Entries tagged with “Stellenbosch Hills”.


imageLast week we attended the tasting of the latest Stellenbosch Hills vintages at the very rustic Panama Jacks, a restaurant most of us had been to in the past, in a time band of 15 – 25 years ago. The attendance was excellent, probably due to the length of time which we had last been to the restaurant. (more…)

StellenboschHills Banner Whale CottageI haven’t been to La Mouette in years, so accepted the invitation from Waterford Communications to attend the launch of the latest vintages of Stellenbosch Hills, and a spoiling 7-course Tasting Menu, a relaxed event ending off a very busy functions week.

We were met outside in the courtyard, and offered  the 2014 vintage of Stellenbosch Hills’ Polkadraai Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé.  Polkadraai is one of the Stellenbosch Hills ranges, and uses polka dots for its neck wrapper design, in different colours. The design lifts Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai Pinot Noir Sparkling Rose 2014 Whale Cottagethe image of the brand.  With the sparkling wine we were served the moreish La Mouette feta and truffle and Gruyére croquettes, as well as chicken satay.  Cellarmaster PG Slabbert welcomed us once we had moved into one of the restaurant rooms, sitting at three long tables, and shared that Stellenbosch Hills is a co-operative which has been in existence for 69 years.  A big celebration for the 70th anniversary is planned.  The 8000 tons of grapes harvested come (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Sales of alcoholic beverages in the UK have decreased by 6% in the last week of the five-week World Cup period compared to the same period a year ago, as interest in the soccer event has decreased in the last week of the tournament, despite reaching close to £ 1 billion in sales.  Sales in the first three weeks of the tournament showed an increase, however.  Champagne and sparkling wine showed the strongest growth in the past month.  Cider sales decreased by 11% compared to a year ago. England’s early World Cup exit and better weather in July 2013 have been the cause of the beverage sales decrease.

*   A Wine Intelligence study finds that UK wine drinkers almost equally accept cork and screw cap closures, at 40% each;  Australians prefer screw cap wines (55%) to cork (38%); and in the USA cork is strongly preferred (64%) compared to screw caps (21%).  The choice of closure is dictated by image and practicality, more than ‘scientific’ reasons of helping the wine to breathe, stifling ageing, or preventing spoilage.

*   A new MasterCard Multi-currency Cash Passport has been launched, and is available at ABSA and American Express (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Gareth Cliff left 5FM today, after 10 years at the radio station.  There appears to be no news about his future plans.

*   Heston Blumenthal is moving The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray UK to Melbourne in February next year for six months, whereafter he will call the restaurant Dinner.

*   Moyo has closed down at Spier, following the recent closure of Moyo at the V&A Waterfront, reports the Cape Times today.

*   Excellent news is that the International Court of Justice in The Hague has placed an immediate stop on whaling by (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  A beautiful and informative coffee table book about chocolate has been written by Di Burger, called ‘Chocolate’s African Odyssey‘,  reports WineStyle.

*   Eleven finalists of The Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Sommelier Cup, from a diversity of countries including China and Russia, have been shortlisted.

*   The Spur Corporation, which owns Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis Pizza Pasta, and John Dory’s Fish & Grill, has grown sales by 16% in the past twelves months ending June, its advertising (by Haas) driving feet into their restaurants.

*   Chinese tourists are ‘smitten by the charms of Africa’.  Direct SAA flights between Johannesburg and Beijing as well as visa processing centres in Beijing and Shanghai have pushed China as a tourism source market for our country into fourth position! (more…)

Dried meat lovers stand to win R60000 in prizes in an annual competition, which is offered by Stellenbosch Hills wine estate and leading spice supplier Freddy Hirsch, to find South Africa’s champion Droëwors Maker of the Year 2013.  Entries close on 2 September.

To launch the competition, and to demonstrate just how much planning and hard work goes into making droëwors, a number of food and wine writers (including TV star Jan Braai, whose programme is sponsored by Freddy Hirsch) was invited to the Freddy Hirsch factory last week.  PG Slabbert, Winemaker and Manager at Stellenbosch Hills, led a tasting of the winery’s 1707 Reserve, which is linked to the competition this year. The red wine is made with 56 % Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot, and spent 24 months in new French and American oak barrels. The 2010 vintage red wine is full-bodied, with flavours of red berry, dark chocolate and cigar box, and sells for R82 at the tasting room. The 2012 white wine in this range is a blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, and Viognier.

Diane Nicolau, Group Marketing Manager of Freddy Hirsch, gave the background to the competition, given that red wine and biltong (last year’s challenge) and droëwors go well together. Stellenbosch Hills has a Biltong & Wine Adventure tasting option at its cellar.  Both the wine estate and the spice supplier have blending at the core of their businesses.  Slabbert said: ‘The art of spicing and drying meat nowadays is as specialised as the art of winemaking. Our aim was to create a competition where some of South Africa’s favourite products – wine and biltong – could be combined’. Nicolau said that it made sense to partner with Stellenbosch Hills in this competition, marrying wine and droëwors, two South African favourites.  Getaway magazine has also got involved in the competition, as a media sponsor, and justified its involvement on the basis of droëwors and biltong being ‘quintessential padkos for South Africans’.

Julie Strydom, the Quality Development Manager at Freddy Hirsch, told us that the spices they buy are all ASTA quality approved, yet they still do quality checks when they arrive, for volatile oil content, contaminants, colour, and various other aspects are tested. The spices go through irradiation treatment when they arrive, to ensure that they are of a perfect quality.  The perfect ingredient mix for boerewors and droëwors is ground black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and coriander.   Every day Freddy Hirsch blends 75 tons of spices.  We experienced the company’s sensory facility, and we were put to the test, ten of us getting into a booth each, and tasting the droëwors samples and having to rank them in order of preference, and justify the first ranked choice.   The samples varied widely, two very dry and hard  with a spicy taste (we were told later that they had little fat), and one softer but with less taste.  South Africa does not have a sensory facility for wines.  We were left with the interesting statement that men are unable to taste bitterness.

Elize de Wit of Freddy Hirsch had prepared the ingredients to make the droëwors, and the trolley contained bowls of spices, including crushed chillies, ground pimento, ground and crushed coriander, and ground nutmeg.  Elize has a great sense of humour, and played a trick on us, in having a container with meat pieces she had labelled as donkey, horse, zebra, and beef, the colour of the meats looking very different, and some having a very strong smell.  Later on she admitted that all the meat samples were beef, but the ‘zebra’ was in fact pork!  She talked us through the essence of making droëwors, to prepare us for making our own.  We were allowed to add as many spices as we wanted to, and hinted that a few drops of Stellenbosch Hills red wine would add to the taste.  Each one of us received a cooler box with a 1 kg packet of meat and a small packet of fat. She explained that most droëwors is made with a 80% meat/20% fat ‘blend’.  She emphasised that the use of  ‘body fat’ is ideal, in preference to ‘kidney fat’, which gives one’s palate a furry feel. The meat (she recommended forequarter, and chuck specifically) and the fat is minced with an old-fashioned mincer, twice minced making it even finer.  One has the choice of two casings, a natural sheep’s intestine (which they sell at their shop downstairs), or artificial casings.  One must cut out the veins and glands before mincing the meat. Alternatively one can buy the ready-minced meat, and get a machine which gets the mince into the casing.  This can be quite a tricky and time-consuming job, as one person must turn the handle, and feed the mince into the casing, while another person must hold the machine so that it stands still on the surface.  Anel Grobler of Spit or Swallow had fun making her wors!  The end result looks less attractive than one is used to seeing when the droëwors has been air dried for three days, going dark in colour once dried.

We were served a light lunch in the staff canteen, and each dish (pizza slices, a cheese pie, bacon rolls, and paté sandwiches) had droëwors in it. The company feels less corporate than one would expect, and some of the passages are named after spices (e.g. Coriander Avenue), with attractive collages of spice photographs.

A number of the food and wine writers were so enthusiastic about their newly gained droëwors making skills that they decided that they themselves would enter the Stellenbosch Hills Freddy Hirsch Droëwors Maker of the Year 2013 competition.  Stellenbosch Hills and Freddy Hirsch will alternate the Biltong and Droëwors Maker of the Year competitions annually.

