PEAKING PINOTAGES HERALDED

I love a good pinotage!

Every year, thanks to the ABSA Top Ten Pinotages, my palate’s bucket list gets refreshed

Congratulations to my  winning friends (and future friends) for 2018, taste you soon:

Allée Bleue Black Series Old Vine Pinotage 2016

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2015

Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2017

Fairview Primo Pinotage 2016

Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2016

Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2015

Kanonkop Pinotage 2013

Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2016

Môreson The Widow Maker Pinotage 2015

Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2014

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A BREATH OF FRENCH FLAIR

Looking for a red to go with our dinner beef dish, I cast my eyes over my wine collection…my eyes stopped at a rather pretty label with a pink centre – the wine was the Marianne Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

French-owned, Marianne Estate is a boutique wine estate situated off the R44 between Simondium and Stellenbosch.

My wife and I run many trail runs in the area and I had noticed the sign to Marianne but had never visited it nor tasted their wines. So recently on the way back from a run, we popped in for a brief look around.

Tasting wines after an 11Km run is not the most sensible thing to do (believe me, I’ve tried), so taking a bottle home to try was our sober decision…..

So instead of erring, we took home a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

 

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Dark ruby red, its nose was of dark stone fruit with some almost eastern spice as well. To me the pink label suggested some delicacy and the first sip confirmed that. Gentle and silky, and despite its relatively low % alcohol (13.5%) for me, it is full-flavoured and sophisticated. Although it went well with our meat, I much preferred drinking it on its own and slowly….aaah, I liked it!

 

marianne

Phone: 021 875 5040

 

I SNIFFED A LINE-UP OF OAKS AT NEDERBURG

A visit to Nederburg is always a pleasure, but my most recent visit was a rather special one. We were invited to experience The Wood Diaries and to learn how different types of oak interact with cabernet sauvignon.

The tasting and blending experience was hosted by Nederburg’s red wine maker, Samuel Viljoen, in the Manor House, which is home to the Red Table Restaurant..

We were divided up into groups of five and given the task of blending cabernet sauvignons, each matured in a different kind of oak.

Samuel presented us with a line-up of four glass jars – one with pieces of American oak, the next with moderately toasted French Oak, then one with intensely toasted French oak and the fourth with Eastern European oak.

We sniffed then all before deciding on our blend which was moderate French oak dominant with equal portions of French intense and American oak.

The moderate French oak we liked for its mocha and caramel flavour, the intense for its spicy, smoky notes and for the majority of our team, some American oak to add a little sweet vanilla character.

We were delighted with our resulting blend and named it Nederburg Quintet, had our blend been deemed the best, we would have to have renamed it the Famous Five……

After the blending experience we got to taste a wide range of Nederburg’s wines. I may not be blessed with the most learned palate on the planet, but it is amazing how my taste buds lock in the more expensive wines. In this case two in particular:  The Nederburg Ingenuity, a red blend and the Nederburg Ingenuity white blend.

 

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Over the last couple of years, I have developed a liking for wines made from Italian varietals, so the Ingenuity Red Italian blend was right up my street – it’s a blend of sangiovese (49%), barbera (40%) and nebbiolo (11%). It has a gorgeous nose of dark berries and some spice and strong fruity, and spicy on the palate. I like a red wine with muscles and the Ingenuity Italian blend certainly doesn’t just lie there meekly….and its bottle-shape and labelling are very classy.

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The Ingenuity White blend is sauvignon blanc dominated (38%) with chardonnay, semillion, chenin blanc, rousanne, alvarinho, weisser riesling and gewurtztraminer making the rest of the blend. My first sip of it initially revealed the sauvi characteristics and then the softer floral and spicy tones. Because of its taste detail, it should pair very well with a spectrum of meat and poultry dishes.

Two thoughts came to mind on the way home:

There are many fine Nederburg wines I have yet to taste…

The Red Table restaurant beckoned the foodie in me.

Watch this space…

 

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A BOLD ENTRY INTO MY WINE PLEASURE MEMORY

In May this year, shortly before the sad passing of Guilio Bertrand its owner, I visited Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate in Somerset West for the annual tasting of their new releases.

Morgenster new releases event is always a special event and an enjoyable one, and 2018 was no exception.

The tasting was led, as is befitting, by cellar master, Henry Kotzé.

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Henry Kotze, Morgenster cellar master, and I discussing his wines and more

We started with the Estate’s new bubbly, Morgenster Cuvee Alessandra 2016; then a wine that really surprised me, the Morgenster Sauvignon Blanc 2018; the Morgenster Caruso 2018, the Morgenster White Reserve; the Morgenster Tosca 2015; the Morgenster Nabucco 2015; Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2014; and then the climax, the Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014.

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The Estate Reserve 2014 is a big wine with the Cabernet Sauvignon 36%, Merlot 36%, Cabernet Franc and 14% Petit Verdot. With a smorgasbord of aromas and a smooth palate with just a hint of dark berry sweetness. Unlike the other wines in the tasting which I sipped and spat, I eagerly sipped and sipped every drop of it.

