Before arriving in Buenos Aires on this my second visit to the city, I had not prepared for my visit from a wine perspective, my main goal in spending a month in Argentina being to learn to dance the Tango. I have planned to visit Mendoza, renowned for its Malbec, have attended a wine tasting and food pairing evening at COWI in Buenos Aires, drunk three wines at the dinner at Buenos Aires’ Tegui, 86th Best Restaurant in the World, one wine at Don Julio, the 34th Best Restaurant in the World and Best in Argentina, and two wines at dinner at 1884 Restaurant in Mendoza. I have summarised my initial knowledge about the wine industry of Argentina, the fifth largest in the world, to which I have added some research information too. Continue reading →
Yesterday we were invited by Ken Forrester Vineyards to attend a tasting of twelve of its Rhône blends, produced in the last twenty years of its journey in making Rhône varietals and blends. One could not help associate owner Ken Forrester with the character of these wines, having interesting names of Renegade, Three Halves, and Gypsy. The tasting was followed by lunch at 96 Winery Road, a restaurant co-owned by Ken with his brother.
We met at the Ken Forrester Tasting Room, on a gorgeous sunny autumn day, dressed with a Gypsy theme, in table cloths, carpets, staff outfits, bunting in the vineyard, a banner at the entrance, and ribbons on our media packs, all reflecting the Gypsy theme. Continue reading →
* Despite its promise of no more loadshedding in December, Eskom’s severe Stage 3 loadshedding kicked in on Friday, and continue this weekend, meaning twice-daily outages or more per day in most areas. Eskom says it is building up power reserves for the week ahead!
* Goldfish fans can win four tickets to their Submerged Sundays concert at Shimmy Beach Club tonight, and will be driven by the Continue reading →
Beer is a declining threat to wine sales, Malbec is big, Millennials and Gen X are key to future wine sales, wine blends have a role to play, and fine wine enjoys support despite the recession. These are some of the findings of American ‘Emerging Trends within Beverage Alcohol’, a presentation by Nielsen, and assembled from retail scans, consumer surveys, and other information sources. The presentation was attended by American Joe Roberts of 1WineDude blog, who summarised the key findings on his blog. These were some of the highlights for him:
* Wine sales are growing
* Sales of wine at $20 or more showed a strong increase in November/December 2013. Wine sales in the $12 – 15 price range are also showing growth.
* The share of beer is declining relative to wine and spirits, and adspend is now below 50% of total alcohol adspend.
* Millennial (36 years and younger) and Gen X (30 – 50 year olds) wine buyers are increasingly buying wine, at 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 →
I heard Richard Kershaw’s name for the first time when he was one of 80 Platter 5 star winners for his inaugural Kershaw Elgin Chardonnay 2012 earlier this month. Yesterday we attended a tasting of his 2012 Chardonnay and Syrah at Rodwell House in St James, at which Richard unpacked the importance of clones in making his two wines.
Richard is a larger-than-life personality, and wine judge and writer Angela Lloyd complimented him for his wines having personality too. He grew up in Sheffield, and did a cooking course in Slough, at an excellent chef’s school. He moved to winemaking, assisting in an American cellar, where he met a South African, who encouraged him to come to South Africa instead of to Chile and Argentina, where he intended to travel to next. He followed the advice of his friend, and fate determined that he met his now wife Mariette in the guest house in which he was staying in Stellenbosch, having arrived on the night on which Luciano Pavarotti gave his only South African concert, which they could hear from the guest house, he explained. He was shown around different cellars, but was most impressed with Mulderbosch, Laibach, and Vergelegen. He followed his dream to go to Chile to help make wine there, but his heart drew him back to Stellenbosch and to Mariette. He announced himself at Mulderbosch, boldly asking for a job, and his wish was granted. He does not have a formal winemaking qualification, but became a Master of Wine (MW) two years ago, after a six year study period, the first South African winemaker to have Continue reading →
* Southern African Tourism Update has announced that BA is introducing two A380 aircraft on its London – Johannesburg route from February (three times a week), and six times a week from March, with discounts of about 40%.
* Golf tourism will be an important part of the sports tourism strategy that is currently in development by the Department of Tourism, said its Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa a recent seminar exploring the potential of the South African golf tourism market. South Africa has a great golf product offering, but lack of awareness and access are the major obstacles to growing the market. Interesting golf tourism statistics were shared at the seminar:
• ‘There are 54 million golfers worldwide
• 25% of these say they will go on a golf holiday in the next 12 months
• Golfers on average spend 120% more per day than the general average
• Golf tourism bounces back from economic shocks quicker than any other tourism market’ Continue reading →
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
After many years of criticism about their quality of wines and terroir, the Franschhoek Vignerons have vindicated themselves, with Chamonix and Boekenhoutskloof named Red Wine of the Year (Cape Chamonix Reserve Pinot Noir 2010) and Winery of the Year, respectively, in the Platter’s South African Wines 2012, at The Vineyard Hotel last night. In addition, Boekenhoutskloof’s The Wolftrap White 2010 was named Superquaffer of the Year. Badsberg Badslese 2009 was named the White Wine of the Year. Nine of the 45 five-star wines are from Franschhoek this year, the highest number ever.
