Skapie

This story got dropped from our Interviews pages because we couldn’t show you the interviewee. Skaapie rules!

The story started when a winemaker started looking for a consistent supply of high quality grapes.  He knew of a farm outside Stanford and went to see if the owner would oblige and ‘can I buy my grapes from you?’ ended up in a partnership.

The winemaker, Bartho Eksteen, had known Gerrie Heyneke, a veteran of the advertising industry, for ages – since he hand-bottled his first Bordeau blend in a corrugated iron structure in Hermanus’ industrial area – and turned to him for a label for the new wines.  Gerrie answered, “I development brands, not labels.”

There had never been any doubt that the cellar would be in Hermanus because they would never get people in any numbers for wine tastings to the farm 46km away.  The cellar’s name came to Gerrie in 10 seconds and he got on the line to Werksmans Attorneys to see if it could be registered.

And so Hermanuspietersfontein – the original name for the town of Hermanus (abbreviated later by the postmaster because it was too long) – became the cellar and brand name.  “This defined the brand’s origins and providence,” says Gerrie.  He shared this with Johan Pretorius, the owner of the farm and cellar to be, who was sitting on a plane waiting for take-off for Italy.  “I can’t talk now, I have to turn my phone off,” was Johan’s reply… and Gerrie had to wait a pregnant 12 hours before he got his response.

At the first meeting for a detailed brief, Gerrie asked two questions:

  1. Are ego’s at play here?
  2. Is this essentially a real estate deal?

The discussion highlighted that this was essentially a family concern, something which has been borne out in the development of the brand.  Gerrie asked himself, “How would things have been done in the old days?” and the wines have been given characters appropriate to members of a family.  There’s Die Arnoldus, Die Martha, Die Bartho, Kleinboet, Swartskaap, Skoonma and Bloos, for example.  And there’s Postmeester, a Sondagskloof red blend, in honour of the man who shortened the name to Hermanus.

Each has a story to tell and each has a characteristic of its own.  Like a family, each has a personality.  Kleinboet, for example, is mischievous, daring, out there and even volunteered to be mayor of the town.  Bloos, a tall, shy lady with long legs… a charmer everybody falls in love with – male and female.  Die Arnoldus “is die baas van die plaas” and when it comes to Die Martha, what is “’n huis sonder ‘n moeder?”

Is was Mariette Pretorius who asked the question why all the wines have men’s names and when Gerrie came up with Die Martha, she revealed that her second name was Martha!  Is that serendipity?

The spokesperson for the brand is a sheep which has no name but is just known as Skapie.  It’s chirpy, quirky and bilingual.  But Hermanuspietersfontein – the 19th winery in Hemel-en-Aarde – sets itself apart as the only wine where labels and packaging (by Anthony Lane) are completely in Afrikaans.

This brand is a big family that believes in enjoyment.  While they make serious wines, they don’t take themselves too seriously.  “We’re never boring or inaccessible.  We want to conjure up a smile and crawl into people’s hearts.  It’s all about self-esteem,” says Gerrie.

The farm always comes first.  It is a “spogplaas” and was the first Biodiversity Wine Institute gold champion in the Walker Bay area.  (They have cottages – a  great getaway.)

There is a very popular Saturday market at the winery – harking back to the notion of the town’s meeting place where everybody gets together, and emphasises the community orientation.

So now… isn’t it time you got to know the family?

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HPF 'Bartho 2011 best white' CapeInfo 300x250 ebanner.2 290713[11] copyThe 2013 SA Terroir Winner of Top White Blend comes from cool climate BWI Gold Champion conservation farm in the Sondagskloof region…

Hermanuspietersfontein’s Die Bartho 2011 makes it the fourth wine in the cellar’s seven years of winemaking to receive this prestigious accolade. Their Cabernet Franc, christened Swartskaap, walked off with its category award three times already.

“The SA Terroir Wine Awards honour the wines which truly portray South Africa’s different wine growing areas, making it the most exclusive wine competition on the international scene” Dave Hughes, South Africa’s renowned international wine expert and judge.

With its farm lying virtually in the centre of South Africa’s premium wine producing cool climate region the award is further testimony to the Hermanuspietersfontein philosophy – Good Earth makes Better Wine.

