Posted on 13 May 2012 by davidbiggs
At the risk of repeating myself, I am constantly amazed at the apparent lack of enthusiasm for our wonderful South African fortified sweet wines.
Somehow wine “connoisseurs” seem to think anything sweet isn’t serious. It must be a “dray whaite” or a noble red. The snobs claim to prefer a good wooded Chardonnay or a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
These are all very well, of course, and have an important place in our wine enjoyment.
But so do our muscadels and jerepigos.
Whenever I have introduced overseas wine lovers to our sweet wines they’ve been totally blown away by them
“Why don’t we get these great wines in England?” is a standard reaction.
The truth is that the EU has loaded the dice so heavily against us that they are simply too costly for most British wine buyers. EU customs rules make us pay a heavy import premium on wines with a high alcohol content, while the Europeans can sell high alcohol wines without penalty.
With winter now upon us it’s time to take a look at some of the sweet gems on offer and stock up on some winter warmers. The good news is there are many of them at real budget prices.
Watch out for the De Wet Cellar red Muscadel from the Worcester region. It’s been named the Best Value Muscadel for 2012.
Muscadels from Nuy, near Robertson have a long history of superb quality. The wonderful thing about these sweet delights is that they last for decades, growing more and more elegant with each passing year. I recently tasted an 80-year-old muscadel that was warm and rich and wonderful. Of course, I had to stand to drink it. Wine tradition holds that a drinker should always stand respectfully whenever you drink a wine older than yourself.
I recently enjoyed an excellent White Muscadel 2010 from Namaqua Wines on the West Coast. There’s far more to a wine like this than simple sweetness. You’ll find nuances of fresh citrus, chocolate and sun-warmed honey in it.
They’re versatile, too. Try a “muscatini” as a cocktail — white muscadel with a splash of vodka and a twist of lemon zest, the invention of that great champion of sweet wines, Swepie le Roux.
Or serve muscadel in a tall glass, filled with crushed ice as a delicious summer cooler.
Some friends have asked me: “But when do you actually drink muscadel? As an aperitif, as a digestif with the pudding?”
My answer is that I enjoy it anytime, sometimes just on its own as a warming sipper while watching TV.
It also goes well with spicy Indian curries. Try it next time, with a couple of cubes of ice in the glass.
Like Winnie-the-Pooh with his jars of honey, I count my bottles of muscadel lovingly at the beginning of winter and get that smug feeling.
I’m ready for anything the weather throws at me.
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 02 June 2011 by davidbiggs
I had to restrain myself from leaping up and cheering at the awards ceremony of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show in Cape Town this week, when the convenor, Michael Fridjhon announced the trophy for the ”Discovery of the Show.”
It went to the Nuy White Muscadel 2005, which also won the trophy for the Best Fortified Dessert Wine.
The Trophy Wine Show has been running for 10 years and is regarded as one of the most prestigious competitions in South Africa, with a judging panel that includes several respected foreign wine experts.
It gave me enormous pleasure to see a muscadel being selected as the “discovery of the show”. About time, too! Some of us muscadel enthusiasts discovered it many years ago. I’ve always said our muscadels are underrated and deserve far more attention. Nobody in the world comes anywhere close.
Our winemakers spend endless time and trouble trying to create wines that are the equal of the great wines of France, California or New Zealand. “This comes pretty close to a good Chablis,” you hear them say proudly when they’ve made a good Chenin Blanc. Isn’t that an admission they’re trying to copy somebody else’s style? If we told the world about our great muscadels we might hear a French winemaker say with reverence: “This comes pretty close to the great muscadels of the Robertson valley.”
The trophy for the best fortified wine in the “Museum Class” went to a KWV White Muscadel from 1933. Good grief! That’s even older than I am. It just goes to show these great sweet wines of ours can last and last. Let’s treasure them. Let’s publicise them. Let’s tell the world about them at every opportunity.
We have bottled sunshine for sale here. We don’t have to copy anybody else.
* * * *
Other trophies presented at the event included the Fairbairn Trophy for the most successful producer on show, which went to Spier Private Cellar, the trophy for the best red wine on show – Thelema Shiraz 2007 and best white wine – Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2009.
The Paul Cluver Chardonnay also won the trophy for the best wine in the opinion of the international judges on the panel.
A full list of medals and awards is published in the latest edition of Wine magazine.
But remember, winter is the time to drink those delicious muscadels. Go for them! Try them with Indian food for a sublime taste combination.