Tag Archives: PR consultant

A whale of a 19-year Guest House career comes to an end, a new Food career awaits!

imageIt was Futurist Faith Popcorn who predicted a trend of ‘Recareering’ back in the ‘Seventies, one having multiple careers in a lifetime, at a time when I myself was in my first career as a Futurist. I could not have foreseen that my career path from Futurist to Market Researcher, Marketing Lecturer, Research Consultant, Food PR Consultant, and then Guest House owner for the last 19 years would lead me to my new and seventh career, to that as a Continue reading →

Overhex Balance wines are good balance between quality and price!

On Friday I was fortunate to experience a tasting of some of the wines in the Overhex Wines International range, and specifically their new additions to the two year old Balance range, which was held at one of the most popular restaurants in Cape Town, namely Luke Dale-Roberts’  The Test Kitchen.

The Test Kitchen in the Old Biscuit Mill premises in Woodstock is a small space, and we must have been about thirty journalists and bloggers who were lucky enough to be invited by charming PR consultant Nicolette Waterford.  The stature of the event was reflected by the attendance of Sunday Times wine writer Neil Pendock, Cape Wine Master Christine Rudman, Cape Times wine writer Cathy Marston, Christian Eedes, Wade Bales, Spit or Swallow’s Anel Grobler, Joanne Gibson, Greg Landman, and more, and the restaurant venue must have been an important attendance drawcard.   Spread over the two tables were staff of Overhex, including the co-owner Gerhard van der Wath, who manages the company, in close co-operation with JC (for Jean Claude) Martin, who is the Production Director, and is responsible for the wine styles and blends, assisted by Jandre Human, the cellar master.  Being private-owned means that Gerhard and JC can make quick decisions.   They are not restricted to only the grapes of their region, but can buy in the best grapes to suit their requirements, including from the Swartland, West Coast, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch, allowing them to make wines at different price points.  The Overhex farm in the Breede River Valley outside Worcester produces about 10 000 tons of grapes, and about 5 million litres are bought in, JC told us.

JC (on the right, chatting to Greg Landman) has a Swiss German lilt when he speaks, and arrived in South Africa six years ago, having met his wife Carolyn (daughter of Walter Finlayson) on the wine estate in Switzerland on which he worked at the time, where she came to present label designs on behalf of the London design agency she worked for.  His association with Overhex started in 2005.  Alongside the Overhex wine involvement, JC makes his own Creation wines in the Hemel en Aarde valley outside Hermanus.   While this was not a Creation function at all, we did discuss the wines and the marketing of them, which JC does on the side when he represents Overhex wines overseas.  His wife does the marketing of Creation wines locally, and they had an average of 300 visitors per day in their tasting room over the festive season, he said.  They are very excited about the fact that the Western Cape province has placed the Caledon – Hermanus gravel road going through their valley as number one priority on the list of roads to be tarred in the province, and they see this as being of huge future benefit to themselves and their colleagues on the recently created Hemel en Aarde Valley wine route.   I sat opposite JC, and asked him questions abouit Creation – he did not talk about Creation when he addressed the guests.  JC told me he studied winemaking in the French part of Switzerland. Switzerland is not generally known as a wine producer, but JC told me that the Swiss drink all the wine produced in the total area of 25000 ha, and therefore it is not exported.  Whalepod is a new Creation brand, and we have started stocking it in our Whale Cottages.  JC told me that they are launching a new Syrah/Malbec Whalepod blend. Tasting rooms on wine farms are unique to South Africa, in that one can visit most wine farms without making an appointment, making this wine tourism valuable to wine farms selling their wines from the cellar door – for Creation it represents 30 % of their sales. 

In 2003 Overhex was started as a co-operative, and was bought by Gerhard and a partner in 2005.  Initially their focus was on the international market, and they now export to 25 countries.  JC told us that they export to supermarket and liquor groups such as Marks & Spencer, CO-OP UK, and Fosters, making own label wines for them.   Most of the wine is made to the specific requirements of each of these chains, and exported in bulk, and bottled in the UK and in Germany.     Ten Overhex brands are exported, being 3,5 million bottles in total. 

The reason for the launch function was to introduce the new additions to the Balance range, being the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz 2010 and Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2010.  They complement the existing Balance range of Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (won a gold medal at Michelangelo 2010),  Shiraz Merlot 2010, Pinotage Shiraz 2009, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010, Chenin Blanc Colombar, Reserve Unwooded Chardonnay, Sparkling Vin Sec, Sparkling Vin Doux, Shiraz Rosé and a sweet Rosé, aiming them at the domestic market for the first time.  Balance has been shaped for local wine drinkers, and the range is designed to be easy drinking wines with a shorter life span.   We were asked to evaluate the wines relative to their price point, the Winemaker’s Selection Sauvignon Blanc costing R40 and the Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz costing R45, representing incredible value, as none of the white and red Balance wines are more expensive than these two prices.  JC said that the Balance wines should not be judged on price alone, in that a cheaper wine does not mean that it is a bad wine.   Overhex operates ethically and cares about its supplier farmers, in that they offer them a price for their grapes that allows the farmers to survive.  The Balance wines are available at ULTRA intitally, and they are working on expanding the distribution at local outlets.   I asked about the elephant on the label, and the designer was at the function, but she could not explain it, other than that it was on the first Balance labels.  The Balance pay-off line is “for life’s lighter moments”.  The Overhex cellar now has a tasting room and Bistro, and locals are invited to visit the wine estate.  “Our goal with Balance is to get the wine lover to celebrate everyday wine culture, making it easy to enjoy delicious wines from a varied range at an affordable price point”, said Gerhard.

The Test Kitchen food was outstanding, and deep fried sushi was served before we started.  I chose a Trout tartar starter, which was light and perfect for the hot summer’s day.  As I had the kingklip when I had dinner at the restaurant in December, I ordered the beef fillet, and it is the softest I remember ever having, simply presented with green beans.   For dessert the choice was a cheese platter and lemon tart. 

The launch and tasting of the Overhex Wines International Balance range of wines, ‘paired’ with the wonderful food by Chef Luke-Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, and the gift pack of Balance wines, was the start to an exceptional day, which ended with the attendance at the U2 360° concert at the Cape Town Stadium for many attending the function.

Overhex Wines International, 71 Stockenström Street, Worcester. Tel (023) 347-6838.  www.overhex.com  Tuesday – Thursday 10h00 – 17h00, Friday and Saturday 10h00 – 16h00.

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

Restaurant review : Buitenverwachting is beyond expectation

I have not been to Buitenverwachting for so many years, that I cannot remember when last I had been there.  The wine estate has become over-shadowed by its neighbours in the Constantia valley, and seems to have become hidden as a Cape Town restaurant destination in the past few years.  By appointing Sandy Bailey as a PR consultant, this is about to change, and resulted in her extending an invitation to food and wine bloggers and to journalists (including the lovely Jos Baker, Angela Lloyd, John and Lynne Ford, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee) to join her and delightful soft-spoken winemaker Brad Paton and his wife Wendy to enjoy the newly launched Sunday lunch buffet last week.

Buitenverwachting was originally part of the Constantia wine farm, belonging to Simon van der Stel.   In 1773 it was sold to Cornelus Brink, who named it Nova Constantia, writes WINE magazine.  In 1794 Arend Brink bought the farm and called it Buitenverwachting (beyond expectation).   Buitenverwachting is now owned by German citizen Richard Müller, whose son Lars Maack has been running the estate locally for the past few years, and personally handles the international marketing of the wines, especially focused on Germany.  The drive to the wine estate makes one feel that one is leaving the busy city and escaping to the countryside, a beautiful tree-lined lane taking one to the estate, and then one has to drive slowly past vineyards and lawns with grazing sheep, to get to the restaurant. 

The chef is Austrian Edgar Osojnik, who came to Buitenverwachting from Grande Roche.   A six-month stint at Bosman’s culminated in a farewell party for Osojnik, and it was at this party that he met his future wife, and he decided to stay in South Africa.  In 2003 Osojnik was recognised as the Top Chef of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards for Buitenverwachting.  Chef Edgar offers a fine dining menu for dinners, and a lighter Courtyard menu for lunches.  He is also offering a special Asparagus menu, which costs R260 for three courses, including a glass of wine, until the end of November.

On Sundays the buffet lunch is set up inside the restaurant, and was a most generous selection of starters, mains and desserts, with a cheese plate to follow, at R240 (half price for children under 12 years).   I do not recall seeing so many starter dishes for a buffet before, most unique and special, and not just a variation of salads which one experiences so often.  The presentation of the starters and desserts attracted attention.  For example, the sushi looked like little gift parcels, as Osojnik created square sushi slices with colourful ingredients such as avocado, rice, and salmon, with a black “tie”.

The starters included Vitello Tonnato, Vegetable-goats feta tian with rucola, Cauliflower-broccoli Royale with Dukkah Chicken Breast, Prawn espuma, smoked Norwegian salmon buttermilk terrine, Bobotie in a ramekin, Duck liver parfait set on caramelized apple, smoked fish, roasted asparagus with Parma-style ham, tomato-mozzarella, Melon with smoked Kudu, Potato salad, Roast Beef filled with French salad, and Caesar salad with white anchovies.  Mains are a traditional buffet, with a selection of leg of lamb, Chalmar rib-eye steak, veal breast, roast pork belly, linefish of the day and chicken curry.  Potatoes are served roasted and Dauphinoise, there is basmati rice, a choice of five vegetables, and five sauces are served with the main course. Desserts and cakes included Sacher Torte, Schwarzwälder Torte, Gugelhupf, Kardinal Schnitte, Chocolate Mousse, Yoghurt Crème Catalan, fruit salad with Marsala Zabaglione, Vanilla Pannacotta with fresh strawberries, as well as a cheese platter.

Brad has been the winemaker at Buitenverwachting for the past six years, and his colleague, cellarmaster Hermann Kirschbaum, has been at the wine estate for the past 18 years.  Brad worked at Chamonix in Franschhoek with Gottfried Mocke before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany and worked there too, for a total of nine years, now speaking perfect German.  He is grateful for his German language skills, as they receive many German visitors at the estate.    One gets the feeling that not only is the wine estate steeped in tradition and history, but its staff are loyal, and that consistency in all respects is the success factor at Buitenverwachting.

Brad told me that the recession is hitting wine farms, and the newer small independent operators appear hardest hit, many not being able to pay for their bottles to get their wines sold.  He feels that prices of the newer wine estates are too high.  Sales to restaurants have been badly hit, he said, as BYO is seeing a growth due to excessive prices of wines in restaurants.   He also felt that Constantia restaurants should be more “Proudly-Constantia”, in stocking brands from the Constantia wine estates.  Buitenverwachting has recently appointed Meridian for its distribution.

I was surprised to hear how reasonable the Buitenverwachting wine prices are, with entry level Buiten Blanc costing R45, and the Merifort (a lovely smoky Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) costing a mere R55.   The other stalwart wines in the Buitenverwachting range are Blanc de Noir, Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Christine, and Merlot.  Brad and his colleagues are making “out of the box” wines too:

*   Intensity: 85 % Sauvignon Blanc and 15 % Semillon

*   Trinity: Riesling, a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend

*   Rough Diamond: 60 % Petit Verdot and 40 % Malbec

Going back to Buitenverwachting after so many years was a reminder of the talent of Chef Edgar and his restaurant team, as well as of the quality of the estate’s wines.  I plan to return to try the Asparagus menu.   I am a new convert of the Buitenverwachting Merifort, even though I am a dedicated Shiraz drinker.

Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia Road, Constantia, www.buitenverwachting.com. Tel (021) 794-3522.  Monday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Sunday Buffet lunch. Corkage R55.

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