Monday, March 28, 2011

ULTRA Top 10

ULTRA Liquors have some amazing wine promotions during the year. At the moment they are running their Autumn Promotion, some amazing wines at great prices, but some stand out from the crowd. Do yourself a favour and head down to your local ULTRA and get your hands on:

Le Bonheur Prima @ R 69.99: Way over delivers. A Merlot blend, soft and sexy, with curves in all the right places.
#Dinner Table Wine.

Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc @ R 46.99: If you have to drink a super fresh super crisp Sauvi drink Diemersdal. A 4 and a half star Platter wine for less than R50 bucs, enough said.
#Impress Platter Fundi Wine.

Van Loveren Neils Pick Colombar @ R23.99: I buy this by the case loads, its like Jesus feeding all those people with a few loaves, you can satisfy crowds at this price, and they will love it.
#Girls Book Club Wine

Buitenverwachting Meifort @ R 54.99: Masculine Cab blend, think rugby player with a sensitive side.
#To Impress Wine

Perdeberg Chenin Blanc Reserve @ R 36.99: Say after me, "I promise to drink more Chenin." This has to be the best value for money you can get anywhere, buy truckloads before it sells out.
#The Deal of a Lifetime Wine

Slanghoek Pinotage @ R 33.99: Braaivlies, rugby, Pinotage, sunny skies and Chevrolet.
#Kuier Wyn

Bon Courage Hillside White @ R28.99: Perfect for enjoying the last few days of summer, great by the pool, with lunch or at the dinner table.
#The Allrounder Wine

Orange River Wine Cellars Soet Hanepoot @ R28.99: Put in the fridge and drink ice cold. Forget Easter eggs put you kids on a Hanepoot diet...
#Sweet Tooth Wine

Alexanderfontein Cabernet Sauvignon @ R38.99: Looking for something to share with a loved wine, or to get romantic with on that chilly winters evening?
#Guaranteed to Score Wine


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dear Mark

I hope you don't mind me being so casual, but you don't strike me as a formal sort of bloke. I just wanted to say thanks for an amazing "jol" on Saturday.

I have been to a few harvest festivals lately and can honestly say yours stood out. I was under the impression that South African wine farms were highly mechanized, as I am yet to see anybody other than farm management at these so called harvest festivals. Your obviously do things differently. Either way it was great to meet the people that do all the hard and sometimes dirty work. Your team certainly seemed like a happy bunch, dancing, laughing and celebrating life. I actually learnt a few new dance moves, to be honest I never new any before Saturday. I also got a few marriage proposals so I may just be moving onto the farm, but looking at your staff housing it certainly would be a great move as your digs are way better than mine.

I know that it was an Oesfees, but being a wine farm I was surprised to find that there wasn't a more formal wine element to festivities. No spittoons, no swirling, sipping, smelling? Shock horror. I even noticed people putting ice into plastic wine glasses, surely a first for a wine festival? I must say I took a liking to your Cape Jazz Shiraz, I wasn't the only one, it seemed to add a more rhythmical step to most dance moves. Heck you could be on to something: wine and music pairing...I even tried some of the lovely traditional Cape food, boboties, samoosas and a lekker breyani. If there is any left, could I pop around for leftovers?

Your line up of bands, dancers, singers, rappers and graphitti artists certainly proved better value than the R1000 I paid for my U2 ticket. I may not be ready for the ArtScape just yet, but I certainly learnt a few things and found my rich South African heritage on the daans floor of Solms Delta. I believe there is this group called WOSA, they market SA wine overseas or something like that. They like to promote SA as the floral capital of the world, and somehow tie this in with wine...maybe you should invite them to next years Oesfees.
The best thing about the Oesfees? I have 365 days to practice my riel dans.



Dear Dionysus

I hope you don't mind me writing straight back like this but you don't strike me like a formal sort of god. Hang, you and I even share a few vices. I am truly delighted to hear that you attended our Oesfees, especially in view of the fact that it was not really laid on for Gods, as you noticed. Yes, I have heard that WOSA markets the Cape's biodiversity overseas. Please do feel free to bring them along next year. I would love to introduce them to another aspect of our diversity. On Saturday the thought even occurred to me that this human aspect might be more important than the floral one, but I was a little tipsy at the time and can become sentimental. I guess international consumers(like many of your fellow Gods) have never heard of South African farm workers. Anyway, thanks for your kind remarks, sorry about the ice, and good luck with the Riel dancing.

With all good wishes,
Solms Delta

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chenin is King

Chenin is King, long live the King.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the kind people of Wine Magazine to the Chenin Blanc Challenge 2011 awards lunch at Overture Restaurant. Lets just say I don't think they could have chosen a better venue: beautiful views, stunning food, relaxed vibe, great service and chilled Chenin Blanc...what could be better.

What of the wines: well personally I was very impressed. A very broad range of styles, some wooded, some rich and ripe, some elegant, and some great value. What the results proved is that the humble Chenin grape can produce a broad range of styles.

My thoughts on some of the winners, starting off with the value wines:

Leopard’s Leap 2010 @ R34.99 pb: great value, buy a case. Very elegant. Really surprised me.

Boschendal 2009 @ R45 pb: beautiful balance. Again not what I was expecting.

Kanu 2009 @ R35 pb: Well made, loads of fruit. Kanu has a reputation with Chenin, so no surprises.

Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Bush Vines 2010 @ R33 pb: All those Sauvignon Blanc fans will love this! I am going to start a campaign to get people to switch from fashionable Sauvignon Banc to Chenin. This is the Chenin I would encourage people to start with...

Douglas Green Chenin @ R31.50 pb: Surprised? Douglas Green, Douglas Green (say it in your best Chinese accent)

Of the top end stuff I enjoyed:

Simonsig Avec Chene 2009 @ R127 pb: Pushing the boundary of plush, ripe, big, and bold

Graham Beck Bowed Head 2009 @ R95 pb: Kind of a half way wine, rich but not too rich, plush but not too plush. Good value for the quality.

Perdeberg Rex Equus 2008 @ R180 pb: The winning wine. The most expensive wine of the lot, so keep for the inlaws, the boss and other special occasions. Is it worth R180...I will let you decide.

Most of these wines are available from your local Pick n Pay, Checkers, Ultra, Wine Concepts or directly from the producers.

Cheers and enjoy!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spit or Swallow Movember Box Wine Tasting

I was lucky enough to be invited to this event. The Grand Daddy Hotel, ex Metropole Hotel for you old timers, played host. Wow what a venue, stunning rooftop play palace is all I can call it. Certainly my new favourite chill spot in Cape Town.

Personally I believe this has to be the most exciting event of the wine year. And I am not being sarcastic or flippant when I say that. Anel and Jan of are two smart cookies. And if there are any wine brands out there that need shaking up, modernising, (I can think of a few) I reckon you should be knocking on their door. They understand the new generation of wine drinkers, they understand social media, they are creative and most of all
very tech savy. Why does all this matter? Because the South African wine scene is so dominated by boring stiffs. People who are stuck in the past and wine hacks that are at each others throats. Quite honestly it all very sad.
So when I get invited to an event that is anti the establishment, anti old school bow-tie stiff I get very excited. Firstly this was a Box wine tasting, hell most wine snobs don't even know box wine exists. Secondly the dress code was "trucker cool", think lots of caps, moustaches, ray bans, chequered shirts, cheap t-shirts. Thirdly the venue was very hip and cool, certainly not pretentious. Most importantly the whole evening was relaxed, informal and fun.

So what of the wines. Well lets just say you get box wine you can drink and box wine you can't. I have never ever told anybody to stay clear of a wine...that is till now. Ever heard of Black Box Merlot/Cab Blend? If you haven't lucky you. It was number 6 in the red wine line up...6 is the mark of the devil and I can now see why. Tread lightly, drink at your peril. Be warned.

With box wine, you are looking for an easy drinking wine, you plan to drink a fair bit so it has to be pretty balanced, not too acidic or too sweet. With white boxed wines keep an eye out for Eno enducing acidity, and with the reds you want clean red fruit, no funkiness, or dirty off odours. The winners on the night were, drum roll please:

Drostdy Hof Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Du Toitskloof Cellar 2010 Pinotage-Merlot-Ruby Cabernet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Value in the Winelands

I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Wine Magazines Best Value Wine Guide 2011. I have over the years collected this little book with military precision, so to be invited to the launch was great. When my own interest in wine first blossomed and with a limited budget I was forced to try and discover exactly these sorts of gems. Wines that are well made, without acids so harsh that you loose the enamel on your teeth and wines that are "clean". These are good drinking wines, with a hint of complexity, crowd pleasing and won't cost you a weeks wages. I can't tell you just how valuable this little guide is. Lets face it we have all been there, you need a bottle of wine, you go to your local store and you buy what looks best or a brand that you "know"....wrong! This little guide has more than enough winners under R60, do yourself a favour and get your hands on this years addition, its free with the November addition of Wine Magazine.

Wines in the guide that I wouldn't miss are:

Goedverwacht Shiraz Rose 2010 @ R37.50 per bottle
A great Rose, strawberries, hints of pepper, crisp fresh palette. Perfect picnic wine.

Swartland Cuvee Brut @ R31 per bottle
Not the real deal but just as good. Buy by the case load, without looking at the bottle most people wouldn't tell the difference.

BC Chenin Blanc 2010 @ R17,50 per bottle
A real fruit salad wine with plenty of acidity. At under R20 per bottle you should drink this every day instead of mineral water.

Koelenbosch Houtverouderd Chenin Blanc 2009 @ R35 per bottle
Another Chenin, but a more serious example. More structure and mouth feel from a kiss of wood. Great with food, spicy Asian or curries. Wines like this often cost three times as much.

Lutzville Cool Climate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 @ R24.20 per bottle
Everybody loves a good Sauvi! And this is a good one. Loads of tropical fruit backed up with fresh acidity, nice long finish. Drink out of your finest crystal glasses and feel like royalty.

Van Loveren Cape Riesling 2010 @ R24 per bottle
I thought of Kylie Minogue when I drank this. Sexy little stunner. Lots of fruit, nice length, add a few blocks of ice, one for the ladies.

Orange River White Muscadel 2009 @ R31.85 per bottle
Mango, litchis and raisins, sweet syrupy decadence that finishes fresh and dry. Lovely stuff. Please people don't only drink sweet wines in winter, chilled muskadel is great in summer.

Glen Carlou Tortoise Hill Red 2008 @ R45 per bottle
A juicy, soft, blend that will go well with variety of food. Great dinner table wine. Look out for the
Tortoise Hill White a stunning white blend that will really impress for the price.

Riebeek Pinotage 2009 @ R30 per bottle
Our national grape and no braai would be complete without a glass of Pinotage. Goes well with marinated ribs, steak, chops, boerewors...anything on a braai. Loads of plush red fruit and silky smooth tannins. Be patriotic, braai and drink a bottle of Pinotage at least once a week.

Koelenbosch Sangiovese 2009 @ R28.50 per bottle
Sangiovese, say it like an Italian mama. Red cherries, hints of smoke and spice. This Italian grape as expected goes well pasta and pizza. A light bodied wine, would also be great slightly chilled, just says open another...and another...

So there you have it. My choice of great value for money winners, most of these wines available from Ultra Liquors, or try your local supermarket.


PS: The launch was at one of my favourite Wineland pit stops Joostenburg Deli. If you haven't tried their chicken pies your missing pie nirvana.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stellies Wine Festival 2010

I love wine festivals, it's a great way to meet "wine people" and try so many wines in a relatively easy way, if you can stomach the crowds that is. This years Stellenbosch Wine festival was a little different, no more at Paul Roos School but rather each farm doing their own thing like vintage tastings, barrel samples etc. You really would need to spend a week going from farm to farm in order not to miss anything, we only had one day! It became an amazing wine race against time:

STOP 1: Bottelary Hills Wine Center to collect our passes, maps and line our stomachs with a boerrie roll.

STOP 2: Kanonkop. 4 wines, a 1996 and 1993 Pinotage, 2005 Paul Sauer and a 2000 Cabernet. No burnt rubber, just pure clean bright fruit, world class. South African First Growth for sure.

STOP 3: Muratie. For old world charm and atmosphere nothing quite compares. We were warmly welcomed by the beautiful tasting room hostess, maybe it was her charm but the wines certainly didn't disappoint. Ansela van da Caap 2007 the stand out wine.

STOP 4: Tokara. What a view! Needing a breather we settled next to the huge fire and relaxed with a glass of Tokara Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Reserve. No tasting fee and long list of wines to choose from you could easily spend a few hours just lingering...

STOP 5: Neil Ellis. New tasting venue not yet officially open, but open for the festival weekend. Beautiful venue, lovely view, amazing wines. Sauvignon Blanc consistently one of the Capes best and the Aenigma Red 2007 at R85 per bottle way over delivers, order by the boot load.

STOP 6: Etienne le Riche Wines. The King of Cab. A simple winemaking setup, no smoke and mirrors, just good old fashioned winemaking that works amazingly well. Reserve Cab 2007, Platters may as well announce it as a 2011 five star wine already.

STOP 7: Back to Bottelary Hills Wine center. Had a quick walk around the center tasting some great wine, some not so great. Stand outs: Mooiplass, their wines too cheap I believe, and Sterhuis. We also had the pleasure of experiencing a vertical Sterhuis Sauvignon Blanc tasting with Johan Kruger of Sterhuis. He is a real wine character, quirky and interesting. 5 vintages of Sauvignon Blanc confirmed a house style of Burgundian elegance, minerality and restraint.

