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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

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A nice contrast here: the label of the Vriesenhof Unwooded Chardonnay 2017 is as traditional as can be, simple wording above and below a black and white drawing of a venerable Cape farmstead backed by the Stellenbosch mountain. But - it arrived in a cardboard carton labelled MILK, then, in smaller font “This is not...” . On one side, a description of the wine, while on another we are given a little of the owner’s winemaking philosophy. When you discover that this farm and wine brand is owned by Jan Boland Coetzee, the delicious mix of trad and zany trend is right in tune with those of its renowned and relaxed cellarmaster.

I make no secret of the fact that I usually enjoy chards that are not wooded more than some of their posher, richer and more complex cousins. I savour their natural freshness, uncomplicated elegance and fruit, often backed by flint that adds character. This wine fits that description almost exactly, with some citrus and stone fruit flavours and more than a hint of minerality lending it substance. Moderate alcohol levels, a back label advising consumers to chill and drink soon, it’s simply a delicious summer aperitif without pretensions. It sells for R100 at both large liquor outlets and at Wine Concepts and, of course at the cellar door and online from the farm. The milk carton pack is only obtainable from the farm.

In the past Jan Boland Coetzee was a traditionalist, only making wines classically austere, dry and with no upfront fruit. This wine, made by long-standing winemaker Nicky Claasens, presents a departure from that style, one that is sure to be more popular with the majority of consumers.

Vriesenhof is running a digital competition with this product: Punting it as the perfect accompaniment to be ‘cool by the pool this summer’,entrants that buy a bottle need to  tag @VriesenhofWines in a post being cool by the pool this summer to stand  a chance to win a case of this charming chard!

For more info email her at Kirsten@kirstenhopwood.co.za .

 
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“Come and taste the sea with Fryer’s Cove vineyards” suggested the invitation. In the end my wine samples were tasted inland, here in McGregor, and my first sip of the Doring Bay 2017 sauvignon blanc did indeed offer more than a lick of the icy Atlantic which crashes onto the rocky shore of Doringbaai, some 300km north of Cape Town.

I closed my eyes and imagined the scene at this tiny hardy settlement, a fishing community where the inhabitants are as hardy as the coastline is rugged. The vineyards of Fryer’s Cove are just 500 metres from the shoreline, so it's hardly surprising that the wines produced from these harvests have a distinct maritime flavour.

The Fryer’s Cove booklet relates how the winery was established on a part of the Laubscher brothers’ farm, and the cellar was set up in the former crayfish factory – not many others can point to ocean waves lapping their cellar walls as their wines mature in tanks.

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Before getting down to the sauvignons produced from their vines, I’d like to share some of the background of this coastal winery which makes a great story - typical of the tough conditions and equally tough weskus entrepreneurs who make things happen, no matter how adverse their surroundings.

Back in 1985 Elsenburg student Wynand Hamman was on holiday in the Strandfontein area and this aspirant winemaker shared his vinous dream with Jan and Ponk van Zyl , who later became his in-laws. It took 14 years before Fryer’s Cove cellar was born and early years proved hard going: The area was drought-prone and existing groundwater had too high a salt content and desalination was too expensive to contemplate. The only solution was a pipeline to bring water from Vredendal, nearly 30km away, which also had to cross three farms en route. The farmers agreed, so Jan built the pipeline as the 20th century drew to a close. The neighbours received water for their co-operation and the Laubscher brothers got shares for allowing a buffer dam to be built and for 10ha of their land which is where the first vines were planted.

There are some good reasons to counter the difficulties: The ocean deposits salt flakes on the vine leaves, whifh helps repel disease, as well as imparting a distinctive minerality to the wine. Indigenous plants between the vines act as a natural ground cover , while seashells and limestone in the soil add flinty character.  Fryer’s Cove Wines belong to the Jan Ponk Trust, H Laubscher family trust and cellarmaster Wynand Hamman. They are part of  Bamboes Bay, the smallest wine ward in South Africa.

 

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The Jetty restaurant is a community venture, part of the local development trust, 70% community owned and run, where you will relish snoekkoekies, pickled fish, calamari and local linefish as well as more conventional burgers and steak. I look forward to a visit in 2019.

 

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To the wine; Doring Bay sauvignon blanc 2017 is already showing off an array of four gold medals from some of the smaller competitions. It makes the ideal aperitif to open on a sizzling day, offering - along with tangy and ocean aromas - a crisp zestiness well balanced by a combo of grassy and tropical fruit flavours. Quite high alcohol levels at 14,4% are not obvious. This is an easy-to-love wine selling at R95.

