Tag Archives: Muratie

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 5 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Wine judge and writer Tim James, and winner of a number of wine writing competitions, including the inaugural Du Toitskloof Wine Writer of the Year as well as the Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing award, has expressed his strongest criticism of the announcement of the 2014 Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing competition.   It has been announced that the competition and its prize money will be split into short writing (less than 1500 words) and long writing (3000 – 4000 words).  No award will be given to any writing submitted of between 1500 – 3000 words!  Earlier this year the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and the convenor of its wine writing judging committee John Maytham, were lambasted when they chose to not award the prize at all, stating that no entry was of a good enough standard. (Note: the category definitions have subsequently been changed to under 1000 words, and 1000 – 4000 words)

*   Only 8% of South African tourism and hospitality businesses plan to appoint more staff, according to tourism consultants Grant Thornton, compared to 25% by their global counterparts.

*   South African restaurant brands operating in the United Arab Emirates include Nando’s, Butcher Shop, Meat & Co, Mug & Bean, and Debonairs Pizza.

*   Argentina is encouraging its citizens to stay home with a punitive 35% tax on all credit card payments made outside the country, to protect its monetary reserves.

*   The Stellenbosch Wine Festival will take place from 24 January – 2 Continue reading →

Restaurant Review: There are no Koi at KOI Bantry Bay! Poor service, faux Asian!

KOI Entrance Whale Cottage PortfolioThe opening of KOI Bantry Bay at The Ambassador Hotel has been eagerly awaited, after it was announced that Salt Restaurant would be replaced with a Gauteng-based group restaurant, KOI restaurants already operating in Sandton, Rosebank, and in Pretoria. The KOI restaurants are sister restaurants to the Wakame (with Wafu) restaurant group in Cape Town, which was founded 15 years ago, and is headed up by co-directors Stewart Bond and Rory Jossel.  There are no koi at KOI, and other than a logo on a business card, there is no representation of the decorative carp in the restaurant.  The website defines the KOI name as being Japanese for ‘Come, Love, Fish‘.

Always on the lookout for a good restaurant on the Atlantic Seaboard, a rarity, I was looking forward to seeing how the restaurant group would give the hotel restaurant space new life. Despite having the most magnificent location, ideal to see sunsets as it faces west over the Atlantic Ocean, the restaurants at The Ambassador just do not seem to have staying power, and neither do their chefs and staff for that matter!   Some decor changes have been made, wooden grids guiding one to the end of the passage, with only one entrance now, the previous entrance to the lounge KOI Interior Whale Cottage Portfolioand bar area having been closed. The lounge area now is restaurant seating too, with space for a total of about 100 patrons the Manager Chris Somhohlo said. Wood dominates the decor style (Chris couldn’t remember the name of the decorator), with wooden table tops, wooden chairs with woven seats, and the woven grid theme picked up in the visual display covering an entire wall, in the new ceiling lighting, and in the lampshades too.  The Continue reading →

Babylonstoren the centre of ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ in its new wine tasting centre!

Even though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, it was a most impressive visit to the new wine tasting center at Babylonstoren, not only offering a tasting of its own four wines, but also offering for sale two wines from each of the wine estates surrounding the Simonsberg, as well as gorgeous produce in its cheesery, bakery, and charcuterie, which opened two months ago.

One enters the tasting centre, housed in the original smithery and stable on the farm, which has been beautifully restored by owner Karen Roos and her GM Terry de Waal, to keep the building as authentic as possible. Flooring which looks weathered and as if it has been there for ever, comes from the old Dietman piano factory in Wellington.  The walls are part raw brick and part plastered and painted.  As Ms Roos has shown on the estate, she is a ‘less is more’ decorator, giving the tasting room a spacious feel, with only a central table displaying the Babylonstoren wines and one other Simonsberg wine, as well as a cheese of the day to taste. A small wooden table with a bench on one side is the only seating in the room, beautifully ‘decorated’ with a box of just picked and washed vegetables, including carrots and purple potatoes. From the central room the cheesery and charcuterie are on the right, behind modern glass doors, and the bakery is to the left.

Koos Bekker, husband of Ms Roos, has a passion for the terroir of the Simonsberg, and came up with the idea of a ‘home’ on his wine estate for the wines produced at the wine estates on the ‘inner circle’ surrounding the mountain.  When Babel restaurant opened on the wine estate over a year ago, it served wines from the neighbouring wine farms when it had not yet made its own wine, a commendable service. A ‘map’ showing the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is painted onto a tile collage on the wall, showing where each of the 27 wine estates, being Vuurberg, Zorgvliet, Thelema, Tokara, Neil Ellis, Rustenburg, Glenelly, Morgenhof, Remhoogte, Quion Rock, Knorhoek, Muratie, Delheim, Uitkyk, Kanonkop, Natte Valleij, Marianne, Mt Vernon, Anura, Glen Carlou, Neil Joubert, Backsberg, Noble Hill, Rupert & Rothschild, Vrede & Lust, Plaisir de Merle, and Babylonstoren, is located.  A shelving unit stores the wines of the other Simonsberg estates, and as they are lying, it is difficult to see the estate names. Each is price marked, and sold at the cellar door price of each wine estate. Because the ‘Simonsberg Wine Route’ is not a formal one, there are no maps, no price list, nor information about any of the wines, including the Babylonstoren ones, a surprise, given the marketing and advertising background of Mr Bekker (Y&R, M-Net/Multichoice/MWeb, Naspers).  None of the four Babylonstoren wines have their 2011 vintage indicated on their bottles, and the staff could not explain this unusual strategy. They called winemaker Charl Coetzee to come over for a chat, and he seemed to think it odd that I was asking questions about this, only mentioning that they were matured in tanks (with the exception of 20% of the Viognier, which was matured in barrel). He was generally cagey about providing information about the Shiraz, Viognier, Mourvèdre Rosé, and Chenin Blanc.  He explained that there is no price list, as the two wines sold per Simonsberg wine estate will change over time, depending on their customers’ interest in them.  He referred to the launch of their flagship Chardonnay and Shiraz in September, and these will have the vintages on them, having been matured in barrels.  He was previously at Clos Malverne and Kaapzicht, and has been at Babylonstoren for about eighteen months. He said that he personally loves Pinotage, but this grape variety is not grown on the estate.  Grapes were on the farm when it was bought by the Bekkers, and the vines are 14 years old. This is the first winemaking on the farm. The wine side is so new to the wine estate that it is not even on their website yet, he said.  In the upstairs section there is a private winetasting and wine storage area, with minimal decor.

