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 .
DELHEIM’S VEGAN-FRIENDLY DUO
The 2018 white and rosé wines are trickling onto the market, and will soon become a steady stream. Among the early birds are the new vintages of Delheim’s perennially popular pair- their sauvignon blanc and their pinotage rosé.
To start with the latter, this blush has a long and illustrious history, being produced regularly since its launch in 1976, when the late Spatz Sperling first presented it to the local and German markets. It offers a good mix of candy and berry aromas, while the berry flavours on the palate are balanced by crispness and faint floral wafts of perfume , thanks to a tiny portion of Muscat de Frontignan. The prevailing drought has not affected the usual good quality and the moderate alcohol levels of 12,5% add to its attraction. Expect to pay around R75.
The 2018 sauvignon blanc will please a wide variety of tastes, as its nicely balanced, green fig and citrus notes complementing a hint of flint. Alcohol levels are moderate at 13,5%, and this wine, while fresh as a daisy, is not overly acidic. It sells for R79.
Both wines have a band on their back labels stating Suitable for Vegans. This is a good idea if, as Delheim says, they have had an increase in queries from visitors and diners as to the acceptability of their wines to vegans and vegetarians.
Of course today dozens of producers do not use egg white or fish products in the fining of their wines, while others, choosing the minimimalist approach, are not fining their wines at all. Bentonite is the product most widely in use today, a type of clay that is far less messy than working with egg whites which used to be popular. Delheim is one of the cellars that has been using bentonite for several years.
It proved to be a bitter-sweet occasion, that day in May when a group of wine writers and retailers gathered in Morgenster’s hilltop tasting room. Similar in many ways to past events where the ever-courteous, charming Giulio Bertrand, flanked by cellarmaster Henry Kotze and consultant Pierre Lurton greeted guests ahead of a tasting of new wines and latest vintages.
This time, however, our host was absent, although we were told he was resting in the gabled farmstead which had been his home for more than 25 years. So he was near enough as we sipped the estate’s maiden bubbly, and sampled seven still wines ahead of a tour through the impressive olive oil plant, now graced by even more sophisticated machines. As always, the lunch that followed was an Italian gourmet triumph, from the simple, flavourful green pea soup, topped with a swirl of newly pressed oil, to the buffet of charcuterie, classic salads and cheeses.
A few days later we learned that Giulio Bertrand had died, with his family around him. One of the Cape’s most beautiful 18th century farms had lost a custodian who lavished money, attention and love on his southern home, adding world-class olive oil to its reputation for fine wines.
We started our tasting with the Cuvee Alessandra 2016, a Cap Classique produced from cabernet franc sans dosage. As could be expected, this is a distinctly different MCC which I found intriguing and enjoyable, with a fine mousse and full-bodied and a long finish. It sells for R227 .
The Morgenster sauvignon blanc 2018 is a wine that should enjoy wide popularity – produced from Stellenbosch grapes it is well-balanced, with subtropical fruit flavours and fresh zestiness in enjoyable combination. At around R80 it also offers good value.
I think that Morgenster’s White Reserve 2015 is a memorable Bordeaux-style white blend that offers elegance, complexity and great character, its components (55% s/blanc 45% semillon) melding into a fragrant, fruit-filled mouthful backed by a well-integrated structure. After being in oak for 12 months, the wine was bottled early in 2016 . Expect to pay about R220.
On to the reds, starting with the delicious Tosca 2015, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% cab, and finished with a splash of Cab Franc. While its array of aromas, smooth tannins and fruit and spice combo makes it delightful right now, it is sure to improve even further if cellared. Priced at about R230.
Morgenster’s Nabucco 2015 is an expression of Giulio Bertrand’s favourite cultivar and an example of the great quality of much of the 2015 vintage wines. Nabucco takes a while to get to know – presenting an earthiness reminiscent of pinot noir, spice and herb flavours rather than fruit, all backed by prominent tannins. Cellarmaster Kotze added that when paired with food (beef, mature cheese, dark chocolate) it has a notable effect on the latter. It will also benefit from a few years in a dark cool place. About R340.
Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2014 is a wine made in a more accessible style and offers a delightful blend of a merlot lead with cab, some cab franc and 10% petit verdot. Heady aromas of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and licorice are followed on the palate by ripe fruit, backed by elegant tannins. It sells for about R190.
The flagship Morgenster Estate Reserve 2014 proved to be a fine finale, produced by Kotze in collaboration with Lurton. This vintage is comprised of 36% cab, 36% merlot, 14% cab franc and 14% petit verdot. It’s a big wine in every sense, with intense nose of fruit and nut, coffee and cigar box and a blend of flint and fruit on the palate, with agreeable freshness. It costs around R392
And so, an era has come to a close. A timespan of more than two decades which has seen Morgenster - originally established by one Jacques Malan who acquired Morgenster in 1711 – gain in beauty and value while Signor Bertrand was its custodian. I heard that his grandchildren are interested in keeping the farm in the family, which is encouraging news. Arrivederci, grazie.
When one samples new vintages emanating from the cellar of a person of Jan Boland Coetzee’s stature, two points arise: one is heightened expectation and the other is a certain difficulty in separating the man from the wine. In keeping with Heritage month. Vriesenhof’s new-look wine range sports labels that pay tribute to a handsome gabled farmstead, set against the rugged Stellenbosch mountain.
Vriesenhof Pinotage 2016 is the simple heading above the B&W photograph while the back label offers more info: it’s fruity, medium-bodied and meant for drinking now; alcohol levels are a medium 13,5%. Tradition, quality and enjoyment combine smoothly in this screwcapped product, a contemporary expression of a grape for which Jan Boland Coetzee has been renowned for decades. It was produced from a small vineyard of old bush vines at the top of the hill.
While Pinot noir has been his focus for some 30 plus years, Jan started his career at Kanonkop back in the ‘60s where he produced fine Pinotage. He bought Vriesenhof in 1980, which then boasted cab, cinsaut and pinotage vineyards. At the start of the new millennium his Pinotage of ’96, ’97 and ’98 from Vriesenhof-Talana Hill-Paradyskloof - were described by John Platter as four-star wines, offering “medley of intriguing flavours result of blending batches of fruit handled different ways.”
Jan soon planted Chardonnay, Merlot and Cab Franc, added Pinot Noir in the’ 90s then Grenache in 2009.
Today his winemaker Nicky Claasens crafts each wine in the new-look range to a specific style: – along with Pinotage the reds comprise two blends, a Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre and Kallista (traditionally Cab/ Cab Franc/ Merlot) and Grenache. It's been observed that Claasens, who started as understudy to Coetzee some nine years ago, seems to be countering the patriarch’s anti-modernist approach somewhat.
To the whites: a pair of chardonnays, of which I sampled the unwooded 2016. Against the connoisseur trend I have long been a fan of unwooded chard, and this is one of the most enjoyable I have drunk in a long while: Its meant for immediate consumption, offering freshness, fruitiness, well balanced structure and immense charm. With moderate alcohol levels this delicious summer aperitif sells for R95, whiel the pinotage is R125.
It is apposite that Jan Boland Coetzee, a winelands character whose down-to-earth attitude is tempered by a huge respect for nature, represents the current generation of a family who arrived in Table Bay 27 years after Jan van Riebeeck . As he and Claasens unveil wines that offer expression of place even while they appeal to a broader spectrum of wine lovers, those wishing to celebrate our viticultural heritage alongside a braai of distinction, could hardly ask for better.
