Posted on 26 October 2011 by davidbiggs
I like a wine with a story.
Interesting wines often come with their own story – how they were made, why they were given that name, why the label was designed that way. It all helps to make the wine memorable.
I love the range of hats on the Wijnskool Sauvignon Blanc 2011 that arrived on my desk.
It’s one of the first wines to be produced by the wine academy founded by Diners Club winemaker of the year, Bartho Eksteen at his old school, the Hoer Landbouskool Boland in Paarl.
Bartho decided he wanted to give something back to his alma mater, so he approached Diners Club and they established the academy in 2009 in an unused building on the school grounds.
Bartho approached several winemakers in the area for financial help and the academy now teaches the basics of winemaking to youngsters at the school.
May it grow from strength to strength. I am sure many of our future winemaking stars will have had their first experience of cellar practice at Bartho’s academy.
Incidentally, it’s a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc too. I don’t imagine there’s much of it around.
Talking of unusual labels, several of my wine friends have shuddered at the label of the Cape Point Vineyards Splattered Toad wines.
Pretty gruesome, I agree.
But the point of it is to bring awareness to the plight of the Cape Leaopard toad, an endangered species that lives in the Noordhoek Valley.
During the breeding season these rare amphibians are often seen crossing the road at night and many of them are killed by unwary motorists.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of Splattered Toad goes toward the preservation of the animals and raising awareness of their plight.
Photograph: courtesy Cape Point Vineyards
Posted on 21 October 2011 by davidbiggs
Elgin, long considered to be a fruit growing area, is now fast becoming known as the home of many excellent wines.
Twenty Elgin cellars recently showcased their wines at a festival in Newlands and visitors had the chance to revisit well established wineries like Paul Cluver, Oak Valley and Shannon, as well as discovering less publicised cellars like Winter’s Drift and William Everson Wines.
Apart from the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blancs (some excellent ones, make no mistake) there’s a world of exciting surprises coming from the Elgin region.
I was enchanted by some fine Rhine Rieslings, for example. I tasted a superbly crisp and fruity dry Riesling from Ross Gower Wines. Stunning! And reminiscent of the style the late Ross Gower produced back at Klein Constantia.
Another delicious dry Riesling is produced by Spioenkop Wines. It should mature charmingly for several more years. Quite different in style is the Sutherland Rhine Riesling 2009, which is made just off-dry and should be the perfect partner to a mild Indian dish, like lamb korma.
There are some intriguing Pinot Noirs coming out of Elgin, too. I was delighted to taste Waterford’s Elgin Pinot 2010, although at R200 a bottle it’s a bit beyond my pocket.
Around the same price is the Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2010 – a big, smoky, spicy wine packed with chalky, earthy flavours. A very serious wine indeed!
It’s good to see some charming dry rosé wines being produced in the area, right in time for summer drinking. Try the Winter’s Drift 2010 Rose, made from Merlot. It’s bone dry, spicy and elegantly suited for summer lunchtime enjoyment.
South Hill makes another pleasing Rosé, very dry and crisp, and reasonably priced at less than R40 a bottle.
I was charmed and surprised by Wallovale Vineyards’ big-hearted Malbec – the first Malbec to come from Elgin.
In fact there are not many Malbec wines available anywhere in the country. This one is big, spicy and warm, with flavours of ripe dark fruit. At around R80 a bottle I think it’s worth buying a case or two and keeping it for a couple of years.
I suspect Elgin Valley will soon be “discovered” as a tourist destination. It’s quite unlike the old “Cape Dutch” areas like Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. Instead it’s a place of rugged mountains, forests and lakes that offer an unexpected range of treats, from kayaking to mountain biking, farm stalls, walks and waterskiing.
And the good news is that it’s all less than an hour’s drive from the city centre.
Give it a try.
Posted on 12 October 2011 by davidbiggs
Top achievers group Front, from left to right: Margaux Nel (Boplaas), Duimpie Bayly (Veritas Chairman), Marlene Bester (Van Ryn), Kobus Gelderblom (KWV). Back, from left to right: Gerhard Swart (Flagstone), Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Jacques Bruwer (Bon Courage), Christo Pienaar (Nuy), Morne Vrey (Delaire Graff Estate), Frans Smit (Spier), Tariro Masayiti (Nederburg), Richard Rowe (KWV)
We tend to forget there was a time, not so long ago, when the KWV was regarded as the “Mafia” of the South African wine industry. Nobody was allowed to produce wine in South Africa without a KWV quota, and these were issued only to established wineries.
KWV wines were available only to quota holders and anybody who offered you a glass of KWV Roodeberg obviously had inside connections.
All that has changed, of course, and the KWV now competes in an open market with all our wine cellars. And obviously competes very successfully.
At this year’s Veritas Awards dinner, held in the CTICC in Cape Town recently, the KWV emerged unchallenged king of the evening.
The century-old Paarl cellar walked off with no fewer than five double-gold awards and nine golds – the biggest haul of gold medals ever achieved by a single cellar in the 21-year history of Veritas.
Nobody else came close to this achievement.
Other top-achieving cellars that harvested significant crops of gold included Boplaas Family Vineyards (3 double gold, 1 gold), Nederburg Wines (2 double gold, 9 gold), Nuy Wine Cellar (2 double gold, 7 gold), Distell Brandy (2 double gold, 6 gold), Bon Courage and Spier won 2 double gold and 5 gold medals each, Flagstone (2 double gold, 2 gold) and Kanonkop Wine Estate (2 double gold, 1 gold). Delaire Graff Estate also took home two double gold medals.
These are excellent achievements, bearing in mind that, of the 1739 entries received for the competition, only 42 won double golds and 158 scored double gold or gold medals – that’s little more than 10% of entries.
These very special wines will be on show around the country soon, and wine lovers all over will have the opportunity of tasting them closer to home.
Cape Town wine lovers will have the chance to taste them at the VOC Room in the Southern Sun Hotel in Strand Street on October 18 from 5pm to 8pm. Tickets cost R130 each.
In Johannesburg the wines will be available on October 26 in the Bill Gallagher Room of the Sandton Convention Centre – tickets cost R140. Wine lovers in Durban will get their chance on November 3 at the Function Room, Deloitte Head Office in Umhlanga – tickets are R100 each.
Details of the events in Port Elizabeth and Knysna can be obtained from the Details of the events in Port Elizabeth and Knysna can be obtained from the Veritas website, as can details of booking arrangements.
Photographs courtesy of Veritas
Posted on 06 October 2011 by davidbiggs
Times may be tough, but this year’s Cape Winemakers Guild Auction showed there’s still money available for good wines.
The almost 3000 cases of wine on offer fetched a record total of R5,28 million, at an average price of R1800 for a six-bottle case. That’s R300 a bottle, which in some cases was an absolute bargain.
Remember, these wines are made with extra care, and in limited quantities, specially for the auction. It’s an opportunity for winemakers to be truly creative – and also to show fellow guild members what they’re capable of.
This is important, as guild membership is not regarded lightly.
Membership is by invitation only, and is only considered when a winemaker as produced exceptionally high quality wine for a minimum of five years.
It’s no wonder the bidding was brisk and competitive. These are no ordinary wines.
The 2011 catalogue contained 38 red wines,13 white wines, two méthode cap classique sparkling wines and a pot-still brandy.
The auction is open to anybody who wants to bid, unlike the Nederburg Auction, which is for licensed wine retailers only.
So here we have buyers who have tasted the wines and want to add them to their collections for their own enjoyment.
There were 122 buyers bidding this year, 19 of whom came from overseas.
This year’s top price – a record R6000 a six-bottle case went to Boekenhoutskloof’s 2009 Syrah Auction Reserve, which was bought by a Belgian buyer.
(Overseas sales were double those of last year.)
Top local buyer, for the 10th consecutive year, was Alan Pick of The Butcher Shop and Grill, who spent about R1,3 million.
Other wines that fetched high prices included Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2009 with an average price per case of R3 843, Hartenberg Estate Auction Shiraz 2009 selling at R3 264, Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2008 at R3 237, Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir 2009 at R3 212, Neil Ellis Rodanos 2007 at R3 125 and the Saronsberg Die Erf Grenache 2010 averaging at R2 677.
Top selling white wines included the Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2010 with an average price per case of R2 285, Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2009 at R2 100, the Cape Point Vineyards Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2010 at R1 822.
From a personal point of view, I thought the Boplaas Auction Reserve 10-Year-Old Potstill Brandy was the bargain of the day. I kept sneaking back to the tasting room to make absolutely sure it was as good as I remembered it from the previous time. It always was.
It went for R300 a bottle. That’s a gift!
In addition to the main auction, a total of R132 600 was raised in aid of the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme, a scheme to help promising young winemakers qualify and study overseas as well as locally.