30 March 2010

Super Wines of South Africa video!

Great video from Wines of South Africa , not enough about Pinotage tho'.

I spotted

Table Mountain and cable car station
Route 62 wine region
Hermanus and its whales
Cape Point and lighthouse
Beyers Truter in his cellar tasting Pinotage
Pavement cafe in Stellenbosch town centre
Paarl mountain and Afrikaans Language monument
Rain clouds hovering over Green Point football stadium

what did I miss?

Not sure what the football has to do with it ;)

26 March 2010

Historic Pinotage Vineyard to be TRASHED !!

The very first varietal Pinotage was grown and made by P K Morkel at Bellevue farm. That vineyard he planted in 1953 is still there, the old bushvines are still producing grapes for Bellevue's wines.

Anyone would think that such a historic vineyard would be officially recognised by the government as a National Historic Site. Not so.

But it has been recognised by predators who, using satellite imagery and without anyone visiting the area, have identified the low slopes of the Botttelary Hills on which Bellevues vineyards are planted as containing clay deposits.

And they have been given permission by the goverment to mine the area for clay.

They say they can, after extracting all the clay they want, restore the land back to its previous condition.

I don't think you have to be a viticulturist or a believer in the importance of terroir to know that it will impossible to restore this historic vineyard after those 57 year old vines have been torn from the soil and the very ground their roots descended through have been taken away in trucks.

I am appalled that the historic vineyards of the Stellenbosch region -- and this one in particular -- should be considered suitable for clay extraction.

Clay may be valuable, but so are Cape wines which have been producing wealth for the people of the region and the nation for more than 350 years.

To dig up and remove the actual ground that is the source of the nutrients and unique flavour of Cape wines and to replace them with -- well what???

The decision has been taken. Mining company, Corobrik, has the go ahead.

Dirkie Morkel, current owner and viticulturist at Bellevue Estate is appealing the decision. He needs all the help he can get and international attention would be welcomed.

If you are as appalled as I am, please drop emails to

Department of Mineral and Energy Regional Manager Mr Sivuyile Mpakane sivuyile.mpakane@dme.gov.za (Note that Mr Mpakane came to his post after the decision was taken by his predecessor. It's a done decision but Mr Mpakane should know of international concern)

and the MD of the the mining company Corobrik Mr Dirk Meyer intmktg@corobrik.co.za


Western Cape Manager Mr. Christie van Niekerk christie.vanniekerk@corobrik.com

Even a one liner will help.

A statement by Dirkie Morkel follows:

Statement by Dirkie Morkel about proposal to
mine clay on the oldest Pinotage vineyard


The following is a short summary of the history of Bellevue in an attempt to promote a better understanding of the current position in respect of the issue mentioned above:

• I, D C Morkel, am the fourth generation Morkel farming on Bellevue, a wine farm in the Bottelary area between Stellenbosch and Kuils River in the Western Cape – the first Morkel started farming here in 1861;

• The historic old Cape Dutch homestead (dated 1803) was restored to its original design and beauty in 1990 and has been declared a national monument.

• Bellevue made history in 1953 when the first commercial Pinotage vineyard in South Africa (and, as it is a cultivar developed in South Africa, also in the world!) was planted on Bellevue by my uncle (P K Morkel), who was also a Springbok rugby player.

• P K made further history by winning the coveted General Smuts trophy for the overall champion wine at the South African Young Wine Show in 1959 with his Pinotage.

• The piece of land on Bellevue for which prospecting rights for clay have now been awarded to Corobrik, includes the historic old Pinotage vineyard block.

• Bellevue has been a registered wine estate since 1983.

• In 2006 Bellevue became an enthusiastic member of the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (BWI). Parts of this project (e g the uncultivated natural vegetation, mainly fynbos), are also situated within the area where prospecting rights have been awarded.

What follows is a brief outline of the course of events surrounding the application by Corobrik for prospecting rights for clay in an open mine:

• At the end of 2008 we were informed by Corobrik that they had applied for prospecting rights for clay on our farm.

• Approximately three weeks later Corobrik furnished us with a so- called “Prospecting Work Programme”. I considered the whole matter to be so absurd that I did not give much attention to it by raisings objections or taking any other steps, which, in hindsight, was obviously a huge mistake. At that stage I very naively reasoned that rezoning would never be successful because of the resistance that I, farmers from neighbouring farms, the Department of Agriculture and the Municipality of Stellenbosch would offer in the “unlikely event” that the matter was taken further.

• I received a letter, dated 12 August 2009, from the Department of Minerals and
Energy by registered mail, in which they informed Corobrik that prospecting rights for clay on Bellevue had been awarded to them. Corobrik was cautioned in that letter to adhere to and comply with the EMP (environmental management plan). This document’s reference number is (WC)30/5/1/1/2/355PR and enquiries are directed to D S Kunene, who signed the letter as “Acting Regional Manager Western Cape Region”.

• At the beginning of October 2009 we received a visit from Mr Dirk Meyer (Managing Director of Corobrik SA) and Mr Christie van Niekerk (Manager of Corobrik, Western Cape). I had the impression that neither one of them, nor any other person from Corobrik, had ever been to Bellevue before. They did not at all know where the land in question was situated and it appeared (to me, in any case) that they were surprised when they learnt that there were vineyards on the land earmarked for prospecting. When I asked them how they became aware of the clay potential of the portion of land, their reply was that it was revealed by a careful study of a geological map. They tried to dispel my fears by downplaying my objections to mining for clay on land on which permanent crops are cultivated by stating that the land would be restored to its original state before being handed back, a claim I questioned and contested in the strongest possible terms in their presence. I remember asking them whether they had ever mined on land on which there were established vineyards and had managed to successfully re-establish the vineyards after the mining had ceased. I do not specifically remember their reply to my question or their comments in that regard, but definitely got the impression that such mining and restoration were more frequently performed on uncultivated land.

• Unfortunately I had the (wrong) idea that they had to some extent lost interest; when we did not in the immediate aftermath receive any further correspondence from them, this opinion of mine was strengthened. However, approximately three weeks ago we received a request from them, asking us to enter into a “Surface Lease Agreement” with them.

• I am employing the services of Mr Albert Marais (Marais Muller Yekiso in Kuils River) as attorney, who, at this stage, has taken legal advice from Advocate Elsa van Huyssteen.

• She has made the following recommendations in her report:

1) That we indicate to Corobrik that the portion of land in question is still zoned as Agricultural Zone 1;

2) that they did not start prospecting (as is stipulated) within 120 days of the awarding of the prospecting rights;

3) that they be referred to the judgment and outcome of the court cases Meepo v Kotze and Others 2008 (1) SA 104 (NC) and Joubert v Maranda Mining Co (Pty) Ltd 2010 (1) SA 198 (SCA).

• I studied the map and saw that some land on three of the farms neighbouring Bellevue was included in the area earmarked for prospecting, namely Avondrus (Alfred Borcherds), Houdenmond, a portion of Koopmanskloof farm (W S Smit Trust), as well as a portion of the land of Mr Donald Rix (Klein Koopmanskloof).

• I liaised with all three of them and it transpired that none of them had in any way been approached or contacted about this issue by Corobrik.

• I supplied this information and other relevant background particulars to Jorisna Bonthuys of Die Burger, as well as to Elbe van Heerden of Eikestadnuus in Stellenbosch. Their reports on the matter appeared in Die Burger of Thursday, 11 March 2010 and the Eikestadnuus of 12 March 2010. Both of the journalists made telephonic contact with Mr Meyer of Corobrik.

• Despite the fact that Mr Meyer downplayed the matter in the Eikestadnuus as an issue of little importance (“we actually prefer to co-operate with the farmer on a voluntary basis and if the farmer is not happy, we would rather go and look at other places”), a new document was delivered to Mr Marais last Friday afternoon (12/03). In that document the area earmarked for prospecting is substantially smaller (146 ha and no longer 320 ha), and it includes only the portion of land forming part of Bellevue. On the new map my three neighbours on the other three farms have therefore been excluded.

• Furthermore, the EMP is in my view not dealing with the facts in a fair and impartial way, and this results in the DME not receiving a true picture of the real situation. I doubt whether anyone has really come to Bellevue to observe and identify the vegetation. The two gentlemen who visited us did not even know where the land in question was situated and no-one else has ever approached us to ask permission to enter upon our land. The part of the EMP (C 1.4, p 12) dealing with nature appears to me to be worded in general terms quoted from a standard document, which may be true in general but does not take into consideration the unique character of a specific area. For instance, in the portion in question where the prospecting rights have been awarded, there are two areas included in the BWI Project, namely the Swartland Shale Renosterveld and the Cape Flats Sand Fynbos. Both are described by BWI as “critically endangered”, but yet prospecting rights have been awarded, while the EMP states that there are no “nature reserves” in the vicinity of the envisaged area (C1.6, p 13)!

This is where we stand at the moment. This document will also be sent to the Municipality of Stellenbosch, the Department of Agriculture of Elsenburg, BWI, the Agricultural Society of Stellenbosch, as well as neighbours and other interested persons and parties, including role-players in the political arena.

20 March 2010

Stables: Best ever KZN vintage

The Stables Wine Estate, located northwest of Durban many hundreds of miles north of the traditional Cape winelands , reports that the 2010 vintage is one of their best ever thanks to ideal hot weather conditions over KwaZulu-Natal during the first few months of the year.

"It has been absolutely classic this year!" reports winemaker Tiny van Niekerk. "We didn't really have a spring - we went straight from winter into summer with some early rains, after which it has been hot and dry. This has been perfect for the ripening of the grapes, and we have had absolutely no rot to deal with. And as a result we have not sprayed to counter the risk of rot as we generally have to"

We can look forward to really big reds from 2010. Those that will recall our epic 2006 Pinotage can look forward to more of the same, and maybe even better."

"Our Pinotage harvest has been our biggest ever, small grapes which provided plenty of colour extraction and intense fruit characteristics,"

Tiny van Niekerk confirmed that Stable would be producing a 2010 Pinotage Clariet rose wine. The 2006 Clariet was the first ever KZN wine to receive SAWIS certification for which the Wine of Origin KwaZulu Natal appellation had to be created. (see here)

"People loved it," said van Niekerk and they have been bugging me to make another vintage of the Clariet. We pulled off the free-run after six hours, which had great colour and flavour."


18 March 2010

From the blogs

Ron runs a go-ahead cafe wine bar in Wausau, Wisconsin. For his video blog he tasted four Pinotages, two from Robertson Winery, the standard 2008 and Phanto Ridge 2007 and the standard Fairview 2007 and standard (unwooded) Simonsig 2005. See the videos here and here .

The Robertson Phanto Ridge didn't impress Todd Smith, the Wine Director for American Spirits store in downtown St. Petersburg Florida. He found it
Meaty beef jerky, blackberries, plum, pumice, ash, sweet herbs and sweet tobacco scents on the lovely nose. Really falls short on the palate and the finish.
Bummer, I liked the last vintage. This just thins out too much.

Neal Martin, who reviews wine for Robert Parker posted on his blog
In the evening, a lovely Pinotage. No oxymoron…a lovely Pinotage!
but he hasn't disclosed which one.

16 March 2010

PINOTAGE: Book available in South Africa

I am delighted to announce that my book PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa's Own Wine is now distributed in South Africa.

Without the cost of international airmail postage the book can now be delivered to you for 160R per copy.

Email peter (at) pinotage (dot) org for bank transfer details.

15 March 2010

Inniskillin 2006 Discovery Series Pinotage

Thanks to wine writer Kathleen Rake in Canada for the following review:

Inniskillin 2006 Discovery Series Pinotage:
$29.99/13.5% ABV.

I decanted this Pinotage for about an hour before serving it.
Made from 100% Pinotage grapes, this wine presents blackberry jam, smoke, the earth, and something a little tropical (banana?) on the nose, along with juicy fresh ripe raspberries, red fruit, spice and soft tannins on the palate.
It paired well with a grilled strip loin steak, oven-roasted rosemary potatoes, and home-made Caesar salad. But you know what? It worked okay as a sipper on its own.

Review Copyright (c) Kathleen Rake 2010 ( Click Media Works ) and used with permission. First published on Between The Vines. Thanks Kathleen.

12 March 2010

Pinotagio! -- from Temecula, California

Cougar Vineyard and Winery are the first southern California winery to make a Pinotage.
Only 124 cases were produced of this vintage, from grapes grown in nearby Bonsall.
Cougar is a new winery in the Temecula Valley -- which is south of Los Angeles just north of San Diego. It is owned by Jennifer and Rick Buffington and they are specialising in Italian varieties, but they couldn't resist buying a consignment of Pinotage grapes from a local grower and gave it the wine the attractive Italian accented Pinotagio name.
Jennifer and Rick say this wine
"has aromas of raspberries, is light-bodied with balanced tannins, a long finish and and a structure similar to a great Pinot Noir. Great red wine for a picnic or anytime you are looking for a red with light fruity flavours."
Chad and Frank, who tasted the wine for their video website MyDailyGrape.com said
"This is a sexy little wine that..... starts with a nice aroma of raspberries and pretty fruit forward on the palate, has a just enough tannins to let you know it has some Syrah components to it (which I love)and then with a long finish that reminds you of the Pinot noir grape."

11 March 2010

Fairview's 2010 Pinotage "Looking Great"

Fairview winemaker Anthony de Jager reports that
"the early Pinotages are possibly some of the best that I have seen from this farm. Soft, supple tannins and rich fruit, but none of that jammy overripe character. They promise to be lovely, elegant wines."

Chris Bryant adds
"we spent some time tasting through the cellar and looking at the 2010 wines so far. Overall things are looking very good. I think that the producers who managed to get their fruit in before the heat will do well.

On the Pinotage front we were really impressed. We picked a fair amount of our Pinotage earlier, to try and reduce the final sugar and resultant alcohol levels. We were able to do so because of the moderate and steady ripening period.

The first Pinotages are really looking great. Supple and soft, but really full fruit flavours. Not that over ripe character. The would be enjoyable to drink chilled right now, but some have been sent off to barrels and we'll watch them over the next 6 to 12 months."

Chris runs Fairview's interesting blog covering what this innovative winery is doing and he follows Anthony around the vineyards with a video camera

06 March 2010

2010 Harvest Reports

Harvest reports are coming in

Ilse van Dijk, winemaker at Deetlefs Estate, is poetic when describing the intensity of the 2010 harvest: “It feels like walking into a perfume factory, with hallucinations of palm beaches and pineapple cocktails every morning when opening the cellar doors for yet another creative day. ”
Van Dijk says the Sauvignon Blanc is looking good, with exotic tropical fruits and good structure. While the Pinotage, which is still fermenting, already has a deep intense colour and fresh berry flavours.

Willie Burger, cellarmaster at Badsberg Cellar says: “The harvest is smaller this year, but the quality definitely makes up for it. Pinotage is the only red cultivar harvested so far, and the wines made from this variety look very promising. “What really stand out are the soft tannins and the deep, red colour. Overall 2010 promises an exciting vintage, although a bit smaller.”

Gerrit van Zyl of Botha Cellar says the harvest is smaller than expected – about 10% to 15% less than 2009. Cultivars already harvested are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon, while they have started with Pinotage. The Pinotage at Botha also has good colour and the wine is fruity but with tannins that are both ripe and soft in the mouth

At KWV they say 'so far we received Pinotage, Merlot and Shiraz grapes. We are almost finished with the Pinotage and we’ll start on the Merlot shortly. The grapes are definitely coming in later than in 2009 because of the cool weather and today’s weather has made things challenging…. However, the quality of the Pinotage that has come in is amazing and from the Merlot grapes that we have seen, KWV Wines is expecting a good vintage from this year’s crop too.'

Corlea Fourie, winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyard harvested their Pinotage grapes early February. By mid-month she was blogging "Beautiful purple/crimson juice-maybe the most rewarding cultivar to work with purely because of the instant gratification of oodles of colour. Loving it!"

But Delheim is reporting "only the Pinotage has not fared as well as hoped."