The wine’s namesake, winemaker Bartho Eksteen, has only one concern. “Ek hoop daar’s nog genoeg van die wyntjie oor want in 2017 gaan hy eers lekker drink!”

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Journey's End Estate above the town of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village

Owned by the Gabb family, Journey’s End Estate, the strikingly beautiful wine farm high above the town of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in the Helderberg area of the Stellenbosch wine district, has triumphed twice with its Chardonnay, and with its Merlot at two recently-held prominent wine shows. The Journey’s End Chardonnay 2009 won one of only four Diamond Awards for chardonnay at the 2010 Winemakers’ Choice Awards. This impressive Diamond accolade was followed by two Double Golds for Journey’s End at the prestigious 2010 Michelangelo International Wine Awards: for the Journey’s End Chardonnay 2008 (one of only 5 Double Golds for chardonnay) and the Journey’s End Merlot 2007 (one of only 3 Double Golds for Merlot).

The Winemakers’ Choice Awards is unique in that it is the only competition in South Africa to be judged exclusively by winemakers. The awards structure encompasses six trophies followed by Diamond Awards for the wines deemed to be absolutely exceptional – this year only 37 wines received Diamond Awards. Overall, the ratio of Diamonds awarded this year was lower than in 2009 – with more wines being judged.

The Michelangelo International Wine Awards, established in 1997, is true to its name in that the wines were judged according to international standards by international judges: a panel of 15 judges representing 15 different countries. The Michelangelo International Wine Awards attracted 1310 entries this year, of which only 28 were awarded Double Gold (Grand D’Or). Given the high level of South African wine exports, the focus of the Awards is on selecting wines that will appeal to consumers in international markets.

Journey’s End Chardonnay
The Journey’s End Chardonnay first came to prominence in 2004 when the maiden Journey’s End Chardonnay 2002 was awarded 5-stars in Platter’s South African Wines guide.

Journey’s End Chardonnay 2009
(Diamond Award at the 2010 Winemakers’ Choice Awards)
The wine was part naturally fermented and part inoculated with yeast, new oak barrel fermented and matured for 9 months in new French oak. 90% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in the barrel.

The appearance is clear with a light gold-green colour. The nose is vibrant with citrus and tropical notes and hints of almonds. A sweet ripe fruit mid-palate combined with a rich core gives the wine a lingering and complex finish. This classic style wine is well-balanced with excellent wood integration and some minerality and promises to age well. This wine is best enjoyed with cheese, pastas and seafood.

The Journey’s End Chardonnay retails between R120 and R125.

Journey’s End Chardonnay 2008
(Double Gold at the 2010 Michelangelo International Wine Awards)

The maiden 2002 vintage was awarded 5 Stars by the 2004 Platter wine guide, the first white wine, new to Platter, ever to receive their highest star rating.

The wine was part naturally fermented and part inoculated with yeast, new oak barrel fermented and matured for 9 months in new French oak. Half the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in the barrel.

The appearance is clean with a pale gold colour. The nose is complex with citrus, concentrated tropical fruit and hints of pear drops. The palate shows sweet ripe fruit and creaminess with well-balanced acidity. The wood integration is harmonious with the fruit and the aftertaste lingers with a smooth finish. This wine is best enjoyed with cheese, pastas and seafood.

Journey’s End Merlot 2007
(Double Gold at the 2010 Michelangelo International Wine Awards)

This wine was matured for 18 months in 20% new French oak, 10% new American oak, and 70% in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

The wine has a dark ruby colour with a light brown tint. On the nose upfront blackberries and plums are backed by vibrant mintiness. Also some herbal eucalyptus tones give the wine an earthy character. The palate shows gentle ripe fruit with firm tannins and a supple sweetness that gives the wine a lingering aftertaste. This is a full-bodied complex wine still showing youth.

The Journey’s End Merlot retails between R120 and R125.

Journey’s End Wine Tasting Centre
Personalised wine tastings with the winemaker, Leon Esterhuizen, are available by appointment only, from Monday to Saturday, 09h00 until 17h00.

Contact: Journey’s End on 021 858 1929 or Leon Esterhuizen on 082 612 7602
or visit www.journeysend.co.za

Journey’s End Equestrian Centre
The Equestrian Centre offers horse-riding lessons, outback rides, wine-tasting and gourmet picnics – amidst the most splendid scenery.

