Tag Archives: wine farms

Patrón Perfectionists 2019 SA cocktail competition finals has highest number of female finalists, but won by Cause & Effect mixologist David van Zyl!

On Thursday evening I attended the 2019 Finals of the Patrón Perfectionists tequila cocktail competition at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar in the Waterfront, after a first part of the event had been held at Foliage in Franschhoek earlier in the day. Despite the largest number of female finalists over the past three years of the South African participation in the competition, the 2019 SA finals was won by David van Zyl, mixologist at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen! Continue reading →

Does CNN’s ‘7 stunning Cape Town vineyards’ list have any credibility when they are not in Cape Town?!

haute-cabriere-restaurant-views-2-exlarge-169In my book CNN is a credible news agency, but this image has been severely dented by an article entitled ‘7 stunning Cape Town vineyards with food as good as the wine’, written last week by one Griffin Shea. Not one of the seven wine estates featured are in Cape Town!

The article introduction is short and sweet: ‘It’s no secret that in Cape Town, good wine abounds. But wine farms also host some of South Africa’s best restaurants, which pride themselves on serving up meals from ingredients often grown just steps away from the tables. These restaurants have won enough awards to fill walls, but like so many of South Africa’s best places to eat, they’re generally relaxed, unpretentious affairs where the prices won’t break the bank. Many of the menus are deceptively simple, heavy on local ingredients and farm fare, but prepared with passion and care’.

It does not state on which basis the wine estates were selected, but obviously they had to have a ‘great‘ restaurant, Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 11/12 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Responsibility for SAA will be taken over by Nhlanhla Nene, Minister of Finance and National Treasury, from Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, once it has been documented as a proclamation in the Government Gazette!

*   British wine writer Tim Atkin writes that our country’s white blends are the best, the release of the Chenin Blanc-dominant Cartology Alheit 2011 being the motivation for his praise, being a new benchmark for South African whites.  Our country has ‘some of the most exciting and best value wines in the New World‘, he wrote.

*    A new free App Sideways (likely to have been named after the famous movie set in Napa Valley) has been launched, designed by iKineo, as a guide to the Winelands. ‘Each wine farm’s profile page in Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 7/8 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Franschhoek Wine Valley has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Barossa Valley, having similar wine tourism goals and characteristics.  Both wine regions have excellent wines, top restaurants, and good accommodation.  Tourism and wine industry expertise will be shared between the regions, and programs planned include exchanges for chefs, winemakers, sommeliers, and cellar assistants.  Experience of festivals, customer service benchmarking, sustainable wine-making, and wine tourism practices will be shared. (received via media release from Smart Communications & Events)

*   A hard-hitting video from USA asks ‘How much has really changed on South Africa’s wine farms?‘ since the protests in De Doorns two years ago, critical not only of some farm owners but also of the government.

*   The FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next week, will generate $4 billion for the soccer federation, 66% up from the revenue it earned from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

*   Noble Hill wine estate on the outskirts of Franschhoek has brought the Japanese Hitachino Nest beer range to our country, Continue reading →

Batonage bloggers bubble at Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club!

The July Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at What’s On Eatery on Wednesday, was a bubbly affair, with Batonage bloggers Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee sharing their passion for the good things in life, being eating out and drinking wine, and then blogging about it. Siris Vintners kept things bubbly too, by taking the bloggers through a tasting of five Moreson sparkling wines.  It was the first Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting to be sold-out the day before the event.

Batonage is made up of two very passionate foodies and wine lovers, says its Blog introduction:  “Together we decided to create a record of our adventures in food and wine, something we indulge in almost daily.  We are avid wine hunters, always on the lookout for something new and unique to talk, write and spread the word about.  When it comes to food we consider ourselves adventurous eaters, scavenging the latest food and wine pairing at the best eateries, but equally happy to indulge in uncomplicated fare at our local bistro.  The focus will be on visiting wine farms and restaurants, both old and new, and telling you dear reader, of our experiences there.   Every attempt will be made to make the information relevant and we might even make you smile once in a while”.

What makes Hennie and Maggie interesting and unique is that their day job is far removed from their food and wine blogging, and that they write about both wine and food on the same Blog.  Hennie developed a love for wine whilst studying at Stellenbosch University, moving from financial management to wine sales, and ultimately, as sommelier at Singita, a leader in the accommodation industry. To become a sommelier, one must drink a lot of wine, he said, and he completed courses at the Cape Wine Academy.  While he learnt a lot about excellence in food, wine and service, the hospitality hours were not for him, so he has returned to the financial industry.  Maggie studied Accounting at the University of Stellenbosch, worked as a waitress at the Spur in Stellenbosch and did her articles, before setting up her own practice.  Her past experience as a waitress and her accountant’s perspective gives her a unique evaluation of restaurants and wineries. She advised bloggers to be honest ‘nicely’, and to write what they would be prepared to tell someone to their face.  Photographs and writing should not be ‘ho hum’, and one must spellcheck. She advised newer bloggers to attend functions, to eat out and drink a cross-spectrum of wine, and to discover new things.  Hennie advocated the drinking of sparkling wine on more than just special occasions, and even Champagne, when the occasion calls for it. 

Terence van der Walt is a wine merchant at Siris Vintners, a company established by Nigel Cattermole, and Willeen and Philip Burdell.   Terence took the bloggers through the Môreson MCC tasting.  Môreson was established in 1986, and first wines were bottled in 1994.   Clayton Reabow was appointed the winemaker in 2007, after studying at Stellenbosch University, and working at Grande Provence, Distell, Laroche L’Avenir, Vrede & Lust, Chateau de Fleur du Bouard, and in Zell.  We started with Miss Molly 100 % Chardonnay MCC Non Vintage, named after the Weimeraner at Môreson, and captures her personality and passion for life.  The wine label has braille on it, saying “I’m delicious”, and a portion of the sales is donated to the Guide Dog Association.    Solitaire MCC Non Vintage is a new release, with 24 month maturation.  Its palate is a fine mousse with well-balanced acidity complimented by biscuit and marzipan aromas.  Gala MCC Non Vintage has a balanced fruit-forward palate with good structured acidity, made from Pinotage (70%) and Chenin Blanc (30%) grapes, has a sweeter taste, and has matured for 24 months.  The One is Môreson’s first Vintage (2007) MCC made from Pinot Noir (60%) and Chardonnay (40%),  matured for 36 months in bottle, and described as ‘extra brut’.  It can only be bought from the farm, at R160 a bottle.  Pink MCC Non Vintage has strawberries and cream aroma and palate, is made 100% from Pinotage, and was matured for 12 months.

To demonstrate the principles of food and wine pairing, Maggie and Hennie had asked Trevor Jordaan of What’s On Eatery to prepare snacks that would pair well, and some that did not pair at all.   Hennie told us that food and wine pairing is not an exact science, but one’s evaluation of it is a subjective opinion.  It helps to know the acidity of the wine, and that of food, when deciding on a good pairing match.  He explained that sparkling wine is segmented into Brut (very dry), Sec (dry), Demi-sec (semi-sweet) and Doux (sweet).  The acidity in a sparkling wine prevents it from having too sweet a taste, Hennie said.  Some would advocate pairing an acidic dish with a bitter wine, or vice versa, but Hennie disagreed with this approach.   Neither of the two should dominate, and we smiled when Hennie said that food is masculine and wine is feminine. The Tempura prawns on avocado and papaya salsa, and smoked salmon and cream cheese wrap paired well with the Môreson MCC Miss Molly, good value in only costing around R25 a glass in restaurants.  The truffle infused cream on parmesan tuille was not regarded as a good pairing, the parmesan being too dominant.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.  Each of the two bloggers talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

   *   17 August:  Nikki Dumas of Swirl Blog, and Matt Allison of I’m no Jamie Oliver Blog, Den Anker venue, Jordan wines

   *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery and Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker.  Snacks are served by the restaurant. 

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com.  Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Food and Wine Bloggers Club on Facebook 

Batonage Blog pairs food and wine at Food & Wine Bloggers Club!

The July Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will ‘pair’ Maggie Mostert and Hennie Coetzee, both writing Batonage blog about wines and foods that they have experienced, and will be held at What’s On Eatery on Watson Street on Wednesday 20 July, from 6 – 8 pm.

Batonage is made up of two very passionate foodies and wine lovers, says its Blog introduction:  “Together we decided to create a record of our adventures in food and wine, something we indulge in almost daily.  We are avid wine hunters, always on the lookout for something new and unique to talk, write and spread the word about.  When it comes to food we consider ourselves adventurous eaters, scavenging the latest food and wine pairing at the best eateries, but equally happy to indulge in uncomplicated fare at our local bistro.  The focus will be on visiting wine farms and restaurants, both old and new, and telling you dear reader, of our experiences there.   Every attempt will be made to make the information relevant and we might even make you smile once in a while”.

What makes Hennie and Maggie interesting and unique is that their day job is far removed from their food and wine blogging, and that they write about both wine and food on the same Blog.  Hennie comes from the Free State, and developed a love for wine whilst studying at Stellenbosch University, moving from financial management to wine salesperson, and ultimately, as sommelier at Singita, a leader in the accommodation industry. While he learnt a lot about excellence in food, wine and service, the hospitality hours were not for him, so he has returned to the financial industry.  Maggie comes from Pretoria, and studied Accounting at the University of Stellenbosch, worked as a waitress in Stellenbosch and did her articles, before setting up her own practice.  Her past experience as a waitress and her accountant’s perspective gives her a unique evaluation of her eating and drinking experiences.

Batonage is a wine term, and is the wine making operation of mixing up the lees (dead yeast cells from fermentation) in the barrel with the wine to release the mannoproteins, improving the flavour, mouthfeel, and stability of the wine.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

   *   17 August:  Nikki Dumas of Swirl Blog, and Matt Allison of I’m no Jamie Oliver Blog, Den Anker venue, Jordan wines

   *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro 1682, and wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery and Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Terence from Siris Vintners will lead bloggers through a sparkling wine tasting.  Snacks will be served by What’s On Eatery 

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 20 July, 6 – 8 pm:  What’s On Eatery, 6 Watson Street, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com.  The cost of attendance is R100.

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

New Cape Town liquor trading by-law put on ice!

The City of Cape Town has lost face with its planned introduction of the new Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law today, in that it has had to backtrack twice in the past few days, demonstrating the lack of professionalism of the City’s Liquor Policy Task Team, which worked on the by-law for the past two years, and thereby one questions if they can be taken seriously going forward.

The long-awaited City of Cape Town Liquor by-law was meant to become effective today, and many outlets selling alcohol are unhappy about what is perceived to be draconian legislation to curb liquor sales, in the interest of reducing accidents due to drunk driving, a problem particularly prevalent in the Western Cape – however the City’s by-law ads do not mention this reason for the city’s new Liquor by-law! 

A UCT student in Social Development, Policy and Management, Rowan Dunne, discovered earlier this week that the by-law has not been fully gazetted, in that three amendments made since it was gazetted in September 2010 have not yet been gazetted, and will only be so on 14 January, making any attempt by the City to apply the liquor regulations illegal until then, reports the Cape Times.

In addition, the new by-law would have meant that all pubs, hotels and restaurants selling alcohol would have had to close their sales at 2h00 this morning, the new time limit meant to have been introduced by the by-law.  But given that it has not been gazetted, outlets could stay open as late as they liked on this longest party night of the year.

From today, the by-law was meant to have prohibited the selling or drinking of alcohol in hospitality establishments before 11h00, and after 23h00 in residential areas, and after 2h00 in CBD areas.   The City already had to amend the 11h00 morning deadline, to accommodate champagne breakfasts.   Sparkling wine may be used for such breakfasts, on condition that it is served with food.

Ironically, the number of deaths due to accidents has fallen dramatically this festive season, compared to the previous two years, due to stricter roadside controls by the traffic authorities, and strict new laws regarding fines/imprisonment due to excessive speeding, and driving drunk.   In addition, the Cape Argus has commenced a “Name and Shame” campaign, publishing on its first page names of persons who have been convicted of drunk driving.

Strangely too Mayor Dan Plato said in an interview on Kfm earlier this week that the City did not have enough law enforcement officers, and that these would initially be visiting establishments to educate them about the new by-law.   The City has also advertised the by-law regulations in the local Cape Times and Cape Argus newspapers.

The times at which alcohol may be served and drunk are as follows:

Residential areas:  B&B’s, guest houses, backpackers, pubs, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, places of entertainment, sports clubs –  11h00 – 23h00  (Hotels until 2h00)

“Local or neighbourhood business centres”:   B&B’s, guest houses, hotels, backpackers, pubs, bars, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, sports clubs, places of entertainment – 11h00 – 23h00    (Sports clubs until midnight, rezoned Hotels until 2h00.  Liquor stores and specialised wine shops may sell alcohol from 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays)

“General Business centres” : B&B’s, guest houses, hotels, backpackers, pubs, bars, taverns and restaurants – 11h00 – 2h00 (Supermarkets, specialised wine shops and liquor stores may sell alcohol from 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays) 

Industrial areas: Pubs, bars, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, places of entertainment, sports clubs – 11h00 – 2h00 (Liquor stores and specialised wine stores 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays)

Agricultural areas (i.e. wine farms): Guest accommodation, pubs, bars, restaurants, ‘tourist facilities’ and sport clubs – 11h00 – 2h00.  Wineries may sell and serve wine from 11h00 – 24h00 every day of the week, and may sell it for off-consumption from 9h00 – 18h00 every day of the week.

Small Holdings:  Guest accommodation, pubs, bars, restaurants, ‘tourist facilities’, sports clubs – 11h00 – 24h00 (Wineries as for agricultural areas above).

On Tuesday this week, Councillor Taki Amira had announced that the City was going ahead with the introduction of the by-law, and that it applies from today.  Outlets with liquor licences were threatened that they could lose their licences.  On Thursday, he did an about-turn, after a meeting with city club and bar owners, as well as with Dunne.   “The City would like to allay fears of club and restaurant owners with regards to the enforcement of the City’s new Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law.   The by-law will be phased in over the next few months and will not be stringently endorsed until all role players have been extensively informed about the new legislation.”  Club owners are uncertain of their zoning, and which time limit therefore applies to them in respect of the closing time.  

The City’s by-law is likely to become a benchmark for other municipalities in the Western Cape.   The City’s by-law advertisement already warns that “the new Western Cape Liquor Act takes away the automatic right of renewal for an annual licence”.   The ‘policing’ of the by-law by the public is encouraged in the City’s by-law advertisement, and could lead to misuse for ‘political’ or ‘points-scoring’ purposes, and lead to bad neighbourliness. 

The City’s Clubs, Bars and Restaurant Association is planning legal action, and plans to approach the Cape High Court on Monday, to fight the by-law.

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

Cape Town puts sparkle back into liquor trading

Excellent news for Cape Town hoteliers is that the City of Cape Town has admitted that it has made an error in its proposed restrictive liquor trading hours, and has done an about-turn in extending trading until 2h00, even if accommodation establishments are in residential areas, reports the Cape Times today.  Previously the draft called for liquor sales to close at 23h00, which would have had a devastating effect on the bottom line of hotels in particular, and on the employment of staff and tourism in general.

The draft Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill allows each municipality in the Western Cape to define liquor trading hours for hotels, restaurants and pubs.  If they do not define them within the confines of the proposed liquor law, the Bill sets default liquor trading hours which they must abide by.   The Western Cape Bill is a “test case”, in that other provinces are set to model their own liquor legislation on that of the Western Cape, once it has gone to the provincial legislature.

The proposed draft Bill had set liquor trading hours in accommodation establishments, hotels and pubs at 11h00 – 23h00, only allowing such businesses operating in built up business areas to trade until 2h00.  The City of Cape Town’s councillor Taki Amira acknowledged at a Western Cape Provincial Liquor Conference over the weekend that ‘the city had made a mistake in its trading hours provision when it drew up the Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill, which will be passed before the end of the year’.   The Vineyard Hotel and Mount Nelson Hotel operate within residential areas, and would have had to be rezoned to be able to sell alcoholic beverages until 2h00, a process that could take months.  The City admitted that it did not know that not all hotels in residential areas were not rezoned.

Amira lambasted FEDHASA Cape, the hotel association, for not communicating with the City earlier in the process, as the draft legislation had been published more than two years ago.  Whilst FEDHASA calls itself a lobbying body in the interest of its members, it seems to have become powerless in the past few years, rather wishing to stay non-controversial and in its publics’ good books than criticise negative developments on behalf of its members (signing up with MATCH and then losing the bulk of the bookings is an excellent example).   However, the Cape Times quotes FEDHASA has having described the proposed Bill as ‘draconian’ and ‘verkrampte’, heavy words indeed.   FEDHASA Cape only met with Amira a week ago!

Roy Davies, GM of the Vineyard Hotel, is delighted about the City’s about-turn on the trading hours.  He said that a special plea had also been made about the serving of champagne and sparkling wine with breakfast before 11h00, and it would appear that such an amendment would be made. 

Wine farms were also affected by the proposed draft, in that they were to close their liquor sales at 18h00, which would have affected weddings held at such estates as well as restaurants operating on wine farms, with sales banned completely on Sundays.   It would now appear that Sunday trading will be allowed, and that restaurants and function venues on wine farms can serve drinks until midnight.  

The Western Cape province is that with the highest alcohol-related problems, and sought to introduce the Bill to prevent the rise of alcoholism, and to reduce its impact on alcohol-related accidents.

POSTSCRIPT 26/10: Councillor Amira called this morning, and clarified that guest houses and other non-hotel accommodation establishments may serve alcoholic beverages until 23h00.  A special allowance for sparkling wine to be served, in conjunction with a meal, between 8h00 – 11h00, has also been made.

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

Eco Wine Tours showcases excellent work of ‘green’ wine industry

A new guided tour of the wine farms, focusing on those wine estates that are ‘green’, organic, support biodiversity and generally care for nature, has been launched.  Eco Wine Tours is a joint venture between Charles Lourens of BottlePillowPlate and Pieter Geldenhuys of PG TOPS, and drives to the Winelands every Wednesday.   The tour raised the question amongst its participants as to how each one of us can make a difference too, and recycling is the first obvious step.

The tour highlighted how much work is being done by individual wine estates to give something back to nature, and how each of them do something (often more than one action) to ensure that their farming practices do not add to the carbon overload the world already faces.   It is clear that this good work is being done out of a genuine interest in and love for the environment, rather than for marketing purposes.  It also indicated what diversity there is in being a ‘green’ wine estate, with the wide range of different actions wine estates undertake to be environmentally friendly, each following their own way.  The highlights of our tour, on a grey wintry day yesterday, were the following:

Avondale  is outside Paarl, and attracted attention with its ads featuring naked persons in the vineyards, as well as their famous ducks.  Due to a fire in 1999, the wine farming practices of the estate were turned on their head, and the new cellar that was built, the grape farming as well as all aspects of production were changed to meet an environmentally friendly and non-mass production philosophy.  The welcome we received from Jonathan, the warm crackling fireplace in the tasting room, and the enthusiasm shown to our group was impressive.   Avondale focuses on the natural balance of the environment, and believes in feeding the soil, and not the vines.  No herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are used at all, and its workforce of more than 100 ducks is employed to eat snails and other pests, to maintain the ecological balance.  They apply natural farming methods, and focus on premium quality wine production, of which organic wine is an end-result, and not the other way round. 

They have branded their work as “BioLogic”, reflecting that they use organic and biodynamic farming methods and with that want to restore the land to what it would have been centuries ago, and want to keep in balance what nature has given the wine estate.  We drank their wonderful spring water, tasting as fresh as water can.  Using gravity, Avondale irrigates its vines from its six natural dams.   Grey water is re-used, not by adding chemicals but by adding yeast.  A minimum 40mm of sulphur is added to the wine just before bottling.   Weeds are used positively, to control the soil.  They indicate what is needed to improve the quality of the soil.  Wasps are hooked up in the vineyards, where they hatch, and they take care of the mieliebugs.   Special owl houses have been made from wine barrels to house the collection of owls, who take care of rodents and snakes on the estate.  Increasingly, Avondale  is seeing small buck and lynx coming back to the estate.  Gravity is used in the cellar to reduce the usage of electricity as much as possible.  A natural riverbed runs alongside the cellar, and its clay bottom ensures that the cellar is naturally cold without any airconditioning, even on 45 C days in Paarl.  Avondale only uses pumps for its bottling.   Salt water is brought in, and the salt extracted from it, to add to the soil, salt containing 90 nutrients.  Cover-crops, such as lupins, are planted to create an eco-system, adding nitrogen to the soil.  On good weather days guests are driven into the vineyard, and one tastes the wine in the vineyard block from which it is made.

The Avondale MCC Brut is the only organic sparking wine in South Africa.   Other wines in the Avondale range are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc (organic), The Weir Chardonnay, Rosé (organic), Jonty’s Ducks (organic), Julia, Camissa Syrah, The Owl House Cabernet Sauvignon, Graham, Muscat Blanc, Les Pleurs Chenin Blanc and Les Pleurs Merlot.  Prices start at R58 for the Rosé and Chenin Blanc, up to over R 200 for the Les Pleurs range.  A new advertising campaign is to be launched, and the naked ladies will no longer feature, but the ducks will.  The wine estate impressed in being the only one to provide a folder of information, summarising its wine farming philosophy (“Wines approved by Mother Nature”), combining natural farming with 21st century science, technology and research.  The organic certification comes from the Dutch Control Union, and is accredited by Bio Nach EG-Öko Verordnung( Germany), Soil Association (UK) and USDA (USA). 

The Avondale building is mock Cape Dutch and its interior is too.  It is a very spacious building, and its interior is functional but not as attractive as that of many other wine estates.  It probably demonstrates that the wines, the farming methods and wine production are the heroes at Avondale.   A most impressively green wine estate.

Backsberg is well-known for its work in enhancing its carbon footprint, but until my visit I was not sure what it was doing, other than that it had recently launched its “Tread Lightly” range of wines in a plastic bottle.  Simon Back traced the history of the farm, to 1916, when his grandfather CL Back had bought the farm, first farming fruit before switching to grapes.  All grapes were sent to the KWV in early days, and it was Simon’s grandfather Sydney who made the first wines at Backsberg in the Sixties.   Michael Back, Simon’s father, studied viticulture and winemaking, and is the passionate owner who is driving the environmentally friendly approach of Backsberg.  He is currently attending a conference in Rio de Janeiro on renewable energy.  Backsberg became so passionate about being environmentally responsible about its wine farming, production and sales that it started by measuring the impact its operation has on the environment, in terms of fuel usage, water and electricity, and many more factors that they could quantify.  The CO2 emissions caused by their operation is offset by a dedicated program to restore their carbon footprint by tree planting, and by changing how they do things.  Energy-saving light bulbs are used; holes were cut in the roof to let in natural light; Michael drives a Ford Bantam bakkie because it is less environmentally damaging and lighter on fuel than a heavy-weight one; fresh dam water is used to cut out on refrigeration costs; smaller tractors are used; barrelwood is re-used and furniture made from it, which is for sale;  a massive counter was made from barrelwood; light-weight glass bottles are used, now weighing 450g compared to the previous 650g; the 50g plastic bottle is a huge step forward, and all indications are that the market is accepting the new ‘Tread Lightly’ range, the first wine brand to use plastic bottles in South Africa, and follows France and Australia as countries that are using such bottles with success.  The long-term goal is to become completely energy self-sufficient in future.  Simon says that the debate that may have been generated about the advisability of using plastic bottles is similar to the one five years ago of using screw caps on wine bottles.   The plastic bottles can be recycled.  A glass-blowing pair of brothers re-uses Backsberg bottles in its glass art. 

The Tread Lightly brand is exactly the same wine as is in the glass bottles, with a shelf life of two years.   Its range consists of Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, and is only sold through Pick ‘n Pay, at R49,99 and R39,99, respectively.  The Backsberg range is extensive, and consists of the Backsberg Family Reserve Range, a Kosher range, Sydney Back brandy range, Hanepoot, Port, a Mediterranean Range (Aldorina, Bella Rosa and Elbar),   Black label Range (Sparkling Brut MCC, John Martin, Pumphouse Shiraz, Klein Babylonstoren) and the Premium Range (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Dry Red, Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon).  Wine prices start at R31 for the Chenin Blanc, Rosé and Dry Red, up to R 161 for the Backsberg Family Reserve Red Blend.

We were surprised at how old-fashioned things appear at Backsberg in terms of its building and interior, but perhaps it is environmentally friendly to leave the buildings in the way they have always been.  The dedication to the environment is clear and they are saluted for this.   No written information was supplied proactively, and the pricelist does not contain any contact details, should one wish to order or have queries.

Mooiplaas  needs perseverance to get to in terms of its bumpy road, but again this may be a sign of the environmental orientation of this wine estate.  Tielman Roos is a passionate co-owner of the farm, and says that there is a lot of confusion about environmentally-friendly farming. One can farm organically, follow the guidelines of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative launched by Wines of South Africa, and/or follow the Integrated Production of Wines of the University of Stellenbosch.   The challenge is to use farming methods that harm the environment (like spraying) and then to offset this with environmentally friendly actions.  He explained that there was no point in farming in a purely organic way and then lose one’s crop in not having sprayed.  It is the carbon footprint that counts.  Mooiplaas does this in having created a private nature reserve of Renosterveld on the farm, which can never be used for wine farming.  He said: “We must be responsible to keep our business in business”.  South Africa has the oldest soils in the world, and this makes its biodiversity so special.   Tielman challenged every wine farmer to dedicate 5-10 % of the farm to indigenous plants, to so contribute to the environment.   The Mooiplaas wines carry the ‘Integrity and Sustainability’ seal on the neck of its bottles, and gives traceability to that particular wine. 

The wine estate has a beautiful historic manor house, built in 1833, hidden from the tasting room.  The tasting room feels environmentally friendly, its floor made from rocks and cement (making for a very uneven walk) and walls that show the original building style, only partly plastered.   It is a “plaas” winefarm, with little that shows modernity, except for a good brochure lying in the Tasting Room, and for Tielman’s dedication to the environment.   He organises walks through the nature reserve.  The Mooiplaas range consists of Langtafel Wit, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Langtafel Rosé, Pinotage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Rosalind and Duel MCC, ranging in price from R32 – R 127.

Signal Hill Winery is in the middle of the city, in Heritage Square, and our guide Kyle Zulch clearly loves his job, demonstrated by his enthusiasm and generosity in the tasting.  He took the group to the pavement, where he disgorged a bottle of their MCC, the process that bubbly producers use to take the lees off the MCC before labelling and corking the bottle.  The grapes for their wines come from vines on pockets of land in Cape Town (Camps Bay, Kalk Bay and Oranjezicht), leading to a small quantity of only 6 barrels produced.  In addition, grapes are bought in from Stellenbosch, Constantia and Somerset West.  Kyle and Signal Hill Winery founder Jean-Vincent Ridon are passionate about ‘fighting urbanisation’, and are looking for more pockets of land in the city on which they can plant vines.   The Premier’s residence Leeuwenhof may become a mini-wine farm soon too. They clean up weeds by hand, rather than the quick and easy spraying method, have an earthworm farm, and they plant lavender and basil in-between the vines.       

The range of 25 Signal Hill wines consists of Tutuka Shiraz (R39), The Threesome, Petit Verdot, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz/Syrah Helderberg, Pinot Noir, Clos D’Oranje Shiraz/Syrah R750), Grenache Blanc, Rosé de Saignée (R38), Empereur Rouge, Vin de L’emperuer, Straw Wine, Creme de Tete, Eszencia (R2000), Red Le Signal, White Le Signal and Muscat de Rivesaltes.

It was a most impressive day, seeing wine estates from a completely different angle.  The wine tastings were generous, and one must pace oneself and spit more than swallow, with an average of five wines tasted per wine estate, making about 20 in total!   The wonderful lunch we had at Towerbosch on the Knorhoek wine estate will be featured in a restaurant review next week.

Eco Wine Tours: Charles Lourens, Bottle Plate Pillow Tel 082 375 2884 and Pieter Geldenhuys, PG Tops Tel 083 288 4944.

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

Hospitality industry in a froth about beverage by-law!

The hospitality industry in Cape Town is up in arms about the proposed changes to the by-law the City of Cape Town is wishing to make to liquor trading days and hours.   The City has the right to stipulate the trading hours of alcoholic beverage sales, in accordance with the recently promulgated Western Cape Liquor Act.

 

The proposed by-law regulates that B & B’s and guest houses that are situated in residential areas,  that have not been rezoned for commercial use, may not sell any alcohol at all.    Those that are located in “local/neighbourhood business areas/nodes (including mixed use areas consisting of single/general residential interspersed with business uses)” may sell alcohol from 11h00 – 23h00, as are hotels, pubs, restaurants and even supermarkets.   Accommodation establishments in the CBD are allowed to sell alcohol from 11h00 – 2h00.    Wine farms are only allowed to sell alcohol from 9h00 – 18h00, closing off the very lucrative weddings market to them.

 

The by-law changes are designed to reduce alcohol abuse and violence against women and children induced by alcohol abuse, the City says.

 

Both FEDHASA Cape and SATSA have requested the City publicly to reconsider its by-law, in that some of its members would have to close their alcohol sales at 21h00 if they are located in predominantly residential areas.    FEDHASA says that the City has not consulted the association, and that the proposed by-law will damage Cape Town’s image as a world-class destination, especially in view of the city hosting the 2010 World Cup, and many international tourists preferring to eat later rather than early..  It also says that patrons will stock up on alcohol prior to the 21h00 deadline, to last them throughout the evening, which could lead to binge-drinking, which is exactly what the City wishes to avoid.   Alternatively, more restaurant patrons could be bringing their own wines, to get around the by-law, which is disadvantageous to the profitability of restaurants.

 

SATSA says that it does not believe that the proposed trading hours will solve the social problems related to alcohol abuse, and invites the City to consult with the tourism industry before passing the by-law.

 

The by-law could set an unwanted precedent for municipalities in the Western Cape to follow the example of the City of Cape Town, in a province that has tourism as its major source of revenue.   It has a further problem in that the definitions of “B & B’s” and “guest houses”, and the criteria for rezoning, are very vague.  Another department in the City is working on these, having received input from industry players early last year, but its final unified rezoning policy for Cape Town is yet to be seen.