Tag Archives: CapeWine 2012

Graham Beck Wines launches The Game Reserve, with focus on sustainability and conservation of nature!

The launch of Graham Beck Wines’ The Game Reserve range at the Camps Bay Retreat last week was admirable in demonstrating the wine company’s passion about restoring and conserving the environment and producing world class wines in harmony with nature. It also was a tribute to the late Mr Graham Beck, who was a passionate conservationist.

In welcoming the guests, Graham Beck Enterprises CEO Chris du Toit said that his company is focused on sustainability on three fronts: social upliftment, environmental care and conservation, and economic. Sustainability is an integral part of what the company stands for, ‘it comes from within’, he said.  The sustainability work done to date has been kept low key.

In Robertson the Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve was created in the ‘Nineties, to reverse the adverse effects of 200 years of agricultural grazing. The Madeba farm belonging to the Becks is situated in the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem, with 1500 species of vegetation. Graham Beck was the second Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) biodiversity champion, and is one of 28 such wine farms, while the Graham Beck farms and cellars have been awarded Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) Conformance Certificates, to reflect that they grow grapes and produce wines in an environmentally sustainable manner.  Four times more Graham Beck land in Robertson is conserved relative to it being used for wine and stud horse farming.

It was a brainstorming session between Pieter Ferreira, the Graham Beck Cellar Master for Sparkling Wines, and a group from the Walt Disney Company that led to the creation of the Gamekeeper’s Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon made exclusively for Disney Resort restaurants.  The wine was so successful that its distribution spread across the USA, and Chenin Blanc was added to the range five years later. In 2009 the name of the range was changed to The Game Reserve.

At CapeWine 2012 the full range of nine varietals in The Game Reserve range was launched to the trade, as well as at ProWein in Germany last month.  The launch event last week was aimed at introducing the wine range to wine writers, and to encourage them to help spread the message of sustainability, which is the focus of The Game Reserve range, a story told with particular passion by Erika Obermeyer, Graham Beck Cellarmaster for Still Wines since 2005, and the passionate Conservation Manager Mossie Basson.

In launching The Game Reserve range, each varietal was ‘paired’ with an indigenous animal or plant conservation project in the Robertson area, where Graham Beck Wines is situated in the Cape Floral Kingdom, an ecological hot-spot with about 8500 plant species.  Mossie Basson was previously with the Department of Nature Conservation, and now heads the conservancy work at Graham Beck Wines, tackling a  number of conservancy projects, including clearing alien vegetation, stabilising eroded areas, and re-planting indigenous plants on 1885 ha of land registered with Cape Nature as a voluntary conservation site.  They have been joined by 27 neighbouring farms to create the Rooiberg Breede River Conservancy, now covering 13500 ha, an important achievement in bringing the community together.  Mossie discovered a rare vygie, unique to the Graham Beck Private Reserve, which has taken three years to be registered.  It has been named ‘Esterhuysenia Grahambeckii’, in honour of Mr Beck.

The rare vygie has become the inspiration for the logo created for The Game Reserve range, symbolising ‘restoring harmony and natural balance‘, and its pay-off line is clever:‘Planet first. It’s in our nature‘!  The labels for the range are printed on recycled paper, and contain the BWI logo, the envirolabel icon, the QR code, information about the fauna and flora ‘paired with each of the wines’, a description of the wine, tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, and health and safety guidelines.

Mossie is a raconteur, talking passionately without a note about the nine conservation projects, and could have spoken the whole afternoon, so dedicated is he to his work to help create a sustainable presence not just now, but also in the future.  He shared that by 1978 the Cape had lost 61% of its floral kingdom, the carbon dioxide levels being higher than ever, being ‘man induced‘, he said.  He added that the threat of a shortage of quality water is a concern, 700 liters of water being needed to grow 1 kg of tomatoes.  He said that humans must stop being ‘parasites to nature‘, and should become ‘enzymes‘ and stewards of nature, looking for creative ways to manage the biosphere.

The Game Reserve wine range is the first to be associated with a private nature reserve, and the brand is ‘an environmentally responsible inspired wine brand for wine lovers who care about sustainability in order to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come’, says the brand book for The Game Reserve range.  Mossie added: ‘Each bottle of The Game Reserve must be the catalysts to spread the message about sustainability to the rest of the world‘.

In introducing the nine new The Game Reserve wines on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with birds chirping overhead, Erika Obermeyer showed her natural talent as a storyteller, saying:  ‘Just as in wine, our fragile ecosystem is wholly dependent on balance, harmony, continuity and longevity.  It truly is the case of ‘the sum of the parts’ when it comes to farming sustainably and responsibly.  When we practice environmentally responsible viticulture and winemaking, we not only ensure the quality of our product, we guarantee the future of our planet as well’:

*   Sauvignon Blanc 2012: one can smell South Africa and the vineyards in this wine, for which the grapes predominantly are from Firgrove outside Stellenbosch, but also from Groenekloof in Darling.  This is Erika’s favorite variety, with green and tropical flavours, describing her like a lady that smiles all the way.  Only grapes grown in an area in which one can hear the ocean are used to make this varietal.  The Fish Eagle is associated with the varietal, the highest flying predator, which keeps smaller birds away from their ripe grapes.

*   Chenin Blanc 2012 : This is Erika’s ‘good mood‘ wine, and she is delighted that the interest in Chenin Blanc is growing locally and internationally.  She described it as a ‘Cinderella’ wine, needing to be ‘dressed up’ to make her popular.  Grapes from 42 – 48 year old bush vines are used, coming from Agter Paarl, and are ‘very happy vineyards’, used to the warm weather in this region. Only 5% is barrel fermented, for mouthfeel.  The Riverine Rabbit is associated wit this varietal, the most endangered species in our country, with only 150 breeding pairs left in our country, according to a WWF count, and has been found to live in the Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve.

*   Viognier 2010:  The grapes come from Robertson with lots of sunshine.  When the grapes taste like Shiraz, they are ready to be harvested, being hand picked, Erika said.  Only 20% of the grapes were fermented in 2nd fill French oak, for creaminess and mouthfeel. It has peach and citrus flavours, and goes well with spicy foods.  The Honey Badger has been paired with this varietal, and Mossie called them the ‘engineers in nature’, in that they dig holes, which offer a home to many other insects. They love honey, and the beekeeping on the estate is therefore badger-friendly.

*   Chardonnay 2010: Grapes come from Robertson, which has limestone soils, giving the wines ‘incredible flavours and freshness‘, said Erika.  30% was fermented naturally in barrel and tank, and there was no malolactic fermentation. The wine spent 11 months in the barrel, with a weekly batonnage. Citrus aromas. The nature conservation project linked to this varietal is the Cape Eagle Owl, which catches mice and other rodents.  Often hit by vehicles, 120 perches have been built for them in the Graham Beck vineyards, to prevent their demise.

*   Rosé 2012: Grapes from 5 – 17 year old trellised vineyards in Robertson, and hand harvested. This wine has fresh and fruity aromatics, and is easy drinking, made in a white wine style using Shiraz grapes, with a ‘tiny dash of Pinot Noir‘.  The rare vygie is the conservation project linked to this cultivar.

*   Pinotage 2010: Erika said that she is proud that this variety has sorted out its negative image, as it is a unique variety, which she has made to be soft and sweet, with strawberry, cherry and plum flavours, and soft tannins. Grapes come from Franschhoek, bushvines from Agter Paarl, and Robertson.  The Bat Eared Fox is the conservation project for this variety, which also helps work the soil.  It is protected from being killed, due to its close resemblance to a jackal.

