Getting into Wine: how is it done, besides climbing into the tank?

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Something rather odd has been happening to me in the supermarket wine aisles recently.  An involuntary eyebrow raise, wide eyes and, at the worst of times, an aghast look ebbing across my face.

These all disappear as I am jolted back to reality via an elbowing in the ribs from whomever I am with. Why? The result of seeing young men or women reaching for a bottle of sweet wine from the shelves – be it Two Nephews or Four Cousins or what have you. At times, I have been known to wander in the direction of this scene, curiously wanting to find out more about their purchase or divulge information on residual sugar. Generally resulting, too, in a tug of my sleeve and a humiliating hiss of so they like sweet wine, so what?

So what indeed. I am often asked questions along the lines of how does one get into wine? Then I was asked to pen something on it and it really got the brain cells dancing around the bonfire. How did I get into wine? I had a look around my world. I have wine magnets on the fridge, my passwords are wine related, I study wine as time allows and, when my account hits rock bottom with too many days left until payday, I am generally asked, “how much wine did you buy this month?” Clearly then, it seems, I am into wine. And if I think back ten or so years, I was the one reaching for the Saint Anna on the supermarket shelf.

That’s where it began. I was a student and I lived and studied in the Winelands, I was always going to encounter wine. When you are a first year and you are on your way to a braai as a student, the liquor store purchase is invariably between some alcopop six-pack and wine. The whisk(e)y/brandy/vodka mixers tend to come a bit later – or so was my experience. Moreover, as a child, I was surrounded by adults who I looked up to – in both senses of the term – invariably holding glasses of vino at social gatherings. It looked so glamorous. A sip here, a sip there…a liking is easily acquired. When one starts drinking as a teen, remnants of the milk teeth have us reaching for the sweet…it’s the natural order of things. The fact that sweet wine gets you plastered so much more quickly may have only slightly something to do with it.

Following on from this is a lesson in the art of respect. Something my blog actually makes reference to. In my case, wine tended to win. Aspirin sales soared with me. It was around this time that I became enraptured by the grape – the whole thing, from berry to bottle. The way it reacts so differently with food, the way certain vines like cool or warmth, or don’t like getting their feet wet. For the first time in, well, ever, I was truly intrigued by something and wanted to know more.

Not everyone gets bitten by the bug, but everyone I speak to seems to enjoy wine to a degree: be it a glass once a week or a bottle every day. No judging here. I’ve chatted to those who don’t care if the bottle’s been sitting in the fridge for a week, or who actually prefer it out of a box – to those who are interested in what food it complements and the downright self-confessed geeks. It doesn’t matter which section of the spectrum you fit into, it just matters that you enjoy it. Wine is mostly about enjoyment (in my books). That and the fact that one of the driving forces of human nature is intrigue, so if you’ve been drinking Sauvignon blanc for two years, it’s likely that you will reach a point where you decide you’d like to sample a Sauvignon blend, and maybe later on, the boundaries will be pushed towards sampling a straight Semillon. Taking this into consideration, you clearly are into wine. The base is there, and from that you can build.

Don’t get caught up in small stuff. You are advised, lone behold instructed not to put ice in your wine, and God forbid it’s red wine. It “dilutes the flavours” and “if served at the right temperature, you shouldn’t need ice.” Swell, but you like your wine very chilled, so what’s the problem? The pharmaceutical companies recommend I swallow a headache tablet with a little water or milk. I generally take mine with Chenin blanc because that’s my preference. And speaking of preferences, it can be overwhelming for many to face a wine list in a restaurant, especially under the guidance of a third party. In a nice restaurant, we are generally tempted to try something a little different and when someone is punting a wine at you, you generally just go along with it to get the whole process over with and the nectar poured into your glass pronto. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been swayed to go for Wine Z, taken a sip and found my tastebuds wincing, internally screeching at me what the HELL is that??

To avoid this type of scenario, and to attempt to ‘get into wine’ a bit more (if that is indeed your preference) then I would start with this little activity which will tantalise your tastebuds, be a barrel of fun and prove informative at the same time.

Choose your favourite vino. Let’s assume this is Sauvignon. Hit the shops and buy 4 or 5 different Sauvignon blancs from different producers. Those that arouse your curiosity and you would like to ‘get to know better.’ Or buy 50/50 red/white if you prefer. Invite your best buddies over. Before they arrive, cover the bottles – newspaper or socks (clean, preferably) – are easiest. Mix them all up so that even you have lost track of which is which. Number them. And then just have a bit of a tasting party. Go through them, make a note of those you like and those you don’t – and why. If you want to take it a bit further, have some snacks prepared on the side with different flavour elements…salmon pieces, pâté, biltong, cheese, olives etc. Even something sweet. It’s great to see which combinations work and which don’t. Later, have a Google of ‘wine tasting games’ or similar – you will find a whole heap of ideas online. If it proves a hit, do it monthly or every second month with different wines. It’s interesting, relaxed and downright simple fun – and a laid back way to take your enjoyment of wine to the next level.

You may even discover your new favourite way of taking Aspirin.

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Natte Valleij – Dry Hanepoot 2014 – a reinvention by the Milner Bros

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Alex Milner dropped a bottle of this off at my office in November. At least I think it was November. It may have been before, but my mind’s registry no longer goes that far back due to some brain cell wreckage from Christmas drinking.

I have been excited to taste this since the day he put it in my hand, but Life has a way of overtaking and I did not, in fact, get to sit down to try it and scribble my review until Monday evening. There was a certain fascination about this bottle every single time I opened the fridge because, I felt, it was as though there was some prized alien staring back at me…dry Hanepoot…come now people, have you really seen this around?? I haven’t. Apart from Charmaine and Oubaas sharing ‘n Hanepootjie at the end of the day in 7de Laan’s Oppikoffie, this really isn’t a wine that featured on my radar. Until now.

When poured into the glass, this wine is watery white. In fact when I later looked at the photo I took, I thought people would think I’d run mad featuring a glass of water next to the wine bottle…

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Camera tilt: unconnected to photographer’s wine consumption.

When you nose it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t smelling white grape juice – of the box kind. So, behold the surprise when you put this very grapey, nectar-like liquid to your lips and it’s completely…dry. The nose is perfumey with a hint of rose water and jasmin, making me think it would stand up well to spicy food – I would definitely like to cart a bottle of this along to a curry house. There’s a fruit burst on the palette of white nectarine and winter melon and a zesty acidity that may be a little sharp at first for some, but it tones down and harmonises with the fruit. An interesting, almost-saline component flashes on your tongue at the end tying it all together rather smartly.

I seriously enjoyed this wine and will definitely be going about trying to lay my hands on more. This is something very different and a totally lip-smackingly delish summer wine.

Read a little more about it on the Natte Valleij website: http://www.nattevalleij.co.za/wine/ and whilst you’re at, follow the man who’s niftily reincarnated this ill-forgotton grape, Alex Milner: @MilnerAlex and @nattevalleij

If you fancy a bit more of a read on this grape, or even ordering a bottle of the Natte Valleij, check out: http://www.winecellar.co.za/dry-hanepoot.html

It’s a Mobile World…(for your wine)

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On Thursday evening, I attended my second Women in Wine Exchange. This one was hosted at the gorgeous Warwick Wine Estate, with Norma and Mike Ratcliffe as our hosts. Having ill-judged traffic, I was early to arrive. The lovely, bubbly Jani Branders (Warwick’s Hospitality Manager) pushed a glass of vino into my hand and, as I caught sight of Norma’s vibrant top, she greeted me. Her cheerful, “hello” and funky attire were a total one-up on last month’s get-together when, meeting her for the first time, her mere presence quite honestly scared the sh!t* out of me. This was the first time I had met Mike Ratcliffe.  It’s fabulous for me to put faces to these industry names after so many years of hearing about them. Mike is instantly likeable: fun and funny, with an openness and great charisma about him. He had a lesion on his lower leg which sparked conversation…he was attacked on a bike ride…rabid dog, mosquito or lion…the jury’s still out.

The theme of the presentation that evening was Social Media & Mobile – it’s a whole new world! Mike talked us through the importance and necessity of being tech savvy, particularly mobile savvy, if you want your brand/product to stay in the game, and preferably ahead of it. The statistics of internet-connected and smart-phone users from ten years ago to today is alarming. He had some simple graphs up on the projector with bar charts and merging lines that had me blinking in sets of three. After all, ten years ago was only yesterday, right? If someone had told us then that a company’s key engagement strategy with their consumer base would be via mobile phone, with the use of @-symbols and hashtags to broaden the reach, I’m sure most of us would’ve thought that person had been supping too long on the plonk. Yet here we are. And all we can do is embrace it…adapt or die as the harsh aphorism states. Alas, it would seem that cookies are no longer crumbly, buttery bites of goodness.

