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 29 September 2011 by davidbiggs
I sometimes think white wines are rather a mystery to most South African drinkers.
Until very recently they have been regarded as the “B team” of wines. We expect to pay less for whites than we do for reds, and we want to drink our white wines when they’re still “fresh and young,” while we assume red wines need to be laid down for a while to mature.
Nederburg winemaker Razvan Macici and David discussing the potential of aged white wines.
I chatted to Nederburg winemaker Razvan Macici after the recent auction of rare wines and he said he felt it was a pity South Africans didn’t appreciate older white wines.
We’re missing out on some of the real delights of the wine spectrum by drinking our white wine too young.
Do we really enjoy sipping battery acid?
A well aged white wine can be truly charming. Weisser Riesling (also known as Rhine Riesling here) certainly benefits from a couple of years in the bottle. Chardonnay (and particularly a wooded Chardonnay) gains complexity and softness as it ages.
I’ve been agreeably surprised by many older Sauvignon Blancs and Chenin Blancs.
For those who appreciate a well-aged white wine, Nederburg Auction produced some real bargains.
Nederburg’s 2009 Private Bin D215 Sauvignon Blanc was a real steal at R60 a bottle.
The 2005 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc was knocked down for its reserve price of R900 a six-bottle case.
Many wine drinkers will shudder as think: “That’s R150 a bottle! For a white wine! Crazy!”
But they wouldn’t be too shocked at the thought of paying R150 a bottle for a six-year-old red wine. Why the discrimination?
I believe this conception is changing, even if the change is a slow one.
Winemakers like Vergelegen’s André van Rensburg are producing really serious white wines made specifically for ageing. Vergelegen’s 2009 White scored a full five stars in the 2011 edition of the Platter Guide – and deservedly so.
Duncan Savage of Cape Point Vineyards makes only Sauvignon Blanc wines and his award-winning Isliedh (also a Platter five-star wine) is designed for longevity. Given a couple of years in bottle it unfolds in amazing complexity.
Boschendal’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is still youthful in spirit and will reach its peak only in another year or two.
Hamilton Russell’s ’09 Chardonnay could stand another couple of years of maturation and De Wetshof’s ’09 Rhine Riesling will benefit from at least two more years in the bottle.
We produce serious white wines of a standard the rest of the world can only dream of, but they’re not fully appreciated here in their country of origin.
Let’s start a revolution. Tell the world old is good. It’s not always the youth that win the prizes.
Photographs: Paula Loe, Matt Stow
Posted on 21 September 2011 by davidbiggs
Last Saturday’s Nederburg Auction, the 37th, was a focused and slick event, different in several ways from past auctions.
For a start, there were fewer “VIP” guests swanning around trying to look gorgeous. Since the fashion show was cut from the programme, everybody can concentrate on the real business at ha
nd – buying rare wines.
Waiters brought a steady supply of drinks and snacks into the auction hall, removing the temptation for bidders to sneak off for coffee or canapés, missing a few lots.
For the first time in many years there were no unsold lots at this auction, largely thanks to auctioneer Anthony Barne’s steady hand on the hammer. He kept the pace up without ever making bidders feel pressurized.
The auction catalogue had been trimmed too, offering fewer wines than last year, but definitely a more exciting collection.
There were many genuinely rare and sought-after wines on offer, as the prices indicate. A single cast of six bottles of 1957 Lanzerac Cabernet attracted a flurry of bidding that didn’t stop until the case was knocked down for R22000. That’s R3600 a bottle!
A case of six bottles of 1949 KWV Ruby Port (probably not very “ruby” by now) went for R20 000, with bidding climbing by R500 a bid.
One of the oldest wines on offer was a 1930 KWV Red Muscadel Jerepigo and the bidding went rapidly to R6500 a bottle. Then the successful bidder took all six bottle on the list.
Chateau Libertas has become a legend in the Cape wine industry. It’s the longest surviving label on the South African market and still going strong.
Three bottles of the 1961 vintage of this old favourite fetched a bid of R20 000 – more than R6000 a bottle. Treat those bottles of Chateau Lib in your cupboard with respect!
One of the breath-taking prices went for a six-case lot of 1948 Monis Collector’s Port. The bidding just went on and on and the hall fell silent as we watched the price rise to R10 000, then R30 000, then R50 000 and finally finish at R68 000 – more than R10 000 a bottle!
Somebody REALLY wanted that port.
There were also bargains for serious wine buyers and retailers of course. Nederburg’s Private Bin Pinotage 2003, for example, was knocked down for R110 a bottle, and Stellenrust’s barrel fermented 2008 Chenin Blanc was sold for R136 a bottle.
Nederburg’s 2009 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc fetched around R140 a bottle.
At those prices there will be some happy wine drinkers enjoying excellent wines, even after the buyers have added their profit.
Early on Saturday the sales had passed the R4-million mark, and at the end of the auction the total was a record R6,13 million.
Congratulations to the organizers of the auction for a well-run event.
Photograph: Matt Stow
Posted on 06 January 2011 by davidbiggs
I find it interesting to note how many of my friends now drink sparkling wine as a regular summer drink. Not long ago bubblies were reserved for special occasions – weddings and 21st birthdays.
There was a time when sherry was the accepted drink to start an evening. You greeted guests with a glass of sherry. Now it seems you greet them with a glass of bubbly. Sherry seems to be on the endangered list.
Part of the reason for this trend, I believe, is that our South African winemakers are producing such excellent MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) sparkling wines at very reasonable prices.
Many winemakers – like Philip Jonker of Weltevrede, Jeff Grier of Villiera and Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck – have really gone into the bubbly thing and produce several different styles of MCC. Some are vintage wines, some are non-vintage, some are pink, all are deliciously crisp and cooling.
Most of the MCC bubblies we produce are made from the traditional Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but one of my current favourites, Old Vines Vintage Brut 2004, is made from Chenin Blanc grapes. Of course this comes a no surprise when you remember it was made by Irina van Holdt, the Cape’s most enthusiastic promoter of the Chenin Blanc grape.
I’ve always enjoyed Twee Jongegezellen’s Krone Borealis, too, for a really crisp and elegant drink that seems to team up well with almost any food. I like their rosé version too.
Of course, a sparkling wine doesn’t have to made by the traditional bottle-fermented method. We have some excellent bubblies produced by the simpler charmat method, in which the bubbles are created in pressurised tanks before bottling. Nederburg produces a good one, as do JC le Roux and Du Toitskloof.
And while you’re exploring the delightful world of Cape sparkling wines, taste Camberley’s unusual Sparkling Shiraz. There are not many sparkling red wines on the market, but this one is rapidly gaining fans. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s light and fruity, with savoury nuances and a nice dusty finish. I’d like to try it with a full-flavoured meat dish like roast pork, or maybe even springbok venison.
If our Cape temperatures stay up there in the 30s for much longer, I can see my consumption of chilled sparkling wines rising to record levels.