EAT YOUR WORDS: THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK by Louise Gelderblom. Published by Quivertree, 2017.
Clever title, great concept, and it’s sure to be another Quivertree winner. One look at the appetising cover with its cake-stand holding a featherlight pastry base filled with smoked salmon and a tangle of spring salad ingredients, and readers, cooks, and (of course) book club members will be instantly hooked.
Louise Gelderblom is a keen cook who took over from an equally accomplished mother and whose two daughters have followed in their mother’s culinary footsteps. So this cook and voracious reader has been catering for her book club (Eat your Words) for decades and where the idea of this recipe collection was mooted.
In her introduction Gelderblom states that she has focussed on do-ahead fare that involves litte fuss, use readily obtainable ingredients and has included a good number of vegetarian options. I warmed to her immediately!
She offers further advice on planning, the advantages of quality ingredients and that only free-range eggs and humanely reared fish and poultry should be options. (What about lamb, beef and pork, I wondered, then noticed that this collection is meat-free. I think I should join that club...)
Many book clubs stay with drinks and snacks before, during or after the agenda, so the first chapter on finger snacks is welcome – with parmesan paprika biscuits taking the savoury cake! For those serving a meal, a few antipasti items make a fine start, such as hummus, marinated feta, harissa, tzatziki and frittata wedges. Informal meals of soup and bread in winter and salads in summer make another option, and the selection in the chapter is tempting, and could inspire further ideas.
The substantial section of main course ideas varies from quiche (such a useful and variable item), several chicken dishes, fish boboties, along with other fishy bakes, and vegetarian choices like spinach and feta pie and a veggie cashew korma. All are suitable for feeding a crowd with pre-prepared ease. Side dishes precede desserts that include popular classics like crème caramel, lemon tart, melktert and baked chocolate pud. Also pavlova and frangipane tart for more ambitious bakers
Between the recipes you will find comments from book club hosts from across South Africa, describing how they operate and entertain. Some clubs follow a theme every month, others raise funds for charity, others gather for a monthly dose of bubbly and snacks and book exchanges.
There is an easy-to-consult index and the food photographs are simply styled , offering a colourful and tempting aspect so essential to books of recipes.
In retrospect it seems amazing that no one has thought of producing a local title around book club eats before. Well, now it’s been done, very well and in delicious style.
A BITE OF LATIN AMERICA by Susie Chatz-Anderson. Published by Human& Rousseau, Cape Town, 2017.
A collection delectable in every aspect, and one that fills a gap in culinary literature as well. There has been little in the way of comprehensive cookbooks covering Latin America on our bookshop shelves for years, and none, as far as I know, written by a local..
Now we have Susie’s delightful gastronimic diary , a very readable account of the year she and husband Mike spent travelling through Mexico and South America, in a quest for the best taste trips. Or rather that’s what she wanted, while he spent the time hunting down the best kite-surfing sites.
They resigned their office jobs, stored their possessions and bought two air tickets, waving goodbye to Susie’s mother who, we are told, feared for her daughter’s life every day!
In choosing Latin America, they embraced cuisines where Maya, Aztec, Inca, Spanish and Portuguese contributions mix and meld, followed by more recent influence from Africa, Caribbean, Asia and Europe.
Mexico was the first destination, and a good choice seeing that their fare is rated as one of the finest peasant cuisines in the world. They found more meat in the north, seafood at the coast, spicy vegetable and chicken in the south. Favourite Mexican meals were breakfasts, which included rice, beans and avocado with their morning eggs. Her chorizo omelette is a dish that’s perfect for a winter brunch, and tortilla-wrapped fish with salsas is an appetising informal lunch suggestion. Gorditas – corn pockets with saucy fillings – make a great alternative to pitas, add some Margaritas and you have an easy way to feed guests.
They headed south to, Guatemala, a country whose cuisine is not well-pubicised. Plantains, rice and beans and salads are featured, while Nicaraguan more pork chops - well laced with rum and finished with cream and green peppercorns - are starred along with a saucy chicken pie that looks worth a try. I also like the Atolillo, described as a chilled rum custard, and it reminds me of melktert filling garnished with boozy sultanas.
More rice with beans, this time cooked in coconut milk, from Costa Rica and a similar version, without the beans, sweetened and spiked, for dessert. From Columbia, chilli salsas, Spanish-style omelettes and green apple and mint lemonade. On to Ecuador, where our adventurous couple savoured prawns ceviche and a potato and peanut stew with tofu and discovered countless varieties of Andean potatoes.
The author’s description of places and people in Peru are fascinating, the cuisine – indigenous dishes of Inca origin touched by Spanish influence, equally so. Her version of Causa Limena illustrates this well – Peruvian potato, avocado, tomato and tuna layered stack – and makes a summery lunch. For wintry days, their vegetable and quinoa soup makes a colourful and nutritious meal. Husband Mike’s favourite dish was Peru’s signature beef stir-fry, Lomo Saltado.
By way of contrast, the sophistication and diversity of Brazil’s fare was absorbed and relished with delight. Recipes include cheese bites,prawn pie,upside-down banana cake (a breakfast special) and Caipirinha, the country’s signature cocktail.
From their final destination, Argentina, Susie brought home recipes for Empanadas (beef and onion pies), a leek, sage and bacon bake, layered vegetable tart, the famous Chimichurri salsa and the Argentinian version of Dulce de Leche, caramel which is used in cakes, puds and cookies such as Alfajores, recipe given. The recipes finish with some good coffees, followed by a detailed index. Susie’s great travel photos add much interest, while the food shots are sumptuous, and beautifully styled.
What’s really appealing is the way the author suggests substitutes for exotic ingredients and alternatives and additions to the original dishes. Just the sort of helpful advice that every cook, beginner and experienced, appreciates. That and a down-to-earth modesty, an attractive trait that is by no means guaranteed in current cookbook-cum-diaries.
Emily Hobhouse: Beloved Traitor by Elsabe Brits, published by Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2016.
That this masterful life story is set to become the definitive biography of one of South Africa’s most famous women is not in doubt. Brits has produced an in-depth, scholarly, well-researched work that is also very readable, enlivened with numerous fascinating photographs. The 27 pages of endnotes, bibliography, index and acknowledgements are good indications of the lengths to which she went to, to do justice to the life and work of this extraordinary pacifist, feminist and deeply compassionate person – who died alone and unsung in her home country.
As the back cover tell us, Brits retraced Hobhouse’s footsteps across three continents, but, as she is the first to acknowledge, it was her exciting discovery of Emily’s great-niece that was the cherry on the top: Jennifer Hobhouse Balme invited the author into her home in a fishing village on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island and shared her treasury of documents, diaries, scrapbooks, letters and photographs, enabling this biography to far transcend any previous attempt to record her life.
Born in 1860 into a Victorian upper-class family Emily grew up in the hamlet of St Ive in Somerset, where she and her sisters were educated at home, which she found frustrating. Her first visit abroad took her to the USA where she experienced love, was jilted by her fiancé, and was back in England in 1899. This was the year the Anglo-Boer War broke out, and Emily became involved in the SA Conciliation Committee in London, which opposed the war.
