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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

It´s official- Autumn/Fall is here (in the Northern hemisphere), and what a beautiful time of year it is indeed! And with the colder, shorter days we are craving rich food and wine!

 

For gourmets, some wonderful spots in November include Piedmont (it´s white truffle season, basically culinary Nirvana!), lovely Lyon (gastro paradise) and La Rioja (think lamb chops roast over grape vines and served with velverty Rioja reserva, yes please!)….

 

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Autumn food, especially in cooler climates, has traditionally been calorific and intensely satisfying; rich in glorious meats and seasonal vegetables to help the body prepare for the cold of winter. It is undoubtedly one of the gastronomic highlights of any culinary calendar and something any self-respecting foodie looks forward to. Yet the change occurs almost without anyone noticing – restaurant menus suddenly start to emphasize heartier, richer dishes like venison, pheasant and guinea fowl, while our thoughts at home also turn to roasts, rich soups and pies -in other words, decadent comfort food.

 

Traditionally, some of the main highlights of autumn include game, particularly wild duck, pheasant and grouse, in addition to a great bounty of orchard fruits like plums, blackberries and damsons. Late harvest vegetables are also eagerly anticipated – such as celeriac, swede, cabbage and leeks – as are the great variety of the autumn squash like butternut squash and pumpkin – which makes a delicious soup. But in Italy, the main highlight of the season is mushrooms, glorious mushrooms. Many different varieties can be found all over Italy in autumn, when groups of people can be seen foraging for porcini (ceps), chanterelles, and other delicious species all morning. Porcini go extremely well with Risotto, another one of our favorite autumn dishes.

 

Of course, as our menus and eating habits change with the seasons, so too does our wine choices as summer ends and autumn begins. Chilled rosé suddenly seems quite incongruous on a cold autumn evening, whereas well-hung grouse and a glass of Chambertin fits the bill nicely.

So to celebrate the arrival of this glorious season, we have prepared some delicious autumn food & wine pairings for your enjoyment. Sante!!

 

muga and cabrales

 

Starters (Appetizers)/Vegetarian dishes

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

There are few gastronomes who wouldn’t salivate over the thought of risotto topped with exquisite porcini mushrooms, newly arrived from an exciting morning’s foraging trip. Ordinarily, risotto pairs well with low tannin, fresh and fruity wines such as Dolcetto or Barbera d’Alba. But the addition of porcini calls for a more refined approach, mushrooms work well with a variety of top-class reds, including Pomerol, Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and top Burgundy. Our first choice though would be Barolo, surely the prince of Italian reds.

Winter Squashes – Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, etc.

Winter squashes make ideal soups, or even better yet they are divine in fresh pasta such as Ravioli. Of course, that requires major patience on your part! On the wine front, they fit well with full-bodied, fruity off-dry whites, we’d stay clear away from reds in this instance. Some good bottles would be a new-world Viognier or Marsanne, South African Chenin also works a treat – try the De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc. Failing that, demi-sec Vouvray or Italy’s Gavi are two reliable alternatives.

vegetarian-butternut-Squash-and-apple-soup-f

C. The Culinary Institute of America

Great recipe here for Butternut squash and apple soup, yumm.

 

Meat dishes

Duck

The classic pairing for duck is Pinot Noir, whether it be a mature Burgundy or a fruit-driven, silky example from New Zealand. And yes, it does tend to work very well, albeit how the duck is prepared will strongly influence the ideal choice of wine on the table. Duck and goose, both delicious but quite fatty meats, deserve wines with plenty of acidity to cut through that fattiness and contrast with the rich flesh. Confit de Canard works best with a young, tannic red like Priorat or a young Medoc. Roast duck without a strong sauce needs a big-scale red, such as Rhone, a top Burgundy, Californian Cabernet or even Australian Shiraz works very well.

However, if there’s an orange sauce, white is more ideally suited – Grand Cru Alsace Riesling is a match made in heaven. And if you’re in the mood for some fizz, try mature vintage Champagne which works surprising well with duck and orange sauce.

The Italians in contrast, like to braise their duck and serve it with olives, in which case only a top Tuscan red will suffice. Try Antinori’s Tignanello.

