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(2018)

49 blogs found

Grace and favour,
November 2018
The view of critics and buyers in the United Kingdom – London – is that, of the New World wine producing countries, South Africa is the most innovative and exciting said Steven Spurrier at the Celebration of Chardonnay hosted by De Wetshof in Robertson recently.
BRIGHT EYES, BIG FUTURE,
November 2018
The VinPro Foundation celebrated its 5th birthday recently by hosting a party at the VinPro offices in Paarl. At the small, but jolly function, the Foundation took the opportunity to showcase some of their successes, sketch their plans for the future, and introduce some of their bursary students.
I first visited South Africa back in 1997 as a tourist and the country just blew me away. I was really impressed with the landscape, wildlife and most of all the friendliness of the people. It was also the first time I did tastings at cellar doors – at that time I was merely an average wine consumer who really didn't know much about wine other than that I enjoyed drinking it. It was, in fact, this visit to a wine country that made me truly fall in love with wine.
Charles Back has a smile in his voice when he talks. Good humour suffuses his being; it’s a lot like sitting in the morning sun having a conversation with him.
Just six months ago, the level of Cape Town’s dams had dropped below 21%. Theewaterskloof, the largest with a capacity of 480 188 million litres had sunk to a pathetic 10% dribble. Parts of the winelands were even worse off. Water restrictions followed by increased tariffs brought out consumers’ many innovative water-saving methods. For most, saving water has become part of life.
Pieces of Heaven,
October 2018
There was something sybaritic about sitting on the wooden deck of beautiful timber-framed canvas “shed” overlooking both the Karwyderskraal road and Bosman Family Vineyards’ vine nursery in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley recently.
Interview with Lendl Mijnhijmer – Best Sommelier of The Netherlands
The Vinpro Foundation turns 5 this year, and we thought what better way to celebrate than with our age mates! So the idea of supporting the Diemerskraal creche and aftercare library was born.
“I was born into it,” says Danie de Wet, at heart a Robertson farmer. In stature, a rugby player. He eases his large frame into a chair on the porch of The Robertson Small Hotel. We’ve met in his hometown. Known widely as the Valley of Wine & Roses, Robertson is a riot of Edwardian and Victorian architecture, semi-Karoo scrub, cacti and fynbos, purple jacaranda trees and rows and rows of red cannas. The farmlands and vineyards spiral off from the town, and are as countrified as the Cape Winelands get.
Discussing different varieties with a friend who sells a lot of South African wine in the UK, the conversation turned, as it frequently does, to Chenin Blanc and why it’s a leader in individuality and quality. ‘Maybe,’ my friend suggested, ‘Chenin is so far ahead because the producers own the style; in some other varieties, it’s a copy cat game.’
It’s September. The rains have been better than they been for years and dams are beginning to fill up, the vines have been pruned and started to show the first little green flags of verdant growth. The sun shines brightly and with more warmth as it rises a tad earlier and sets a few minutes later. Everything seems poised and full of promise of good things to come.
Ever heard of the World Choir Games? If not, then you are missing out, because it is the world’s largest global choral festival and competition. Its motto is "Singing together brings nations together" with the aim of bringing unity through the arts.
The Vintner’s Surf Classic saw 65 South African winemakers coming together for the love of waves and wine, dropping their titles as winemakers and simply becoming surfers for the day.
Delheim was the furnace for many of the things we associate with a day out in the winelands. Things we take for granted now, such as an authentically styled tasting room, a restaurant to complement the estate’s offering, vineyard tours and the like. It al started here. Delheim radiates hospitality from its very entrance where complimentary mulled wine is waiting to greet guests. I’m here to have lunch with the estate’s matriarch, Vera Sperling.
VARIETAL DIVERSITY,
August 2018
The publication SA Wine Industry 2017 Statistics Nr 42, issued by SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Statistics), offers a pretty comprehensive insight into this industry; everything from grapes crushed to Excise Duty on the various categories of wine and spirits.
Ancient wisdom,
August 2018
Georgia features a lot in popular culture. It’s in song titles – like the one Ray Charles made famous decades ago with his old, sweet song “Keeps Georgia on my mind” – or the melancholy 1970’s tune made famous by singer Brook Benton: “Rainy Night in Georgia”.
This is not just a quote from the HG Wells inspired movie, ‘The War of the Worlds’ referring to the ironclad boat that bravely sailed out to meet the invading Martians.
Cape Town, 23 July 2018: The Anna Foundation was again a beneficiary of the Cape Wine Auction’s 2018 generous donation towards the essential education work done on rural farms in the Western Cape.
It feels a little like I’m walking into the lion’s den as I push open the door to Achim von Arnim’s study and art studio. Achim has a reputation that precedes him. Larger than life, sure. Eccentric, definitely. Visionary? Absolutely. Today is his 73rd birthday, and it’s not the lion I find, but instead I’m enveloped in a warm handshake by paint-splattered hands and a mischievous energy that fizzles up in his blue eyes
Oak Free Wines,
July 2018
Two of many great wines I drank on my recent trip to Europe were a Chablis and a Santorini Assyrtiko. Nothing too remarkable about that, except both were unoaked.
Dream it, visualise it, commit to it and you’ll be able to realise it. That’s what many a motivational speaker or a best-selling book will tell you.
Lubanzi Wines,
July 2018
Transformation is not something that only large producers with hefty social responsibility projects can do. Two young Americans came travelling in Africa, fell in love with the country and its wine and decided to make it their business but also their mission to uplift those in need, through their success.
Cape Town, 31 May 2018: Iconic wine brands, Kanonkop, Fairview and Groot Constantia have joined 19 other farms in the Western Cape to offer the children of farm workers an extended academic, sports and life skills after schools programme in partnership with the Anna Foundation.
“Bubbles have consumed my life,” says Pieter Ferreira. It’s not an overstatement. Widely known as Mr Bubbles; Graham Beck’s cellar master has been on the bubble for 30 vintages. Coming in from the street, he shakes rain out of his hair. We sit down by the fireplace in a wine bar in Stellenbosch, with a glass of each of MCC, of course.
South Africa’s official 94 545 hectares under vine are, in the main, concentrated in the Western Cape; just eight varieties cover 80% of that area. These figures might suggest a lack of diversity in the wines, but do not take into account the many different aspects, altitudes, soils and macroclimates; each ensures wines capable of distinctive character.
“He would always return from Italy with about half a kilo of truffles... He could afford them! And then he’d invite me over and he’d cook. We would sit in the kitchen, two old men, enjoying good food, good wine and telling stories, listening to music.”
Many years of saving, planning and hard work has resulted in an impressive new community centre for the Merwida wine farm in Rawsonville.
So much about Ken Forrester is larger than life. So I’m surprised to discover his Stellenbosch wine estate hasn’t gone the way of the gilded and grand contemporary winery, but is instead a place full of heart. At first I even drive right past the small, unassuming gate at the entrance.
From birthday celebrations to the much-anticipated countdown on New Year’s eve, a cold flute of bubbly is one of the best ways to make any occasion all the more festive.
Milestone birthdays fortunately only come around every decade. And when they do, it’s important to look back and reflect – on how things were and how much they’ve changed.
OLD WINE TASTING,
May 2018
For the past 11 years a tasting of old South African wines has been held the afternoon prior to the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show judging. While this is mainly for the benefit of the Show’s international judges, local judges, past (in my case) and present are also invited.
To many a tourist, Bonnievale is a picturesque village true to its name. But look beyond the lush, green vineyards and towering mountains and you will soon see the poverty and depravation endemic to a typical rural farming community.
Giorgio Dalla Cia settles into a red leather couch. His trademark white hat hangs off a stand behind him. There’s the buzz of his winery and distillery below us, the sound of a Stellenbosch day coming from an open window, and a breeze occasionally scented with the aroma of coffee floats up from the adjacent Pane E Vino, the family’s food and wine bar. But all my attention is on the legend in front of me, so magnetic is his presence.
