04 April 2014

All Change at L'Avenir

It’s all change at L’Avenir. The dark brown labels with African pictographs which were introduced in 1995 have been replaced with a clean modern-looking label which is an updating of L’Avenir’s original label showing rows of vines leading to the winery.

The new labels cover three tiers of wine. The entry level wines under the ‘Far & Near’ branding are priced at the cellar door from 50-55 Rand and use grapes sourced from outside the farm.

The top two ranges once again are ‘Estate’ Wine of Origin.

The mid-range wines are priced from 90-120 Rand. The premium range are registered Single Vineyards, and priced at R180 for the Single Block Chenin Blanc 2012 and R300 for the Single Block Pinotage 2012.

These bottles are individually numbered and signed by wine maker Dirk Coetzee. In another acknowledgement of the past, the bottles are dedicated to Francois Naudé, Lavenir’s winemaker and viticulturist from its beginning until his retirement after the estate was purchased by the French wine company Laroche.

The estate vineyards have produced exceptional wines over the years — at the time of his retirement Francois Naudé had won the Pinotage Top 10 Competition more times than anyone else — and it is good to have the Estate certification to again confirm the source of the wine.

Even better for those who like to drink a wine with a sense of place and terroir is the single vineyard registration of these blocks. Their labels are based on a satellite image of the vineyard with the named block highlighted in gold.

The Estate Pinotage 2012 is wonderfully exciting now, lively and giving real pleasure. It’s a wine that made me stop and say ‘wow’. Could keep but I’m enjoying it too much to wait.
Block 02 Pinotage 2012 is a taut, powerful, intense yet restrained wine. I’m keeping mine for a several years because I think this is going to develop into a real humdinger.

31 March 2014

WOTM - Spier 21 Gables 2011

My Wine of the Month for March is Spier 21 Gables 2011

Having tasted quite a lot, but never enough, Pinotages in the past three weeks here in the Cape I’ve found it really difficult to pick a wine of the month this time. So many stand out, so many have been delicious and  enjoyable.

But a decision had to be made and by a whisker Spier’s premium 21 Gables’ 2011 is my choice.

I enjoyed it with lunch at the wine farm’s ‘Eight’ restaurant – a farm to table operation where the menu changes from day to day according to what the farmers bring in from the fields.

We had an excellent waitron and were impressed that the Pinotage was served chilled.

This is a very modern style of Pinotage, restrained and elegant but with oodles of fruit underneath. Four and a half stars in Platter and worthy of five. I’d have bought a case there and then if I could carry them home with me.  160 Rand at the cellar door.
According to the fact sheet on Spier's web site, the 2011 Pinotage's

Grapes were hand harvested to minimize damage to the berries. Grapes were chilled before bunch sorting. After de-stemming, the berries were sorted by hand to remove raisins, pink berries and large berries. Cold soaking preceded temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks and open-top French oak vats. Free run wine was drained to a combination of 1st and 2nd fill barrels and matured for 18 months

Congrats to Frans Smit and his team! 

26 March 2014

Pinotage Ale: A World First

Beyers ‘King of Pinotage’ Truter’s winery is a temple to the Pinotage grape. The winery logo on walls and bottle labels is a distinctive bright red Pinotage leaf. The Red Leaf restaurant serves Pinotage flavoured foods, including the famed Pinotage Burger with its dressing of Pinotage onion jam. In the tasting room you can sample and purchase red, white, pink and sparkling Pinotage wines, and also fortified port-style wines fortified with Pinotage brandy.
If it can be improved by Pinotage (and few things can’t) then Beyers has done it -- with ice cream, Pinotage jam, and Pinotage infused meats and sausages.
Recently Beyers was on a marketing trip to Belgium, rightly famed for the range and breadth of its beers. One evening, off duty and enjoying a glass of Kriek lambic ale, inspiration struck.
Once back home he booked himself on to a craft beer-making course. Kriek ale is steeped and fermented with cherries in a process that pre-dates the addition of hops.
What beer drinkers have been sadly lacking, however, is a Pinotage beer.
But salvation is on hand. Shortly Beyers will launch the world’s first Pinotage beer, provisionally titled Pinotale.
It will be available at first at Beyerskloof winery but Beyers tells me that he is in discussions with a large brewing company who are keen to distribute it nationally.
First South Africa: next the World!

07 March 2014

10 Years of Top Pinotage

Over at Top Wine SA, Mike Froud has posted his annual list of top wines based on the ten previous years results from various competitions and ratings.

There aren’t any surprises among the Pinotage producers where Mike’s top ten for 2014 are: 
  • Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve
  • Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Pinotage
  • Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage
  • Kanonkop Pinotage
  • Môreson Pinotage
  • Rijk’s Pinotage
  • Simonsig Redhill Pinotage
  • Spier Private Collection Pinotage
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage
  • Windmeul Pinotage Reserve

See the full Top 20 at here

Four of the above
  • Kanonkop Pinotage
  • Rijk’s Pinotage
  • Simonsig Redhill Pinotage
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage

also make Top Wine SA’s 2014 Red Wine Hall of Fame for having received top accolades from the top tasting panels for at least eight vintages during the past 10 years.

28 February 2014

WOTM – Swartland Bush Vine 2010

My Wine of the Month for February is Swartland Bush Vine 2010

Long before the ‘Swartland Revolutionaries’ discovered the area’s propensity for great wine  Swartland Winery was already making it. 

Sixty-five years ago, in 1948, fifteen Swartland farmers came together to build a co-operative winery 3 miles from the town of Malmesbury. The co-operative converted to a private company in 2006

Swartland , meaning the black land, refers to how it looked to the first travellers whosaw  it covered by  indigenous low bushy renosterbos vegetation which  looks black from a distance. 

When I first visited them fifteen years ago Swartland Winery was the largest under one roof in South Africa and it was really impressive to see the size of the operation. I first met cellar master Andries Blake, along with Abrie Beeslaar who went on to take over the winemaker’s baton at Kanonkop from Beyers Truter. Beyers often said that Andries  had made more Pinotage at Swartland than he, Beyers, ever would. Swartland Winery became partners with American wine giant Gallo to make their Sebeka range of South African wines.

But Swartland Winery doesn’t just make large volume wines. This excellent Bush Vine Pinotage is one such ‘boutique’ wine. Crafted on Andries Blake’s watch, it’s a sublime example of a fine wine where fruit and tannins are in perfect balance. Great mouth feel with a dash of Pinotage sweetness on the finish.

Here Andries talks about Swartland Bush Vine Pinotage

31 January 2014

WOTM - Sterhuis Pinotage 2013

My Wine of the Month for January is a bit of a mystery. I was offered a small taste and then selfishly poured myself a larger glass to savour.

The bottle was shared  courtesy of Andre, South African ex-pat medical man currently working in a London hospital. He’d brought the bottle back from his latest trip home.

Andre took  delight in telling me that the wine-maker 'hates' Pinotage and the property sells off all their Pinotage to other wineries. But this time they had some fruit left and decided to make a wine but they didn’t want to be it to be like the usual ones that they don’t like. I don’t know the facts and Andre may be pulling my leg, because this wine is superb.

It’s definitely Pinotage —so I wonder what they’ve been judging the variety on— it's only 2013 vintage but tastes properly mature, full bodied, with elegant restrained fruit.

It doesn’t have the winery’s standard label—this is plainly printed on self-adhesive paper—and  the wine isn’t listed on their website but I guess it must be sold at the winery since they’ve put on the health warning.

Bottelary Hills are a prime source of first rate Pinotage grapes and I’d like to enjoy more than a glass of this with dinner so I’ll try to visit Sterhuis in March to find out more about this intriguing delicious wine, and whether it has changed the mind of its maker.  

31 December 2013


Purity of fruit, linear and elegant, this is a delightful wine that left a contented smile on my face.

This really classy 2011 vintage from the Parker family at Altydgedacht in Durbanville won Pinotage Top 10 in 2012.

In English speaking countries you might find it labelled Ralph Parker   to save us struggling with pronouncing  Altydgedacht, as Richard Parker explains here