On Tuesday evening I had the honour of experiencing Rare Grill, which was named 2017 The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championship winner, the first time in the five year history of the Championships that a Cape Town steakhouse has won the award. What makes this Award so amazing is that the Rare Grill only opened in Kenilworth nine months ago, and only seats 26 patrons! Continue reading →
On Friday evening I had the pleasure of eating my first meal prepared by a Michelin star restaurant chef. Chef Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, with a Michelin star earned every year in the past ten years, prepared a six-course meal at Continue reading →
John Platter’s name is synonymous with the wine industry, having created the Platter’s Wine Guide 36 years ago with wife Erica. His surname is still linked to the Guide by name, even though he has sold the Guide. Launching a new book, it was obvious that it would have something to do with wine. ‘My Kind of Wine‘ is such a book, Continue reading →
CapeWine 2015 is not just about tasting wine, and meeting the passionate wine makers, but it is also educational, with a series of seminars which have been offered in the Amorim Speakers Corner, which have included wine tastings too.
Each of the seminars are only half an hour long, meaning that speaking is concentrated to 15 minutes and the tasting equally long. Each winemaker represented wines of a number of wine colleagues, and was not just promoting his own wines. Seating was Continue reading →
To give wine lovers a taste of the excellent quality of wines to be sold at the 31st Cape Winemakers Guild Auction at the Spier Conference Centre on 3 October, a tasting of the 55 wines takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre tonight.
The focus of the Cape Winemakers Guild auctions is quality-crafted wines made by the select group of winemakers who form part of the elite Guild. Each of them makes a wine specifically for the Auction, and is branded and labeled as such. This year 34 red wines, 17 white wines, 3 Méthode Cap Classiques, and one straw wine will be auctioned, and available for pre-tasting, representing a total of Continue reading →
* Chef Roger Jones of Michelin star restaurant The Harrow in Little Bedwyn in the UK, is set to pop-in and pop-up at a number of dining events in the Cape in January next year. He will be seen in action at the Vineyard Hotel on 9 January, offering a 6-course dinner with a South African and Australian premium wine pairing. He will also be at 96 Winery Road with Ken Forrester and other top local winemakers, and is doing a ‘foraging dinner’ with Adi Badenhorst. The chef is known for his wine knowledge as well as cooking skills.
* Low-cost Condor airline will increase it direct flights between Cape Town and Frankfurt from two to three a week from 6 November.
* Wesgro and Cape Town NPC, the company organising World Design Capital 2014 for Cape Town, will present Cape Town’s design industry at 2014 Vienna Design Week from 26 September – 5 October. Local designer Heath Nash will represent Cape Continue reading →
* On Freedom Day President Jacob Zuma bestowed a number of awards upon South Africans as well as some international recipients, for their contribution to our country. Sadly many of the awards were made posthumously. The recipients included Caster Semenya (Bronze Order of Ikhamanga), Cameron van der Burgh (Silver Order of Ikhamanga), Fanie van der Merwe (Silver Order of Ikhamanga), Zakes Mda (Silver Order of Ikhamanga), Sandra Prinsloo (Silver Order of Ikhamanga), Raymond Ackerman (Silver Order of the Baobab), Chris Ball (Silver Order of the Baobab), Alex Boraine (Silver Order of the Baobab), Frederick van Zyl Slabbert (Silver, Order of the Baobab, posthumous), Lord Richard Attenborough (Silver Order of the Companions of OR Tambo), Danny Glover (Silver Order of the Companions of OR Tambo), and Quincy Jones (Silver Order of the Companions of OR Tambo).
* American tour operators are seeing a shift of bookings to South Africa, due to the weak Rand, comparing the cost of a top end ‘five star’ meal in our country to the price one would pay for a meal at McDonalds in the USA, and praising the price of the good value ‘world class wines’ locally compared to those from Napa.
* Every day the world’s airlines fly 8 million passengers around the world, a total of 3,1 billion in 2013, breaking through the 3 million passenger mark for the first time. More than 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported annually, and the airline industry’s direct global economic contribution is $540 billion.
* South African wines will be represented at the Wine Buyers Forum Windsor 2014, at which buyers with a buying power of $2,2 million each will attend on 10 and 11 March.
* The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that passenger numbers stabilised in November 2013, relative to the same month a year prior, with a growth of only 4%. The Middle East had the highest growth rate at 10%, while Africa saw a decline Continue reading →
Yesterday I spent a most entertaining afternoon at the Grande Roche hotel in Paarl, to observe the last phase of the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Sommelier World Cup competition, the announcement and evaluation of the Top 3, and the awarding of the prize to the winning sommelier Will Predhomme.
The invited guests were the twelve finalists for the Sommelier World Cup, media representatives from the USA (I sat next to Rebecca Canan from the Terroirist Blog), Sweden, and Belgium, local writers, the local and international sommelier judges, and WOSA staff from its international offices as well as from its head office in Stellenbosch. After a welcome glass of wine, we sat down for lunch at Bosman’s, and it was clear to see why this Continue reading →
Earlier this week I attended a winetasting of Sequillo wines, led by well-known and highly respected maverick Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie, at French Toast. It was the most enjoyable wine function I have ever attended, largely due to the refreshing down-to-earth three-hour tasting done by Sadie, and excellent value at R100.
The name of the winemaker leading the tasting was clearly a big drawcard, with 45 winelovers having booked. I was introduced to Eben by Karen Visser, co-owner of French Toast, and Eben struck me as a really nice and friendly person, without any airs and graces, not what I expected at all, for a winemaker who has achieved a number of career highs, including having his winery selected as Winery of the Year, and his Sadie Family Wines Palladius selected as South Africa’s top white wine in the 2010 Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
It took some time for the tasting to get going, due to some late-comers, but we were served a Mystery wine, which we were asked to identify. It was a Riesling, only 60 bottles made (unwooded) by Eben from grapes coming from Elgin, and not one of the attendees could identify it. Throughout the evening, Sadie told us stories, and for him the most important role that his wines play is that they too tell stories. He loves to play with wine, to experiment, and his greatest goal is to get locals to enjoy wine, without any fancy references to the aroma wheel (which should be burnt, he says), as it puts people off wine-tasting. He said ‘my guava is not your guava’, explaining his controversial winetasting views. Eben came across as the most down-to-earth, hands-on winemaker. Awards generally do not mean much to him, and he would not answer my question as to how he views the Platter’s guide. In the introduction, French Toast co-owner John Harrison said that Eben is recognised as a ‘renegade’, who has broken all the rules of conventional winemaking. This ‘enfant terrible’ is South Africa’s first certified celebrity winemaker’, Wikipedia writes about him.
Eben’s big passion is surfing, he studied at Elsenburg, and he started his winemaking career at Romansrivier Winery in Wolseley, moving to Charles Back and making his Spice Route wines for him. Sadie Family Wines is a joint venture between two Sadie brothers Eben and Niko, and their older sister Delana, starting with R9000 in 1999. They grew up on a vegetable and pig farm on the West Coast, and it was grape farming, and winemaking with it, that attracted Eben to this sector of agriculture, telling me that winemaking ‘can carry a century’. They have three wine operations, making Sadie Family Wines (a wine for weekends and special occasions) and Sequillo (a wine for weekday drinking) in the Swartland, and make wine in Priorat in Spain (Terroir Al Limit label) too. Studying winemaking in Germany, Austria, Italy, the USA, and Burgundy, Eben liked the lifestyle of the Spanish the most, choosing this country, but clearly declaring his love for the Cape. Taking a swipe at ‘molecular gastronomy’, Eben said he believes that winemaking has been ‘intellectualised’, in that wine drinkers are encouraged to sniff and spit the wine. He said one should not bother with drinking one glass of wine only, as it was as good as drinking a glass of water! Wine drinking must be done in volume, so that one can enjoy it, he said.
All the Sadie wines are blends, and they do not make any single varietal wines to sell. Eben said that winemakers could make wines to the ‘100 point formula’, to tick all the judges’ boxes, but this would be an ‘intellectual wine’, made without regard for soil and climate. It would have ‘blueberries, cigarbox, cream, and fennel on the nose, would be opaque, and have tannin’. He mentioned this dig at the ‘aroma wheel’ a number of times during the evening. Rather, wines should be an ‘ambassador’ of the place and the climate, and that is why Eben does not irrigate his grapes anymore, to be a true representation of the climate of that vintage. To counter climate, Eben will reduce his crop by half, depending on whether there is late rain or not. His wines have no added yeast, and only about a third of the allowed quantity of sulphur is added two days before bottling. Very old barrels are used, adding little or no wood to the taste. Eben said it was hard to move from conventional farming to ‘natural farming’. He told us how they have built up the resistance of their grapes in Spain, and plough with mules there. Mules were not suitable for the Swartland, he found, so they use horses. We laughed when Eben said that one can read how to get onto the moon, but the internet does not guide him as to how to use horses to plough his land!
Eben became very fiery about Law 70 of 1970, which does not allow the sub-division of agricultural land. This means that Eben leases 53 blocks of land in different areas, which he tends to with his staff, driving from one piece of land to another.
Sequillo is a second label, and the name comes from the Latin, meaning ‘dry arid place of great purity’. To introduce the Sequillo Red and White blends to us, Eben ‘deconstructed’ the wines for us, and we drank most of the individual varietals that made up each of these two blends. The Sequillo White blend 2010 consisted of:
* Grenache Blanc: Eben said this wine is like someone you know who is in jail, being someone you love but you cannot mention it. This variety came from the south of France. It is used in the blend to ‘build volume of wine’.
* Palomino: the origin of this grape is Jerez, from which sherry is made in Spain. It has acidity, firmness, coming from a 65 year old block in Piketberg. It has minerality, and white peach and other stone fruit, with a lingering after-taste. There is some saltiness.
* Verdelho: This wine is made from grapes originating from Portugal, planted in its northern areas. Eben said that his wine comes from 8 year old vines, the youngest vines he has. He tested this variety’s suitability in different soil types, and it does well across a variety of these. It does not have the prettiest bunch nor leaf, not having been to ‘finishing school’, he says in Sadie-speak, but is a great grape that is conducive to good natural farming. Their grapes are planted in Wellington, Perdeberg, and Stellenbosch. It has spiciness, potpourri, great nose and taste, easy to grow but hard to make in the cellar. Presenting it to Portuguese winemakers, they were very complimentary about his wine, Eben said.
* Viognier: This variety comes from Croatia originally. Eben said that it was grown too ripe originally in South Africa, giving too much alcohol.
* Grenache Noir: This is the most planted grape in the world, about tenfold of the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a Mediterranean grape, which can go to 17% alcohol, but Eben keeps his at 13.5 % by picking the grapes earlier.
* Semillon and Roussanne are also part of this blend, but we did not taste them.
The Sequillo label design is done in-house, and is refreshingly different, changing every year. The ‘Dorper skaap’ on the Sequillo White symbolises the hardiness of this sheep variety, like his wine, and is politically correct in being white and black, he laughed! The Sequillo Red has a locust on it. The Sadie wines are sold in 35 countries. When asked how they market internationally, Eben said that he answers his e-mails! They do not have a website for the Sadie Family Wines, and have only just created a website for Sequillo. They will never get into Social Media, Eben said, and he probably will throw away his cellphone when the contract expires, he said. He has no TV nor radio, and does not follow rugby. He makes all his own wine, and does not buy any of it in. While Eben had to keep reminding himself to ‘focus’ on the tasting, to great laughter, he explained that he is ‘semi-German’, and has ‘structure and order’, answers his e-mails, and is organised about his wine-making.
Asked which wine estates and their winemakers he admires, Eben mentioned Mullineux, Hamilton Russell, Newton Johnson, Adi Badenhorst, Neil Ellis, Boekenhoutskloof, Paul Benade, and Chamonix, and described them as mavericks too. He told us that he used to make full-bodied heavy wines, but now he makes lighter ‘roadblock’ wines, that will get one through a traffic control! He said that the wine industry has come a long way, and that the country’s political transformation in 1994 caught the industry by surprise, not being ready to compete on an international platform initially. Eben deplored that rarer and interesting wine varieties do not sell locally. He is focused purely on making wine, and is not there to set up pretty gardens with fountains on his wine estate!
The Sequillo Red blend 2009 is made from the following varietals:
* Syrah is Eben’s favourite varietal, and he told us that its origin is said to be Persia or Greece. The Australians could not pronounce its Old World ‘Syrah’ name, and called it ‘Shiraz‘. While other winemakers pick their Syrah grapes in March, Eben picks his in January, to prevent it being ‘jammy’, sweet and pruny, because of its thin skin, and the intensity of our sun, giving him 13,8% alcohol compared to 16 % for others picked later. He says it is a lunchtime wine, is well suited to the Cape, although it may be too hot, needing altitude to do well. He would not reveal where the special Syrah is grown, but hinted that the block is 60 km from the city, just above that of a very well-known wine brand. Platter’s Guide says 65% of the blend is Shiraz.
* Mouvèdre is the most difficult wine to make, Eben said. It is great to farm, a beautiful grape and a vertical grower, but difficult to make in the cellar. It has ‘nervous aromas’, ‘energy and electricity’, ‘is alive’ and great to use in blends, as it raises the fruit in these. This grape variety makes the world’s greatest Rosé in Bandol in France, Eben said. He added that Rosés are cool wines now, not a ‘chick wine’ any more!
* Cinsault is like one’s brother that is in jail and about whom cannot talk (Eben likes to use the analogy of wines and jailbirds!), being one of the greatest varietals but that has ‘suffered from human ambition’, he said, extending the analogy to say that it has been ‘framed for a murder he did not commit’, referring to its poor appeal as a variety. He says it is one of the most drinkable red wines in the world, it is seductive, and a wine he thinks about every day.
* Grenache and Carignan are two further varietals used, but not offered for the tasting.
As if we had not had enough to taste, Eben opened a 5 litre bottle of his newly 5-star rated 2012 Platter’s (for its 2009 vintage) Columella 2007, a Rhone blend of 80 % Shiraz and 20% Mouvèdre, according to Platter’s.
Eben Sadie and his wine brands will continue to make waves, given his passion and charisma, his dedicated focus on what he loves doing best, in making wines, and his fresh anti-bureaucracy and anti-convention views. Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof said of Sadie that he makes wines as an ‘artisan’, and not as a chemist or a technician!
Sequillo Cellars, Malmesbury. Tel (022) 482-3138. www.sequillo.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com, Twitter: @WhaleCottage