28 January 2011

Hill & Dale, Blogging and Diam

The winelist at Gordons Bay Spur is not overlong but they seem to have upped the choice.

Usually I take grateful advantage of their no-cost corkage policy and take in bottles I have acquired in the wine-lands but Wednesday night we were late back from the SA Wine & Food Bloggers meeting in Cape Town where I sat next to Sarah Graham of ‘ A Foodie Lives Here’.

Sarah tells me she has a contract with Random House to produce a cook book which is brilliant news, but not as brilliant as the news that she is also going to produce a baby. As to which will arrive first, I don’t know. But since babies don’t wait and publishers seem to take ages, I think baby will win!

So straight into Spur — which got a name check from our speaker, blogger 'The Squashed Tomato' herself Linda Harding, that implanted the thought of baked potato and New York strip in my partners subconscious — and I ordered Hill & Dale Pinotage 2009.

Now — two things. Note the origin, Stellenbosch, and the cork. Hill & Dale was introduced as a second label for Stellenzicht. If ‘mass market’ isn’t the right word, ‘large volume’ and ‘entry-level’ will do. Or even the new buzz word ‘life-style.’

But this doesn’t look like your usual large volume label. It is Stellenbosch Wine of Origin, a classic area for Pinotage and one where grape prices have increased to a level that some other producers can no longer get enough Stellenbosch Pinotage and have had to source elsewhere, changing their appellations to the catch-all and basically meaningless ‘Western Cape’.

Secondly: note the word DIAM on the cork. DIAM is what is known as a ‘technical’ cork. It is made from cork — it is not plastic — that has undergone a patented process in which cork is ground into granules which are cleansed by supercritical carbon dioxide before being reassembled into a cork closure. The closures are guaranteed to be free of TCA and they are not a cheap option.

They look similar to the cheap agglomerate closures which are corks made from the remainders of cork manufacture but differ in that the name DIAM is printed on them and when you smell them they are completely neutral—there is not a trace of that dirty smell you can get from cork and which transfers to wines. So DIAMs are, for most wine lovers, the preferred closure that is not a screwcap.

So, not your usual life style wine packaging. That Hill & Dale are serious about quality is obvious. But is the wine any good? No worries here. Big juicy soft clean fruity wine with underlying oak tannins that slips down very easily. It is an ideal wine for a steak house and reasonably priced at 69R.

Genial Guy Webber is the winemaker behind Hill & Dale and his monthly musings can be read on his blog On The Couch with Guy Webber.

(by coincidence, the following day I attended a tasting in the winelands at one of the Cape’s leading wineries. Seven wines were presented to a group visiting from the international Circle of Wine Writers. Two of the wines were closed with screw caps. Of the other five wines, three were corked — a 60% failure rate. We were at the winery, the owner was pouring and replacements were to hand. But how many bottles with bad corks had already gone out to consumers? Talk again to me about the ‘romance of cork’.)


  1. Hi Peter
    Thanks for the kind comments re our wines - glad you enjoyed the Pinotage.
    As far as Diam is concerned, we started using them in 2004 when they were still called "Diamant". As far as I know, we were the first SA producers to use them commercially and have now used a few million of them without complaint or come-back. I honestly believe that they will show themselves to be the future for wine bottle closures as they are "natural" and "manufactured" and have a smaller carbon footprint than screwcaps.

  2. Hi Peter,
    Just a quick update for your link, Guy's blog has been moved to here: http://www.hillanddale.co.za/blog/.

  3. Thanks Patrick - I've updated the link above, but why has the RSS feed been removed?