Welcome to Cape ChatterClick here for the author biographies. Your views are very welcome. (2016)
46 blogs found
There’s a magic to the Elgin Wine Valley. Close your eyes, you see green; open them and more of the same. It’s lush, cool, enchanting. Home to elegant cool climate wines, seas of apple orchards, the burgeoning craft cider route and friendly country folk, who all want you to sample their wares.
Fake trees are up, the glitzy decorations appended and Christmas carols (invariably sung by Boney M…) are on repeat in shopping malls the world over. There’s just no escaping the festive season.
Over the past 8 years a successful Fairtrade initiative, Fairhills, has been established between Origin Wine and producers in South Africa’s Breedekloof valley, making a significant impact on the workers there. The success of Fairhills has seen the employees and their families gain many life changing benefits, with more planned in the future.
Yes Way Rosé
, November 2016
“We all really liked the ones with the onionskin colour,” states Cape Wine Master, Allan Mullins. He’s addressing the crowd gathered at The Radisson Blu Hotel waiting for the announcement of the top Rosé wines in South Africa. Rosé Rocks is a wine competition (now in its second year) created to underscore the excellence in our Rosé winemaking and to promote the South African Rosé wine category as a whole.
From Independence, Missouri to the lush green, towering slopes of the Jonkershoek Valley is quite a move, one Jose Condé negotiated with great success. Around Independence was corn and cow country with America’s first registered viticultural area not far away, but wine was not part of the Condé family’s life. Jose’s father was Cuban, his mother from an Irish-American family. The international mix grew when Jose married Marie Schröder, whose father, Hans-Peter Schröder, is South African and mother, Midori, Japanese. Marie’s sister married a Spaniard, so the family’s a veritable United Nations of peoples!
For the first time in three years, the top accolade of White Wine of the Year in the annual Platter’s South African Wine Guide went to a Chenin Blanc rather than a Chardonnay. White wines had something of a bumper year in the 37th edition of the highly anticipated annual guide which was launched at the Table Bay Hotel last week with 53 wines accorded 5 Star ratings versus 31 for reds.
I was visiting the Elgin wine region, where I was due to be taking part in the Chardonnay Symposium. My hosts, Brian and Marion Smith of biodynamic winery Elgin Ridge, had arranged a treat for me: a flight across the valley in a light aircraft. But there turned out to be a problem. The pilot had sold his plane, and thus was planeless. But Brian had another plan. One of the growers in the valley, Ian Corder of Corder Wines, had a gyrocopter. Ian, Brian and I just happened to be tasting together at Almenkerk, and Brian asked Ian, ‘could you take Jamie up?’ So it turned out that the next morning I headed over to small landing strip on Oak Valley’s farm, where Ian was preparing his gyrocopter for the flight.
A glass act
, October 2016
Is 2016 the year the world will remember as the death of the Champagne flute? If international (and local) trends have anything to say about it, they’re saying adieu to the cylindrical party favourite.
On her most recent visit to Cape Town in 2015 Jancis Robinson MW tasted a bottle of the legendary *GS Cabernet 1966 – and awarded it a perfect 20/20, describing it as absolutely stunning. “Such a beautiful combination of maturity and delicacy – but with far more fruit integrity than most 1966 red Bordeaux would have now,” she wrote.
I’ve been eyeing out the shed in my backyard. I want to turn it into a wine room á la the trend sweeping the drinking world, the pub shed. Sheddies—as they’re known—turf out the lawnmower and spades to create their very own watering holes at the bottom of the garden. My shed will act as a cellar, stacked to the rafters with fine wines (perhaps I’ll even scatter the floor with apricot pips). It seems a bit of a waste to store ready-to-drink wines in this future shed-cum-cellar; it will need to be a space rather for investment wines.
This year’s 32nd Cape Winemakers’ Guild Auction will be held on Saturday 1st October at the Spier Conference Centre.
As ‘Old Vines’ is the buzzword in the local industry right now, the judges for the Cape Sommelier Cup were treated to a presentation and tasting of wines made from Old Vines by viticulturist Rosa Kruger and her team.
South African wine is gaining traction internationally – and much of it is based on an appreciation for wines made from old vines. But heritage is just as much about people as it is about rootstock, grape variety or clone.
While the recent Chenin Blanc Top 10 Challenge announcement has focussed our attention on that cultivar, I have to admit that I still love a crisp, cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc come sunnier days. I favour the more complex examples – those with a splash of Semillon, such as Steenberg’s; or those fermented on the lees, such as the limited-release Klein Constantia Perdeblokke.
Cue the Braai
, September 2016
To braai or not to braai? That is definitely NOT the question asked in many a South African household. The question is more likely to be WHAT are we braai-ing? For that produces endless possibilities and is something the average South African male enjoys discussing almost as much as the game watched that weekend.
