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40 blogs found

The Wine Kingdom The most amazing fact about this spectacular World Wildlife Fund publication is that it took just six months from conception to publication. In revealing that, I should declare my interest in The Wine Kingdom: I was kindly invited to write the introduction. But all the other reviews I’ve read or heard share my enthusiasm, so I hope no one deems my view unduly subjective.
Power to the people,
December 2015
It’s impossible to miss when driving towards Stellenbosch on Baden Powell Drive. There’s a large warehouse on the side of the road, just beyond Meerlust wine estate, surrounded by high stacks of shrink-wrapped wine bottles. But what lies behind those tan-coloured walls which house Compagniesdrift?
Working on sunshine,
December 2015
I have had ‘Walking on Sunshine’, the catchy 80s pop song by Katrina & The Waves, stuck in my head ever since reading some inspiring pieces on solar power last week.
A group of men wearing a hotchpotch assortment of aprons gathers under the blue Paardeberg sky. They’re excited about something. At the centre, Matthew Copeland, winemaker of Vondeling, opens a sparkling wine bottle with a flourish. I get my glass under the stream just in time.
A quartet of pioneers ,
November 2015
Two recent events – one an anniversary, the other a re-launch – brought back memories of South Africa’s early days with red blends based on Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. The first, Welgemeend Estate 1979, incorporated all five of those varieties.
Platter 2016,
November 2015
It perhaps wasn’t quite as significant as Moses striding down from the mountain clutching the Ten Commandments under his arm but the annual release of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide for 2016 is – after 36 years – regarded as almost biblical. To many in the local wine industry, attaining the coveted five-star Platter rating remains the ultimate accolade, prized more highly than competition medals.
Last week I attended an event at the Oude Libertas in Stellenbosch celebrating three generations of students at the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA). Based in the town, the academy is a Not For Profit Company (NPC) run and managed by a multi-lingual local South African team.
The phrase: ‘modern winery’ may give many of us chills; conjuring up images of a once verdant landscape blighted by chrome and cement. Though, in the Cape Winelands, your eyes may just be pleasantly surprised. The majority of the so-called modern wineries have actually followed the sloping lines of the Cape Dutch aesthetic by marrying modern design to the naturally undulating wineland setting. In contrast to urban developments, where the hard lines of industry stack up neatly together like an oversized Tetris game, wine estates—due to the very nature of their trade—will, well be found in natural settings. And good design, regardless of genre should follow function.
Last month, the flag was being flown for South African wine by the many producers participating in Cape Wine 2015. Among the wines they were pouring for visitors from around the world were those regarded as their flagship wines.
That golden glow,
October 2015
South Africa now has 25 wine competitions – which is coincidentally the same anniversary the Veritas Awards celebrated on Friday 09 October. In spite of pretensions to the throne, the Veritas Awards , established in 1991, is still the competition by which South African success is measured locally.
The recent spring solstice and Heritage Day (South Africa’s national braai day) signalled the start of many sociable summer barbecues to come in the southern hemisphere – and lovely mild autumn days in the northern hemisphere. At this time of year, I usually find myself still bridging the gap between red wine and lamb, and crisp, cold summer whites with a fish on the braai.
Competing on equal terms,
September 2015
There’s a great photo of the semi-finals of the 200-metre sprint at the recent IAAF World Championships in Beijing: it’s of Anaso Jobodwana, a little-known South African sprinter, on the shoulder of one of the greatest sprinters ever – Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.
High tea at the Cape,
September 2015
Afternoon tea is believed to have been created in around 1840 by Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, to bridge the long gap between meals as dinner was only served after eight among the wealthy classes. Afternoon tea is often referred to as high tea outside of the UK, although strictly speaking that was the evening meal of the working class in a newly industrialised Britain in the early 19th century.
Diversity is in our nature. This isn’t mere lip service; the Cape winelands are located in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a world heritage site that’s home to some 10 000 plant species (more than are found in the whole of the northern hemisphere), 70 percent of which are endemic.
The theme of this year’s Adams & Adams’ sponsored WineLand Seminar was South African identity; what makes our wines stand out from those of other countries. One of the most interesting of the topics presented was the ambassadors’ tasting.
Women in SA wine,
August 2015
South Africa is a country keenly aware of the value of a vote – something fought over so strenuously during the Apartheid era when ‘one man, one vote’ was the mantra of the disenfranchised masses. So it was quite odd to hear from a Swiss friend that women in the landlocked chocolate box country so famed for its neutrality were only granted the vote as recently as 1971!
It doesn’t take too much digging to discover a few of the reasons behind the Cape’s exponential growth in wine quality over the last two decades – among them is the non-profit Wine Training South Africa (WTSA) organisation, initiated in sanction-era 1987 by cellar technology students at Elsenburg Agricultural College. Today, WTSA offers accredited (SETA*) training for wine cellar workers, some of whom begin as illiterate or semi-illiterate.
One in four South Africans do not have a job: at 25.2%, the country’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world.
