Monday, 27 October 2014

Platter's Wine Guide 2015 - Year of the Blends

Winery of the Year
Sadie Family Wines
White Wine of the Year
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2013
Red Wine of the Year
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013

Wines rated Five Stars:

 Méthode Cap Classique
Graham Beck  Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2013
Iona 2013
Richard Kershaw Elgin 2013
Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2012
Chenin Blanc
Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013
Fram 2013
Kaapzicht The 1947 2013
Grenache Blanc
The Foundry 2013
Sauvignon Blanc
Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei 2013
Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy CWG Auction Reserve Vloekskoot 2013
Reyneke Reserve White 2013
Vergelegen Reserve 2013
White Blends
Constantia Uitsig Constantia 2012
David Aristargos 2013
DeMorgenzon Maestro 2013
Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2013
Miles Mossop Saskia 2012
Oak Valley Mountain Reserve 2010
Sadie Family Wine Palladius 2012
Sadie Family Wines Die Ouwingerdreeks Skerpioen 2012
Cabernet Franc
Warwick 2011
Cabernet Sauvignon
Groot Constantia 2012
Le Riche Reserve 2011
Nederburg II Centuries 2010
Oldenburg Vineyards 2011
Stark-Condé Three Pines 2012
Sadie Die Ouwingerdreeks Pofadder 2013
Petit Verdot
Stellenbosch Vineyards Flagship 2010
Flagstone Time Manner Place 2012
Kanonkop Black Label 2012
Pinot Noir
Creation Reserve 2013
Crystallum Cuvée Cinema 2013
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2013
Sumaridge 2012
Red Blends
Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2012
Ernie Els CWG Auction Reserve 2012
Hartenberg The Mackenzie 2011
Thelema Rabelais 2010
Vilafonté Series C 2011
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2012
Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2012
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013
Fable Mountain Vineyards Syrah 2012
Porseleinberg 2012
Sweet wine, Unfortified
Delheim  Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2013
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Straw Wine 2013
Sweet wine, Fortified
Nuy White Muscadel 2013
Boplaas Cape Tawny Reserve NV
De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2012
KWV 12 Year Old Barrel Select

Seems to be year of the blends, white blends the strongest category (very lucky to sit on this panel) with eight 5 star wines, red blends got five 5 stars same as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah but red blends the biggest category in 'highly recommended' by some distance followed by white blends, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Cabernet.

There were also 9 wineries achieving 5 Stars for the first time – these were Creation Wines, Crystallum, Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy, Fram, Iona, Oldenburg, Porseleinberg, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Sumaridge.

The Platter Guide 2015 will be on sale from mid-November priced at R195 and is also available online from Platter’s website ( The web-based version of the guide is available at

The tradition of secrecy and minor fanfare surrounding the colour continues with this year's colour announced as Beaujolais Ferment.  

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cape Heritage and Chenin Blanc

“Chenin’s time has come,” says Ken Forrester, head of the Chenin Blanc Association. Understanding the history of Chenin Blanc is understanding the history of Cape wine. For prominent international critics it is nigh on South Africa’s signature variety and symbolic of South Africa’s rising above its burden of history.

Chenin has also overcome one of its greatest attributes – versatility – to stand as one of the most internationally lauded South African varieties. Leading wine critics are comparing Chenin-based blends with white Burgundy which surely ranks as the best value for money – anywhere?

Although there is an accurate recording of when the first wine was made in the Cape – 2 February 1659 – there is less certainty surrounding the early varieties. However, we know that during that first century there were important contributions by Chenin, Semillon, Palamino, a few muscats and Pontac, which saw the beginnings of the Cape tradition of producing more whites than reds.

While they all waxed and waned, Chenin – while never as widely planted as Semillon (Groendruif) under British rule – remained a feature and was one of the grapes grown at Constantia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As recently as 1990, Chenin Blanc comprised more than 35% of plantings and currently comprises around 18% of plantings and over 30% of white-wine varieties.

Is Cabernet a Fit King?

While some doubt remains surrounding Cabernet’s credentials as the king of red grape varieties, it emerged earlier this year that Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most widely planted variety. In the Cape it’s also now the most widely planted red variety, just ahead of Syrah.

