 50 years ago, and we continue to enjoy and celebrate those tiny bubbles today.

Yesterday, we were wined and dined at the 12 Apostles Hotel on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard – the occasion was the awarding of the prizes in the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge.

Each of the four courses we enjoyed was paired with an appropriate MCC: Chicken or Egg with an MCC Brut; Yellowfin Tuna with an MCC Rose; Lamb Roast with an MCC Blanc de Blanc; and the Apple Custard with a Museum Class MCC. .

This annual event is hosted by the MCC Association in association with Portugal-based cork company Amorim, the world’s leading supplier of cork wine stoppers and has done much to elevate the status and popularity of South African bubbly.

In 2016, MCC sold 4,4m bottles in South Africa, a staggering growth of 24.5% compared to 2015 or nearly one million bottles. .

The major awards at the 2017 Amorim Cap Classique Challenge went to:

Best Producer, Overall Wine:

Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Simonsig Cuveģe Royale

Best Brut:

Domaine Des Dieux Claudia Brut MCC 2011

Best Rosé:

Woolworths Simonsig Pinot Noir Rosé 2015

Best Blanc de Blanc:

Simonsig’s Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012

Best Museum Class:

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2005

And the Frans Malan Legacy Award went to Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck

 

 

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MUCH MORE TO DE KRANS THAN PORT-STYLE WINES

DK Chenin Blanc Free Run

 

Calitzdorp is known far and wide for its excellent port-style wines and De Krans Wine Cellars are one of its shining lights.

Over the past 30 years, there has never been a time when I haven’t had some De Krans port-style wines in my collection.

But in recent times winemaker Louis van der Riet has been producing some really decent table wines as well. I recently tasted one of these, the De Krans ‘Free- Run’ Chenin Blanc 2016.

‘Free-Run’ is the name for the juice (or wine) is drained without pressure from a mass of freshly crushed grapes.

The De Krans Free-Run Chenin Blanc speaks loudly of tropical fruits both on the nose and on the palate. It is a really lovely every day wine, well-rounded and fresh. I realise the cold of a Cape winter is not the best time to enjoy the wine, but drinking it had me eager for summer and it wasn’t a challenge to empty the bottle.

The wine sells for about R60 a bottle.

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BACK TO MY ROUTES

Back in the 70s, when the pioneering Stellenbosch Wine Route was established, I was living in Johannesburg. So when, on my annual visit to Cape Town, a friend asked: Would you like to go on the Wine Route? I had to ask what a wine route was!

We decided to start my first trip to the “Wine Route” by heading for Lanzerac Wine Estate.

Looking back, my early forays into wine routes were more misses than hits! Why was that, you ask? The inexperience of a much younger me meant that far too much wine was consumed at each estate making driving afterwards a no no!

My recall of that first visit was enjoying the range of Lanzerac wines to the limit, reaching ‘cannot drive’ status and sensibly staying for lunch before heading home…

Fast forward to the present. I have two bottles of the Estate’s on my desk waiting to be opened…a maiden release of a Chenin Blanc and their first Syrah in over a decade.

 

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Lunch at home the other day was cheese on home-made bread and although the weather here in Cape Town was very cold, wet and windy, we opened the Lanzerac Chenin Blanc 2016. I found it full of stone fruit flavours with a hint of something tropical and gentle on the palate. Taking a bite of my cheese sandwich and a sip of the Chenin, made for a very well-balanced lunch and an enjoyable one, to boot.

I decided to taste the Lanzerac Syrah 2015 on its own. It offered the pepper and spiciness that makes me a syrah/shiraz kind of guy and I enjoyed a second glass of it. Cellarmaster Wynand Lategan says that it took some time to perfect the wanted style. I think the wait was worth it!

LZ Premium Range Syrah 2015

Time for me to sample the other Lanzerac wines in situ I think…..

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The Lanzerac Chenin Blanc 2016 sells for R85 a bottle and the Lanzerac Syrah 2015 for R140 a bottle from the Estate’s Tasting Room.

 

 

MORE HARTENBERG FOR ME THAN BEFORE

I have enjoyed running many a Trail Run on Hartenberg Estate in Stellenbosch and have also visited to taste some wine, of course.

Those tasting visits were limited to catching up with the latest vintages of two of my favourite shirazes, the Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz and their The Stork Shiraz and their wonderful The Mackenzie blend as well. But until recently, that was the extent of my Hartenberg imbibing experience.

Then along came a bottle of Hartenberg Merlot 2015 for me to try. 2015 was an industry-recognised good season, so the Merlot should be a goodie….

Hartenberg Merlot NV

It was!

