Despite a hugely challenging year for the wine industry due to the drought, CapeWine 2018 is an impressive showcase of optimism, friendliness, and proudly South Africaness, running at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until tomorrow. I attended yesterday, with my Parisian friend Aurelié Jullien, and we were both impressed with the magnitude and professionalism of the exhibition, held every three years, and attended by the local and international wine trade. Continue reading →
A three-week writing focus at Apricale in Italy saw me complete the writing of a book within the time period I had allocated to this first-ever writing challenge. As the catalyst for The Book was Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, in that I met a special man at his book launch in March last year, and that The Book tells the story of the transformational effect of the meeting, there was no better restaurant to eat at on Saturday, to celebrate the completion of The Book, than at JAN Restaurant in Nice! It felt like Christmas, it being exciting to experience JAN Restaurant again, my third visit in two years! Continue reading →
Yesterday evening the Domaine des Dieux tasting at OpenWine was opened on Wale Street with a Sabrage of its award-winning Claudia MCC 2010, possibly the first time that a Sabrage has been done in the city centre. Continue reading →
I have not attended a #TweetandEat event for a long time, and when the invitation came from FIVE STAR PR to attend one at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa presented by their sister property Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat last week, it was a yes immediately, not having experienced the contemporary Cape cuisine of Executive Chef Floris Smith before.
Bushmans Kloof GM James Basson came to welcome me immediately, and it is clear to see why he was named the Best GM in the Red Carnation Group earlier this year. He is bubbly, friendly, and vivacious, and one feels that one has known him for years. I asked him what he does to have won the award, and he immediately said that it his team that makes a difference. His staff stay for long, and many couples work there, given that they are in the middle 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)
* Writing in The Guardian, Fiona Beckett warns against generalising the wine styles of a New World country like South Africa, and not acknowledging that different styles do well in particular regions of our country. So she highlights that Constantia, Darling, and Elgin are synonomous with Sauvignon Blanc; the Hemel-en-Aarde valley with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; Stellenbosch with Bordeaux-style red wines; and the Swartland with Chenin Blanc and Syrah. She further highlights Elgin in particular, and its wines Elgin Ridge 282, Paul Cluver Ferricrete Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, and Kershaw Elgin Chardonnay 2012.
* A South African Attractions Management Conference will be held in Cape Town at the Old Mutual Conference and Exhibition Centre at Kirstenbosch on 4 and 5 June, The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company CEO Sabine Lehmann being the driving force for the Conference. Topics include staffing, Seasonality, online ticket sales, Social Media, crisis management, market research, family-friendliness, and customer requirements. The Conference is aimed at the management of Cape Town and the Winelands’ tourist attractions.
* More than 10000 tourism and travel executives are expected to be attending Indaba, Africa’s major tourism expo, which runs in Durban until tomorrow, according to The New Age. The expo is expected to generate R150 million for Durban, 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 →
Gorry Bowes-Taylor has built up a loyal following of book lovers as well as book launch lunch lovers on behalf of Wordsworth. The launch of Tony Leon’s latest book, ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, which was released two weeks ago, was sold out at Myoga on Saturday, not only due to the witty smart speaker but also the excellent menu offered by Chef Mike Bassett for the event.
The book, Leon’s second (the first was ‘On the Contrary‘), tells the story of Leon’s retirement from DA (Democratic Alliance) opposition politics after twenty years, and taking up an appointment as ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, ‘jumping before I was pushed’ from his party, as good politicians should do, he said. The book launch made it clear that politicians have the gift of the gab, and Leon is no exception. He is an excellent salesman for his book, attracting one’s attention with a provocative question – e.g. how does the previous Leader of the DA promote an ANC government in South America – and then encourages one to buy the book without answering his question, so as to not do Wordsworth (and himself of course) out of revenue!
Leon names-drops a lot – he is a close friend of Joost van der Westhuizen, and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ Evita Bezuidenhout is quoted too: ‘As a fellow accidental ambassador, reading Tony Leon’s adventures in the land of the original Evita and the gauchos, reminded me there are reasons to be grateful we live in South Africa after all‘. Even ex-President Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying about Tony Leon: ‘Your contribution to democracy is enormous. You have far more support for all you have done than you might ever read about‘, high praise indeed!
Myoga is located in the Vineyard Hotel grounds, and there was a severe traffic jam in getting to park on the property, given a huge exodus of a church group with had used the conference hall, made worse by a hotel security person who could not cope with this nor speed things up. All 100 guest had pre-booked, and were seated according to a plan. The seat at the table that I was allocated to had two adjoining table legs where one’s own legs were meant to be, making it impossible to sit there. The manager Shameemah was most unhelpful, saying that she could do nothing at all, and that is how it is! Eventually she made a plan by offering a seat at a table with the most friendly ‘Wordsworthians’, who were delighted I had taken the last seat at the table, as it prevented someone else whom they had experienced at the previous lunch from sharing the table with them. One of the table companions is a regular blog reader, and she quoted reviews she had read on our blog. Ingrid Crowther and her mother were lovely guests too, and we shared notes about restaurant experiences.
