Last Monday I attended The Sommeliers Selection 2018 tasting of the top-scoring wines at Tokara Delicatessen, driving through from Cape Town on a rainy day. My two favorites I tasted were Arra Shiraz 2015, as well as Trizanne Reserve Syrah 2017. The top wines in the tasting were selected by top Sommelier members of the South African SOmmeliers Association, and the Black Cellar Club. Continue reading →
* The Penny Ferry is to be reintroduced in the V&A Waterfront on 1 November, connecting the main shopping centre side to the more commercial and business side at the Clocktower. The ride will cost R5. The ferry stopped opening in 1997 when the swing bridge was constructed. The Penny Ferry service was officially relaunched by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom earlier this week.
* The judging for the 2014 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year has been completed, and the winners of the 34th annual competition will be announced next month. In evaluating the nominees, it was ‘the heart and soul of the winemakers that stood out strongly‘, dominating the quality of the wines they made. The Winemaker of the Year entered in this year’s theme category of White Blends, while the Young Winemaker of the Year was evaluated on any red wine. Judges included Dave Hughes (panel chairman), Beatriz Machado from Portugal, retailer Carrie Adams, Nomonde Kubheka (wine judge and educator), Christine Rudman (wine judge), Colin Frith (GM of Hazendal), and Margaret Fry (Director of Cape Wine Academy). (received via media release from African Sky Media)
* SA Tourism has launched a cinema advertising campaign highlighting the beauty and thrill our country offers, at 94 cinemas in seven Indian cities. In the foyer of the cinemas one is able to book a holiday to South Africa via travel agents, taking the movie-goers to action in booking. Part of the marketing campaign is ‘Take me to South Africa‘ promotion, in which four winners travel with cricketer Jonty Rhodes as their tour guide.
* Comair says that domestic airfares are unlikely to come down, even if new low cost airlines enter the market, as it would not be sustainable to operate as such lower rates.
* Chef Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse has moved to Bree Street (ex Caveau and ex Awestruck), having dropped the second part of the original business name (& Cookery School). They serve lunch from 11h30 onwards, and an early dinner. (received via newsletter from Chef’s Warehouse)
Last year I attended the ‘Season of Sauvignon’ Festival, my first visit to the Durbanville Wine Route. Today and tomorrow the fun-loving Durbanville wine valley once again celebrates a grape variety it has become synonymous with, the eleven wine estates winning awards, Diemersdal having recently won the 2013 Champion Young Wine for their Sauvignon Blanc, the first time in the history of the Young Wine Championships that the top wine comes from Durbanville.
The launch function for ‘Season of Sauvignon’ was held at Klein Roosboom, owned by Karen de Villiers, who has a wonderful decor touch in making her weathered cellar the centre for tasting the best wines of the Durbanville Wine Route, and pairing these with foods especially prepared for us by the regions’ top chefs. Rose petals were strewn on the floor, and the cellar had an old world romantic Continue reading →
This weekend the Durbanville Wine Valley celebrates the arrival of Spring, and its fresh and crisp Sauvignon Blancs, produced on eleven wine estates on the Durbanville Wine Route, with the ‘Season of Sauvignon’ Festival. Each wine estate is offering tastings of its wines, as well as food, and many are offering live music, other entertainment, and activities too.
The Durbanville wine region, with a valley of rolling vineyards, benefits from a cool climate terroir, and has been celebrating its Sauvignon Blanc festival for eight years. The ‘Season of Sauvignon’ Festival has been designed to encourage wine lovers to visit as many of the Durbanville wine estates as possible, although all the Durbanville wines will be available to taste at each of the wine estates on the Route via the ‘Ward in a box’.
Each Durbanville wine estate has organised its own entertainment and food offering for the ‘Season of Sauvignon’ Festival, has different opening hours this weekend, and has different entrance/tasting fees:
* Altydgedacht: Vineyard tours with viticulturist and owner John Parker, live music, slow food. R20 tasting fee. Open 10h00 – 16h00 Saturday and Sunday. Tel (021) 975-7815
* Bloemendal: This wine estate has the second oldest Bush Vine in South Africa. They will be offering picnics. Their new Cap Classique will be launched this weekend. Savvy On-Tap Lounge. Presentations in the Wine Theatre. Open 11h00 – 21h00 on Saturday and 11h00 – 17h00 on Sunday. R40 tasting fee. Tel (021) 976-2682
* D’Aria: A ‘Cirque de Sauvignon‘ will offer a carnival atmosphere with ‘jokes and giggles‘, there will be a Cocktail Bar, food stalls, and one can dance to live music. 11h00 – 20h00 Saturday, 11h00 – 18h00 Sunday. R 20 entrance fee. Tel (021) 801-6772.
* De Grendel: Meet the farm animals, learn how to make mozzarella, sow and grow, learn to bake bread, food pairing with Sauvignon Blanc, Chocolate World, and Family Olympics. 10h00 – ‘sundown’ Saturday and Sunday. No tasting charge. Tel (021) 558-6280.
* Diemersdal: Live music, entertainment, food stalls, tasting of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Rosé 2012. 11h00 – 18h00 Saturday and Sunday. R60 tasting fee. Tel (021) 976-3361
* Durbanville Hills: Oyster and sushi bar, foot-long boerewors rolls, cheese platters, picnics, free tutored tastings by Cape Wine Academy. Rugby match between Springboks and All Blacks screened in Barrel Cellar from 17h00. 10h00 – 20h00 Saturday, 10h00 – 17h00 Sunday. No tasting charge. Tel (021) 558-1300
* Groot Phesantekraal: Live music, Wine tasting. 11h00 – 16h00 Saturday and Sunday. R50 tasting charge. Tel (021) 976-2114
* Hillcrest: American Rock music on Saturday, and New Orleans Blues on Sunday. Food stalls, gourmet burgers, hot dogs, olives, cheese platters. 11h00 -17h00 Saturday and Sunday. R40 tasting charge. Tel (021) 976-1110.
* Klein Roosboom: Catering by Café Rugby, pancakes, cheese platters, live music. 11h00 – 17h00 Saturday, 11h00 – 16h00 Sunday. Tasting charge R50. Tel 082 784 5102.
* Meerendal: Farmer’s Market, live entertainment, and free tutored tastings by Cellar Master Liza Goodwin and Marketing Manager Bennie Howard, all on Saturday. West Coast Braai Buffet with crayfish, mussels and snoek on Sunday, 9h00 – 17h00 Saturday and Sunday. No entrance fee. Tel (021) 975-1655.
* Nitida: Live music at Cassia restaurant 11h00 – 16h00 Saturday and Sunday. Live jazz and picnic baskets at Tables at Nitida restaurant 9h00 – 17h00 Saturday and Sunday. No tasting fee. Tel (021) 975-9357/976-0640.
DISCLOSURE: We received a bottle of Altydgedacht Sauvignon Blanc 2012 with our media pack.
POSTSCRIPT 6/10: My visit to the Durbanville Wine Route started at Meerendal, lying outside Durbanville, in the countryside. They had a Farmer’s Market in a hall on the farm, with homemade chicken pies and melktert, biltong and droë wors, cheeses, charcuterie, breads, olives, and vegetables. The Deli had a selection of good looking tarts and sweet treats.
At Diemersdal I met the Louw family, the owners of the farm, even the 7th generation Louw who is about one year old. The farm was first registered in 1698, and the first Louw forbear took over the farm in 1855. Current owner Tienie Louw came to chat, and struck us as a humble wine producer yet proudly shared the success of his wines at the China International Wine Awards, at which the MM Louw, Private Collection Pinotage and Matthys won Double Gold, and the latter wine winning the Wine of the Show, out of 3500 – 4000 wines judged. They are also eagerly awaiting the results of the China Decanter Awards on 24 October. Tienie shared that the success in the Eastern market is having a family business, reflecting the passion for its business, and being a ‘friend of a friend’. Tienie’s son Thys told us that his father would only give him eight rows to grow his own grapes and make wine from them initially, and it turned out to be an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, which he branded Eight Rows. He is now in charge of the whole farm! Diemersdal also lies outside Durbanville, and despite more than 1000 visitors tasting the food of Ocean Basket, Piroschka, Bacini’s, and more to the music of a live band, we were truly out in the countryside. A new Restaurant is about to open, with Chef Nic van Wyk at the helm, previously of Terroir, and we tasted a most unusual Brandade, a Portuguese salted dried fishcake made from smoked snoek and hake, with poached milk and mash, olive oil, cumin, lemon zest and parsley, with a crispy coating. Errieda du Toit, PR Consultant to the Durbanville Wine Route, a gracious hostess today, shared that Durbanville has developed a signature dish served by many restaurants in the area, consisting of a sosatie with a cooked curry sauce, served with pearl barley in a risotto style, and pumpkin pickle. Errieda showed me the sweet tiny jam storage building, Tienie’s grandmother having been a keen jam maker.
‘Season of Sauvignon’ Festival, 6 – 7 October. Tel 083 310 1228. www.durbanvillewine.co.za Twitter: @DurbanvilleWine
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage
A book just published, entitled ‘Grape’, and sub-titled ‘Stories of the Vineyards in South Africa’, covering the history of wine and grape farming in the period 1652 – 2011, is certain to cause discomfort to the wine and table grape industry, in its accusation that there is much room for improvement in the way this industry treats its staff, despite many changes over time, especially since 1994. The industry is asked to get its house in order, in being ethical in the treatment of its staff. The book concludes that the future of the wine and table grape industry is a depressing one, and one that can be to the disadvantage of those workers it aims to uplift.
A large part of the blame must be placed at the door of the Department of Labour, which does not appear to be doing its job properly in regulating working conditions for farm workers, said ‘Grape’ co-author Dr Wilmot James, a member of Parliament for the Democratic Alliance, addressing the Franschhoek Literary Festival about his book on Sunday. Written with Professor Jakes Gerwel, Chancellor of Rhodes University, and freelance journalist Jeanne Viall, the book paints the picture of the history of labour on grape and wine farms since 1652.
In hearing Dr James speak, it felt as if he has a chip on his shoulder, as he told the audience that the book’s initial focus was the abuse of ‘Coloureds’ by the wine industry, but as he was told that this was a racist approach, and he could not define exactly what this racial label means, he and his co-authors decided to broaden the focus of the book to include all workers in the industry. The book kicks off with a “Note on terminology”, and in it is written “it is questionable whether one can speak of the coloured people at all. In this essentially residual category are to be found people of the most diverse descent”, including slaves from Indonesia, the San (Bushmen) and Khoikhoi.
The book documents the stories of workers on grape farms, “which is the story of South Africa, mostly that of the Gariep/Orange River area and the Western Cape”. The book continues: “The history of workers on grape farms is a sad one; indeed, the history of farm workers in South Africa in general, and also elsewhere in the world, is often one of hardship. But the ‘dop’ system, and its ongoing effects over many generations, adds another dimension to disempowered and marginalised grape farm communities.” It likens the history of our wine industry to that written about by John Steinbeck in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, first published in 1939.
The first vines were planted by Jan van Riebeeck in 1655, and four years later the first wine was produced in Wynberg – Van Riebeeck wrote: “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes… mostly Muscadel and other white, round grapes, very fragrant and tasty”.
South Africa is predominantly a beer drinking nation, the book states, with 65% of the population drinking this beverage, as opposed to only 15 % drinking wine. In 2009, 1089 million litres of wine, brandy and grape juice were produced. Of the total of 125000 hectares planted under vines, 81 % was used for wine production and the balance for table grapes in 2009. The number of grape farm workers is estimated at 30000 – 50000 permanent staff, and ‘many thousands’ of seasonal workers. Half of the 396 million liters of wine that was produced in 2009 was exported.
The book tells the stories of interesting wine personalities:
* Mohammed Karaan, now Dean of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University, is quoted as saying:”The wine industry takes money. It is squandered on image and ego, these are not good values, the downside of the industry is that it destroys human capital, along with its stepbrother, the fruit industry. I used to be astounded at how fellow students justified the ‘dop’ system. And now they are saying that wine is good for the heart… All politicians have a romanticism around wine, they’re intoxicated with wine. They were going to legislate against ‘papsakke’. Nothing happened.”
* Spatz Sperling of Delheim was one of the driving forces in wine marketing, and the legal constraints of wine-selling locally and to overseas markets led to his pioneering marketing, often more for the benefit of the industry than for his own brand
* Michael Back, owner of Backsberg, is the first wine farm to become carbon-neutral in South Africa, and is the third in the world
* Professor Mark Solms, whose aim is to not lose money with his farm Solms-Delta: “Wine is not the way to make money quickly; my long-term view is that what will make it truly sustainable is doing it excellently”. He added: “Only by delving into the social history of the farm could I properly understand it. What needed to be done was to understand the nature of the problem in order to change it. I found things I wouldn’t have anticipated: people had no hope, no sense of the future. They were at best fatalistic, and most were clinically depressed”. The Solms-Delta Oesfees is written about in the book, as is the trust in which the farmworkers have ownership, with owners Mark Solms and Richard Astor.
