Yesterday I attended a presentation by Graham Beck winemaker of 27 years, Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira, at the colourful The Stack, sharing with us what a difference stemware makes in the tasting experience and enjoyment of Graham Beck sparkling wines. Continue reading →
Graham Beck flagship MCC Cuvée Clive 2009 has been named best South African sparkling wine at the 2016 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships held in London earlier this week, at an event attended by a hundred top sparkling wine and champagne producers from around the world. Continue reading →
I was recently invited by Le Lude PR consultant Ann Ferreira to visit the Le Lude Cap Classique Cellar, and to enjoy lunch with her and cellarmaster Paul Gerber at the Orangerie Restaurant. Le Lude is the first cellar in our country to produce Agrafe Cap Classique, fermenting its wine under cork instead of crown cap. Continue reading →
Yesterday 30 or so writers, mostly from Cape Town, dedicated a full 10 hour day to travel to Graham Beck Wines in Robertson, to celebrate its 25 year Silver Jubilee with a vertical tasting of more than 25 Cap Classiques and base wines which go into the making of the Graham Beck range of MCCs. The event was also a salute to Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira, in having worked at Graham Beck for 25 years already.
Always organised, PR consultant Nicolette Waterford had organised a Le Quartier Français snack pack with water and juice for us for the two-hour bus trip. We arrived to a misty day in Robertson, but the day became sunny and warm. We were welcomed by the Graham Beck staff, and by Pieter with his trademark bubbly shirt in particular, and it felt a lot like Pieter’s ‘birthday’ party (he did recently celebrate a special milestone birthday). Continue reading →
* The South African Brandy Foundation has welcomed Finance Minister Nene’s indication that excise duty on brandies are to be reviewed, during his budget speech on Wednesday. An excise duty increase of 8,5% was announced by Minister Nene for brandy. (received via media release from Manley Communications)
* The Spur Corporation is planning to open 21 new restaurants in our country for its brands, as well as five more in Africa. The company said that continued loadshedding could affect its turnover.
On Friday writers and the trade were treated to a vertical tasting of Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs MCCs, were surprised with the launch of new Graham Beck Gorgeous 2014, and were spoilt with a lunch at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.
The late Mr Beck loved the ‘gorgeous’ adjective, and because he loved the Graham Beck wines, it was decided to name the new wine Gorgeous. Having Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes available from its MCC production, it was decided to use the same ‘recipe’ in making its range of seven MCCs, by blending the two grape varieties (58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay) to produce a still wine, in beautiful soft feminine packaging. It has a lower alcohol level, at 11,2%, and is good value for money at R60. The grapes used are from newly planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards, which will produce fruit going into the production of the Graham Beck MCCs over time.
Pieter ‘Bubbles‘ Ferreira took us through the 2006 – 2010 vertical tasting of the Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs. He shared interesting information about wines and winemaking in general, such as that the wine region demarcations are becoming smaller and smaller; that Graham Beck produces 1 million bottles of MCC per year, for which 85% of the grapes are brought in from other areas outside of Robertson; that their non-vintage MCCs spends 18 months on the lees, while their vintage MCCs spend 4 years or more on the lees; to qualify as a Cap Classique the wine needs to spend at least 9 months on the lees; a Champagne spends a minimum of 15 months on the lees; at 12 – 15 months the effect of the yeast is most pronounced, there not being much impact in the firsts nine months; for their Cuvée Clive there are no rules, Pieter going with his ‘gut feel‘ in deciding when this exceptional MCC should be made, the fourth release in the past 11 years about to be launched; they don’t encourage malolactic fermentation, but it can happen to 10 – 15% of the wine; they are building up a vinoteque of their MCCs; Magnums Continue reading →
* Indaba will have 23 African countries promoting their countries’ tourism products, making it the first comprehensive Africa tourism exhibition. A total of 400 exhibitors has been signed up for the show, held in Durban from 10 -12 May, with more than 1000 visitors confirmed to date.
* Mozambique and South Africa have signed a biodiversity and an anti-poaching agreement to combat the poaching of rhino in the Greater Limpopo Cross-Border Park in particular, which is a culmination of the Kruger Park, the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, and the Gonarezhou in Zimbabwe. The number of rhino killed due to poaching has grown almost 300-fold in the last seven years!
* ‘Cook Franschhoek‘ will be held in Franschhoek from 13 – 15 June, with Franschhoek chefs doing cooking Continue reading →
The Bastille Festival was a festive weekend of tasting Franschhoek wines, connecting with friends, and trying some of the village food treats. By all accounts it was a great success, and DnA Events must be congratulated in attracting such large numbers of visitors to Franschhoek, irrespective of the winter weather! Almost every accommodation establishment was fully booked on Saturday evening, and the restaurants and shops did a roaring trade. Franschhoek looked festive, almost every business being decorated in the French tricolore, and many of the locals and visitors wearing a beret and French colours. For our French-speaking intern from Reunion, it was a surprise to experience all the Frenchness of Franschhoek this weekend.
