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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

Posted by on in News

 

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We all know we shoud squirrel away good barrel-fermented whites along with our reds, but we seldom do. Most of don’t keep our fine chardonnays for long enough, just until the next occasion that sees a luxurious seafood feast or a special poultry creation grace the table.

So it's good to know that Whalehaven decided to cellar their Conservation Coast chardonnay for us - leaving the 2014 vintage maturing for more than two years before releasing it. This premium wine was produced from a vineyard of 14-year-old vines in the famed  UpperHemel-en-Aarde region, where Whalehaven is the third-olest winery in the area.

Co-owner Silvana Bottega released the wine recently, and its gorgeous golden hue is the first sign of its maturity, followed by tempting wafts of butterscotch on the nose. This is a rich, full-bodied chardonnay, with a firm mineral backbone, offering lightly toasted crumbs along with citrus flavours. With moderate alcohol levels, it makes an impressive appetiser but comes into its own with celebration fare, either shellfish, rich duck liver paté or complex Middle Eastern chicken dishes.

Bearing stickers from Tim Atkin who scored it 92 and approval from the current Sommeliers Selections results, expect to pay around R360.

The Conservation Coast range also boasts a 2014 Pinot Noir whch I have not tasted.

To find out more about these wines, visit www.whalehaven.co.za

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Posted by on in News

 

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Marketing is all important when competing in the well-priced segment of South African wines. Overhex Wines International have always come up with interesting labels with a tale to tell and their new range is no exception.

The Mensa range is the first to offer an augmented reality app for smartphones which, when scanned in, brings the story behind the Mensa label to life.

Story-telling, the accompanying maxim – ‘Live a great story’ – and the label (which features everywoman relaxing in a library, its wall lined with books, a glass of wine at her feet) all contribute to appeal both to curious consumers and , I would guess, especially to the female winelover.

This is a range also designed to appeal to book clubs , both visually and price-wise, while the practical Helix cork closure eliminates the need for corkscrews.

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The sauvignpn blanc is fruity and easy-drinking, with alcohol levels of just 12% while the cabernet sauvignon offers a considerably higher level at 14,5% but also slips down easily, its berry flavours backed by a full-bodied character. The trendy chardonnay/.pinot noir comes in at 13% and combines citrus notes with moderate alcohol levels. Whites cost R75 and the red R85 at the Overhex cellar door, are stocked by Checkers countrywide and can be bought online.

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Posted by on in Blog

 

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It would be difficult to find a better pair of wines with which to toast the forthcoming Heritage weekend. They tick the boxes for venerable vineyards (44-year-old chenin and cinsaut), are adorned with the Old Vine Project Heritage seal, and are nurtured on an 18th century Wellington farm titled “well-bestowed” whose current owners are nearing completing restoration and refurbishment of both vineyards, olive grove and a beautiful early 19th century farmstead.

But – best of all – is that Gavin and Kelly Brimacombe’s maiden releases, a 2017 chenin blanc and a 2015 Rhone-style red blend are noteworthy, both captivating examples of what the Wellington terroir can – and is - producing.

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The old dryland chenin vines with low-yields of around 2,4 tons per ha, deliver berries with concentrated fruit that presents a sophisticated salad of citrus, summer stone fruit, pineapple and lingering citrus on the nose and palate. Yet it’s restrained and elegant with evident complexity: this was achieved, no doubt by part natural, part yeast-added fermentation, plus one third of the wine then barrel-fermented in French oak before final blending. Its moderate 12,5% alcohol levels will please many local and overseas customers while the bottle sports stickers that are testimony to pleasing scores from judges of the National Wine Challenge and Top 100 SA wines.

Turning to the Welgegund Providence – which also sports silver from Decanter and four stars from Platter, - this blend comprises 60% shiraz, 30% cinsaut with carignan making up the balance. All the vines are dryland, the vintage cinsaut complemented by mature shiraz and carignan, the harvest of eachwhich was separately fermented . The wine spent 16 months in mostly French oak with just 5% in American. The full-bodied result balances spice and dark berry flavours with freshness from the cinsaut, with smooth tannins and a hint of oak. Robust alcohol levels for current trends and on the pricy side at R320 excluding VAT.  Only available from the cellar at present.

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The winemaker is Friedrich Kuhne and Emy Mathews has joined the staff as Sales and Marketing Manager. She is the ideal person to promote the charms of farm and wine, and already her efforts on social media have alerted dozens to the renaissance of Welgegund. The farm is open for tastings by appointment only.

In conclusion, a toast to this maiden duo, and in anticipation of the Cinsaut and Grenache which have just been released and which  I hope to sample soon . 

Wellington always intrigues with its mix of beautiful old farms of renowned Afrikaner families and new and restored ones thanks to an influx of enthusiastic 

British investors and producers. Were they perhaps influenced by the fact that this Boland town bears the name of  their most successful Anglo-Irish military hero, former British statesman and 19th century prime minister?  This intriguing intertwining of heritage adds another dimension to vinous journeys to the magnificent Valley of Wagonmakers.

For more information, visit www.welgegund.co.za

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Posted by on in Events

 

WILD KAROO by Mitch Reardon, published by Struik Nature, 2018.

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The subtitle offers a good summing-up of this gem of a title: ‘A journey through history, change and revival in an ancient land’. While it hints at the enormous timespan that Reardon encompasses, it does not offer readers the wide range of subject matter that he includes as he travels though our dry heartland. He focuses on nature conservation, game - including birds, reptiles and invertebrates, the unique flora, landscape and geology and the history and lifestyle of the Karoo people. He also shares the plans to combine public and private protected land to create wildlife corridors between isolated parks, re-establishing old migration routes, and in this way helping to reverse some effects of human settlement.

Quite a task for this wildlife writer and photographer and former ranger to embrace, but he does it superbly well. It could be as dry as its parched subject, but Mitch Reardon writes so well that he takes us, his readers, as enthusiastic fellow travellers,aboard his vehicle as he sets out on a 4 000km journey through the high central plateau that constitutes the Karoo. 

After a comprehensive introduction on the vast landmass of the Karoo and a brief history of the various regions he starts his travels at the Bontebok national park in the southern Cape , then moves on to the Langeberg and Little Karoo. As this is where I have lived for nearly two decades, I focussed on this chapter for starters and absorbed so much in the process. From the Grootvadersbosch nature reserve in the Langeberg foothills Reardon moved on through Barrydale to Sanbona Wildlife reserve, a private enterprise that has seen former sheep farms transformed into an ecosystem similar to that of a pristine landscape 300 years back. From the endangered riverine rabbit to the re-introduction of elephant and cheetah the reserve is a five-star experience all around. The little-known Anysberg reserve is next on his itinerary with some fascinating conservation projects and then he heads to the Karoo National park which stars in the following chapter.

Each chapter has added information on the reserves visited, with contact details.

There is a whole chapter on the plight of the springbok, before Reardon heads to the desolate Tankwa Karoo and on to the Cederberg, then north west to Namaqualand and the Great River area, ie the Orange river. He also describes his visit to the Camdeboo area, and the Mountain Zebra national park, The text ends with a bibliography and detailed index.

This is an average-size softback that will slip easily into pockets in cars where it is likely to live after being first digested at home. The colour photos are plentiful and varied, from caterpillars to elephants, from landscapes to close-ups of locals, with some drawings and paintings from early travellers adding to the historic interest. A fine addition to South African and Karoo literature.

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There are few winelovers who do not enjoy a story or a snippet of history around the wine they are opening. It not only adds interest but brings the producers and their farms and cellars into the homes of consumers, to the benefit of both.

Excelsior estate in the Robertson Wine Valley has a history as colourful as many, and fifth generation owner Peter de Wet is happy to share the family story with visitors to his hospitable farm and with those in the 20-odd countries across the globe who stock his wines.

Two diverse animal species have helped the De Wet family to fame and fortune since 1859 when one Koos de Wet settled near Robertson and started farming at Excelsior. Kowie de Wet became a successful ostrich breeder, as well as a wine producer and the manor guest house is today attractive testimony to his affluence, when it was built and furnished in the Cape Revival style. When ostrich plumes went out of vogue, Kowie and his son Oscar turned to breeding racehorses and cultivating vines, thus saving this feather palace from insolvency.

Two 20th century racehorses owned by the Excelsior stud, both of whom helped bring fame and fortune to the De Wet family, are honoured with a pair of fine red wines. Back in 1913 Excelsior imported a champion Hackney sire, named Evanthius, from overseas who continued his winning streak in South Africa, winning many titles.

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San Louis was a successful racehorse who fell ill in 1979 and was expected to die, but seven months later had recovered and went on to win the 1981 Guineas, one of South Africa’s most prestigious race.

Both the wines are from the Reserve range Their black bottles and gold banding and words on black labels lend sophistication but are moderately priced at R156.

Evanthius 2013 cabernet sauvignon was sourced from berries of 30-year-old vines. Full-bodied, with characteristic nose of dark berry and cedar, the smooth tannins are well-balanced by fruit. Enjoyable now, but should continue ageing well for some years. It’s four-star Platter status is enhanced with platinum from the 2017 Michelangelo contest. Alcohol levels of 14,5% are on the high side for current trends.

San Louis 2015 shiraz from a famous vintage year was chosen as a Platter “hidden gem’ in their 2016 edition. Expect to find the typical shiraz spiciness along with wafts of oak, cherry flavours and a hint of chocolate on the palate. AfFull-bodied wine that will take on rich casseroles of venison and gamebirds with panache.

A third wine from this range, Gondolier, a merlot, was not tasted. For more information, see www.excelsior.co.za

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