Competition entrants must complete and send in their entry form by 2 September, and send in their sample of 500 gram or more of any meat type by 27 September.  The judging will take place in October, and the panel of judges will include Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris, MasterChef SA finalist Ilse Fourie, Jan Braai, and a representative each of Getaway magazine, Freddy Hirsch, and Stellenbosch Hills. The entrance pack costs R150, and this includes a bottle of Stellenbosch Hills 1707 Reserve, a Freddy Hirsch spice pack, as well as the delivery.

Disclosure:  We received two Freddy Hirsch spice packs and took the droëwors which we made home. We also received a bottle each of Stellenbosch Hills 1707 Reserve white 2012 and red 2010.

Stellenbosch Hills, Polkadraai Road, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 881-3828  www.stellenbosch-hills.co.za Twitter: @STBHills

Freddy Hirsch, corner 11th Avenue and Voortrekker Road, Maitland East, Cape Town. Tel (021) 507-4500 www.freddyhirsch.co.za Twitter: @FreddyHirsch

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

Stellenbosch Hills awarded the first prize in its Biltong competition to Frik Crafford, for the best of 54 biltong entries received in its pairing with Stellenbosch Hills’ Shiraz, winning a cash prize of R15000 as well as product to an equivalent value, at a function held at 96 Winery Road yesterday.

We had attended the launch of the competition six months ago, but missed the visit to the Freddy Hirsch head office, where the art of biltong-making was explained to the bloggers and journalists attending.  The brief was to create a biltong best suited to be eaten with Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz 2010.  The wine brand was the first cellar to combine wine with the stalwart South African snack, Stellenbosch Hills winemaker and Manager PG Slabbert saying “The art of drying meat nowadays is as specialised as the art of winemaking. Our aim was to create a competition where two of South Africa’s most popular products – wine and biltong – could be combined”. It is the fourth year of the competition.

The judges evaluated the colour, the texture, the taste, smell, and the appearance of the biltong, as well as its performance when the Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz was drunk with it.  The judges included super-nice MasterChef SA Finalist Ilse Fourie, who I met for the first time yesterday (she told me that she and Sue-Ann Allen are starting an events company, and that they are working on a cookbook), Sue von Hirschberg and Herman Schultz from Freddy Hirsch, bubbly chef Jenny Morris, and PG and Philip Kriel from Stellenbosch Hills.

Each of the three finalists were soft-spoken, each seemed surprised to have done so well in the Biltong competition, and each was low key about what exactly had made the difference in their winning biltong recipes.  I spoke to Frik first, a policeman in the Child Protection Unit from Worcester, who loves making biltong and was surprised to win, being ‘uit die veld geslaan’ by the news. He has been making biltong for seven years already and buys his silverside or topside from his special butcher, or at Spar.  He ‘marinades’ his beef for 24 hours in a mixture of vinegar and Worcestershire Sauce, layered with the meat, adding coarse coriander and brown sugar to his Freddy Hirsch biltong spices.  Then he hangs his biltong. What makes Frik’s biltong so successful, is that he talks to his biltong, to make it taste better: ‘praat met jou vleis’, he advised!  Second place winner Schalk van Deventer from Somerset West used Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz in his marinade, with vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Adding too much red wine would give the biltong a purple colour, warned Schalk.  He had enjoyed the competition so much that he would start again, at creating the winning recipe. He said that there were so many opportunities to pair different wines with biltong.  Third place winner Jakes van der Merwe is a professional hunter in Midddelburg, so he makes a lot of game biltong, but used beef for the competition entry.  His ‘recipe for success’ was ‘getting one hands dirty’ in making the biltong.

Freddy Hirsch sells its 1kg spice mixes at nine Cash & Carries around the country, selling its products to mass biltong and dry wors producers.  The company makes 40 blends for boerewors spices alone, including the Kameelhout flavour, for example. The company founder Freddy Hirsch is now 87 years old, but is still at his factory every day.  The company also distributes into Africa.  Bloggers and writers were thanked for publicising the competition, leading to the quality entries received.

Our lunch at 96 Winery Road, which celebrated its 16th anniversary earlier this year, had some stalwart dishes too.  The Caramelised Pearl Onions with biltong, cheese straws and Padano shavings starter has been on the menu since 1999 already, Tweeted Karl Lambour this morning.  My main course choice was the well-known Hollandse  Pepper Fillet, which had been rolled in black pepper, and panfried in a brandy and cream sauce, which was flambeed at the table.  The pièce de résistance was the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate flourless cake served with vanilla bean ice cream.

