Elgin Chardonnay Cool Enough for a King


Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.
Steve McQueen, the King of Cool.

In the good old days the boasting of gentlemen would mostly be confined to matters physical or material. Serious guy-stuff. Like who does the best air-guitar to “Stairway to Heaven”, which of you can consecutively inhale two Gauloise unfiltered and who can give the most graphically enthralling description of what it really was like getting to first base with the vampish Veronica Dimpelbosch.

But now everybody seems to spend time bragging about how cool the area is in which they make wine. Cool as in low temperature chilliness and not trendy.

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Vinho Verde Saves Fishy Tale

casal garcia

A grilled Portuguese sardine is one of life’s great fishy pleasures. In South Africa one finds these critters in the freezer, each fish having been individually quick-frozen after being caught in the Atlantic off Portugal to ensure firm-fleshed and flavoursome eating.

Last week I hauled a few packs to De Wetshof for the annual sardine braai that Portuguese national Joaquim Sa and moi host for the sardine-loving De Wet family. Our sardines were packaged under the Breco brand and having been purchased at Porra-owned Fish4Africa in Woodstock, I presumed another splendid culinary evening was in store. The perfect sardines would be washed down with vinho verde while Joaquim entertained us with jokes about Portuguese nuns before bursting into tear-inducing bouts of fado song.

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Chardonnay and the Classics


Ballerinas doing "Swan Lake".
Ballerinas doing “Swan Lake”.

Being an unrepentant classicist, I was not going to drink just anything after watching the St Petersburg Ballet dance Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at Montecasino in Johannesburg last week. All those prancing Russian swans made me work-up quite a thirst and appetite, and I needed a wine about as big as that thing ballet-dancer Dmitry Grotzdik was hiding under his tights.

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Show-down in Bordeaux


Boere preparing to take on Bordeaux together with a representative from WIETA.

Heading off to Arcachon outside Bordeaux later this month, part of my visit will entail presenting a tasting of South African wines to some local journalists, rugby players and vignerons. As the first American on French soil?+¦-+?+¡during D-Day said: ?+¦?+º?+¦There ain’t no free lunch.?+¦?+º?+æ

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Mangaung Missives from a Wine Guy

?+¦-+?+¡Thunder rolls as I hit Bloemfontein. Raining big fat dollops of splashing water. The sky is grey, the earth wet and the city smells like an oxygen tent inhabited by Sophia Loren.

First stop on my jaunt to Mangaung for the ANC’s National Conference is Casa Van Zyl. Said Casa is inhabited by Jan, my second cousin, and his lovely Dorette. In wine circles they are possibly better known for being the parents of the Coco Chanel of South African wine-writing, one Jeanri-Tine van Zyl.

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South African Chardonnay a Blue-Print for Excellence


?+¦-+?+¡Having smuggled the Chardonnay vine-cuttings into the country with which the industry was founded, we Jouberts have always been partial to South Africa’s interpretation of the royal Burgundian white. From the smoky sweet clunkers of the 80’s, the high-alcoholic 90’s and the experiments with malolactic fermentation in the early 2000’s, the advent of South African Chardonnay has been well-documented and discussed during family gatherings. Not to mention consumed. In fact, all the grand-children of Fritz Joubert, the mule who clandestinely carted the cuttings from the Clos des Mouches to Robertson, were Christened with a thumb-print of Louis-Jadot Meursault on the forehead.

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Wood-less and Fancy-free in the Chardonnay World


Want limestone in your soil? Get termites.

On the local front, the general consensus appears to be that Chardonnay needs wood-maturation to attain optimal expression and depth. Woodless Chardonnays are not given much serious thought in competitions or discussions, largely the result of the label ?+¦?+º?+¦un-wooded?+¦?+º?+æ seeming to imply something is amiss or that the bottle contains juice deemed not good enough for barrel nor a serious audience.

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French Flair and Chardonnay at De Wetshof

Minister Gerrit van Rensburg, Remington Norman, Jean-Charles de la Moriniere and Danie de Wet.

Speech delivered by Minister Gerrit van Rensburg, MEC for Agriculture in the Western Cape,,at the Celebration of Chardonnay, De Wetshof Estate, 12 November 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to say a few words today. Let me begin by saying it is always such a pleasure to drive through your area., It is very obvious that a lot of effort goes into the general upkeep and maintenance of the Robertson rural area, and you can be truly proud of the end product: Beautiful wine in a beautiful environment.

A special word of welcome to our guests from Burgundy: Jean-Charles de la Moriniere, and Remington Norman. You are all well aware of the very successful exchange programme that exists between the Western Cape and Burgundy. Danie, I know you have sent two of your workers on this exchange so far. This tells me that there is value in the programme for our wine industry. We will host a special event next year where I will invite all workers who have been on this exchange over the past ten years. For many of them, it has proven to be a life changing experience, with careers that simply sky rocketed as a result.

I was also fortunate to attend this year’s programme in Burgundy, and I am pleased to be able to announce that we have extended it for another 5 years.

Some observations I made while in France: I was impressed by the attention that went into small detail in order to make the best possible wine. If a small parcel of land is perfect for a specific variety; then that is all you will find there. It is this attention to detail and focused drive for perfection that has earned Burgundy its stature in the international wine world.

And this brings me to Danie De Wet, wine farmer from the Western Cape and the Robertson wine region. You are also known for the same characteristics that has made Burgundy famous. Your efforts have contributed significantly to making Robertson famous for Chardonnay.

,Thank you for this example, and know that the high standards you apply towards yourself, serves as an example and inspiration to others in the industry.

Ladies and gentlemen, earlier this week the Western Cape Cabinet had a meeting with representatives of the agricultural sector in our province. The importance of the wine industry was very prominently mentioned by the Premier in her address, as well as the various challenges the wine industry is currently faced with. And let us be honest with one another: Wine is a very tough industry to be in at the moment.

There is no market sympathy for a product that is associated with good times and celebration. The wine industry simply has to take the tough times on the chin and maintain a positive and successful image, even when it might not be the case.

But, then it is also true that in times of adversary, excellence will always survive. And today’s celebration of Chardonnay is in reality a celebration of excellence. So even if markets have no sympathy for current difficult times, the best in the industry can still make us forget our own unique problems; rewind; relax, while being in the company of good wine and the people whose skill produced it.

I started this morning with an observation on the general beauty and good upkeep of the Robertson countryside., You all know that a wine farm and its tasting venue need to be immaculate in order to create that feeling of success that is necessary for wine sales. I want to expand this idea to our province as a whole: Let us present it to the rest of the country and the world as an immaculate destination that is open for business: A confidant and successful enterprise.

A simple measure, that will go a long way, would be to demolish old ruins that are visible from our highways. These ruins make our beautiful countryside look desolate and run down, even though many of them are situated on otherwise sound and profitable farms.

Ladies and gentlemen, I conclude: Let us enjoy and celebrate the art of making good wine. Let us celebrate one another’s company, as it gives us strength in difficult times. And let us celebrate the good times that awaits us in the future.