After the OFS and the Transvaal were annexed by Britain thhe Boer forces resorted to guerrilla warfare. The scorched-earth policy instigated by Britain saw farmhouses, barns and outbuildings burnt, farm animals slaughtered, veld set alight, and in some cases whole towns destroyed. In London and Cornwall Emily protested in vain about the policy then decided to go to SA to help: she and started fund-raising to feed clothe and rescue women and children rendered destitute by the war. Arriving in Cape Town in Dec 1900 she met the governor Lord Milner the governor who granted permission to visit the concentratios/refugee camps where Boer women were kept provided Kitchener agree, which he did, with conditions. After shopping for clothes, blankets and food she travelled north in January 1901.
What she found was more distressing than she had imagined – “...truckloads of women and children unsheltered and... flocks and herds of frightened animals bellowing and baaing for food and drink... In the camps exposure, starvation, illness, pain – no candle or, soap, no mortuary tent, flies thick on everything, no schooling, no wood or coal to boil water and typhoid rife. She kept diaries, recorded women’s stories, saw children dying as she travelled from camp to camp. She sent letters to friends, family members and government sources in England reporting on conditions. She took photographs and sent those as well, decided to retrun to the UK to bring the horrors of the concentration camps to the British public.
She endured much resentment from Britons who regarded here as unpatriotic at best, a traitor at worst. In turn she pointed out that in September 1901 the number of people in the white camps had risen from 85 000 to 105 000, that 1878 had died in August, 1545 of whom were children. When she returned to Cape Town in October she was ill and weak, but was arrested by the British on arrival. Detained on board, she was returned to England in a troop ship.
But her efforts had some effect as conditions gradually improved, at least in the white camps. Peace was declared in May 1902 –the news reached her as she sat alone in France writing her book, whereupon she “started crying uncontrollably.”
Back in SA Emily visited the former camp sites where locals told her that they had not received any of the ‘reconstruction money of three million pounds’ that was supposed to be apportioned to the Boers. In communication with General Jan Smuts she travelled widely, reporting to the UK regularly on conditions. She then set in motion her ploughing project: newspaper appeals for funds to buy oxen and donkeys were well received, and not only Cape colonists but British donors sent funds to the bank in Pretoria.
Her plans for establishing home industries revolved around teaching young girls spinning and weaving and the first school opened in Philippolis in March 1905 using wool donated by farmers. Soon there were two schools and proceeds helped many survive.
Back in the UK Emily (predictably) got involved with the suffrage movement, yet stayed in constant touch with South Africa, where a committee was formed to erect a monument to Boer women and children in Bloemfontein. Her health did not allow her to attend the unveiling on December 16 1913, but her speech was read both in English and Afrikaans.
World War 1 saw Emily trying to alleviate the living conditions of civilians in Germany and Belgium and of Britons interned in German camps. She was regarded by many as a propagandist, spy and a traitor. Undeterred, 1918 saw Emily co-founding the Swiss Relief Fund for Starving Children, as children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia nad Hungary were sent to Switzerland to regain their health. South Africa helped fund Emily ‘s purchase of a cottage in St Ives, Cornwall, in 1921. She died in London in June 1926, still hoping for justice to prevail with regard to her work . Her ashes were sent to Bloemfontein and here she was revered with a funeral service attended by hundred,s with thousands lining the streets at the first and, to date only, state funeral in this country for a foreigner.
My only criticism is that the book design, while attractive and contemporary, is impractical as the use of bold colour backgrounds on many pages render the print virtually illegible.
Two family-focussed cookboks - one local, one British - and the new edition of Platter's wine guide make a trio ideal for festive gifts - and for keeping on our own bookshelves.
FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY by Nicky Stubbs. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.
Visually appetising, this hardback is a delightful addition to any cook’s bookshelf. That said, its particularly appeal lies in its trusted tried-and-tested recipes, a collection ideal for keen, but inexperienced family caterers.
As the title tells, the focus is on delectable, do-able fare that friends and family adore, that they expect to find when turning up at Stubbs’ home, invited or just dropping in hopefully at teatime. This hospitable cook qualified with a Cordon Bleu course, has cooked professionally in London and France, run restaurants, given cookery classes and written for magazines. But her passion is catering for those who sit around the family dining table, sharing both simple meals and elaborate celebrations. This compilation is, she states “…a love song to the family and friends who have fed me, taught me to cook, eaten and cooked with me.”
Useful tips precede recipes which, start, naturally enough with breakfast, go on to starters, simple meals, vegetables and salads. Main courses are slotted into categories – chicken, beef and lamb are followed by pork and seafood. A few condiments (pesto, hummus, tartare sauce) give way to a substantial section of bakes, whilepuddings complete the menu with perennially popular classics, from crème brûlée to malva pud, pavlova to icecream, pears in red wine to a baked almond and lemon finale.
Recipes are illustrated in colour, and presentation is just what novices need: a brief description of the dish, clear ingredients, and step-by-step method. Small tips (eg advice on what kind of plate to use during a dipping process ) may seem old hat to many, but will be appreciated by beginners.
Were I to cook a Christmas dinner from this title, I would start with Stubbs’ gazpacho, follow with her slow-roasted chicken and lamb recipes, and add melazane for the vegetarians. Dessert could star her Christmas icecream bombe. In place of mince pies, teatime treats would include her Squidgies, a simple, no-fail recipe if there ever was!
One of this year’s best local cookbooks, crisp and clear, with old family photos that enhance appeal and emphasise recipes designed to delight palates of all ages.
SUPER FOOD: Family classics by Jamie Oliver. Published by Michael Joseph of the Penguin Random House group, 2016.
When one looks at the list of Jamie’s cookbooks, starting with The Naked Chef released in 1999 and including a title nearly every subsequent year, one can be forgiven for wondering what he could still offer family cooks in the way of new and delicious fare? Last year he published his Everyday Super Food, and in the introduction to this Super Food, Oliver states that readers requested a compilation of updated family classics that are also balanced and healthy, rewritten to offer meals that “…fuel, revive, restore and energize…”
There’s probably a good reason why the health and happiness chapter is located at the back of the book. Here Oliver presents his tips, tricks and advice on food, nutrition and wellbeing. Perhaps the publisher thought that some parents would not take to lessons on balancing proportions from the five food groups, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, getting moving and eating more fibre! But Jamie’s preachings are easy to digest and he is renowned for having contributed to better diets for thousands of Britons and their children. He embraces organic, promotes carbohydrates (eat your heart out Banters), and empahises the importance of chewing properly. He also suggest setting aside more time for meals, at home, at school, at work. A chapter entitled Healthy gut, happy body investigates the roles of prebiotics, and probiotics, and there’s plenty on the importance of drinking water, preferably from the tap. Limit sugar intake, cook with your children, grow food, and support farmers’ markets, he urges.
Recipes start with breakfast ideas, including some super smoothies. Good variations on boiled eggs are followed by interesting pancakes, used as containers for healthy fruit, protein, grains, nuts, coconut and more. Quick snacks include 18 options for teaming avocado on rye toast with a host of other ingredients. Quick fix meals includes a Japanese miso stew sparked with dried seaweed, mixed greens, exotic mushroom and tofu on brown rice noodles. Adventurous creations are balanced by classic pasta and sauces. His comfort food classics - such as shepherds pie – are given extra veggies and pulses to increase fibre and vitamin content. Salads are equally colourful vitamin- rich meals and similar treatment is afforded to curries and stews using Indian, Thai, African and Chinese influence. The chapter of tray bakes present oven-baked meal s-in- one dish – nad his Sicilian fish with aubergine, tomato, pinenuts and raisins on wholewheat couscous looks fabulous. There is a fair number of vegetarian dishes and, finally, recipes for batch bakes for healthy bulk cooking and freezer standbys.
