Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →
In just over twelve months of its launch, Triple Three hand-crafted premium gin made at Blaauwklippen in Stellenbosch has become one of the top three best-selling local gins in our country, and is regarded as a world-class gin. I attended a tasting of the three Triple Three gins at OpenWine on Monday evening, and of their brand new but not yet launched Triple Three Distillers Cut gin last week, at a Blaauwklippen Zinfandel tasting. Continue reading →
Once a year Blaauwklippen invites writers to attend a Zinfandel tasting, followed by a lunch. Last Thursday the focus for the tasting was Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest, held at the Cape Grace hotel. The launch of Triple Three Distillers Cut gin towards the end of the lunch will be covered in a stand-alone Blogpost, linked to a Triple Three gin tasting held at OpenWine on Monday.
Continue reading →
Last week Blaauwklippen launched its new trio of hand-crafted Triple Three Hand-crafted Premium Gin at La Mouette, at a media and trade event hosted by its Triple Three Estate Distillery. 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 →
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 →
Last week Blaauwklippen hosted its sixth International Zinfandel Tasting, this year choosing to compare its Zinfandel wines against four from Australia. The thirty or so wine writers attending judged the Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Reserve to be better than the Australian counterparts.
The tasting was led by Rolf Zeitvogel, Cellarmaster and CEO of Blaauwklippen, and passionate about Zinfandel. He said of the wine variety: “Zinfandel is a particularly demanding variety to manage both in the vineyard and the winery. The resulting unique and hedonistically rich wine makes all the hard work worthwhile”.
The four Australian Zinfandel wines we tasted, with interesting labels and some with high alcohol content, were the following:
* Cape Mentelle 2010 – of this wine from the west coast Margaret River wine region Rolf said that it has developed a ‘cult following’ amongst Zinfandel lovers. Their first Zinfandel was planted in 1974, to low density bush vines, and there is ‘fastidious attention to detail to ensure that only the best quality fruit is produced’, Rolf said. The grapes are hand picked, de-stemmed, and berries sorted individually. The must is soaked at cool temperatures prior to fermentation. Fermentation and maturation took place in oak vats, 25 % going into new French oak barrels. Zinfandel was first planted in 1974. Some say that this is the best Zinfandel producer in Australia.
* Cargo Road 2010 – this is one of the older Australian Zinfandel blocks, based in Mount Canobolas, planted in 1983. It is planted northfacing at 860 m above sea level, allowing it to be un-irrigated, developing a good dark colour, and maintaining good acidity. Its total planting of 4 ha is one of the largest in New South Wales. The crop is thinned dramatically, from a potential crop of 20 ton to 9 ton, to assure quality grapes. This Zinfandel was not well received by the tasting panel.
* Smallwater Estate 2009 – located in the south west, this region is proving itself as one of Australia’s most reliable wine growing areas, and the wine estate saw the opportunity to plant the Zinfandel grape in 1993 for the first time, and make a premium flagship Zinfandel. Initially the wine estate contract-produced grapes for Cape Mentelle, but started making its own wine from 2006 onwards. The crop is thinned out in four stages, taking out bunch wings and shoots first, reducing the crop to 5 tonne per ha. A Rosé is also made from the Zinfandel. Of the four Australian wines, this Zinfandel was liked most by the wine writers.
* Peel Estate 2007 – produced in Karnup, 70 km south of Perth, the Zinfandel was first planted in 1974, and the first wines were made in 1980. Being 3 km from the ocean, the grapes benefit from a Mediterranean microclimate, with mild winters and cool coastal breezes in summer. The dry summers suit Zinfandel well. The grapes are crushed and fermented on their skins for a week before being pressed and are then transferred to a stainless steel tank for the primary and secondary fermentation processes. Thereafter it is matured in oak for two years. The wine writers likened this Zinfandel to a port.
The Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Reserve 2011 is made from Block Padstall1 grapes first grown in 1982, at 146 m above sea level. They are planted on southfacing slopes in sandy duplex soil. They use a six wire trellising system, the bunches are halved, and intense canopy management is practised, to make a single vineyard wine. They get a crop of 4,5 – 5 tonnes per ha. There is no irrigation. Fermentation is in French Oak, for at least 18 months. Its character is described as spicy plums, raisins, rum chocolate and vanilla spice flavours with ‘whiffs of cigarbox, bitter chocolate, and English tea’. It is ideal to drink with spicy dishes, game, potjiekos, and matured cheeses. It was best liked of all the five wines tasted, tasting like a wine, it was said, and not like a port. We tasted a tank sample, and Rolf said that the wine would be at its best in three to four years. It costs R310 at the cellar door.
Rolf shared how difficult it is to manage the Zinfandel grapes, when asked why so few winemakers grow Zinfandel. Blaauwklippen had wanted to pick the grapes at the end of February, but the heavy rains in early February forced them to pick overnight just after the rain, otherwise they would have lost their crop. The wine variety is also not well known. He shared that at a food and wine pairing evening the day before they had paired a Zinfandel 2007 with a steak served with a pepper sauce, the wine standing up well to the strongly spiced sauce.
Exciting news is that an MCC is to be launched by Blaauwklippen in 2015.
After the tasting we were spoilt with a Zinfandel-inspired lunch at the water’s edge, prepared by Radisson Blu Hotel Executive Chef Grant Kennedy. PR consultant Nicolette Waterford related how much trouble the chef had taken to prepare a well-matched menu for the function. The amuse bouche was a beef and dried peach carpaccio, served with emerald asparagus, pomegranate hollandaise gratin, and sprinkled gems, which was paired with the Blaauwklippen White Zinfandel 2012. The peach added a touch of colour to the dish.
The starter was a pink tuna pavé, served with gremolata fresh herb crumb, root bulb dauphinoise, a cranberry beurre noisette, and runner bean shoots, which was paired with Blaauwklippen Zinfandel 2010. This was followed by a prickly pear and grappa dash sorbet palate cleanser. A number of the guests mistook this for granadilla, but the pips of the prickly pear are much harder and bigger, making them hard to swallow. The main course was described as ‘Journey of Duck’, and was an excellent pairing with the Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Reserve 2011. It was a most generous serving of Leg Confit with gooseberry jelly, a thigh and goats curd samoosa with liver parfait, delicious slow grilled breast with a naartjie la orange jus, quinoa and wild mushrooms, braised baby onions, and glazed vanilla carrots.
The dessert was also generous, with an interesting collection of raisin tea and rooibos bread and butter soufflé, an unusual avocado and bitter chocolate tart, and a coconut blackberry semi freddo, which was paired with the Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest 2011.
Sitting close to Woolworths wine buyer Allan Mullins it was interesting to hear that he became one of the first Cape Wine Masters in 1986, and started at Woolworths four years later, having been a maths teacher at SACS in his previous career.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of Blaauwklippen White Zinfandel 2010, Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest 2011, and Zinfandel 2012 with our media information.
Blaauwklippen Vineyards. R44, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 880-0136 www.blaauwklippen.com Twitter: @Blaauwklippen Wine Tasting 10h00 – 18h30 (summer)/17h00 (winter)
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I attended the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition celebration lunch for the second year running on Friday, and enjoyed the good food served by new Chef Chris Marais (previously at The Oyster Box, Twelve Apostles hotel, and Bushman’s Kloof) and hearing how each of the four finalist wine clubs got to mix and marry their unique wine blends for the competition, the 29th which Blaauwklippen has organised.
I sat next to Rolf Zeitvogel, Blaauwklippen GM and winemaker, and the bubbly Swiss Natalie Campbell, whom I had met at Sante’s restaurant many years ago and who now is Rolf’s PA and handles marketing too. Natalie updated me about all the Blaauwklippen news, including the appointment of Chef Chris, the introduction of High Tea from 17 September, the introduction of Tapas from 16h00 – 19h30 from 1 October, the closure of the Cape Kitchen restaurant, wine tasting hours extending until 18h30 in summer, and the introduction of a new menu for the Barouche Restaurant.
Welcoming the guests, Rolf laughed in saying that the table gets longer every year, the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition having become so popular. He shared that 78 wine clubs from six countries (even including Belgium, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, and Namibia) had entered the competition this year, with 40 % of the entries coming from the Western Cape, but no clubs from our province made it into the finals. The four finalist teams included last year’s winner (The Three Sheets to the Wind), in addition to Johannesburg wine clubs Wwiwwew (which name they did not want to explain until they arrived at the event) and Bacchanalian, as well as the George club Babalost. Each wine club leader was given an opportunity to tell us about their wine club’s history, and the technique they used to create their finalist blends. Blaauwklippen shipped 150 hampers of 175 ml base wines, being Blaauwklippen’s Shiraz, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, to each wine club. By the end of June they received each club’s ‘recipe’ for their blend, with notes too, and two bottles of each of the 78 entrant blends were made up by assistant winemaker Albert Basson. A team of judges (Andrew Chigorimbo, Albert Basson, Clive Torr, Samarie Smith, Jonathan Snashall, and Edo Heyns) was invited, the blends evaluated blind, and the finalist blends selected. Rolf told us that the average Shiraz content of the blends was 34%, Zinfandel featuring strongly too. The winning blend was bottled in magnums, called the Blaauwklippen Barouche Magnum 2011, with a label designed by Frans Groenewald.
Each wine club had funny stories to tell about their club and their blend, and each had good speakers:
* The Three Sheets to the Wind club fed back how much they enjoyed the event last year, and that they had entered for the fifth time this year. The ten members meet every second month, and love drinking wine, and they love the competition, their representative Robert said.
* The Babalost club name came from ‘babelas‘ and a story about a mixture of leftover wines which a child was sent to school with, it having been mistaken for a berry juice! They have entered four times, and made the finals for the first time.
* The Bacchanalian Society sounded really serious, and it has been in existence for 38 years already, and only accepts 27 male members, which caused a ripple of dissent from the ladies present. The Club representative described the members as being very sensible and disciplined, meeting monthly. Every second year each member presents a new wine to the fellow members, and in alternate years they have to make a ‘mystery wine’. The club was named after Bacchus, the ‘god of wine‘. They have participated in the Blaauwklippen blending competition since its inception, and made the finals for the first time this year.
* The Wwiwweww club representative Jon-Marc Loureiro is a lawyer and was an excellent speaker, telling the funny story about how they describe their wines in terms of ‘female voluptuousness‘ rather than in serious wine terminology. Their club started at UCT, and a number of members have carried on, the 12 – 15 members accepted on the basis of being ‘nice people’, and the club has had various names over the past fifteen years. The wine club is unstructured and informal. The name emerged from their lack of success in making the finals, having entered since 2004, being an abbreviation of ‘When will we ever win’. They received the good news that their question had been answered, and that they had won the blending competition, with a blend of 32% Shiraz, 30% Zinfandel, 20 % Cabernet Franc, and 18% Petit Verdot. Rolf showed me their entry form, and their motivation for their blend was equally funny: “We liked the result which was not intuitive but came together like Cosatu demonstrators to a call to march. The tannins were prevalent but we saw… tasted enough acid and fruit that will come to the fore over time. Particular mention must be made of the Zinfandel and Petit Verdot”. The club won a trophy, six magnums of their blend, glassware from Vitria, and the weekend in Stellenbosch.
The Le Nose wine club from Somerset West won the Newcomer Club Award, entering for the first time. Rolf admitted that it had been one of their toughest tastings, with a score range of 14,29 – 16,50 out of 20.
The lunch commenced with a starter of Kataifi wrapped prawns with marinated cucumber spaghetti, beetroot carpaccio, and a citrus reduction, which was served with a Blaauwklippen Viognier 2011. ‘Kataifi’ is a very fine vermicelli-like pastry used to make desserts in various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, particularly Palestinian or Greek, a Google search revealed. This was followed by a choice of seared tuna with miso marmalade, and Confit duck leg and seared duck breast with truffle cauliflower purée, sautéed greens, and spiced duck jus, which we enjoyed with the new winning Blaauwklippen Barouche 2011. For dessert we had golden fried brown bread ice cream with slow roasted plums and Melba sauce, with the Blaauwklippen Noble Late Harvest Viognier 2012.
The Blaauwklippen Blending Competition clearly is a highlight for wine lovers, and is an important element of the Blaauwklippen marketing programme, with Rolf and his colleagues travelling around the country, meeting with the finalist wine clubs, and keeping in close communication with them throughout the year. The new Blaauwklippen Barouche Magnum is available from the wine estate’s tasting centre at R134, and at selected retail outlets. The 30th anniversary of the Blaauwklippen Blending Competition in 2013 is eagerly awaited.
Disclosure: We received a magnum of the new Blaauwklippen Barouche with the media pack.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I experienced one of the cleverest wine marketing ideas when I had lunch at Glen Carlou Restaurant on Friday. The Restaurant Manager Janine came to each table with a washed bunch of freshly picked Malbec grapes, so that one can experience the taste of a more unusual grape variety. This brought the vineyard, in which we could see the Glen Carlou staff picking grapes below us, straight to the table, and stimulated an interest in tasting the wines after the lunch, even though I had decided against wine-tasting initially.
Glen Carlou has been owned by Donald Hess for the last six years, and he is an entrepreneur with international interests, such as we have seen at Delaire Graff and Grande Provence – international owners of multiple properties around the world, and lovers of and investors in art. Janine reminded every table about the Hess Collection art gallery, which is behind closed doors in an airconditioned room, containing some interesting works of art – not the place to bring one’s teenage daughter! Hess has wine interests in Argentina, California, Australia and in South Africa. The Hess Family Estates had its first beginnings in Switzerland in 1844, when Johann Heinrich Hess founded a brewery in Berne. The current owner Donald Hess grew the company, in that it diversified into mineral water, Valser Water becoming Switzerland’s leading water brand. He loves wine and art, and married these two passions with his first wine estate purchase on Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley in 1978. Then followed wine estates in Argentina (the highest vineyard in the world), in Australia, and then in South Africa, with the purchase of Glen Carlou (making wines since 1985). Hess is one of the world’s major collectors of contemporary art representing the last fifty years, and his collection includes 1000 works by 65 international artists. Hess only acquires pieces that challenge or touch him personally. “When I have seen an art piece which keeps me awake over several nights, I know that this art piece has touched me deeply and this is one of my most important criteria to buy an art work”, he says in a profile on the Hess Art Collection.
The building is an all-in-one wine cellar (on the lower level) and one can see very little of the wine production side, save for a glass floor section allowing one to see some barrels below, tasting room, art gallery and restaurant. One enters a lovely air conditioned room, which has the wine tasting counter closest to the door, and the rest of the space is taken up by a very spacious restaurant, with a small lounge section too. It has a homely thatched roof ceiling. The terrace has shading so that one can sit outside and enjoy the lovely view onto the vineyards below and the Paarl Mountains in the distance. I could have sworn that I saw a little buck dashing from one vineyard to the other. There is attractive white garden furniture outside, with a glass top and aluminium table. The cork placemats and the old-fashioned wooden salt and pepper grinders seemed out of place with the international character of the wine estate (Peugeot is very in, I have noticed on my restaurant travels), and there is no table cloth, yet there is a material serviette, into which is rolled two forks and two knives, on the assumption that one will have a starter and a main course. Two big glass containers contain olive oil (from House of Olives down the road) and balsamic vinegar (from Serena, according to the waiter).
I was seated by Janine, who was very friendly, but I felt her Capri pants to be out of character with the stature of this Hess winery. The chef Hennie van der Merwe has been at Glen Carlou for about two years, and previously owned The Red Hen restaurant on Wildebraam outside Swellendam. He has also worked at Umami in Stellenbosch, on the QE2, and on the Queen Mary. I was surprised (and impressed) that I was welcomed by Georgie Prout, the Public Relations Manager, who recognised me from the Winestyle launch at Warwick a few months ago, she said. She was very helpful in providing information about the other Hess wine farms.
The menu is presented in a black leather menu holder, and in fact there are two menus. While I had a look through the menus, introduced two weeks ago, the waiter brought two bread rolls (looked like mosbolletjies to me, but topped with sesame seeds), which again did not match the stature of the wine estate, in my opinion. Each item on the menu has a Glen Carlou wine recommendation. As I was just passing through, I ordered two starters, the first being a Caprese salad with Bocconcini (an imported buffalo mozzarella, I was told), ‘baby plum tomatoes’, tiny drops of basil pesto, and rocket – the chef seems to like rocket, as both starters had lots of it on the plate, and it had a really bitter taste (R40). It was served with two tiny triangles of toast (what is it with tiny toast triangles? I had them at Mange Toute as well), which were not enough to eat with the cheese. I would have preferred the basil fresh and not in pesto form. Much more exciting was the seared duck breast served with duck liver mousse, and I loved the orange honey sauce that was served with it (R60). I thought the rocket and grapefruit distracted from and clashed with the lovely duck and sauce, both being too bitter, even though they added colour to the starter. I would like to see this dish become a main course, so good was the duck and sauce. The duck liver mousse was on another tiny toast triangle. Starters cost between R 40 – R65, and other options include smoked trout and asparagus, mussels, and an interesting sounding trio of Kudu carpaccio, steak tartar with poached quail egg and rooibos smoked springbok loin.
Main courses are reasonable in price, costing R85 – R105, and include roasted pork fillet and mushroom fricassee, sirloin steak, roasted quail, kingklip, duck, and trout. Georgie told me that Chef Hennie is known for his wonderful sauces. The second menu has further options, mainly salads and burgers, costing R60 – R85. The cappuccino (R16) took long to bring to the table, but was in a large cup, and very foamy. It was while I was waiting for the coffee that Janine came with the bunch of grapes, so it served as a dessert. Dessert choices are Malva pudding, Crème Brulee, and chocolate mousse, all costing a most reasonable R30, ice cream at R12 a scoop, and a Boland cheese platter at R85 – they are not on the menu one receives on arrival, but on a menu list which includes side orders, drinks other than wines, and the Kiddies Menu.
I had a large jug of farm water and lemon to drink, and was surprised at the saltiness of the water. The waiter said something about putting lemon into the water because of that, but I did not understand this. The wines are listed in a similar black leather holder. I was very impressed that there was no mark-up on the Glen Carlou wines on the winelist at all! This makes them very reasonable to order : Sauvignon Blanc (R18/R65), Tortoise Hill White (R12/R42), Chardonnay (R25/R90), Quartz Stone Chardonnay (R25/R90), Pinot Noir (R36/R130), Tortoise Hill Red (R16/R49), Syrah (R34/R120), Zinfandel (R36/R130), Cabernet Sauvignon (R25/R90), Grand Classique (R34/R120), Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon (R80/R375) and The Welder (R22/R89). In addition, one can buy Hess wines from Argentina (Colomè), Peter Lehmann (Australia) and the Hess Collection from California, ranging in price from R140 – R 395, at Glen Carlou. I was encouraged via Twitter to try Glen Carlou’s Zinfandel, and having been to a Blaauwklippen Zinfandel tasting a week ago, I tried a small glassfull, and liked it very much. Janine wanted me to know that the Zinfandel is seen as a ‘hobby wine’, and only 6000 bottles are produced. She said that the Hess Zinfandel from Napa has a very different character to that of Glen Carlou, even though both have 15 % alcohol. I then tried a small glassful of the 2006 Shiraz, and it is one of my favourites. The winemaker is a low profile Arco Laarman, whose name I did not know – Janine said he worked alongside the previous cellarmaster David Finlayson, and has been at Glen Carlou for ten years.
The invoice came in a soft black leather holder, and I was irritated when the waiter came to my table with the credit card machine – I had not put down my card, was still having my grapes and water, did not show signs of leaving, and had no intention to pay by card.
As I drive past Glen Carlou whenever I go to Franschhoek, I will certainly pop in for lunch again. I used to love their prawn salad, but that dish is not on the new menu. There are a number of interesting dishes to try at Glen Carlou on future visits.
Glen Carlou Restaurant, Simondium Road (R 45), Klapmuts. Tel (021) 875-5528. www.glencarlou.co.za (The new menu is not yet on the website. Innovative is that recipes are listed on the website, but they are for dishes no longer on the menu). Tuesday – Sunday.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage