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Franschhoek wine farms provide comfort and memorable cuisine in an incomparable setting.
Standing at a lookout point on Kaapzicht farm with Danie Steytler Jnr, Stellenbosch’s Bottelary in all its glory is laid out below. The wind-scrubbed sky is bright above the rolling green slopes, and in the distance are Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.
Worcester town lies at a crossroads to many other wine regions. From Cape Town on the N1 after Du Toitskloof tunnel, there’s Breedekloof; Tulbagh is a pretty 45-minute-drive away to the west; on Route 62, after passing some Worcester cellars, Robertson is next wine region of call. Even continuing north on the N1 there are vines, though table than wine grapes.
50 not out,
November 2021
1971 was quite the year. Much of what made the news involved America: Charles Manson and his acolytes received the death penalty while Apollo 14 landed on the moon with Commander Alan Shepard being only the fifth astronaut to walk its surface. (He’s also the first to swing a makeshift golf club on the planet!)
America’s Got Talent is a competition that has had the world captivated since 2006 where amateur performers present their singing, dancing, comedy and novelty acts to celebrity judges and an international audience in order to advance in the competition and win a huge prize.
Robertson winemakers bring an extra sparkle to bubbly lover’s eyes.
“We spend so much time looking for fossils,” says Cap Classique specialist John Loubser, unpacking an assortment of rocks. We’re tucked away in a corner at Steenberg, overlooking the cellar he spent 15 years in as cellar master and general manager. He left in 2017 to devote himself to Silverthorn full-time, his family’s boutique estate in Robertson.
The Valley of Wine and Roses is the delightful and affectionate name given to the Robertson area; but the name goes beyond mere affection. The town lies some 2.5 hours’ drive north-east of Cape Town on the well-known wine Route 62. In the past, the fruits of the vine from the area were more likely to be bulk or distilling wine. Even today there’s more colombard, a major distilling variety, in the area, 1997 ha, than chardonnay’s 1660 ha.
Celebrating milestones,
October 2021
The Platter Guide Winery of the Year for 2021, Kleine Zalze, just can’t seem to stop winning! The latest accolade added to the already brimming trophy cabinet was the title of South Africa’s top Cap Classique with its Brut 2015. And on the same day it was also announced that the Kleine Zalze had not one wine in the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top 10, but two – the Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2020 and Family Reserve 2020.
Robertson Winery is a co-operative cellar based in the vibrant town of Robertson. A mere 2-hour drive east of Cape Town, the Robertson Valley has become synonymous with good wines, beautiful roses and hearty hospitality.
Annelize Stroebel, CEO of the Drakenstein Local Tourism Association describes Paarl as a special place with serene, natural beauty that is far-removed from the demands of city life. Paarl’s inimitable charm includes a remarkable array of wine, history, luxury and outdoor adventures.
“I have a restless soul and a restless mind,” says cellar master of De Grendel, Charles Hopkins. We’re seated at a wooden table that overlooks the cellar; barrels piled high to the ceiling. I’m trying to interview him, though for the past 30 minutes it’s he who is interviewing me. Coupled with his voracious intelligence Hopkins is built like a rugby player (he did play in France as a younger man). He’s amiable too, so despite all that formidable presence he immediately puts you at ease.
When considering shiraz’s progress in South Africa, it’s necessary to bear in mind the overall decline in vineyard area. In the period 2015 to 2020, it decreased from 98 500 ha to 92 000 ha. Despite this, shiraz has held to around 10.5 to 10% of the total area. The real change is the grape’s spread across the winelands. If its heartland is still Stellenbosch, closely followed by the Swartland, this Rhône variety’s wings have spread far and wide: it’s found in Fouriesberg, Eastern Free State, Sutherland in the Northern Cape and Ceres Plateau, all high-lying, cool-climate areas. At the foot of Africa, Elim and Malgas, also have cool climates and shiraz.
Changes & choices,
August 2021
Lifestyle choices are frequently understood to be the decisions which affect one’s health, especially later in life. But health has now grown to not just be about biology. There’s mental and emotional well being too.
In September last year we wrote about wine producer Journey’s End, who responded to the Covid-19 Lockdown by setting up a network of Soup Kitchens in the Helderberg region east of Stellenbosch. Their target was to provide 8,000 meals per week for 52 weeks, with a target of achieving 10,000 meals per week.
Visitors to the Cape Agulhas have the unrivalled opportunity to place each foot in two different oceans, the Atlantic and Indian. The area around the Southernmost tip of Africa also provides a wild, windy and challenging wine-growing area for intrepid viticulturists. The Cape South Coast provides several jewels along the road less traveled.
Barrels have a double meaning for winemaker Trizanne Barnard. When not filling them with her distinct ocean-born wines, an avid surfer she steals every chance she gets to ride them.
Pebbles or The Pebbles Project is a well-known and admired NPO in the Cape Winelands and way beyond. Possibly less widely known is Sophia Warner, founder of the project in 2004.
Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon is remembered as much for its cover art as for the fact that it was the first time Roger Waters took on solo vocals for the British rock quartet.
Since its inception in 2014, the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge rewards each winner with R25 000. But there is a caveat. That prize money must be spent on projects designed to uplift or upskill the farm workers, their families and their communities.
The West Coast Wine Regions hug the stretch between the sea and the Swartland.
While recently exploring the windswept Agulhas Wine Triangle, the southernmost wine region in Africa, I happened upon the mesmerising wines of Pierre Rabie. His range The Giant Periwinkle began as a garagiste concern with Rabie juggling his commitments as an advocate practicing in Cape Town, while making the wines in various rented spaces using Agulhas fruit. Though still practicing law he has now established a home for the brand in partnership with friends Karen van Helden and Robert Stelzner, who purchased a small farm just outside of Baardskeerdersbos, nearby to Elim with three-hectares of vineyards, a cellar and tasting room.
Elgin Riesling,
June 2021
Which grape variety do you most associate with Elgin? Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc? How about Riesling? What, Elgin produces Riesling?
Future proofing,
June 2021
Amidst gloomy pandemic headlines worldwide comes some good news: Cape Wine 2022 has been announced for October. It’s a scant 460 days (or so…) away. It’s also – roughly – the same amount of time that South Africans have spent under lock down or the euphemistically termed “adjusted living”!
Andre Shearer has been in the wine industry for a very long time, having bravely started the US based wine business Cape Classics with his brother Gary in 1991 when SA wines were unknown in the US, and SA’s reputation was still languishing under the ravages of anti-apartheid sanctions.
Wellington is an extraordinary enclave that is home to the James Sedgewick Distillery, Bain’s Kloof Pass, as well as a significant proportion of South Africa’s Chenin Blanc.
“During my first harvest while I was still a student we were doing a pump-over on a shiraz tank and the cellar filled with the most pronounced white-pepper aroma. At that moment, suddenly wine making made sense to me,” shared Natasha Williams on what lit the flame for her.
“This Covid is a wicked thing,” said De Wetshof’s Danie de Wet. “It keeps us all apart.”
With International Biodiversity Day falling on 22nd May, it’s an appropriate time to re-visit some of South Africa’s Conservation Champions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a worldwide economic slump, particularly in the hospitality industry where restaurants across the world were forced to close and lay off staff.
In the late 2020 fire season, which ran from November into April, 857 fires were recorded in the Cape Winelands District by March, according to Wayne Josias, acting Fire Chief for the district.
Do you get more off the beaten track than having to board a pontoon to get to a wine estate? The bright yellow ferry carrying our car trundled slowly across the mud-brown river, while we leant against the steel railings outside. The sun bounced off the water for a soporific effect, a feeling of languor dropped like a veil. From the mad race across highways and dirt roads to get here, suddenly everything slowed right down. Sijnn Wines, approximately three hours from Cape Town, is located in Malgas at the mouth of the Breede River, forty kilometres away from any other vineyards, and about 15 from the southern oceans of Africa. Malgas has been designated as a new ward from the 2010 vintage.
Red Blends,
April 2021
Varietal wines remain a favourite with consumers thanks to their familiar names; Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Syrah or Shiraz in the red line up are well-known and have their own fans. What many perhaps don’t realise is even those wines are often blends, as legally, up to 15% of another variety is permitted.
From the Heart,
April 2021
“The heart is a pump,” cardiac surgeon Professor Chris Barnard famously said. In December it will be 54 years since he conducted the world’s first ever historic heart transplant at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town.
To the average tourist, Bonnievale is a quaint village true to its name where picturesque farm cottages are surrounded by orchards and vineyards, bordered by beautiful, towering mountains. But look beyond this peaceful pastoral scene, and you will note the spirit of transformation burning brightly, and people hard at work creating opportunities for advancement and progress, the Elethu wine farm being a prime example.
A wine farm in the water-scarce Karoo is working towards conservation.
As wine legends go, the pioneering farmers who carved out agricultural land in the Klein Karoo must have been among the bravest and most intrepid. A somewhat unforgiving landscape defined by desert and soaring mountain peaks, dinosaur fossils slumbering some substrata down below, with the sun always hot and relentless. Though in this Mad Max like territory there are oases of green, where crystalline rivers flow, supporting life through the centuries; and ultimately sprouted the crops and homesteads of the early mavericks who first broke this rocky ground.
On the 22nd of February 2021, Wines of South Africa hosted a unique online tasting for the Dutch Guild of Sommeliers. Collaborating with ProChile, we showcased a diverse selection of high-end wines made from old vine vineyards from both countries.
As autumn settles in and winter lurks around the corner in the southern hemisphere, wines to complement the cooler weather are called for.
A tasty conundrum,
March 2021
It’s a real headscratcher: why don’t Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends sell better?
Seven reasons to take a trip to the Breedekloof Wine Route or to treat yourself to a Breedekloof wine.
Attie Louw is as refreshing as one of his chenin blancs; humble and down-to-earth, he emanates kindness like a second skin. There’s no chip on this shoulder, no point to prove – he’s simply passionate about family and about chenin blanc. He’s the winemaker (slash marketer) for Opstal Estate, located up on a ridge in the Slanghoek Valley (a sub-region of the Breedekloof).
Breedekloof discovered,
February 2021
The road is long and straight, the scenery dramatic. Towering mountains, snow-capped in winter, cascading waterfalls, eye-catching fynbos and wild flowers, wild animals too; the Cape Leopard and endangered geometric tortoise roam there; importantly, lush vineyards snaking the contours of the mountain slopes are a further attraction, as are the wineries where they are turned into wine. Of course, there’s a river running through it; the Breede (wide) River takes centre stage.
Rapid renaissance,
February 2021
The Chenin Blanc Association is one of the winelands’ most dynamic producer bodies – and it’s done a phenomenal job in making consumers the world over aware of what a treasure trove South Africa boasts.
The Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) is a work readiness programme for students looking to make a positive change in their lives. It focusses on both the Wine and Fruit Sectors and gives students the opportunity to attain industry-endorsed qualifications with a strong emphasis on developing the personal skills needed to succeed.
Chenin Blanc is a grape that is repeatedly met with great acclaim, creativity and ingenuity in South Africa.
The South African wine industry is an engine of transformation, don't switch it off