Cheeseboards can be impressive, but the best part? They’re super simple to put together. There are many great wine pairings in the world, but cheese has to be the best of all of them all to any food and wine lover.
BLENDS THEN AND NOW,
April 2018
South Africa has a long history of blended wines; the tale of their development interweaves old and new varieties.
Every year, Druk my Niet winemaker Alexandra McFarlane chooses a theme to name her barrels of maturing wine. In 2018 it’s Star Wars with Yoda, R2D2 and other familiar names chalked onto the French oak.
“Wine is a mirror of the environment first,” says Jan ‘Boland’ Coetzee of Vriesenhof Wines . We’re sitting on the porch of his Stellenbosch farmhouse, overlooking the view of vineyards and mountains. Inside there’s evidence of a braai being prepped for later. You don’t often see houses like this anymore. The walls are thick stone, with wooden gabled ceilings, and there’s a fireplace you could park a car in. Above the stove hangs an oil painting—a scene of braaiied fish and lemons—hinting at his love for his place of birth, the West Coast.
Defying Drought,
March 2018
The Western Cape is considered to have a Mediterranean climate, one providing warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters.
Koen Roose is the first to admit that he quite likes being known as the “crazy Belgian” in the Elgin wine valley. He’s crazy alright... crazy like a fox!
With the current drought in the Cape Winelands on everyone’s minds, conserving water has become a major focus. However, some forward thinking, conservation-minded landowners have long been saving this critical resource. The Simonsberg Conservancy was established way back in 2004 with the idea of rooting out our alien vegetation in order to bring back the natural fauna and flora of the area. With agricultural development, more and more indigenous plant species were under threat as cultivated land crept up the slopes of the Simonsberg.
The sands of the Bottelary Hills run through Danie Steytler’s veins. The soils of this Stellenbosch region have shaped him as if out of clay and made him into the person and celebrated winemaker he is today. The Steytler family have farmed Kaapzicht Estate for over 70 years, and Danie is the third generation with 40 vintages of winemaking behind him.
Beyond the Mainstream,
February 2018
Valdiguié. No, I hadn’t heard of this obscure or ‘rather ordinary’ (as Jancis Robinson describes it in Wine Grapes) variety from South-West France until I tasted it recently under the Wilson Foreigner label, a Californian project between David Wilson and South Africa’s Chris Alheit. Valdiguié is most definitely an alternative variety.
Several WWF Conservation Champions farms promote and support the conservation of the threatened Cape mountain leopard, setting an example of environmental protection in the wine industry.
On words and meaning,
February 2018
I was stopped in my tracks by a word.
“At Du Toitskloof, we understand that to develop a sustainable local wine industry, it is essential for our workers to thrive,” says Du Toitskloof Winery CEO, Marius Louw.
I first got know Peter Finlayson aka The Pinot Pioneer over a plate of West Coast oysters and a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson’s Blanc de Mer. As far as first-impressions go—from one oyster-and-wine-lover to another—this was a home run. The memory of that lunch comes washing over me as I admire a still life of oysters, bread and a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson white—which is hung on a wall in the Hemel-en-Aarde winery. The oysters may be rendered, but the man sitting across from me is as vital as ever. The Sinatra of the wine industry, this gentle giant with his sharp blue eyes and salt-and-pepper beard has a presence that commands attention. Peter Finlayson is no wallflower.
120 000 visitors in a year.
Years swing by so swiftly, it seems like yesterday harvest 2017 finished; yet, 2018 has already started with bubbly producers taking in the first grapes during the second week of January – around a week later than last year.
“I was the smallest guy in the hostel in boarding school,” says Duimpie Bayly. “That’s where I got my nickname: Duimpie means ‘small thumb’.” And he’s never been called anything else since. I ask him what it says on his many awards or what was used in his professional capacity. The answer is of course, Duimpie Bayly. He says there may be a ‘Francis’, his birth name, on some documents somewhere.