Contact: Suzelle Barendse on 082 391 1693;
or visit www.horsebackriding.co.za

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Weltevrede view on Rivers EdgeJust outside Bonnievale, in the picturesque Robertson Wine Valley, lies the historical Weltevrede: the Jonker family wine estate whose rich heritage extends an impressive four generations: aptly named ‘Weltevrede’ by founder Klaas Jonker in 1912, meaning ‘well satisfied’. The setting alone inspires this inward contentment as do the superb wines which hail from this idyllic setting.

And what better way to experience the glory of this utopia and the Jonker family legacy, than by experiencing the effervescence of Weltevrede’s four acclaimed Cap Classiques – the Philip Jonker Brut Collection – each of which is produced under the expert guise of Philip Jonker. Each Cap Classique has been named after the spirit it embodies and ushers in, the life-force it emanates, the mood it catalyses, the symbolism it evokes, and, by extension, the response it inspires.

It is therefore indeed fitting that, as we approach the festive season, with which celebration is synonymous,  you  are invited to join Philip on an exploration into the personality of each of his acclaimed bubblies, as you decide who you are to welcome as an auspicious guest at your festive affair. Philip, the wordsmith, confesses that wine is indissolubly part of his make-up, pulsing through his veins: it is, he says, a love affair that ‘was birthed by his founding great-grandfather in 1912, before (he) was born’. He invites you to share in a taste of his experience: the enchantment that is his life. Come on, embark with him on a journey into the sublime world of wine and words: his passion and his art.

Entheos, a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir, is an exquisite blend of creaminess and vibrancy and is ideal for daily enjoyment. It is arguably the most obvious choice for inclusion at any festive celebration in that it is highly acclaimed – the 2010 4-Star Platter wine was awarded Best Non-Vintage Cap Classique at last year’s Wine Magazine Amorim Cap Classique Challenge and the recipient of the SAA Trophy for Best MCC served on the airline’s Premium Class for 2010/2011 – while, at the same time, easy-drinking and delicious. Philip reckons that Entheos is a ‘must have’ daily tipple and should have a ‘set place in the fridge’.  Enjoy Entheos on its own or with oysters, sushi and most light canapés. It is also the most fitting to the festive theme in that, its very name, from the Greek root, denotes all that the festive season is meant to embrace: namely, enthusiasm, exuberance, joy and excitement. Entheos is widely available throughout the season at leading merchants nationally and retails for approximately R80.

The inaugural bubbly in the Weltevrede Philip Jonker Cap Classique Collection, The Ring, a 100% chardonnay Blanc de Blancs vintage Cap Classique originally called Philip Jonker Brut – was first produced twelve years ago, and was afforded the highest honour of being hailed overall winner at the 2005 Wine Magazine Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenge. The Ring (current vintage 2007) denotes a tribute to friendship and commitment given that it demarcates a highly charged sentimental milestone signifying the covenant of marriage between Philip and ‘Cranemere-farm-girl’ Lindelize – the first cork of the bubbly was popped under a Karoo Oak tree where he wed his lovely barefoot bride.  Two to three years on the lees, The Ring is ideally suited to salmon, oysters and flavourful canapés and retails for approximately R105.

Lindelize, released last year, is Philip’s latest addition to his range of gorgeous Cap Classiques: a rosé  made from pinot noir. Named after Philip Jonker’s wife, Lindelize celebrates the first ‘butterflies’  one feels when falling in love. An excellent dessert wine, why not culminate feasting with fresh strawberries and cream or Turkish delight paired with the luscious Lindelize? A salmon-coloured Cap Classique with a delicate mousse; a yeasty nose with hints of cherries, strawberries and freshly picked rose petals; a slight peachiness on the palate with a lingering finish, this wine retails for approximately R99.

Aletheia – A 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay blend matured in French oak barrels before the second fermentation – Aletheia celebrates honesty, integrity and unpretentious living. During the festive season, when all the guests have left and the void remains where joy and joviality and love once dwelt, enjoy Aletheia with your beloved and revel in the freedom of not having to don a mask, but being loved for the primal soul within. Here, amidst the withdrawing grate of festivity and the sweet-sorrow of parting, you may stand with your beloved and be comforted, real … genuine. Aletheia is a rich, yeasty style of Cap Classique with flavours of orange peel, vanilla oak and cream permeating throughout. With a minimum of 3 years on the lees, Aletheia is a bold, complex vintage Cap Classique (current vintage 2006) and retails for approximately R135.

Philip suggests that all of the Cap Classiques in the Weltevrede Philip Jonker Brut Collection are ideal complements to a variety of delicious canapés, as well as hearty and eclectic culinary celebrations. The festive season provides every perfect excuse to sip on the so-fizz-tication of bubbles … with all the manifold experiences and emotions that come with reuniting of families and friends, festivity, intimacy and the sweet-sorrow of farewell… there is a time for every single one of these delightful bubblies in the Philip Jonker portfolio!

HISTORY

Klaas Jonker arrived in the lush utopia of Robertson in 1912, and was transfixed by the surrounding beauty. He bought the farm, planted the first vineyards and, in so doing, put down the roots that were to anchor the Jonker family legacy. And so began the love affair. Overwhelmed by a sense of contentment and inner joy; Klaas was wholly fulfilled. So satisfied was this pioneering patriarch, that he named the farm ‘Weltevrede’, meaning ‘well-satisfied’: an Afrikaans compound adjective, which encapsulates a highly evocative emotional state which the English equivalent cannot convey with the same visceral fervour.

Since then, this pursuit of well-being and satisfaction, or ‘weltevrede’, has translated into an aesthetic of producing wines of excellence, a heritage which has been passed on from generation to generation. Klaas was succeeded, in 1993, by his son, Japie. Today, the farming tradition is perpetuated by current owners, Lourens Jonker and his son, Philip, who is in the driving seat. Philip adds a touch of Wordsworth to the Weltevrede mix, with his winemaking proficiency rivalled only by his eloquence: “I grew up among the vines of Weltevrede. I played in the soil as a boy and so did my father and grandfather before me”, says Philip. He reveres the natural milieu and history, attributing much of the winery’s success to experience and familial connectedness to the ‘unique terroir’ with which Philip considers the Jonker family ‘blessed’.

Weltevrede and Chardonnay

Philip Jonker is a chardonnay specialist and, concomitantly, Weltevrede is synonymous with the production of fine wines of this particular varietal: boasting awards from Chardonnay du Monde, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, International Wine Challenge, International Wine and Spirit Challenge as well as several national shows (including Veritas Double Golds), to mention but a few of the illustrious competitions which have brought the winery acclaim. Fortunately, cellarmaster Philip, and winemaker Neil Strydom (an Elsenburg graduate), share a mutual passion for chardonnay and bubbly production. When Neil joined the team, over a year ago, he knew that, with four chardonnays – Place of Rocks, Rusted Soil, Poet’s Prayer and River’s Edge Unwooded Chardonnay – his future was carefully mapped out! Chardonnay is a salient feature across four of the five collections (ranges) in the Weltevrede stable – namely, Terroir, River’s Edge, the Philip Jonker Brut Collection and, perhaps the most notable, Poet’s Prayer, which spends 22 months in French Oak.

For more information contact Weltevrede 023 616 2141 or visit the website www.weltevrede.com

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If you are still on hols after the new year and looking for a fab outing in the Cape, or even have gone back to work and are looking for something to do this weekend to soften the blow – my top recommendation is to pay a visit to Ridgeback Wines – situated on the R44 between Paarl and Wellington.

I first took a fancy to Ridgeback’s wines when I tasted the Shiraz last winter. Then on my way back from champagne tasting at Krone last month, we thought we would swing by Ridgeback for lunch and some wine tasting (happy days they are open on a Sunday – I realise everyone needs a break, but surely it makes sense for more wine farms to open on a Sunday, and not shut ridiculously early on a Saturday?)

What a treat. The cellar is relaxed, friendly and inviting, with lunch area overlooking an amazing pond – home to two black swans. It was no problem to do our tasting outside, and the very knowledgeable tasting assistant did a great job of attending to the different groups tasting wine at the time.

The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is coming along very nicely since I first tasted it in August last year, when it was very recently bottled. And the 2006 Ridgeback Viognier is a treat of dried stone fruits nicely off set by 15 months in oak.

But in such a warm area, it’s the reds that are going to shine. Having said that, despite the heat, the team at Ridgeback do a great job at keeping alcohol levels down, unlike some of the ridiculously high percentages that seem to be the norm nowadays.

