Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →
Whilst visiting Buenos Aires, I was very fortunate to be able to reserve a table each at Tegui (86th Best) and at Don Julio Parrilla (34th Best) on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List. The two Argentinian restaurants swopped rankings this year, Don Julio having previously played second fiddle to Tegui, and the steak specialist restaurant jumped an incredible twenty one places to make it into the World’s 50 Best List, whilst Tegui dropped 31 places. My Tegui Review is on my Blog, and explains why the restaurant lost its standing this year. Continue reading →
Before arriving in Buenos Aires on this my second visit to the city, I had not prepared for my visit from a wine perspective, my main goal in spending a month in Argentina being to learn to dance the Tango. I have planned to visit Mendoza, renowned for its Malbec, have attended a wine tasting and food pairing evening at COWI in Buenos Aires, drunk three wines at the dinner at Buenos Aires’ Tegui, 86th Best Restaurant in the World, one wine at Don Julio, the 34th Best Restaurant in the World and Best in Argentina, and two wines at dinner at 1884 Restaurant in Mendoza. I have summarised my initial knowledge about the wine industry of Argentina, the fifth largest in the world, to which I have added some research information too. 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 →
On Friday last week we were invited to attend the launch of Delaire Graff’s new Crémant de Loire blend MCC, unique in that it is Chenin Blanc driven, and a unique blend with Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc grapes. The new MCC is named after the ‘118.08 carat Delaire Sunrise Diamond, the largest square emerald cut fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world‘, in reflecting the colour of the yellow diamond.
Winemaker Morné Vrey introduced the MCC to us, saying that in the seven years that he has been at Delaire Graff, he knew the day would come that he would be asked to make an MCC. He wanted to make something different, so traveled to the Loire valley, the making of the MCC being ‘a learning curve for him‘, he said. Given Delaire Graff’s strong Loire-style wine portfolio, he decided to make the Chenin-dominant (58%) MCC, with 34% Chardonnay and 8% Cabernet Franc. The Chenin Blanc grapes came from 20 year old Stellenbosch bush vine, while the Chardonnay grapes came from Elgin, and the Cabernet Franc from Stellenbosch. It spent 15 months on the lees. Residual sugar is 5,9 g/liter.
The first Sunrise was bottled last year, but the MCC will be sold NV (Non Vintage). The MCC will only be sold at Delaire Continue reading →
* Angola and Nigeria will be the two African countries on which Wines of South Africa (WOSA) will focus its attention, says new CEO Siobhan Thompson
* Jancis Robinson chose two South African cultivars, out of a total of seven, at a New York tasting of ‘unusual grape varieties that typify an ongoing trend in wine to re-visit traditional grapes in their historical homes around the world‘, being Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
* The price of petrol has decreased by 28 cents a liter.
* Huffington Post Travel recommends ten wine destinations around the world, and includes ‘Cape Town’, but elaborates that the Cape Winelands is meant, and Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek in particular. Groot Constantia is recommended for a visit. The other destinations are the Yarra Valley in Australia, Napa and Sonoma in the USA, Okanagan in Canada, Bordeaux in France, Finger Lakes in the USA, Mendoza in Argentina, Willamette Valley in the USA, Tuscany in Italy, and Barcelona in Spain.
* New World wines from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa make up 30% of world wine exports, states the Morgan Stanley report.
On Friday I attended the Summer Soiree gourmet evening as a guest of Raymond Noppe, Oldenburg Vineyards Regional Sales Manager: Sub-Sahara, as part of the Stellenbosch Wine Festival program. The gourmet delights were prepared by three talented graduates (in March) of the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA), which is based just down the road in the Banhoek valley. Guests attending paid R450 per head.
The tables were beautifully set, with glass bowls of proteas, which are grown in the valley, and dry ice, which came to effect when we sat down for the dinner, creating steam when the hostesses from the Alheit Academy poured water over it. Oldenburg Wines does not have a restaurant, so the dinner was even more special as it was a one of a kind. On arrival we were offered a glass of Simonsig MCC, sparkling wines not forming part of the Oldenburg repertoire yet.
The menu leaflets provided background to the two pairing partners. Oldenburg Vineyards is a premium boutique winery which produces small quantities of wines, its vineyards being managed to the full potential of their terroir.
The ICA was established eighteen years ago by Letitia Prinsloo, and has trained many of our country’s top chefs, including Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet, and Simone Rossouw of Babel. It is deemed to be one of the best restaurant and chef training schools in the country. The course covers Advanced Cooking & Pâtisserie, business development, food theatre, research and marketing, product development, media communication, artistry, food science, and wine. Third year students have to prepare a business plan for a new or relaunched fine-dining restaurant. The focus of the chef training is the ‘global trend of molecular gastronomy’. Food science is an important subject to help the students understand the growing international gourmet trend to modernist cuisine. The dishes we were served were some of the dishes prepared for the final practicals by three ICA graduates, the students’ practical work being evaluated by the likes of Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly, The Greenhouse Chef Peter Tempelhoff, The Tasting Room chef Margot Janse, as well as food journalists.
The ICA works closely with the Alheit Academy, a relationship of four years seeing the ICA training front of house service staff about cooking, wines, front of house, and more, the students receiving a City & Guilds certificate after three years of study.
I missed the first canapé of ‘Olive T(h)ree’, which was served as thin layers of olive oil biscuit topped with olive tapenade, and olive oil sugar bells on olive soil, which was paired with my favourite Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2009. All three the canapés were prepared by Inne-Marie Rabie, who started working at Rooi Rose after graduating at the ICA at the end of last year, working with Food Editor Vickie de Beer in doing research for a new book, I was told by Laetitia. Inne-Marie’s dill and garlic Beef Tartare was served en croute, finished off with a deep fried quail egg, and a garlic and caper foam, which was paired with the Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Raymond told us that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the estate, and is a ‘powerful wine’ matured for 12 months in 300 litre barrels, to reduce the oak influence. It is a big wine, with a higher alcohol content of 14,5%, which they are increasing to 15%. The wine has notes of cedar wood, pencil shavings, black currant, and cassis. The third canapé was Vanilla poached pork belly, which was served with a pear purée, and finished off with a rosewater praline, paired with Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. The Chardonnay grapes will be the first to be picked at Oldenburg, the harvest commencing this week, and the wine is matured for 11 months. The wine was described as having ‘wooden butteriness‘, creamy vanilla, white pear and peach notes, as well as citrus aromas. It was scored by Robert Parker at 93.
The amuse bouche was a jasmine poached Scented Salmon served with pickled cucumber, crackling crumble, and pancetta shard, finished off with a cucumber foam and granadilla sauce. This dish was prepared by Monché Muller, who already has a column in Taste magazine, and now works at The Test Kitchen.
Inne-Marie prepared the Exotic Mushrooms dish, tagliatelle served on a mushroom cream and sautéed wild mushrooms, with potato soil and garlic roasted walnuts. The dish was also paired with the Oldenburg Chardonnay 2011. Monché returned to present her ‘Homebrew Kudu Loin’, which had been marinated in coffee mud, and was served with cauliflower risotto, roasted lemon chutney, kale pesto, and marinated baby brinjals, which she finished off with a pine nut crust and a stout sauce. This dish was paired with the very smooth Oldenburg Syrah 2009, which was matured in oak for 15 months, and has coffee and mocha tones. Raymond described it as being ‘plush‘, having soft tannins, and offering good drinkability. We laughed when he said that it has won no awards yet it is their largest seller.
The Oldenburg Vineyards pricing policy is to charge at two price points only: R118 for their Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and R 182 for their Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Later this year Oldenburg is introducing Rhodium, which Raymond summarised as follows: “Rhodium is a chemical element that is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. It has the chemical symbol Rh and atomic number 45, and is one of the “noble metals. Our first release will be the 2010 vintage, and will consist of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The blend proportions and varietals used for the 2011 vintage was substantially different, although Cabernet Franc will always be the backbone and biggest contributor. We plan to release it within the next 2 months, and it should sell for around R330/bottle. Each bottle will be individually wrapped and packed in its own specially printed box. We are hoping that this new premium offering will live up to its name of being noble in all respects and help to establish us further as one of the top premium producers in South Africa.”
Dorothy, the maternal grandmother of Oldenburg Vineyards’ owner Adrian van der Spuy came to South Africa in the ‘Fifties, and met Helmut Hohmann, the owner of the Ivy Knowe farm, over the neighbouring fence, so to speak. He bought the neighbouring Rondekop farm on auction in 1955, consolidated it with his existing farm, and changed the name of the two farms to Oldenburg, after his hometown in Germany. They planted deciduous fruit originally in the ‘Sixties, and then added grapes, with were sold to SFW and to the KWV initially. The farm was placed in a trust by Van der Spuy’s grandmother when Hohmann died, which Van der Spuy bought out of the trust in 2003. Simon Thompson is the viticulturist at Oldenburg, and also its winemaker. The first wines were made in 2007. The Oldenburg wines are made at Glenelly presently, but an Oldenburg cellar is on the cards in the next five years. (Van der Spuy’s paternal grandmother is the late Una van der Spuy, who was a well-known landscaper, and lived at Old Nectar in Stellenbosch).
The highlight dish of the evening was Nico Meyer’s Southern Reef, a marine-inspired dessert, with a coral made from ginger and chocolate, which was served in an oyster shaped chocolate shell in which a chai tea sphere was placed, for one to sip off the shell as one would an oyster, releasing a burst of flavour once in one’s mouth. The dessert creation was placed on flavoured soil, with foam, to complete the marine theme. Each guest had the choice of pairing the dessert with Oldenburg’s Chenin Blanc 2011 or Merlot 2010. The Merlot 2010 maiden vintage has just been launched by Oldenburg. Nico now works at Apprentice, the ICA restaurant in Stellenbosch, and is their head chef. The dessert was followed by friandise of chocolate fondant, baklava, and melon coated in mint jelly, served with coffee.
All three the ICA graduates were very creative, and had taken a lot of trouble to create the perfect dishes to bring out the best in the Oldenburg wines. One certainly will get to hear more about these fledgeling chefs as they develop in their careers. Oldenburg Vineyards and the ICA demonstrated true neighbourliness in their food and wine pairing Summer Soiree gourmet evening.
Oldenburg Vineyards, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter: @OldenburgWines Monday – Friday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I attended the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition celebration lunch for the second year running on Friday, and enjoyed the good food served by new Chef Chris Marais (previously at The Oyster Box, Twelve Apostles hotel, and Bushman’s Kloof) and hearing how each of the four finalist wine clubs got to mix and marry their unique wine blends for the competition, the 29th which Blaauwklippen has organised.
I sat next to Rolf Zeitvogel, Blaauwklippen GM and winemaker, and the bubbly Swiss Natalie Campbell, whom I had met at Sante’s restaurant many years ago and who now is Rolf’s PA and handles marketing too. Natalie updated me about all the Blaauwklippen news, including the appointment of Chef Chris, the introduction of High Tea from 17 September, the introduction of Tapas from 16h00 – 19h30 from 1 October, the closure of the Cape Kitchen restaurant, wine tasting hours extending until 18h30 in summer, and the introduction of a new menu for the Barouche Restaurant.
Welcoming the guests, Rolf laughed in saying that the table gets longer every year, the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition having become so popular. He shared that 78 wine clubs from six countries (even including Belgium, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, and Namibia) had entered the competition this year, with 40 % of the entries coming from the Western Cape, but no clubs from our province made it into the finals. The four finalist teams included last year’s winner (The Three Sheets to the Wind), in addition to Johannesburg wine clubs Wwiwwew (which name they did not want to explain until they arrived at the event) and Bacchanalian, as well as the George club Babalost. Each wine club leader was given an opportunity to tell us about their wine club’s history, and the technique they used to create their finalist blends. Blaauwklippen shipped 150 hampers of 175 ml base wines, being Blaauwklippen’s Shiraz, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, to each wine club. By the end of June they received each club’s ‘recipe’ for their blend, with notes too, and two bottles of each of the 78 entrant blends were made up by assistant winemaker Albert Basson. A team of judges (Andrew Chigorimbo, Albert Basson, Clive Torr, Samarie Smith, Jonathan Snashall, and Edo Heyns) was invited, the blends evaluated blind, and the finalist blends selected. Rolf told us that the average Shiraz content of the blends was 34%, Zinfandel featuring strongly too. The winning blend was bottled in magnums, called the Blaauwklippen Barouche Magnum 2011, with a label designed by Frans Groenewald.
Each wine club had funny stories to tell about their club and their blend, and each had good speakers:
* The Three Sheets to the Wind club fed back how much they enjoyed the event last year, and that they had entered for the fifth time this year. The ten members meet every second month, and love drinking wine, and they love the competition, their representative Robert said.
* The Babalost club name came from ‘babelas‘ and a story about a mixture of leftover wines which a child was sent to school with, it having been mistaken for a berry juice! They have entered four times, and made the finals for the first time.
* The Bacchanalian Society sounded really serious, and it has been in existence for 38 years already, and only accepts 27 male members, which caused a ripple of dissent from the ladies present. The Club representative described the members as being very sensible and disciplined, meeting monthly. Every second year each member presents a new wine to the fellow members, and in alternate years they have to make a ‘mystery wine’. The club was named after Bacchus, the ‘god of wine‘. They have participated in the Blaauwklippen blending competition since its inception, and made the finals for the first time this year.
* The Wwiwweww club representative Jon-Marc Loureiro is a lawyer and was an excellent speaker, telling the funny story about how they describe their wines in terms of ‘female voluptuousness‘ rather than in serious wine terminology. Their club started at UCT, and a number of members have carried on, the 12 – 15 members accepted on the basis of being ‘nice people’, and the club has had various names over the past fifteen years. The wine club is unstructured and informal. The name emerged from their lack of success in making the finals, having entered since 2004, being an abbreviation of ‘When will we ever win’. They received the good news that their question had been answered, and that they had won the blending competition, with a blend of 32% Shiraz, 30% Zinfandel, 20 % Cabernet Franc, and 18% Petit Verdot. Rolf showed me their entry form, and their motivation for their blend was equally funny: “We liked the result which was not intuitive but came together like Cosatu demonstrators to a call to march. The tannins were prevalent but we saw… tasted enough acid and fruit that will come to the fore over time. Particular mention must be made of the Zinfandel and Petit Verdot”. The club won a trophy, six magnums of their blend, glassware from Vitria, and the weekend in Stellenbosch.
The Le Nose wine club from Somerset West won the Newcomer Club Award, entering for the first time. Rolf admitted that it had been one of their toughest tastings, with a score range of 14,29 – 16,50 out of 20.
The lunch commenced with a starter of Kataifi wrapped prawns with marinated cucumber spaghetti, beetroot carpaccio, and a citrus reduction, which was served with a Blaauwklippen Viognier 2011. ‘Kataifi’ is a very fine vermicelli-like pastry used to make desserts in various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, particularly Palestinian or Greek, a Google search revealed. This was followed by a choice of seared tuna with miso marmalade, and Confit duck leg and seared duck breast with truffle cauliflower purée, sautéed greens, and spiced duck jus, which we enjoyed with the new winning Blaauwklippen Barouche 2011. For dessert we had golden fried brown bread ice cream with slow roasted plums and Melba sauce, with the Blaauwklippen Noble Late Harvest Viognier 2012.
The Blaauwklippen Blending Competition clearly is a highlight for wine lovers, and is an important element of the Blaauwklippen marketing programme, with Rolf and his colleagues travelling around the country, meeting with the finalist wine clubs, and keeping in close communication with them throughout the year. The new Blaauwklippen Barouche Magnum is available from the wine estate’s tasting centre at R134, and at selected retail outlets. The 30th anniversary of the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition in 2013 is eagerly awaited.
Disclosure: We received a magnum of the new Blaauwklippen Barouche with the media pack.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Sweet Service Award goes to Oldenburg boutique wine estate in the Banghoek valley off the Helshoogte Pass in Stellenbosch, for their kind gift of two bottles of their delectable Cabernet Franc, which I had experienced on a previous visit to the wine estate. I had wanted to visit their Tasting Room, and was halfway up their gravel farm road but had to turn around due to it being very muddy after extremely heavy winter rains. Tweeting my having to turn around, for fear of getting stuck, the kind Marketing staff at Oldenburg had the wine hand-delivered to my home in Cape Town.
The Sour Service Award goes to SA Tourism, which was publicly embarrassed by memeburn when they reported that the SA Tourism website was down a number of times in July, due to the non-payment to its server provider of its hosting fees! For it being the country’s leading tourism body, this is unacceptable, as taxpayers’ monies are paying for the marketing of the tourism industry, sorely needed in the current winter tourism crisis. While SA Tourism blamed internal administrative inefficiencies for the payment error, the report states that SA Tourism has a history of not paying its bills! Shame on you SA Tourism!
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at email@example.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTalesnewsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.
Last week I popped in at Oldenburg Vineyards in the Banhoek Valley, at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass, and the very friendly Sales and Marketing Manager Ina Basson told me that the bulk of their wines are sold in Germany generally, and in Oldenburg (near Bremen) specifically!
The farm previously consisted of Rondekop (after the hill with this name) and Ivy Know, and its previous German owner Helmut Hohman amalgamated the two farms and gave them the name Oldenburg, in honour of the town in which he had a stake in a printing business. As it is a regional name, the name cannot be registered locally.
The farm was bought in 2003 by Adrian Vanderspuy, a local lad who had been brought up in Australia, and who had initially dismissed the quality of South African wines, until he tasted Thelema’s Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which he regarded to be excellent. Both his grandmothers had past connections to the farm (Una van der Spuy, the well-known horticulturist, is one of them). The Oldenburg property was for sale, and before he made an offer, he had extensive soil tests done to evaluate the potential of the terroir. He had the vines completely replanted in 2004, and in 2010 their first vintage was bottled. The emphasis is purely on quality, and three times a year wine maker and viticulturist Simon Thomson (previously with Tokara and Muratie) and his staff of 18 cut out the grapes that are not needed, giving them 3 – 8 tons per hectare compared to the more usual average of about 10 tons per hectare, Ina told me. The property’s terroir is ideal for wine growing, being 300 – 450 meters above sea level, and its cooler climate due this height gives it a later harvest time compared to the neighbouring farms. Ina told me that their ‘Bio Viticulture’ approach to wine-making is a combination of Biodiversity, organic, and sustainability. They work with what nature gave them, and try to intervene as little as possible, she said.
The winery has won a number of international awards, including a Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2011 for the Chenin Blanc, and a Gold at the Syrah Du Monde 2011 for the Syrah 2008.
The Tasting Room only opened three months ago, and was designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, a Stellenboscher now living in the United Kingdom, and who has also designed the Glen Carlou and Rustenburg buildings. The brief to the architect was to design a building focused on the view surrounding it, and not to overshadow the view. The interior decor was designed by Kelly Hoppen, a local from Cape Town who now lives in the UK. Minimalism rules inside, with two artworks, of rhinos and elephants, by Nic Brandt. All decor items are sourced locally, and colours are natural and neutral. Chairs are made from leather, around a large tasting table, with a tasting counter and striking back-lit shelving displaying the wines.
In addition to tasting the wines, one can order Dalewood Fromage cheese platters, at R40 for one (150 gram) or R75 for two persons (250 gram), containing a selection of five of their cheeses, including Camembert, Brie and Huguenot. The wines are not inexpensive, at R118 for the Chenin Blanc 2011 and Chardonnay 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Cabernet Franc 2009, and Syrah 2009 cost R182. I am a Shiraz lover, but the Oldenburg Cabernet Franc had the smokiness I love in older-style Syrahs. There has been no marketing to date of Oldenburg’s wines, but a small sign on the Helshoogte Pass road is attracting German tasters to the farm, said Ina. Agents are selling Oldenburg Wines in Germany, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom in the main.
Oldenburg Vineyards, Zevenrivieren Road, Banhoek, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-1618. www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter:@OldenburgWines Monday – Friday, and on Saturdays and public holidays by appointment.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage