On Friday a group of writers was invited on behalf of Holden Manz, by its marketing consultant Tanya Fourie.  We were taken on a tour of the Holden Manz wine cellar, tasted its latest wine vintages, introduced to the new Holden Manz Chenin Blanc to be launched soon, and spoilt with an excellent lunch prepared by Chef Ricardo Le Roux and paired with some of the Holden Manz wines. 

Co-owner Gerard Holden welcomed us, and we were shown the cellar first. At the lunch table Gerard told us that the lunch had been planned to introduce new staff, and because Gerard and winemaker Thierry Haberer were both in town. The farm was bought and renamed Holden Manz seven years ago, after the surnames of partners Gerard Holden and Migo Manz.

Thierry has been working with Holden Manz for the past three years. He is French, while his German surname comes from Alsace ancestors. He explained that he has roots to Corsica too, but that he had lived in Burgundy, working with the acclaimed winemaker Michel Roland, who introduced him to South Africa.  Initially he created wines at L’Ormarins, Anthonij Rupert, and at Rupert & Rothschild, and with Roland at Vergelegen. He also makes the Marianne wines. He travels to Napa Valley to consult on winemaking, and to Croatia and to Serbia. Thierry showed us the barrel cellar as well as the fermentation tanks. He is very diplomatic, especially when he was asked which wine variety is his favorite, saying it is like being asked which is one’s favourite child. He is very happy with his Cabernet Franc. 

Thierry introduced us to his brand new Chenin Blanc, which was a little cloudy, coming directly from the tank. It will be filtered before being bottled. It has been in tank (80%) and in 500 liter barrels (20%).  The grapes come from Stellenbosch, around the Simonsberg. We were told that for blends they co-ferment different varieties in the same barrel. Holden Manz creates blends that let the grapes speak for themselves . Some cultivars work well together in blends. The only grape variety that is bought in is Chardonnay, and now Chenin Blanc, the rest of the grapes being grown on the wine estate. The Holden Manz wine portfolio consists of Rosé, which was served as the welcome drink (R80); Vernissage,  a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot (R80); Shiraz (R110); Cabernet Sauvignon (R140); Merlot (R140); Visionare (R140); Big G (R225); Chardonnay (R225); Good Sport Cape Vintage (R225); Reserve Cabernet Franc (R595); and Reserve Syrah (R595). Gerard told me that he travels less frequently, now having two children, and getting more involved on the wine side. 

Thierry met his now wife Jené Barnes Du Preez in Cape Town, she being a local originating from Mossel Bay, and who is involved in the tourism industry in Cape Town.

In our group was Reinher Behrens, the new CEO of Franschhoek Wine Valley, formerly Client Service Director of our country’s most successful advertising agency TBWA Hunt Lascaris. We worked in the advertising industry in Johannesburg at the same time many moons ago, and he was aware that I had done PR for the agency’s Cape Town branch when it opened about 25 years ago. Reinher’s trademark is his bow ties. His colleagues Myrna and Leandre also attended the event, and it was lovely to see them again, having worked closely with them when I owned a guest house in Franschhoek. Reinher told us that a School of Hospitality is to open in Franschhoek in August. 

We were introduced to Chef Ricardo Le Roux, who heads the Franschhoek Kitchen at Holden Manz. We were very impressed with his unusual chef’s jacket, making a strong character statement. He wrote an introduction to our lunch, which was attached to the menu: ‘The essence of food isn’t a mere measure of the poetic play between quality ingredients and technical skill. Taste has the capacity to provoke intense emotions and nostalgia, resulting in a palpable connection between matters of the table and matters of the heart. Food presents a chance to indulge ourselves. For the chef, a meal is an opportunity to show those gathered around the table that they’re loved and his aim isn’t only to nourish the body, but also to saturate all the senses and satiate desires. Our story is one of flavours, a collision of experiences and influences. We embrace the beautifully chaotic and sensitive nature of food; always aiming to satisfy on a surprising and deeply human level’. 

When Chef Ricardo addressed us, he said that he focuses on flavours, and is not into foams and soils. He forages fresh ingredients from the farm as far as possible, and has herbs such as bay leaf and rosemary on the farm. We loved his chef’s jacket, most unusual with its embroidered trees. Our cutlery was by Sola. 

A basket with warm ciabatta, served with Harissa butter, a blend of spices topped with basil flowers, was an absolute  hit. 

Chef Ricardo introduced each course as it was brought to the table, with co-owner Gerard Holden explaining the characteristics of the Holden Manz wine paired with each dish. Our starter was a striking salad, plated on a black  Luzerne plate, with an exquisite texture. The salad consisted of citrus, salt, mint, poached tomatoes, charred courgettes, crispy artichokes, grapefruit, and fried sesame seeds. It was paired with the Holden Manz Chardonnay 2016, which was barrel-fermented. A total of 10000 bottles was produced. 

The pairing had been discussed with Gerard, we were told, and enhanced the zesty spiciness of the salad. The Chardonnay bottle label was designed by Migo Manz, and is in the Burgundy style, we were told. 

The second course was a Romesco Risotto, served with pan-fried prawns, an artichoke and mustard croquette, olive tapenade, red pepper, charred greens, crispy capers, and smoked cauliflower purée, paired with Holden Manz Visionaire 2013. Visionaire is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, with Syrah more recently added to the blend. A total of 22000 bottles has been produced. On the nose it offers plums and chocolate, followed by raspberry and red currant, and spice. It has a firm tannin structure on the palate, with
well-balanced acidity. 

The third course is Chef Ricardo’s Winter signature dish, being six hour braised Beef cheeks, served with a white bean and samp (giving it a local flavour) cassoulet, oxtail bitterballen, broccoli, tomatoes, and a plum, orange, and spice jus, topped with a pecorino wafer. The beef cheeks are braised in cumin, cardamon, oranges, plums, and lemons. It was paired with the Holden Manz Big G, named in honour of Gerard. It is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc. Thierry told us that they now understand Cabernet Franc much better, which likes good light, and patience. It is the ‘backbone‘ of the Big G blend. Last week the Big G was recognized as one of our country’s top scoring Cape Bordeaux Red Blend 2017 by Winemag. 

Thelema Rabelais named Best Cape Bordeaux Red Blend 2017 by Winemag!

The last course was an unusual Chèvre terrine, which contained goats’ cheese, preserved figs, raspberry, fennel feuilletine (described as ‘brittle crispy flakes with caramelised, praline flavours‘) and saffron, included kumquats, and was topped with a crisp covering the whole plate. The cheese dessert was paired with the Holden Manz Syrah Reserve 2014. The wine was rated 95 points by Miguel Chan, Group Sommelier of the Tsogo Sun Hotel Group. Only 2500 bottles have been produced. 

I ordered a dry cappuccino, and it was served with a biscuit. We each received a beautifully packaged box of home-made chocolate truffles. Despite the cold weather outside and the snow-capped mountains on our way to Franschhoek, we were warm and cozy in the smaller dining room, and its roaring fireplace. We were surprised by the standard of the lunch prepared by Chef Ricardo. On our departure Thierry modestly said that the easiest part is making the wines. The hardest part is selling it, a role handled by Wayne Buckley-Koch. Thierry told us that 80% of the winemaking work is done in the vineyard, and this shows in the wines we tasted. Gratitude was expressed about the 45 mm of rain which had fallen since the stormy Wednesday two days prior. 

Holden Manz, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-2738. www.holdenmanz.com Twitter:@HoldenManz Instagram: @HoldenManz

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein

 

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