Vernon Cole, Ridgeback’s MD, is excited about the 2005 Merlot, which he has very high hopes for this year. My favourite was the 2004 Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend – approachable, smooth with the Cabernet Franc balancing the fruity Merlot nicely.

The 2005 Shiraz is of course delicious, and the flagship wine, 2005 His Master’s Choice was a winner on Christmas Eve. Served with roast leg of lamb, the blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Viogner was delish.

After a leisurely wine tasting you can stay on for lunch – choosing from wraps, bruschettas or dishes of the day including pickled fish or lamb chops. The last Friday of the month is tapas day with a special on wine by the glass to accompany the food. And the first Wednesday of the month is pensioners day – get free tasting AND 15% off the wine you buy.

Tip on getting there – the entrance is not on the R44 where the big Ridgeback gates are, take the following turn off right, signposted Rhebokskloof, and you will find the entrance there. If you want to make a weekend of it, there is B n B accommodation on the farm as well.

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After completing the garagiste winemaking course at the University of Stellenbosch earlier this year, Michelle Coetzee took the plunge and made her first batch of wine. By all accounts it was a great success – and hopefully the first of many vintages. Michelle tells us more about her winemaking activities.

1.             What exactly is a garagiste wine maker?

My definition of a garagiste wine maker would be someone that makes wine on a small scale for their own consumption.

2.             How did you end up as one?

I can’t remember exactly when I started loving wine as much as I do, but when I realized that I was more excited about trying new wines, and going on wine routes, than almost any other outings, I realized I had a passion for wine, and that’s where the idea of making my own wine came from.

3.             What do you think garagistes bring to wine making that the traditional wine makers don’t?

A personal element, knowing that the wine was made by somebody that loves wine (why else would you go through the hassle and mess?) gives it the impression it will be special.  Certainly traditional wine makers more than likely love wine too, but it is made on a bigger scale, where the ‘consumer’ isn’t always known.

4.             What is the most exciting thing about being a garagiste wine maker?

This year was my first attempt, so every step of the way, from the yeast fermentation to the bottling and labeling was exciting;  probably the most exciting was when my friends tasted the wine, and enjoyed it!

5.             What is the most challenging thing about being a garagiste wine maker?

Consistency; I was lucky this year to have really good grapes (must have been because the wine tasted good :) ) I have to hope to get as good grapes next year, even if it is from the same source.

6.             Please describe your wine for us?

Tumble Turn is 100% shiraz; it was a good red colour, considering it was not aged for very long;  3 months on oak chips.  It had berry flavours and a hint of pepper.  It was fairly soft, although you could pick up the tannins. It must be said that I only made 7 litres, 8 bottles.

7.             What can we do to promote garagistes in South Africa?

I’m not sure, I don’t see myself making quantities more than my family and friends can drink! I do try support garagiste wine makers by buying their wines when they’re available.

8.             What is the biggest challenge facing the South African wine industry at the moment?

Again, this is a novice opinion, but for new wine farms, it must be really difficult to break into a market that seems saturated;  we have such a large variety of wines and regions to choose from, and it keeps growing.

9.           How do you think South African wine ranks internationally?

I only really got to taste international wines while living overseas, and not knowing enough about them, I didn’t get to taste their best.  What I have had is some amazing Australian reds.  I rate South African wines highly.  You seldom get a bad SA wine, and yet I tasted some fairly horrible wines while living in London, but again, that would have been due to my limited budget!

10.          Talk to us about environmental issues in wine.

Having not grown my own grapes or made wine on a large scale, I don’t have any real input on environmental issues.

11.          What is your favourite wine that you have made?

Just the one! Tumble Turn Shiraz

12.          What are you drinking at the moment?

Being summer, I’m enjoying Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel.  I love red wines, and Hartenberg has never disappointed me!

13.          Where can we get bottles of your wine?

I have 1 bottle left, which is not for sale! I’m waiting to drink it next winter, to see whether its taste has improved after some time in the bottle.

14.          If you weren’t making wine, what would you be doing?

I work for an online media company as a Database Administrator;  many people don’t understand what I do, so mostly I say I work in IT, and there are seldom questions after that..

15.          Anything else you would like to add?

I’m looking forward to making my first barrel of Shiraz next year!

Just as we are looking forward to hearing about it, Michelle!

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Last Saturday we headed 120 km north of Cape Town to the little town of Tulbagh – famous for the 1969 earthquake – to enjoy the first ever House of Krone Summer Elegance event. The Tulbagh valley has quietly but persistently been producing some remarkable wines, and is making a name for itself as a region in South Africa, so I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.

On the way we swung by Saronsberg, a stunning, newly built cellar that also houses an art exhibition. The wines were delicious and I managed to leave with a bottle of the Saronsberg Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and their bordeaux blend Provenance Rooi 2006 – smooth and fruity. Saronsberg’s wines are big, bold and fruity, as you’d expect from a valley where the temperature heads into the forties in the summer. Specifically the Seismic 2005 is going to kick ass in a year or two

Having whet our appetites we headed on up the valley to the House of Krone at Twee Jonge Gezellen – famous for years for their Night Harvest label, the grapes are literally harvested at night to avoid the punishing heat.

Speaking of heat, thank goodness for the shower of fine mist from the sprays on the balcony where we spent the afternoon sipping Cap Classique, eating sushi from Wasabi, strawberries and nougat. None of us tried the oysters, but I was assured they were delicious.

The R 60 entry fee got you a book of tickets that you could exchange for taster size portions of Krone Borealis Cuvee Brut 2004 and Krone Rose Cuvee Brut 2001. We quickly abandoned that idea as the relaxed setting was not conducive to leaping up and down for refills. So we, and I think most other people there, opted to buy the bubbly by the bottleful instead.

On our way out we swapped the rest of our tickets for a final glass each of Cap Classique which we enjoyed as we strolled around the grounds having a look at the fashion show and vintage cars.

The Rose – delicately salmon coloured wine, fruity, with a smooth creamy mousse – was everyone’s favourite, judging by the number of bottles our group consumed anyway!

On the way back to Tulbagh was dropped in at the Boulders Bush Pub on the Vondoux guest farm. Nice spot for sundowners, but a disaster when we returned later that evening for dinner. They clearly hadn’t factored in the number of visitors that day and the bar, waiting and kitchen staff were struggling to cope.

A quick dessert at Paddagang – we returned the next day to try out the hilariously frog themed wines – and we turned in for the night at the Tulbagh Hotel. The hotel is brilliantly located in the centre of town on Van der Stel street – I wish we had had more time to explore the streets and quirky looking galleries and shops. Recently refurbished, the rooms are lovely and comfortable, with a cut above your usual guest house standard fittings and so on. The pub downstairs is relaxed and service generally was friendly and helpful. They are in the process of building a pool which would be a fabulous addition (did I mention it gets HOT in Tulbagh) and I would check if air con has been installed before booking there in summer.

All in all a great mini-break just before the madness of the festive season really kicks in. I hope the team at Krone make this an annual affair.

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Guest post by Jacoba Budden

Brandy, even more than wine, is one of the most essential accompaniments to food in the holiday season. Cocktails, sauces, desserts and Christmas cakes are enriched by the spicy sweetness and the bold alcohol. No Christmas cake would be complete without generous lashings of brandy, liberally applied months in advance if you can.

Anyone visiting the Cape should, without doubt, go on one of the brandy routes. South African brandies are rich in their diversity and of excellent quality – in no small measure due to stringent manufacturing regulations.

The two major brandy producing areas, the Western Cape and the Small Karoo, both produce outstanding brandies and the R62 route highlights two of the best.  Try the KWV – my father’s favourite throughout his life (and he had impeccable taste) but without doubt, Barrydale Cellar’s 10 year old Joseph Barry Cape Potstill Brandy – it recently won the 2008 Juliet Cullinan Wine Connoisseur’s Awards. Barrydale grows the St. Emillion cultivar, used widely in the production of cognac but is, here, the most important component in this brandy. The mild and salty Indian Ocean winds, the soil and a darned good winemaker work together to create a truly remarkable brandy.

In the spirit of Christmas I’ll include the recipe for our family cake below – to drink with it, something like Kanonkop’s Cabernet Sauvignon would be perfect because there are few wines that I like as much, but it’s really pricey and maybe just a touch too savoury for everyone’s liking.

For my money, I would pick the Paul Sauer because of the dark berry smattering of Merlot that smoothes out the high Cabernet/Franc content to invade the senses with an oaken spicy fruit matching the cake to perfection! One doesn’t forget this cake in a hurry – and certainly not the wine! Even though it’s summer and can get extremely hot in the Cape, the cake doesn’t lend itself to something lighter.

Ingredients

500 g butter
500 g sugar
500 g cake flour
9 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground mace
250 ml brandy
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
125 g seedless raisins
250 g sultanas
500 g dates
125 g pecan halves
250 g almonds, roasted and cut in half
250 g glace cherries, halved (mix red and green for a great effect)
250 glace figs
500 g mixed peel (orange and citron)
250 glace apricots
375 g glace pineapple rings

Additional brandy to add throughout the maturation period

Method

* Soak fruit overnight in brandy.
* The preparation of the cake tin is very important to prevent the cake from burning. It is a very heavy cake and weighs close to five kilograms.  For this reason 3 layers of wax paper is used, each layer greased before the next one is put on. (And if you want to put in a fourth, got for it)
* Mix and sift all dry ingredients together
* Whisk butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
* Add eggs one by one, beating carefully after each addition and after the fifth egg, sift in a little of the dry ingredients.
* Sift in a little flour after each egg and continue until all the flour is incorporated with the exception of two tablespoons to sprinkle over the fruit later.
* In the meantime, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over the fruit, wait for the reaction, sprinkle over the flour and incorporate the fruit into the dough.
* Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tins, making a small hollow at the top so that the cake does not rise too much, should it do so.
* Bake for 5 ½  hours on 140 C.
* Remove from the oven, place on rack very carefully and allow to cool down completely.
* Sprinkle with brandy and then wrap up in soft tinfoil and then in a stiff foil, folding carefully to close the cake with the opening of the foil on top.
* Open weekly and drizzle a little brandy over the top.

* Shortly before Christmas, cover in a thin layer of smooth apricot or strawberry jam, wrap in a coat of marzipan and ice with white butter icing, glycerin or royal icing.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to taste a selection of fabulous white wines – all of which you should look out for this summer.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I find nothing more dull than reading other people’s tasting notes. So instead I have tried to give you a snapshot of my impressions so that you can decide whether the wine appeals to you or not.

Most of the wines are a Sauvignon Blanc – people clearly know my penchant for this varietal. But I did have a rather pleasant encounter with a Riesling as well.

Four Paws Sauvignon Blanc 2007 & 2008

The 2007 is the current vintage from Four Paws and drinking extremely well. Give the 2008 a few more months to settle into its flavour and it will be delightful. The 2007 offers green peppers, elderberry and tropical fruits, balanced with a slight flintiness. Crisp and elegant.

If you like your wines fruity yet with a crisp acid, this is the wine for you. Not overpowering, like some of its contemporaries, the 2007 would go well with food or alone. Seafood or chicken would be a winning combination, but the wine stood up well to a mild curry too.

The alcohol level is 14% – so tread carefully.

Springfield’s Special Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Next up is the latest offering from one of my all time favourite Sauvignon Blanc producers. After being a staunch fan of the Life from Stone Sauvignon from Springfield, I started shifting to the Special Cuvee towards the end of last season. Less in your face, with well-integrated flintiness and minerality, the grapes that make this wine come from an especially rocky, calcerous part of the estate. They are harvested at night in the cool from this prime spot, and the wine is made with minimal interference.

I love the minerality you find in many Robertson wines, and if you want to get your head around the concept of terroir – start here. It’s amazing how wines from different parts of the same estate can have such different characteristics.

At 12.5% this is a relatively light wine by South African standards, and would go brilliantly with seafood such as grilled sole or sushi.

Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2008

I was very surprised to find myself enjoying this wine – as typically I am not a fan of the fruitiness of warm climate Sauvignons. However, some of the grapes for this Spier wine are sourced from the Tygerberg region which gets the benefit of cool sea breezes, so perhaps this has toned down the fruit flavours.

Classic Sauvignon freshly cut grass combines with fig and gooseberry. Ideal with picnics, chicken dishes and pasta in my view. 13.5% alcohol.

Frostline 2007

Finally I got my hands on a bottle of Frostline 2007 – a Riesling made by Graham Knox from Stormhoek fame, and Flagstone‘s Bruce Jack. The range of wine is called Extreme Vineyards and Graham and Bruce seem to be having fun making wines on the edge.

In this case the grapes are harvested from the highest vineyards in South Africa, in the Outeniqua mountains. This means the grapes are exposed to frost – which is ideal for Riesling which originates in Germany. Classic Riesling apple flavours lead this tight, crisp and fresh wine. I’d drink it by the bucketload with seafood and especially prawns. Again, at 14%, not shy on the alcohol front.

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The Champagne festival at Franschhoek was, as expected, great fun and a huge foodie experience for us. There was a good crowd (more than 3,000 apparently) of people, content in enjoying life, summer and very, very good bubbles.

The extreme heat was the only downside. It reached a reported 43 degrees at one point. There was a good mix of our best local bubblies like Graham Beck, Tanzanite, Pierre Jourdan, Morgenhof, Villiera and Steenberg; some new and interesting and some good French – some of the top like Gosset and Taittinger and some of the lesser known but excellent Marques like Joseph Perrier and Tribaut.

The restaurant stands were tucked in among the bubbly tables and each one had small portions of something delicious. We sampled some great gravadlax on blinis with rocket, some huge prawns with rocket, a wrap stuffed with Serrano ham, apricots, goats cheese and rocket and a fabulous white chocolate cheesecake with mixed berries from Le Quartier Français and, of course, there were oysters – some with rocket too. (We love rocket, but at the moment everyone is doing it to overkill).

We told you that we anticipated being spoiled and we were. We had been invited to stay at Rusthof Country House by the owner, Ruth McCourt, on Saturday night and it is truly beautifully decorated in a mix of modern and classical with notes of oriental, cool and comfortable and very, very close to the Festival, as it is right at the top of Huguenot Street near the Huguenot Monument.

We all went off to a cooking demonstration with Julie Parkfelt at La Chataigne farm and then ate the result for supper. We drank their delicious wines with the food. Julie is a very good cook and produced a really great meal of very Mediterranean style food. Our welcoming canapés were super artichoke bruschettas and tiny nectarine halves stuffed with goats cheese and then wrapped in ham. These were paired with Colmant MCC. She showed us how to make really good spinach gnocchi – so good we have the recipe below for you. They are baked in the oven and are quick and simple to make.

This was followed by duck breasts served on noodles with a very spicy tomato & sesame chutney. Our dessert was a Christmas-flavoured nutty semifreddo served with mixed fresh berries, covered in a white chocolate sauce, a good alternative to Christmas pud and suited to these hot days.

For our Sunday lunch, we escaped from the heat and had a lovely leisurely lunch at Reuben’s – in his courtyard (where the overhead mist sprays were very welcome). No one was having starters, they told us, because of the heat, but it was lovely to eat his very delicious honeyed quail and yellowtail on fennel ravioli. Reuben has a fantastic new book out – do check out copies in the shops but, if you go to the restaurant, you might persuade him to sign one for you.

Spinach and Ricotta “Gnocchi Verdi” with Tomato and Parmesan Cream Starter

500g Spinach
250g fresh ricotta
grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 egg
45g grated Parmesan
1 T flour

Wash the spinach and cook in salted water till wilted. Drain well & squeeze till absolutely dry, then place in food processor with the ricotta, seasoning and nutmeg and blend. Mix in egg, parmesan and flour. Chill, then shape into full teaspoon sized balls.

Tomato Sauce:
800g tinned tomatoes
1 T sugar
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
100 ml cream

Put all into a pan, bring to the boil and reduce for 10 minutes, then add the cream and blitz with your wand blender.

Parmesan Cream:
250ml cream
150ml finely grated parmesan.

Mix together in a jug.

Take small individual serving dishes; ladle 2–3 T of tomato sauce into each. Put in 3 to 5 (depends how large you made them!) gnocchi in each, pour over same amount of parmesan cream. Grate extra parmesan on top. Put into a preheated 180ºC oven for about 10 minutes until bubbling and the cheese starts to colour. Serve and eat at once.

Ed’s note: Main Ingredient offers gourmet foods, ingredients and fine wines. It has won Eat In guide’s Outstanding Outlet for the past three years. You can find them at: Shop 5, Nedbank Centre, 15 Kloof Rd, Sea Point 8005, Cape Town, South Africa. phone: +27 21 439 5169, or find them online.

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