Tag Archives: winemaking

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 25 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   A Red Alert has been issued for Europe air travel, with the imminent eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland, the most serious alert indicating an expected ‘significant emission of ash into the atmosphere’.   Four years ago the Eyjafjallajokul volcano erupted, and caused international travel chaos, with 100000 flights cancelled at that time, threatening the arrival of passengers for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

*  Yesterday’s earthquake measuring 6,2 on the Richter scale has shaken San Francisco and Napa Valley, and is expected to have caused damage to bottles of wine in America’s prime winemaking region.

*   Sadly MasterChef SA Season 1 Top 4 Finalist Sarel Loots, better known by his Twitter handle @SarelvanSabie, passed away from a heart attack today.  In the last episode in which he appeared, he was described by the judges as having ‘a big heart’.

*   The 2014 SA Young Wine Show awards attracted 1972 entries. Trophies were Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 13/14 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Pernod Ricard, international marketer of Absolut, Mumm, and Martell, has seen a 18% decline in sales in China in the first half of its financial year.

*   The Karoo is one of the world’s top nine stargazing destinations, which includes the Algarve in Portugal, Ayer’s Rock in Australia, Atacama Desert in Chile, Jasper National Park in Canada, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Grumeti in Tanzania, Kitt Peak in Arizona, and Gülpe in Germany.

*   SAA has applied to introduce new routes, and new codeshare agreements with a host of new destinations, including Moscow, Asuncion in Paraguay, Lomé in Togo, Praia and Ilha do Sol in Cape Verde, Jakarta, Kingston, and Port of Spain  in Trinidad and Tobago.  The airline has also applied to increase the frequency of its African routes, including Lagos, Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Accra.

*   Twitter now has 5,5 million users in South Africa, up by 129% in just one year. (via Twitter)

*   Michael Jordaan, owner of Bartinney wine estate and former CEO of FNB, found parallels Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 5 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  SA Tourism is representing our country on two platforms at World Travel Market in London this week: the 20th anniversary of the ‘new’ South Africa as well as Cape Town’s role as World Design Capital, both in 2014. Today Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Tourism, will address visitors to the SA Tourism stand, and a fashion show will represent our country’s eight World Heritage sites, interpreted by top local designers  David Tlale, Marianne Fassler, Thula Sindi, and Nkhensani Nkosi.

*   2014 is also an important year in celebrating the 80th anniversary of the SA Rugby Union and the Springboks.  SAA will participate in the celebration in February, and commuters can expect to rub shoulders with members of the Springbok team at airport lounges.  In November next year the team members will be seen at OR Thambo and Heathrow airports, when the Springboks travel to Europe for the Castle Lager Outbound Tour Series. (received via SAA newsletter)

*   SAA is cutting its Buenos Aires route, being one of its loss-making destinations.  Its Beijing route is also making a loss, but will be retained currently as China and South Africa are both BRICS countries.

*   Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde is seeking an urgent meeting with SAA to discuss the cancellation of its Buenos Aires route, having seen good growth in the past few years, and benefitting the Western and Eastern Cape in particular. (received via media release frorm Minister Winde’s office)

*   The Hotel Le Vendome in Sea Point will be operated by Radisson

Continue reading →

Stellenbosch Hills and Freddy Hirsch seek SA’s Droëwors Maker of the Year 2013!

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

Telegraph Travel ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ an improvement, but not error-free!

After writing about the disastrous error-filled and outdated Conde Nast Traveller  Guide to Cape Town earlier this week, it was refreshing to see a link on Twitter about the Telegraph Travel’s  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’, written by local travel writer and ‘destination expert’ Pippa de Bruyn (author of a ‘Frommer’s Guide’ to South Africa and to India, and of  ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to Cape Town’), resulting in a far more accurate guide for the tourist visiting Cape Town.

The Guide kicks off with the Beauty positioning for Cape Town (the one that Cape Town Tourism has just thrown away by using Inspirational’, as the new positioning for Cape Town, even though it is not unique for Cape Town and has been used by others, including Pick ‘n Pay!), in stating that “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.  It is accompanied by a beautiful shot of Clifton, with the Twelve Apostles as backdrop.  The reasons for travelling to Cape Town are motivated as its ‘in-your-face beauty’; the pristine white beaches; the proximity of nature; spotting zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Table Mountain; watching whales breaching in False Bay; being ‘halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point’; being a contender for World Design Capital 2014 with its art galleries, ‘hip bars’, opera, and design-savvy shops; the unique marriage of Dutch-origin vegetable gardening, winemaking introduced by the French (this fact must be challenged, as it was the Dutch who established the first wine farms), Malay slaves’ spices, and English ‘Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes’;  its contrasts of pleasure and poverty, of ‘pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys’, and its award-winning wines and produce offer ‘some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world’.

The ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ includes the following recommendations:

*   travel time is suggested as ‘pretty much any time of the year’, and a warning of wet Julys and Augusts now is inaccurate, given the wonderful non-winter weather experienced in Cape Town during both these months this year!

*   misleading is the claim that Cape Town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world – this positioning belongs to Hermanus, and is corrected a few pages further into the guide.   Also misleading is the claim that the best ‘summer deals’ are available in October and November – most accommodation establishments have the same rate for the whole summer, and do not drop rates at the start of summer.

*   it is up-to-date in that use of the MyCiti Bus is recommended to travel between the airport and the Civic Centre, as well as to the Waterfront.  Train travel between Cape Town and Simonstown is not recommended, due to dirty windows and lack of safety, one of the few negatives contained in the Guide.  The red City Sightseeing bus is recommended, as are bus tours, taxis, Rikkis, and car hire.

*  The ‘Local laws and etiquette’ section does not address either of these two points.  Instead, it warns against crime when walking or driving, and recommends that tourists should not ‘flash their wealth’.  Potential card-skimming in the Waterfront and at the airport is also a potential danger, travellers to Cape Town are told, not accurate, and unfair to these two Cape Town locations.

*   Tourist attractions recommended are Cape Point, driving via the Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak; wine-tasting in Constantia; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; exploring the city centre on foot, walking from the city centre to Green Point; taking a water taxi from the Convention Centre to the Waterfront; the Footsteps to Freedom Tour; the Company Gardens; the National Gallery; summer concerts at Kirstenbosch; tanning at Clifton beaches; shopping for wines or going on a wine tour; High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel; going on tours which allow one to meet the ‘other half’  locals;  walking through the Waterfront or taking a sunset cruise; the Two Oceans Aquarium; eating fish and chips in Kalk Bay; going up Table Mountain by foot or cable car; day trips to Cape Point, the West Coast National Park to see the spring flowers, and the Winelands (referring to Franschhoek as the now out-of-date ‘Gourmet Capital of the Cape’, by stating that ‘it is the only place where you have award-winning restaurants within walking distance of each other’, not correct either).

*   in the ‘Cape Town Hotels’ section, it states disturbingly (and information out of date) that ‘Cape Town isn’t cheap’, and therefore suggests that clients stay in Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Bo-Kaap  (but none of these suburbs have restaurants, something guests would like to walk to by foot from their accommodation), as well as De Waterkant, the V&A Waterfront (probably one of the most expensive accommodation areas!), and ‘Greenpoint’ (sic).  Self-catering and ‘B&b’ (sic) accommodation is recommended.  Hotels previously reviewed by The Telegraph are listed: the Mount Nelson, Ellerman House, the Cape Grace, Cascades on the Promenade, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Rouge on Rose, Fritz Hotel, and The Backpack hostel, an interesting mix of hotels, and not all highly-rated in its reviews. No newer ‘World Cup hotels’ are recommended. 

*   For nightlife, Camps Bay’s Victoria Road, Long Street and Cape Quarter are recommended.  Vaudeville is strongly recommended, but has lost a lot of its appeal.  Other specific recommendations are Asoka on Kloof Street, Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge, Crew Bar in De Waterkant, Julep off Long Street, and the Bascule bar at the Cape Grace.  The list seems out of date, with more trendy night-time spots being popular amongst locals.

*   The Restaurant section is most disappointing, given the great accolade given to the Cape Town fine-dining scene early in the guide. Four restaurants only are recommended, and many would disagree that these are Cape Town’s best, or those that tourists should visit: The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Willoughby & Co in the Waterfront, 95 Keerom Street, and ‘Colcaccio (sic) Camps Bay’!  A special note advises ‘gourmet diners’ to check Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurants  for restaurants close to one’s accommodation.  Stellenbosch restaurants Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir are recommended, as are Le Quartier and Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and La Colombe in Constantia.

*   Shopping suggestions include the city centre, Green Point, Woodstock, De Waterkant, and Kloof Street, the latter street not having any particularly special shops.  The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill is recommended as the ‘best food market in the country’ (locals may disagree, with the squash of undecided shoppers, and increasingly more expensive), and may recommend the City Bowl Market instead).  Art galleries are also recommended.

While the Telegraph Travel  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ is a massive improvement on the Condé Nast Traveller  Cape Town guide, even this guide contains unforgivable errors, which a local writer should not be making.  One would hope that Cape Town Tourism will get the errors fixed.  We also suggest that they recommend the addition of Cape Town’s many special city centre eateries, and that the accommodation list be updated.  The exclusion of Robben Island on the attraction list is a deficiency.   The delineation between recommendations for things to do in Cape Town is blurred in some instances with recommendations in towns and villages outside Cape Town, which may confuse tourists to the Mother City.  Overall, the Guide appears superficial and touristy, and does not reveal all the special gems that Cape Town has to offer.

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

Restaurant Review: Cuvée is a sparkling mix of modern and Cape classics!

Cuvée Restaurant opened on Simonsig wine estate nearly three years ago, and its interior curation by Neil Stemmet put him on the map, with its unusual marriage of old and new.  Cuvée Restaurant is a sparkling complement and compliment to the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Simonsig is on the Kromme Rhee Road, one I had never previously driven, connecting the two roads to Stellenbosch via Klapmuts and Joostenberg.   There is ample parking, and one sees the modern oddly shaped posters within red frames outside the tasting room and restaurant entrance.  Dirk the waiter told me that Strijdom van der Merwe, co-owner of Casparus restaurant and nature artist, had prepared the curved large metal posters on the lawns outside to commemorate the 350th anniversary of winemaking in South Africa for Simonsig last year, a very modern statement for a long established wine estate owned by the Malan family. The late Frans Malan, with Spatz Sperling of Delheim and the late Neil Joubert of Spier, was one of the trio establishing the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which itself celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.  The Simonsig 210 hectare farm has been farmed by the Malan family for ten generations, and the late Frans Malan was a pioneer in creating the first Méthode Cap Classique, being their Kaapse Vonkel.  The Malan brothers Pieter (Marketing), Francois (CEO and Viticulturist), and Johan (Winemaker) run the farm.   In addition to the Kaapse Vonkel, there is a Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé, Cuvée Royale, and Encore Vin Sec. Other wines in the Simonsig range include Vin de Liza noble late harvest, Chenin avec Chéne, Chardonnay, Sunbird Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Tiara Bordeaux blend, Frans Malan Cape blend, Redhill Pinotage, Merindol Syrah, Labyrinth Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr Borio’s Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, Shiraz Mouvèdre Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot.

The tasting room and restaurant are design extremes, the tasting room being part of the historic building, with traditional sash windows, yet it has a modern crockery and sparkling wine glass chandelier made by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs, and Tord Boordje paper curtains, one of only three establishments to have these designer curtains in Stellenbosch!  The restaurant appears to be a building addition, with more modern architecture but with classic interior touches added by Stemmet.  The room is on two levels, the lower one having a very dominant thick black and white striped wallpaper, with black, brown and white striped curtains, modern crystal chandeliers, a riempiesbank hanging from the ceiling, a red painted wall, and glass doors facing the vineyard.  A massive fireplace ‘divides’ the room into two.  The higher level appears more modern, with a raw concrete ceiling, one wall painted in a deep grey, and another left in rough brick.  At the back end, or entrance to the restaurant, is a modern black bar counter, behind which the wines are stored across the length of a wall.  Above the bar counter are large ‘Fifties style black and silver round lights.  One wall has seating as benches against the wall, and there is a small lounge area. The tables are black stained wood with glass tops.  There is a large Persian carpet in each of the sections, adding a homely touch.  Contrasting the more modern furniture is the traditional yellowood and stinkwood heritage furniture, such as a bakkis, and an amoire.  Modern perspex lamps and shades are spread around the restaurant, and there are bold white leather pouffes near the fireplace.  An interesting Ikebana tree, with coloured silk wrapped around it, is a ‘small wishing tree’, Dirk explained. Classical music chosen by Stemmet rounded off the quality impression. I would have loved to walk through the restaurant with Stemmet, to hear the ‘story’ about his curation.

Each table has a ceramic vase with a red protea, with cutlery by Arthur Krupp, and a most impressive serviette which has a crown logo and 1971 date embroidered on it, to attract attention to the October 40th anniversary celebrations of the Cap Classique at Simonsig.  The bread knife is by WMF.  Three types of bread, beautifully folded into a serviette, were brought to the table.  Coarse salt and pepper were brought in small bowls, with a spoon.  Stemmet dictated the crockery and cutlery, and it reflects class.  Staff wear black T-shirts and trousers, with a black apron.  Dirk showed me the Van Niekerk Room upstairs, a special events function room for about 20 guests, which also has strong elements of black and white stripes, with red leather chairs around a large table.  Mr van Niekerk was the father-in-law of the late Frans Malan, whose family is now at the nearby Knorhoek, on which wine estate Stemmet did the interior curation for their Towerbosch restaurant.

I met the new chef Lucas Carstens, who had moved across from Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town at the begining  of the month.  He has introduced some of his own dishes on the new menu, and kept other favourites.  He previously worked at Terroir restaurant and at the Kleine Zalze Lodge.  Dirk Smit, ex-Tuscany Beach, is the new Restaurant Manager, but was not on duty on Saturday.

The menu is A3 size on white board and well-presented, each item having a Simonsig wine suggestion. The Black pepper-seared tuna (R85/R140), with a Kaapse Vonkel pairing recommendation, is printed in gold, with the logo for the 40th Cap Classique celebration on it in gold too.  Starters and mains are not separated on the menu, as most dishes can be ordered as a starter or a main portion. Not listed on the menu, but offered was fresh oysters at R12,50 each.  I chose a starter portion of pan-fried kingklip, a smallish but very juicy thick piece of fish, served with asparagus (not specified on the menu and offered as a replacement for artichoke, but was served with artichoke too), braised fennel, slices of naartjie, and a most unusual citrus butter sauce.  With this was served an apple salad with a good dressing, not mentioned on the menu, making the R70 (R130 for full portion) charge good value.  Other interesting starter/main course options are Wild mushroom soup (45), Warm green bean and tomato salad (R50/R90), Tomato tartlet (R50/R90), Kleinrivier Gruyère soufflé (R85), Cape Malay butter chicken with Basmati rice (the restaurant smelt of this lovely curry when I arrived, and will be my first choice for my next visit, at R100), Grilled Mocambique prawns (R70/R140), Bobotie (R90), Joostenberg pork neck (R60/R110), Lamb shank (R140), Venison and wild mushrooms (R80/R150), and Flame-grilled beef fillet with Café de Paris sauce (R85/R160). I had the Valrhona  66% chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (substituted for a red wine and cherry ripple ice cream), baked in a white dish, and thick and creamy inside (R60).   Crème Brulée, pecan nut tart, malva pudding served with Amarula and rooibos ice cream, and White chocolate panna cotta cost between R45 – R55.  A South African cheeseboard with preserves sounded expensive at R150, but I did not see it to judge the price.

The winelist is a folded A3 board, listing only Simonsig wines.  Kaapse Vonkel, the Brut Rosé, and Encore Vin Sec cost R27/R135, a R45 surcharge on the bottle price in the Tasting Room.  I had a glass of the Brut Rosé, and it was a good match to the kingklip. Cuvée Royale costs R54/R270.  The Mr Borio Shiraz costs R18/R90, and the Merindol Syrah R66/R330.  No vintages are listed for the wines, but the Platter star rating and awards won are denoted.

I almost felt sorry for Cuvée that such an excellent restaurant is so hidden away in the Winelands.  It has a dramatic ‘Cape Dutch modernism’ interior, excellent food, and stands for quality in everything that it does, much like its excellent sparkling wines.  I will go back, now that I know where it is.

Cuvée Restaurant, Simonsig, Kromme Rhee Rhee Road, between R44 and R304, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 888-4900.  www.simonsig.co.za  (The website contains the menu and winelist, but still has details of the previous chef.  Few of the many photographs in the Image Gallery are of the food).  Tuesday – Sunday lunch, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday dinner.

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

Italy overtakes France in wine exports, New World becomes Old World!