Over the past five years or so, much attention has been paid to old vines and the wines they produce. It was likely Eben Sadie’s first Ouwingerdreeks (Old Vine Series) collection from 2010 that drew wider attention to the worth of South Africa’s old vines. Since then, the quest to identify more has gained momentum.
The memories evoked by familiar smells are extremely powerful. One whiff and you’re transported to a different time and place.
From the frontline,
June 2015
Waitrons and sommeliers are at the frontline when it comes to introducing South African wines to tourists and locals alike, suggesting which wines to pair with which dishes and encouraging patrons to experience our exciting wines in the way they work best, enjoyed with food.
When benchmarking classic varieties grown in South Africa, reference areas and wines are easily pinpointed. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc? Look to the Loire; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – Burgundy; Syrah – Rhône; and Cabernet – Bordeaux. But Cinsaut? Does anywhere and any wine readily spring to mind?
The Pebbles Project, which is based in Stellenbosch, is an established and well-run NPO that 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.
The wine world is driven by the seasons. There is the biblical ‘time to plant and time to reap’ but right now South African producers are reaping alright – not bunches of grapes, though. They’re reaping in the trophies, gold and silver medals and commendations!
May 2015
Few tastings of local wines can be more instructive about South Africa’s wine evolution than those featuring older wines.
Horses have long been a part of South Africa’s winemaking history. Before tractors and motorcars were so prolific, it was our four-legged steeds we relied on to get the job done.
Freedom Day on 27 April 2015 commemorated the heady day in 1994 when the first democratic election was held in South Africa. Following that milestone, Workers’ Day on 1 May was inaugurated as an official national public holiday celebrating the working class, the cogs who keep the wheel turning.
Journey of a blend,
April 2015
There’s much to be learned from a vertical tasting, especially one that traces a wine since its maiden vintage, from young vines to older and the increase in interest or complexity of the wine.
Comparisons are odious – or so it is said. But how else is anyone to know how well (or poorly) something is performing other than by comparing and contrasting it with something else?
Easter indulgence,
April 2015
Easter weekend is fast approaching, presenting the perfect opportunity to indulge in a few of my favourite things – wine and chocolate, a decadent treat, yet surprisingly healthy as both contain resveratrol which boosts your antioxidant level.
Saturday 28 February was a perfect Cape summer’s day –blue skies, barely a breeze, a warm sun and bewitching scenery. Buitenverwachting’s spacious lawns were crowded with wine lovers enjoying fine wines from many of the Cape’s top producers and food from renowned chefs at the annual Constantia Fresh. No one had any idea that within 24 hours a fire, started somewhere on the mountains above Muizenberg, would be raging along the Peninsula mountain range, towards Noordhoek on the one side, Constantia Valley on the other, and with many wine farms in its path.
‘The best wines improve with age’ is the old adage. Leading viticultural consultant Rosa Kruger takes it a step further back, proclaiming that the vines themselves improve with age.
Reaping the harvest,
March 2015
The Cape winelands can aptly be described as picturesque … that’s what they look like most of the time, like a beautiful painting. A vision of rolling mountains and koppies sketched in relief; a crosshatch of vineyards stitching up the landscape; that endless blue sky with plump clouds slowly drifting across.
Naming rights,
March 2015
Rupert & Rothschild recently opened a beautifully revamped tasting centre at the Fredericksburg farm in Simondium, between Paarl and Franschhoek. Seeing the range of Rothschild wines from Argentina, New Zealand and France alongside those of their South African Rupert partnership set off a train of random thought about wine names.
From the coast to further inland. Do things change? Happily, no. Andrea Mullineux of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines in the Swartland kindly took off a few minutes from late-night pressing and filling of barrels to confirm that the harvest is “fast and furious”. “The harvest’s not just early, it’s compact,” she explains. “We started two weeks early but will finish three to four weeks early too!” The last grapes came in on 12 February. The fruit is concentrated, healthy and ripe at lower Balling levels. Skins of white varieties are slightly more phenolic; reds have thick skins and big tannins. Juice recovery is lower. She attributes all to a dry spring.
Extraordinary. It’s a word that even mid-harvest may be applied with some confidence, especially in relation to the early start. Hardly had winemakers returned from Christmas and New Year holidays than they had to don their winemaking gear, ready to receive the first grapes.
A lasting legacy,
February 2015
South Africa is fortunate enough to know the exact date on which its wine industry began thanks to an entry in the diary of Jan van Riebeeck, an official of the Dutch East India Company and First Commander of the Cape, on 2 February 1659: “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes, namely from the new must, fresh from the vat. The grapes were mostly Muscadel, and other white round grapes, very fragrant and tasty."
Big can be beautiful too,
February 2015
In 1998, as part of the Cape Wine Academy’s diploma seminar, a group of us eager beaver students did a week-long intensive immersion in the world of wine.
Where in the world do French and South African wines get the same shelf space? Mauritius. Why you may wonder? Well, the simple answer is the proximity to the island – a flight from South Africa will take roughly four to six hours.
It’s not often I get the opportunity to taste a range of Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wines, so I was delighted when Roger Jones invited me to join him and friends for a tasting of around 30 bubblies.