*   Merlot 2011: This is a tricky variety, which Erika described as a ‘fragile and feminine wine’, and is fresh, with soft tannins.  Handpicked grapes come from Firgrove’s coffeestone soils predominantly, and from Franschhoek. The Cape Clawless Otter is the nature project for this variety, and the restoration of the Vink River has created a safe home for the species in the nature reserve.

*   Shiraz 2009: The grapes come from Firgrove, with spicy white pepper, black olive, cherry, berry, and cranberry flavours. The roots of these vines go down 5 meters into the 500 million year old coffeestone soils, seeking the moisture deep down, being the ‘Energade’ for this grape variety, Erika said.  The Eland is linked to this cultivar, an animal needing a lot of space, being the largest antelope in Africa, and is well adapted to the Karoo.

*   Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: This wine is a blend of Robertson, Darling, and Firgrove handpicked grapes, the wine having tobacco spice and fruity flavours, matured in French oak for twelve months, a wine ‘more serious in style’, and which delivers on tannin structure.  The Leopard project has studied, via cameras, the Cape leopard, half the size of the Kruger Park ones, to analyse which ‘corridors’ the leopards use to meet and ‘dance’, so that they can plan their farming activities around these, Mossie explained!  Seven leopards have been recorded as roaming in the area.

Most of the closures on The Game Reserve range are screw caps, the wines designed to be sold in specialist wine stores and by the glass in restaurants.  The range is well-priced at about R60 for the white wines and R80 for the red wines.  Erika explained that while some of the white wines have been made at the sister Steenberg cellar, they will make all their red and white wines from a rented facility in Stellenbosch from next year. Graham Beck Wines sold its Franschhoek estate to neighbouring Antonij Rupert Wines about two years ago.

The building housing the Camps Bay Retreat was erected in 1929, and is named Earl’s Dyke Manor, originally owned by the Knacke family.  A partnership led by Maree Brink, owner of the Village & Life Group, took over the ‘custodianship’ of the property in 2002.  Head Chef Robyn Capendale has been at the hotel for the past three years, was the Young Chef of the Year 2010, and had the amazing experience of being selected to work with Chef Heston Blumenthal at the three-star Michelin UK restaurant The Fat Duck in a five-week placement, chosen from thousands of applicants.  She learnt his ‘multisensory perception’ approach to cooking, the study of ‘how the brain influences our appreciation of food‘.  Chef Robyn prepared the Graham Beck function as her last event, before she moves into her new position as the Village & Life Executive Chef responsible for the catering at all the properties in the Group.

When we arrived we were served the Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs 2008, accompanied with canapés prepared by Chef Robyn and her team: oysters with ginger and gooseberries, and smoked salmon, cream cheese and caper bruschetta.  After the wine tasting we vacated the tables, so that the staff could set up the tables for lunch. This afforded one to step down to the garden again, where tables had been set up to taste more of the wines in The Game Reserve range. More canapés were served, being delicate fig and camembert tarts, and rare roast beef tagliata topped with parmesan shavings.

The starter was unusual, being deep fried crumbed cream cheese and fresh herb filled calamari tubes, served with a fennel bulb and tomato salad, which was paired with a choice of The Game Reserve Viognier 2010 and Chardonnay 2010.  Anel Grobler sat next to me, and as she is allergic to calamari, had a wonderful looking replacement asparagus, ham and poached egg starter served within ten minutes. The main course of slow cooked rack of Karoo lamb, poached for eight hours Chef Robyn revealed, was served with rosemary jus, pomme dauphine, carrots, asparagus, and courgettes, and was paired with a choice of The Game Reserve Merlot 2011 and Shiraz 2010.  The dessert was a trio of chocolate delice, chocolate soil, and chocolate sorbet, topped with a hazelnut tuile, and was paired with The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.  A further treat was coffee served with petit fours of chocolate and pistachio shards, homemade toffee, and coconut ice.

It was a long relaxed afternoon with a perfect setting, perfect wines, perfect food, and perfect company, perfectly organised by the Graham Beck Marketing team headed by Etienne Heyns (main photograph), and its new Public Relations agency Waterford Communications.  The sustainable approach to the creation and launch of The Game Reserve is admirable, as is the company’s philosophy: ‘We are consummate caretakers – of our wines, people, environment, customers and consumers. Nothing less will do’!

Disclosure: With our media pack we received a rabbit wire art keyholder, a set of recycled pencils and pens with a wooden sharpener, a vygie plant, and a bottle each of The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2012 and Shiraz 2009.

Graham Beck Wines, Tel (021) 874-1258.  www.grahambeckwines.com Twitter:@GrahamBeckWines

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage

Franschhoek pulls out all the corks for top German winemaker Bernhard Huber!

About two weeks ago German wine writer Mario Scheuermann put out an appeal to his local connections, requesting that top Pinot Noir winemaker in Germany, Bernhard Huber of Weingut Huber in Breisgau in Baden, be looked after over his two week holiday in the Winelands.   We offered to show off Franschhoek, and Bernhard and his wife Barbara were blown away by the quality of the wines in Franschhoek, and the generosity and friendliness extended to them. The flagship wine of Weingut Huber, in a region that has a 700 year history of growing Pinot Noir, is their Pinot Noir, of which only 2500 bottles are produced, and sell at €120 each.

We started our journey at our Whale Cottage Franschhoek with a glass of sparkling wine, explaining some background to the village and the influence left by the French Huguenots, in naming their farms after the towns and districts they had come from in France, and planting the first vines in the valley.  Restaurant recommendations were provided, should the Hubers have time to come back for another visit to Franschhoek.   We talked through the Platter guide, which Bernhard knew, but he had not seen the 2013 edition, so we gave him our copy as a present, to accompany him on the remainder of his holiday.  We described how Franschhoek’s reputation as a wine-producing region has grown, having been mocked until a few years ago for having such poor terroir that farmers had to buy in grapes to make excellent wines, to now having a Platter Winery of the Year in the valley two years running!

We visited Boekenhoutskloof first, the Platter Winery of the Year 2012, and having collected the most 5-star wines of all the Franschhoek wine estates over the history of the Platter guide. The wine farm is one of the oldest in Franschhoek, having been awarded in 1776.  Innocent Mpahleni was our host, and led a winetasting for the Hubers, pulling out a number of wines, including Boekenhoutskloof wines, which are rarely offered in a tasting.  Innocent did a Cape Wine Academy course while he worked at Caroline’s, and has been at Boekenhoutskloof for five years already, he shared proudly. Boekenhoutskloof produces a total of 4 million bottles per year, of which 4% are made from grapes grown in their own 22 ha vineyard in Franschhoek.  The wine estate was bought in 1992 by six directors from the marketing industry, and its winemaker Marc Kent was added as the seventh director, explaining the seven chairs on the label.  Between 1994 – 1997 the fruit trees were removed from the farm, and vines were planted, pears, apples, oranges, limes, and stock farming having been practised before.  The Wolftrap is the entry level wine (with a range consisting of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Grenache Blanc blend; Rosé; and a Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier blend), and is named after the jackals, lynx, leopards, and wolves believed to have been responsible for the loss of cattle on the farm, necessitating a trap.   The farm is home to porcupines, and the farm tagged some of these and one can track their movement on their website. Porcupine Ridge is the mid-range wine range of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Grenache Blanc blend, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Syrah/Viognier blend.   The Chocolate Block is a blend made of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier grapes coming from different vineyards. Wolftrap and Porcupine Ridge are made at the Helderberg Winery, which belongs to Boekenhoutskloof too. The Chocolate Block and Boekenhoutskloof wines are made on the Franschhoek farm.  They have recently started making the Porseleinberg Shiraz, which is exported to Sweden, and has a label made to resemble porcelain, receiving acclaim at CapeWine 2012 last September.  We found some bottles of a new brand Le Cap Maritime, made from grapes from the Hemel en Aarde valley, at Lizette’s KItchen in Hermanus, which is an airline brand too.

In 1996 the first 6000 bottles of Boekenhoutskloof were produced, from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes brought in from Eikehof in Franschhoek, and from Syrah grapes bought from Schalk Burger Snr’s Welbedacht in Wellington.  In 1997 the first Semillon was produced, the grapes coming from bushvines planted in 1899 at Eikehof.  Two years ago Marc uprooted most of his vines, and planted new ones, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Merlot, and Viognier being planted in the lower sections of the farm, and more planting to be done of Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier higher up on the farm.  The grapes are grown organically, but not marketed as such due to the mix with grapes from other wine estates.

We tasted the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, and Innocent described it as ‘one of the best selling Sauvignon Blancs in the country‘, and as a ‘poolside drink’, drunk young. The grapes come from Robertson, Citrusdal, Malmesbury, and Franschhoek. One million bottles are made in the Porcupine Ridge range. They made a Viognier Grenache blend four years ago for the first time, sourcing the Viognier from Malmesbury and the Grenache from Citrusdal, and being oaked for 13 months.  Next up was The Wolftrap, a blend of 46% Viognier from Malmesbury, 28% Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, and 26% Grenache from Citrusdal, 600 litres of each being matured in their 24 cement egg tanks, as well as in French oak.  Chocolate Block was first produced in 2002, a mere 12 barrels, and its current production has grown to 1432 barrels, or 400000 bottles in 2011.  Grapes are hand picked, and they use interns, mainly from overseas, for the picking. Innocent said it is the ‘best selling wine in the country’ in terms of the speed at which it sells out, five months after production.

Innocent told us that the Boekenhoutskloof annual production of 6000 bottles is sold out in advance, and initially he received no stock for the tasting room.  That has changed, and he has at least one bottle in the range to offer for tasting every day.  Every year one can order one or more of the 2000 mixed Boekenhoutskloof cases of 3 Semillon, 3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 Syrah, and one The Journeyman (a Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend), at R4000.  The bulk of the Boekenhoutskloof wine production goes to Caroline’s, Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop, La Cotte Wine Sales, and the directors of Boekenhoutskloof.  All labelling is hand applied, and the best quality cork and bottles are used.  The Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon cost R380 each, and 1100 and 1500 cases are made annually, respectively.  The Syrah grapes are hand picked over four days, and the wine spends 27 months in Barrique barrels, and egg white is added. 2400 bottles of Noble Late Harvest are produced, spending 30 months in new oak. Innocent shared that a Pinot Noir is planned.

We had time for a quick stop at Haute Cabriere, and Hildegard von Arnim impressed in juggling a tasting in French with French winelovers, whilst paying attention to the Hubers in German, sharing that her husband Achim had studied winemaking at Geisenheim, and had pioneered growing Pinot Noir locally. Over a glass of Pinot Noir 2009 (R160 per bottle), she animatedly told the story of how Achim had started a revolution in vinegrowing in our country. Together with a number of winemaking colleagues, including Hungarian Count Desiderius Poncrácz, they worked around a government quarantine of 9 – 12 years of imported grape varieties, to prevent importing viruses.  They decided to smuggle in some Pinot Noir on a truck via the then Rhodesia, and were eventually reported to the authorities by a ‘colleague’.  Before they got to court, Pongracz died in a car crash, leaving Achim and the other farmers to face the judge. He was a ‘good judge‘, Hildegard said, finding for the wine farmers, and instead of having them locked up, he had the quarantine law changed!

We were invited for lunch by Hannelie and Hein Koegelenberg at their new The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap (photograph above), which has a salad bar made from vegetables and herbs picked fresh out of their garden, to which one can add a wrap, a piece of chicken, and/or pork.  Chef Pieter de Jager sent a new creation to the table, beef topside rolled with a feta and pesto filling, which met with approval.  We tasted a Leopard’s Leap unoaked Chardonnay, of which 120000 bottles are made annually, by winemaker Eugene van Zyl, with grapes from Robertson, spending three months on the lees, and costing R42.  Hein explained that Leopard’s Leap was a second label for left-over Rupert wine estate grapes, but since 2005 it is a stand alone brand. They produce 4,2 million bottles in total, and export to 40 countries. L’Huguenot is a brand which was created for their alliance with Perfect China, and 3 million bottles are exported to that country, representing 50% of our country’s exports to Asia.  Having created a tasting room for the Leopard’s Leap brand just over a year ago, Hein feels that he needs one for L’Huguenot too, for Asian visitors, 600 – 1000 expected annually via an incentive program.  Hein shared that the market in Europe is difficult currently, with consumers buying down.  They are selling La Motte at €9.99 and Leopard’s Leap at €4.99.  The increasing excise duty, in the UK in particular, influences wine sales, representing R5,70 per bottle in that country.  The Leopard’s Leap Merlot is made from grapes coming from Agter Paarl and the Swartland, 60% being barrel fermented in French oak, and 80000 bottles are produced annually.  Organic farming at La Motte commenced ten years ago, which has brought balance to their vines, the acid is stable, the pH is low, they use less sulphur, and their yield is lower, reducing their carbon footprint.  Hein enthused about the 2013 vintage, given the winter rains, and the long late start to summer.  The Koegelenbergs and Hubers will see each other at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March, agreeing that it is the best wine show in the world.  We ended off the lunch with a tasting of the recently launched Leopard’s Leap MCC from the new Culinaria Collection, a 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir blend.  Hein shared that Chile and Argentinia are fierce competition to South African wines internationally, given that their price points are lower.  Given the small harvests in Europe, South Africa will be pushed to export more of its bulk wine this year.  Bernhard said that 85% of wines drunk by Germans is from Germany, the balance being from Italy and France.  Bernhard was astounded at the volumes Hein was sharing about Leopard’s Leap, compared to his own small production runs.

The generosity of time astounded the Hubers, as Hein had returned to the office from holiday that morning, and was flying out to London that evening, generously spending time with us for the lunch, and then personally taking us around La Motte and doing a tasting of their wines.  The wine farm was awarded to a French Huguenot in 1695, and the original wine cellar and manor house were built around 1750.  La Motte is 169ha in size, of which about half is planted to vine. In relaunching La Motte, they built a new winetasting centre, a museum, and a farm shop, as well as the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, starting with 3000 visitors a month, which has grown to 8000 – 10000 per month now.  Hein shared the link to late artist JH Pierneef, whose family collection hangs in the museum, and after whom the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant was named, and their new vegetable and herb garden, their policy being to source organic and free range meat too.  We were shown the separated red and white wine facilities, 600000 cases of red wine being produced.  They double sort their grapes, and have a mobile bottling plant which can do 3600 bottles per hour.  The barrels are kept at low temperature and high humidity.  The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 production is just over half a million bottles per year and is the focus of the white wine winery, and 30 – 40% of the fruit comes from La Motte, the balance coming from Nieuwoudtville, Lutzville, Elands Bay, Elgin, Darling, Bot River, and Elim.  We then tasted the Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2012, an organic wine, made from Bot River grapes.  Its production of 36000 bottles sells out quickly on allocation.  The Chardonnay is made from Franschhoek grapes, and 18000 bottles are produced. The Millenium 2010 is a Bordeaux Blend to which they have added Shiraz, 180000 bottles being produced. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 is made from grapes coming from the Swartland, Bot River, and Darling. The Shiraz 2009 is an excellent vintage, with just over 100000 bottles produced.  Grapes come from La Motte, Bot River, Agter Paarl, and Elim, and the wine reflects the La Motte style of red berry and black berry, with white peppery spices.  The La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2009 is more feminine in character, Hein said, and its production of 36000 bottles is therefore made in a lighter and lower alcohol style.  Grapes come from Bot River and La Motte.  Only 12000 bottles of the La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Grenache 2008 were produced, the Grenache coming from 30 year old bush vines in Darling, and is more masculine in character. The Hannelie R is the pinnacle of their range, being ‘the best wine which we can make’, Hein said.  It is released five years after it is made, and only when the fruit is excellent. So far the wine has been made in 2005, 2007, and in 2009.  Only 3000 bottles are produced, the wine spending 48 months on wood and a year in the bottle. Each production sees a change in the blend composition.  Michael Fridjhon and Carrie Adams (of retailer Norman Goodfellows) sit on a panel to help decide which fruit should go into the blend, Hein shared.  It is sold at $100 per bottle.  Hein presented the Hubers with a copy, signed by Chef Chris Erasmus, of their ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook.

We made a quick stop at Grande Provence, showing the Hubers the impressive tasting room, restaurant and art gallery.  We were delighted to bump into GM Karl Lambour, and to discover that Grande Provence makes a Pinot Noir too, which he invited the Hubers to taste.

Our final stop was at Platter Winery of the Year 2013 Chamonix, an interesting experience.  Winemaker Gottfried Mocke was still on leave, but maverick owner Chris Hellinger welcomed us in his recently opened safari lodge perched high up the Mont Rochelle mountain overlooking Franschhoek, being 540 m above sea level.  The lodge was filled with stuffed animals which Mr Hellinger has hunted around the world.  We were invited to taste the noble 5-star Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 (costing R240 per bottle), the only Pinot Noir to achieve this quality in Franschhoek.  Mr Hellinger has been in South Africa for 44 years already, and bought Chamonix in 1991, a farm of 265ha, of which 55ha has been planted to vines, and also contains a game nature reserve. Mr Hellinger explained that their wines have become consistently better, and their higher vines get the sun later in the morning, and the temperature is cooler in the afternoon. Their use of compost is minimal. The farm had fruit trees, which they removed to plant vines.  They only make wines from their own grapes. He has invested R40 million in his estate.  Mr Hellinger said that they will work on reducing their wine range, but there is another ‘more exclusive wine to be created’‘.   He praised his winemaker, who has been with him for more than ten years, and he gives him a free hand in what to grow and to produce.  They use cement egg fermentation tanks too.

We received feedback subsequently that the Hubers thoroughly enjoyed their day in Franschhoek, and they graciously handed over a bottle of their noble Pinot Noir to each wine estate that hosted them.  We thank Boekenhoutskloof, Haute Cabriere, Leopard’s Leap, La Motte, Grande Provence, and Chamonix for their time and information shared with this important winemaking couple from Germany, and for growing my own knowledge about the Franschhoek Wine Valley too.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

$200 Laurence Graff Reserve 2009 launched at star lunch at Delaire Graff!

On Thursday wine and food writers were spoilt with a tasting of Delaire Graff wines followed by an excellent lunch, to celebrate the launch of its outstanding new Laurence Graff Reserve 2009, which was revealed at CapeWine 2012 for the first time, and which achieved a 5-star rating from Platter 2013, the only Cabernet Sauvignon to receive this top rating this year, judged by esteemed Michael Fridjhon.

Delaire Graff Estate CEO Johann Laubser spoke about the great vision which owner Laurence Graff, Chairman of Graff Diamonds International, had in developing the estate into what it has become now, having opened four years ago, immediately visible to visitors through the beautiful plants along the drive to the restaurant, the gardens having been developed by renowned landscaper Keith Kirsten.  Laurence Graff has a fine eye for detail, and invests in the finer things in life, which is evident through the outstanding artwork by South Africa’s leading artists throughout the building, including the painting of Mr Graff by Lionel Smit in the entrance hall.  He shared that Mr Graff had left school at 14, had become an apprentice jeweller, and owned his first jewellery store at the age of 23.  He is now listed on the Fortune 500 list, having grown his wealth on his own, without any family money.  He likened Mr Graff’s marketing insight to that of Dr Anton Rupert.  A number of interior decorators were invited to pitch for the contract, but Mr Graff wanted the best, choosing David Collins from London. Mr Graff is passionate about his property, we were told.

The Laurence Graff Reserve 2009 came about, with winemaker Morné Vrey bringing Mr Laubser a sample of wine from remarkable barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes coming from a 12 year old vineyard on the estate, which were hand picked and sorted, with whole berry fermentation, and basket pressing to create a gentle extraction of the fruit. The wine was matured for 15 months in new French oak barrels, and then the best five barrels out of 60 were selected, matured for another five months, and then blended with 8% of Bordeaux varietals. They felt it was good enough to become their flagship brand, and wanted to name it after the owner.  Only 1370 bottles have been produced, and the wine will only be produced in exceptional years. The new wine is being sold at $200 per bottle, one of the most expensive bottles of wine in South Africa, and the first to be marketed locally in a dollar price.  Platter gave it the 5-star crown immediately. The wine was described as being complex, multi-layered, having structure and balance, being immediately drinkable yet would age if put down, or even once the bottle is opened. Delaire Graff only has 20 ha to plant its vines, and uses its own land to grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz.  Grapes are bought in for the white wines.

Chef Christiaan Campbell, who has been at Delaire Graff since it opened, is excited about the Eat Out 2012 Top 10 Restaurant Awards, his restaurant being on the Top 19 shortlist.  He shared that he has never won an award, and has never been on the Eat Out shortlist before.  We were extremely spoilt, the restaurant having been closed for our function, with a large complement of waitrons looking after our every need.  On a perfect wind-free day we sat outside on the terrace, with the magnificent view onto the Simonsberg.  I was lucky to share the table with Marketing & PR Manager Tanja Mackay-Davidson, gregarious Greg Landman who had us giggling throughout the lunch, award-winning wine writer Joanne Gibson, winemaker and writer Jonathan Snashall, Batonage Blog writers Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee, and Delaire Graff winemaker Morné Vrey’s assistant Jacqueline van Wyk.

Chef Christiaan is dedicated to the ethics of food sourcing in his restaurant, and obtains his meat and eggs from Farmer Angus McKintosh at Spier, and vegetables from his own garden at Delaire Graff as well as from Daniel Kruger’s vegetable and herb garden at La Motte. The bread basket offered four different bread varieties, served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The starter reflected his dedication to freshness, being spring vegetables, lemon confit, set goat’s milk, goat’s cheese ice, and almond cream, which was paired with Delaire Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (grapes come from Olifantsrivier, Walker Bay and Durbanville, costing R70 at the cellar door) and Delaire Coastal Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (grapes coming from Stellenbosch, Darling, and Durbanville,  with some Franschhoek Sémillon added, costing R90 at the cellar door).

The Intermediate dish was a lovely medley of octopus, lobster, pickled radish, broad beans, crackers, drizzled with a lobster vinaigrette, paired with the Delaire Graff Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2010, the Sémillon coming from Franschhoek, and the Sauvignon Blanc from Olifantsrivier, Durbanville, and a 45 year old Franschhoek vineyard,  and costing R180 at the cellar door.

Our main course was served on beautiful black plates imported from France, Tanja shared, and was a slow-cooked lamb shoulder, served with potato pavé, broad beans, and velouté, paired with the new Laurence Graff Reserve 2009.  Tanja had a special Vegetarian dish prepared, and it looked so delicious that she ordered another plateful of it, and shared it at our table.

The dessert was a delicious study in chocolate, consisting of a chocolate tart, banana crumble, peanut  butter ice cream, and a most delicious home-made ‘Del-air’ chocolate that looked brittle, but was as soft as Aero, which was paired with Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2010, a port-style wine, and coffee and tea.

Disclosure: We received a special gift pack of the precious Laurence Graff Reserve 2009 with our media pack.

Delaire Graff Estate, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160. www.delaire.co.za Twitter: @DelaireGraff    Wine Lounge Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 17h00. Lunch Monday – Sunday, Dinner Monday – Saturday.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

KWV Sensorium Sweet Service and Volker’s Feinkost Sour Service Awards!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Elsa Hoogenhout at the new KWV Sensorium in Paarl, for her passion and professionalism in conducting the tour around the Sensorium, which is meant to be a self-walk tour around the gallery using QR codes. Her knowledge of art, and her close involvement with the innovative art and KWV wine pairing project, made it a pleasure to write a story, given the additional information obtained. She allowed me to take a copy of the KWV Sensorium and Laborie art collection catalogues along, without charging. She already impressed at the Vindaba exhibition, which ran alongside CapeWine 2012, where the Sensorium stand had QR codes for the artworks in the collection, and she explained the concept.

The Sour Service Award goes to Volker’s Feinkost in Paarl, for its exceptionally poor service from the waitress.  The owner Volker Goetze was not at his Deli, and the waitress only responded to one in three sentences, forgot the Apfelstrudel ordered as a take-away right at the outset, and offered with the cake less than a teaspoonful of cream in a container that could have taken 20 times that amount, only seen when opened at home.  A phone call made to Volker’s cell was not returned at all, while an e-mail was responded to flippantly, explaining that he had to cook for a function they had at their Cascade Manor guest house that day, where he also is the chef, meaning that he is rarely at his Deli. The ‘Feinkost’ name is a misnomer, the Deli only offering pre-packaged cold meats, fresh strawberries, a massive Lecca ice cream selection, and some imported German Maggi products. One can only order waffles and very average rolls with fillings.  Its collection of breads was commendable however. The experience reinforces the poor service image of Paarl restaurants, with a few exceptions.

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 info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

SA wine industry moves from bulk to fine wine, receiving international recognition!

South Africa’s wine industry has made great strides in the past ten years, from being a bulk exporter of ‘cheap and cheerful’ wines to being on the ‘brink of breaking into the international fine wine spotlight’, wrote Mike Ratcliffe, owner of Warrick Wine Estate, in the Sunday Times recently.

Ratcliffe writes that the bulk export of low cost South African wines damaged our country’s image as a wine-producing country, but that this is being turned around, with excellent quality wines being exported.  He ascribes the success of the wine industry to the folloiwng:

*   tackling the reputation and improving the quality, for example, of a cultivar such as Pinotage, which was ‘mocked in global circles’. Ratcliffe praises the industry’s ability to accept criticism (however UK wine writer Rebecca Gibbs experienced the opposite in a Pinotage workshop at CapeWine 2012).

*   The young up and coming winemakers are innovating, and ‘breaking down barriers and pushing the envelope of experimentation’, and challenging region and variety.  The older guard and wine co-operatives are changing ‘their business models and driving quality innovations’.

*   South African wines are as good and some even better than their international counterparts, and are being recognised by international wine buyers and wine drinkers.  This was confirmed at CapeWine 2012, where heaps of praise was showered upon the South African wine industry.  This is making winemakers more confident about their wines.

*   The industry is producing more quality wines, and the prices of these wines are increasing, as more of them are exported.

*  More co-operative marketing is taking place, CapeWine 2012 having been the most excellent showcase of our country’s top wines. Despite their differences, ‘the wine industry is presenting a strong and united front’.

Alongside Ratcliffe’s article was one entitled ‘Wine farms look wobbly’, sad to see after the euphoria created for our wine industry at CapeWines 2012.  Quoting a report by VinPro and Winetech, it shared that high costs are slashing profits, the cost per hectare having increased by 61% to over R30000 in the past 7 years, mainly due to electricity, fuel and water cost increases.  Income has dropped from R1 per 750 ml bottle in 2004 to 38 cents now.  Some optimism about the forthcoming harvest has been expressed, a larger harvest leading to better profit. Wine production is expected to grow by 7% this year, to 1,1 billion gross litres.  Bulk wine exports grew by 26% and bottled wine exports dropped by 9%.  Exports increased by 7%, and domestic sales by 4% in the past year.  Wine farmers are surviving the downward profitability trend by diversifying into other forms of farming, and by adding wine tourism attractions to their farms.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

KWV Sensorium a unique pairing of KWV wines and top SA art!

If there was one good thing about Vindaba, the wine tourism exhibition which ran alongside CapeWine 2012, it was the discovery of the innovative new KWV Sensorium at its Head Office in Paarl, which pairs highlights of the KWV Art Collection with KWV wines, and which has brought the art collection under one roof for the first time.

The creative idea came from a group think tank, curator Elsa Hoogenhout said, and has given the historic KWV Head Office interior a new and modern feel as one enters the building.  The Sensorium is believed to be the first wine and art pairing in the world.  The creativity is evident before one even enters the Sensorium, with a Reception bench made from wooden staves to which old office furniture has been affixed, being functional seating as well as expressing the differentness of the rejuvenated KWV, one of the leading and oldest (94 years) wine producers of the country, having been one of the top performers, with Nederburg, at the Veritas Awards on Saturday evening.  Using the services of two architecture firms, Albertyn Viljoen from Paarl, and Mashabane Rose from Johannesburg, the rectangular space has a central glass-encased KWV wine display and food preparation centre, with special lamps made from KWV branded crystal decanters.

Each of the 28 featured artworks out of the approximately hundred in the KWV Art Collection, which has been built up over the past sixty years, has been uniquely paired with a KWV wine, based on what the artwork represents or its colouring, a team effort between Elsa and her wine colleagues. At any given time, four of the paired artworks can be experienced by tasting the matching wines, and the four paintings and pairings will be rotated, so that one can study new paintings and taste new KWV wines each time one visits the Sensorium.  I was lucky to have Elsa telling me about each painting, and each is well described where it hangs, with five words that are uniquely descriptive of the artwork as well as of the KWV wine, not using traditional wine-speak.  The catalogue for the exhibition is informative, and contains each artwork, the wine pairing, as well as the QR code so that one can obtain more information about the wine from the KWV Sensorium website.  The paintings are hung in sections in the Sensorium, depending on their wine pairings, being white wines, red wines, and dessert wines.

The first artwork is entitled ‘The Funeral’ (of poet DJ Opperman), and is by Marjorie Wallace, showing his family in one group and his friends in another.  His family did not approve of his friends. Interesting is the seemingly contradictory pairing of the sad theme of the painting with the KWV Cathedral Cellar Cap Classique, and Elsa explained it as representing the rebellious and effervescent character of the poet.  The words associated with the wine and the artwork are: rebellion, reminiscent, icy rain, wet grass, effervescence.

This was followed by ‘Boland Bride‘ by Christo Coetzee, one of his last works, which is paired with the KWV The Mentors Viognier. Viewers of the artwork either love or hate it, Elsa said, and the reaction to Viognier is similar, she said. Yet both the artwork and the wine are complex, being layered. The five descriptive words for the wine and the artwork are: bittersweet, complex, floral, masculine, and Miss Havisham ( a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’).

A work which was commissioned by the KWV is by Piet van Heerden and entitled ‘Boland Valley‘, painted from Paarl Mountain, and is an iconic painting of Paarl, and was therefore paired with the iconic KWV Roodeberg.  The words used to describe the painting and the wine are the following: legendary, rockface, vista, sunset, Kodak moment!

The pièce de résistance is the massive Irma Stern ‘Harvest’ painting, probably the largest surviving Stern artwork in South Africa, which was paired with KWV Red Muscadel, its colour matching the different shades of red and orange fruits in the painting.  The words describing the two masterpieces are the following: joyful, abundant, Garden of Eden, exotic, parable.

Other artists in the KWV Art Collection are JH Pierneef, David Botha, Gregoire Boonzaier, Carl Buchner, Frans Claerhout, Herbert Coetzee, Tinus de Jongh, Llewellyn Davies, Pranas Domsaitis, Elly Holm, Amos Langdown, Francois Krige, Erik Laubscher, Hugo Naudé, Alexander Rose-Innes, Edward Roworth, and Maurice van Essche.

Elsa wants visitors to pop in and enjoy their Nespresso coffee, cake of the day, and charcuterie platters, and taste the KWV wines. She is considering opening for longer one day a week.

At Laborie, a KWV property a little further down, off Main Road, wine is made, with Harvest Restaurant and guest accommodation too, a collection of works by Cecil Skotnes can be viewed.  The KWV commissioned Skotness to produce a number of works, his ‘Epic of Gilgamesh‘ being the best known of these, consisting of 18 hand-carved wood panels in a stinkwood and yellowwood frame, depicting the origin of wine.

The KWV Sensorium is a unique showcase of South African wine history, with old bottles of KWV wines, brandy, and even Eau-de-Cologne it once produced, uniquely paired with works of art by some of South Africa’s finest artists.

KWV Sensorium, 57 Main Street, Paarl.  R40 per person.  Tel (021) 807-3147  www.kwvsensorium.com Twitter: @KWVSensorium  Monday – Friday, 9h00 – 16h30, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Is SAA heading for a crash-landing? Disaster for Tourism!

SAA has been in the news in the past few days for all the wrong reasons, eight of its eleven Board members having resigned in what must signal the lack of confidence in the management of the airline and its future.  As our tourism industry is strongly reliant on SAA to bring tourists to the country, and to Cape Town specifically, the SAA situation is of vital importance to all tourism players.

Cheryl Carolus, Chairman of the SAA Board, is one of the Directors who resigned, with Bonang Mohale, Russell Loubser, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndhlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka, and Maggie Whitehouse, but she has not motivated her decision.  Russell Loubser has been vocal, saying that SAA, SA Express, and Mango deserve the support of the South African government, being its largest shareholder, but that they are not receiving it, reported The Citizen. Loubser called for emotional, financial, and moral support, given the economic downturn and the competitive airline industry. The operations of the company have had to be executed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, he said, which meant that they could not run the company as a commercial enterprise, in which they would ordinarily hire and fire staff, or change routes. ‘But a company like SAA which is totally dependent on the government requires in return the total support of the shareholder. And right now it is finding it difficult to work with the shareholder’.  Issues that have been tabled for months do not get resolved, Loubser explained, particularly the burning issue of an additional R6 billion which the airline requested from the government to execute a strategic plan which had been approved by the government. He said that in the past three years since he had been a member of the SAA Board, the company had ‘never been properly capitalised’.

The resignations were precipitated by the delay in the tabling of SAA’s Annual Report by the deadline of 30 September, as the auditors had not finalised the financial statements, and the funding request not having been finalised with the Treasury, reported The Times. The funding requested is to cover fleet replacement costs, the introduction of a premium economy class, and the extension of business class cabins on long-haul flights. Yet Ms Carolus stated that the Minister is ‘lying’, as the financial statements have been completed, and withholding them is ‘illegal’, reflecting on the Board directors, reported The Times today. The Annual Report for SA Express was also delayed.  Last year the financial statements for SA Express had to be withdrawn, when found to be ‘materially misstated’. Last month the Minister fired all except one Board member of SA Express, for accounting errors going back to 2008!

Earlier last week Ms Carolus had summarised the Board’s achievements as flying to new destinations, sacrificing domestic routes to the benefit of international routes, modernising and increasing the fleet, and in addressing fraud and corruption.

Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba appointed eight new directors to caretake the Board positions, with Vuyisile Kona as the new Chairman, and Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bonisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule, and Nonhlanhla Kubeka as the new Directors, representing expertise in the fields of aviation, management, state governance, and finance, and which he said would assist the government in ‘propelling the airline to greater heights‘!  The Minister issued a statement, describing the resignation timing as ‘bizarre’, and condemned ‘the leakage of confidential government information’ as an ‘abuse of free speech’, without explaining what information leak he is referring to.  The Minister also explained that the term of most Board members would have come to an end anyway, at the scheduled AGM on 15 October.  The Minister assured staff, passengers, and suppliers that the Board resignations would not disrupt the operations of SAA.

Cape Town’s tourism industry was badly hit by SAA’s decision to close down its Cape Town – London direct flight route in mid-August, selling one of its three slots at Heathrow, and creating a Southern African hub in Johannesburg, forcing all international SAA flights to land in Johannesburg, and then connect to Cape Town on a domestic flight.  This strategy is proving fatal for tourism, as we continuously receive feedback that international flights arriving simultaneously at OR Thambo airport are causing Passport Control and Baggage Collection congestion, meaning that the connecting flights are missed by international visitors, for which SAA tries to cash in on ticket change charges!  This is a dreadful first tourist impression of our country!

The declining quality of SAA’s food and beverage service and poor hostess service was well-documented by German wine writer Mario Scheuermann, who flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, to attend CapeWine 2012 in Cape Town last week.  He wrote that the wines were of sub-standard quality, and ran out two hours after take-off, that the food was dreadful (his photograph), and that the mineral water had run out before landing in Johannesburg.  The party of German VIP visitors missed its connecting flights due to the congested airport facilities, and had to wait for three hours to catch a new connecting flight to Cape Town!

Despite this sounding unpatriotic, we would encourage international visitors to fly to Cape Town with any airline other than SAA, and to avoid flying into the country via Johannesburg at all costs!  Direct Cape Town connections are or about to be offered by BA and Virgin from London, by Edelweiss from Zürich, by Lufthansa from Munich, by Emirates from Dubai, by Air France from Paris, by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, and from Amsterdam by KLM.  Maybe  the cancellation of SAA’s Cape Town-London route is a blessing in disguise for our city, given the poor reports about the airline’s service and quality!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Swedish guests checking in at Whale Cottage Camps Bay today praised the ease of connection via Swiss from Copenhagen to Zürich, and then the direct flight by Edelweiss to Cape Town, for its friendly service and fantastic price of R 5500 each for the full return trip.

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Today it was announced that the government has given SAA a ‘guarantee’ of R5 billion!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Southern African Tourism Update has published a letter today from a tour operator reporting on two client flight cancellations due to overbooking, handled unsympathetically by SAA staff.

POSTSCRIPT 3/10: Mario Scheuermann has shared the details of his return journey on SAA two days ago.  The food quality was slightly better, there was more wine available but the quality offered still was poor.  There was a problem with the cooling, so all beverages were warm, i.e. not cooled!  The service was equally poor.  Interesting would be to hear the evaluation of the food and wine offering by the SA Culinary Olympics team, which was on the same flight to Frankfurt!

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Times reports that the smaller independent airlines are furious that SAA has been given a R 5 billion lifeline by the government, saying that this is driving low-cost airlines out of business. Nine out of 11 airlines that started operating locally in the past 20 years have gone into liquidation, mainly due to an oversupply of domestic seats, ‘a legacy of the optimism of 2010’. Now 1time wants a bail-out by the government too.  The small airlines are asking for a cut in the fuel levy, as well as reduced fees for ACSA, Air Traffic Navigation Services, the SA Weather Service, and the Civil Aviation Authority.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10: Southern African Tourism Update reports this evening that the new Chairman of the SAA Board is questioning why the Cape Town – London route was cancelled, and is apparently in talks with the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille to reinstate the route.  One wonders why he is not talking to our Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, the CEO of Wesgro Nils Flaatten, and/or Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold!  One of the three SAA slots at Heathrow have been sold, which may make the reinstatement difficult.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

South African wines the stars in top quality wine week!

Two magnificent events took place in what could be called Wine Week last week, CapeWine 2012 and the Nederburg Wine Auction running back to back, bringing the world’s leading wine writers, buyers, sommeliers and wine lovers to Cape Town and the Winelands. For an industry prone to criticism and politics, there was all-round applause and recognition for the hard work that Wines of South Africa (WOSA) put into organising CapeWine 2012, in making this what some called the best wine show ever held in the world!

Even the ever WOSA-critical Neil Pendock, who had begged to be invited to the opening CapeWine 2012 Green Tie Event when he was understandably left off the invitation list initially, was meek and mild in his reporting during the week, and no salvos have been fired at WOSA this past week, which is a tremendous achievement in itself, the reason for his boring repetitive attacks on WOSA not being understood by most.

German wine writer Mario Scheuermann is known as a critical writer, and wrote about the German media group’s disastrous SAA journey to CapeWine 2012, but he has waxed lyrical about his week-long visit to Cape Town and the Winelands, which included dinner at The Round House; lunch at Waterkloof; taking a leaf out of Mike Veseth’s Nederburg Wine Auction keynote address emphasising the importance of Braais in marketing South African wines, a braai was prepared by Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist George Jardine at Jordan, which he described as ‘the best Braai I ever had in my life’; a show at another Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist Bertus Basson’s AmaZink; wine tasting at Glenelly; visits to sustainable organic and biodynamic wine estates Backsberg, Avondale, and Reyneke; visits to Babylonstoren and to Leopard’s Leap; lunch at Pierneef à La Motte; and a meal at new Green Point located Café Dijon.  He highlighted the following wines/wine estates on his Facebook page: David, Paradisum, De Toren Fusion V, Philippi, Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Allee Bleue Isabeau, Springfield’s Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon and their Wild Yeast Chardonnay, and Rickety Bridge’s The Foundation Stone. Scheuermann Tweeted about the power of Social Media as follows:“Cape Wine 2012 is the first big wine fair in the world driven and powered by social media”. The cherry of praise for our country’s wine industry was the following Tweet: ‘After this 3 days of Cape Wine 2012 we must clearly say: South Africa is today the most interesting wine country in the world’!

Scheuermann’s German writing colleagues Michael Pleitgen and Angelika Deutsch have been equally complimentary, while Eckhard Supp complained about the long queues for food at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the meagre snacks served at a function on 25 September, consisting of a few pieces of sushi and dim sum, not enough to soak up all the wines tasted, he wrote.  The complaint about the Convention Centre food was echoed by a number of attendees at CapeWine 2012, and was the only criticism of the event.

Locally, Melvyn Minnaar described CapeWine 2012 on Grape as a ‘jolly good wine show’, which left him feeling ‘pretty upbeat about the local wine industry’.  He praised the ‘experience, talent and adventurous dynamic out there in the winelands’.  Even greater praise went to WOSA: if they ‘can organise such a fine event, we can clearly trust the team to take the business into the world’. And the final accolade: ‘Feedback from visiting journalists and agents – many who know the business pretty well – confirmed my own impression that this was a jolly smart event. Viva SA wine’!

British freelance and award-winning wine writer Rebecca Gibb praised the quality of the wines she tasted during CapeWine 2012, writing ‘I’ve been really impressed with the quality across the board’, and she highlighted our country’s Cabernet Sauvignons, and the Oldenburg 2009 in particular. She also praised the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, and Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011 in particular. The Swartland also received praise, and The Sadie Family Palladius 2010 in particular. Other wines on her ‘top 10 wines of Cape Wine 2012‘ list are Cartology 2011, The Sadie Family Pofadder Cinsaut 2011, Glenelly Lady May 2009, Mullineux Syrah 2010, Vergelegen GVB 2005, Miko Chardonnay 2009, and Porseleinberg Shiraz 2010.  She did criticise the reaction to her question about the future of Pinotage in a seminar, which waxed lyrical about Pinotage’s past rather than address its image problem and export decline.

Swedish wine writer Erica Landin described South Africa as ‘flippin’ heaven on earth’ on her blog and asked why so much of South African wine sold in Sweden is bulk wine going into ‘Bag-in-Box’. She enjoyed the Shiraz and oaked Chenin Blancs in particular. British Master of Wine writer, broadcaster and judge Sarah Jane Evans described CapeWine 2012 as ‘Best ever!‘, and Tweeted a photograph of Cartology, referring to it as ‘a wine that got everyone talking’. Swedish blogger Anders Öhman Tweeted ‘The WOSA organisation at #capewine2012 is amazing. So many guests, bags, places, buses, tours and parties. Running flawless’. Dutch wine dealer and writer Lars Daniëls Tweeted: ‘Grote complimenten aan WOSA en in bijzonder Sara Chanell voor geweldige beurs en programma!’. Award-winning UK wine blogger Jamie Goode attended the Chenin Blanc Association’s Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar and lunch at Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town the day before CapeWine 2012 started.  He posted a number of blogposts during his stay, and no doubt there will be more. He is a great supporter of our wine industry: Cape Wine 2012 has been brilliant. I have discovered some very exciting new wines, caught up with some cool people (and made new friends)”. He braved the crowds to attend the Hermanus Whale Festival over the weekend.

Tyler Colman, an award-winning American blogger writing as Dr Vino, praised the Western Cape, as a ‘stunningly gorgeous region that has exciting local vintners as well as an international flair’. He raved about the calibre of wine VIP’s he had bumped into in Stellenbosch prior to CapeWine 2012, including Charles Banks, Bruno Prats, and Hubert de Bouard.

WOSA’s media release praised itself in hosting its ‘best ever’ international trade exhibition, the sixth in its history, quoting its Chairman Johann Krige. The number of producers attending had increased by 15% since the last CapeWine 2008, and had the highest number of delegates ever, and especially from Asia, Eastern Europe, and other countries in Africa.  This makes CapeWine the ‘most successful international wine business show in the Southern Hemisphere’. This praise was echoed by Amorim Cork CEO Antonio Amorim of Portugal, who described the event as ‘one of the finest wine industry events in the world‘.  The South African quality wines, and its leadership in eco-sustainability and energy efficiency, has been recognised internationally, added Krige.  Kuseni Dlamini opened the CapeWine Business Seminar, and focused on South Africa’s poor infrastructure in getting to African countries, some only reachable via Europe. If there was more investment in innovation and product quality, South Africa could become the world’s top wine producing country in the world, he said.  The provincial Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gerrit van Rensburg, said that 3600 wine farms have 100000 hectares of vines in the Western Cape, reported the Cape Argus.

