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News

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Many entrepreneurs were inspired to launch new products or projects at the dawn of the new millennium. Looking back 18 years on, that of the Retief cousins of Robertson’s Four Cousins range of easy-drinking, affordable wines stands out as one of the most successful in South Africa.

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Today they can claim that their range is the country’s biggest selling bottled wine brand. Given their family background and compare that to some of the giants in the industry, one has to applaud this achievement with admiration. The cousins – two sets of brothers – launched not only the wines, but themselves as an intrepid foursome as they marketed their friendly affordable wines country-wide with skill and determination.

 

Today Phillip Retief, the marketing and finance member of the quartet notes that Four Cousins has been “embraced by South Africans” both in the Cape, in Soweto and Gauteng, in KwaZulu-Natal, by university students and in general the young consumer. They saw that the untapped market preferred sweeter wines, so that’s what Four Cousins gave them.

The group are marking their 18th birthday by revamping the packaging , putting all wines under screwcap, making their labels bigger and better.

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The range consists of five still wines – dry red and white, sweet red and white and sweet rosé while there is a quartet of sparkling wines, rosé, blush, red, sauvignon blanc and white which they suggest will make a fine pairing with macaroons, the trendy sweet snack that is a must- have item at every occasion. As the younger consumer is targeted, its pleasing to note that these wines generally sport low alcohol levels, ranging between 8 and 12.5% 

 

An awesome achievement Bussell, Phillip, Hennie and Neil - here’s to the next decade and continued success as the Four Cousins reach every corner of our country and  find even more fans in the  62+ countries across the globe. Wow!

 

 

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Having made a sizeable splash on the Cape wine scene with their captivating Carménère 2016, it’s time to look at the other reds flowing from Lozärn Wines at Doornbosch farm in the Bonnievale area.

 

Appearances do matter, and the first impression of the two reds I was about to open is one of sauve elegance – Black bottles, black labels, minimal text. In front the labels just inform, in bronze lettering that this is Lozärn shiraz 2016 and Lozärn Kay’s Legacy 2016, but down the sides of the wrap-around label, there is more info.

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To the shiraz first, made from 16-year-old wines – this is medium-bodied, offering wafts of berried fruit with more on the palate. There is an attractive purity, which, (dare I say it?) could be attributed to a woman winemaker, as I have experienced this characteristic far more with wines made by females. The tannins are still quite grippy but are sure to soften over the next year or two to meld happily with the fruit.  Tasters could (or should?) also detect coriander, cranberries, cloves and goji berries in this wine, which is enjoyable already, but is going to improve even more with time. Alcohol levels of 14% do not intrude, and the wine is aimed at the upper end of the middle market, retailing at R260.

Kay’s legacy is a red blend made up of 53% cab sauvignon, 33% merlot and the remainder cab franc, a Bordeaux mix that promises a portent of pleasure to come... Winemaker Salome Buys-Vermeulen has crafted this as a legacy to family matriarch Kay Sedgwick (of sherry fame) who married Sebastian Smuts who managed the vast Vergelegen farm for some years, so the vinous connection was present in both sides of the family. Kay farmed in the Robertson valley from 1923, mostly with ducks and chickens and named her farm Lucerne (or Luzärn). Her son added vineyards when he took over and his son and grandsons, the fourth generation, now run the farm in the Bonnievale area.

The wine came with suggestions that we could expect to find fennel, mint, star anise and dandelion – I detected a little mint but the others escaped me. But it is a wine that one can linger over and find new aromas and flavours as the levels in the bottle drop... Alcohol 13,5% and retail price of R300

The tasting samples sent to media were stylishly presented, complete with little packets of spices which added agreeable aromas to the air in my study.

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Calitzdorp, like other parts of the Little Karoo is still struggling with drought conditions. Yet nothing seems to stop the wine producers from bringing out great wines, both easy-drinking bargains and superb port wines for which the region is renowned.

De Krans is a fine example of a cellar that continues to produce world-class ports even while releasing an increasing number of white and red wines that are attracting awards at our national contests.

As budgets decrease thanks to rising petrol and other prices, winelovers are looking for affordability along with quality. The De Krans Basket Press cabernet sauvignon 2017 fits the bill nicely, an easy-drinking, warming, ruby red wine, presenting smooth tannins, cherry and plum flavours and offering moderate alcohol levels of 13,5%. At R65 it is accompanying many a winter casserole and braai, while also making a cosy fireside aperitif.

 

Looking ahead to a spring that hopefully brings seasonal showers, De Krans released its 2018 Pinotage Rosé a while ago, probably one of the first wines of this tough drought-ravaged vintage. However this attractive salmon-tinged dry blush wine, with very moderate alcohol levels and priced at R65 does not reflect hard times, but invites patrons to enjoy its berry and rose petal aromas, its fruity flavours and inviting hues – lunch time, brunch time, and the perfect complement to good picnics and other moveable feasts.