STOP 8: Annandale, the home of Hempies du Toit. Having tasted the famed reds of Kanonkop, Neil Ellis and Etienne le Riche we were in a position to compare the wines of Annandale with more fancied producers. I can honestly say I was blown away! I want to drink the wines of Annandale on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....Try the 2001 Cavalier, try the 2003 Shiraz, try them all. We were even fortunate enough to taste a 1970 Alto Rouge. 40 years young, still fresh, clean fruit, tasted blind I would have guessed a sexy teenager in high heels. What a treat, what a rare pleasure, makes drinking so many crap wines over the years all worth it. I guess you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your princess.

STOP 9: La Avenir, not for the wine but for food, and a big screen TV to watch the Germans thrash the Argentines. By now my wine legs were deserting me and I needed a well earned break. An amazing day had come to an end. With over 50 wines tasted, mostly fine claret, I can safely say Stellenbosch is still the home of the Big Red.

STOP 10: My bed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Braveheart Winemaker

If wineries were judged on beauty of location...If wineries were judged on how nice the people who run them are...If wineries were judged on how beautiful the drive is to said winery...then Herold Wines would be South Africa's top winery finished and klaar. Herold Wines lies just above George in a most beautiful location, a valley that is straight out of Hansel and Gretel . In order to get to the farm you need to take the Montague Pass over the Outeniqua Mountains, this must surely be in my humble opinion one of the most beautiful drives in South Africa. Even if the wine tasted like vinegar, and it doesn't, the drive alone makes this a special trek.

A trip to Herold Wines is not only about wine, it is an experience and one best not rushed. The farm, surrounded by mountains, is all of 300 hectares, of this only 6 hectares are planted with vine. We were warmly welcomed by the friendly and likable Vivien (pictured above) and Bruce Harper. This husband and wife team have been making Wines here since 2000, Vivien ever the keen gardener turned her hand to winemaking and the rest is history. Brave women indeed. Wines are made in a fairly uncomplicated way with as little fiddling as possible. Everything is done by hand where possible, some of the equipment being so small you would be mistaken for thinking it was a replica of the real deal.

What stood out for me most about Herold Wines was the notion of terroir. This truly is the expression of sight specific wines. No bought in grapes, no mixing and matching of different sites, just what their site gives them from one vintage to the next. My only disappointment is the fact that they are using cultivated yeast. I am sure as Vivian becomes a more confident, not competent, winemaker she will trust her motherly instincts and let the wild yeast do its thing. Then this magnificent site will truly be reflected in these beautiful wines. When this day comes I will be the first person knocking at the door. Being a cool climate area picking carries on till May...yes May. As a result the wines have low alcohols, 12-13% and very drinkable and elegant. In fact I would describe the house style as very old world, no fruit bombs, high alcohol over extracted wines.
Here are my brief notes on the wines:

Skaam Skaap 2008: My personal favourite out of the lot, a fairly easy drinking undemanding sort of wine. A blend of Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvi. Think of Haute Cabriere Pinot Chardonnay that people so love, just a lot better. Lovely fruit and a hint of floral. Well balanced, well made.

Sauvignon Blanc 2009: Petulant sort of wine, fizzy, lively. Wonderful nose, goose berry and a slight hint of greenness, but not overtly so, fairly long finish, again well balanced. Not everybody's cup of tea. Racy style.

Red Men: Cab, Shiraz and Merlot Blend. These varietals just doesn't work on this site. Although I think the Merlot, using the correct clone may have potential here. So they make a blend, only 3000 odd bottles made. If it was me I would rip out these varieties and concentrate on the Pinot.

Pinot Noir 2008: This is the varietal that put Herold Wines on the Wine Radar in 2006 by winning Wine Mags Pinot Noir challenge, seeing off more fancied competition. The 2008 is still dominated by wood, on the nose you would be forgiven for guessing it was a coffee style pinotage, but the hints of vegetal character, fynbos and the slightest bit of wild honey made up for this. Perfect Pinot colour. An interesting wine, certainly no tooti frutti wine. I bought a few bottles and will be watching how these develop with age.

The only other winery that I can think of that comes close in terms of remoteness, ruggedness and natural beauty is Cederberg Winery. Perhaps the wines are not in the same lofty league, but just to be spoken of in the same breath must surely tell you just how truly special this spot is.