This is a dessert-free cookbook that is also sans confectionery or sweet treats for coffee and teatimes!
Oliver’s talent for food photography is evident in the appetising colour images on every other page. Add in a couple of his wife Jools, himself, and endpapers filled with snapshots of children of all ages harvesting, cooking and eating, and you have in your hands another surefire culinary success story.
PLATTER’S 2017 SOUTH AFRICAN WINE GUIDE. Published by Jean-Pierre Rossouw for Diners Club International.
Forest green, this 37th edition is, presenting 660 pages of information and ratings on about 8 000 wines and their cellars , in an alphabetical arrangement of South African producers of wine and brandy. Starting with a pithy and well-constructed summary of trends in SA wine, (which deserved a byline) followed by editor Philip van Zy l’s introduction, readers will find the five -star wines of the year listed and who’s who on the tasting team .
Some 520 pages of entries offer comprehensive listings of wines produced and tasted, plus facilities and attractions at the cellar door along with opening hours. This section precedes an industry overview, information on wine bodies, wine-growing areas, grape varieties and details of competitions and awards. Styles and vintages are discussed ahead of wine-tasting and winemaking terms.
Wine route information is always sought after, and this section includes details of wine tourism offices, wine tours, restaurants and accommodation in Cape Town and the winelands. The updated maps which indicate positions of cellars are equally essential items for travellers. Information on disabled access to wineries and farms is a project in action as two disabled winelovers are in the process of assessing whether destinations that advertise themselves as disabled-friendly, are, in fact living up to this. The initiative is being funded by Platters.
As always, this is an essential companion for locals and travellers to our winelands and is still among the best and most comprehensive in the world: It is edited with care and proofed diligently with a treasury of information packed into one fat pocket book .
The guide, which sells for R215, is also available as an app for iPhone and Android and as web-based version for desktop and mobi. See www. wineonaplatter.com.
YEOMEN OF THE KAROO: The Story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein by Rose Willis, Arnold van Dyk and JC ‘Kay’ de Villiers. Published by Firefly Publications, Brandfort, Free State, 2016.
I wonder how many of Rose Willis’s fans have waited for this story to come to light, to be properly unearthed and recorded? Reading through the names in the Acknowledgements, one soon realises that the list of friends, geologists, ecologists, heritage experts, farmers, researchers, archivists and family members who contributed in some way is extensive . Rose Willis, known to many readers as the founder and compiler of the monthly Rose’s Round-up, found time between teaching and writing to dig deep into intercontinental events that are woven into the tapestry of this extraordinary tale.
She discovered Deelfontein when she was living outside Beaufort West and promoting tourism in the Central Karoo, and she was helped in her research by Dr van Dyk , an authority on the Boer War with a library of pictures on the subject, while Prof Kay de Villiers, a Cape Town neuro-surgeon and expert on both the war and its medical aspects also supplied valuable input.
As the 19th century drew to a close a war raged across South Africa and, on the desolate plains of the Great Karoo, a unique hospital sprang up…
In 1899 the British realised that this war against “a bunch of farmers” was not going well for them, and the government appealed for volunteers. This succeeded as many men, including newly qualified doctors, enlisted and ships sailed for South Africa almost daily. In England two high society women scrapped their social calendars and set out to raise funds for a private hospital to care for the men who would be wounded.
The results were nothing short of extraordinary – from conception in England to erection in the Karoo, a little less than three months passed before the Imperial Yeomanry hospital opened at Deelfontein, a narrow valley between a row of koppies and a railway siding, 46km south of De Aar and 77km north of Richmond. The date was March 17 1900.
Stating that it was a place ahead of its time is something of an understatement . I quote liberally from the press release: The huge tent hospital that mushroomed in this desolate region was unique… along with operating theatres, treatment and convalescent wards, it boasted specialist units for dentistry, ophthalmology and radiology – all firsts in a military hospital. There was a fire station, a dispensary, electricity and a telephone system. It had its own stables and dairy, which supplied sterilised milk. Steam-driven disinfection and waste disposal units helped in the war against typhoid, and ensured hygienic conditions. The laundry washed and sterilised more than 2 000 sheets a week. Drinking water was filtered and running water was piped through the grounds. There were luxurious touches as well –such as a comfortable officers’ mess with its own mineral water plant and ice-making machine. A chapel, a theatre, sports fields, tennis courts, a shooting range, and, (can you believe) a horse-racing track provided recreational facilities.
How did this happen? The credit must go to two aristocratic English women – Lady Georgina Spencer-Churchill and Lady Beatrice Chesham, second daughter of the first Duke of Westminster, whose husband Lord Chesham was commander of the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. The former focussed on liaison with the War Office and other institutions in the UK while the latter spent much time at Deelfontein supervising affairs. The two women, with help from friends, raised a substantial sum – 174 000 pounds – more than enough to equip and staff a hospital. The goal was conceived in December 1899, and over the next couple of months tons of equipment was dispatched from England by ship, to be transported to Deelfontein by oxwagon, horse and slow train.
During its year of operation the hospital treated more than 6 000 patients, and lost just 134, of whom 112 succumbed to typhoid.
In order to cover all aspects of the story, events and people are grouped into chapters chronologically. Not only professional men enlisted but women from all walks of life also volunteered as nurses. The staff of 200 personnel was not only highly skilled, but their services produced many tales of bravery, dedication and lasting friendship . Boer commandos operated in the vicinity on several occasions, and skirmishes outside the gates caused casualties: Both British and enemy soldiers were treated in the hospital.
We learn about the many individuals who contributed in some way to the success of Deelfontein’s hospital through s series of cameos – brief biographies of soldiers, doctors, surgeons, donors, nurses, and more. The final chapter covers those who are buried at the Deelfontein cemetery, today almost the only remaining sign that a hospital ever existed. Most of these perished from disease rather than bullets.
Other stories - and mysteries – are interwoven with medical history: the Adamstein family emigrated to South Africa and ended up at Deelfontein where they established a trading store and went on to build a luxurious hotel complete with walled gardens in which peacocks and cranes strutted. The story of the post office that never was provides light relief, its ruins alongside modern cemeteries which are reasonably well maintained. Visitors to this forlorn spot report they have the feeling of being watched in spite of it being deserted , while the local railway siding attendant takes it for granted that his surroundings are haunted.
The stories are further brought to life with a fascinating collection of old and a few contemporary photographs scattered liberally through the book: Portraits of many of the role players are there along with pictures of huts and rows of tents below a koppie which sports its identifying IYH in giant letters. Interior scenes of the chapel, wards, operating theatre (and an operation in progress) offer proof of just how well organised and equipped the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital was. Sad pictures of a pathetic informal settlement near the hospital and another of carcasses of horses – the “true losers” as Willis labels them – remind readers of the many miseries that war brings.
This fine volume of Africana combines military with medical history alongside lesser-known aspects of the Anglo-Boer war. It’s a treasury to dip into frequently, and to accompany all who choose to visit the site where cemeteries and the ruins of the Adamstein’s hotel rub eerie shoulders in the heart of the Great Karoo.
This is my choice as Book of the Year for 2016 as I congratulate Rose for fulfilling her dream of publishing a story she shared with me back in the mid- 1980s. .
The standard edition costs R390 and the limited collectors’ edition R1 400. Postage and packaging come to an additional R100. Order the book from Firefly Publications, make an EFT payment to their bank account at FNB, Preller Plein branch, Acct no 62138779642.. For more information fax 0865809189 or email email@example.com or Rose Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They say it does us the world of good to wallow in luxury occasionally. Certainly I woke fresh and raring to go after a great night’s sleep in my inviting, soothing, bedroom, its stylish pastel décor livened by bedside lights doubling as branches of a ‘tree’, upon which lifelike birds perched, and a china hound-dog that kept watch over me from an adjacent desk.
Experiencing DB&B at Leeu House, BAS Singh’s enchanting boutique hotel in Franschhoek’s main road, ticked all the boxes and then some. Getting there stressed and chilly, first pleasure is finding that staff miraculously keep a couple of parking places outside the front gate empty – seemingly always! My car was whisked away while I greeted both Nelson Mandela on the left lawn and Ghandi on the right before going inside to register.
Spaciousness is usually synonomous with luxury, and certainly my huge bedroom with its sitting area and large bathroom added to the pampered feel as I explored. The cabinet containing crockery, glasses, bar fridge and snacks invited ransacking – for the purposes of reporting, of course! Well, the snacks are mostly frightfully healthy (dried fruit and veggie crisps etc) but I did find a packet of little chocolate –coated biscuit balls to go with my tea. Guests also get a 375ml bottle of both the red and white house wines – BAS white and BAS rooi, both approachable, enjoyable aperitifs.
I fell in love with the hotel dining area – both inside and out – at first sight, with its black and white tiled floor and soaring glass conservatory-feel. The other guests dining there were Americans – one couple from North Carolina and the other family party from further north up the coast. As they communicated and discussed the state of the Western Cape roads (good) and Chapmans Peak drive (stupendous) I dithered between a first course of local smoked salmon with brown bread, capers and lemon crème fraîche or a Waldorf salad. The former won, and I went on to a delectable mushroom risotto seasoned with three-year-aged Parmesan. Other main courses included local fish, chips, peas and tartar sauce, rigatoni topped with Toulouse sausage and tomato ragout or beef and mushroom ragout with roasted carrot mash. As with the savoury courses, there is a choice of four desserts, one being a savoury option of local artisanal cheese and preserves. All in all, delicious cuisine that doesn’t try to be too grand or gourmet, looks good and tastes even better.
This opinion was confirmed next morning when pondering on the two breakfast menus: – One was available from the buffet – from croissants and pastries through berries and fruits to double thick yoghurt and honey-roasted nuts. Healthy items like oat granola bars and caramelised coconut were alongside muesli and tea-dried fruits while carnivores could protein-pack with the local charcuterie selection.
The a la carte choices include duck egg Benedict, folded omelettes with Swiss Gruyere and foraged mushrooms and smoked salmon with truffled scrambled eggs. Traditionalists and Scots can start the day with oats, malted sugar and single malt whisky or an old-fashioned pork sausage sandwich and brown sauce, which, I think, may hark back to the chef’s roots…
The previous evening I had walked next door to to visit Le Quartier Francais’s new renovated bar and lounge, which is now a vibrant, contemporary venue, as up to date as tomorrow’s weather. The walls are lined with a rough weave fabric, the roundback chairs sport blue suede upholstery and the long, long bar is fronted with a row of high stools dressed in blue and white. The lighting is dim, but its easy to enjoy the giant prints on some walls of everyday items like a pair of scissors and a bunch of screws. There’s also a cosy side room with nests of sofas for intimate fireside gatherings. Soft background jazz is teamed with black and white photos of the artistes, whether Jozi-style or New Orleans, I am not sure.
Everywhere at these exceptional venues now owned by Mr BAS Singh, the service is, as expected, swift and efficient. But it is also charming, friendly and concerned, with both the genial GM (who doubles up managing both Leeu House and LQF) and the receptionists and restaurant staff coming across as wanting to do their very best to make you happy. In this, they certainly succeeded.
Let no one say that South African cookbook writers and publishers are not up there with the best when it comes to including current culinary trends . While some techniques that are in vogue are best left to chefs in high-tech kitchens, others can be easily practised by keen cooks and dedicated braai masters and mistresses.
Think smoking, curing, pickling, fermenting, foraging - venerable processes which have come full circle and are now trending. Add to that list the ongoing focus on healthy eating, using sustainably grown or produced ingredients, plus welcome environmental savvy by insisting on ingredients in season and we have a good summary of the current food spectrum.
From the pyramid of local cookbooks that have hit the shelves recently, five titles feature below: digest the brief round-up of their contents and decide which title(s) you would like to own.
A Year of Seasonal dishes from Food & Home Entertaining. Published by Human & Rousseau 2016.
Food & Home Entertaining is renowned for supplying fans with imaginative recipes for every course and occasion. This substantial compilation is organised according to month, making it easy to find ideas for both seasonal meals and entertaining menus. The well-illustrated recipes comprise the best of those published over the last decade. Diversity is the keynote, with dishes that take five minutes to assemble (Parma ham, blueberry and feta salad for high summer) to a gluten-free chocolate torte that replaces wheat with an egg-rich chocolaty ground almond batter. A few vegan options, several vegetarian recipes and many with Asian influence can be found. I particularly like their combination of sustainably farmed kabeljou with a trendy achar of guava, teamed with a spring salad and ciabatta toast. Cooks have the option of braai-ing or frying the fish and toast .
Baking with Jackie Cameron, published by Penguin Books, 2016.
Chef Cameron is not only a great baker, but all-round talented cook, who opened her own internationally-recognised school of food and wine last year. In this mouthwatering collection of biscuits and breads, pies and tarts, cakes large and small and desserts and puds, the focus is less on trends and more on absolute delicious bakes, whatever course they serve.
However, Jackie is not immune to what’s in vogue and offers us gluten-free bread, and one based on the indigenous tuber amadumbe. (Sweet potato can be substituted). Her red velvet cake adds cocoa to increase its appeal. She gives crème brulée a local twist by flavouring it with Amarula cream liqueur, and includes trad favourites like malva pud, melktert, millionaires shortbread and even an upmarket version of peppermint t crisp tart. The small selection of savoury tarts and pies is particularly appetising. This is an appealing, crisply designed compilation, that will be well used in every kitchen it finds itself.
One Pot Pan Tray by Mari-Louis Guy and Callie Maritz. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016.
Ever since this brother and sister team burst onto the gastronomic scene with an extravagant collection of bakes back in 2011, they haven’t paused, producing several more successful titles . In this colourful compilation they assemble whole meals in a pot, a frying pan or roasting dish, saving on labour and washing-up. The contents stay with savoury fare based on red meat, chicken, seafood, bacon and ham as well as meat-free suppers, each dish balanced with both a carb and veggies.
We find traditional boerekos favourites (curried banana meatball bake, teamed with butternut chunks and quartered red onions) along with baked chicken, mushroom and leek pasta topped with cheese sauce, and a Iberian-inspired bake of sardines and potatoes, flavoured with tomatoes, peppers and paprika and sauced with lemony olive oil. There are a few soups, and the haloumi and vegetable bake offers a delectable combination of fresh asparagus, baby marrows and onion mixed with the cheese, flavoured with citrus and oregano, spiked with jalapenos and garlic. It seems to sing of spring, and is adaptable – replace pricey asparagus with spring onions, for example.
All Sorts of Salads by Chantal Lascaris. Published by Struik Lifestyle 2016.
This compact softback is both a convenient size for kitchen use and a practical and useful collection. The author came to entertaining and cooking after moving from corporate business to become a pilates instructor and developing interests in both health and salads, which feature high in her diet. The recipes tried and tweaked coincide, quite accidentally, with today’s culinary trend: Their simplicity is part of their attraction. Old favourites in new guises sees up –to- date versions of coleslaw, potato, Caesar, Waldorf and three-bean salads. The substantial vegetarian chapter includes some trendy combinations like beetroot, quinoa and rocket, and cauliflower, butter bean and feta.
Fish and seafood star in summery combinations – think grilled tuna steaks and nectarine salsa , salmon and pistachio, even a fish cake salad, complete with sweet potato chips and mixed salad. Calamari is teamed with chorizo and chickpea in an Iberian charmer. Meaty salads presents main courses packed with protein plus healthy green for all-round fare, such as the Med mini-keftedes teamed with tzatziki and salad.
Carmen’s Best Recipes by Carmen Niehaus. Published by Human & Rousseau, 2016
.Banting lasagne from Carmen Niehaus
Food writer Carmen Niehaus has been supplying her many readers with flavourful, reliable family recipes for 25 years, and has developed a vast collection in the process. Having to select 100 for this cookbook, she finally settled on 10 chapters of 10 recipes, based on criteria like family favourites, recipes with reduced carb content, many starring veggies and salad ingredients. There are a few breakfast and light meal options along with those suitable for every course on the menu. Practical tips accompany every one, as do appetising colour photographs. Her fans will be pleased with this souvenir, that also caters for slimmers – see her Banting lasagna – which replaces pasta with aubergine and omits the white sauce without going overboard with weird substitutions.
I am deliberately pairing these two fine cap classiques in one blog as as several winelovers have been confused about their provenance.
Not only bubbly fans but winelovers everywhere were sad to hear that the Krone family – who had been dedicated and caring custodians of the historic Twee Jonge Gezellen estate in Tulbagh since 1712 –had to sell their farm 300 years later. The estate was renowned for its fine cap classiques, and the Krone family as pioneers of night harvesting, cold fermentation and late disgorgement, along with innovative approaches to employer-worker relationships.
Twelfth generation winemaker Matthew Krone swore at first he would never make wine again after leaving the farm, but, happily for consumers and the local industry, was persuaded by friends to return to what he is best at. As a consultant he made fine MCC’s for various Cape cellars then graduated toward his own label. Alexandra de la Marque 2010 was launched, with suitable fanfare, at the Societi Bistro on February 29 this year. It’s a highly acclaimed classic, comprising 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir and limited to 6 000 bottles. It is apposite that its name has a patrician ring, being a combination of that of his first child, and of his maternal grandmother. Future vintages will only appear in leap years, evidence that this is a cap classique for those who want bubblies with complexity and structural depth, only obtainable when they are left to develop for up to five years or more. Rich flavours of peach, citrus, crusty newly-baked loaves enveloped in tiny bubbles are followed by a savoury finish. It sells for around R220. See www.matthewkronewines.co.za for more info.
Twee Jonge Gezellen farm and estate is now owned by Vinimark, a major wine company, who has invested in renovation and expansion of the sparkling wine cellar and vines. They have also retained the Krone family name as brand name of the cap classique range, a decision both sensible and sensitive. Along with a classic and rosé brut, they have launched The Phoenix, a non-vintage bubbly that blends the 2004, 2005 and 2006 vintages and that has enjoyed nine years maturation. Biscuity aromas lead to wafts of apple, lemon and almond, all melding into a zesty whole with a fine mousse. The imported bottle in its matching black box adds an air of luxury to this impressive MCC which sells for around R280.
Winemaker Henry Kotze, Giulio Bertrand and consultant Pierre Lurton
It always seems to be a beautiful day when its time to head to Morgenster, and this was no exception. A group of wine media and trade representatives filled the tasting room then filed into the cellar where tables, dressed in white, sported enough glasses to indicate a tasting of some magnitude. In front, courteous host Giulio Bertrand, winemaker Henry Kotze and Gallic consultant Pierre Lurton from Chateau Cheval Blanc introduced the lineup which comprised the release of the Bordeaux-style flagship wine and the 2013 vintages of his Italian Collection. Starting with what was, for me, an outstanding wine,the Morgenster White 2015 is a blend of 55% sauvignon blanc and 45% semillon, satiny, yet frisky, exhibiting both herbaceous notes, a touch of oiliness, and a whiff of fruit, in an elegant, irresistible combination. Bottled just two months ago after 10 months in oak, this was produced from bought-in grapes from vineyards close to the estate. Their own white grape vines will be ready to produce fine wines soon, but this wine, due for release in September at around R150, is worth waiting for.
On to the Italian cultivars, starting with the Caruso rosé, made from sangiovese, with its low- alcohol level of 12,5% makes a great introduction to Morgenster, with discernible backbone, plenty of berry fruit balanced with savoury notes, selling at around R80.
Tosca 2013 is a blend of 76% sangiovese, 12% each of cabernet and merlot, selling at just under R200, is an enjoyable meld, a great food wine, and probably more popular with locals than the Nabucco – the 2013 vintage of which is 100% nebbiolo, This cultivar has its fair share of fans, and is distinctly different from our reds, and should be paired with Italian fare.
The Lourens Valley 2012 may be regarded as a second fiddle red blend to the Morgenster, but is usually one that I have enjoyed hugely in the past. No change here – from its aromatic nose to a palate with fruit balanced with smooth tannins in an elegant and approachable combination, I would choose this for winter fireside sipping . It sells for around R145.
From the prelude to the main course, the release of the Morgenster 2012, the Bordeaux-style flagship of the estate, comprising, unusually, 72% merlot, along with 16% petit verdot and 12% cabernet. With alcohol levels of 14,5% ,this fresh and enjoyable wine elicited much discussion among wine writers who queried the choice of merlot as the lead cultivar, (one being regarded with some disdain by many a fundi.) Henry’s answer was simply that this combination proved to be the best when he and Pierre took decisions on the components and proportions of the blend. Expect to pay around R370.
Back in the tasting room a team had produced a wide selection of delectable Italian snacks, each one matched to one of the wines we had tasted. From parmesan risotto to tiny meatballs, from quality smoked salmon to veal tongues on ciabatta, the visitors tucked in, savouring the pairings with relish.
As the noise levels grew, our host moved among friends and colleagues, surely pleased that both his ambitions have been realised – to produce great Bordeaux-style blends at Morgenster and to make fine wines from Italian varietals on his very lovely, historic Cape farm. His olive oils are also rewarding his sizeable investment very well.
It’s always a pleasure to sample the elegant reds of Constantia Glen, (although I routinely seem to miss out on their two whites – the sauvignon blanc and their highly-rated Bordeaux-style white blend, called, appropriately, Constantia Glen Two.)
This week I tried the latest vintage, 2011, of their Five, which was released six months ago, and sells at R330 from the farm. This is their flagship blend, comprising 31% cab, 27% merlot, 17% petit verdot, 15%, finished with 10% malbec. The vineyards are sited high on the Constantiaberg, the cool climate lending characteristic expression and structure, while winemaker Justin van Wyk maintains that the extra hours of sunlight enjoyed by the lofty site adds optimal tannins and well rounded ripe flavours. Cassis and dark cherry evident along with substantial but subtle tannins and a delicious mouthfeel.
It matured in new French oak for 18 months, and although rich and complex already, is certain to evolve into a spectacular companion to fine fare five years down the line. An investment that promises rewards for patience.
The distinctive Constantia 1685 bottle sports a 4and half star Platter sticker and a 92% score from Tim Atkin MW.
Their tasting room is open seven days a week .
Papkuilsfontein where organic vines yield berries for the Earthbound range, produced at Nederburg.
Hard to believe it's three years since I wrote about young winemaker Heinrich Kulsen being chosen for the Cape Winemakers' Guild's mentorship programme, along with other three other equally competent Elsenburg students. His three-year programme saw him spend time as an intern in Burgundy, and back home, gain experience in the cellars of Villiera, Ernie Els Wines and Hermanuspietersfontein.
Kulsen joined Nederburg in 2014 as assistant white winemaker, moved on to make red and has recently been appointed winemaker of the Earthbound organic wines, taking over from Samuel Viljoen. This new challenge involves the production of accessible wines of good quality in an environment with strict limits including minimal use of sulphur . Papkuilsfontein vineyards in the Darling West Coast district supply the grapes, grown of course sans herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers. Heinrich's time at Villiera has proved good experience in the upholding of organic principles.
Under the Fairtrade programme, workers at Papkuilsfontein Vineyards benefit directly from a portion of profit from wine sales. Funds raised are administered by a trust where workers have a majority share and dispensed according to community needs they identify. The Earthbound wines are a joint empowerment venture between Distell, a consortium of taverners in Gauteng, and a local community trust.
There are two whites in the range, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc.
The unirrigated chenin vineyards at Papkuilsfontein, 25km from the Atlantic, were planted 22 years ago.The 2015 chenin is refreshing and fruity, augmented by some minerality. .Equally pleasing on its own, well-chilled, or teamed with warm weather salads, fish, chicken, picnic and light Asian fare.
The 2015 sauvignon blanc was produced from bush vines planted in '98 and '99. This is a wine with wide appeal, as there is grassiness for those looking for verdancy , balanced by tropical fruit, litchi in particular. Good with grilled and fried fish, and will offset richness of chicken with cream sauces.
Both wines have14% alcohol levels, while low sulphur levels will be appreciated by many whosuffer from standard use of this basic preservative
The Earthbound duo are easy summery sippers , offering affordability in a field where the demands of organic viti and viniculture usually result in substantial retail prices. At around R46 they are good value for budget-conscious consumers wanting wines that are sustainably produced and marketed with integrity.
The range can be tasted by appointment at Trinity Lodge in Darling.
If indeed these 2015 wines are Heinrich Kulsen’s maiden vintages, they are products of which he can be proud.
Filling big boots extremely well Featured
We all knew that Kleine Zalze's new cellarmaster had big boots to fill, as he took over from Johan Joubert. Alastair Rimmer's maiden chenin blanc and chardonnay are both ample, enjoyable proof that he will be carrying on the cellar's impressive reputation for over-delivery on quality and pure enjoyment with a range of wines that have attracted strings of awards both here and internationally.
The farm's Vineyard Selection chenin blanc 2015 follows in the tradition of a beautifully balanced meld of fruit with structure lent from subtle oak. Enough acidity to keep everything fresh, ideal late summer wine for both aperitifs and al fresco fare, but can safely be kept for a few years as well. A very good buy at R77.
In similar style, the Vineyard Selection chardonnay 2015, selling for R80 from cellar door is a fine example of Rimmer's talent: both Stellenbosch and Robertson grapes were sourced for this wine, which spent seven months in oak before blending and bottling. The citrus, pear and stone fruit, with apple providing a floral note, fulfil chardonnay fans' expectations, there's a mineral core, and overall elegance which combines to make this a classic with complexity that should develop further if cellared.
In best Kleine Zalze tradition, these constitute another pair of winners.
HANNELI R 2011
This flagship shiraz-based blend from La Motte is an extraordinary wine that deserves to complement a momentous occasion or celebration, such as, in our case, the arrival of a new addition to the family. There can be few cellarmasters more dedicated, diligent and talented than Edmund Terblanche - and with this wine, only made when the vintage is regarded as exceptional - he applies these qualilties to ensure inspired results, blending 80% of shiraz with equal quantities of petit syrah and tempranillo. The shiraz for the 2011 vintages was sourced mostly from Elim and a litte from Bot river, the other components from Franschhoek.
Maturation in oak for three years has contributed complexity and structure that is balanced by minerality but there's welcome freshness as well. Spiciness and berry flavours confirm syrah dominance, adding to a full-bodied, intense, elegant whole. All in all a worthy tribute to La Motte's Hanneli Rupert.
WEBERSBURG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013
Many knowledgeable winemakers regard the Helderberg cab vineyards as offering the best berries in the entire Stellenbosch stretch with its various sub-regions. Difficult to argue when one comes across such a stylish expression of the grape as this one. Viticulturist-cum-winemaker Matthew van Heerden followed harvesting with berry sorting before vinification in open fermenters. He used a variety of French barrels for maturation and regards the result, with justification, as a true expression of exceptional terroir. Classic aromas precede finely balanced tannins and fruit on the palate alongside freshness and moderate alcohol levels.
ZONNEBLOEM LAUREAT 2013
Cellarmaster Elize Coetzee
This historic Stellenbosch cellar has long been renowned for consistency - of quality and affordability - across the ranges of its many reds and a handful of whites. The Laureat is their flagship red blend, traditionally cab and merlot, although the 2012 contained small quantities of shiraz, mourvedre and petit verdot to the mix and the 2013, which we savoured, has shiraz and petit verdot to complete the cab/merlot components. This in the stylish tradition of its predecessors, offering loads of fruit, smooth tannins, and accessibility which is a well -established trademark. Presented in a smart box, the Laureat is the first example of Zonnebloem's new generation look, with other wines to follow.
MY FAIR LADY AT WAHNFRIED – CATCH ONE OF THE JANUARY PERFORMANCES.
Howzat! A theatrical hat-trick plus one as Atholl Hay and his impressive cast present the fourth consecutive end-of-year triumph to locals and visitors from near and far. A brilliant adaptation of the timeless classic that is My Fair Lady exploded onto the little Wahnfried stage last week, and, after a short break over the New Year holiday, will resume behind the footlights for a scintillating start to 2016.
As Jean van Elden of Durban Theatre Awards has already put up a brief review of the musical on Facebook – one with which we all agree enthusiastically – I am going to quote some of it here, and then focus on a more intimate villagy write-up to pay tribute to a bunch of talented, dedicated, hard-working McGregor locals.
Van Elden: “An impressive well-crafted piece of theatre by an extremely talented cast of performers… A cleverly adapted, succinct script retained the essence of George Bernard Shaw's writing and delivered the charm of a full-length stage production… Beautiful voices, great energy and sincere polished performances were delivered by all.”
Hear, hear – or should that be “ear, ear.”
Mary Corpe is a wonderful Eliza, which we expected her to be, and impresses as she subtly changes accents from London cockney to queen’s English. John Hargreaves is a natural for Professor Higgins, and fulfils a demanding singing and talking role with his usual professional sang-froid. David Magner is a welcome addition to the core of McGregor players, lessening his military aloofness as he warms to his role in support of Eliza. Mrs Pearce, Professor Higgins’ housekeeper, is beautifully portrayed by Barbara Jacobs, while Atholl Hay manages to include a convincing picture of a lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill in spite of demands as director. Gentle Lisa van Zyl-Jones comes across as a delightfully querulous mother to Henry Higgins, while the trio - which constitute the roles of chorus, flower-sellers, maids and race-goers – presents an admirable example of multi-faceted talent: singers, dancers and quick-change artistes. Heidi Muller, Corli van Wyk and Ilana van der Colff , take a bow.
I would like to comment on the impressive quality of costumes – no mention of a wardrobe mistress, but someone (or maybe more than one) deserves applause, while Debbie Mosca does sterling work on the cast’s hair and makeup. As usual, Pieter Holloway sits quietly on one side, ensuring the lighting is faultless, while Michael MacKenzie fulfils the nail-biting post of sound operator – of course he and Freddie are generous hosts as well, welcoming audiences to their charming theatrical venue Wahnfried, which, thanks to a programme of continuous and classy entertainment, has made a difference to many McGregor lives.
As the Worst End Theatre Company’s January production comes to an end, it’s possible to hear My Fair Lady’s classic tunes being whistled and hummed all over McGregor. Perhaps we can get some of that rain on the Spanish plain diverted south as well.
Myrna Robins. Dec 31, 2015.
Worthy winners, fantastic fund-raisers, winning wines and a new club – as 2015 draws to a close, this Paarl-based couple and their many friends (and pack members) have an impressive count to celebrate.
Let’s start with this week’ announcement that the annual EWT Cheetah Awards for advancing conservation efforts in South Africa have been bestowed on Jeremy Borg of Painted Wolf Wines and Angus Burns of WWF SA. In the photo above Jeremy, right poses with EWT's Dirk Ackerman and Kelly Marnewich.
This award goes to individuals who have “ gone beyond the call of duty and extended themselves over a prolonged period of time in support of …the Endangered Wildlife Trust…”
That description certainly applies to Jeremy who, together with wife Emma, have been dedicated in their determination to save the African wild dog, one of our most endangered animals, being hunted to near extinction and with shrinking habitat.
From the date of the launch of their Painted Wolf wines in 2007, they have supported the cause with a donation from every bottle sold. Jeremy works with the Tusk Trust in the UK, which was set up to save elephants in Kenya, but now supports more than 100 wildlife projects in Africa.
Just this year alone, the Borgs have donated just over R300 000 to conservation in the past 12 months, to Tusk and to EWT here to support wild dog conservaron and to Childlren in the Wilderness, which undertakes projects with rural children.
Earlier this year Borg set out on a gruelling 850 mile cycle race from Padstowe to Edinburgh, which he dubbed Pedals 4 Paws, A Celebration of Painted Wolves, raising four thousand British pounds for Tusk. Charity wine tastings, dinner and a pop-up art auction featuring renowned wildlife photographers relieved the cycling monotony..
Earlier this month Jeremy heard that he was shortlisted for Diners’ Club Winemaker of the year for his 2012 Guillermo Pinotage…
Which brings us to the exuberant, enjoyable, characterful wines of the Painted Wolf ranges.
The entry level Den comfort wines embrace a cab, pinotage, a pinotage rosé, chenin and sauvignon blanc, none of which I have sampled recently. But I was more than charmed by the twin blends in the Cape Hunting range : the screwcapped Peloton Blanc 2014 , (also labelled Lekanyane which is Tswana for wild dog) is an intense partially wooded meld of viognier, chenin, roussanne, chardonnay and marsanne: bold, fruity, complex with a minerally backbone, while its partner, Peloton rouge 2012 is mostly pinotage, finished with 8% Grenache and 6% cinsaut. It’s drinking well, both juicy and savoury, with some oak on the palate. Earlier vintages have scooped awards in Cape blends contests.
The Pack range includes the distinctive Guillermo pinotage, an impressive 4-star example of our indigenous grape, sourced from organically grown Swartland bush vines. Fragrant, fruity, and sophisticated,
The Penny viognier - also from organically grown grapes, wild yeast fermented - is a joyful wine, very moreish, offering a feast of fruit and a dash of vanilla. Citrus and summer stone fruit merge seamlessly with a little spice to a lengthy finish.
Wooded, rich and somewhat elegant describes the 4-star Roussanne 2014 , from Paarl grapes, recently released, this well balanced niche white can take on any competitor.
The Borgs use friends or “pack members” as sources for their grapes in several regions, from Darling to the Swartland, Paarl and Stellenbosch, acknowledging their input, even naming two of their wines after Billy and Penny Hughes, who make their own distinctive wines as well as supplying the Borgs.
Emma and Jeremy met at a bush camp in Botswana which where they came to admire the wild dog teamwork and sociable nurturing, and proved their admiration by structuring their new wine company using a similar hierarchy.
If you are new to these wines, with their appealing hand-drawn labels from artist friends, you are in for a treat. Those who are already fans can now join the new wine club where members can access the rarer labels or attend special events like wild dog safaris. E-mail email@example.com.
Perdeberg cellarmaster Albertus Louw
Any cellar that releases 22 million litres of wine a year and still maintains a reputation for consistent quality - along with regularly attracting awards - deserves both attention and pats on the back, no matter what geeks may pronounce about their ranges.
Perdeberg Winery is the giant producer in the Voor Paardeberg ward, a former co-operative, now a limited company,that has been going strong for more than 70 years. Some 60-plus producers, most of whom are in the ward, are contracted to grow grapes of all kinds, although it is chenin blanc for which the winery is best known.
Visit the site at harvest time and you will have to negotiate your way around the queue of trucks carrying bins piled high with grapes that snakes around the yard and out of the gate. If you get to look inside the large cellar, you will see rows of giant stainless steel tanks in the gloom.
Along with its very affordable standard range, there is the Vineyard Collection and, more recently, the Dry Land range, which have upped the quality and choice considerably. Fine chenin, wooded and unwooded, leads the whites, which include chardonnay/viognier and pinot noir/chardonnay blends. Chenin is also used for two bubblies, a maiden four-star Cap Classique and sparkling chenin in the standard range.
The cellar is celebrating a pleasing total from 2015 Veritas at present, having scooped 24 awards from 29 entries, including double gold for its Dry Land sauvignon blanc 2014 and gold for the Dry Land chenin 2014. I would have reversed these two.
A recent sampling of half a dozen of the newly-relased vintages confirms Perdeberg’s ongoing commitment to value for money. Starting at the top, the star of the show for me was the Dry Land 2014 unwooded chenin, a prime example of how the Cinderella cultivar has blossomed into princess garb, offering delicious aromas of citrus and tropical fruit followed by more on the palate, encased in a crisp summery wine, selling at R70. The chenin from the Vineyard range (R55) is less intense, but presents plenty of stone and tropical fruit, while the Vineyard sauvignon blanc (R55) should please most fans, as it offers a spectrum of flavours along with some grassiness.
I find the whites a step ahead of the reds when it comes to quality: that said, the Vineyard Collection 2013 shiraz is a very acceptable example, medium-bodied, offering classic white pepper, and plum on the palate,(R65) and the 2013 pinotage at the same price will satisfy many fans. The Dry Land 2012 cab (R82) is a typical example of contemporary ready-to-drink red with some backbone and spice along with berry fruit. And that really is what sums up Perdeberg products – if you choose to keep them they will surely improve, but the vast majority of consumers will open them soon after purchase, to toast the sunset, to sip ahead of the weekend braai or to enhance al fresco fare, whether salad, seafood or good Karoo lamb.