 

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While De Krans’s flagship port wine, the Cape Vintage Reserve 2015 is deservedly celebrating a double gold award from the 2018 National Wine

Challenge, I still turn to my all-time favourite, their Cape Tawny Limited Release, a non-vintage port blended, reports Platter, from wines five to 15 years old. As always, freshness and elegance accompany the rich flavours of caramel and citrus, fruitcake and nuttiness, and it’s unsurprising to see the bottle adorned with a four-and-half star sticker from Platter, gold from Veritas 2017, platinum from the SA Wine Index and a 92 –rating from Tim Atkins’ 2017 report.

I'm off  to shave slivers of vintage Italian Parmesan as my favourite accompaniment to this tawny delight.

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According to one guest, there wasn’t a bed left in the guest houses and BnB’s of Bonnievale and surrounds! It seems that Bonnievale’s launch of their River Collection was a large and popular event and I was sorry to have missed it.

But I have tried the quartet of 2018 wines that currently is available: three whites and a rosé, which will be joined by some 2017 reds later this year.

 

 

To rewind, for a moment, to the time when Bonnievale wines was founded half a century ago, the cellar produced accessible  ranges to 2006 when a three-way merger saw the winery join forces with Merwespont and Nordale co-ops, under the Bonnievale name. CEO John Barnardt has been at the helm ever since, taking the business to higher levels, so that when their 10th anniversary was celebrated in 2016, the producer was known as a cellar that remains unpretentious while delivering well-made fruit-driven wines at pleasing prices.

 

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Carina Gous joined the team as strategic brand advisor recently, while the winemaking team is headed by Marthinus Rademeyer (who made the chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cinsault rosé), while Jean Slabber’s signature is on the label of the chenin blanc.

Turning to the wines, which form part of a new collection that celebrates the Breede river, the cellar’s lifeline and “the core and heartbeat of our wines” to use Barnardt’s phrase. They are all priced at R57 at cellar door and all share modest alcohol levels - both on-trend and welcome - of 12,5%, with the rosé coming in at 12%.

 

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They are approachable, enjoyable and well-made, offering good value: the chenin is, in particular, a pleasing addition as there are few offering such good value in the Robertson valley. I also liked the chardonnay which is well rounded, offering citrus and stone fruit balanced by a little oak. The sauvignon blanc is crisp without being over acidic and leans to the tropical fruit rather than green style, while the rosé is  very light-bodied, with  little cinsaut character evident.

 

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Over the last few years the quality and diversity of wines available from the producers in the McGregor valley have rocketed, When talking to visitors and wine lovers in other centres it was clear that few people knew just how good and diverse the offerings are. This led to my creating the McGregor Wine Meander which forms an informal link between the local outlets and provides travellers and locals a vinous route that can be visited over a weekend or longer stay. 

We invite you to ramble or run, hike or bike, trot on horseback or just drive your four-wheeled chariot through the valley, pausing wherever you feel like sampling one of our charming wines or sipping a grappa or eau de vie.

Here below are a couple of excerpts from the website, starting with the introduction.

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At present there are six members, and this number is set to rise by one or two more. Starting at the Robertson end of the McGregor/Robertson road, the first cellar is Tanagra Winery & Distillery, followed by McGregor Wines. Bemindwyne and Grape De-Vine are in the middle of the village, with the latter acting as tasting centre for Solara Organic Wines. Beyond the village, some 10km uphill, lies Lord's Wines, the highest cellar in the Robertson Wine Valley. 

 

Please log on to www.mcgregorwinemeander.co.za to plan your route and click on each member to obtain their details.

 

 

McGregor Wine Meander

Amazing diversity. Consistent qualityGreat value for money.

This best describes the wines and spirits that flow from the farms and cellars of the valley that encompasses the magical village of McGregor.

Where else would one find such extraordinary variety within one small wine-producing district ? Cellars ranging from garagiste through boutique to a large co-operative. Single vineyard white, red and rosés. Fine Cinsaut and Colombard that take these former humble – now trendy – grapes to new levels. Irresistible award-winning Cap Classiques. Internationally registered unforgettable organic sauvignon blanc and pinotage. Highly rated popular cabernet sauvignon and, of course, soetes, in the form of warming red and white muscadels.
And, from a small distillery, a range of world-class grappa or marc as its also known, along with eau de vie produced from both red and white wines. And there’s more in the guise of a fruit-based range where apricots, peaches, lemons and organic quinces play starring roles. An inviting village wine boutique doubles as a tasting centre for one farm while providing locals with a meeting place of note.

Only in McGregor!

This little route can be compared to a jewelled necklace, along which a handful of farms and cellars perch as gems waiting to be unearthed. The winemakers, viticulturists and farmers (sometimes all-in-one) share qualities like talent, passion and hospitality – the old adage, ‘arrive as strangers, leave as friends’ – could have been coined especially for this valley.

Welcome to The McGregor Wine Meander,

a slow and winding 15km route through vine-clad hills, past orchards, farmsteads and between stretches of veld where nature rules supreme. After leaving the village the road climbs to the foothills of the Sonderend mountains, where the final destination boasts heart-stopping views over the valley.
In anticipation of your tastings, we would like to raise a glass in welcome with traditional toasts of Cheers! Gesondheid! And, with a nod to our Scottish heritage, Slainte!

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