Disclosure: We received biltong and two Stellenbosch Hills wines with our media pack.

Stellenbosch Hills, Tel (021) 881-3828. www.stellenbosch-hills.co.za Twitter:@STBHills

Freddy Hirsch, corner 11th Avenue and Voortrekker Road, Maitland.  Tel (021) 507 4500. www.freddyhirsch.prezence.co.za

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

Stellenbosch Hills is the first wine estate to have introduced the ‘Biltong & Droëwors Adventure’ pairing of its wines with biltong and dry wors in its tasting room, and therefore launched a ‘Biltong Maker of the Year’ challenge to wine and biltong lovers four years ago, an annual event.  This year the competition pairs this South African speciality with the Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz 2007.   The art of wine blending is as specialised as drying and spicing meat, says the winery’s media release.

A group of food and wine writers was invited by Stellenbosch Hills to attend a function to announce the 2012 competition.  At the premises of master spice suppliers, and first-time sponsors of the competition, Freddy Hirsch in Maitland, the group was shown the art of biltong-making.  I had a busy morning, and therefore could not attend this part of the proceedings, but joined the group for the lunch, for which Stellenbosch Hills’ PR consultant Nicolette Waterford had chosen Magica Roma in Pinelands, due to its close proximity to Maitland.

Stellenbosch Hills is on the road that connects the N2 to Stellenbosch, near Spier, and represents 14 farms on the Polkadraai Pad. It was previously a co-operative. We drank a Polkadraai Red (70% Pinotage and 30% Merlot, costs R30) and White (70% Chenin Blanc and 30 % Sauvignon Blanc, at R26) blend with the Antipasto platters of grilled vegetables with grilled baby calamari, chilli and garlic; mixed Italian cold meats; a mixed salad; and a Caprese salad; served with garlic and herb focaccia.  I loved the polka dots on the neck labels, a design quirk to emphasise the brand name, and to create the feel of the lively dance it is named after. The name had been registered by Nicolette’s dad Gabriel Kriel, a farmer on this route, which he donated to the winery.  His Chev ‘bakkie’ is illustrated on the back label.  The Polkadraai range also has Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot/Shiraz 3 litre boxes (R75 – R80), and a Pinot Noir Rosé sparkling wine (R46).

Magica Roma has been operating from its premises for years, and little seems to have changed about its decor and menu. The Italian owners Ezio and Franco came to check personally that all was in order for every course.  Cellarmaster and winemaker PG Slabbert introduced each of the sets of Stellenbosch Hills’ wines before each course, and said that the 1707 Reserve range was named in honour of the year in which Governor Simon van der Stel first granted farms in this area.  The 1707 White Reserve 2009 (R60) is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Semillon, and 10% Viognier, while the Red Reserve 2008 is a 50% Shiraz, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdit blend (R82).  Served as a selection of main courses was a pasta and tomato sauce, the line fish of the day, escallops of veal paillard, and Tagliata Fiorentina.

The dessert, a delicious if small portion of tiramisu, was paired with the unique Stellenbosch Hills Muscat de Hambourg 2010 (related to the Hanepoot), the only winery to make this Jerepigo-style fortified sweet wine (R38).  The grapes are grown on the farm of Nicolette’s brother Philip Kriel.  Stellenbosch Hills also sells a Cultivar Collection, with Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all excellent value at prices ranging from R28 – R47.

Entrants to the Stellenbosch Hills ‘Biltong Maker of the Year’ challenge must pay an entry fee of R150, which offers them a bottle of Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz 2007; a Freddy Hirsch spice pack with a biltong recipe book, a DVD on game deboning and meat processing, and a detailed ‘Hunters Workshop’ booklet for making biltong, in selecting the most suitable meat, how to spice and marinade the meat, how to hang and dry it, and how to store it; and delivery. Entries of a 500 gram sample of the biltong of any meat-cut must be returned to the winery by 31 August.  The entries will be judged on the pairing of the biltong with the Shiraz, and the winners will be announced in September, with prizes to the value of R60000 up for grabs.

Disclosure:  We received a Biltong King biltong maker, a pack of Freddy Hirsch spices, and a bottle of Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz 2007.

Stellenbosch Hills, Tel (021) 881-3828. www.stellenbosch-hills.co.za Twitter:@STBHills

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