Every week OpenWine introduces the top wines of one of its wine brands, at a tutored tasting on Tuesdays. It is a fantastic way to learn more about a wine estate in an hour. Last night Georgie Prout, Marketing and PR Manager of Glen Carlou, introduced four wines with her Regional Sales Manager colleague Elize Barnard. Continue reading →
Blaauwklippen launched the tenth Zinfandel-inspired product in its range last week at a lunch held at Blues restaurant in Camps Bay, the new Diva Zinfandel MCC 2013 being the first made with this grape varietal in our country. Only two others are made with Zinfandel, in California, we were told by Rolf Zeitvogel, Cellar Master and MD of Blaauwklippen. The launch of Blaauwklippen Diva MCC 2013 forms part of the wine estate’s celebration of its 333rd anniversary this year.
Blues has operated in Camps Bay for more than 25 years, and was a
clever choice in ‘pairing’ the two ‘blue’ brand names. It was a perfect summer day, and we were welcomed on the terrace with canapés of chicken liver paté, and mushroom with truffle oil bruschetta on the Continue reading →
On Wednesday evening I attended a special tasting of the wines of Bouchard Finlayson, a Boutique Vineyard according to its marketing material, at the invitation of Janie van der Spuy of FIVE STAR PR. It was held in the special function room upstairs at Mondiall, with Chef Oliver Cattermole and his team preparing excellent tapas dishes which were paired with the four flights of wines we tasted.
I have to admit that I have not previously stopped at Bouchard Finlayson on the R320 Wine Route in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in Hermanus, it being the longest standing wine farm in the area. I was fortunate to sit next to Peter Finlayson, who has been at the farm for 25 years. He studied Oenology (Chemistry was a tough subject, but he is grateful for the grounding it gave him for winemaking) at Stellenbosch University, which he followed up with a year at Geisenheim in Germany. Of his class of nine graduating in 1974, only two have become winemakers. Peter previously worked at Boschendal. Only 22 ha of the 125 ha farm is planted to vine, Peter having bought it in 1989 from a farmer who farmed with ‘mielies, sheep, and baboons‘, Peter said, at a time when the locals said that the valley was only suitable ‘for farming by poor Whites’! The baboons are still there, he told me with a laugh! The remainder of the land is covered with fynbos, and Bouchard Finlayson is committed to conserving and adding fynbos, and they joined the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. Peter was the first winemaker to import Nebbiolo and Sangiovese vines, planting them in 1994. His real achievement has been with Pinot Noir, known as the ‘Pioneer of Pinot Noir’, and now the whole valley is synonymous with the varietal. Galpin Peak Pinot Noir is the flagship Bouchard Finlayson wine. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also do exceptionally well in the valley. Continue reading →
* SA Tourism is taking 60 local product suppliers on a road show through India, being one of the top 5 source countries for our tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro are representing our local tourism industry. In the first eight months of last year more than 76000 tourists arrived in South Africa from India.
* A new Fossil Trail has been launched in the Karoo National Park, a joint venture between SA National Parks and the University of the Witwatersrand. The trail demonstrates how nature formed the geology of the area. Entrance is free.
* Wines of South Africa (WOSA) is kickstarting its ‘From BBQ to Braai’ national tour of ten events in the USA in New Orleans, using a traditional South African barbeque to help Americans understand our country’s culture via food, wine, and music. South African chef Hugo Uys and multi-media artist Xander Ferreira will create a cultural American/South African mix, with a ‘bottle of wine and a boerewores (sic) roll‘! Proceeds will go to a charity.
* Bouchard Finlayson is one of the wine estates participating in the inaugural Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir Celebration, to be held on 31 January and 1 February. Winemaker Peter Finlayson, who brought Pinot Noir to our country, will host a talk and tasting of 30 years 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 →
The function moved to different venues inside the hotel, a welcome glass of Balance Boldly Brut being served with a canapé of samoosa filled with crocodile (luckily we were not told what was inside when it was served!), bacon, and green apple on an Asian spoon, in Sandy B, the downstairs bar.
The tasting was held in the downstairs Bistro, with an introduction of Overhex Wines International by co-owner and MD Gerhard van der Wath. The company was established seven years ago, and he got Swiss winemaker JC Martin, co-owner of Creation and son-in-law of highly respected winemaker Walter Finlayson, on board as winemaker. JC and Gerhard recently bought out the other partners, and JC makes his own Creation wines as well as blending the Balance wines. The company is one of the top 20 exporters of South African wines. Their strategy is to be different, Gerhard said, which shows in their fun label of an elephant balancing on the letter ‘l’! They develop different styles of wines for different markets. All the grapes are bought in for their wine production, a total of 10000 tons. He shared that they have won the largest number of wine tenders in Finland in the past Continue reading →
Yesterday Blaauwklippen celebrated the 30th anniversary of its popular Blending Competition, and it was a day filled with celebratory balloons and nostalgic reflections of the heritage of the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition on the 331 year old wine estate in Stellenbosch. The competition has helped to demystify wine and make it more accessible to wine drinkers.
I have attended the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition (which they refer to as BBC) for a number of years, but had never seen so many guests before, 70 guests seated in the Barouche restaurant, many of whom having links to 1984, the first year of the blending competition. Blaauwklippen MD and Cellarmaster Rolf Zeitvogel reflected on the world 30 years ago, Apple having launched its Macintosh PC, Archbishop Tutu receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Mrs Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister of the UK, and Nelson Mandela seeing his wife Winnie for the first time in 22 years. Through a number of speakers, we heard about the history of the blending competition, having been the idea of Angela Continue reading →
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