Having got stuck on the wine information, Karen ‘Bread’ Pretorius came to my rescue before the winemaker could be found, and she was extremely friendly and informative. She is in charge of the tasting centre, and also doubles up as the baker, having previously worked in the Babel kitchen. The breads baked vary every day, cost R25 each, and include baguettes; a 50% Rye, with Rooibos and raisins; and a tomato relish on a white loaf.  All are baked with Eureka stoneground flour in their wood-fired oven, which looks like it has been there for ever.  Karen is not formally trained in breadmaking, she said honestly, learning through ‘trial and error’, and ‘stealing with my eyes’, describing herself as a passionate breadmaker.  She was the Head Chef at Umami in Stellenbosch previously, and praised Maranda Engelbrecht for what she has learnt at Babel.  The Charcuterie is a large room, and its painting of a duck, bull’s head, and a pig onto the white brick wall, which is visible from the tasting room, reminds one of the bull painted on the Babel restaurant wall. The meats are supplied by Jason Lucas’ Jamon from Prince Albert, who also was the thatcher of the building roof.  They sell pre-packed portions of Black Forest, Parma ham, Pancetta, and Coppa hams, salami, Kalbsleberwurst, and biltong.  The cheeses come from nearby Dalewood predominantly, but also from Kleinrivier and Nuwehoogte.  The cheeses are displayed in fridges, and also in the airconditioned cheese room, which opens into the charcuterie.  Karen told me that they have a close relationship with their suppliers, all having passion for their products in common with Babylonstoren, being chemical-free, MSG-free, and healthier.

Babylonstoren is bound to come up with further surprises in future.  A Loyalty Card is in the pipeline.  A visit to see their extensive vegetable and fruit garden, to eat at Babel restaurant or at the Babel Tea House, to try their wines in the winetasting centre, and shopping at their bakery, charcuterie, and cheesery is highly recommended.  As the tasting centre is only two months old, there were some information deficiencies amongst the staff, which Karen will fix through training.  A coffee machine may be in the pipeline for the tasting centre too, as Babel does not serve coffees only, and the Babel Tea House is a long walk away.

Babylonstoren Tasting Centre, Bakery, Charcuterie, and Cheesery, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 863-3852. www.babylonstoren.com Twitter: @Babylonstoren.  Cellar Tour 12h00 Wednesday – Sunday, must be booked ahead as they only take 12 – 15 persons, R100. 10h00 – 16h00 for tasting centre. R10 per person entry fee to the wine estate.

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

A lot of wine from Oldenburg Stellenbosch is sold in Oldenburg Germany!

Last week I popped in at Oldenburg Vineyards in the Banhoek Valley, at the foot of the Helshoogte Pass, and the very friendly Sales and Marketing Manager Ina Basson told me that the bulk of their wines are sold in Germany generally, and in Oldenburg (near Bremen) specifically!

The farm previously consisted of Rondekop (after the hill with this name) and Ivy Know, and its previous German owner Helmut Hohman amalgamated the two farms and gave them the name Oldenburg,  in honour of the town in which he had a stake in a printing business.  As it is a regional name, the name cannot be registered locally.

The farm was bought in 2003 by Adrian Vanderspuy, a local lad who had been brought up in Australia, and who had initially dismissed the quality of South African wines, until he tasted Thelema’s Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which he regarded to be excellent.  Both his grandmothers had past connections to the farm (Una van der Spuy, the well-known horticulturist, is one of them). The Oldenburg property was for sale, and before he made an offer, he had extensive soil tests done to evaluate the potential of the terroir.  He had the vines completely replanted in 2004, and in 2010 their first vintage was bottled. The emphasis is purely on quality, and three times a year wine maker and viticulturist Simon Thomson (previously with Tokara and Muratie) and his staff of 18 cut out the grapes that are not needed, giving them 3 – 8 tons per hectare compared to the more usual average of about 10 tons per hectare, Ina told me.  The property’s terroir is ideal for wine growing, being 300 – 450 meters above sea level, and its cooler climate due this height gives it a later harvest time compared to the neighbouring farms. Ina told me that their ‘Bio Viticulture’ approach to wine-making is a combination of Biodiversity, organic, and sustainability.  They work with what nature gave them, and try to intervene as little as possible, she said.

The winery has won a number of international awards, including a Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2011 for the Chenin Blanc, and a Gold at the Syrah Du Monde 2011 for the Syrah 2008.