Interesting wine industry facts are spread throughout the book:
* Constantia wines were acclaimed, and Vin Constance was enjoyed by royalty, including King Frederick the Great of Prussia, King George IV, King Louis-Philippe, and Napeolean Bonaparte, amongst others.
* Muratie’s first owners, when the farm was named ‘De Driesprong’, were Lourens Campher and the freed slave Ansela van de Caab, and was handed to them by Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1699.
* Evidence of a Stone Age civilisation from 4000 – 6000 years ago was found when renovation work was done at Solms-Delta, after Mark Solms bought the farm in 2002.
* One needs at least R25 million to buy a farm, and ‘the margins are paper thin for growing grapes for basic wine”, Professor Joachim Ewert from Stellenbosch University is quoted as saying. He says it takes three generations to make money on a wine farm. Added to this, is that many foreign owners have bought wine farms, for ‘status and the snob value of your own wine label…’. One of the main findings of the book, the writers state, “…has been a revelation to find that not only have wine farmers always struggled to survive, but that still today wine farming is marginal.”
* Wine farms are not always well-known for their wines, but often more for their owners, e.g. Jan Boland Coetzee, the rugby player who makes wine at Vriesenhof; Beyers Truter who has become known as ‘Mr Pinotage’, of Beyerskloof; Dr Paul Cluver is a brain surgeon; Professor Mark Solms is a neurologist.
* Good ‘table wine’ has only been produced in the past 15 years, WOSA CEO Su Birch is quoted as saying, with only Meerlust, Delheim and Kanonkop known to make good wines before this time.
* The Stellenbosch Wine Route was the first route to open, in 1972, and was the brainchild of Spatz Sperling of Delheim, Frans Malan of Simonsig, and Neil Joubert of Spier, the first of now 15 wine routes in the country.
* Spatz Sperling of Delheim, Frans Malan from Simonsig, and Sydney Back of Backsberg got the Wine of Origin wine certification system established
* Distell’s Nederburg, JC le Roux and Graça, as well as Van Loveren’s Four Cousins, sell well in our ’emerging markets’ (a nice way to say ‘township’), the book states, and Nederburg Baronne in particular is known in Soweto as the ‘Coca Cola wine’.
* The ‘dop’ system is not South African in origin, and was probably introduced by the French Huguenots
* South African wine production appears least likely to be affected by climate change, most wine-producing areas, other than the Northern Cape, having the lowest average increase in temperature of all wine-producing regions in the world. Yet more costly water and climate change will influence berry ripening, and will lead to earlier harvests and to different wine styles being produced.
* Wines were sold in supermarkets in 1966 for the first time.
* ‘Black-owned’ wine farms include Constantia Uitsig, Bloemendal and D’Aria (Tokyo Sexwale having a part ownership) and Sexwale’s fully owned Oude Kelder in Franschhoek; Paardenkloof owned by Valli Moosa; and M’Hudi Wines, owned by the Rangaka family.
* Empowerment schemes for grape farm workers include Malmaison near Groblershoop; Beyerskloof; Naftali Estate at Dyasonsklip; black consortia own shares in Distell and the KWV; ’empowerment’ wine brands include Epicurean Wines, Ses’fikile; LaThiThá Wines; and Thabani.
‘Grape’ moves backwards and forwards in time in presenting an overview of far more than the labour on grape farms, and this is its weakness. It has so much material to cover that the book loses focus in the presentation of its wealth of information. Making so much in its build up of the exploitation of mainly ‘Coloured’ farm workers on such farms, as well as the production of ‘cheap wines’ to target this population group, it is a surprise when the book’s “Last Word” paints a depressing future for the industry, which “is facing incredibly tough times”, “soaring production costs”, “poor return on their product”, a “changing climate”, and a “strong rand”. “Very few farmers are making a profit; many wine farms are on the market”. Given this scenario of a challenging future, one gets the feeling that the authors backed off their initial tough stance, as all these challenges that the industry faces will affect the workers on these farms, as well as their livelihoods. For the wine and table grape industry currently survival is a greater priority than its continued transformation!
Jeanne Viall, Wilmot James & Jakes Gerwel: ‘Grape – Stories of the Vineyards in South Africa’. Tafelberg. 2011. www.tafelberg.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage