Last Monday I attended The Sommeliers Selection 2018 tasting of the top-scoring wines at Tokara Delicatessen, driving through from Cape Town on a rainy day. My two favorites I tasted were Arra Shiraz 2015, as well as Trizanne Reserve Syrah 2017. The top wines in the tasting were selected by top Sommelier members of the South African SOmmeliers Association, and the Black Cellar Club. Continue reading →
The winners of the inaugural Rosé Rocks competition have been announced, with Tamboerskloof Katharien Syrah Rosé 2015 named the overall winner.
The 160 Rosé and MCC Rosé wines were evaluated by a panel of judges, which was chaired by Woolworths’ Allan Mullins. Wines were tasted blind, without information provided about the vintage, wine estate, and technical analysis. The results were audited by Grant Thornton South Africa. Continue reading →
Yesterday 30 or so writers, mostly from Cape Town, dedicated a full 10 hour day to travel to Graham Beck Wines in Robertson, to celebrate its 25 year Silver Jubilee with a vertical tasting of more than 25 Cap Classiques and base wines which go into the making of the Graham Beck range of MCCs. The event was also a salute to Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira, in having worked at Graham Beck for 25 years already.
Always organised, PR consultant Nicolette Waterford had organised a Le Quartier Français snack pack with water and juice for us for the two-hour bus trip. We arrived to a misty day in Robertson, but the day became sunny and warm. We were welcomed by the Graham Beck staff, and by Pieter with his trademark bubbly shirt in particular, and it felt a lot like Pieter’s ‘birthday’ party (he did recently celebrate a special milestone birthday). Continue reading →
La Residence pulled out all the stops in hosting the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2013 Awards last night, seating and serving 150 guests in its massive entrance hall, lounge and dining room, demonstrating why it was recently voted joint Best Hotel in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. The Awards evening was described as ‘a gathering of wine aristocracy’, and the ‘Oscars of the Wine Awards’! The Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award is the only award given to an individual, and is even more special in that it is received in the presence of an audience of experts and peers.
Gareth Cliff of 5FM was a good MC, admitting his ignorance as a wine drinker, and doing a brilliant Julius Malema impersonation based on wines (with Ed Morton and Nick Solomon of La Residence in the photograph below). As the venue was so large, video screens were set up throughout the venue, allowing each table to see a screen close by. A Twitter Feed ran on the screen, Cliff being a heavy Tweeter, which will have pleased his hosts at La Residence and Diners Club, with his 571343 Twitter Followers. Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2013 Finalist Johan Jordaan from Spier was an informative and fun table neighbour, as was Franschhoek Tatler editor Siegfried Schäfer and Helgard van Schalkwyk from Lynx Wines. Johan was an excellent ‘lighting assistant’, in lighting my plates with his phone to photograph the food! Continue reading →
Pierneef à La Motte is one of the Winelands top restaurants, with its extensive vegetable and herb garden, its Executive Chef Chris Erasmus having recently done a stage at the world’s number one restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, has a chef from leading Dutch restaurant Specktafel working with them until the end of December, and has made the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants Finalist list two years running in its two year history. Now it has introduced a fine Winelands Tea.
I had seen a sample tray of the Tea treats on a previous visit, and was told then that the Tea was still in its test phase. Now it has been introduced, and one can sit under the oak trees, or in the side section of the restaurant, to enjoy the Winelands Tea. I probably was the first customer to order the Tea, and some of the information was not readily available, but the Manager Inge Naude brought extra notes about the teas and asked the Culinary Manager Hetta van Deventer-Terblanche, and I was able to interview the Sous and Pastry Chef Michelle Theron, for further information.
A tray with glass jars of confiture, including watermelon preserve, fig preserve, and honey, was brought to the table, either for adding to the tea, or to one’s sweet or savoury treats.
Inge brought a beautiful presentation box of eight TWG (The Wellness Group) teas to the table, and opened one sachet to show me the cotton bag in which the chunks of caramel and tea leaves are contained. It had a good-enough-to-eat aroma. She told me that the company is from Singapore, linking back to the Spice Route between the East and Holland via the Cape, and is deemed to be one of the best tea suppliers, according to their research. They advise that one drink the tea ‘neat’, without adding milk and sugar, to get the best aroma of the tea. Inge said the water should be boiled at 95°C, and that one should add the tea bag to the water, letting it draw for 2 – 15 minutes. The tea is served in crockery made by Ellalou O’Meara especially for La Motte. One has a number of other options to drink other than the tea, but Inge emphasised that the La Motte experience is more about the tea than it is about the food. I ordered a cappuccino, but could have substituted it for a number of other options too, including the home-made La Motte fruit cordial, ‘soet sopies’ such as L’Omarins Port, Slanghoek or Graham Beck Muscadel, Monis Sherry, Slanghoek Hanepoot, Pepperment or Van der Hum Liqueur, or Amarula. A R20 surcharge allows one to have a glass of Vin de Constance or La Motte MCC.
Chef Michelle explained each dish in great detail, giving it a greater appetite appeal, relative to the very scant description in the Tea menu. The Buckwheat Blini is based on a blini recipe in their ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cook book, and was described as a ‘Blini Cake’ by Chef Michelle, layered with salmon, cream cheese and biltong, and a curried apple and peach chutney made to a recipe of Chef Chris’ mother. It was topped with poppy seed and dried capers, and at its back with chopped chives, and was the most unique item. The menu called this lovely creation a ‘smoked salmon pancake with cream cheese’. A ‘Biltong Soes’ choux pastry contained a cheese and biltong filling too, topped with a slice of their own home-made biltong, from beef which comes from the Weltevrede farm near Kokstad. The Truffle of the day was a Brandy Valrhona, and could be alternated with peanut mousse, milk tart, or a rose Turkish delight. The Macaroon was a hazelnut and chocolate one, and alternatives are nougat, rose, lavender, thyme, and lemon. The Tea Cake had layers of chocolate mousse, with a chocolate butter frosting. One has a choice of one of three Tea Cakes daily. Chef Michelle said that she is an ‘all-rounder chef’, responsible for pastries too, even though officially she is the Sous Chef.
The Pierneef à La Motte Winelands Tea is expensive, especially if one does not have a TWG tea with it, being an expensive part of the offering. The food treats should be described in greater detail in the Tea Menu, to explain how special they are. The product knowledge of the staff about the Winelands Tea is not yet perfect.
Winelands Tea, Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8000. www.la-motte.com Twitter: @PierneefLaMotte R125 per head. Tuesday – Sunday 10h00 – 16h30.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Chenin Blanc Association hosted the ‘Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar at the One&Only Cape Town yesterday, and its main focus was the presentation of a comprehensive three year research project on South African Chenin Blanc wines, a tasting of twelve Chenin Blancs, and a pairing of five dishes at Nobu with fifteen Chenin Blancs. The research presentation by Dr Hélène Nieuwoudt of the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch highlighted that despite Chenin Blanc being South Africa’s largest cultivar at 19% of production, it is one of the least known and understood by wine drinkers.
Dr Nieuwoudt related that scientific research was conducted between 2010 and earlier this year, at three levels: at the chemistry level, analyses were done on grapes, fermentation, and maturation; at the sensory level, the sensory intrinsics, taste and smell were evaluated; and at the consumer level, the perceptions and psychology of wine-drinking were analysed. The research project has been conducted in conjunction with Stellenbosch University, Consumer Check (in Norway, Italy, Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands), and Consumer Perception (in France and USA). Chenin Blanc was one of the wine cultivars which was evaluated in the study.
The diversity of Chenin Blanc in its chemistry, sensory make-up and consumer perceptions led the researchers to conclude that Chenin Blanc suffers from a ‘confusion of style identity’, as to whether it is dry or off-dry. Seventy cellars making 170 wines were evaluated, and at the chemical level there was no obvious measurement of the chemistry of Chenin Blanc. At the sensory level a database of descriptors was built up, and lemon, citrus, peach, pear, and apple were most often identified, and recorded in terms of number of mentions, but also their intensity.
Research conducted amongst 5261 consumers at the Johannesburg Wine Fair and Robertson Wine Fair found that Chenin Blanc has a ‘vague knowledge as a wine style’ amongst local consumers, with only 8% of all respondents interviewed knowing and understanding the cultivar. Chenin Blanc had a very low level of awareness amongst wine drinkers, which would result in a low likelihood of it being bought. The research also showed that there is a confused segmentation of local Chenin Blancs, ranging from ‘fresh and fruity’ (and also less expensive) on one end of the spectrum, to the other end of the spectrum of ‘rich and ripe’, being the more expensive Chenin Blancs. A spontaneous Liking score of 5,8 out of 10 increased to about 7 out of 10 when respondents were exposed to information about Chenin Blanc, showing that consumers need to be informed about Chenin Blanc, to improve their probability of buying it. Dr Nieuwoudt said that consumers are becoming label readers in general, and suggested to Chenin Blanc producers that they evaluate how they are communicating the cultivar on their labels.