The Tasting Room only opened three months ago, and was designed by architect Simon Beerstecher, a Stellenboscher now living in the United Kingdom, and who has also designed the Glen Carlou and Rustenburg buildings. The brief to the architect was to design a building focused on the view surrounding it, and not to overshadow the view. The interior decor was designed by Kelly Hoppen, a local from Cape Town who now lives in the UK.  Minimalism rules inside, with two artworks, of rhinos and elephants, by Nic Brandt. All decor items are sourced locally, and colours are natural and neutral. Chairs are made from leather, around a large tasting table, with a tasting counter and striking back-lit shelving displaying the wines.

In addition to tasting the wines, one can order Dalewood Fromage cheese platters, at R40 for one (150 gram) or R75 for two persons (250 gram), containing a selection of five of their cheeses, including Camembert, Brie and Huguenot.  The wines are not inexpensive, at R118 for the Chenin Blanc 2011 and Chardonnay 2010. Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Cabernet Franc 2009, and Syrah 2009 cost R182.  I am a Shiraz lover, but the Oldenburg Cabernet Franc had the smokiness I love in older-style Syrahs.   There has been no marketing to date of Oldenburg’s wines, but a small sign on the Helshoogte Pass road is attracting German tasters to the farm, said Ina.  Agents are selling Oldenburg Wines in Germany, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom in the main.

Oldenburg Vineyards, Zevenrivieren Road, Banhoek, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 885-1618.  www.oldenburgvineyards.com Twitter:@OldenburgWines Monday – Friday, and on Saturdays and public holidays by appointment.

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

‘Grape’ serves crushing future for the grape and wine industry!

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

Franschhoek has a wealth of wine and wine shops!

In the last month two new wine shops (WINES and the House of Wines) have opened on the main road in Franschhoek, a village that already has 45 wine estates open to the public, from which one can buy wines, in addition to a well-stocked Pick ‘n Pay Liquor department, and the long-established La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.

To get a feel for wine sales in Franschhoek via the four wine outlets, I went to visit each of them, and did a comparative price survey based on a randomly selected list of mainly Franschhoek wines, and asked each of the shops what makes them unique regarding the wines that they stock.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales

Ludwig Maske has owned this wine shop at the entrance to Franschhoek for about fifteen years, the building previously housing a grocery store/general dealer, as well as the restaurant Lanternhof, which belonged to his father.  Ludwig started his career by running the liquor sales section of the old La Cotte Inn, where the Protea Hotel is located now, in his father’s hotel.  Maske’s grandfather owned the Swiss Farm Excelsior (now the Le Franschhoek Hotel), which was a well-known for a Sunday afternoon treat of tea/coffee and scones.  The Maskes have earned their stripes in Franschhoek, and La Cotte Inn Wine Sales is synonymous with Franschhoek wines. 

Ludwig told me that the main part of his business is to supply restaurants with their wine requirements, receiving stock from the wine estates, which is stored, and delivered to the restaurants on demand.  This service is of benefit to the restaurants and the wine estates, as each party works with only one monthly invoice.  Wine sales from the rather dark and characterful shop on the main road are incidental, and would not have carried the business alone, Ludwig said, almost feeling sorry for the new wine shops.

Ludwig said that he represents 48 of the 50 Franschhoek wine estates.   Scarce supplies of Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon may be easier to buy at La Cotte Inn Wine Sales than from the wine farm itself.   The shop sells mainly Franschhoek wines too, but also imported wines such as Mosel Riesling, and wines from France and Spain.  The largest number of imported wines in Franschhoek are sold by La Cotte Inn Wine Sales.  In addition to wines, they sell a wonderful selection of up to 100 imported French cheeses, Cuban cigars, Riedel stemware, and the popular Le Nez du Vin wine aroma testing kit.

Ludwig said that he sells about 30 non-Franschhoek wines, in addition to the 48 Franschhoek wine estates that he represents.  He helps wine farms with winelist compilation, and also with pricing, if required.  He urges restaurants to keep wine prices reasonable, and told me that he recently persuaded Le Quartier Français to reduce its wine prices.  In the shop, Porcupine Ridge is the best seller, priced at R33 for Sauvignon Blanc and at R47 for their reds.  Graham Beck and La Motte wines are in second and third place on sales, being strong and well-known Franschhoek brand names.

Being a wholesaler, La Cotte Inn Wine Sales offers the best prices of all four Franschhoek wine shops, especially for Franschhoek wines.  Ludwig was critical of Pick ‘n Pay nationally, saying that they offer customers one-shop convenience, but that they are ‘killing the small guys’, having recently bought five Aroma stores and turning them into Pick ‘n Pay Liquor outlets.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales, 31 Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3775  www.lacotte.co.za

House of Wines

It was interesting to talk to Sigi Juling, who described himself as a Namibian and not a German, but he and his fianceé Bettina are both German-speaking.   I was not aware that Sigi had owned Bijoux Square, also on the main road, and here Sigi had owned a House of Wines shop from 2002 to 2007.  He sold the building, and worked in Namibia and went to Europe, returning to open his wine shop in a new location on the main road, opposite the Post Office.

Sigi is knowledgeable about wines, and their pairing with foods, having completed a Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy, having worked as a Sommelier at Grande Roche, having completed a hotel qualification in Germany, having worked at the Radisson Hotel in Granger Bay, and having been the Food and Beverage Manager of La Couronne Hotel before it was renamed Mont Rochelle. 

Sigi stocks wines from 170 wine estates, which are ‘perfectly matured’ according to his business card, and he is looking to increase this number.  He told me immediately that he stocks mainly non-Franschhoek wines, as his Franschhoek customers, many loyal from his previous wine shop, are bored with the Franschhoek wines, and want to try something new.  He also stocks a number of wine-related items in the shop, including an interesting game called Wine-opoly, bottle stoppers, wine books, DVD’s, and more.  Sigi described his shop as proudly-South African, not selling imported wines.  The wines he stocks are those that his clients like to buy, and those that he himself likes.  He does specialised wine tastings for his customers.  His top three sellers are Springfield Sauvignon Blanc, in top position by far (R84,85), followed by Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R72,95), and Delaire Shiraz (R84,85).

Sigi is looking to add an olive oil and vinegar section, and both products will be available on tap, which can be bottled in one’s own containers, or in a selection of containers that they will sell.   

House of Wines, 28 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-4120.  www.how.co.za  Tuesday – Sunday 10h00 – 18h00.

WINES

The newest and most modern Franschhoek wine shop is in the new Franschhoek Centre, which also houses the new Pick ‘n Pay and Clicks, and is next door to Café Benedict.  It is co-owned by Elsa Post, an enterprising Franschhoeker, who also owns the Franschhoek Postnet franchise, and Robert Maingard, the owner of the centre, and of  a number of Franschhoek businesses, including Dieu Donné, Café Benedict, the Le Franschhoek Hotel, and the newly opened Le Coq.

What makes this wine shop different to the others is that the stock of wine is kept on consignment, meaning that the wine estates are paid when their wine sells.  Elsa told me that she bought the Platter’s database, and wrote to the wine farms in it, inviting them to have their wines sold on consignment.  She received a good response, and 83 wine estates’ brands are sold in the shop.  Interestingly, only six Franschhoek wine estates (Dieu Donné, Grande Provence, La Verdure, Chanteclair, La Manoir de Brendel, and Topiary) supply the shop, the Franschhoek Vignerons officially not supporting wine sales on consignment, which smacks of Franschhoek politics.   Each wine estate that has signed up with WINES at no charge has good shelf positioning, and is featured on touchscreen TV monitors on the shelves, with tasting notes provided about each wine.  The wine estates are also invited to conduct tastings outside the shop, which attracts attention to the shop, and yesterday I saw a number of persons coming to taste the wines of Arumdale from Elgin, the first time I had heard of the brand.

The top selling wine by far is the mouthful of a brand Hermanuspietersfontein, with Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Bartho Eksteen, and it is his Kleinboet (R104) and No 7 (R91) that sell particularly well, followed by wines from Under Oaks in Paarl (R54 for Sauvignon Blanc and R82 for Shiraz), and Muratie Shiraz (R123). 

In addition to the wines sold, they sell wine cooling bags, the book ‘South African Wines’, crystal glassware, and decanters. Delivery locally is free, and international shipping of wines can be done via Elsa’s Postnet service.  Special protective packaging for the shipping of wine bottles is sold by WINES.   One may buy a bottle from WINES, and then drink it at Café Benedict, without paying for corkage.

WINES,Centre de Franschhoek,23 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-3185.  No website.   Monday – Saturday (they have applied for a liquor licence, allowing sales on Sundays) 9h00 – 18h00 (the licence allows them to remain open until 20h00, and they will do so if they have clients wishing to buy wine). 

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor

The local supermarket has a large section allocated to its Liquor store, with about 20 Franschhoek and about 40 non-Franschhoek wines stocked, in addition to beer and spirits, cheap glasses, ice and cigarettes.  The wines are displayed by variety, and here and there a special can be found on the shelves.

The top three selling wines this month are Porcupine Ridge (R32,99), Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R99,95), and Haute Cabriere Pinot Noir Chardonnay (R79,99).  The Haute Cabriere appears on two of the four best seller lists in the Franschhoek wine shops.

Pick ‘n Pay appears to be the most expensive outlet at which to buy wines in Franschhoek, and it does not have dedicated staff who can inform and advise their customers about the wines that they stock.

Pick ‘n Pay Liquor, Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2075.  Monday – Friday, 8h00 – 20h00, Saturday 8h00 – 17h00

                                                                 La Cotte  House of Wine  WINES   Pick ‘n Pay

Graham Beck Brut                                    R87,00         R93,85                    –            R99,99

Topiary Brut                                              R90,00          –                        R98,00      R89,99

Pongracz Brut                                            R79,00        R93,95                     –            R69,99*

Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve           R210,00        –                          –           –

Springfield Sauvignon Blanc                    –                  R84,85                    –           –

Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz ’08                   R290,00      out of stock          –           –

Chocolate Block ’08                                   R150,00       R173,00                  –           R169,99

Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run                R140,00         –                        –              –

 * Note: special sale price, normal price R88,99.

La Cotte Inn Wine Sales definitely is the shop to buy a Franschhoek wine at, both in terms of having a good likelihood of the wine being in stock, and of it being cheaper to buy there than elsewhere in Franschhoek.  For non-Franschhoek wines, WINES and House of Wines would be the best  sources, depending on the brand required, the latter offering a larger selection of wine brands, and both being likely to be cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay. 

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

Winestyle and TASTE crush Crush! digital food and wine magazine!

We have written about Crush!1, Crush!2 and Crush!3, Michael Olivier’s digital food and wine magazine, which he launched last year.   As other publications are being launched which embrace food and wine, both digitally and in print, I chose to evaluate Crush!4 against its competitors, putting myself in the shoes of a food and/or wine marketer, deciding where to spend a marketing budget, and as a food and wine lover, deciding where to spend my time reading.   I evaluated Winestyle, TASTE, and Crush!4, all three magazines focusing on food and wine, with a Postscript on Crush!5.

