Tag Archives: price

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: Blowfish Restaurant will blow fishlovers away!

I rarely go to the Tableview and Blouberg area. When I received an invitation from Nikki Dumas to join her at Blowfish Restaurant for an early dinner, prior to seeing a preview of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, it seemed an appropriate ‘starter’ to a must-see movie.  

Nikki is a wine consultant to Blowfish, and has won a coveted Diamond Award from Diner’s Club International for the winelist she has created for Blowfish for the past two years, as well as a Wine Spectator Award.   She is a passionate wine lover, and uses the word ‘swirl’ a lot.  She came to Cape Town to open Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then joined the Slick restaurant group when Vilamoura closed down.  She worked at both Balducci and Belthazar, on the wine side, and became Deputy General Manager.   She has been a wine consultant for over a year now, her Winestyle consultancy offering waiter training, winetastings, and she compiles winelists.

Blowfish belongs to the Singer Group, which has a number of hospitality interests.  I recognised Oliver Wing, the Operations Manager, when I arrived.  He used to be a manager at Haiku and Bukhara, and was sent to London to open Haiku there.  The restaurant is located in the Dolphin Beach Hotel in Blouberg, and is a large space, seating about 180 guests.  The restaurant has a view onto the Atlantic Ocean, over the roofs of hotel rooms below.  It is a large open-plan room, with a sushi bar with conveyor belt, a bar, and upstairs there is a TV/smoking room, as well as the wine cellar, in which functions are hosted, including workshops on how to make sushi.    The chairs are Greek-style, all in white, and white is the dominant colour in terms of furniture and fittings, except for beige plastic table cloths.  

Blowfish uses a cute illustration of a blowfish on every page of its menu and on the winelist, creating good synergy between the two documents.  The pay-off line is ‘Seafood Sushi Sunset’, it being rare for a restaurant to have one.

There is a fish counter (as per Codfather in Camps Bay), from which one can order a selection of fish and shellfish, in the size of one’s choice, which is then weighed and charged.  The fish types on offer at Blowfish are angelfish, bluefish, butterfish, calamari, Cape salmon, Dorado, kingklip, monkfish, Norwegian Salmon, cob, sole, swordfish, tuna (yellowfin), yellowtail, sardines, Cape rock lobster, king prawns, langoustines, Tiger medium prawns, Tiger giant prawns and oysters.   I was impressed that the cost per gram was shown per fish type.  Soon a similar meat counter will be introduced. 

What impressed me tremendously was the depiction on the menu of each of the ‘green’ fishes on the SASSI list, which are those that are in good supply.  A whole page of the menu is dedicated to the restaurant’s “Green Values”, the first time I have seen this on a menu.  It states that the restaurant is a “SASSI Aware” participant, to “promote and offer you sustainable seafood choices from legal sources in an effort to help improve the conservation status of over-exploited seafood species.”   Contact details of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative are provided.   Near the fish counter a SASSI poster has been put up, showing the different green, orange and red fish and shellfish types.  I would have loved to see them show the orange symbols on the other fish dishes (e.g. prawns and kingklip) on the menu, to be absolutely correct, allowing their customers to choose whether they want to order ‘orange’ fish.  By implication, the non-marked fish dishes on the menu would be orange.

The Blowfish menu is very extensive in offering sushi, salads, soup, platters, combinations of meat and fish, and the fish ordered from the counter.  Starters range in price from R40 – R55, and include a bacon and seafood skewer, bushveld sushi made with crocodile, trio of salmon, Thai-style fishcakes, king calamari, Wok beef, and mussels.   The sushi choice is vast, covering two pages of the menu,  including Fresh rolls, Cooked rolls, Traditional Maki rolls, Inside Out rolls, platters (ranging from a 12-piece Nigiri at R125 to a 60-piece Chef’s Speciality platter at R550), sushi salads and hot sushi.  The cost for smaller portions of sushi depends on its ingredients, roughly ranging from R25 for three to R45 for four pieces.  The Chef’s Recommendation section has a selection of dishes, ranging from R 95 for the kingklip to SQ for the crayfish curry.  One can also order duck, Fillet Mignon, lamb rack, and the Chef’s signature dish, being Seafood Espetada.  Platters cost as little as R99, for the Blouberg platter (kingklip, calamari, and prawn skewer), up to R 220 for the Kite-Boarders platter (mussels, calamari, linefish and rock lobster).   A selection of stir-fry dishes is also available, from R65 upwards.

I love a prawn and avo handroll, and that at Blowfish was the best I’ve had, being more moist than recent ones I have tasted, with mayonnaise added, very reasonably priced at R40.   It was hard to choose what to order from the menu, and therefore I chose a piece of kingklip, some calamari and a tiger prawn from the fish counter, to be grilled and served with Basmati rice.  The selected fish and shellfish is prepared with the “fishmonger’s” seasoned ‘signature Blowfish spices’, and one has a choice of four sauces: lemon butter, garlic butter, sweet and sour, and peri peri. 

As the movie started at 8 pm, and I had to drive to the Waterfront to see it, I had to eat quickly when the main course arrived, to make it back to the city in time.   I could not finish all of the food, as it was far too large a serving.  It was excellent, the massive prawn being a highlight.  I missed out on the desserts, but could have ordered a Lindt chocolate brownie, Croque en Bouche, baked cheesecake, chocolate banana spring rolls and more, at a most reasonable cost of R25 – R 35.  A cheese platter is also available at R75. 

Nikki has created two winelists for Blowfish, one just focused on imported wines, and the other on local wines.  She is very proudly South African when it comes to her wine recommendations, and she has included about 140 local wines on the winelist.  She describes each variety, indicating the colour one should expect, and the flavours they should have.   The region of origin of each wine is indicated, and the wines are listed from lowest to highest price per variety, the perfect winelist!  The Sauvignon Blanc section is the largest, with 24 options, and the prices of all the brands are very reasonable, ranging from R 90 for Hazendal to R240 for Neil Ellis.  MCC’s start at R90 for Pieter Cruythoff Brut, which Nikki says comes from the Swartland, to R428 for Constantia Uitsig.  White wines sell better than red wines at Blowfish, but Nikki has a good selection of red wines too.  Ten Shiraz wines are offered, the Landskroon and Porcupine Ridge being most reasonably priced at R105, to R 260 for Grande Provence.  Corkage is the lowest I have seen, at R20 for the first two bottles, and increases to R50 per bottle thereafter.   The winelist also proudly records the awards it has won.

While Blowfish is too far for me to travel to from the Atlantic Seaboard, I know where to eat when I next go to that area.  I could see how popular the restaurant is amongst locals – from being the first to arrive at 18h00, the restaurant was close to full with locals, bringing their children and babies in prams, when I left two hours later.

Blowfish Restaurant, Dolphin Beach Hotel, 1 Marine Drive, Blouberg.   Tel (021) 556-5464 www.blowfishrestaurant.co.za  Twitter: @BlowfishCTN  Nikki Dumas’ website is www.winestyle.biz

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