The Bamboes Bay 2017 is a much posher cousin, a limited edition in a heavier bottle, also unoaked but presenting a far more complex meld of herbaceous, seaweed and granadilla notes on the nose, followed by an array of fruit and lemongrass on the palate. It manages to be crisp and steely yet offers a richer experience than its Doring Bay cousin and is priced at R260 ex-cellar.

 

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Winemaker Derick Koegelenberg made both these wines.

I prefer the cheaper one for most summer days, but the Bamboes Bay is the one to choose when serving a seafood extravaganza. Also, its potential is impressive – not many sauvignons taste better the next day after being open for 24 hours, but this one did. (Of course it could also be that my palate was more receptive, but – either way – Doring Bay for most warm days and Bamboes Bay for special occasions.) There is a third sauvignon blanc that is a patrician cousin, limited edition and numbered, aged 18 months in bottle. It’s called Hollebaksstrandfontein Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, but, having not tried it, I cannot comment. It sells for R295.

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Posted by on in News

 

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The Van Loveren team never cease to amaze by coming up with yet another first: This time its their Almost Zero alcohol Wonderful White. Produced by de-alcoholising sauvignon blanc, the wine is listed as containing less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, and is sure to find a receptive response among those who enjoy the company of wine and wine drinkers but prefer to avoid any possibililty of after-effects.

 

The foldout info tucked into the package lists three good reasons why consumers should choose this product: that its perfect for non-drinkers and those keeping to an alcohol-free January, perfect for weight watchers as 100ml of this contains just 71 kilojoules and that, with fruity flavours of apples, cirtrus and tropical fruit, it makes a good companion to salads and seafood. Banting devotees can also sip this without any guilt.

 

Brewers have proved there is a market for alcohol-free beers, so why not wine? Easy-drinking, fruity and crisp, this pale green-tinged drink comes in a screwcapped bottle, and begs to be chilled before opening

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The Wonderful White joins the Van Loveren stable of four non-alcoholic sparklers . It is selling for R65, can be bought from the farm or online through winehub@vanloveren.co.za and should be in your nearest retailer by now.

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Salt of the Earth – the phrase brings to mind a person (or group of people) whose qualities present a model for the rest of us.

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That Groote Post decided to use this phrase as the name of their special blend of shiraz (66%) and Cinsaut (34%) is both interesting and apposite. Produced from the outstanding 2015 harvest, the grapes were sourced from venerable vines in the Darling Hills – 17-year-old shiraz, and 42-year-old dryland bushvine cinsaut.

The wine spent 16 months in French oak, and the result is intriguing, where the shiraz characteristics dominate, - the flavours of red plum, white pepper are there backed by cedarwood - lent benefits by fresh berry notes from the cinsaut. The result is quite intriguing, well balanced with an earthy backbone and 14% alcohol levels.

The special label, designed by Anthony Lane’s consultancy is different from Groote Post’s usual designs, drawing attention to the bottle as consumers have to hunt for the source of the wine.

Already sporting its 91% score from Tim Atkins’ Best of South Africa 2017 report, this wine was released by Groote Post in early spring to the delight of those many winelovers who are seeing more old cinsaut vines coming back into their own, adding their welcome characteristics to more delicious red blends. It sells for R240 from the Groote Post cellar.

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Posted by on in News

 

Two recently released chenin blancs proved both to be enjoyable, and both fair value for money: one an easy-drinking, unwooded wine priced at R60, the other a more patrician  chenin that has benefitted from eight months in oak, and sells for R125, about double the price. Both, I think, reflect not only the delicious diversity of chenin, but the wide range of prices that chenin commands.

DELHEIM WILD FERMENT CHENIN BLANC 2017

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As the back label tells us, this delicious chenin was produced from venerable dryland vines which accounts for added flavour from small, intense berries. Two vineyard blocks yielded the grapes, Bobbejaan at 15 years old and Ou Jong Steen, at 30 years.

On the nose a mix of stone fruit  aromas leads to the palate where citrus flavours are  discernible.

The wine was matured in oak for some eight months which has added backbone that is well balanced by typical Stellenbosch freshness. Moderate 13,5% alcohol levels are pleasing.

This is a wine that will happily take on Asian-style creations, south-east Asian spicy curries, along with western fare like risottos and complex chicken salads. Get yours from the cellar or leading retailers for R125.

DE KRANS FREE-RUN CHENIN BLANC 2018

A moreish, unpretentious wine that is well-balanced , slips down easily and is bound to draw more consumers to the joys of chenin as a summer tipple.

Already sporting two gold stickers from current contests, it’s a wine that will suit a range of tastes, sells fot R60 and will make a lunchtime appetiser as well as a good partner to chicken braais.

As De Krans increases its range of table wines alongside its award-winning ports and fortified products, consumers have a fine choice to contemplate, from red blends that sometimes contain port varietals to classic wines that Louis van der Riet produces with flair.

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