Between a Rock and a Chablis Place

I am having a slight disagreement with Danie de Wet about limestone, that integral soil component needed for the growing of great Chardonnay grapes. And the debate’s gist involves creepy-crawlies and seashells.

Robertson, home to Danie and De Wetshof, also has the highest limestone content of any South African wine-producing region. Like Burgundy and Champagne has shown, Chardonnay comes to the fore in chalky lands. It has to do with pH and balance in the wines; structure and verve and longevity.

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Japanese, but no Horses for Courses

There is nothing like thirty-six minutes of deft levitating while listening to the droning hum of a Buddhist priest to work-up an appetite. The other members of my Black River Soul Revival Club may be happy to munch on raw nuts, low-fat yoghurt and organic sprouts after a spiritual work-out. But the real holders of an inner-void need heartier fare.

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Road to the Old Frontier


Despite the centuries of blue-blooded Cape wineland culture resonating from its splendid buildings and vineyards, there is something wild and sparse about Meerlust that intrigues me. As if the entrance gate next to the dam is a frontier post, beckoning those who have crossed wild, unwelcoming terrain from Cape Town and is now about to take the first steps into the amicable palm of Stellenbosch’s wine region.

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Letter from America: The Good, the Cab and the Ugly

Wine connoisseur and marketer Bernard Kotze from Du Toitskloof Wines recently undertook a trip to America which resulted in an impassioned piece of correspondence. This I share with permission.

Dear Brother Emile

I hope that when these few lines reach you they may find you in the best of health. (Plagiarized from “Sonny’s Lettah” by Linton Kwesi Johnson.)

After eagerly abiding by your request to bring you a good bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from my three week visit to America, I feel compelled to share my quest – of-course I’m also aware of my presumptive expectation of you giving a shit. Anyway, what follows is my hero’s journey in search of your Cabernet Sauvignon, wine of origin Napa Valley USA.

Bernard Kotze and his Bacall, aka Colleen.
Bernard Kotze and his Bacall, aka Colleen.

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Big Time in the Little Karoo

If you are, perchance, sitting at a bar listening to an Angolan singing about love, land-mines and caprinhas while a 7ft biker from Czechoslovakia asks you for your sister’s phone number, chances are you are in Barrydale. In the Klein Karoo. A great piece of our Southern Land – wide and harsh and stirring, filled with tales of ghosts and strange animals; hardship and joy; death-dark nights and silent valleys.

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Chardonnay’s Heart at Hartenberg

Carl Schultz from Hartenberg waltzing through the vines.
Carl Schultz from Hartenberg waltzing through the vines.

Perfection, or near perfection, must be a heavy burden. How do Carl Schultz and his team at Hartenberg Estate handle it? Such a diverse range of wines, all made to such high standards – it’s all enough to make a French vigneron kick a hole in a vat of 1928 Armagnac.

Hartenberg makes a mean Merlot. Stupendous Shiraz. Riveting Riesling. Cracking Cabernet. But my heart was won over, again, recently by the Chardonnay. Not the iconic Eleanor, but the straight-up Hartenberg Chardonnay from the very classy 2009 vintage.

This came courtesy of a good offer from my sales agent at the Wade Bales Wine Society at a price that made me wonder if this stuff hadn’t fallen from the back of some truck. But I bought a case, most of which has been sent down the hatch, leaving me half-a-bottle from which to contemplate.

The wine is clear and attractive with a lovely greenness to the golden robe, as usually worn by a classic Chardonnay south of the Beaune region in Burgundy. A chunky firm attack on the palate leads to an armada of ripe fruit, from stewed quince, grated Packham pear, kumquat and Key Lime Pie. This is all supported by a zesty acidity, giving the wine more life and verve than a Mavericks’ dancer on Free Russia Day.

Unlike said dancer, the Hartenberg Chardonnay only has a bit of wood, not enough to mask the life in the wine but just the right amount to provide a silky, buttery mouth-feel and a lingering finish.

Score: 9013/1000


hartie one

Kanonkop Almost Strikes a Grand


You can never have enough Kanonkop.
You can never have enough Kanonkop

Trying to stretch the limits of my original and unique Millennium® 1000 points scale for judging wine, I had a look at my expansive collection of Kanonkop wines. It was enough to give me a semi-woody: Pinotage 1973. Paul Sauer 1990, 1995, 1998. Cabernet 1982, 1988 and 1997. But I decided to haul out the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, a vintage characterised by late berry-set, a pungent north-east breeze during March and a bit of hail in February. Average in the greater scheme of things.

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