The long dominance of France over wine exports has been broken by Italy, which has overtaken France in terms of wine exports based on volume, with sales in the last year at €4 billion.  However, France still leads the world on export sales value, at €8 billion.  Argentina and Brazil are showing strong signs of export growth too.  These findings were presented at Vinexpo in Bordeaux last week, reports The Times.

The global wine and spirit market is worth $500 billion, just under 40 % being spent on wine and 60 % on spirits.  Italian wine exports saw a 14 % growth, and the country has a 4000 year history of winemaking, with 350 grape varieties offering wine drinkers a great diversity of wines. 

Brazilian wine sales have increased by 144% in the first three months of 2011, compared to the same period of last year, the United Kingdom being its largest importer.  The country plans to gets its wines listed in the best restaurants and wine stores.

Vinexpo CEO Robert Beynat said that the time had come to stop referring to New World wines, given that Argentina, Chile and South Africa have wine industries older than 30 years, and therefore cannot be called “New World” wine producers: “After 30 years, one is no longer new. They are part of the Old World“. He said that the New World is being born, mainly focused on China and India.  China has become the seventh largest wine producer in the world, according to the International Wine and Spirit Research group.  Growth in Indian wine consumption has been 170% in the past six years, and the area of its wine production doubled in the last three years.

The USA was described as the ‘most lucrative retail market for wine’, soon to overtake Britain in volume of wine sales. The USA is estimated by Beynat to lead global wine consumption in volume terms in two years from now.

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

Restaurant Review: Bosman’s back on Top 10, fired up, much more friendly!

After having been announced as a Top 10 restaurant a month ago, a sojourn in Franschhoek gave me the opportunity to try Bosman’s for lunch on Monday, and to celebrate a special birthday at dinner last night.   I was amazed at the radical change in the “personality” of Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, from a restaurant that was stiff and unwelcoming on my last visit, to one that bends over backwards, oozes friendliness, and has made some important changes which clearly are paying off, in that Bosman’s is back on the Eat Out Top 10 restaurant list, after a long absence, and it was the joint winner (with Zachary’s at Pezula) of the Diner’s Club of the Year Winelist Awards.   Whilst is offers excellent value for lunch, it probably is the most expensive Cape restaurant for dinner.

The person who is probably most responsible for the changes is the Food & Beverage Manager Alan Bailes, and is now also acting-GM.  He impressed when he contacted me after my last visit to Bosman’s, and was non-defensive in his reaction.   Bailes is so hands-on that he walks the floor and makes time to chat to the restaurant patrons, something I have never seen of a hotel GM before.   He laughed when I said that to him, and he said that he still is the F&B Manager, but even then these are rarely seen inside a restaurant in general.   The restaurant’s flexibility is commendable, in that I overheard Bailes telling other guests that the kitchen can prepare anything for them, with 24 hours notice.

Bailes is one of a number of new GM’s at Grande Roche, after Horst Frehse left, and told me that the most important change that they have made was to cancel their Relais & Chateaux accreditation, without dropping their standards, he emphasized.    They have chosen to use the marketing power of the Mantis Collection to attract business.   The Relais & Chateaux decision came from the unsatisfactory return received for the high cost of the accreditation.  Ironically, Horst Frehse was known as “Mr Relais & Chateaux” when he was the (cigar-smoking) GM of the Grande Roche.   I wrote about Asara Hotel’s recent Relais & Chateaux accreditation, and that it may be dropping the accreditation, having just obtained it with the help of Frehse, who has left and is heading for the Twelve Apostles Hotel as GM next month.   The only local Relais & Chateaux properties are Asara Hotel, Le Quartier Français, Cellars Hohenhort, The Marine and The Plettenberg.  The focus has also been on making the lunch far more casual, and the prices far more affordable.   Whilst the dinner menu is far different to that for lunch, and offers two Tasting menu and a la carte options, the formality has been removed, especially when the restaurant was literally moved outdoors on a lovely 30+C evening.     

The service experienced at both lunch and dinner was outstanding and attentive, Glenroy du Plessis, the Wine Steward who recently was crowned as best in the country by Diner’s Club, and who must be one of the nicest hospitality staff around, spoiling us.  Nothing is too much trouble, and he crosses the line between waiter and wine steward.   The sommelier Josephine Gutentoft recently moved across to Bosman’s, and while we clashed badly at Reuben’s, she was charm herself last night.   Raymond is another manager I know from Reuben’s.    Two German staff gave an extra dimension to service quality.   Charming Restaurant Manager Alessandro de Laco talks with a heavy Italian accent, but can speak French and German, coming from Switzerland.  He and waiter Stefan had come to the Grande Roche earlier this year due to the World Cup.   Waitress Loreen had come to the Grande Roche with her boyfriend, who works in the kitchen, and will stay until April.  Staff look smart in a white shirt and black tie, and black apron. 

There were some rough edges, like Ra-ida getting my booking wrong for the dinner, mixing up the date and the number of persons booked.   I also noticed two broken umbrellas on the lunch terrace, probably due to the wind.   A Manager should have picked this up, given that the Grande Roche is a 5-star hotel.   My pet hate is security and a boom, and while it was perfect for my arrival for lunch, the chap who was on duty in the evening mumbled something about whether we wanted a table for two, but we had made a reservation.  Yet he did not ask for the name.   They are an outsourced service.  

Lunch 3 January

My lunch was extremely relaxed, and was probably made so because of the friendly service by Glenroy and Raymond, who were both on duty, and looked after me, together with German waiter Stefan.  

The outside tables have granite tops, and underplates that have a similar look, but these plates are removed before the food is served, so are purely decorative.   Good quality serviettes are on the table, but while mine was clean, it had a stain on it.  An unusually large collection of glasses is on the table, for a lunchtime.   The cutlery shows its age, in being heavily used.  A waitress brought a lovely cool facecloth to the table, a nice way to cool down on the 30 C Paarl day.  Tokara olive oil was brought to the table with a nicely presented plate of three undescribed bread types – baguette, rye and wholewheat – wrapped in a serviette.   The menu is a narrow page, set in a red and black menu holder.   I did not see initially that the winelist was on the reverse.   As a starter I chose a delicious chilled cucumber soup, with two crispy crumbed prawns (R50).  The prawns were brought to the table first, and then a waitress came with a jug of the soup and poured it with far greater style than the asparagus soup I had at the Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson recently.    Other starter choices are Caesar salad with chicken leg and quail egg;  Beef Carpaccio; Salmon Trout; Braised Roma tomatoes and mozzarella, all costing R75.   Mixed baby salad with avocado, goat’s cheese and biltong costs R65; and Asian marinated yellowtail tartare costs R70.

Main courses clearly have been kept as close to R100 as possible, and makes the portions a little smaller, not a bad thing for a lunch, especially when one has more than one course.   I ordered the Pan-fried kingklip with pea risotto, beurre noisette foam, and biltong (R95), the biltong not adding anything to the fish dish, and adding a saltiness I would have preferred to do without.  The kingklipwas  firm and well prepared, and the peas in the risotto gave the dish a colourful touch.   A fish knife was served with the dish.  Other main courses choices include Seafood Bowl (R115), Pan-fried prawns with seafood ravioli and Bouillabaisse broth (R115); Linguine (R80), Asian stir fried beef fillet (R140); and Free-range chicken breast (R95).   Dessert options are “Mohr im Hemd” (rum and raisin ice cream), nougat potato ravioli and Amarula Creme Brûlée, costing around R45, and an Exotic Trio at R50, consisting of Creme Brûlée, fruit salsa, and passion fruit sorbet. 

The lunch winelist is short and sweet!  Ten wines-by-the-glass are offered, starting at R40 for Newton Johnson ‘Felicite’ Dry, and peaking at R280 for 87ml of NV Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé.   The Migliarina Shiraz seems expensive at R75 a glass.   Six white wines can be ordered by the bottle, Maison Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc costing R150, while A.A. Badenhorst’s Family White Blend costs R580.   Eight red wines start at R280 for a bottle of Rainbow’s End 2005, up to R650 for a Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2005.

Dinner 5 January

We went to celebrate my son’s birthday today with dinner last night.   The table outside was perfect, was laid with a good quality tablecloth, and three sets of knives and forks as well as a spoon.  A staff member put the serviettes on our laps, an old-fashioned touch.  There were fewer glasses on the table than at lunch.   Glenroy brought an ice bucket, and kept it filled up throughout the evening.    There are no salt and pepper containers on the table, as Chef Roland feels the kitchen should spice the food correctly.  One may request salt and pepper however.

The winelist dominates one’s impressions at Bosman’s, and obviously is the definitive one, judging by its Diner’s Club accolade.  It is a weighty document bound in a grey leather cover, and runs to 62 pages and the hotel’s wine collection exceeds 600 labels, Glenroy told us.  Unfortunately it uses pages that are hooked in, to give flexibility in terms of availability, but a number of these pages had slipped out, making the winelist look just a little unprofessional, despite its impressive collection.   Sommelier Josephine wants to increase this number, by adding smaller producers.   Similarly to the Asara winelist (Frehse probably used that of Bosman’s as the benchmark when preparing the Asara one), the Bosman’s winelist provides a history of the winemaking in this country, describes the winegrowing areas, dedicates a section to South African wine awards, and provides a map of the wine regions.   I joked and said that it would take me the whole evening to go through the winelist alone, and therefore it was recommended that the wine steward advises one about the wines, which is probably what usually happens.   Something I have never seen on a winelist is the name of the winemaker(s).   Obviously regions, vintages and descriptions are provided per wine.

The wines-by-the-glass section spans two pages, and four are MCC sparkling wines: Silverthorn Blanc de Blanes Brut (R85), Silverthorn Genie Rosé (R95), Colmant Reserve Brut (R65) and Graham Beck Bliss Demi Sec (R65).   Laurent Perrier can be ordered in a dinky at R280, and Billecart Salmon Rosé Brut costs R290.  Eight white wines are available by the glass, starting at R 48 for AA Badenhorst Family Secateurs as well as Crios Bride Sauvignon Blanc, and peaking at R70 for Scali Blanc.   The Rosé is by Newton Johnson, at R40.    Six red wines are available: starting at R70 is the Ataraxia “Serenity” and going up to R185 for a Kanonkop.    By the bottle, 25 MCC sparkling wines are offered, starting at R175 for Seidelberg’s Blanc de Blancs Brut at R175, up to R540 for La Motte’s Brut.  There are 42 Shiraz wines listed, Veenwouden “Thornhill” the best priced at R260, and Mont Destin’s Destiny the most expensive at R1150.  

A cold facecloth was brought to the table, to cool one down and to wipe one’s hands, also an old-fashioned touch, but welcome in the heat.   A young waiter came with the bread basket, and offered us a choice of seven breads, the largest choice I have ever seen, and one looked more attractive than the other.  Choices include parma ham and garlic, pumpkin seed loaf, tomato rolls, pretzel rolls and a lovely seedloaf.   Bosman’s is generous with its bread offering, and the waiter came by at least three times.   The bread is served with a collection of three trademark Bosman’s spreads – unsalted butter, lard with garlic and bacon, and cottage cheese with chives.    A gazpacho with white tomato jelly and agar was brought as an amuse bouche, the spicy soup poured out of a jug at the table.  It did not impress me, if one takes an amuse bouche to be a small taste of the chef’s skills.

The menu has a welcome by Executive Head Chef Roland Gorgosilich: “We trust you will have a relaxing and enjoyable evening with us”, the new Planet Restaurant also having such a ‘personalised’ signed touch in its menu.  Gorgosilich is Austrian, and has a low profile.  It is a shame that he does not come out of the kitchen, to chat to the guests.   One can enjoy a 9-course European-style tasting menu at R 660 per person, as well as a reduced “Harmony of the South” menu, 4-courses costing R 520, and 5-courses R580.  This menu is meant to be a representation of South African cuisine. 

For his starter my son had a hot butternut soup (R55) off the a la carte menu, despite the hot evening, which was also poured at the table over three little pieces of braised duck breast.   It was not an exceptional soup, in my opinion.   My foie gras order, billed to be served with Baumkuchentorte, and costing an extravagant R175, was a let down, as the layered cake was barely visible and could not be tasted around the slice of foie gras.   The foie gras itself was wonderful, served with a cherry, and red cabbage puree,  which did not add to the foie grasenjoyment.  Other starter choices include quail (R95); wild mushroom risotto with parma ham, which looked delicious served at neighbouring tables (R75);  poached salmon trout (R105); and poached veal fillet with pan-fried scallops (R155).  

The highlight of the dinner without a doubt was the Fillet Mignon flambee (R200).  It is usually prepared at the table inside, but due to the outsideseating, and the fire danger, we went inside to see Alessandro prepare it for us in the dining room, a most dramatic preparation, especially when the Martellbrandy was added.  The steak was butter soft.   It was served with tagliatelle and mushroom ragout, the most delicious I have had in a long time, simple and focused on providing enjoyment.   An excellent serrated steak knife was served for this dish, barely necessary due to the soft steak.   Other main course choices include Beef fillet Rossini (R285); springbok loin (R210); vanilla milk poached kingklip (R175); pan-fried hake and crayfish (R225); sole and stuffed calamari (R195) and oddly a tomato consommé at R145.  What adds class to the dinner at Bosman’s is another old-fashioned touch – presenting the main course dishes with domes, which the waiters all lift simultaneously at the table.  The waitress then reminds each diner what he/she has ordered, a nice touch.

For dessert, one is presented with a separate menu, to which is added a number of further beverage options.  Strawberry rhubarb, and an interesting sounding peach lavender soup served with chocolate ganache and peanut croquant cost R65; chocolate fondant costs R75; crepe suzetteR80; and a cheese trolley R150, presumably which can be shared.   I had arranged with Alessandro for a surprise birthday chocolate cake, which was decorated with strawberries on the side, came with a candle, and looked beautiful on a glass plate.   We were not charged for this birthday treat.   I had a good cappuccino.    

The bathroom entrance is attractive and luxurious with a beautiful orchid display.  But when one steps inside, the wooden doors are still there, not in keeping with the quality standards of the hotel.   

Bosman’s is not an everyday dinner venue, but one for a special celebration, given how expensive it is.  Yet for lunchtime visits to Paarl it is perfect, as it is affordable and and the food light.   I enjoyed both my visits to Bosman’s this week.

POSTSCRIPT 22/7: Being in Paarl, I popped in at Bosman’s for lunch today.  Once again, I had a problem with the poor quality of outsourced security staff manning the boom.  I was refused entry for lunch at the boom initially, and asked for the phone number, so that I could call.  Instead, the security person decided to call the Restaurant Manager himself, and this caused a traffic jam at the boom!  I was eventually allowed in and welcomed on arrival, and wondered why this had been necessary in the first place.  Thereafter the service was excellent.  I was happy to meet the new GM Anja Bosken,  She told me that they are working hard at increasing the awareness of the Grande Roche, and went onto Twitter last week.   They are also working on being less stiff and more friendly.  Seven members of staff were retrenched before her arrival, she said, and some staff members did not renew their fixed-term contracts.  Bosman’s is very professional, and I enjoyed a main course of kingklip and prawns, with Mediterranean vegetables and seafood ravioli (R95), followed by Apfelstrudel (R45), prices which are very reasonable for a Top 10 restaurant at a 5-star hotel. Alan Bailes and Alessandro de Laco have left the Grande Roche.

Bosman’s Restaurant, Grande Roche Hotel, Plantasie Street, Paarl.  Tel (021) 863-5100. www.granderoche.com   (The website has an Image Gallery, with few food photographs, and all the menus are listed).  Twitter: @Grande_Roche

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

Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs “paired” with Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir

The fourth Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place on Wednesday 18 August, from 18h00 – 20h00, at Brio Restaurant, and will pair Sam Wilson of Food24 food blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir wines in Franschhoek.

Sam Wilson is the Editor-in-Chief of Woman24, Parent24 and Food24.  Food24 has a special page on its website to provide a platform for 440 food bloggers, with 50000 readers and 200000 page impressions per month.  Sam was previously a commercial lawyer, and turned to freelance writing after the birth of her sons, before joining Media24. She was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year.  She has also worked as a copywriter, a customer publishing strategist, a columnist and a cocktail bartender. Her websites collectively attract over 500 000 readers, and she says she “specialises in community management and the art of oversharing”.

Rob Armstrong has a BA in Archeology and Environmental and Geographical Science, and runs Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  It is celebrating the 10th anniversary of turning this family farm into a red wine farm and planting it with Franschhoek Fynbos.  Rob is committed to “minimal intervention” with “mother earth”, both in terms of winemaking and their farming.  He is a proud member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.

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.   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.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Rob will introduce the Haut Espoir wines served.  Snacks will be served.  The cost of attendance is R 100.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Venue: Brio Restaurant, 130 Adderley Street (ex-Riboville), two doors down from the Twankey Bar of the Taj Hotel.

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