As I was traveling in the first week of September, I was unable to attend the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition, having attended many of the competition events over the years, always a fun and educational lunch at the Stellenbosch wine estate. Continue reading →
Friday’s 31st Blaauwklippen Blending Competition event was not only a celebration of the enthusiasm and skills of wine clubs around the country, but also of the rejuvenation of Blaauwklippen, with a number of changes made with a new Tasting Room venue, the addition of a new Bistro with a new champion for it, a new Spirits Room, and a redecorated entrance and cellar function room. The Blending Competition made history with its most unusual outcome.
We were welcomed on a perfect function weather day on the lawn between the Tasting Room and the Manor House and Jonkershuis, a space I had never seen before. We were served Blaauwklippen’s Ons Sprankel wine, and canapés made by new Blaauwklippen Bistro owner and charcutier Steve Jeffery. They were served by dapper looking waitresses, wearing Bistro black outfits and cheeky hats, looking smarter than most restaurant staff I have seen in a long time. They offered platters of spinach and feta phyllo pastry parcels, and mozzarella pesto roulades, which doubled up as the starters (I did not see the third canapé specified on the menu). Natalie Campbell told me that the Manor House is used for conferences and weddings, while the Jonkershuis is used for staff accommodation.
I had a chance to chat to Steve before we sat down, and he told me that he has been at the Old Biscuit Mill for the past nine years, selling his charcuterie products, having had a stand at Blaauwklippen’s Market at one stage too. Rolf and Steve had been talking for about two years about doing something jointly, and Continue reading →
The Public Relations networking association PRNet recently hosted an inaugural ‘PRNET Trade meet your media’ event at Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel & Spa, focusing on the Wine Trade. Cape Wine Master Clive Torr encouraged wine estates and writers to get to know each other better, so that the former can provide writers with information about what is unique about their wine estate and its wines.
Torr was introduced as a garagiste winemaker, and has spent time in the Napa valley. He said currently ‘Chenin is flying‘, being so popular. He noted that consumers are shying away from ‘austere wines’, looking for ‘lesser acidity‘ and ‘quicker drinkability‘. He said that grapes are often picked too quickly, and warned that one should wait for ‘physiological ripeness‘, judged by the colour of the pip, and other factors. He suggested that many of our local winemakers are German-orientated in their winemaking, having studied at Geisenheim, making them precise, clinical, adding what one is allowed, and controlling fermentation. One could sense that he supports the French style of winemaking, which is to add nothing at all, and to keep the wine making process as natural as possible. ‘It is time for transparency‘, he said, and intimated that this will increasingly be the future trend. He was critical of Merlot production, saying that our winemakers are ‘floundering‘ in making it. Riesling is not his favourite either, saying that it has ‘high acidity and little taste‘. He talked about adding antibiotics, which is done locally, but is not allowed in the European Union. He said that many wine drinkers are allergic to sulphur, feeling its effect the following day.
Should the threatened ban on advertising materialise, editorial coverage will be one of few means whereby coverage can be achieved. He emphasised how important it is to stay in contact with the media, as it is free advertising if they write about one’s Continue reading →
Yesterday Blaauwklippen celebrated the 30th anniversary of its popular Blending Competition, and it was a day filled with celebratory balloons and nostalgic reflections of the heritage of the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition on the 331 year old wine estate in Stellenbosch. The competition has helped to demystify wine and make it more accessible to wine drinkers.
I have attended the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition (which they refer to as BBC) for a number of years, but had never seen so many guests before, 70 guests seated in the Barouche restaurant, many of whom having links to 1984, the first year of the blending competition. Blaauwklippen MD and Cellarmaster Rolf Zeitvogel reflected on the world 30 years ago, Apple having launched its Macintosh PC, Archbishop Tutu receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Mrs Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister of the UK, and Nelson Mandela seeing his wife Winnie for the first time in 22 years. Through a number of speakers, we heard about the history of the blending competition, having been the idea of Angela Continue reading →
* The number of Indian tourists is likely to grow further, as the Rand weakens further, says Hanneli Slabber, the SA Tourism Country Manager in India, reports the Southern African Tourism Update.
* South Africa is advanced in embracing online tourism sales and marketing, says an international online consultant.
* Simonsig is hosting a Vintage Wine Day on 24 August, showcasing a selection of older signature wines which were held back for release at optimal maturity, some vintages dating back to the early 1990’s. Cellarmaster Johan Malan will offer Simonsig flagships such as the Bordeaux style Tiara, the Cape blend, Frans Malan Reserve, the award winning Redhill Pinotage and Merindol Syrah. Rare vintages of Simonsig Pinotage, Simonsig Cabernet Sauvignon and Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Méthode Cap Classiques will also be available to taste, and will be available at special prices for the day only. Johan will offer master classes free of charge, being interactive vertical wine tastings. Tickets cost R150 (information received from GC Communications).
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