Another of this year’s releases particularly stood out for me was the Sauvignon Blanc 2018.Its nose was an explosion of tropical fruits and it drank with gentle acidity and just a touch of fruity sweetness. It was very new in the bottle and I can only imagine what a little bottle aging will do to it. It is already drinking very well. I can’t wait to try it again, definitely a Sauvi to savour.

Morgenster

 

After the tasting, the group headed to the Morgenster Olive Cellar. As I had visited it just a few weeks back, I stayed behind in the tasting room. While the room was beings set up for a tasting with snacks, I unashamedly poured myself a large glass of the Morgenster Estate Reserve while I awaited the group’s return. I unashamedly savoured every sip of it.

Blissful indeed and my favourite red, so far this year.

Saluti!

 

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CHARDONNAY – SERVED MY WAY

On my recent trip to Bonnievale, we popped in to Weltevrede to taste some of their famous MCCs.

Now two things in particular made this visit special: the tasting was conducted by Weltevrede cellarmaster, Philip Jonker himself and it took place in their hugely atmospheric, underground cellars.

“In the early days of winemaking, farmers would create underground cooling vaults for their wine. On Weltevrede, large areas were dug underground, river stones were brought up from the Breede River by donkey and cart and then cement cisterns were cast. These cisterns would annually be rubbed with molten beeswax to seal each hole and crack and prevent the wine from coming into contact with the raw cement. Until recently, these cisterns had been forgotten about…..”

Phlip Jonker MCC cork

We tasted two of Philip’s MCCs, the Philip Jonker Brut Entheos and the Philip Jonker The Ring. The Entheos is certainly a good bubbly, but it was The Ring that totally had bells ringing in my palate, and is the first MCC to write itself indelibly into my wine memory bank.

Its nose is sublime, honey, melon and I even picked up some lemongrass (maybe that was what won me over?) and citrus and apple on the palate.

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Chardonnay is not my favourite grape, but if it is served to me as Philip Jonker’s The Ring, I will say thank you thank you thank you. It is seriously delicious.

By the way, you too can enjoy this eerie underground tasting experience at Weltevrede, you will walk through the candle lit, damp tunnels to the tasting – albeit without the bonus of Philip Jonker at the end (sorry).

 

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT

It has been a while since I visited Bonnievale, so a recent opportunity to join some media colleagues on a visit was readily accepted.

As we neared our destination, two things gave me much pleasure: the first was to see the area’s Breede River flowing very strongly; the second was to see evidence of major improvements being made to the local road infrastructure.

During the journey from Cape Town, I had chance to reflect about the privilege I enjoy of being able to taste (and drink!) so many South African wines.

With all the middle to high price wines that I am fortunate to taste, drink and enjoy, it is easy to forget the wines that could be categorised as ‘every day drinking’. For me they provide newcomers to wine drinking with a perfect gateway to the pleasure.

Now Bonnievale Wines describe their wines as delightful and a visit there as an unpretentious wine experience…

I don’t think those kind folks at Bonnievale would object to my categorising their wines as every day drinking, at R57 a bottle, their new range could certainly attest to this tag.

The reason for our visit was to celebrate the launch of a new range of wines, The River Collection as well as a new corporate identity for the winery.

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The new crest is a tasteful and elegant blend of its heritage and location. The cellar gable speaks of history; the three-arched bridge of collaboration and teamwork and the three original wineries; the blue diamonds bordered by triangles, the river and vineyards; and the ribbon, of unity.

The wines we tasted at their launch were the River Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2018, River Collection Chardonnay 2018, River Collection Chenin Blanc 2018 and the River Collection Cinsault Rose 2018. My personal favourite was the Cinsault  Rose and particularly its aromatic nose.

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These first four will be joined by reds later this year.

The River Collection wines are currently only available at the cellar door, but will soon be available

At the launch, I sat next to winemaking team head, Marthinus Rademeyer. During our time together I told him just how much I’d enjoyed his Bonnievale Natural Sweet Shiraz (Enjoying Shiraz Three Ways – Feb 13 2018). I am pleased they will continue to make it.

Cheers Bonnievale, long may your river flow!

 

 

BONNIEVALE WINES

Phone: 023 616 2795

A REFRESHINGLY DIFFERENT WHITE BLEND

Although best known for its fine Pinot Noirs, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley produces many other wines of distinction.

Bouchard Finlayson Vineyard, holds its Pinot Noir flag proudly aloft, and I have long been a fan of it and their other wines.

One of them, for no particular reason, seems to have slipped by my palate – the Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer, a Riesling driven blend. Recently I had the pleasure of remedying this omission.

 

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Their first Blanc de Mer was bottled in 1991 and has evolved to where its current vintage has 60% Riesling, 20% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay, 5% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Semillon.

The 2017 certainly delivers a glorious mouthful – floral on the nose, and stone fruit on the palate. I particularly enjoyed its delicate smoothness.

Personally I think I am leaning towards preferring white blends to their single variety colleagues and the Bouchard Finlayson 2017 Blanc de Mer at a little over R100 a bottle, will certainly be a  visitor to my table again.

 

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ZANDVLIET…. AT LAST!

A few years back, my wife and I decided to spend a few days exploring the Robertson Wine Valley. We’d booked a self-catering as our base and had drawn up a list of things we’d like to do and wineries we’d like to visit. At the time, I was a shiraz only wine drinker.

Well aware of Zandvliet Wine Estate’s reputation for fine shirazes, I had scheduled a visit there for our second afternoon, except we never made it. We had received a call to say that our home had been broken in to, so we immediately headed home to Cape Town.

So no Zandvliet shiraz-tasting for me then…..until recently, when I eagerly accepted a media invitation to visit the Estate

What a wonderful surprise the Zandvliet of 2018 was/is.

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Central to its visitor experience is its beautiful tasting room, the Kalkveld Lounge, the name inspired by the Estate’s Kalkveld Shiraz. Its interior design is quite frankly breath-taking, a tasteful blend of old and new and aesthetically one of the most impressive I’ve seen. It even boasts an underground art gallery, with an atmosphere unlike any other you’re likely to visit.

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I tasted most of the Zandvliet range of wines, but a little like a thirsty dog, I was panting to taste their shirazes. I was not disappointed, both the Zandvliet Shiraz 2015 and the Zandvliet Kalkveld Shiraz 2014 certainly hit the mark for this shiraz fan, I liked both shirazes equally. (Subsequent to our visit, the Zandvliet Shiraz 2015 garnered a prestigious Gold Medal at the 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show).

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Besides their standard wine tasting, they also offer a Cellar Tour and Wine Blending experience, where you blend your own wine and get to take it home and the unique Zandvliet Clemengold Pairing – Spicy panforte, biscotti and smooth dark chocolate – all with elements of zesty citrus – and Clemengold (a special type of mandarin) marmalade complement Zandvliet’s Estate Chardonnay, Kalkveld Shiraz, Vintage Liqueur Wine and Zandvliet Estate Muscat. I absolutely loved the flavour pairings,  wow wow wow!

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Zandvliet is not far from Ashton, and well worth a visit if you are visiting the Robertson Wine Valley.

 

MAY THE MORNING STAR CONTINUE TO SHINE

Giulio Bertrand and Flos Olei 2014 trophy

Giulio Bertrand – 13 March 1927 – 20 May 2018

 

Today I received the sad news of the passing of Giulio Bertrand, owner of prestigious Somerset-West Wine and Olive Estate, Morgenster.

I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Signor Bertrand on a number of occasions, most recently towards the end of last year. When we last met, we discussed great things Italian, after I expressed my affection for Morgenster’s Italian varietal wines. I suggested he should consider making gelato on the farm. He smiled and said he didn’t have any cows. I respectfully answered that he came across as a man who enjoyed a challenge..

Signor Bertrand was easy to talk to, charming and gracious.  He will be missed.

Possa la sua anima riposare in pace

 

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WHAT I NOSE AND WHAT I DON’T KNOWS

 

Not everyone has the ability to detect the subtleties of aroma and taste when tasting wine.

The good people from Leopard’s Leap in Franschhoek sent this useful note to me, together with a bottle of their Leopard’s Leap Chardonnay Pinot Noir:

Anyone who has ever been to a wine tasting, knows that there is a lot of ‘nose’ action. Swirling the wine in the glass to open the ‘nose’ and smelling the wine to identify the ‘nose’. This can be quite intimidating for wine novices and those who drink wine purely for the enjoyment it brings.

While identifying the berry flavours – and if you are really good, the specific berry – raspberry, not cherry… – really is not necessary, it can actually be quite a bit of fun! These nuances are what differentiate wine from other drinks – vintage influences, winemaking methods, maturation, serving temperature, food pairing and even stemware all have an influence on what you experience in your glass of wine. With a little bit of guidance, some information and of course practice, one might actually enjoy building a memory bank of flavour associations.

As an example, the Leopard’s Leap Winemaking team has deconstructed the popular Leopard’s Leap Chardonnay Pinot Noir from our Classic Range. The flavours identified are Pink Lady apple (quite different from Golden Delicious or Granny Smith or Top Red…), raspberry, red grape, grapefruit and strawberry.

 

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Taking advantage of some Autumnal warmth, we sat on our stoep the other afternoon, and enjoy a glass or two of the Chardonnay Pinot Noir. I’m not much of a chardonnay fan, but with the pinot noir in the mix, it brought a gentle smile to my palate. At a cellar price of just under R50-00 a bottle, well worth a try.

Now you too knowse about it!