Colleen Norkie is Mike’s right-hand (wo)man of a decade and Warwick’s Direct Marketing Manager. She shared her insights on marketing in a digital era and, although nervous as all hell, ploughed through her presentation with guts and grace. I’d have needed a large Gin. This cool lady also let it be known that she has made a batch of her own wine. So, not only does she take social media by the horns and ride the bull with mastery, but she has handpicked her grapes and bottled her own vino. @rookie_wino I’m so #jealous

Thank you to Mike, Norma, Colleen, Jani and all involved for a most enjoyable and insightful evening. A big tip of the hat, too, to Chef Dane Newton – the food was fanbloodytastic.

*I feel OK to cuss here when, during presentation feedback, Fiona McDonald used the word “f**king” as an adjective in her comment. Sadly, this post won’t do justice to the smooth, caramel-like way it ebbed from her mouth. There’s only one other woman I’ve known to say it so, and that was my Grandmother. An utterly fabulous woman, God rest her soul. I think some practise is in order.  Of enunciating it, that is.

In lieu of embracing social media, please follow the wonderful Warwick team (and make damn sure you have a picnic on the their lawn lined up for summer).

@WarwickWine @mikeratcliffe @normrat Colleen: @rookie_wino Dane: @WarwickChef

www.warwickwine.com / +27 21 884 4410

© Daisy Knowles 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Unusual Varietals

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Last month, a few of us sat down around a friend’s dining room table and had the pleasure of delving into this line-up:

Wine 1: The Foundry 2013 – Roussanne

There was the lightest of green tinges to this wine and a lovely note of warm, creamy oak greeted the nose. As you swirled the glass, herbaceous scents rose up along with a whiff of hay barrels – transporting me immediately to summers in England and trekking through country lanes bordering on picturesque fields. There was a delicate lemon citrus component on the palette followed by a puckering twang and whilst this fresh burst of zestiness sadly faded a little too fast, the acidity seemed to stick around a little longer. Set your glass aside and leave it a while, and you’ll find whiffs of diesel on your return…Please believe me, this is far nicer than it sounds…

http://www.thefoundry.co.za/

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Wine 2: Lemberg 2013

A pleasant light-gold hue in the glass with delicious smells of orange, apricot and a white flower that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There is an almost saline component when it touches your lips followed by a yummy, full-mouth feel…I was happily surprised by the slightly more voluptuous body this white wine had. The floral notes remain in your glass and, in fact, seem to become stronger the longer you swirl the liquid. Secondary notes of clementine push through. Some may find this a little heavy to drink on its own, but I highly recommend (at least) one glass to savour its delights before sitting down to enjoy it with a meal.

http://www.lemberg.co.za

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Wine 3: Rickety Bridge: Foundation Stone 2013

I feel that the slightly sweeter nose on this wine will appeal to a larger number of our SA wine drinkers. It is almost tropical, with definite banana nuances, and made me think immediately of sand, straw hats and umbrellas in your drinks. Medium-bodied with a creamy mouth-feel and a refreshing acidity that carried just long enough before taking your next sip. Notes of golden sultanas play briefly on the nose and there’s a tart bite of a Granny Smith apple on the palette. This fruitiness could have stuck around a little longer for my liking. However, even after some time in the glass, the creamy element remains which I like. A lot. I got to take a bottle of this home at the end of the night…most chuffed, I was.  It now sits in my wine fridge with a post-it on its chest reading, Don’t drink unless your name is Daisy.

http://www.ricketybridgewinery.com/shop/rickety-bridge-the-foundation-stone-white-2013/

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Wine 4: Natte Valleij: Cinsault 2013

With a candle wax capping (say that a few times over when you’re drunk), this wine makes you feel as though you’re about to tuck into something very special… I immediately smelled seeped cherries when I put my nose to the glass: the smell that comes when making compote and the fruit sits simmering on the stove top. Hints of mushroom and a meaty element came through as well, and a trace of marzipan somewhere deep inside the glass. That’s quite a big noseful. The tannins on this wine were grippy, yet gentle enough not to be overbearing. I’d say this is a medium-full bodied red – yet very easy drinking – I’d enjoy it quite happily on its own without feeling that the back-up of food was needed. A dark fruit element lingers and there’s a layer of eucalyptus when you return to the glass later.

http://www.nattevalleij.co.za/wine/

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Wine 5: Terra Del Capo: Sangiovese 2012

There was an appealing regal-purple hue when you see this wine poured into the glass followed by a scrumptious nose of earth, red berries, cinnamon and liquorice. A full, buff-bodied red, this Italian dude of a wine has certainly spent some time in the gym. You can almost taste the hours it’s spent pumping iron as it smacks your palate and waits for you to brush off and want more. Personally, I’d need some food with this one…and why not keep on one track and let it work its magic with something equally Italiano…perhaps spaghetti alla puttanesca (literally, “spaghetti of the whore” in Italian – for those who didn’t know). Don’t dwell too much on how that name came to be, and rather pair this Casanova of a wine with a lady of the night counterpart – and see how the evening unfolds…

http://www.rupertwines.com/product.php?id_product=21

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Wine 6: Idiom: Barbera 2010

The first thing to greet your eye on this wine is the tall, sleek bottle with its crisp white, elegant label. It’s enticing to look at. It was a porty colour when sitting in the glass – a very deep, dark purple with the faintest light-brown rim. I found the nose to be a little offensive at first so I let it stand a while in the glass to open up. It later gave rise to whiffs of black fruit and a dusty, earthy element. On the palate, the tannins were fairly pronounced and tastes of cacao powder and tart blackcurrant rushed over the taste buds. I found the fruit to fade quickly with the acidity sticking about a little longer. I openly confess that this wine and I battled with one another, but I would certainly try it again – possibly, I am just not used to Barbera.  A sneaky glance at the rest of the offering in their Idiom collection had my knees quivering under the desk…oh to try some of those.  #DearSanta…

http://www.bottegafamilywine.co.za/idiom-collection.html

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Photos from the respective wineries websites.

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Indigenous Drinking

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The fynbos family makes it mark on wine

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Please may I begin by stating that I am not linking Rooibos and Honeybush tea and their natural benefits to wine suddenly being a healthy tipple, that is not what I am saying. A recent advert in the Sunday times saw the National Liquor Authority voicing concerns that this could be misleading and interpreted that ‘Rooibos wine’ is healthy. No. This wine is not made from the leaves of the Rooibos bush, nor does it contain tea anywhere in it. Quite simply, this wine has no added sulphites or preservatives and, rather, Rooibos and Honeybush wood are used during the fermentation and ageing processes.

Now that we have that slight glitch out of the way, please allow me the opportunity to give you a bit more info on this very interesting wine that is making a name for itself.

The ‘No Sulphites or Preservatives Added’ Merlot 2013 hails from Audacia, a red wine boutique winery situated between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. It is a first to be made in this pioneering method and an innovation that was patent-protected very quickly by proprietor, Trevor Strydom. Although 2011 saw experimentation with new techniques involving these indigenous woods, it was only in March 2014 that it was first launched. And it was fast to receive interest and positive reviews, receiving a Bronze at this year’s Veritas Awards. Added to this, because the wood is sourced from plants native to the Cape Floral Kingdom (Rooibos and Honeybush are part of a Unesco World Heritage Site), the Merlot found itself recognised as a project of the World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 under the Sustainability Solutions category.

Why on earth should I drink this?

The wood from these two plants is distinctive in that it has lower tannin levels than other wood used in wine making, as well as high levels of anti-oxidants. Many folks out there may enjoy a red that doesn’t lay claim to mouth-puckering tannins – the facial guises akin to an awkward teenager having to kiss a silver haired, saliva-cladded family member. And of course, these woods will impart their own, unique flavour profiles to the wine. The 2013 Merlot spent eight months on indigenous wood.

As every wine lover will know, the main preservative in wine is sulphur dioxide. With many people being sensitive to sulphur, there has been a drive in recent years to lower the SO2 levels in wine. Audacia’s winemaker, Michael Van Niekerk, played a large part in bringing this unique vintage to fruition, stating, “the use of indigenous wood in the wine making process provides wine drinkers with a unique-tasting alternative, free of traditional amounts of allergy-inducing preservatives.”  In our beloved South Africa, the legal amount of sulphites allowed in table wine is up to 150mg/l, “while the Audacia Merlot 2013 contains only 3mg/l of sulphur (which is naturally produced by yeasts during the fermentation process). We add none ourselves.” If you don’t have to add the price of a box of Sinutab to your wine purchase, why the heck not give it a bash?

Buy now, drink later?

No. As mentioned, the Rooibos and Honeybush species contain decent amounts of antioxidants and so preserve the wine more naturally. Bearing this in mind, this wine is not made to be kept for a lengthy number of years. So, buy a bottle to try with friends, buy a bottle to gift to a wine-loving family member, or buy a bottle for your (overseas) clients to treat them with something unusual and 100% South African. Because there is nothing available on the global wine stage that is quite like this. And local is, after all, lekker.

It was insightful for me to partake in hosting a wine tasting at Audacia for this ‘No Sulphites or Preservatives Added’ 2013 Rooibos-wooded Merlot earlier in the year. People were intrigued…both positively and negatively. Some turned their noses up and refused to try it, others couldn’t get the cash out fast enough. We paired it with vol-au-vents filled with mince that had been flavoured with Rooibos and a little chilli. It worked a treat. But it was fascinating to hear opinions and feedback – and see the facial expressions. Most people didn’t even realise that the Rooibos plant had wood attached to it, let alone that it could be used in the process of making wine. Wag ‘n bietjie…julle het TEE ini wyn bygegooi??? Fortunately, I had sampled enough of the wine during the tasting to be able to answer this question calmly all the way to the end.

My tasting note on the Rooibos wooded Merlot 2013

100% Merlot.  A luscious, inky, deep-purple colour. Intense aromas offer up an array of ripe cherries, rose petal, a very subtle hint of Turkish Delight and the classic Rooibos note.  Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegant with a smooth, balanced tannin structure.  The wine’s predominant flavour is reminiscent of fynbos and, yes, you can pick up the same distinct flavour profile that you would on a cup of Rooibos or Honeybush tea. However, it isn’t overwhelming and is complemented by a subtle, ‘Christmas’ spice flavour. A pleasant, sweet red berry finish lingers at the end. Enjoy this with a meaty dish or perhaps, more interestingly, with a dessert…Chili-&-cinnamon-infused chocolate pots maybe?…Sounds good to me.

I have had the privilege of spending some time with the winemaker and being taken through the Rooibos/Honeybush-wooded 2014 line up of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cab Franc. I’m looking forward to being re-introduced to them a little later down the line and comparing my tasting notes. Of course, Audacia makes these wines without the Rooibos wood element as well. Naturally, they realize it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sorry…had to be done.

I am happy to tell you that Pick ‘n Pay is the exclusive national retailer to stock the Rooibos wooded wine, available in selected supermarkets and liquor outlets. The retailer’s liquor buyer, Mervyn Cusens, says, “It brings something new and fresh to an over-traded industry. Rooibos is an iconic local emblem. The Audacia team has succeeded in using its [the Rooibos plant] singular properties to create a product that is original, distinctive and proudly South African.”

Please visit www.audacia.co.za for more, and be sure to pop by the farm for a wine tasting. You can, of course, swing by the farm on the weekend to experience the ROOT 44 market and do the tasting then…just make sure to take: lots of bucks to splurge on eats and treats that you don’t need (except wine, one always needs that), and leave: grumpy family members at home.

It retails around the R100-mark from both the tasting room and supermarket shelves.

Audacia Merlot 2013

WINES of the NIGHT: Saturday, 8th November 2014

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 As I type, my liver is processing wine. Some really good wine. Fortunately, my head isn’t doing the same, leading me to wonder if there may be some truth behind quality wine = no headache…? I hosted a small dinner party last night, and this is what we had the privilege of drinking:

  • Backsberg – 2009 Brut MCC
  • Iona – Viognier Limited Release 2011
  • La Motte – Millennium 1997
  • Cederberg – Cederberger 2008

I made a point of pouring last night, so that I could vigilantly control the amount poured into each person’s glass. There may or may not have been more in mine each time.   For some reason last night, I made a diligent point of taking photos and scribbling a few notes on each of these wines. Something I always trying to do when opening good wine, and generally followed by, “SHIT” when I walk into the kitchen the next morning and see the bottles in the bin.

Yesterday evening, I actually made these notes and even took to Twitter as well. I got so carried away during my La Motte tweet, that I included two different millennia in one posting. Ironic, I thought, given the name. Yes, ’07 and ’97 both appeared in my rambling. An error kindly pointed out to me by one Giovanni Ghignone, @G_Masta. Too late, too late, she cried in vain, and so I carried on drinking to ease my idiocy. Note: don’t take to social media when booze is flowing through your veins. You’re bound to make a mistake, or worse still, a spelling error. Incorrect spelling makes me break out in cold sweats.

And now, on to my review of these four wonderful wines.

Backsberg 2009 Brut

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I was mightily enthusiastic on opening this, and I made sure I was alone in the kitchen when pouring. It was like liquid gold as it streamed into the flutes, the bubbles dancing as excitedly as I was. The mousse was fresh, zesty and full and as it dissipated, it revealed almondy, biscuity notes. It was dry, yeasty and delicious and I could happily have quaffed on this all evening. We had this with smoked snoek pâté and breadsticks – making for a most happy match. The only unhappy component being my face when the bottled had finished. Backsberg, your bubbles captured my heart. And liver. I will certainly be turning to you for more sparkle in the future.

Iona Viognier 2011

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Viognier is my favourite white and has been since we met one another about three years ago. A varietal I was terribly unfamiliar with, and one that I now hold very dear. Not everyone gets it right, in fact I had a perfectly unpleasant example last week that saw me OD’ing on Sinutab, but when it’s right, boy is it right. And this one was. There was white marshmallow and butterscotch on the nose with whiffs of honeysuckle and I thought even some jasmine showed, too. It was rich and creamy with a subtle hint of white nectarine and a whole heap of elegance. I couldn’t get over how aromatic it was and how full it was on the palate. I was mightily pleased that the rest of the party had moved on to red leaving me to enjoy this bottle all on my own. I was even more pleased that I had hastily added this wine to my purchases the day I visited Iona. Proving that sometimes, the best wine-buying decisions are made when you’re inebriated.

La Motte ‘Millennium’ 1997

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This red blend had Cabernet as the leading role, followed by Merlot and Cab Franc. A friend brought this wine to our dinner party. On the back of the label it says to be enjoyed with casseroles, and that happened to be exactly what was on our menu. We decanted this and set it aside for a good two hours before we touched it. It was a deep Burgundy colour and had a slight Sherry element on the nose. The fruit had faded quite substantially but this didn’t deter it from being a very special wine; I only wish I could have sampled it a few years ago, too. The tannins were only just still present yet there was a notable acidity holding it together. I picked up definite notes of scrummy Christmas spice. We had this alongside a chicken casserole that had been simmering gently for seven hours in the slow cooker. The sauce was tomato-based with lots of herbs. I served some bruschetta on the side topped with red pesto and Brie.  I felt the wine stood up surprisingly well to these different flavour components. What a privilege to have tried this vino.

Cederberg ‘Cederberger’ 2008

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A few years ago I was at a wine and dinner evening called Meet the Winemaker, and at the end of the night when my card was drawn in the raffle, David Nieuwoudt presented me with this bottle of wine. It would have been fun to have had him at the table last night and heard what he had to say on it now.  The blend comprised of Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz.  I was in lust from first sip. On the nose there were lovely whiffs of eucalyptus, smoke, pink pepper, clove, mint and blackcurrant.  It seemed each swirl of the glass evoked a different aroma.  It had the faintest sweetness to it and owned a rich, full mouth-feel. Smooth tannins contributed to its structure, interwoven with stewed plums and cinnamon on the palate. It seemed only to get better as it opened up. Alongside this, I had bitter chocolate, cacao-dusted almonds, blueberries, raspberries and Boerenkaas on the table. By this stage, my food-baby and I practically needed a wheel chair to get to bed.  Well worth every morsel.

In the highly unlikely, possibly even shameful, event that you haven’t sampled the nectar of these fantastic wine farms, I urgently appeal to you to do so.  Be it a wine tasting and/or lunch (always the best option), they are well worth the time, money and taste experience.

http://www.backsberg.co.za (site currently under maintenance) / 021 875 5141

http://www.iona.co.za / 028 284 9678

http://www.la-motte.co.za / 021 876 8000

http://www.cederbergwine.com / 027 482 2827

Best Value Wines 2014 – a review of my favourite red and white

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Heron’s Nest Reserve Chardonnay 2013 | Clos Malverne

A gleaming, pale straw colour in the glass, this wine smelled immediately herbaceous and, interestingly, it had the faintest whiff of yoghurt somewhere in it. On first sip, there is a tartness akin to biting into a Granny Smith apple – yet it almost immediately turns to the sweetness of a Golden Delicious. Green melon, lemon sherbet and white peach all dance enticingly across the tastebuds. This is certainly one of the more layered white wines I’ve tried recently. I found the fruit and acid to be in satisfying balance and it had a long, lively finish. With only a subtle hint of oak, it’s clean and crisp. Refreshing and uncomplicated, it has a lot to offer without you having to deliberate on it. It’s also a bargain: I picked this bottle up for less than 30 bucks…So stock up and enjoy it (in large quantities) by the poolside this summer.

*I highly recommend forfeiting the likes of a retail outlet if you wish to buy this and heading straight to Clos Malverne instead.  It is one of my favourite Stellenbosch wine farms.  Their tasting room and restaurant offers an exquisite view framed by wrap-around glass.  Don’t miss their gourmet lunch and dinners at a very reasonable price (the latter being on the last Friday of every month). I confess to never having left one of these sober, they are very generous with their wine pouring. Bookings for these are essential. 021 865-2022, Ext.1.  Oh and the Spa, you HAVE to go to the Spa.

Polkadraai Pinotage Merlot 2012 | Stellenbosch Hills

The fun and funky black and white dotted neck makes for an immediate eye-catcher. The cursive scribble on the label hints at a carefree femininity…until you crack open the bottle and realise this is actually quite a buff wine. Its colour resonates that of purple plum skins and the nose is greeted with a smack of strawberry and cacao powder.   Swirl your glass a few times and a scrummy blackberry-mulberry jam comes at you. I wanted to find a hot, buttery croissant and pour it all over it. A second layer reveals whiffs of wood shavings and Christmas-cake spice. The first sip gives rise to a twang of tannin with a pronounced acidity that lingers long after swallowing. Then, a gigantic POP of sour red cherries hijacks your mouth, intertwined with whispers of aniseed and cassis. I served this up at home with spiced chicken livers on gemsquash-onion ‘mash’…Proe soos…Nog.

Link

Wine Extra – the coolest online wine magazine

Organic Wines | November 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_nov2/19?e=3604868/9638018

Gewürztraminer | October 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_oct/17?e=3604868/9276738

Sherry | September 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_sept_final/15?e=3604868/8935877?mode=window

Wines of Plettenberg Bay | August 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_august_web/17?e=3604868/8557672?mode=window

Fairtrade Wines | July 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_july/17?e=7768370/8563467?mode=window

Wines of the Klein Karoo | June 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_june2014/19?e=0/7910881?mode=window

Wine Dynamics | Mixed Varietals | May 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_web2/19?e=3604868/7435629?mode=window

Sauvignon Blancs | April 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/wine_extra_april_2014/13?e=7768370/8563558?mode=window

Bubblies | March 2014

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/march2014/13?e=7768370/8563529?mode=window

Unwooded Chards | December 2013

http://issuu.com/wineextra/docs/december_2013_updated/7?e=3604868/5619371?mode=window

In the Beginning there was…Wine.

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There was light and darkness, evening and morning, sea and sky – and there was Wine.

If any of you have seen Russell Crowe’s recent film, Noah*, you will know that towards the end he sits in a cave and, feeling rather overwhelmed by things (because, well, that Ark was a pretty mammoth task, (“yeah, come aboard my boat, gargantuan pythons” said no man ever)), he proceeds to get absolutely tanked on fermented grape juice.  Thus concluding that in the beginning – or near enough – there was Wine. Oh yes, and Jesus drank it, too.

*I am not sure why they cast him for this role, it seems wholly inappropriate to perv over a biblical figure. I’d say I haven’t done it since, but I found this to be untrue when recently watching Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Perhaps there’s a group one can join for this sort of problem.

My intro to Wine…

Wine has been my first love for a number of years (when you come to Stellenbosch, you drink Wine, a LOT of it) and the more I immersed myself in its intricate beauty, the deeper in love I fell. That is, until I met Eugene, now he is my Numero Uno Love, but Vino will always be “The One” that captured my heart. And liver. It’s never messed me around, screwed me over or cheated on me, yet it’s been there through all of those things.  We’ve had a couple of lessons in the art of Respect, and Wine has always won. It was then I decided Wine should actually be spelled with a capital ‘W’. Respect.

And so…this blog is a small testament to my relationship with this intriguing, most marvellous tipple.  Should you read it, I hope you enjoy it.

To end on some wise words from the back of a wine label I once read, “moenie drink en in die pad stap nie, jy kan sterf.” (Don’t drink and walk in the road, you can die.)