With the Cape’s longer viticultural history dominated by white varieties like Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Colombard, it is uncertain exactly when Cabernet was introduced to the Cape but Cabernet’s plantings have been increasing since the 1970s after having been planted in Constantia around the mid-nineteenth century.

Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery (SFW), a Distell forerunner, created legendary Cabernet-based blends in the 1970s that were still drinking very well more than 30 years later. These blends often contained Cinsaut (or Hermitage as it was known locally, although there is no Cinsaut in the Northern Rhône) and smatterings of Shiraz. Cinsaut was the Cape’s most important red wine vine until the 1960s and is a parent, along with Pinot Noir, to Pinotage.

The Six-Billion Rand Question

International tourist arrivals to South Africa in 2013 almost touched the 10-million mark – a new high – and, last week, newly appointed Tourism Minister, the ANC’s Derek Hanekom, addressed Parliament, saying that bold new initiatives are needed to further grow the number of visitors to South Africa.

Mr Hanekom has good reason to be a little anxious about emulating his predecessor Marthinus ‘Kortbroek’ van Schalkwyk, under whom the industry contributed R93-billion to South Africa’s GDP and achieved “a staggering annual average real growth rate … of 7.3% over the past 20 years” in 2012.

There is a sound argument that one of the sectors Mr Hankom should look to is wine tourism. South Africa’s wine tourism in 2012 was rated the best-developed in the world by International Wine Review. “In 2009 wine tourism contributed an estimated R4.3-billion to our country’s tourism revenue, and we believe there is still great potential for growth in this regard,” Mr van Schalkwyk reported in 2012.

Springfontein Rocks

You may expect to find one of South Africa’s best food and wine pairing experiences – and best Bordeaux winelist – in Cape Town’s foodie precinct Woodstock, yet for this one you need to drive about 95 minutes east to bucolic Stanford where five kilometres outside the village, down a gravel road close to the ocean, you will find Springfontein, a wine farm, and its restaurant Springfontein Eats.

Here you will also find, in the vineyard and the cellar, Tariro Masayiti; in the organic orchard, herb and vegetable garden, his horticulturalist partner Hildegard Witbooi; in the kitchen, Michelin-star chef  Jürgen Schneider and his wine expert and Riesling fan wife, Susanne.

Some say craft becomes art when practised over time and you can witness it at Springfontein. Jürgen has worked in butcheries and kitchens for over 40 years, while he and Susanne have been working together for close to 30 years, for 18 of which they held a Michelin star in homeland Germany. Susanne knows Jürgen’s food intimately and she knows her wines – the result is one of the best food and wine pairing experiences in the country.

Single Hit Parade # 2

Single Hit Parade #2

Having emerged from its position as the only country to prohibit any mention of vineyard origins on its wine labels, South Africa has embraced the age of single vineyards with 352 now registered (see Single Hit Parade #1). To some single vineyards are the cathedrals of viticulture and represent the ultimate sense of place, to others simply painting in black and white.

The notion of single vineyard is hardly new with the monks of Citeaux some 1 000 years ago parcelling out the climats of Cote d’Or based on the observation that year after year certain parcels always produced wine of recognisable character and quality. Today, some of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s single vineyard Pinots are among the most sought-after in the world.

Other varieties to have produced among the finest single vineyard wines of the Old World are Riesling, Nebbiolo and Shiraz. In the Cape, registered single vineyards are dominated by Shiraz (180), Cabernet Sauvignon (167) and Sauvignon Blanc (145), up there with Riesling as aromatic white wine. Pinot Noir comes in at eighth (51) after Chenin sixth (67) and Pinotage seventh (68) in a more true reflection of our heritage.

Single Hit Parade # 1

Single Hit Parade #1

Most singletons hanker for a committed relationship yet, not long after entering one, can suddenly find they quite fancied the single life. Ancient in Europe, the notion and practice of single vineyard viticulture is relatively new in the Cape. Twelve years ago, before it was even permitted, there were around 100 practitioners – now there are more than 350 registered single vineyards with a concomitant decline in registered estates.

