Posted on 26 May 2011 by davidbiggs
I wonder why it took so long for wine lovers to realize that Chenin Blanc was one of the truly great wine grape varietals of the world.
Here in South Africa it was regarded for many years as the workhorse of the cellar – a useful stand-by when you wanted to make a reliable everyday drinking wine.
We called it “Steen”. Quite a good name, actually – a brick – solid and reliable.
I remember when Robbie Roberts was cellarmaster at Roodezandt in Robertson many years ago, he produced three different Chenin Blanc wines from the same enormous tank. There was a semi-sweet, an off-dry and a bone dry version, all delicious and different.
This, he said, demonstrated the wonderful versatility of the grape. Usually it was dismissed simply as “dry white”. It had the potential of greatness.
Maybe the fact that the grape was so versatile and performed well in almost every area, was why winemakers held it in low esteem. It presented no challenges to them. “Oh any old fool can make a decent Chenin,” seemed to be their attitude.
Things have changed.
Today an increasing number of winemakers – and wine consumers – are finding that Chenin can produce top quality, world-beating wines. All it needs is the same amount of care and attention winemakers usually reserve for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
An interesting comparative tasting was held recently in Germany, where a panel of respected wine writers compared South African Chenin Blancs to those of the Loire Valley, traditional home of the variety.
The exercise was, according to judges Eckhard Supp and Mario Scheuermann, a difficult one. They came to the conclusion that
a) Chenin Blanc was a world beater and,
b) South Africa’s top Chenins are (at this stage) better than those of the Loire Valley.
Several South African wines achieved high scores in the overall rating, with De Trafford, Reyneke, Ken Forrester and Simonsig in the first four places. The panel felt the South African wines showed exceptionally well.
Now what we need to do is convince South Africans that Chenin Blanc is no longer a plonky old workhorse. Steen is gone forever.
Bearing in mind the composition of our population, we still need to produce budget-priced wines, and Chenin does this admirably.
However, we also need to realize our top Chenins are among he world’s best.
And for these we must be prepared to pay higher prices.
Posted on 17 May 2011 by davidbiggs
For some years now the Muscadel Producers’ Association have been trying to improve the image of the delicious fortified wines that are so typically South African.
Producers are urged to create packaging that shows off muscadel as an elegant, sun-kissed drink, rather than simply a high-alcohol bottle of booze.
I’d be delighted to hear from readers what sort of bottle shape you feel reflects the image we’d like to see for this charming drink. I’ll pass on your suggestions to the association.
Some producers, like Boplaas and Bon Courage, have opted for the short, tubby bottle often associated with port.
That’s a problem, some critics say. You look at it and think “port” instead of muscadel.
De Krans Muscadel comes in an elegant slope-shouldered bottle. Is this typical of the category?
Rietvallei and Rooiberg bottle their muscadels in beautifully slender, tall bottles, but how will the wine shop manager display these? They are too slender to stand upright safely, and will be lost if it they’re laid down. The danger is the store boss might simply stack them right on top of the shelves, where it will never be seen.
Unusually shaped bottles may be eye-catching, but will they fit into the normal wine rack? Will they require special machinery for filling and labeling?
What about labels? Should they be ornate or elegantly simple? Shiny or matt?
Then there’s the question of the ideal sized bottle for a muscadel.
These sweet dessert wines are usually sipped in small glasses at the end of a meal. Some enthusiasts (like myself) also enjoy them as tall summer drinks, served over crushed ice.
Should they be packaged in 500ml or 375ml bottles rather than the normal 750ml bottles?
I like a lot. A half bottle depresses me. Some people sip muscadel. I drink it.
If you have definite thoughts about muscadel and its packaging, please let me know and I’ll pass them on to the Muscadel Association.
It would be easiest to contact me by e-mail on email@example.com.
Or you can reply through the website.
Posted on 04 May 2011 by davidbiggs
For years the Cape wine industry has been muttering about the need to expand the market for our excellent products.
We’ve entered our wines in competitions in Brussels, London, Chicago and New York with excellent results.
It’s only been at home that we have neglected the market.
Until quite recently wine has been marketed as an almost exclusively “white” product.
Our advertising tends to show gracious Cape Dutch farmsteads, where white people sip wine in front of log fires. It’s shown as elegant, essential to gracious living, refined… and white.
At last the industry is realizing the market potential closer to home.
The Soweto Wine Festival has proved a resounding success for the past couple of years. Wine producers who have exhibited there ave been amazed at the interest among black wine lovers.
Now the spotlight falls on Gugulethu in the Cape, where the TOPS Gugulethu Wine Festival will be held of May 27 and 28.
Nederburg will sponsor the festival’s wine lounge, with their white wine maker, Tariro Masayiti, as host.
Marilyn Cooper, head of the Cape Wine Academy and co-founder of the Soweto Wine Festival, says the Gugulethu Festival has huge potential for local winemakers.
“This is an important festival for all wineries to attend. This market has the potential to quadruple over the next three to five years,” she says. “It is an opportunity for wineries to develop one-on-one relationships with an influential audience as was seen at the Soweto Wine Festival.”
More than 2000 people are expected to attend during the two days of the Gugulethu Festival, which will take place on the rooftop of the Gugulethu Mall.
I do hope there will be a fair sprinkling of white faces among the Gugs festival goers. Wine could serve as a good bonding agent between our communities.
For more information, contact Lungile Mbalo at firstname.lastname@example.org