Game Birds – Pheasant, Grouse, Guinea Fowl

The pinnacle of autumn food is game, and the good news for oenophiles is that roast game birds work with many different wine styles, allowing you great flexibility when deciding what to open. St-Emilion works tremendously well with roast game, as does red and white Burgundy – our top choices would be Chambertin or Corton Charlemagne. But if we’re talking about older game birds in casseroles, then you need something slightly more robust and less fine; Pommard, Ribera Del Duero, or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect. And with well-hung game, you’ll need a very powerful, weighty red. Vega Sicilia is ideal, as is a great Rhone like Cote-Rotie.

Of course, when pairing wine with game the sauce is equally as important, but again the meat can be adapted with sauces to match almost any fine wine.

Venison

One of the supreme delights of the autumn season, venison lends itself to a variety of cooking methods, yet always retains its wonderfully rich, gamey flavor. Roasted, it deserves a big-scale red, and loves a good Rhone wine like Gigondas or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Bordeaux is another surefire hit, particularly if there’s a sharp berry sauce – for a real treat try a good St-Julien like Chateau Talbot. Stewed Venison is another matter, the red should be more gutsy and robust – full of flavor but not necessarily very refined. A southern Italian red fits the bill nicely, try Venison stew with Puglia’s Primitivo grape. It’s ripe, plum, damson and black fruit flavors will cut across the stew’s gamey richness nicely.

Or, if you’re feeling slightly adventurous, white can work equally well with roast Venison. We love it paired with German Riesling, or even an Alsace Pinot Gris. Off-dry works best, the sweetness of the wine finding a natural home with the richness of the venison.

Wild boar

Another autumnal treat, wild boar’s wonderful rich texture and intense gamey flavor will obliterate lighter reds and whites – a ripe, structured red is called for. We love wild boar casserole with Priorat or a top Chianti.

 

Desserts

Apple pie, Tarts or Strudel

Apples are ripe and plentiful at this time of year, and lend themselves to a variety of mouth-watering desserts, including the traditionalists delight, apple pie. They deserve an equally stunning dessert wine, an Austrian sweet Riesling would be ideal. Canadian Ice wine is another delicious pairing.

strudel

 

Blackberry based desserts

Our favorite autumn fruit, blackberry tarts and flans deserve a rich, sweet wine like Monbazillac, sweet Vouvray or German Trockenbeerenauslese. Port, believe it or not, is another superb match.

 

Oporto 6

Our Top Ten South Africa Wine Estates

Posted by gen On October - 18 - 2013

Ten Best South African Wine Estates

South Africa is now an undisputed first division wine producing country. Years of hard work, investment and diligence has left the country with an increasing number of superstar wineries, producing world class wines at prices to match! This explosion of high-quality wine has been partially led by a growing number of younger, dynamic winemakers who have worked more than one vintage abroad and returned home with their important know-how.

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Like other New-World regions, the current craze in South Africa is terroir, and matching specific varieties to the right place. And like prestigious regions such as Napa and Sonoma, an elite class of wine estates have emerged as leaders and ambassadors for the country’s winemaking potential, centered around the western cape’s focal point of quality wine product – Stellenbosch. Of course, other areas in South Africa like Paarl, Hermanus bay and Wellington are producing good wines, but the real pioneers and stars of the country are mostly to be found in this stunningly beautiful region.

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We have selected our top 10 Cape Wineries below:

De Morgenzon–  There can be no finer introduction to the white wines of the cape than the powerful, structured and age-worthy Reserve Chenin Blanc wines from the acclaimed estate of De Morgenzon. Owners Hylton and Wendy Appelbaum purchased the farm in 2004 and continue to raise the quality bar for their wines across the board. Winemaker Carl van der Merwe crafts a Chenin like no other in the region – barrel aged, it shows gorgeous tropical fruit notes, a rich palate and velvety texture, balanced out by generous acidity. The high-altitude mountain vineyards contain some Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties, although the star of the show continues to be the De Morgenzon Chenin. Hylton also takes the unusual but effective approach of playing baroque music to select plots of vines in his vineyards – which, he says, have rewarded them with perfect fruit. The farm welcomes visitors and has recently invested in a beautiful, renovated tasting room.

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De Trafford – David and Rita Trafford are today Stellenbosch’s leading boutique growers, with a highly respected international reputation for intense, elegant and structured wines. Just 3,500 cases a year of stunning wines are released, produced from vineyards located between the Stellenbosch and Helderberg mountains. The first vineyards were planted in 1983; although it is only since 1991 that the wines have been released here on a commercial scale. All De Trafford’s range of reds and whites impress, but the stars are undoubtedly the brilliant Bordeaux/Shiraz blend Elevation and their Chenin Blanc, which has a depth and intensity rarely found in Stellenbosch. In fact, this boutique wine farm has proven that Chenin Blanc, still the cape’s most widely planted white variety, can reveal the special terroir of these ancient soils with razor sharp focus. All the reds will benefit from cellaring and can easily be kept for at least 10 years after release.

De Trafford

Hamilton Russell Vineyards – Does Hamilton Russel produce the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the cape? It’s hard to say for sure, but these Burgundian specialists at Hermanus certainly grow the two varieties to near perfection. They are a small and impressive producer of cool-climate, elegant wines in the beautiful expanse of Walker Bay. Current owner Anthony Hamilton Russel is constantly pushing the boundaries for excellence and has experimented with alternative vessels for the wine’s maturation, including stoneware and terracotta amphoras. They also make a very good Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc, but the best wine is still the Chardonnay. A very refined white with tropical notes and a real intensity, it also possesses a remarkable mineral undercurrent. A very real piece of competition for Burgundy’s finest domaines at a much more reasonable price! Luxury South African wine!

hamilton russellJordan Wine Estate – For quality, consistency and value for money, the wines of Gary and Kathy Jordan are hard to beat. The family has been producing top-flight wines in Stellenbosch for over 16 years and their flagship Nine Yards Chardonnay has won critical and consumer acclaim globally. Their secret is simply using the finest quality fruit, sourced from higher-altitude vineyards that benefit from the cooling Indian and Atlantic Ocean breezes. Their top red is the Bordeaux blend Cobblers Hill, which offers restrained, elegant cool climate mint and berry aromas supported by toasty, ripe berry fruit characteristics on the palate. The family also make excellent varietal wines in the shape of Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a delectable late harvest Riesling dessert wine. Visitors can also enjoy sumptuous cuisine at Jordan’s onsite restaurant, although reservations are advised.

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Ken Forrester Wines- One of the region’s most fervent supporters of the stellar potential of cape Chenin Blanc, restaurateur Ken Forrester’s winery homestead has a long history, dating back to the 17th century. However, this is a thoroughly modern outfit in approach, from the style of the wines to the 21st century ethos of actively engaging with consumers and visitors. The flagship wines are his three benchmark Chenin Blancs, including the world-class FMC Chenin, the result of collaboration with star wine-maker Martin Meinert. The farm, at the foot of the breathtaking Helderberg range also produces a range of varietal reds – including Merlot and Shiraz – and a divine Rhone style blend produced from old vine Grenache and Shiraz. Called ‘The Gypsy’, it is an oak-aged beauty, displaying vanilla and toasty notes and a rich, spicy mouthful of dark-cherry fruit. All the wines are good across the range and Ken also runs a fantastic restaurant nearby.

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MeerlustEstablished as a Dutch homestead in 1693, this historic wine farm is located in a cooler part of the Stellenbosch zone and is today renowned for the finesse, longevity and elegance of both its whites and reds. In fact, their flagship Bordeaux blend Rubicon was one of the first to appear in the region and has become a world-wide sensation. The estate is owned by Hannes Myburgh, the eight generation owner of this great wine property. This is a sizable operation with over 400 ha of vineyards, including some promising Viognier in False Bay. But the stars are still the majestic reds: a supple, elegant Pinot Noir and exotic, but structured Merlot, are complimented by their stunning Bordeaux imitation, a wine of considerable depth and ‘breeding’. It’s rich concentrated palate and mouthful of cedar and dark fruits is enough to convert any wine-lover to the awesome potential of cape reds.

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Neil Ellis A veteran winemaker in the cape, Neil Ellis is on a mission to craft the finest wines from cool climate sites that truly express their terroirs. The property was founded in 1993, when Ellis joined forces with estate owner Hans Peter Schroder and the duo have not looked back since. Seeking out optimum, cooler sites for their red and white varieties, the wines have become increasingly refined and complex since the partnerships inception. All the wines shine, but the old bush-vine varietal Grenache is a true triumph, with a depth and complexity rarely seen in cape Grenache. Their Shiraz and Pinot Noir are also some of the best examples emanating from the region, complimented by two superb whites – a classy, elegant Sauvignon Blanc and distinctly Burgundian Elgin Chardonnay. A trusted source of top-class cape wines.

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RustenbergA prestigious family owned winery near the town of Stellenbosch, Rustenberg has invested heavily in recent years; overhauling the cellar and building a new, inviting tasting room. The farm has a long pedigree, having been established in 1683 as a Dutch homestead. The current owners are the Barlow family, with second generation Simon Barlow steering the estate toward ever high quality since 1987. Their prize wines are the John X Merriman Bordeaux blend, a fleshy, supple Merlot dominated wine and the intense, structured and refined Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Five Soldiers Chardonnay is a similar delight, a top-flight age-worthy and elegant example yet again proving the Stellenbosch can more than match the top white Burgundies today. The varietal Rousssane is also worth seeing out, as it bring new-world fruit and intensity – but also balance – to a Rhone classic.

RustenbergRust en Vrede -One of the very oldest wine farms in the cape region, Rust en Verde was founded in 1694 and continues today to be one of the Stellenbosch super-stars of premium wine production. The Engelbrecht family took over in 1978 and have always solely focused on red wine production. These are unashamedly powerful, new world ripe style wines with the concentrated fleshy single vineyard Shiraz being the estates blockbuster wine. The vineyards are located to the south of Stellenbosch, against the spectacular backdrop of the Helderberg Mountains. Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown as varietals and blended to form the superstar, fleshy Estate red, which benefits from at least 5 years cellaring on release. An impressive range of opulent cape reds.

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Vergelegen -Arguably the cape’s most famous and revered wine estate, Vergelegen have become famous for their intense, award winning varietal Cabernet Sauvignon V. This historic wine farm dates back to 1700 and changed hands through-out the 20th century, with the Philips and Barlows families controlling its destiny until 1987. That year, Vergelegen was purchased by the company Anglo American Plc who have continued the families hard work and kept the farm at the forefront of the region’s premier wineries. The entire range impresses, although connoisseurs tend to gravitate toward the reserve Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blancs, both some of the best examples available in the cape today. The Vergelgen Red is one of the best reds yet from the area and a recent addition of a white Bordeaux blend has won pundits across the country. The top red V has taken South-African winemaking to new heights and is very impressive. A wine to easily rival the finest examples from Napa and Bordeaux.

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Wellington Wine Country South Africa- Off the Beaten Path

Posted by gen On November - 13 - 2012

The Wellington wine region was such a surprise. The Majestic and stunning Cape wine-route in South Africa I visited has many internationally known stars – Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and increasingly regions like Elgin and Robertson are being justly celebrated for the quality of their wines. But, the region of Wellington has, until recently, remained a relatively unknown part of South-Africa’s wine industry, quietly getting on with the business of producing excellent and superb value wines, a best kept secret.  The boutique local wineries are crafting wines of real style and class as I discovered.

Doolhof vineyard in Wellington

Wellington is also in the Western Cape’s wine lands, an hour and a bit from Cape Town, so easily accessible for that wine tasting day trip! The region is essentially a sub zone or ward of the Paarl wine district, and it just recently (last September) got its official appellation status (Wines of Origin Wellington).

Wellington vineyards with majestic mountains as backdrop

Wellington lies at the center of the wine lands, comfortably positioned on banks of the Kromme River and with the Hawequas Mountains flanking the town, it offers one of the most spectacular views in South Africa. North-east of the town of Paarl, Wellington broadly shares the same climatic conditions, with the hot Mediterranean like summers ripening red varieties such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon to perfection. The town itself has a long and fascinating history and today is a major academic center, with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Bergriver Senior Secondary School based in the area. Wellington is known for being the vine grafting a vine nursery epicenter of South Africa.

Luxurious Grand Dedale country house on the Doolhof wine estate

We started our tour of the Wellington region with a luxurious and pampering say at Grand de Dale hotel on the Doolhof wine estate. Our charming host Angelo told us all about the foodie joys of Wellington from a nearby Buffalo mozzarella farm, to artisan honey and even local limoncello being made! There is a ton to do in this gorgeous part of the world, see 15 of Angelo´s suggestions here. Our next day began with a fantastic activity: a gently invigorating walk through the wine country hills with the darling owner tour guides of Wellington Wine Walk. Despite the early spring showers, we enjoyed a delightful walk in the hills, and they pointed out the Fynbos (“Fine bush” in Afrikaans, meaning local flora). We saw spectacular protea flowers, spectacular views along the Hawequa mountains, Bain´s Kloof pass and the Welvanpas vineyards, and the slopes blanketed in vineyards. After the rain set in, we stopped for coffee (instead of the usual wine tasting) and a fascinating chat about the history of Bain´s Kloof and Andrew Bain, the father of geology in South Africa. Truly fascinating stuff, check out the links.

Our enthusiastic and super friendly guides on the Wellington Wine Walk

The rain settled in and luckily we had another stop arranged for us at the Nabygelegen wine estate- major surprise and highlight of the trip to South Africa! A boutique estate dating back to the 18th century with historic cellars, this property does a micro production of about 100k bottles. Apart from wine, the property has found stone tools that have been dated to be over 1 million years old! Next to a roaring fire, we enjoyed a personalized tasting of his premier wines including the barrel fermented Chenin Blanc based Lady Anna 2012 (92 Parker Points), which was served at the Queen´s Jubilee celebrations in England this year. I loved his Snow Mountain range (easier for the English speakers to pronounce than Nabygelegen) and loved the Seventeen Twelve 2007 (4 1/2 stars Platter´s guide). For special clients, James gives intimate and relaxed cellar tours and tastings, this one is highly recommended ! James also showed us his beautiful onsite luxury guest cottage dating to the 1700´s, complete with 2 gorgeous bedrooms, professional kitchen and relaxing living area. On the list for my next trip over!

James McKenzie, passionate proprietor and cellar master of Nabygelegen

Luxurious little guest cottage on the Nabygelegen wine estate

A picnic lunch with estate wines had been organized for us at the British owned very charming Dunstone winery. Abbi Wallis took us through her range of wines over the delish spread, faves being the Dunstone Rosé and Dunstone Shiraz. Afterwards she showed us around the luxurious family orientated Bovlei Valley Retreat, their high end individual suites and villas, surrounded by vines, lavender and fruit orchards.

Delish spread at our (indoor) picnic at Dunstone. When the weather is nice (95% of the time) they do wonderful outdoor wine picnics, very charming

 

Bovlei Estate

Following a fantastic convivial lunch with fellow travel professionals and wine journalists, we moved on to the Val du Charron wine and olive resort, a hotel and winery complex offering terrific views over the Wellington countryside. Our hosts gave us a detailed technical tour of the winery and followed with an interesting food and wine pairing. Everyone was in great form and the day ended on a high note.

Views on a drizzling but beautiful afternoon from Val du Charron

This trip featured 3 wine regions- Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington, and what a wonderful contrast! This was the best way to enjoy the wine country with a range of winery styles (prestigious large estates to smaller boutique properties), a delightful mix of accommodations (from luxury chateaux to charming guesthouses amid vines) and last but not least, a mix of superb dining experiences. South Africa, I will be back!

Flowers and Flora in the Western Cape

Posted by gen On November - 12 - 2012

While our trip in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington was concentrated on wine, we could not help noticing the astounding range of beautiful wild flowers and flora, a veritable Garden of Eden. The Protea, the national flower of South Africa, is particularly enchanting.

Enjoy some of our photos:

Our trip continued with an enchanting day in the Paarl wine country. The region borders Stellenbosch to the south and is a mere 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, yet the growing conditions and resulting wine styles are quite different here. The town of Paarl itself is the third oldest European settlement in South Africa and the region has played a major role in the country’s 20th century history. On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Correctional Centre in Paarl, where he spent the last few years of his long imprisonment. His release signaled the start of a new era, and the end of apartheid. Today, a bronze statue of Mandela is proudly displayed in Paarl, a reminder that there is more to this scenic region than its viticultural legacy.

Paarl winelands

Vines were first planted surrounding the town of Paarl in the 17th century by Dutch settlers, who found the rich, fertile soil and benign Mediterranean climate favorable. The region has long played an important role in South-Africa’s wine history, the former Cape Wine Association, known as KWV, was situated in Paarl before abandoning their remit and being privatized. They used to control the vast majority of the Cape’s wine industry, (they still make the vast majority of the country’s brandy) before the rise of the private investor and the number of Cape wine farms subsequently trebled. Paarl is home to a wide range of fine wine estates, great restaurants and dramatic scenery.

Glen Carlou Estate

We began our day at Glen Carlou where we were hosted by Georgie Prout, the knowledgeable and witty PR manager. She gave us a very nice private tour of the Hess Art Collection Museum, with its love it or hate it modern art collection. Unique it is. Then we met up with a group of wine and travel journalists from Germany and Holland and sat down to a superlative seven course food and wine pairing created for us by the winemaker Arco Laarman and chef Hennie van der Merwe.  Highlights of this gourmet extravaganza included the Duck terrine with truffle buttered brioche paired with their 2011 Pinot Noir, the Skilpadjies and beef cheek ravioli paired with their Grand Classique  and the Kudu (antelope) loin paired with 2008 Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon. The views form the table overlooking the mountains and vineyards was captivating.

Dining room at Glen Carlou

We could have stayed there all day but had people to meet and more wines to tasted, next up: Painted Wolf wines. Wow, this was an unexpected highlight of the entire trip! Created by Jeremy and Emily Borg in 2007, this garage wine company have a lovely story behind the lovely wines.  The African Painted Wolves are highly endangered hunting dogs, very few are left in the wild. The Borgs send funds from a portion of their proceeds to the research and conservation of this fascinating species. The successful social dynamics that these hunting dogs engage in were also an inspiration to the Borgs, and they structured their company with their own dog pack, comprised of passionate conservationists, grape growers, artists and friends. The result? Literally some of the best wines I have ever tasted!

Tasting the Painted Wolf wines with the Borgs in their home

They have a range of wines including “The Den” (easygoing young single varietal wines- Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. Moving on up quality wise they have another range, my fave, called “The Black Pack”, again single varietal wines such as Chenin Blanc, Roussanne (to die for), Shiraz, Pinotage and Merlot. Another range is the striking “Cape Hunting Blends” with alluring African names such as Lekanyane (white blend) and Madach (red blend). Their icon wine is “Pictus” with only 5,000 bottles made and individually numbered bottles.

Do check out their Pedals 4 Paws initiative, and support it!

The Den range of wines from the Painted Wolf Wines estate

Supremely enjoyable visit with the charming Borgs and immensely enjoyed their wines. From their cozy house, we headed to the Rhebokskloof to taste some cheeses with their relaxed wines and have a digestive walk on the beautiful grounds, and then our final destination was the gorgeous, luxury Grand de Dale hotel where lord help us, a gourmet dinner awaited…

Wine Tasting Weekend in South Africa- Stellenbosch

Posted by gen On November - 12 - 2012

Where to begin? The wine tours arranged for us in South Africa this last September were just extraordinary! A complete range of boutique and garage estates to premium state of the art cellars.  My wonderful travel companions for most of the tour were Glen Christie, the graceful and instantly likable owner of local incoming travel specialist Vineyard Ventures who also runs the extremely dedicated local chapter of Save the Children (donations needed and very much appreciated) Darren Humphreys of Travel Sommelier, a US based South African specializing in upmarket safari and wine tourism in Africa. Great people to share a great weekend with!

Darren and Glen, my wonderful travel companions

We began our South African wine journey in Stellenbosch, the most famous and one of the oldest of the wine regions. There are many contestants for the world’s most beautiful vineyard price, but Stellenbosch is undoubtedly 10 leaps ahead of the rest. Breathtaking mountains that seem to rise out of the ocean, tower over vivid green pastures dotted with the gleaming white facades of Cape Dutch colonial architecture. The region is, to put it mildly, one of the most attractive places to visit in the world – Stellenbosch’s wineries are more than geared up for visitors with their world-class restaurants, tasting rooms and hotels. However, that is not to suggest that the region merely exists for tourists. A great deal of South Africa’s high-quality wine production is centered on the Stellenbosch WO. Its new generation of young wine producers, who have travelled the world and soaked up the techniques and inspiration with unparalleled curiosity, are today producing some of the New World’s most exceptional wines  – world class Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Bordeaux Blends for starters. Let us also not forget Pinotage, the crossing of Cinsault and Pinot Noir that originated from South Africa in 1925 and has become the region’s trademark variety.

The Platter´s guide to wines- the bible of South African wineries

Cape Dutch Architecture in Stellenbosch

BEYERSKLOOF

We began with a visit to the home of “Mr. Pinotage”, Beyerskloof. just next door to Kanu (owned by Screaming Eagle). Beyers Truter´s dyanamic and friendly son Anri was our host. He spoiled us with a vertical tasting of their reserve Pinotages from 2005-2010. The stand out vintage was 2006, interestingly their first vintage using all their own grapes (not buying in grapes from other estates). The 2007 vintage was also excellent and was their first vintage using their outdoor lagars. Also enjoyed their Chenin Blanc and White Pinotage blend and their cult wines Faith Cape Blend 2008 (only 3,000 bottles made) and Diesel Piotage 2009 (named after their beloved, departed dog, 5,000 bottles made). The wine estate houses an attractive trendy restaurant, cozy lounge and on the rainy day we visited, had a fire roaring. Great start to the tour!

Beyerskloof wine cellar

 

Beyerskloof open air lagar

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage

HARTENBERG

Next up was an exclusive tasting at Hartenberg, a beautiful, historic estate that makes out of this world wines.  A tasting of the creme de la creme wines had been organized for us in their charming tasting room and this is where I first tasted barracuda Pâte, called “Snoek”. Made with matriarch Lady Eleanor´s top secret recipe, the dip was delicious paired with their Chardonnay 2008! This estate is known for its top quality picnic baskets that can be enjoyed on their lush estate with a number of walking trails.

House of Mandela, excellent limited edition wines made in cooperation with the Mandela family

Other stand out wines at this property included their Riesling which spends a year on its lees in tank and another year in bottle and is a dry, Austrian style Riseling; their limited edition House of Mandela Cabernet Sauvignon wine (made in cooperation with Nelson Mandela´s daughter and grandaughter); The Stork Shiraz (voted best Syrah of the world this year at the Syrah du Monde challenge), and the Gravel Hill Shiraz (one of the best wines on this trip). Apart from great wines, the hosts are charming, the barrel cellar is exquisite and the grounds are pristine, recommended!

Gravel Hill Shiraz- outstanding

 

Cozy tasting room

We had already had a fantastic morning and unbelievably faced another 2 wine estates : Simonsig and Jordan, contrasting properties that both have great restaurants. Following a terrific tasting with the charming winemaker Hannes Meyer of the range of their Cap Classique wines (rosé brut, the Kaapse Vonkel 2010 and the champagne quality Cuvée Royale 2007), young whites (the delightful Chenin Blanc, their Sauv Blanc and Gewurztraminer) and premium reds (Redhill Pinotage 2010, Tiara 2009 and Merindol Syrah 2010), we moved on to a light, perfect lunch.

Juicy oysters at Simonsig´s excellent Cuvée restaurant

The Cuvée restaurant here is highly recommended and of the wines, Darren and I concurred on our faves being their simply amazing good value Chenin Blanc and their cheering Rosé bubbly.  Simonsig are members of the Cap Classique association and are credited with making advances and improvements in the industry. True pioneers.

VIP tasting with winemaker Hannes Meyer

Our last wine tasting of the day was at the mythical Jordan, considered to be one of the top elite producers of South Africa.  We met friendly Gary Jordan and had an easy going tasting in their itty bitty tasting room. Stand out wines included the Nine Yards Chardonnay 2011, the sublime Cobblers Hill 2008 (Bordeaux blend) and also liked the Riseling. Their Chenin is so popular it was sold out. I am a Chenin Blanc convert!!

Had a quick look in their very highly regarded restaurant and put it on the list for our follow up site inspection next time.

Tasting at Jordan

Jordan´s Restaurant

Our day concluded with an overnight stay at trendy, little Majeka House, a boutique hotel outside of Stellenbosch, half French owned. Their sommelier is  engaging and fun and the food was excellent. I tried Springbok (little antelope) for the first time, took my breath away how succulent the meat was.

The pool at Majeka House

 

Majeka´s trendy bar

What a first day in the South African winelands!

Vindaba 2012- The First South Africa Wine Tourism Show

Posted by gen On November - 12 - 2012

This past September we had the pleasure and honor to receive an invitation to travel to South Africa to attend Vindaba 2012, the first trade fair dedicated to Wine Tourism in South Africa.

Vindaba- First wine tourism fair in South Africa- a success!

It coincided with the annual, comprehensive Cape Wine Event and the fairs were located across the hall from each other. From London Heathrow we flew South Africa Airways to Johannesburg then caught another 2 hour flight to lovely Cape Town, where the event was taking place.

Cape Wine 2012

Our hosts swept us away for a fun packed wine tasting weekend in the regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington. We then spent 3 days at the Vindaba event followed by more wine touring in Franschhoeck.

There was an eclectic and very interesting mix of wine journalists from around the world (Italy, Hong Kong, USA and India to name a few)  bloggers, travel specialists and luxury wine tour operators like ourselves attending, so we had plenty of networking opportunities.

Wonderful winemaker dinners were organized for us, special VIP tours and wine lunches and unique activities like a wine walk through the stunning hills of Wellington, a wine picnic and more.

Our charming hosts on the Wellington Wine Walk, a phenomenal initiative

Our captivating host Jeremy Borg, sharing his Painted Wolf wines with us. This was an absolute  fave estate, we can not stop raving about their wines and extra special animal conservation aspect

Unbelievable winemakers dinner at the beautiful Vineyard Hotel and Spa outside of Capetown, where a lucky few of us were wined and dined by the rockstars of the South African wine world- the owners/winemakers of Waterford, Warwick, Meerlust, Simonsig and Klein Constancia. Amazing food, wine and people!

In the Vindaba hall, apart from exhibitors, there were also various interesting wine tastings taking place with top wine estates shown by grape varietal and theme. I tasted lovely wines from Hermanus Bay, Elgin and other wine regions that I did not have the chance to visit in person on this trip.

We would like to warmly thank the organizers of Vindaba, Rufaro Destination Management, Winchester Mansions and South Africa Tourism for selecting us to attend this important and exclusive wine tourism event!

Check our blog for upcoming articles on the stellar and much recommended South African winelands!

And a special thanks as well to the exhibitors at Vindaba, it was a pleasure meeting you all>

Durbanville Wine Route
Kristall Kellerei
SAA
Robertson Wine Valley
Elgin Wine Valley
Hermanus Wine Route/Cape Whale Coast– Heaven on earth
Elgin Valley Tourism
Painted Wolf Wines– find these wines, visit them! Supreme favorite…
Paarl Tourism
Wines of South Africa
Paarl Wine Route
Cascade Manor
Wellington Tourism
Glen Carlou– a must for art lovers, gourmets and bon vivants
Wellington Wine Route
Rhebokskloof- fun place for picnics and their seasonal outdoor concerts
Swartland Wine & Matzikama
Grande Roche
Westcoast Tourism
Simonsvlei International
Klein Karoo Wine Route
Stellekaya
Spier– what a terrific lunch we had here, thank you for the special event!
Gourmet Travels
Stellenbosch
Wine Guides
Franschhoek Wine
Mhudi Guesthouse
Solms Delta– feel good initiative, read about it here
Plasir De Merle
Winelands District
Thokozani
KWV
Burgundy exchange programme
Laborie
Kingsriver Estate
Ubizo Events & Tours- a dynamic young owner, originally from a township, who organizes educational and meaningful tours of the townships…support him!
Cape Town Tourism
Great Wine Capitals

Terrific dining at the chic Winchester Mansions