Most folk involved in the South African wine industry have heard of WOSA, or our full title, Wines of South Africa, but because we are always on the other end of the telephone or email, and we are usually visiting you rather than the other way around, very few actually know where we are situated and what our offices look like.
In a year, which has shown nothing should be taken for granted, the 42nd Nederburg Auction is shaking off middle age with a few welcome changes.
Recent volatile weather patterns have kept farmers guessing all year, but as the Cape winter draws to a close, viticulturists are relatively up-beat about predictions for the forthcoming harvest.
The Pebbles Project Trust aims to change and enrich the lives of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, with an emphasis on special educational needs, in the Western Cape farming community. This well-run NPO reported another year of outstanding success at its AGM, held on 04 August at the Conference Centre on Kleine Zalze wine estate in Stellenbosch. “Wines of South Africa (WOSA) is proud to support this initiative which has provided invaluable support to communities on farms in the Cape winelands,” said Matome Mbatha, WOSA’s market manager for Africa and a member of the trust’s board.
This time last year there was much eagerness and expectation of Cape Wine 2015. Preparations were afoot for the descending throng of international buyers and media folks. Like something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, everyone was wanting to see what was on the slab… quivering with an-ti-ci-PA-tion. And when it was in full swing, headlines and column inches were devoted to the revolutionaries from the Swartland, with a minor upstaging by the Zoo Biscuits and the Chenin Blanc fraternity which hosted a shorts, t-shirt and sand between the toes beach party.
In South Africa we celebrate the women who fought against Apartheid on Women’s Day, which falls on 9 August each year – a fitting month to celebrate our women winemakers too.
If all you know about biodynamic farming is that the moon and stars are somehow involved, it’s easy to dismiss. But that’s just scratching the surface of the philosophy. Rather, biodynamic farming is about what’s happening below, above and beyond: it’s as simple as farming in harmony with the cycles of nature.
South Africa, in general, and the Cape in particular, is recognised for its excellent restaurants, food and wine. There are regular dispatches from foreign media praising (often with surprise) such excellence. This is also reflected in the many awards received.
Ella Fitzgerald sang that “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it … that’s what gets results”.
In all the hype surrounding red and white blends, signature Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, fashionable varieties such as Shiraz and ones new to this country, which all undeniably bring excitement, noble variety Cabernet Sauvignon often gets overlooked. Yet there is much enjoyment to be found in this category and it remains the most widely planted red-wine variety in South Africa, accounting for 11.3% of the national vineyard (2015 figure).
“French Bordeaux is recognised world wide as something really special. We use the style as a measuring point, as a reference,” says Christian Eedes, editor of Winemag.co.za.
There can be few scenarios that better illustrate the immense changes that have taken place in the South African wine industry over the past decades than a presentation of their wines by a father and his son – in just one generation we have seen a paradigm shift.
The month of May is the start of the new cycle of the vine – in nursery circles, anyhow. At Lelienfontein Vine Growers this is the period when they start harvesting the rootstocks for the next generation of South African vines. The largest of its kind in Africa and part of Bosman Family Vineyards, you’ll find this vine nursery on the slopes of the Groenberg in Wellington, fed by water from the Kromme River.
Some years ago, when the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show added the Museum category to its growing list of awards, questions were raised about the validity or benefit of rewarding older, and possibly unavailable, wines.
t takes courage and hard work to fly solo as a winemaker. Back in the 80s and 90s, it was winemakers like Beyers Truter, who left Kanonkop to start Beyerskloof, focusing on Pinotage; Etienne Le Riche, who left Rustenberg to start his own venture, Le Riche Wines, specialising in Cabernet; and Neil Ellis, who bravely forged ahead, leaving their winemaking day jobs to build their own brands. After he left Zevenwacht, Ellis, a pioneer of the negociant trend in South Africa, cherry picked grapes from carefully selected and managed parcels of vineyard. He put the Groenekloof ward in Darling firmly on the map and grew Neil Ellis Wines into the successful family business that it is today.
It snowed. It was late April, in London’s East End – Tobacco Dock specifically – and it was supposed to be spring, with swathes of bluebells and daffodils showing their bright, cheery blue and yellow colours off in weak sunshine. But it was snowing… in the middle of London!
The South African wine scene is nothing if not dynamic. Not only are new varieties better suited to the climate generally being introduced but others, long a part of the vineyard complement, are being re-discovered and re-invented. However, exploration down varietal avenues, new and old, is nothing compared with the pushing of vinification boundaries. Wine fermented under a layer of yeast, wine in glass jars left to age in the sun and skin-fermented whites – none are new in the global wine galaxy and, in reality, not even in South Africa. But it was only in the middle of 2015 that official regulations were discussed and drawn up for six new classes of wine, skin-macerated white being one. ‘Macerated’ also includes fermentation on the skins for a minimum of 96 hours. Many have gone to far greater extremes.
Winemaker Richard Kershaw MW refers to the Elgin Valley as “a saucer”. Standing somewhere in the middle of this high-lying area, it’s plain to see why: it is surrounded by a rim of mountains which frame verdant, rolling troughs and peaks. More technically, Kershaw describes it as “situated on an inland, hexagonal-shaped plateau, at an altitude of 300 metres, surrounded by mountains, only 10 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean.”
A positive trend in the Cape winelands has been a shift towards a ‘farm to table’ ethos, with properties such as Babylonstoren, La Motte, Oak Valley, Spier and Waterkloof having paved the way for others to follow.
A wine label’s main job is, of course, for consumers to be able to identify a brand. Seems obvious but the intricacies that go into a successful label go far deeper than that. A good label should, in a manner, tell the story of not only of its region but also of its country of origin, while still managing to persuade someone to reach for it on the shelf.
Charles Back is one of South Africa’s wine visionaries. The ultimate ‘out of the box’ thinker who has led the pack – or goat herd – for decades. Possibly his biggest claim to fame is cocking a snook at the French and their wine labelling pretensions years ago by launching his Goat range: Goats do Roam, Goat Roti et al… In spite of this, he’s a reticent man who actively shuns the spotlight – which made the April launch of Fairview’s new Bloemcool wines so unusual.
The Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) in Stellenbosch, which is the business and education hub of the wine industry, is a Not For Profit Company (NPC) run and managed by a committed, dynamic and enthusiastic multi-lingual local South African team with a strong ethos of student support. The organisation develops talented, previously disadvantaged 18–25-year-old youth for employment. Its innovative programme combines personal development skills with industry-specific vocational training and practical work experience.
Calling what winemakers do at this time of the year ‘playing’ is a little frivolous and possibly even disingenuous! Getting their geek on by doing a variety of experiments, trials and little pet projects during harvest often sees techniques refined and tweaked until, years later, you and I get to pour the results into a glass.
You can learn a lot about a farm from the back of a bakkie. A group of us hold onto the moving vehicle’s railings, while winemaker and owner of Kranskop, Newald Marais, shows us around his Robertson estate.
It’s 2049 and you’ve popped down to your virtual wine merchant to buy a bottle of wine to go with your evening meal. As you zoom in on a bottle and ‘walk past’, it shows a 3D image of the vineyard from where the wine comes. There is no label on this bottle nor on any of the others on offer; all are fitted with a microchip and micro-projector, allowing for a scene or design to be viewed in 3D.
National Water Week commences on 19 March 2016. Water and using it wisely are hot topics in South Africa, especially in light of increasingly drier conditions and the recent drought with its ensuing water restrictions.
In South Africa, nearly 95 percent of winegrowing takes place in the unique Cape winelands habitat of the Northern and Western Cape. This region is also home to both the Cape Floral Kingdom (CFK) and the Succulent Karoo. The CFK, one of only six floral kingdoms in the world, has the highest diversity and concentration of plant species in relation to its size and it is globally recognised as one of 34 biodiversity ‘hotspots'. Close to 10 000 species have been recorded to date and 70 percent of these are found nowhere else in the world. Despite this, only nine percent of this unique region enjoys formal protection within national or provincial reserves. As much as 80 percent of this highly threatened landscape is in the hands of private landowners, making them critical to the conservation success of this World Heritage site region.
There are two things that the South African wine industry does well. One, we make exceptional wine (the best value fine wine in the world, in some opinions); and two – we sure know how to throw a party.
Restaurant JAN has made headlines recently after just winning its first Michelin star. South Africans are justifiably excited because Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, the chef behind this restaurant in France’s famous coastal town of Nice, is a boerseun from Middelburg who did his culinary training in Stellenbosch.
Rarely does a month go by these days without an article on English sparkling wine appearing in print or on the Internet. Its praises are being sung not only by writers but by judges too. According to statistics on the English Vineyards website, in the past 16 years English sparkling wines have won eight trophies for Best International Sparkling Wine and six trophies for Best Sparkling Rosé in global competitions; something – again according to the English Vineyards site – that no other country has achieved. One British supermarket reported a massive sales increase of 188% year on year in 2015, but perhaps the most important recognition that English and Welsh sparkling wine has arrived is the purchase of land in Kent by Champagne house Tattinger.
Some winemakers look to the stars for new ways of ageing their product, as is the case with a Chilean wine, called Meteorito: a Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in barrel alongside fragments of a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite. Others, the depths of the ocean. The bottom of the sea is said to act as a time capsule with the ocean maintaining temperature while the currents gently rock the bottles.