I found it full-bodied and fruity with some spice, with a nose of dark berries and some plum. Beautifully balanced and smooth, it was already drinking well for a youngish wine. I finished a glassful and enjoyed some more with the Spaghetti Bolognaise we had for supper. The Spag Bol and the Hartenberg Merlot enjoyed each other’s company!

The Hartenberg Cabs are next on my ‘to be tasted soon’ list…

The Hartenberg Merlot 2015 is available directly from the cellar at R175 per bottle

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A PRIVILEGED TREAT

Occasionally, the stars are aligned and something delectable is on offer and one is included in a select few.

The occasion was a visit to Jacobsdal a family-owned winery in Stellenbosch, to taste their range and for lunch. The privilege? Jacobsdal is not open to the general public…..

Jacobsdal Logo

 

Our gracious hosts, the Dumas family has been making wine on the estate for three generations with present owner Cornelis Dumas being helped by his son Hannes.

Cornelis and Hannes Dumas

Cornelis and Hannes Dumas eyeing their handcrafted wine

Jacobsdal only makes two wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon and (of course!) a Pinotage. They hand-make their wines and only use natural yeasts.

We tasted eight vintages of Jacobsdal Pinotage from their 1997 to the 2014, which is their current vintage in bottles, and six vintages of Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvignon from 2001 to the 2014, its current bottled vintage.

It was rewarding to smell and taste the often subtle differences across the vintages and it would be easy to give detail impressions of each. But, as I am not sure that all the wines we tasted are still available for purchase, I’ll give a general impression of only two of them, if I may? To check on the availability of the Jacobsdal vintages, I suggest you visit: https://www.vinoteque.co.za/collections/jacobsdal

Jacobsdal started out only making Pinotage before adding Cabernet Sauvignon, so let me start with the Jacobsdal Pinotage 2013.

 

Jacobsdal Pinotage PackShot

The Jacobsdal Pinotage 2013 offers dark berries and dark plums on the nose and a hint of spice. It comes across on the lightish side, but is well balanced and elegant. I tasted it on its own and could see it doing well with venison or a meaty stew.  A very drinkable and enjoyable Pinotage.

Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvingon Packshot

The Jacobsdal Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is full boded and generous with fruit flavours, it gives dark berries on the nose and a hint of vanilla from light oaking. It too would go well with a meaty stew.

Two really well made wines, generous on the palate with or without food.

We tasted the Jacobsdal range on its own and then paired with lunch.

Talking about lunch…..our invitation was to Jacobsdal Wine Estate, so the balance of this post must necessarily be the wine. But the lunch came to us from Executive Chef Jean Delport from Somerset-West restaurant Benguela on Main.

The plating, the food, the creativity and the pairing made for one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had in this country.

If this is an example of what to expect from Chef Delport, I’ll definitely be adding a visit to Benguela on Main to my 2017 bucket list.

Too often one visits wine estates that exudes far too little of a sense of being a farm – the genuine warmth, passion and generosity that makes a farm visit so special. Jacobsdal did more than just tick those boxes!!

Baie dankie Dumas gesin!

 

WINE/FOOD PAIRING – DON’T JUMP THE GUN!

The other night my wife asked me if I’d like some sausages for supper, I was keen.

Based on the anticipation of enjoying some meat, I decided to open a bottle of Baleia Erhard Pinot Noir 2014. I poured a glass of it to enjoy before supper.

Baleia Erhard Pinot Noir 2014

Baleia wines come from near Riversdale in the Klein Karoo and the only other of their wines I had tried before was their Tempranillo, which I had really enjoyed.

The Erhard Pinot Noir is a lighter-bodied red offering some gentle dark berries and some earthy spiciness. I found it enjoyable  and just a tad unsophisticated and it boded well to drink with the sausages, except……

We didn’t have sausages for supper, my wife had instead made French Toast (also known as eggy bread) with a sprinkling of cinnamon on it!

What is a wine-lover to do? His glass is filled with a very drinkable red wine? Answer, he takes a tentative sip, swallows and then pulls a hideous face reflecting a major conflict of tastes!!!!!! French Toast and Pinot Noir, a pairing never ever to be repeated.

But, I will happily again enjoy another bottle of Baleia Erhard Pinot Noir on its own, or with chicken or a light meat…….that pairing tastes better already!

 

 

MOST EVERYBODY REMEMBERS THEIR FIRST TIME

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The iconic main building at Dewetshof Estate in Robertson


I remember the first time I tasted chardonnay.

It was in the mid-1980s and at the time, I was living in Johannesburg. A visiting family member brought me a bottle up from Cape Town.

Of course, the chardonnay was from the pioneering Dewetshof Estate in Robertson-what else?

What are my memories of that first taste?

Unfortunately I can’t share with you my nose/palate memory of it, I remember downing so much of it, and enjoying very last drop, but 500ml is a lot of wine on an empty stomach………

Fast forward a few decades – I recently attended a luncheon to launch Dewetshof’s Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017 held La Tệte Restaurant in Cape Town’s super-trendy Bree Street.

DWH Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2017

 

Now La Tệte has quickly earned a reputation for delivering its Head to Tail philosophy and also offering diners wondrous offal dishes…..

On arrival, my brain clicked in and the inappropriateness of pairing offal with chardonnay….so what dishes would we be served?

I tried a sip of the Limestone Hill before our first course was served. It is unwooded and offered some citrus and nuttiness.

Not being that knowledgeable on matters food and wine pairing, I found it amazing how different the wine tasted with each dish.

We started with a pork dish, which for me (apologies for my lack of sophisticated descriptive words) made the wine taste very very chardonnayish.

Our main was a gloriously crusty and juicy Hake Pie which made the Limestone Hill Chardonnay taste sweeter than it did on its own or with the pork.

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A truly versatile wine from the pioneers of South African Chardonnay, one that works well on its own or with food.

 

FOOTNOTE

 

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Dear La Tệte, it won’t be offaly long before you see me again!

 

A TASTE IS BUT THE START….

 

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Helderberg Mountains

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Last night I attended my first Taste the Helderberg. Billed as the annual sip-and-snack institution of warm company, levity and gastronomic delight, and it certainly delivered on that promise.

This annual event, held at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset-West, brings together a pairing of Helderberg wineries and eateries and provides for a delightful sensory experience in jovial company.

The place was abuzz with people having a fun time and it was not difficult to catch the vive.

Striking a comfortable balance between sipping and savouring and with the maxim ‘you can’t have it all, I made a very moderate dip into my tasting from the Helderberg.

With 20 wineries and 8 eateries, making a choice wasn’t easy.

For wine, I looked to sip something I hadn’t tried before….Kings Kloof Syrah 2014 proved to be a fine cold climate syrah and a good reason to put a visit to the winery on my list of to do’s.

To eat, a Lamb Rogan Josh from Mistress of Spices and Indian Foods won it by a nose from something from Ghenwa’s Lebanese Cooking Club. The curry was really, really good. My craving for a fattoush dripping in garlic will have to wait, I guess.

My first Taste the Helderberg will certainly lead to some exploring of the area and I look forward to next year’s event.

 

A CAP CLASSIQUE WITH DEMI-SEC’S APPEAL

Isn’t it always the right time to enjoy a good bubbly?

I chose the aftermath of watching this year’s Comrades Marathon for 12 Hours as a reason to pop a cork in celebration

Simonsig  have led the way with their first Cap Classique in 1971, Kaapse Vonkel. Now they have added a semi-sweet Demi-Sec to the range of Kaapse Vonkel Brut and, Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé.

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Category: Standard Packshot.

Their maiden Kaapse Vonkel Demi-Sec 2015 is made from the classic Champagne varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and delivers a bubbly that is fruity, floral and semi-sweet.

I have only being tasting Brut bubblies in recent times and had totally forgotten just how enjoyable a Demi-Sec is. We enjoyed every drop and the bottle was soon and happily emptied…..

So congratulations Bongmusa Mthembu and Camille Herron on your magnificent victories on Sunday and thank you for ending my 37th Comrades Marathon on TV with bubbly pleasure.

The Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Demi-Sec has a recommended retail price of R135-00. Why not give it a try.

To your health, cheers!

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HISTORIC ANNOUNCEMENT FOR CAPE TOWN AND FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN WINE INDUSTRY

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If ever an appropriate venue was chosen from which to make a significant wine industry announcement, the famous Company’s Garden in the middle of Cape Town is it. For it was there in the 1650s that Jan van Riebeek’s Hendrik Boom, planted the first grape vines and in so doing gave birth to what has become, the South African wine industry

At 16h00 on Thursday 1 June 2017, it was revealed that a new Wine of Origin District had been approved by the South African Wine and Spirit Board – Wine of Origin Cape Town.

This historic move has united the wine wards of Constantia, Durbanville, Hout Bay and Philadelphia under the inclusive name, Wine of Origin Cape Town. This name now covers a total of 30 wineries including amongst others: Groot Constantia, Durbanville Hills, Klein Constantia, Nitida, Meerendal, Buitenverwachting and Cape Point Vineyards.

Wine of Origin Cape Town will certainly deliver benefits not only to the wines of its district, but to the South African wine industry as a whole. Coupled with this is the huge advantage of linking with Cape Town’s global reputation.

I raise my glass of Cape Town wine and offer every wish for a sparkling future to all involved with Wine of Origin Cape Town.

Cheers!