The CapeWine 2012 website provides a break down of the show’s 3000 visitors: 588 South African trade, 464 international trade, 317 importers, 140 South African media, 106 wine educators, 80 international media, 32 MW, 31 international sommeliers/chefs, 12 hosted press buyers, and 12 press media.  The balance of attendees was ‘unclassified’.

The Nederburg Wine Auction held this past weekend was attended by some of the international CapeWine 2012 guests, but was mainly a local affair.  It raised close to R 4,7 million, down by 30% relative to 2011. Forty percent of wine sales went to international buyers, and wine buyers from African countries and Mauritius represented 22% of sales.  One third of the sales went to local supermarket groups, led by Tops at Spar.  Buyers played it safe, by buying ‘mainstream varieties’ such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and avoiding lesser-known cultivars. The star of the Auction was the case of Chateau Libertas, with 12 vintages ranging between 1959 – 1970 selling for R16000, in the year which celebrates the brand’s 80th anniversary.

There can be no doubt that CapeWine 2012 rejuvenated the local wine industry, created new challenges, identified new upcoming wine and winemaker stars, created new connections, and attracted heaps of praise for WOSA’s flawless organisation of showcasing our country’s prime wines! Vindaba, held at the same time as CapeWine 2012 in an open space opposite the wine exhibition venue, was an unfortunate failure, in what was an excellent wine week.

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: Mario Scheuermann has documented his impressions of CapeWine 2012, on his blog The Drink Tank.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

WOSA Sweet Service and SAA Sour Service Awards!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and its team of staff, as well as all the wine estates, that put the best of our important wine industry on show at CapeWine 2012 in the Cape Town International Convention Centre earlier this week. The exhibition hall design brought the Winelands into Cape Town, and the exhibition looked attractive, was well organised, and had very friendly ambassadors for the wine industry. CapeWine 2012 will be of long term benefit to both the wine and the tourism industries, having attracted top international wine writers, buyers, sommeliers, and wine lovers to this top trade show.

The Sour Service Award goes to SAA, for the dreadful service extended to the invited German wine media representatives, flying with the official CapeWine 2012 carrier SAA from Frankfurt to Johannesburg on 23 September, to attend CapeWine 2012.  The wines ran out 2 hours into the flight. The wines were dreadful, especially given the calibre of the passenger list, and the four wines offered represented a Platter rating range of 2 – 3 stars, one not even in Platter!  The food was described as bad, and consisted of cold chicken plus a drink, or hot chicken and no drink, sour salad, dry and hard macaroni, rubbery Gouda, and a dry roll. Only the dessert was acceptable. The drinking water had run out in the morning before landing.  The service was described as unfriendly. A number of flights arrived at OR Thambo simultaneously, which meant a congestion at passport control and baggage collection. The whole group on this flight missed the booked connecting flight, and had to wait for three hours to catch the next available flight to Cape Town.

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 info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Cape Town could become hub of Southern Hemisphere wine industry, says Tourism Minister Alan Winde!

It was appropriate for Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism Alan Winde to speak to the Cape Town Press Club about Tourism yesterday, and to announce that his department is working on a plan to establish Cape Town as a hub for the Southern Hemisphere wine industry, in creating a platform for the wines of Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, given that it was the opening day of CapeWine 2012, probably one of the most significant wine-related tourism events ever held in Cape Town.

Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch at 6 Spin Street yesterday, Minister Winde highlighted that events are an important driver of tourism in the Western Cape, and he highlighted how important wine tourism is for our province, it being a unique tourism product for the Western Cape.  The CapeWine 2012 and Vindaba exhibitions are therefore vital in focusing attention on our highly regarded wine industry, and in attracting local visitors to the Cape.  The Minister related that 41 % of the Western Cape tourists are locals, of which close to 90% are from other parts of the Western Cape, and only 10% are from Gauteng. The Minister would like to see the domestic tourism proportion increase to 50%, to make the Western Cape less susceptible to the impact of the international economy, the effect of the international recession having been felt since 2008.

The Minister welcomed the delegates attending CapeWine 2012 to Cape Town, and invited the public to visit Vindaba on World Tourism Day on Thursday. He said: “Wine tourism in the Western Cape generates income in excess of R5 billion per annum and creates thousands of jobs. We will continue to support the sector to ensure that it grows even bigger and employs even more people. It is also important that liquor and wine traders in our Province operate responsibly. We want traders that are successful and consumers that are healthy”.

Minister Winde also announced a number of other tourism related initiatives he and his department are working on:

*   direct flights between Cape Town and Miami, feeding into the USA as well as South America.

*  a Tourism Business School, to raise the ‘level of competence’ of tourism staff

*  the reduction of the abuse of liquor by implementing stricter rules for the restaurant industry and liquor trade

*   spend more money on tourism marketing, and less on computers in tourism bureaus. He emphasised the importance of spending marketing monies in attracting more of the Gauteng market to the Cape.

*   ensure that SAA has enough capacity to bring more Gauteng tourists to Cape Town – over the past long weekend the flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town were fully booked, which kept potential tourists away from the Western Cape.  He will also address the feedback received from the important wine media, wine trade, sommeliers, and wine lovers attending CapeWine 2012, the German contingent having been on a SAA flight with unfriendly staff, poor food, and very poor wines, the latter running out in Economy class within two hours of the commencement of the flight. The water on board had run out the next morning.  The connecting flight to Cape Town from Johannesburg was missed due to the simultaneous arrival of a number of flights, causing congestion at Passport Control and the baggage retrieval, which meant a three hour (unscheduled) wait at OR Thambo airport.   Minister Winde emphasised that Brand South Africa commences when tourists get onto the plane to South Africa, and not when they set foot in our country or province.  A shock statistic is that there are 36 flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg daily, the 9th busiest route in the world!  It is also equivalent to the number of flights between the USA and Africa.

*   the legislation to allow the incorporation of the previous Cape Town Routes Unlimited into Wesgro is being written

*   Cape Agulhas is being upgraded, with the addition of new benches, the renovation of the lighthouse, and the addition of new signage on the N2.

*  the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe is a cause for concern, and the Minister has received representation from the three Mayors of the towns on the route, as well as a petition with 6000 signatures, calling for the reinstatement of this historic rail route.

*   in the Cape events are vital, and the Minister mentioned the success of the Loeries which had been held in Cape Town over the long weekend, the annual Design Indaba, the Design Capital 2014, the effect of the planned doubling of the Convention Centre which could attract a conference with 16000 delegates being bid for currently, the International Jazz Festival, The Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour, the Wacky Wine Weekend, and the ABSA Epic Cycle Tour.  Ravi Naidoo has achieved such a good international reputation for his work on Design Indaba, that he has been invited to set up Design Shanghai, the Minister shared.

Overall, the Minister wants to see the contribution of Tourism to the economy of the Western Cape increase from the current 10% to 15%.  The success of CapeWine 2012, and its large international contingent attending this prestigious event, must be a sign to the Minister and the local wine and tourism industry what value there is in investing in the marketing of our province’s liquid gold, and its Wine Routes linked to it!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage