Thursday, 15 November 2012

2012 Nedbank Green Wine Awards

Some of the highlights of judging at this year's competition include seeing how well the organic wines performed (see my previous post organic trend ), the increase in the number of entries (190) and the introduction of the WWF Biodiversity and Wine Initiative wine category.

Reyneke Wines scooped top honours (again) in the organic category, with its Reyneke Reserve Red 2009 winning awards for Best Wine Overall and Best Red. Paul Cluver Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2012 won Best Wine Overall in the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Category.

The full results:
Wines made from Organically Grown Grapes

Best Wine Overall: Reyneke Reserve Red 2009
Best Red: Reyneke Reserve Red 2009
Best White: Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2011
Best Value: Stellar Winery Live-a-Little Really Ravishing Red N/V
Bloggers’ Choice: Green Shebeen Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chenin's Stellar Showing in 2013 Platter

Last night's launch of the 2013 Platter Guide and 5 star revelations confirmed Chenin Blanc's rise to fame and hopefully fortune for long suffering proponents of the variety. No less than 8 were awarded with 12 for white blends many of which contained the variety. Meanwhile Chardonnay garnered only five, two of which went to Jordan and Sauvignon Blanc only three.

This edition a record 62 wines made the five star cut, with Cape Chamonix garnering four 5 star ratings. 

Twelve wineries received 5 star ratings for the first time, namely AA Badenhorst Family, Alheit, Bon Courage, Cederberg, Dalla Cia, David, Fryer’s Cove, Keets, Mvemve Raats, Nitida, Saronsberg and Von Ortloff. (The full list of five star wines appears below.)
Of the 5 star awarded wines, the red and white which receive the most votes from the judging panel are named Platter’s Wines of the Year. This time the Red Wine Of The Year is Mullineux Family Syrah 2010 (Wine of Origin Swartland), described in the guide as “an icon in the making”, whilst the White Wine Of The Year is Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2011 (Wine of Origin Elgin), probably one of the best ever botrytised Rhine riesling to ermerge in the Cape. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wine is like Oxygen

This one for Live out Loud - theme of the edition was oxygen.

“Love is like oxygen, you get too much you get too high, not enough and you're gonna die. Love gets you high” (lyrics by the band Sweet, ironically their last big hit).

So too with wine.  Oxygen is wine’s best frenemy – vital in the right doses at the right time, but too much and you’re gonna die, and it starts from the moment the grapes are crushed and continues in your glass and then in your blood stream.

With modern wine drinking habits most wines do not need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but all are destined for a smack on the lips. Taking off the capsule and easing out the cork is not enough foreplay - nor does it allow the wine to breathe.

For wine to take a deep breath it has to be decanted. Generally, the older the wine the more it will benefit from decanting but premium wines under screw cap, for example, can benefit from decanting at any age. 
Mature wines, particularly reds, need some air to revitalise some of their flavours and aromas, even mouth feel, but some are too fragile for decanting. Pour about 50 ml into a glass and re-cork the bottle. Assess the wine immediately, give the remaining wine in the glass a good swirl and then assess it again about 10 minutes later.

If you think the wine has gained more intensity or complexity – the change can be huge - decant the remaining wine and allow it to stand for about 30 minutes. It’s probably a good idea to do this trial with all older whites and all premium wines under screw cap.

If you are in a hurry, wine pourers like Vinturi aerate wine so you can compare straight samples with aerated ones immediately.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Records fall at Cape Winemakers Guild Auction

Brisk bidding at a rate of R1 million per hour set the tone for a record breaking 28th Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Auction in the Stellenbosch winelands over the weekend, with the highest turnover ever of R5 739 000 (excluding VAT) with a complete sellout of all the wines on offer.

Unlike Nederburg auction, the CWG auction is open to the trade and general public, and this year’s record sales were 8,6% up on the 2011 turnover of R5 286 700, despite 431 fewer cases of wine. The auction also attracted a record number of 54 new local buyers and private collectors, four of whom were amongst the top 10 buyers this year. 
Auctioneer Henre Hablutzel 15th consecutive hammer time

The auction, conducted by Henré Hablutzel of Hofmeyr Mills Auctioneers for the 15th consecutive year, attracted 148 buyers including 14 foreign buyers and for the first time, 14 online bidders. In total 2 517 cases were sold at an average price of R2 281 per case equivalent of 6 x 750ml bottles. The lineup of 52 wines included 38 red wines, 10 white wines, 2 Méthode Cap Classiques, one dessert wine and a port.

Veritas 2012

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. The best and worst of statistics and analysis is that numbers can be massaged for own purposes. If producers where negatively weighted by size of production and range of products, Jordan would probably have placed first overall, but with the inclusion of brandy at Veritas and a considerable vintage cellar,  KWV once again topped the medal count followed by another behemoth Nederburg. KWV received 5, Nederburg 4 and Jordan 3 double gold (DG). Two of KWV's doubles were for brandewyn and two in museum class.

The other top achieving wine cellars in terms of DG and gold (G) medals include: Simonsig (2 DG, 7 G), Boplaas Family Vineyards (2 DG, 3 G), Cederberg Private Cellar (2 DG, 2 G), Windmeul (2 DG, 2 G)  and Guardian Peak (2 DG, 1 G). 

With most pundits talking up the category and it performing better elsewhere, it was surprsing to see no DG for Pinot Noir and a mere single gold for Groote Post 09. Did the usual suspects not enter?  The Other Red Cultivars panel (inc Cabernet Franc and Pinot) comprised Colin Frith, Christine Rudman, Andy Roediger, Pieter Ferreira, Razvan Macici, Johann Fourie and Linley Schultz. 

Good value must surely be found in; Villiera Chenin Blanc 2011 (DG), Bon Courage Hillside White 2012 (G), Bon Courage Chardonnay 2012 (G, unwooded), Bergsig Sauvignon Blanc (G) 2012, Christina Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (DG),  Windmeul Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (DG),  Merwida Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (DG), Klawer Cellars Viogner 2011 (G, wooded), BC Wines Shiraz Rose 2012 (G), Landskroon Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (G),  Spencer Bay Winemakers Reserve (red blend) 2009 (G), Woolworths Winemaster's Reserve Grenache (Nederburg) 2010 (G), Rooiberg Winery Red Muscadel 2009 (DG),

Writer's special mention - Tokara Pinotage (DG) 2010, Goede Hoop Straw Wine (DG) 2010.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Balance Tops at Spar

Last night's launch by Tops at Spar of their new packaging and new vintage for own brand Olive Brook at Kleine Zalze's Terroir Restaurant was a remarkable balancing act.

Michael Broughton's cooking displayed both intensity and restraint as did Tops at Spar's consulting winemaker Tinus van Niekerk. All the wines displayed wonderful juicy elegance and sheer drinkability that is bizarrely lacking in so many of our wines.

sadly not the journo's goodie bag but rather the end of aisle gondola which should de-clutter the offering

 The other good news from Olive Brook is the value for money for these wines would surely rule the Good Value Awards but currently are not entered - perhaps because they are sponsored by a rival - but imagine the impact if they did garner all manner of gongs from the Good Value Awards. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report

The second annual Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report presented in conjunction with Sanlam Private Investments was announced yesterday. The three man panel includes Roland Peens and James Pietersen. All wines tasted blind with an auditor keeping score.

Best value by some distance was the Hartenberg 2010 for R78 - another case of the regular wine out performing the top-of-the-range? I was torn between the Hamilton Russell and Tokara for my top drop but then there was the Uva Mira and the Almenkerk and the Sterhuis, all of them so delicious but will plumb for the Tokara, again swayed by relative value for money.

The top 10 wines were as follows:
Jordan Barrel Fermented 2011
Price: R109 (to be released 1 November).
Uva Mira Single Vineyard 2011
Price: R200
Almenkerk 2011
Price: R145
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2011
Price: R290
Hartenberg 2010
Price: R78
KWV The Mentors 2011
Price: R111
Radford Dale 2011
Not yet released.
Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2010
Price: R105
Sumaridge 2010
Price: R150
Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay 2011
Price: R121

To read the tasting report in full, download the following: Christian Eedes Chardonnay Report 2012

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Durbanville's Bargain Wine Tasting by Helicopter

Durbanville Wine Valley is celebrating its annual Season of Sauvignon this coming weekend. With all manner of activities for all ages and preferences, one of the bargains must be wine tasting by helicopter for a mere R750 - that's not much more than a tank of petrol these days. It includes dropping in at three wineries and a cheese hamper. Call 021 934 4405 (4 pax per flight).

For a full programme go to  link

Beer SA Logo

A craft beer revolution has swept the world off its bar stool and SA is no exception, if lagging USA and Europe.

It does however take a lot of bitterly cold beer to make good wine in much of the new world, besides it's a great palate cleanser between long flights of wine. Some winemakers have even taken to brewing beer. 

SAB have launched South Africa's newsest beer portal with claims that it contains everything you'll ever want to know about beer with contributions from a draft of independent writers.

Is this genuine corporate beeranthropy or disguised protection of their interests? Time will tell.

You can check it out here

Saturday, 29 September 2012

How South Africa can Win the Wine Wars


Mike Veseth's (aka The Wine Economist) key note speech at the 2012 Nederburg Auction.

I’m here to talk about how South Africa can win the Wine Wars, so I guess I need to explain what the Wine Wars are and how South Africa fits into the action. Wine Wars is the title of my 2011 book. The title is short and punchy but the real business of the book is described by the long subtitle, The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck and the Revenge of the Terroirists, which outlines the three elements of the book’s argument. Let’s take them one by one and then think about how they apply to South Africa.

A Tale of Curses, Miracles and Revenge
The first argument, “The Curse of the Blue Nun,” is about the risks and opportunities of globalization. Blue Nun was arguably the world’s first mass market wine brand. Although most people in the U.S. remember Blue Nun as that reliable but so-so German wine that they drank in the 1970s and 1980s (along with Portugal’s Mateus Rosé and Italy’s Riunite Lambrusco), the fact is that it initially gained international attention because of the extraordinary quality of the 1921 vintage. For a time it was the best selling imported wine in the U.S. and distributed around the world.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

FNB TOP 10 Sauvignon Blanc

Top 10 are:
Clos Malverne 2011
De Morgenzon DMZ 2012
Diemersdal MM Louw 2011
Driehoek 2012
Du Toitskloof 2012
Groote Post 2012
Lomond Pincushion 2011
Neethlingshof Single Vineyard 2012
Simonsig Sunbird 2012
Virgin Earth Pepper Tree 2012

Back l to r 
Joseph Gertse (Virgin Earth), Hannes Meyer (Simonsig), Thys Louw (Diemersdal), Nick Pentz (Groote Post), De Wet Viljoen (Neethlingshof), Kobus Gerber (Lomond), Shawn Thomson (Du Toitskloof)
Front l to r 
Wendy Appelbaum (De Morgenzon), Charl du Toit (Driehoek), Suzanne Coetzee (Clos Malverne)

Organic Trend at Nedbank Green Awards

It was not too surprising that the organic category scored higher on average than the BWI (Biodiversity & Wine Initiative) category at this week's judging of the Nedbank Green Awards – it’s where fine wine is heading and it also leads to the terroir debate.

The obvious international examples include biodynamic producer Domaine de la Romanée-Conte, one of the most prized and sexy wines on the planet, and recently Chateaux Margaux winemaker Paul Pontallier said after a five year trial ‘I hope that in two to three years we will be 100% organic’.

The interesting part is that at this point they are only converting their first growth parcels which have the best drainage, the most vigour (for cool climate), and the least sensitivity to mildew.

The shortest argument for terroir is the right variety in the right place i.e. in harmony with the environment. Once you have this in place its much easier converting to organic and biodynamic and wonderful things start happening including physiological ripeness at lower alcohols with finer tannins which all starts adding up to one of the most prized attributes – balance.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

2012 FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top 10

The 20 finalists are drawn from a wide array of producing areas (Cape Agulhas, Breedekloof, Cederberg, Darling, Durbanville, Elgin, Langeberg-Garcia, Stellenbosch and Tulbagh are all represented one way or another) and the line-up of producers includes both those with well-established reputations for making high quality Sauvignon Blanc and relative newcomers.  12 of the wines came from the 2012 vintage, seven from 2011 and one from 2010.

Clos Malverne 2011
Clos Malverne 2012
D'Aria The Songbird 2011
De Morgenzon DMZ 2012
Diemersdal MM Louw 2011
Driehoek 2012
Du Toitskloof 2012
Durbanville Hills Biesjes Craal 2012
Ernst Gouws & Co 2012
Groote Post 2012
Lomond Pincushion 2011
Lomond Sugarbush 2010
Nederburg The Young Airhawk 2011
Neethlingshof Single Vineyard 2012
Paul Cluver 2011
Saronsberg Provenance 2012
Simonsig Sunbird 2012
Spice Route 2012
é Pepin Condé 2011
Virgin Earth Pepper Tree 2012

The wines which placed in the Top 10 will be made public on Thursday 13 September.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Auction Season

The annual Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) wine auction will be held at Spier on Saturday 6 October. Wine enthusiasts can taste the auction wines at the CTICC in Cape Town at 18h00 on Thursday, 23 August and at 18h00 at The Atrium, Nedbank Sandton in Johannesburg on Thursday, 30 August. Tickets cost R170 and are available from
Two members of the Guild make their Auction debut this year: Gottfried Mocke, with his Chamonix Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2011 and Miles Mossop with his Tokara Auction Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

The new varietals on offer this year include a Cinsault from Adi Badenhorst, AA Badenhorst Family Wines Shatoe Ramnasgras 2011, on offer in the regular 750 ml and a magnum, and the John Loubser Garibaldi Nebbiolo 2009. Other interesting blends include the Graham Beck The Catalyst Shiraz Viognier 2010 and the Luddite Oscar Shiraz Mourvédre 2009. The only Port-style wine  is the Carel Nel Cape Vintage Auction Reserve 2010.

The full list

750ml unless otherwise indicated
AA Badenhorst Family Wines Shatoe Ramnasgras 2011
AA Badenhorst Family Wines Shatoe Ramnasgras 2011 (magnums)         
Ataraxia Under the Gavel Chardonnay 2011    
Beyerskloof Traildust Pinotage 2010    
Boschkloof Bakhand Shiraz 2010        
Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir 2009   
Cape Point Vineyards Auction Reserve White 2011     
Carel Nel Cape Vintage Auction Reserve 2010
Cederberg Ghost Corner Semillon 2011          
Cederberg Teen Die Hoog Shiraz 2010           
Chamonix Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2011 
De Grendel Amandelboord Sauvignon Blanc 2012       
De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2010       
De Trafford Perspective 2009  
De Trafford Syrah 2009          
Edgebaston Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 (magnums)
Ernie Els CWG 2010   
Etienne Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2009   
Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra Cap Classique 2008       
Graham Beck The Catalyst Shiraz Viognier 2010         
Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2006          
Groot Constantia CWG Shiraz 2009    
Hartenberg Estate Auction Shiraz 2009
Hartenberg Loam Hill Merlot 2009      
Haskell The Expatriate 2010    
Haskell Paradigm 2008
John Loubser Garibaldi Nebbiolo 2009
Jordan Chardonnay Auction Reserve 2011      
Jordan Sophia 2009    
Kaapzicht Cape Blend 2009    
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2007      
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2009      
Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2010          
Kleine Zalze Granite Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2009         
Louis Laika 2010        
Luddite "Oscar" Shiraz Mourvédre 2009          
Luddite "The Reserve" Shiraz 2008      
Neil Ellis Auction Reserve 2007           
Overgaauw DC Classic 2009  
Paul Cluver Pinot Noir 2010    
Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2010           
Rijk's CWG Chenin Blanc 2011          
Rijk's CWG Pinotage 2010     
Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon 2009         
Saronsberg CWG Semillon 2008         
Simonsig Cuvée Chêne Blanc de Blancs MCC 2007    
Simonsig Estate Heirloom Shiraz 2010 
Spier Merlot 2009       
Spier Pinotage 2009    
Teddy Hall Eva (Krotoa) Muscat de Frontignan 2009 Noble Late Harvest       
Teddy Hall Hendrik Biebouw Auction Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011 (375ml)      
Tokara Auction Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010      
Waterford Estate Auction Reserve BB 2009

Monday, 23 July 2012

King Cabernet and Seductress Shiraz

This one written for

Cabernet may be king but the throne is faux and the real power lies with the seductress Shiraz. Cabernet is regarded as one of the great interlopers of indigenous and new vineyards worldwide, and is a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc - a bastard, one might say. But like all bastards, Cabernet can be as suave and sophisticated as any blue-blood, with no compunction about pretending to be king, or even Elvis.

Shiraz, cast for so long as a Persian belly dancer, actually has a more noble - and now fashionable - lineage. Unlike relative newcomer Cabernet in Bordeaux, Shiraz has reigned in the Rhone since Roman times and DNA profiling reveals it as progeny of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche in southeast France. Shiraz is now estimated to be at least the world's fifth most planted grape.

Cabernet's conqueror reputation is yet another pretence, for while he strode far and wide, he ruled neither his conquests nor his backyard with any real authority. As one Australian winemaker puts it "Bordeaux's greatest coup was in convincing the rest of the world that the great red Bordeaux is pure Cabernet".

For the rest click here

Monday, 2 July 2012

To Stir or to Shake

(my take on Martinis for Playboy's Bond edition)

Think cocktails, and Martinis appear – quickly, with James Bond not far behind, but one man's perfect Martini is another man's Molotov cocktail. How much vermouth, how much gin? Bond’s preference for shaken not stirred suggests a mix but with the driest of Martinis, the glass is rinsed with vermouth – the rest is gin. Could Bond have liked his martinis sweet, even wimpy?

Bond's Vesper Martini (with a twist)
 Throughout the 22 James Bond movies, numerous cocktails, Champagnes and beers have made an appearance. Reports are that the new bond film – “Skyfall” – will set new records for product placement. So, is Bond a heavily disguised brand ambassador with a taste for wimpy martinis? As long as he gets to kill, maim and fornicate, Joe Public doesn’t seem to care.

It does look like Skyfall is going to be a windfall for Bond. On this occasion he is going to be drinking Heineken, or Heinie as some Americans say. Now with all due respect to the beer and Bond’s usual preference, I would imagine that Bond did not accept a mere six pack of Heinie in return (rumoured to be $40m).

It’s been a lot easier for some South African wine producers. American Jeffrey Deaver enjoys the Cape winelands and he – as author of Carte Blanche - has Bond sipping on Rustenberg’s Peter Barlow 2005 and Cuvée Clive, Graham Beck’s Grand Marques bubbly.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

International Wine Challenge 2012

../Logo/Logo_IntlWineChallenge.jpg [© 1999]

South African wines garnered with gold in London today at the 2012 International Wine Challenge as follows:

Cirrus Syrah 2008
Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve White 2010
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2010
Klein Constantia Vin De Constance 2006
Lourensford Winemaker’s Selection Chardonnay 2011
Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 2008
Nederburg Private Bin Eminence 2009
Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2010
Saronsberg Viognier 2010
Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2010
Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2010
Vergelegen GVB 2010 (white blend)
Vergelegen MMV 2008 (MCC)

Friday, 15 June 2012

KWV's star on the rise

After conquering Veritas and Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, the reinvigoration of KWV continued this week with the release of the Mentors range new vintage wines.

Head winemaker Richard Rowe, winemakers Johann Fourie, Christiaan Coetzee and Izele van Blerk are doing a sterling job of making wines with definition, restraint and elegance, particularly the Chardonnay while firmly placing Grenche Blanc on the 'next big thing' list.

There is excellence across the range, and the standout feature for this writer was the texture and weight they are achieving, particularly in the reds where the Cape has more room for improvement. Instead of heavy, viscous textures, the Mentors reds offer juiciness and elegance without loss of intensity.

Friday, 8 June 2012


Edo Heyns, winemaker, blogger and deputy editor at Wynland/Wineland, is currently doing his MBA thesis on the relevance of the 'greening' in wine marketing. Edo was recently declared runner-up at the Franschhoek Literary Festival Wine Writer of the Year function.   

Says Edo:
The wine industry has done significant work to improve its green credentials, but limited information is available about green consumer preferences in the wine market. In order to effectively market environmentally friendly or sustainable initiatives and products, a clearer understanding of the relevance of greening in wine marketing is required. 

Edo is conducting a consumer study to establish the relevance of different green certifications and practices to the consumer. The survey consists of only 31 questions and will take less than 10 minutes to complete.

This is a good chance to both show and express your green credentials, or a good chance to start!

Participants stand a chance of winning one of three cases of Villiera Tradition Methóde Cap Classique (MCC). Villiera just won the Old Mutual Trophy for best MCC. 

The contact information obtained though this research will not be distributed and will only be used for the lucky draw.   

Please follow the link below to complete the survey:

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Trophy Wine Show


While some may scoff at the notion of dishing out trophies for wines, it's all jolly good fun and provides cork dorks with another wine debate. Lunch was also pretty damn good considering the number of people, although it was held at the Mt Nelson. Howard Booysen's Pegasus (Cinsault) 2011 was one of the (random) wines most enjoyed at our table - it had a touch of Chateau Rayas about it, probably the texture.

Other highlights of the show include Eikendal nearly stealing it, KWV actually winning (their star continues to rise), Jordan in the mix again, and Ultra Liquors setting new standards in value for money. Their Secret Cellar 2011 Sauvignon Blanc at ZAR25.99 received gold and the Old Mutual Discovery of the Show award.

Eikendal's Nico Grobler and OM's Joy Khaole

The Trophy is awarded to the Gold Medallist whose final score – at the trophy judging – divided by its declared price on the entry form, yields the highest index (adjusted for category). In short, it is an award for the best value Gold Medal wine, and this year may indeed have yielded the best value index in the history of the show.

Monday, 28 May 2012

And the Wine Jumped Over the Moon IV

We arrived on day I in ignorance and leaning toward scepticism and left on day IV (if not day III, root) as bristling ambassadors of the notion that the biodynamic calendar’s fruit, leaf, root and flower days have a profound affect on the style AND quality of Avondale's Bio-logic (biodynamic) wines.

While there was strong consensus on the panel regarding how the wines changed on the respective days, the comments below - as more  detailed evidence - are mostly my own observations:

* The fruit day amplified the fruit to the extent the wines were - in hindsight - less complex, exposing some alcohol heat. I was expecting this to be the best day.

* Even the mousse of the Armilla MCC changed on the leaf day with less apple notes while displaying only tertiary notes on the root day, with softer mouse. Vitality returned on the flower day along with sherbet and chalk/lime notes.This wine probably the most consistent performer and left me wondering if the internal pressure made it more resistant to luna cycles.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report

Christian has come up trumps with a sponsor in Sanlam Private Investments and more evidence that Stellenbosch remains the pre-eminent region for Cabernet. Like the Chardonnay report, the intention is to make it an annual event. Bargain of the day - 5 star Tokara 2009 for R79. Results for 2012 as follows:

De Trafford 2009
Cellar price: R230
Delaire Reserve 2009
Not yet released
Graham Beck The Coffeestone 2009
Not yet released
Tokara 2009
Cellar price: R79
Cederberg Five Generations 2009
Cellar price: R300
Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve 2009
Cellar price: R190
Stark-Condé 2009
Cellar price: R260
Stark-Condé Three Pines 2009
Cellar price: R130
Louis 2008
Cellar price: R230
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2007
Not yet released
To read the tasting report in full, download the following: Christian Eedes Cabernet Sauvignon Report 2012

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

And the Wine Jumped over the Moon III

Day III revealed the most compelling evidence yet that the luna cycle can have a dramatic affect on wine. While day II revealed style differences, day III revealed quality differences. Some wines lost acidity to point of flabbiness and tannins become less rounded while fruit was suppresed accross the board.  Once again the panel agreement was just about unanimous, differing only on a few stylistic points. Root day?

It suggests that wineries may wish to consider closing their tasting rooms on such days.

Final tasting on 24 May, followed by more detailed report back.   For background see And the Wine Jumped Over the Moon and day II report.

Link to Avondale Wine

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Advance Australia Fair

The days of shipping wine to Europe before they had orders are long gone. Yet at their peak Australia displaced France in the UK market – one of the biggest and toughest – and, with just 4% of total world wine production, is the fourth largest exporter of wine by volume behind traditional wine-producing giants Italy, France and Spain.

Aus New Wave

The French, understandably, have not taken this very well and are busy clawing their way back. It reminds me of a hilarious scene in Jancis Robinson’s 1990s BBC wine series where she sneaks a bottle of Australian Chardonnay into a Burgundian’s production cellar and he chose - while taking himself very seriously - to walk outside to spit the wine.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

And the Wine Jumped Over the Moon II

Day 2 stunned the panel because the wines were so different. Gone was Monday's primary fruit exuberance to be replaced with more developed or tertiary aromas on the whites and more savoury notes on the reds. (No the wines could not have developed that much in 48hrs).

The Chenin gained a steely edge, the La Luna (red blend) gained more length and complexity, the MCC showed more leesy character, the Blanc de Noir showed more turkish delight than Mondays Pot Pourri etc.

This writer was convinced and proposed that the next tasting was cancelled so that we could proceed directly to the dinner on 24 May.

Link to Background and Day 1

Link to Avondale's website
Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Dear Neil

Did you mention that Platter's is a guide while Mondial is a competition? Don’t think so, but please prove me wrong.  While this competition has some impressive logistics – 8400 wines tasted by 320 judges in three days – it’s a physiological fact that after assessing around 6-8 wines in succession, a taster’s ability to accurately assess a wine continuously declines? Or did you each have around 26 wines to taste over three days? Or does it mean that around 6000 of the Mondial wines were simply not given a fair shout? Does the perfect wine competition exist? No it doesn't, but please prove me wrong.

Entry into Mondial cots €144 per wine (around R1500) whereas Platter costs 2 bottles per entry now with cheaper delivery to regional tasting centres.

I have found broad consensus within the trade and the public that the wines which perform in these competitions are the outliers, not necessarily for quality, but rather a touch of over extraction here, a dollop of residual sugar there, a hint of VA to lift aromatics etc. Can you drink more than a glass? No is often the cry.

If you believed in robust debate you wouldn’t be deleting comments from your blog. Have you ever criticized a wine competition of which you have been a judge? Don’t think so, but please prove me wrong. 

Link to Dear Neil I

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

And the Wine Jumped Over The Moon

While I have tasted wine that has inspired me to howl in delight (and derision), can the moon and the stars affect (and effect) our enjoyment of wine? Along with some other writers*, I am participating in an experiment with organic producer Avondale where we are tasting their wines over a series of ‘fruit’, ‘leaf’, ‘flower’, and ‘root’ days in accordance with a biodynamic lunar calendar.

Avondale's snail control patrol disembarking from their duck mobile.
The assumption is that these lunar calendar days affect the wine and/or our perception of wine. The moon’s,  (and other celestial bodies) affect on a number of natural phenomena is well documented including ocean currents and tides, movement of plant sap and generally having a significant (gravitational) affect on many earthly fluids. After all, we are mere ‘bags of hairy soup’ as zoologist and author Desmond Morris once said, or at least I think it was him.

Sociologists will tell you that crime and violence increase at fall moon and more babies are conceived during a waxing moon – and perhaps a little more wine is drunk. The challenge to make the results of such a test compelling is that there are so many vagaries including atmospheric pressure, our bio-rhythms, the wines evolution in bottle (and glass, making it a moving target) and then mood, setting, company, temperature etc, can all have an effect.

Wine is considered a ‘living’ entity in that there are ongoing – mostly organic chemistry – processes that occur during maturation and while in glass when exposed to more oxygen, for example.

Leading UK retailers like Marks & Spencer and Tesco (with their armies of MWs, wine technicians, wine buyers etc) appear to have seen and heard enough evidence to make them consult the lunar calendar when scheduling their tastings.

M&S’s resident winemaker Jo Ahearne MW says that ‘on fruit days, the aromatics in the whites are more present and the tannins in the reds are suppler; on a root day, the fruit flavour is muted and the tannins are harsher.’   

German-born Maria Thun and her son Matthias believe the answer lies in the moon. Maria has gardened all her life and is an authority on biodynamics; she publishes an annual biodynamic sowing and planting calendar translated into 18 languages to advise gardeners on when to carry out their chores.

Based on more than 55 years of biodynamic research and experimentation, she has now published a biodynamic calendar (2010 was the first) for wine drinkers, advising when wines are likely to be at their best. The theory is that fruit and flower days would be more beneficial to wine-tasting, while leaf, and especially root days would be less auspicious.

*Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve, winewriter and educator Cathy Marston, sommelier Higgo Jacobs, bloggers Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert, Wine Extra editor Maryna Strachan and Platter’s editor Philip van Zyl.

As for day 1, it seems we all felt it was a fruit day. We will be tasting throughout May and results will be published here and on John Platter’s and Avondale’s website. The twitter hashtag lunatastetest.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Keeping (sighted) Platter Panelists Honest

One of the loudest criticisms levelled at Platter’s is that – until they are nominated for 5 stars – only one (sighted) panelist assesses and rates a particular wine. This is how Editor Philip van Zyl keeps panelists honest. 

1. Calibration Wines: Each year 5 categories of wine - entry level unwooded white, premium level unwooded white, premium wooded white, entry level red and premium red – are tasted double-blind and rated by the panel of tasters. The scores are collated and, prior to the commencement of the tasting cycle, each panelist is sent a sufficient stock of the panel-rated wines as reference.

2. Wines making their debut in the guide or returning after an absence are tasted by a panel in the first year of entry or return.

3. Should a panelist rate a wine one or more stars lower or higher than the previous year, the opinion of at least one other member of the team is sought. It’s worth bearing in mind that vintage variations are less pronounced in the Cape’s climate than much of the old world.

4. A programme of double-blind corroboration tastings runs alongside the sighted tastings. For example, random samples with known scores are sent to panelists to score.

5. Before the annual tastings commence, the tasters must sign a legally binding declaration of interest which requires them to recuse themselves from tasting the wines of producers with whom they have any sort of commercial or financial involvement, or any other circumstance which could (or could be seen to) prevent them from making an impartial judgment.

6. Should producers feel that the allocated panelist would not be able to meet the impartiality requirements contained in the declaration, they are able to communicate their concern in writing to the publisher and nominate three alternative panelists, from whom the publisher will select a new panelist. No one panelist assesses a particular producer for more than three consecutive years.

7. In keeping with the rollout of regional tastings (i.e. more within peer group) started in 2010, panelists will be going to the Klein Karoo, Tulbagh, Robertson, Olifants River, Worcester and Elim/Southern Cape to assess wines under the usual Platter rules and procedures.
Panel assessment of each wine would be a logistical nightmare – including time and money (more than 7000 wines in 2012). Also, in the rush for the annual December deadline (and Xmas sales) some wines, as submitted by producers, are not ready for assessment.

The guide – if it wishes to remain a pocket guide – cannot keep growing in its current format. One option is to only include wines rated three stars and above or exclude the descriptions of the wines scoring less than three stars. 

Another option is to have a red edition and a white edition. One for Christmas and another around mother’s/father’s/valentine's/whatever day.  This split could allow for panel assessment?

Bear in mind:

* Platter is not a competition but a wine guide – one of the most comprehensive and detailed in the world.
* Wine assessment, whether by panel or individual, is not an exact science.
 * Wines evolve in the bottle and in the glass.
* Wine is a great leveller, even (and especially) for professionals.
* The above is also an argument for a panel, but that is the beauty of wine.
* The argument against panels is that it becomes an exercise in averaging scores.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Reality (wine) Show

While Simon or Mark may not be involved in this one it has a touch of 'reality show' about it - win one of five guaranteed listing in the UK. Link to Wine Stars


This bit of innovation is welcome and not surprising given that it's one of the most dynamic wine markets in the world - and one of the toughest, particularly for supplier margins. But it's also one of the biggest by value and volume so hard to ignore.

The only entry cost is providing samples, presumably to a UK address if your winery is selected. While the selection process is not clear, 5 wines will get listed, one each at Waitrose, Mitchells & Butlers, Swig, Laithwaite Wine and Hangingditch. Presumably the 8 judges will decide the top 100 for the following:

  • Top 10 wineries attend the finals on 24th may at the LIWF
  • Top 10 wineries present for 3 minutes each to Waitrose supermarkets, Laithwaites/Direct Wines, Mitchell’s & Butler pub group, Hanging Ditch merchants,
  • Top 90 wineries go to live online auction on for retailers and importers to bid for, from 26th May- 10th June!
  • Your winery will be broadcast globally through 100,000s social media connections: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, bloggers and more.


Monday, 7 May 2012

Saving the Whino

Chicks4Change initiative is hosting an intimate and exclusive wine tasting and art event to raise money for the protection of South Africa’s Rhinos. They have asked small, privately owned wine labels as well as local artists and photographers who are interested in supporting wildlife conservation and sustainability to participate in this event.

Guests are invited to taste these exclusive wines poured by the winemakers, place bids on art exhibited by artists and photographers in a silent auction and enjoy snacks made by the chef, Stephen Wessels.

An exclusive variety box of wines tasted on the evening will be on sale, and a percentage all sales will go to Project Rhino. Straight cases of wine tasted will also be available for purchase.The wine makers include Anthony deJager (Fairview), Adam Mason (Mulderbosch), Trizanne Barnard (Klein Constantia),Jeremy Borg (Painted Wolf) and Billy Hughes  (The Hughes Family Wines).

The event will be taking place at 7pm, May 12th 2012, at The Sugarhut Social Club located in the Old Castle Hotel which is in the new East City Precinct. Please contact us for bookings.

For more information on the Artists, Wine Makers, Wines and the Variety Box, please see  Webpage.
For other information on Chicks4Change you can visit

If you are unable to attend but would still like to donate to the cause please visit our Get Involved Page for more information.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Ultra Value

Ultra Liquor’s wine buyer Mark Norrish is a player of note: he plays a mean game of boulle; he plays skilled negotiator and he plays the stock markets - he is often ahead of the curve. Long before the age of austerity Mark was ferreting out great value-for-money wines including from South America.

Members of the wine trade resent paying full prices for wine, it’s a valuable wine fact and we love trade exchanges. One of the few regrets I have since entering the trade is finding great wine at great prices – not anymore.

A recent tasting of Mark’s selections was nothing short of mind-boggling. Own brand Secret Cellar 2007 Blanc de Blanc was delicious and the price of R49.99 made it absolutely delicious. Ja that’s 2007 and R49.99! But that’s not all, this wine’s complexity is enhanced by some oak on the base wine and extended lees contact in the bottle. Ja R49.99 and four stars in Wine Magazine.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Dear Neil I

Your suggestion that the Top 100 panel is weak reveals just how your judgment is lacking. How you can call yourself an independent wine writer is laughable. You use your employer’s platform in highly personal attacks where you also support the interests of your friends and their clients.

Your attacks on WOSA are rabid. You are a gossip columnist masquerading as a wine writer whose first audience is search engine optimisation. Like the Parlotone’s Giant Mistake, you should release a wine called Giant Hypocrite. Your death throes are increasingly grotesque while you bring SA wine writing into disrepute - you should leave that to me.

Top 100 SA Wines

Entries still not representative of the industry but its only year 2 of the competition. Top performer was Jordan with: (details of public tasting at bottom of list)

Jordan Chardonnay 2010
Jordan Chenin Blanc 2011
Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay 2010
Jordan The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling 2010

The remainder in alphabetical order

Allée Bleue Isabeau 2011
Allée Bleue Pinotage 2009
Alvi’s Drift AD Chardonnay 2011
Alvi’s Drift AD CVC 2011
Alvi’s Drift Viognier 2011
Anwilka 2009
Avontuur Estate Dominion Royale Shiraz Reserve 2009
Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010
Bon Courage Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve 2007
Boplaas Cape Tawny Reserve Port 1997
Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2009
Boschendal Grande Cuvée Brut 2007
Bosman Family Vineyards Erfenis 2010
Bosman Family Vineyards Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2010

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Solid Liquid Assets

Investing in European wine has often out performed major indices and asset classes since the naughty 90s. Fine wine exchange Liv-ex 100 ( ) has tracked key fine wines on the open market for the last decade and has delivered a 34% year on year return in the last five years.

With the exception of Australia and California’s nominal market share, it’s all European, dominated by France’s Bordeaux and to lesser extent Burgundy, even less by Spain and Italy with a splash of Champagne which is always welcome in any market.

Contributing factors include rocketing demand from Asia, wine making technologies and climate change. Four of the best ever Bordeaux vintages have concertinaed into 11 years; 2000, 2005, 2009 (vintage of a century) and 2010 with talk of 2011 being the third great one in a row. Meanwhile the warmest 9 years (global) on record have been in the last 15 years.

Many of the world’s great vineyards are – or used to be - on a viticultural knife edge where vines struggle but now achieving perfect ripeness is much more likely, as is achieving prices beyond traditional buyers. The situation is becoming both a victim of its own success and as one of the symbols of our age – greater concentration of wealth.   

Some buyers have abandoned the 1st growths like Latour in preference for 2nd growths – or super seconds as they are now known with prices to match or even exceed 1st growths of a few years ago. Its all constructed around what is known as en-primeur – essentially a futures platform where prospective buyers and commentators get an actual taste of their ‘contracts’ after the wines are released as futures, 6 months after the vintage on an open Bordeaux market. Depending on the quality and quantity of the vintage, prices are set and wine is allocated to be sold off around the world.

Tricks of the trade include aging a barrel or two of wine in American oak for the en-primeur taste-off which this writer witnessed in 2007 while tasting 2005 out of (French) barrels in Bordeaux – among the best wines I have tasted. Some Bordelais ague that it is actually a closer representation of how the wine will show a few years down the line, of course it can also add richness and perceived sweetness.

Besides largely lacking in the European traditions of cellaring and a richer viticultural history, South Africa’s stumbling blocks include capital gains tax and the lack of bonded warehouses which alleviate two other problems - VAT and verifying storage history – a very important caveat when trading in fine wine. It also removes the temptation of having access to your portfolio late on a Saturday night.  

However, South Africa is not without its aspirational and ambitious. Kanonkop has added fresh impetus to the lean local secondary market with the release of a single vineyard Pinotage ‘Black Label’ which is trading around R1200 per bottle, above its 07 maiden vintage release price at online retailer Cybercellar.

Others worth considering include Sadie, Thelema, Paul Cluver, Meerlust, Newton Johnson, Boekenhoutskloof, and Mullineux. As a Chateaux owner once famously advised, its only the first 300 years that are difficult.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


"I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it if I am; otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty." Madame Bollinger, one of the Grande Dames of French champagne (1884-1977).

Exactly, why wait for special occasions to enjoy the most enthralling of beverages. And why care when only Champagne from Champagne can be called Champagne when we have our very own Méthode Champagnois in Cap Classique (MCC)?

If you go according to the price of Champagne alone, they are simply not that much better than ours and in fact some Champagne houses clearly exploit their protected provenance by overcharging for vin ordinaire. Of course great Champagne is non-parallel Monsieur.

Besides tasting the stars, there are a number of things that make MCC special. During sur lie (in-bottle maturation on spent yeast cells known as lees) charged ions accumulate, which then deliver aphrodisiac-like qualities when quaffed. Now if this makes you pucker up for a kiss but nobody (suitable) is within range, temptation will rise with the release of pheromones around the lips when you pucker up for a sip from a flute.  

That giddy and glazed feeling is also amplified by how quickly the alcohol gets into your bloodstream because the CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the wine accelerates absorption - especially on an empty stomach. Be careful of who you’re standing next to at the office party and designate the driver early.

In the absence of somebody to kiss, you might just be tempted by some Sabrage. Make sure the bottle is well chilled in the fridge (7-8°C) as you also want the neck chilled (or once chilled in a bucket, give it a couple of minutes up side down).

Remove the foil to reveal the cork (bouchon) and wire basket (muselet). Carefully remove the muselet, leaving the bouchon intact. Next, find one of the two seams along the side of the bottle nearest the glass lip just below the mouth.

With your arm extended, hold the bottle firmly (seam up) by placing the thumb inside the punt at the base of the bottle with the neck about 30° from horizontal. Make sure no one is in your line of fire, then reach for your Saber.

Now, calmly lay the Saber flat along the seam of the bottle with the back edge (either side works as well) ready to slide firmly at the glass ring at the top. The movement does not have to be done with great speed or firmness as the snapping of the glass is aided by the internal pressure of the bottle, so that the cork and glass ring fly off with one stroke of the sword.

If your Saber is not at hand you can substitute with a larger chef’s knife or even a solid metal egg flip, some even use a teaspoon. The internal pressure also ensures that no glass falls into the bottle.  Congratulations you are now a Sabreur!

Some producers like Pongracz and Villiera also produce a 375ml MCC which might be a bit small for Sabrage but they can be handy for picnics, breakfast, brunch, lunch, sundowners, dinner and a nightcap. They also fit into handbags for the movies or theatre.

you tune sabrage

Jonathan Snashall

*Dosage – proprietary mix of grape concentrate, base wine, maybe even a touch of brandy, used to top up bubbly when they are disgorged (crown cap removed, sediment ejected and corked).