The Platter’s Guide, with a ‘Karoo sunshine yellow‘ cover, as described by publisher Andrew McDowall, has 620 pages, with 56 more wineries and 1000 more wines evaluated than the 2011 edition. More than 7000 wines were tasted by 15 judges, which included David Biggs, Christiaan Eedes, Michael Fridjhon, Tim James, Angela Lloyd (her 26th year of judging), Fiona McDonald, Jörg Pfützner, Christine Rudman, and Cathy van Zyl.
In its motivation for choosing Boekenhoutskloof as the Winery of the Year, Platter’s Guide wrote as follows: “For their remarkable 14 five star ratings stretching back to our 2000 edition – which featured the Syrah 1997, a stylistic window opener for the local industry and one of the most important wines of the modern South African era – and for their understated but highly influential role in placing South Africa in the international fine-fine (sic) map, we name Boekenhoutskloof our 2012 Winery of the Year. Whilst some top achievers shy away from the entry level, Boekenhoutskloof co-founder and cellarmaster Marc Kent and his partners almost from the outset embraced the popular palate, first with their Porcupine Ridge label and latterly with another exceptionally drinkable and well-priced range, The Wolftrap. The White version of this budget offering is this edition’s Superquaffer of the Year – yet another reason for us to honour and congratulate this consistently exceptional Franschhoek team”. Both Boekenhoutskloof’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah 2009 were awarded five stars in the latest Platter’s.
Badsberg is based in Rawsonville and its Badslese 2009, presented in a beautiful bottle, is described by Platter’s as ‘…outstanding elegantly presented Natural Sweet dessert from chenin. 09 great concentration & spread of flavour, from floral to spicy, huge sweetness concludes on a tangy savoury/leafy note, which is uncloying & decidely moreish. With 10% hanepoot, unwooded’. The Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 was described as follows: “…shows savoury cedar whiffs, with bright cherry & strawberry aromas powering through tealeaf cigarbox spice. Plush tannins, sweet berry notes. Integrated 80% new French oak, natural ferment. Even more vibrant & detailed than finely managed ’09”. Gottfried Mocke is the winemaker and cellarmaster at Chamonix in Franschhoek.
Forty-five wines were selected as 5 star wines, in a blind tasting of all 5-star candidates, a methodology following continued criticism of Platter’s sighted wine evaluation from wine writers such as Neil Pendock. The full list of 2012 5-star wines, with three each for Boekenhoutskloof, Nederburg, and Mullineux Family, is as follows:
• Warwick 2008
• Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2010
• De Toren Fusion V 2009
• Glenelly Lady May 2009
• La Motte Pierneef Shiraz-Viognier 2009
• Meerlust Rubicon 2007
• Miles Mossop Max 2008
• Sadie Family Columella 2009
• KWV Mentors 2010
• Badsberg Badslese 2009
Dessert Wine Unfortified
• Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest 2008
• Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2010
• Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2010
• Nederburg Edelkeur 2010
• Nederburg Eminence 2010
• Boplaas Family Cape Vintage Reserve 2009
• De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2009
The 95 wines that did not make the 5-star rating after the blind-tasting were designated ‘Highly Recommended’, and include Shannon Mount Bullet 2009, Hartenberg Gravel Hill 2007, Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2010, Sadie Family Palladius 2010, Steenberg Magna Carta 2010, and Ken Forrester ‘T’ Noble Late Harvest 2009.
The Platter’s launches, of which I have only attended the last two, could do with more ‘5-star quality’, both the Vineyard Hotel and Capelands not being ideal venues, both in respect of acoustics and snacks! It was noticeable how many of the 2012 top 5-star winemakers, including Eben Sadie (Sadie Family Wines), Hein Koegelenberg (La Motte), and Bartho Eksteen (Hermanuspietersfontein) did not attend the function last night.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Earlier this week I attended a winetasting of Sequillo wines, led by well-known and highly respected maverick Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie, at French Toast. It was the most enjoyable wine function I have ever attended, largely due to the refreshing down-to-earth three-hour tasting done by Sadie, and excellent value at R100.
The name of the winemaker leading the tasting was clearly a big drawcard, with 45 winelovers having booked. I was introduced to Eben by Karen Visser, co-owner of French Toast, and Eben struck me as a really nice and friendly person, without any airs and graces, not what I expected at all, for a winemaker who has achieved a number of career highs, including having his winery selected as Winery of the Year, and his Sadie Family Wines Palladius selected as South Africa’s top white wine in the 2010 Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
It took some time for the tasting to get going, due to some late-comers, but we were served a Mystery wine, which we were asked to identify. It was a Riesling, only 60 bottles made (unwooded) by Eben from grapes coming from Elgin, and not one of the attendees could identify it. Throughout the evening, Sadie told us stories, and for him the most important role that his wines play is that they too tell stories. He loves to play with wine, to experiment, and his greatest goal is to get locals to enjoy wine, without any fancy references to the aroma wheel (which should be burnt, he says), as it puts people off wine-tasting. He said ‘my guava is not your guava’, explaining his controversial winetasting views. Eben came across as the most down-to-earth, hands-on winemaker. Awards generally do not mean much to him, and he would not answer my question as to how he views the Platter’s guide. In the introduction, French Toast co-owner John Harrison said that Eben is recognised as a ‘renegade’, who has broken all the rules of conventional winemaking. This ‘enfant terrible’ is South Africa’s first certified celebrity winemaker’, Wikipedia writes about him.
Eben’s big passion is surfing, he studied at Elsenburg, and he started his winemaking career at Romansrivier Winery in Wolseley, moving to Charles Back and making his Spice Route wines for him. Sadie Family Wines is a joint venture between two Sadie brothers Eben and Niko, and their older sister Delana, starting with R9000 in 1999. They grew up on a vegetable and pig farm on the West Coast, and it was grape farming, and winemaking with it, that attracted Eben to this sector of agriculture, telling me that winemaking ‘can carry a century’. They have three wine operations, making Sadie Family Wines (a wine for weekends and special occasions) and Sequillo (a wine for weekday drinking) in the Swartland, and make wine in Priorat in Spain (Terroir Al Limit label) too. Studying winemaking in Germany, Austria, Italy, the USA, and Burgundy, Eben liked the lifestyle of the Spanish the most, choosing this country, but clearly declaring his love for the Cape. Taking a swipe at ‘molecular gastronomy’, Eben said he believes that winemaking has been ‘intellectualised’, in that wine drinkers are encouraged to sniff and spit the wine. He said one should not bother with drinking one glass of wine only, as it was as good as drinking a glass of water! Wine drinking must be done in volume, so that one can enjoy it, he said.
All the Sadie wines are blends, and they do not make any single varietal wines to sell. Eben said that winemakers could make wines to the ‘100 point formula’, to tick all the judges’ boxes, but this would be an ‘intellectual wine’, made without regard for soil and climate. It would have ‘blueberries, cigarbox, cream, and fennel on the nose, would be opaque, and have tannin’. He mentioned this dig at the ‘aroma wheel’ a number of times during the evening. Rather, wines should be an ‘ambassador’ of the place and the climate, and that is why Eben does not irrigate his grapes anymore, to be a true representation of the climate of that vintage. To counter climate, Eben will reduce his crop by half, depending on whether there is late rain or not. His wines have no added yeast, and only about a third of the allowed quantity of sulphur is added two days before bottling. Very old barrels are used, adding little or no wood to the taste. Eben said it was hard to move from conventional farming to ‘natural farming’. He told us how they have built up the resistance of their grapes in Spain, and plough with mules there. Mules were not suitable for the Swartland, he found, so they use horses. We laughed when Eben said that one can read how to get onto the moon, but the internet does not guide him as to how to use horses to plough his land!
Eben became very fiery about Law 70 of 1970, which does not allow the sub-division of agricultural land. This means that Eben leases 53 blocks of land in different areas, which he tends to with his staff, driving from one piece of land to another.
Sequillo is a second label, and the name comes from the Latin, meaning ‘dry arid place of great purity’. To introduce the Sequillo Red and White blends to us, Eben ‘deconstructed’ the wines for us, and we drank most of the individual varietals that made up each of these two blends. The Sequillo White blend 2010 consisted of:
* Grenache Blanc: Eben said this wine is like someone you know who is in jail, being someone you love but you cannot mention it. This variety came from the south of France. It is used in the blend to ‘build volume of wine’.
* Palomino: the origin of this grape is Jerez, from which sherry is made in Spain. It has acidity, firmness, coming from a 65 year old block in Piketberg. It has minerality, and white peach and other stone fruit, with a lingering after-taste. There is some saltiness.
* Verdelho: This wine is made from grapes originating from Portugal, planted in its northern areas. Eben said that his wine comes from 8 year old vines, the youngest vines he has. He tested this variety’s suitability in different soil types, and it does well across a variety of these. It does not have the prettiest bunch nor leaf, not having been to ‘finishing school’, he says in Sadie-speak, but is a great grape that is conducive to good natural farming. Their grapes are planted in Wellington, Perdeberg, and Stellenbosch. It has spiciness, potpourri, great nose and taste, easy to grow but hard to make in the cellar. Presenting it to Portuguese winemakers, they were very complimentary about his wine, Eben said.
* Viognier: This variety comes from Croatia originally. Eben said that it was grown too ripe originally in South Africa, giving too much alcohol.
* Grenache Noir: This is the most planted grape in the world, about tenfold of the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a Mediterranean grape, which can go to 17% alcohol, but Eben keeps his at 13.5 % by picking the grapes earlier.
* Semillon and Roussanne are also part of this blend, but we did not taste them.
The Sequillo label design is done in-house, and is refreshingly different, changing every year. The ‘Dorper skaap’ on the Sequillo White symbolises the hardiness of this sheep variety, like his wine, and is politically correct in being white and black, he laughed! The Sequillo Red has a locust on it. The Sadie wines are sold in 35 countries. When asked how they market internationally, Eben said that he answers his e-mails! They do not have a website for the Sadie Family Wines, and have only just created a website for Sequillo. They will never get into Social Media, Eben said, and he probably will throw away his cellphone when the contract expires, he said. He has no TV nor radio, and does not follow rugby. He makes all his own wine, and does not buy any of it in. While Eben had to keep reminding himself to ‘focus’ on the tasting, to great laughter, he explained that he is ‘semi-German’, and has ‘structure and order’, answers his e-mails, and is organised about his wine-making.
Asked which wine estates and their winemakers he admires, Eben mentioned Mullineux, Hamilton Russell, Newton Johnson, Adi Badenhorst, Neil Ellis, Boekenhoutskloof, Paul Benade, and Chamonix, and described them as mavericks too. He told us that he used to make full-bodied heavy wines, but now he makes lighter ‘roadblock’ wines, that will get one through a traffic control! He said that the wine industry has come a long way, and that the country’s political transformation in 1994 caught the industry by surprise, not being ready to compete on an international platform initially. Eben deplored that rarer and interesting wine varieties do not sell locally. He is focused purely on making wine, and is not there to set up pretty gardens with fountains on his wine estate!
The Sequillo Red blend 2009 is made from the following varietals:
* Syrah is Eben’s favourite varietal, and he told us that its origin is said to be Persia or Greece. The Australians could not pronounce its Old World ‘Syrah’ name, and called it ‘Shiraz‘. While other winemakers pick their Syrah grapes in March, Eben picks his in January, to prevent it being ‘jammy’, sweet and pruny, because of its thin skin, and the intensity of our sun, giving him 13,8% alcohol compared to 16 % for others picked later. He says it is a lunchtime wine, is well suited to the Cape, although it may be too hot, needing altitude to do well. He would not reveal where the special Syrah is grown, but hinted that the block is 60 km from the city, just above that of a very well-known wine brand. Platter’s Guide says 65% of the blend is Shiraz.
* Mouvèdre is the most difficult wine to make, Eben said. It is great to farm, a beautiful grape and a vertical grower, but difficult to make in the cellar. It has ‘nervous aromas’, ‘energy and electricity’, ‘is alive’ and great to use in blends, as it raises the fruit in these. This grape variety makes the world’s greatest Rosé in Bandol in France, Eben said. He added that Rosés are cool wines now, not a ‘chick wine’ any more!
* Cinsault is like one’s brother that is in jail and about whom cannot talk (Eben likes to use the analogy of wines and jailbirds!), being one of the greatest varietals but that has ‘suffered from human ambition’, he said, extending the analogy to say that it has been ‘framed for a murder he did not commit’, referring to its poor appeal as a variety. He says it is one of the most drinkable red wines in the world, it is seductive, and a wine he thinks about every day.
* Grenache and Carignan are two further varietals used, but not offered for the tasting.
As if we had not had enough to taste, Eben opened a 5 litre bottle of his newly 5-star rated 2012 Platter’s (for its 2009 vintage) Columella 2007, a Rhone blend of 80 % Shiraz and 20% Mouvèdre, according to Platter’s.
Eben Sadie and his wine brands will continue to make waves, given his passion and charisma, his dedicated focus on what he loves doing best, in making wines, and his fresh anti-bureaucracy and anti-convention views. Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof said of Sadie that he makes wines as an ‘artisan’, and not as a chemist or a technician!
Sequillo Cellars, Malmesbury. Tel (022) 482-3138. www.sequillo.com
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com, Twitter: @WhaleCottage