Winestyle

The first (Summer) issue of Winestyle was sent to subscribers (note one does not pay to receive the magazine) in December, and its concept is a most creative and environmentally-friendly “print on demand” one.  This saves the publishers from over-printing, saving paper and costs, and ultimately the environment.  It is published quarterly.  What makes it unique is that a weekly newsletter is sent by e-mail to each subscriber, updating them on food and wine news.  While the brand carry-over is not strong in terms of the banner design of the newsletter (initially I thought the newsletters were from wine consultant Nikki Dumas, who has a similar company name).   This builds brand awareness weekly, and bridges the quarterly print publishing period.

The 88-page magazine is larger than the standard A4 size, and has an attractive cover, although it is not photographed in a vineyard.  The paper quality is outstanding, as is the photography.  Editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is from Warwick wine estate originally, where her mother Norma and brother Mike make excellent wines, and this makes Jenny well-connected to the wine industry.  In her editorial Jenny writes: “It is our intention to help everyone make full use of every wine-drinking day …. it’s your passport to all things enjoyable, to in-the-know wines, delicious and simple-to-prepare food and accessible travel – all in a large, sexy, glossy, collectible magazine”.   The theme of the Summer edition is celebration, and therefore champagnes and sparkling wines are predominantly featured.

Advertising support is impressive for a first edition, and reflects the confidence of the advertisers in the publication, and wine estates Graham Beck,  Glen Carlou, Clos Malverne, Kleine Zalze,  Nederburg, Highlands Road Estate, OBiKWA, Creation, Eikendal, Adoro Wines, Muratie, and Morgenhof have taken full-page ads.  Jenny anticipates having 2500 subscribers by the time the next issue is launched in March.

The editorial content includes a focus on sparkling wine producers in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, including JC le Roux, Simonsig, Villiera, Morgenhof, Cabrière, Graham Beck, Anura, and Sterhuis, and recommends accommodation and restaurants in the area.  A profile on a very casual looking Jean-Philippe Colmant, making excellent bubbly in Franschhoek and importing champagnes, is written by Cape Talk’s John Maytham.  A travel feature focuses on the Champagne region, which is informative and has beautiful photographs.  A food feature focuses on Tapas, with short recipes, and amazing photography by Christoph Heierli.  A Restaurant feature recommends places offering ‘alfresco dining’ in Johannesburg, Durban, the Winelands and Cape Town.   A feature on cocktails has some that call for sparkling wine. The results of a wine-tasting, a panel comparing South African sparkling wines Silverthorn, Colmant Brut, Villiera, Jacques Bruére, and Simonsig, with champagnes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Tribaut Brut Tradition, are featured.  Joint first winners were Silverthorn the Green Man Brut and Tribaut Brut Tradition.  A tasting panel evaluation of the 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc of Groote Post, David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Neil Joubert, Arabella, Sophie Terblance, Delaire, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, De Grendel and Du Toitskloof ranks them in this order.  An article on cigars concludes what must be the most excellent food and wine publication available locally now.

I cannot wait for the Autumn edition.  I do recommend that there be more synergy between the magazine and the newsletter as well as its website in terms of branding and design.  Of the three magazines reviewed in this blogpost, Winestyle is the best by far, and we congratulate editor Jenny on this achievement for her maiden issue.

TASTE

Woolworths’ in-house magazine is written and published by New Media Publishing, and they have regularly won ADMag and Pica Awards for Customer Magazine of the Year for it, most recently in 2009.   It costs R20,95, is published monthly, and is sold in outlets other than Woolworths too.   It is A4 in size, with 134 pages, and does not have a statement to describe what it stands for, but its cover photograph represents food.  Wines appear to be a secondary focus.  The editor is highly regarded Sumien Brink, with Abigail Donnelly ably at her side.

Advertisers are a mixed bunch, including car retailers, liquor brands (Darling Cellars, Krone, Bombay Sapphire, Veuve Cliquot, Brand House), watch brands, kitchen suppliers, decor brands, food brands (Lancewood, Lindt), investment companies, a restaurant (Cape Town Fish Market), and accommodation, most of the brands not sold by Woolworths at all.

The editorial content of the December issue includes a Trends feature, and food related trends are featured with beautiful large photographs by Lee Malan and Jan Ras.  Where recipes are featured, they are short and sweet, and do not dominate the look of any page (something competitors House and Leisure Food can learn from).  A Foodstuff feature focuses on products that are sold at Woolworths, but most are non-branded items, and the Woolworths link is very low key. It even has an interview with and one done by Andy Fenner, who writes the JamieWho? blog, a contributor to Crush! issues 2, 3 and 4, but he has withdrawn his support, probably due to his new (not yet clearly defined) involvement with Woolworths, and not wanting to be associated with his friend David Cope’s disparaging Twitter campaign against ourselves, in retaliation to our review of Crush!3.   A chicken feature by man-of-the-moment Justin Bonello, a fish focus by Sam Woulidge, a canapé feature by Mariana Esterhuizen of Mariana’s, a feature on Dewetshof by Woolworths wine consultant Allan Mullins, and a feature on Oded Schwartz of Oded’s Kitchen and his relishes, chutneys and preserves, follow.  Christmas recipes are featured, but are few in number.  Restaurants featured are the fabulous Babel on Babylonstoren (next door to Backsberg), and the heavenly Hemelhuijs.  Blueberries are featured, with recipes, as are Summer lunch recipes.  An exclusive extract from Australian Bill Granger’s receipe book “Bill’s Basics” is featured.  A travel feature by Judy van der Walt focuses on the Dordogne region, and the magazine ends off with a month’s worth of recipes for snacks, lunches, tea time, and suppers.

I hadn’t bought a TASTE magazine for a while, and remembered it to be more attractive and impactful.  The focus may be too much on recipes, and too little on wines.   The features are written by good quality journalists, and could possibly be expanded.   I liked the way Woolworths as a brand is not ‘in your face’ when reading the magazine – in fact I wouldn’t have minded more direct brand-linkage, to know what to look for when next I shop.  There are so many organic and other quality suppliers to Woolworths of fruit and vegetables and other foods, as well as of wines, which could all be the subject of features, not necessarily linked to recipes only.  A “new Woolworths products” feature would be welcome.  For a marketer, TASTE would be an important advertising medium to consider, given its association with Woolworths, and the profile of the Woolworths shopper, with a reasonable disposable income.    There is little carry-over between the magazine and its website.

Crush!4

The digital food and wine magazine Crush! has no print partner, and is haphazard in its publishing frequency. On Twitter the editorial team hint at how busy they are in doing work for the publication, but on average it appears to take them two months or longer to publish a new issue.  The arrival of the new magazine is announced on Twitter and by e-mail, as one has to subscribe to receive a link to it, and is free of charge.

Crush!4  has 44 pages and was published early in December.  It appears to have lost its restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, and Olivier has taken over writing the restaurant reviews, something we suggested in one of our earlier Crush! reviews.   We are delighted with another of our recommendations that Olivier adopted, which was to let (lady) bloggers participate in his magazine, and he has done so by giving highly regarded blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious blog a recipe feature, and he has introduced a recipe competition, in which the recipes of bloggers Colleen Grove, Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Meeta Khurana-Wolff and Nina Timm can be evaluated by readers.

The navigation of the pages, and more particularly the content on each page, remains tedious. The front cover looks better, the copy on top of the photograph being easier to read, but it is not yet perfect, especially when one compares the ‘less is more’ covers of the two other magazines above.  Most flashing gimmicks have been removed from the front cover, and have largely been discontinued.   Advertising support is poor, and appears reduced relative to previous issues, and compared to the two other publications above, with only Hidden Valley, Pongracz, Laborie, Old Mutual and Ultra Liquors advertising.

The content consists of a wine page written by Olivier, and features premium brandy cocktails, a vineyard dog, wine finds, a wine myth and an overview of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Essentials page, as before, has products with poor brand recognition, but the names are typed alongside each product.  A Plaisir de Merle feature is a good promotion for the wine estate.  The recipe pages by Jane-Anne Hobbs have fantastic photography done by herself (perhaps she should become the Crush!photographer!), but I could only get to see three recipes (soup, dessert, gammon) – I am sure there were more, judging by the six bottles alongside the opening recipe, and Olivier recommends a wine per recipe.   The names of the wines are not typed alongside the bottles.   The JamieWho? page by Andy Fenner is blocked by a Laborie promotion box, still has silly moving balloon captions, and focuses on Absinthe, Champagne, Hangover Cures, Jardine’s Christmas cake,  and Christmas cocktails.  In two of his mini-stories the copy ends mid-sentence.  The review of Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren is blocked by a competition box, and one does not know how to close it.  Restaurant names at the bottom of the Babel article are harder to read on the right hand side, especially ‘Cafeen’.

A seven-day recipe card feature by Carey Boucher-Erasmus (a food consultant to the Pick ‘n Pay Cookery School, according to Google) is easy to follow and read, but no information is supplied about who Carey is.  There is no consistency in the colours used for the names of white and red wines alongside the bottles, the white wine names typed in blue (High Five) or in green (Quaff Now).   Sophia Lindop does great food features, but has used herbs in the last two issues (rocket in the current issue and rosemary last time), making it hard to see dishes prepared with these, and thus to have attractive photographs, even if they are photographed by star photographer Russel Wasserfall.   David Cope outs himself as a guest house reviewer, of South Hills, presented on a messy red and white check background which is similar to that which he uses on his ‘The Foodie’ blog.  A summer picnic spead looks good enough to eat off the screen, and is prepared by Luisa Farelo, but there is no indication as to who she is (I could not find any information about her on Google).  The focus on Parlotones wines, named after the group, is fun in having their music videos, but I did struggle to get one to play properly.  I also struggled to find the way to open the Prince Albert feature by Russel Wasserfall, eventually finding it at the bottom right, in the smallest possible type size.  A feature on trendy Artisan Breads tells the Knead story, with colour photographs, and mentions the names of only five other artisanal bakeries around the country – there are that many others in Cape Town alone!  Helen Untiedt’s organic vegetable garden, and a Book Review page conclude Crush!4.

My overwhelming frustration with Crush! is the difficulty of reading it, and the struggle to move forward or to close what one has opened.  The promotional boxes blocking copy remains a problem, which cheapens the magazine and is irritating to have to close.  Perhaps Olivier and the design team can look at Opulent Living’s e-magazine, only 8 pages long but published regularly – it is easy to read, has no promotions, with beautiful photographs – a top class digital magazine!   I was interested to see the Crush! blogger recipe rating, and the low participation is a surprise (the highest vote is by only 100 readers after two months), given Olivier’s claim that the magazine would go to more than 1 million readers!     If I were a marketer, I would not advertise in Crush!, as a digital magazine cannot present a food or wine brand with the appetite appeal that a print magazine can, especially given the poor pack presentation.  I would therefore love to see a print version of Crush!, as it contains lots of good information, and could make for beautiful pages of copy and photography, something one would want to keep.

POSTSCRIPT 8/2

Crush!5 was launched today.  JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) has been replaced by Neil Stemmet, a talented interior designer, and he adds an Afrikaans dimension to Crush!, with all five his recipes in Afrikaans on his “Soutenpeper” page (this is causing a problem for English readers!).  David Cope has lost his name, and is only referred to as “The Foodie”, with no red and white check background to his contributions anymore, and both his article on Paternoster, and on FoodWineDesign in Johannesburg (held in November!!), are long-winded and boring, with few attractive photographs.   Jane-Anne Hobbs (unfortunately) has been replaced by Clare Bock (owner of Appetite catering company, I learnt from Google) in a food/wine matching feature – by chance I worked out how this feature works – if you click on a wine bottle, an appropriate recipe pops up, rather than finding an appropriate wine to match the recipe!   The five food bloggers in the recipe rating section are complete unknowns.  Luisa Farelo (with an introduction in this issue – she is a chef and food stylist) does another feature, this time on Sunday lunches, and the styling is good enough to eat again.  A food and wine events calendar is a good new addition, while a classifieds section probably is not, the ads being so small that one cannot read them.  A feature on The Test Kitchen, and owner and chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is good with great food photographs, as is the one on Jordan Winery, but the labels underneath the bottles are so tiny that one may not see them.  The interview with Bertus Basson of Overture (Michael is a stickler for spelling, but misspells the restaurant name in his introduction) is weird, and probably does not do him a favour.  Advertisers are Fairview, Pongracz, Old Mutual, and Avocado magazine.

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

Restaurant Review: The Kove winter special only value relative to its normal high prices

Our blog has been running a Restaurant Winter Specials list for the past few months, with more than 100 restaurant offers attempting to attract locals into restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands towns, in what is traditionally a poor time for the hospitality trade.  The winter special of The Kove in Camps Bay only is good value relative to what the restaurant normally charges for its dishes, and does not compare favourably to many of the restaurant specials offered.

The Kove is part of a quartet of restaurants owned by Paul Kovensky (the surname being the inspiration for the naming of The Kove, no doubt), three of them being almost next door to each other in The Promenade building in Camps Bay (The Kove, Zenzero and Paranga).  Pepenero is located in Mouille Point.   The latter restaurant occupies a large space, and clearly was not able to attract enough custom to fill the space, and since last year has attracted food bargain hunters by offering specials.  The Kove is the only other restaurant in the Kovensky Quartet to be offering winter specials this year.

When we entered the restaurant on Saturday evening, after having left the over-heated and over-priced Zenzero next door, we were offered a table closest to the fireplace, which we declined, not without some attitude from the Manager Bevan (the type that knows better than you do where you would like to sit).   The first thing I noticed was the tattoos on Bevan’s arms (I am sorry, but it is the most off-putting thing, something that I experienced at Leaf Restaurant recently as well).   Waiter Casper presented himself soon thereafter, and gave me one of those looks that declares attitude without saying it.  By “mistake”, waiter Richard also presented his services to our table, and he was genuinely nice and we requested that he be our waiter, and he did a great job in looking after us with what seemed like genuine interest.  

The restaurant has a raised back section, with different chairs compared to the street level section, in which the chairs look like lawn furniture, in smart white and silver frames, with white or green chairbacks (the same grass green as at Leaf Restaurant), with green blankets over the chairs, should one still be cold inside the warm interior.  The lighting is dimmed to very low, making it difficult to read the menu.  We had flashes of white light from the World Cup TV above us, when it changed its picture!   Music was vibey, from an iPod playlist, along the lines of the Gotan Project.   Riedel glasses are on the table, and good quality linen and cutlery is used.  A faux library on both sides of the restaurant is meant to add a homely touch, I assume.  The ceiling of the street level section of the restaurant is adorned with a mock grapevine in autumn colours, and there are plastic marigolds on the table.

The menu for the Winter Specials covers two pages almost hidden at the back of the menu, and one is not told about them spontaneously (as at Five Flies and 1800 Restaurant at the Cape Royale).  One has a number of choices of specials, making it feel like one is really getting a good deal, but the Specials prices are average compared to other Cape Town restaurants.  First, one has the option of a two-course special, consisting only of a starter and a main course, and a glass of wine, at R 120.   The problem starts with the wine.   Why would a reputable restaurant offer an unlabelled unidentified white and red wine as part of the special?  It cheapens the Winter Special immediately.  They must have paid next to nothing for it, if they have to hide the wines’ origins.   Starter choices are mussels, Prawns 3 Ways, calamari, chicken livers and a house salad.   My partner had the prawns, brought to the table with a finger bowl, and the “3 ways” are 2 minute prawns each served with mustard and brandy, garlic and ginger, and orange and cumin.  It was a struggle to get them out of their shells.  The main course choices are fresh line fish, sirloin steak, baby chicken, beef burger and pork ribs.  The portion sizes are not indicated, and a starch is served with these.   (On the a la carte menu, one has to pay extra for starches, sauces and salads).   The steak was served medium rare, as ordered, but was not as tender as my partner would have liked it to be, with a tendon running through it, showing that a cheaper cut of meat had been used.   A good spicy and creamy Pepper Sauce was served with the steak.  No desserts are offered as part of this special.   Two small slices of older white bread were served, which I did not even bother to try.  To do the mathematics on the special: normal price for 1/2 prawn portion R45 + sirloin steak R85 + sauce R 20 + mash R20 = R170 (Special price charged plus glass of unidentified wine R120) – however, paying R125 for the 200 – 250 gram sirloin, mash and sauce on the a la carte menu is excessive anyway. 

In addition to the two-course special, one can order oysters at R 9 each, 1 kg of prawns or Karoo lamb chops at R99, fish and chips at R79, 400 gram ribs at R75, and a seafood platter at R129.  On the surface these prices are not bad at all, until you realise that these are standard prices elsewhere, and more expensive than some of the other specials offered elsewhere at the moment (e.g. a 6-course dinner for R150 at Myoga and at La Mouette).  I had the lamb chops, three served on a large plate with the mash served lukewarm after the meat was brought to the table, in a side dish. The steak knife provided was super in getting to the bone.  I loved the ‘braai’ taste of the chops, which Richard told us came from the special basting sauce.  I would have liked to have a finger bowl.   The chops were ordered medium, but the meat closest to the bone was raw.  Ten cocktails are part of the specials list, at R25 each, but we were given the cocktails menu (with peeling plastic cover), showing a Mojito at R40, and were not told about the specials.  As part of the Winter Special, The Kove also serves “tappas” between 3 – 7 pm, and two cost R 45 and three cost R60.  One has a choice of twelve, including hake goujons, pop-corn prawns, deep-fried halloumi, teriyaki salmon and stuffed jalapeno poppers.

The a la carte menu has starters ranging from R 50 for a mussel pot, seafood chowder, goat’s cheese tartlet and buffalo wings, to R 90 for 12 of the prawn 3-ways (having seen them on the special, and being seawater prawns, this is hugely expensive for what one gets), and salads cost R 40 – R 75.  A wide selection of steaks (fillet, sirloin, entrecote, chateaubriand), each in two weight options, is offered, a 250 g sirloin costing R85 and a 500g Chateaubriand costing R200.  Unspecified Venison costs R120 for 250g, as does baby chicken.  Starches are extra at R 20 each, as are a selection of five sauces, also at R 20 each.  A Braai section offers a 1,2kg fillet to share at R395, “kreef” at R 195, ribs, an identified skewer and fish.  A number of seafood options are available, a seafood platter costing R295, calamari costs R80, and baby kingklip R130.

For dessert we shared an odd item on the a la carte dessert menu, being waffles with syrup and cream, perfectly executed, at R 45. Other desserts include apple crumble, and pecan nut pie, costing between R35 – R45.  The Cappuccino was made with LavAzza coffee, but was thin and not the best I have had. 

The wines-by-the-glass at The Kove are very expensive, being based on three glasses out of a bottle.  The difference in price between the cheapest shiraz (Spier 2009) at R 30 and the next up at R95 per glass of Kevin Arnold made me choose the former, a grave mistake, in that it was so bad that I could not finish it.   I asked for the wine to be poured at the table, but the manager was about to refuse this, when he changed his mind.  I wondered what I would have been served (perhaps the same unlabelled wine for the special?).   No vintages are specified on the winelist, nor are the wine varietals or brands described.  The 15-page beverage list is Fleur du Cap-branded throughout, on every page, even though only two of their wines are offered out of the more than 100 wines on the winelist (and typed as “Fleur de Cap”!). 

The winelist is introduced with notes on “Matching wine with your food”, highlighting the essence of “paring” being “seeking to achieve a balance in your personal tastes”.   It indicates which wine types (e.g. “high acid wine”) go with which food types, and lists white wines with high acid as including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and sparkling wines; and red wines with high acid level Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Gamay. The effect of adding salt to the taste of the wine was an eye-opener, in that it reduces the astringency of wines.   Riedel gets a half page punt and branding, and the benefits of decanting wine is highlighted (although not practised, in that it may have made the young Spier more palatable). 

Fifteen champagnes are offered, ranging from R1 000 for Laurent Perrier Brut Rose and Louis Roderer Brut, to R6000 for Dom Perignon Rose’.  One can order seven of these by the glass, starting at R 140 for the Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial to R 220 for Veuve Cliquot Vintage. Only five Methode Cap Classiques are offered, two Graham Beck and Pongracz each, and Boschendal, ranging from R180 – R320. The Graham Becks are served by the glass too.     A large selection of Chardonnays is offered, dominated by Hamilton Russell (R420), with Muratie Isabella at entry level (R175), and Sauvignon Blancs (between R180- R250).  Fewer red wine choices are offered by varietal – the Shiraz category costs from R200 – R280, but has the Spier at R130.  Four Organic wines (Avondale Chenin Blanc,  Reyneke Reserve white, Waverley Hills Cabernet Sauvignon and Stellar Merlot), and two Kosher wines made by Backsberg, are also available.

Bevan came to the table, to give us our Loyalty Card, and annoyed me when he told me that it is only for South Africans.  10 % of the value of one’s meal is added as points to one’s Loyalty Card ‘account’, redeemable at any time on presentation of the card.  This would bring value to dining at The Kove, but problems with the system in the past two years has made me sceptical about the accuracy of their record keeping, as they claim to have lost details of our guests having eaten there in the past, and therefore the redeemability of the points.

The Kove is one of the few places that has served a good steak in Camps Bay in the past, but the winter special does not reflect this quality.  It is expensive if one orders off the a la carte menu, and its “winter specials” are only specially priced relative to the normal high prices the Kovensky Quartet charges, and seem to be poorer quality cuts, with unacceptably poor quality wine, thus not making The Kove value for money.

The Kove, Shop 2A, The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay.  Tel (021) 438-0012.                  www.thekove.co.za (full menu and winelist featured).

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