It seemed more crowded on Saturday compared with previous years, yet there seemed to be less on offer outside of the Festival marquee than in the past. We saw the queue outside the marquee just after the midday opening time, and it stretched a few blocks down Dirkie Uys Street. We heard from our Whale Cottage Franschhoek guests that many tried to get tickets to get into the marquee on Saturday but were unable to do so, not even in the closing hour. Those that did have tickets could barely move inside the marquee as it was so full, despite a limit on the numbers, mainly caused by the afternoon rain, which meant that the ticket holders sitting outside moved into the marquee. For many it was too crowded, and they left the marquee after visiting one stand, taking a bottle of wine outside to enjoy it in less crowded conditions. Col’Cacchio had a band performing, and appeared to be one of the most popular meeting places after the marquee closed at 17h00, there being no cover charge. Last minute rooms were sold to visitors who had heard about breathalyser tests on Helshoogte Pass. The traffic on the main road was unbelievable, at times backed up to the Huguenot Monument.
On Tuesday I attended the Chenin Blanc Association Winter Showcase at Delaire Graff Estate, and was reminded by the association chairman Ken Forrester, a passionate champion for the varietal, that Chenin Blanc’s unique attributes are that it comes in a diversity of styles, and that it is the wine that can be paired with the largest range of foods.
Six months ago I had attended a first such Chenin Blanc Summer Showcase at the One&Only Cape Town, which focused on the full spectrum of Chenin Blanc styles, both light and fruity, and rich and fuller. The association has classified chenin blanc styles on the basis of residual sugar:
* fresh and fruity (less than 9g/litre)
* rich and ripe – unwooded (less than 9g/litre)
* rich and ripe – wooded (less than 9g/litre)
* rich and ripe – slightly sweet (9 – 30g/litre)
* sweet (30+g/litre)
* sparkling (tank fermented or Cap Classique)
Interesting consumer research was presented at the previous Showcase, highlighting that our country’s largest grape variety is not well known at all by local wine drinkers. The Chenin Blanc Association is focusing on changing the low level of awareness about the varietal, in hosting bi-annual showcases of Chenin Blancs which are more suitable to drink in summer (light, fresh and fruity), and those that are better suited to winter (rich and fuller). Another goal the association has is to see more restaurant wine lists feature a Chenin Blanc category with a number of different options, instead of this varietal being lumped into an ‘Other/Blend’ category. The association is ably managed by Ina Smith.
Ken explained the procedure for selecting the vast total of 26 Chenin Blancs we tasted, from the hundreds that are made in our country. The 96 association members were invited to submit their wines, meeting the criteria of them being made from 30 year old bush vines or older, and having an alcohol content of 13,5 – 14,5%, which led to 30 entries being received. Jeff Grier from Villiera and Association Vice-Chairman, and Carel van der Merwe from De Morgenzon whittled the Chenin Blanc portfolio for the Winter Showcase down to 26 wines. Grier led the tasting, which was held in the Delaire Graff restaurant, and he shared short notes about each of the wines, which were tasted in flights, it not being clear exactly what each of the seven flights had in common. I shared a tasting table with Delaire Graff GM Johann Laubser, Ken, and Orielle Berry from Bolander.
Our table particularly liked the De Morgenzon Reserve 2011, Tierhoek 2011 (grapes come from the Piekenierskloof area, also the area from which the Botanica chenin grapes are sourced), and Mullineux White Blend 2012 (with Viognier). Other Chenin Blancs we tasted included AA Badenhorst Secateurs 2012, Simonsig ‘Sur Lie’ 2012, Doran Vineyards Barrel Fermented 2012, Nederburg The Anchorman 2012, Spioenkop ‘1900’ 2011, Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2012, Graham Beck Bowed Head 2011, Sijjn 2011 (made by David Trafford), Joostenberg Fairhead 2010, Oldenburg 2012, Jordan 2012, Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Barrel Fermented 2012, Delaire Graff 2012, Diemersfontein Carpe Diem 2011, Bellingham The Bernhard Series Old Vine 2011, Spier 21 Gables 2011, Stellenrust ’46’ Barrel Fermented 2010, Cederberg Five Generations 2010, The FMC 2010, Kanu Kia-Ora Noble Late Harvest 2010, and Villiera Inspiration Noble Late Harvest 2010. What was impressive is that so many of the top winemakers attended the tasting too, including Andrea Mullineux, Razvan Macici of Nederburg, Erika Obermeyer from Graham Beck Wines, David Trafford, Bruwer Raats, and Kathy Jordan.
De Morgenzon uses cement eggs for its Chenin Blanc production, these fermentation and maturation vessels having been developed in France twelve years ago. Eben Sadie was the first South African wine maker to introduce cement eggs locally, and now they are also used by Boekenhoutskloof and Hamilton Russell. Ken explained that winemakers follow trends too, and cement eggs are one of them. Ken spoke about winemaking, and shared that one must make wine that the customer enjoys, even though it is not always the winemaker’s taste.
To get to Indochine, the Asian fusion restaurant at Delaire Graff, we took a short cut through winemaker Morné Vrey’s cellar, and passed Chef Christiaan Campbell’s vegetable garden. Indochine is in the Delaire Graff Lodge & Spa building, set back from the main restaurant. The entrance is ‘guarded’ by two Dylan Lewis cheetahs, and there are more on the lawn outside the restaurant. The Lodge interior is dominated by art of the same contemporary artists whose work is in the main restaurant building, including Lionel Smit, Anton Smit, and Deborah Bell. The restaurant seats about 40 patrons, and it has a view over Stellenbosch on a clear day. It has the most impressive work of art by Lionel Smit and Andre Stead on the ceiling, called ‘Flight of the Swallows’. The colour scheme is blue, reflected in the leather seating and the very classy looking menu and winelist folder. The chef is Virgil Kahn.
The very efficient waiters brought fritters made from cabbage, fennel and spinach as well as bread crisps to the table, with a black bean and sweet soy sauce, spicy tomato relish, and cucumber and mint sauce. Johann Laubser and Delaire Graff winemaker Morné Vrey were also at the table, and I asked Morne how the Showcase would influence his Chenin Blanc wine making. He said that he had learnt a few things he may try for the next vintage, and it had set a benchmark, but it had also helped him to define what he would not do in his Chenin Blanc making. Johann shared that Africa’s first Graff diamond store will open in the main Delaire Graff restaurant building in September, and it is being designed by the international interior designer of all Graff stores.
The amuse bouche was an unusually presented kingklip su mai (dim sum) with a gengati gel, and a citrus and fennel emulsion, a simple fresh start to the meal. The wine stewards and waiters offered the guests a continuous choice of the Chenin Blanc wines we had tasted. The Thai Duck starter, with pickled radish, bamboo, the most delicious cashew nut brittle, and orange, was the favourite course of many guests. The main course is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant, being the 7 Thai spice pork belly served with edamame beans, pickled garlic, and red pepper. An interesting looking and very tasty black rice was served with the pork. The dessert was a colourful mango parfait served with passion fruit, rose water ginger crumble, and raspberry.
Most of the wine writers and wine makers had not been to Indochine before, and expressed how impressed they were with the restaurant and its good service. Both the Chenin Blanc Association and Delaire Graff were gracious and generous hosts, and Ken thanked all involved for a fabulous event.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of Tierhoek Chenin Blanc 2011 with our media pack. My son is the Manager of Indochine.
Chenin Blanc Association www.chenin.co.za Twitter: @CheninBlancAsso
Indochine, Delaire Graff Lodge & Spa, Tel (021) 885-8160. www.delaire.co.za Twitter: @DelaireGraff
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Jordan Estate and Graham Beck wines will be served at the Sentebale Gala Dinner at Summer Place in Johannesburg next Wednesday, launching a fundraising programme to build the Mamohato Centre for children and young persons in Lesotho. Guest of honour will be Prince Harry.
The new Mamohato Centre is named after Lesotho’s late Queen Mamohato Bereng Seeiso, and will be built on what is said to be the birthplace of the Lesotho people. The Centre will care for young persons whose lives have been affected by HIV, to build their self-confidence and improve their quality of life.
Prince Harry set up the Sentebale charity in 2006, in honour of his late mother Princess Diana and Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso’s mother, the late Queen Mamohato. Princess Diana was well-known for her charity work, especially for AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention.
Graham Beck Wines is the official Cap Classique sponsor for the Sentebale Gala Dinner, while Jordan will sponsor their Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2011, the Cobblers Hill 2009, and the Mellifera Noble Late Harvest 2011.
POSTSCRIPT 24/2: The Sunday Times reports today that Prince Harry’s girlfriend Cressida Bonas has accompanied the Prince on his visit, and may attend the dinner with him. ‘Top Billing’ presenter Bonang Matheba, wearing a Gavin Rajah creation encrusted with Swarovski crystals, will be the hostess for the evening, and singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka will entertain the 250 guests. ‘A five-course feast with an African feel’ will be served by caterer Vicky Crease, and will include crocodile, Karoo rack of lamb, and pistachio mousse. Prince Harry may stay on to attend the South African wedding of Sir Richard Branson’s son Sam to the half-sister of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, in two weeks time.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage