There are wine brands that I grow into trusting. Others delicately instil trust through providing impressionable bits of joy and genius. Then, one or three grab me by the throat and force me to trust them through their sheer power of conviction and unbridled brilliance.
For the Lower Orange River wine region, 2017 started with a deluge of rainfall with some areas to th east of Upington experiencing extraordinary overnight showers of up to 150mm. While much of the drought-stricken Northern Cape rejoiced at the rain, these levels of precipitation are not what grape farmers want at the critical fruit-ripening stage.
According to Henning Burger, manager of viticulture services at Orange River Cellars which produces the majority of the Northern Cape’s wine, the rain began shortly after new year. It was heavy, intense and sporadic, mostly concentrated in the easterly regions.
“The Grootdrink wine region, about 75km east of Upington, experienced particularly heavy showers,” he says. “While Upington and the western areas of Keimoes and Kakamas have had some rain, it was the eastern front from Kanoneiland through Grootdrink to Groblershoop that was particularly hard hit, with 24hr figures of up to 160mm in places.”
Despite the intensity of the rainfall, the effect on Orange River Cellars 2017 harvest has been minimal. “Our harvest began this week in Kakamas where the vineyards stayed dry due to slight rain,” he said. “Concerning the waterlogged easterly regions, the wine varieties are still sitting at low sugar levels. If they had been ripe it would have been a major problem for the harvest, but now our farmers just have to manage the threat of downy mildew while the wine grapes ripen in hopefully drier conditions over the next few weeks.”
The major rain damage was in vineyards planted to varieties used for drying to sultanas and raisins which were in the final stage of ripeness or ripe when the rains hit. “From our side in the wine industry we hope not to be in the same boat as these farmers when harvest comes around in a few weeks’ time.”
While there is more than enough action on the South African wine scene in terms of things new, alternative, fresh and different, it is the tried-and-trusted, classical stuff we do best. On the red wine side, this be the royal wine that is Cabernet Sauvignon which has always delivered and will always deliver the finest local reds. And when it comes to white grape varieties, South African Chardonnay is now recognised as the best in the so-called New World with many international critics reckoning the best Chardonnays outside of Burgundy – Ground Zero for this grape – are indeed from our land down south.
With the end of another year looming, nostalgia floated in the Cape Town air along with whiffs of coconut sunscreen, freshly oiled beards and garlic arm-pit. A breeze-less afternoon, full of soft sun and summer promise, lured me to the aroma and taste of my adolescence – and all others who grew up in the days before sushi bars, noodle-shops, shared tapas plates and organic buckwheat pizza joints. For there was a time when a visit to The Spur was a culinary highlight. And I was curious to see whether a feeling of lost youth could be sparked by that Western interior design and the sweet scent of fried onions as fleet-footed waitresses and waiters scurried about bearing plates piled with burgers and fries and waffles, and all such plain good stuff.
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, a few university graduates came by the office to talk about wine and the marketing thereof. Some were journalist graduates. Others had completed the BSc Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch. Two were bearers of MBA scrolls. But they all loved wine and wished to get into the marketing side of business.
Despite all this talk of over-supply in a cluttered wine market bursting at the seams with 7 000 labels, there can always be something more. Why so few white Bordeaux blends, for example? Good ones. Sure, many wine-makers broaden their Sauvignon Blanc with a whack of Sémillon. But focussed and harmonious combinations of these two stunning grape varieties are relatively few and far between.
The Russians drank Champagne as death settled in. Okay, that was before the Reds took over a century ago, when the Motherland was still being ruled by stylish Tsars, impeccably dressed warlords and yummy countesses smelling like Beluga caviar and rosé wine. Attending to a dying Russian, the physician would summon a bottle of Champagne and have the patient drink a glass or two in the hope the fizzy liquid would kick-start the ailing heart. Continue reading
Everyone needs a bit of yesteryear now and again. And whenever this feeling raises its head, Vriesenhof is my place.
Look, I’m all for progress. And having resided and worked in Stellenbosch for almost four decades I am stunned by the continuous evolution the wine industry has shown. Not only in its incomparable wine quality, but the imagination and initiative wine-farm owners have shown in turning the region into a haven for tourists and other visitors. Gourmet restaurants. Cavernous, shiny venues with gorgeous views offering detailed wine-tastings to rows of eager tour groups. Art collections and play-spaces for kids.
Think cigar and all that thick, aromatic heavenly smoke, and companions such as Cognac, Port and Single Malt Whisky automatically spring to mind. Frankly, with a good Cohiba Robustos or Partagas no 4 from Cuba (where else?) burning in the hand, any of those aforementioned beverages will serve to induce the sought-after transcendental state of the cigar-lover.
If I were to throw one cork into the advocating of the brilliance of Cap Classique, it would be this wine’s remarkable ability to age and develop. Of the many examples I have had of late, I’d say an attentive Cap Classique ages far better than a non-vintage Champagne and a lot better than Jane Fonda – but without the plastic face work and lentil-water intestinal flushes.