The estate classification also crumbled as a result of natural use-it-or-lose-it laws (largely self-inflicted) and the many exceptions to estate membership the law allowed. The days of the estate are over, a bit like some traditional marriage vows and conventions. Not too dissimilar to single parenting these days are ‘units for the production of estate wine’ and ‘estate wine’ on the label with reference to the wine rather than the property.

There is no such thing as an estate in terms of the Liquor Products Act. What it does contain is a ‘distinctive’ wines classification, which stipulates that the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB) may approve ‘grapes grown on specified land in a district or ward with a view to the production of a distinctive wine of the district or ward concerned’.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Standard Bank to sponsor Chenin Blanc Assocation Top 10 Competition

This is richly deserved and long overdue - Chenin and Chenin blends our next big thing and international calling card.
Press release from Nicolette Waterford:

The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa is proud to announce the signing of a three year sponsorship agreement with Standard Bank in support of a Top 10 Chenin Blanc Competition, to be known as the Standard Bank/Chenin Blanc Top Ten Challenge. The competition will be open to all Chenin Blanc Association members and entries open on 1 July 2014. An awards ceremony announcing the winners will take place on Wednesday 27 August at Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch. 

The Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa represents around 100 premium South African Chenin Blanc producers.

The reward to the top 10 winners will be financial and specifically designed to reinforce the economic and social benefits to the workplace and workforce. Winners will receive R20 000 each and the money must be used to reinforce the economic and social benefits in the workplace and to the workforce. “We are proud of our association with Standard Bank because great partnerships make great business and we really look forward to making Chenin Blanc the iconic, quality, South African white wine grape” says Ken Forrester, Chenin Blanc Association Chairperson. 

“Standard Bank is always pleased to partner with key role players within South African business sectors that contribute significantly towards our economy. The South African Wine Industry Stats (SAWIS) shows that in 2012 we were the eighth largest wine producer in the world in terms of litres produced. The figures also show that around 320 million litres of wine were sold domestically, and 410 million litres were exported during 2012” says Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank.

“In line with this, it made sense for us to join forces with the Chenin Blanc Association in support of this initiative,” says Nico Groenewald. 

PS exports in 2013 were in excess of 500m litres

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Great Franschhoek Bonfire of the Pencils

Last year judges for the Wine Writer of the Year at the Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) decided no entries were good enough for the prize money.  John Maytham has again been appointed to judge at this year’s competition, despite some apparently unethical behaviour surrounding his judging during last year’s competition. 

We know, for example, (as do the FLF organisers) that:

-          During judging Mr. Maytham discussed the quality and quantity of entries with a long-standing wine writer from whom he solicited further entries;

-          Mr. Maytham later claimed he had a mandate from FLF organisers to conduct such discussions yet wrote in an email to this writer (after the above discussion but before it became publicly known) that “it would be inappropriate for one of the judges to comment on this matter in private”;

-          The wine writer in question wrote “Please, no mention to or discussion with FLF of my correspondence with John. If he wants to mention it that is his decision…about John discussing the entries with a senior long-standing wine writer could be interpreted as mentioning individual entries, rather than the overall number, which was the subject”. Mr Maytham believes the conversation was also about the quality of the writing. 

However Mr. Maytham may have been caught up in FLF’s incompetence or even – one for the conspiracy theorists - a sinister plot (the rest of the fest appears well run?):

-          FLF organisers rather resented the prize money of R25 000 (but given wine’s macro-economics can be regarded as modest);

-          FLF only invited a handful of writers to submit entries, excluding two of the previous winners, and our most highly regarded wine writer Michael Fridjhon, while two of the three have won international wine writing awards and the third has been short-listed (all of whom entered after a deadline extension, presumably at Mr Maytham’s request);  

-          Despite the presence of outside (paid for?) media and publicity professionals, the only wider solicitation of entries was a request to sponsor Sunday Times to forward the invitation to their two wine writers - specialist publications like Classic Wine were ignored;

-          None of the entrants were advised why one of the judges withdrew, nor of his replacement;

-          Until this year, FLF organisers have ignored suggestions to break down the prize money into different categories and expand on the meagre judging criteria;

-          A previous winner was given permission by FLF to submit a piece from the Classic Wine magazine published in late 2011 (dated December 2011-January 2012), despite the unmistakably clear stipulation that a submission had to be both written and published in 2012.  

-          The 2013 prize money apparently went to charitable causes in Franschhoek but no official announcement, to my knowledge, has been made in this regard.

I won’t be surprised if those writers who were particularly vitriolic (privately at least) in their criticism of last year’s events enter the competition again this year, anyway back to Bonfire of the Vanities.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction Raises R7m for Education Charities

 Brainchild of Mike Ratcliffe, the auction beneficiaries include The Pebbles Project, The MAD Charity and The Click Foundation. Top bids came from Wendy Appelbaum and Charles Banks.

Lot 1 – The Saronsberg Lot – R55,000
Lot 2 – The Jordan Lot – R90,000
Lot 3 – The Groot Constantia Lot – R50,000
Lot 4 – The David Finlayson Lot – R125,000
Lot 5 – The Haskell Lot – R55,000
Lot 6 – The Iona Wines Lot – R110,000
Lot 7 – The Thelma Lot – R130,000
Lot 8 – The Waterford Lot – R160,000
Lot 9 – The Lanzerac Lot – R55,000
Lot 10 – The Ken Forrester FMC Lot – R75,000

John Adam's painting (at auction) raised R460K
Lot 11 – The Val De Vie Lot – R65,000
Lot 12 – The Moreson Lot – R80,000 (x2)
Lot 13 - The Idiom Indulgence Lots – R90,000
Lot 14 – The Paul Cluver Lot – R50,000
Lot 15 – The De Toren Lot – R160,000
Lot 16 – The La Motte Wine Estate & Francois Pienaar Lot – R300,000
Lot 17 – The Relais & Chateaux Ultimate Africa Experience Lot – R160,000
Lot 18 – The Boekenhoutskloof Lot – R130,000
Lot 19 – The Bartinney Wine & Beach Experience Lot – R120,000
Lot 20 – The Vrede En Lust Lot – R220,000
Lot 21 – The Glen Carlou Lot – R80,000
Lot 22 – The Meerlust Estate Lot – R150,000
Lot 23 – The Mullineux & Leeu Family Lot – R120,000
Lot 24 – The Kanonkop Lot – R80,000
Lot 25 – The Delaire Graff Lot – R120,000
Lot 26 – The Dalla Cia Winter Weekend Lot – R110,000
Lot 27 – The Creation Wines Escape to the Whale Coast Lot – R80,000
Lot 28 – The Cape Winemakers Guild Lot – R50,000
Lot 29 – The Villanfonte ‘First Decade of C’ & Large Format Experience – R180,000
Lot 30 – Eben Sadie’s Signature ‘Ammunition Crate’ Auction Lot – R340,000
Lot 31 – The Dylan Lewis Lot – R150,000
Lot 32 - The NY Magic Cape Classic Lot – R340,000
Lot 33 – The Le Quartier Francais Lot -R100 000
Lot 34 – The DeMorgenzon Wines & The Royal Portfolio Lot – R400,000
Lot 35 – The Ellerman House Lot – R260,000
Lot 36 – The Warwick Trilogy ‘Big Bottle’ Wine Spectator Top 100 Dinner Lot – R160,000
Lot 37 – The Klein Constantia & The Test Kitchen Lot – R220,000
Lot 38 – The Glenelly Estate Lot – R450,000
Lot 39 – The Mulderbosch Vineyards & Fable Mountain Vineyards American Dream Lot – R700,000
Lot 40 – Hamilton Russell Vineyards – R130,000

Total  R7 045 000

The Cape Wine Auction Trustees are Michael Jordaan, Ken Kinsey-Quick, Wendy Appelbaum, Siobhan Thompson and Michael Ratcliffe.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Glass by Lady May

Welcome to Glenelly

Glenelly's Lady May de Lencquesanig has commissioned a short film comparing glass with wine. Glass and wine share many attributes, both coming from poor soils, being created with heat, being liquid as their base nature and formed through the influence of man. Both can also be considered art forms in their own right.

Inspired by this and the Madame's affection for antique glass, the film was created as a fresh angle to introduce Glenelly to people, the estate sharing the same obsession for perfection as the glassmaker in the film. Like glass and wine, film is subjective and director Gavin Elder brought the piece together in a way that encourages each viewer to interpret their own version of the story, edited in black and white to give it a more timeless feel.David Cope penned the narrative. 
See links below, including a trailer and a link to the Glenelly YouTube channel which has individual videos for each of the wines. The film will be posted to the Glenelly website and the estate's importers/distributors worldwide will host their own screenings of the film. 
Glass - The Short Film

Glass - Trailer

Glenelly YouTube Channel: Wine Videos

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Nederburg opens submissions for 40th Auction

Rare value will be recognised – and rewarded. That’s the promise from a panel of top local and international wine judges appointed to moderate entries to the 40th Nederburg Auction to be held on 12th & 13th September this year.

South African producers were invited this week to start submitting exclusive, rare wines of enduring quality in line with the demands of increasingly discerning buyers.

“The event was founded 40 years ago on what was to become one of the most iconic wines of our time – the Nederburg Edelkeur. Now, more than ever, we want to showcase wines of that ilk,” says Auction manager Dalene Steyn.

“That’s why we adjusted our judging criteria over the past three years. Our clients want iconic wines, whether beautifully matured vintages or rare and exclusive due to scarcity, and we’ve created the platform to help build those wine reputations, help our producers create those new heroes. And we’re getting there – through the smaller Auction volumes and more competitive bidding seen over the past three years,” she says.

Steyn says the 2013 Auction was significantly more successful thanks to the same sales turnover achieved with less than half the volumes of the previous year.

“This was remarkable, and we believe an absolute testament to the enduring quality of the wines submitted. Buyers respond positively to the perception of the rarity we offer. This is the direct result of an internationally representative judging palate.

“This year, our judges again have clear instructions to spot the jewels out there. That’s why we invite producers to submit those celebrity creations in their cellars – wines that will have the judges sit up and take notice.”

The 2014 panel consists of:

      • Tim Atkin MW, UK wine journalist and Master of Wine (MW), one of the most widely-read wine writers in the world;

      • David Clarke, former Sommeliers Australia executive director and Platter’s South African Wine Guide judge;

      • Ginette de Fleuriot Cape Wine Master (CWM), Bollinger Exceptional Wine Services Award head, Veritas and Platter’s judge and wine writer;

      • Richard Kershaw MW, former chef, winemaker and International Master of Wine;

      • Justin Knock MW, scientist, European-trained wine maker and boutique wine brand owner;

      • Fiona McDonald, former editor of Wine magazine, freelance wine writer and international wine judge;

      • Roland Peens, sommelier and wine retailer with Wine Cellar;

      • Jörg Pfutzner, internationally-trained sommelier, Wine Business Management graduate and wine lecturer;

      • Greg Sherwood MW, former wine marketing manager and now fine wine buyer for London-based Handford Wines;

      • Callie van Niekerk, Distell group manager for wines and experienced taster on various panels, and

      • Cathy van Zyl MW, international wine judge, chair of the Institute of Masters of Wine's education committee and associate editor of Platter's South African Wine Guide.

Auction judge Cathy van Zyl says there are undoubtedly South African wines developing icon status and, even though their numbers are few and prices high, they should still be marketed as the pinnacle of production. She says the Auction is one of a handful of fitting platforms to do so.

“To achieve iconic status among the worldwide group of serious collectors and connoisseurs, wines – no matter their origin – need to show consistency. Apart from positive wine reviews and guidance by global journalists and industry commentators, competition success over time goes a long way to demonstrate consistency, and plays a major role when it comes to establishing credentials.”

Steyn says the Auction turning 40 this year is an ideal opportunity for the industry to create a memorable milestone, both as an event and a platform to celebrate outstanding South African wines. “We have seen increasingly how discerning buyers are looking for really niche items. As Edelkeur led the way 40 years ago, these are the wines that will set future trends for standout status and prices,” she says.

Nederburg Auction 2014 - key dates:

      • 1 February: Submissions open at Nederburg Auction.
      • 25 February: Submissions close
      • 13 & 14 March: Panel selection tasting
      • 31 March: Results announced
      • 12 & 13 September: 40th annual Nederburg Auction

For further information visit Nederburg Auction website or send an email to