Most of the guests at this table attend each of Bowes-Taylor’s Wordsworth book launch lunches, not necessarily because they like the author, will buy the book, or are avid readers, but because they get to experience new restaurants, meet nice people, eat good food, taste unknown wines, and are entertained by the authors talking about their new books, all at the cost of R250. The ‘Wordsworthians’ were more than delighted with the Tony Leon book launch lunch, as it ticked all the right boxes, despite some problems experienced in making the bookings! The disasterous Penny Vincenzi book launch lunch at Sevruga three years ago got the restaurant removed from the Bowes-Taylor list, while De Grendel restaurant appears to be one of the popular venues.
Chef Mike and his team put on a lunch of note, which was paired with the wines of the Hemel en Aarde Valley’s Domaine des Dieux. Shane Mullis introduced the wine estate, each guest having received a glass of Rose of Sharon MCC 2008 as a welcome drink, made of 75% Pinot Noir and 25 % Chardonnay, and which spent 42 months on the lees. The boutique wine estate name means ‘place of the gods‘, and is owned by Sharon Parnell. At 320 meters above sea level, the wine estate is one of the highest in the country. It is particularly known for its sparkling wines, the Claudia MCC 2007 being made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Other wines in the range are the Chardonnay 2010, and Josephine Pinot Noir 2010.
The ‘Tantalizer’ was a superb starter of pan fried prawns with the Myoga signature sweet chili, crowned with coriander infused cream, which was paired with the Domaine des Dieux Sauvignon Blanc 2009, with asparagus notes and ripe fruit aromas. The sauce was so delicious, that everyone at our table requested a spoon, to finish every last drop! ‘The Main Event‘ was a sous-vide beef fillet, which was served with crispy potatoes, pan fried mushrooms, smoked bordelaise jus, and finished off with a sun-dried tomato mousse. The main course was paired with an excellent Domaine des Dieux Syrah/Mourvédre 2010. A perfectly made dry cappuccino accompanied ‘The Crowning Glory’, a refreshing dessert of golden tart, which was filled with lemon custard on peach jus, complemented with a most unusual goat’s cheese ice cream.
Leon concluded that if one was not interested in reading his book for the South African or Argentinian politics, one could buy it for the handy tips of where to shop and what to see in Buenos Airies, which his wife Michal had written for the book. His time in South America showed him that Argentina is even more corrupt than South Africa. He said it was sad to see how Argentina, once the seventh largest economy, now has a smaller economy than that of South Africa. He says the country is very focused on its past rather than on its future, and mocked it for representing a ‘vote for a better yesterday‘! The decline of the country appears to have been triggered off by the death of ex-First Lady Eva Duarte Perron in 1952. Leon also told the story of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who would not set foot in the cathedral of Buenos Aires, as its Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had criticised her government. Yet she traveled to Rome to attend his investure as the new Pope Francis earlier this year! He referred to other famous Argentinians: soccer star Lionel Messi and new Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Leon took his post in 2009, and the forthcoming soccer World Cup in South Africa helped him to leverage off big events, including rugby. The book details what happens in an embassy, his budget of about R20 million employing 27 staff per year. Leon told a funny story about his lunch with ex-South African Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee, who had been painted as being a recluse. Coetzee was participating in a Literary Festival in Buenos Aires, and Leon mistakenly invited him to the city’s best steak restaurant, the writer being a strict vegetarian! Leon found him to be anything but reclusive. Leon said that one should live in another country to appreciate one’s own country!
As an ambassador, Leon spent a lot of time in restaurants, and at dinners and cocktail parties at other embassies, and at the homes of Argentian contacts he got to know in his three years. He raves about the typical Asado barbeque, and the steaks served in the ‘parillas’, their meat cuts differing to ours. His guests will have been served samoosas, bobotie, and malva pudding, he shares. Funny is his chapter in not being able to find any Big Macs in Buenos Aires, the world famous burger being the benchmark for the real value of country’s currencies as measured by The Economist, as it would have shown up Argentina’s high inflation rate (of about 25%). No mention is made by him of any South African wines or the role they may have played in enhancing trade and cultural relations between South Africa and Argentina! He did visit Mendoza, the Argentinian wine region, on a number of occasions, but does not reveal which Malbec wines appealed to him.
Leon is articulate as a speaker and as a writer too, and the book is easy to read and hard to put down. One senses that he must have bitten his tongue on numerous occasions about his host country and his home country in the three years of his ambassadorship, having ended his latest career a year early, not explaining clearly why he did not end the term of his post. He now is a consultant, writer, and speaker.
Tony Leon: ‘The Accidental Ambassador: from Parliament to Patagonia‘, Picador Africa, 2013. www.tonyleon.com Twitter: @TonyLeonSA
Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, 60 Collinton Road, Newlands, Cape Town. Tel (021) 657-4543. www.myoga.co.za Twitter: @MyogaRestaurant
Domaine des Dieux, Hemel en Aarde valley, Hermanus. Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
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