Ross Sleet summarised the research findings, and said that the Chenin Blanc Association had contributed financially to the research, to improve the ‘production of quality Chenin Blanc in South Africa.’ The Association wants to position Chenin Blanc as a ‘desirable drink‘, he added. Whether ordered by the bottle or glass, Chenin Blanc is an excellent wine to pair with food. An ‘on-bottle device is being investigated to demonstrate the continuum of Chenin Blanc styles‘, said Sleet.
Jeff Grier, winemaker at Villiera, took the delegates through a wine tasting, segmented into ‘Fresh and Fruity’ and ‘Rich and Ripe‘ Chenin Blancs:
* Fresh and Fruity: Perdeberg 2012, Slanghoek 2012, and Simonsig 2012 were the entry level Chenin Blancs, costing below R40, a price point which is excellent for younger drinkers. These young drinkers will evolve into ‘Rich and Ripe’ drinkers over time. Lutzville Diamond Collection 2011, Radford Dale Renaissance 2010, and Mulderbosch Small Change 2009 are lightly wooded, medium bodied, with minerality, and not too high in alcohol. The latter two wines cost around R200.
* Rich and Ripe: Spier 21 Gables 2010, Rudera Robusto 2009, and Rijk’s Reserve 2008 are wooded, while Remhoogte Honeybunch 2011, Graham Beck Bowed Head 2010, and Ken Forrester FMC 2010 are noble late harvest wines influenced by botrytis. Generally these wines have more tropical fruit, and more yeast on the palate. The Rijk’s costs R170, the Ken Forrester FMC R325, and the other wines in this segment around R120.
Stellenbosch is associated with Chenin Blancs, and the majority of the wines selected for the tastings were from this region, reflecting that a large proportion of Chenin Blanc is made here, with low yields of 7 tons per hectare. The Chenin Blanc Association was formed to collectively market the category, the ‘Fresh and Fruity’ Chenin Blanc brands being used to draw consumers into the category. Jeff warned that Chenin Blanc should not make a Chardonnay look-alike, given that international feedback reflects that our Chenin Blancs are excessively wooded. He recommended using bigger barrels, and coopers in Loire and Burgundy to help the ‘wooding’.
At lunch at Nobu I was lucky to sit at what someone described as a ‘VIP table’, with Jeff Grier, Chenin Blanc Association founder and MW Irina von Holdt, Alan Mullins from Woolworths, wine writer Norman McFarlane, and Olivia Mitchell from garagiste Andy Mitchell in Greyton. For each of the five courses, three Chenin Blancs were poured for pairing, the first 12 being the same Chenin Blancs we had tasted in the seminar. The Whitefish New-Style Sashimi with chives, ginger puree, garlic, and yuzu citrus soy sauce was paired with Perdeberg 2012, Slanghoek 2012, and Simonsig 2012. The latter wine was found by our table to pair best.
This was followed by a Baby Spinach Salad with Lobster, a sprinkling of parmesan, and a drizzle of truffle oil and yuzu, which was paired with Lutzville 2011, Radford Dale Renaissance 2010, and Mulderbosch 2009. The table found the Radford Dale to pair the best. Shrimp Tempura Cut Roll was served with light soy, and was paired with Spier 21 Gables 2010, Rudera Robusto 2009, and Rijk’s Reserve 2008, the table choosing the Rudera as the most suitable Chenin Blanc to pair with the dish. Irina von Holdt shared that Chenin Blanc is the ‘ultimate restaurant wine‘, she said, being so versatile.
Grilled salmon topped with a salmon skin crisp, served with brown rice salsa, with a light soy sauce, a jalapeno dressing, lemon juice and olive oil was paired with Remhoogte Honeybunch Reserve 2011, Graham Beck Bowed Head 2010, and Ken Forrester FMC 2010, the Graham Beck found at our table to pair best. The dessert was excellent, being a Passion fruit Brûlée served with coconut ice cream, and was paired with Villiera Inspiration 2010, Kanu Kia-Ora Noble Late Harvest (NLH) 2008, and Joostenberg NLH 2005. Jeff explained that the Villiera wine name came from a trip to France, which he and his team had won in a blending competition, where they tasted lots of Chenin Blanc and Noble Late Harvest, which was the inspiration for the creation of the Villiera.
The Nobu lunch demonstrated how well the spectrum of Chenin Blanc wines can be paired with foods, and will have gained Chenin Blanc producers a whole lot more fans.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of Villiera Chenin Blanc 2011.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage