One of a handful of wineries that sent out email diaries of the 2006 harvest was Jordan. An account by Gary Jordan, all the ups and downs and power load shedding was entertainingly detailed.

Then, soon after harvest, the Jordans invited some of us journalists to visit the farm and engage in some wine-related activity: this year we were all given representative bottles of the constituent parts of the flagship red blend and asked to blend our own 2005 version. Continue reading “Jordan”


One of the Cape winelands’ best spots for breakfast or lunch now gives us even more reason to spend a good few hours of quality time there. Joostenberg Bistro is the domain of Frenchman Christophe Dehosse and his meats, breads and light meals are deservedly renowned. Continue reading “Joostenberg”

is chenin a win?

First congratulations to Vergelegen, who have been named the “New World Winery of the Year” for 2005 by America’s Wine Enthusiast magazine. As these tributes go, it’s a note-worthy one, from a leading wine magazine with a very large readership.

At the announcement, Vergelegen put out their new release wines for tasting and they are a uniformly classy squad (with the Chardonnay Reserve being a real humdinger). Add to the fine wines the farm’s magnificent setting with its oodles of history, and Vergelegen really does a great job of being a flagship Cape winery.

On to another Cape banner-waver – or maybe not? Continue reading “is chenin a win?”


Incredibly, the first bottled white wine of the 2006 harvest has already passed my lips – this even as some cool-climate producers have only begun to harvest. Remember the days of the nouveau wines? Well, this was something similar; a very slight white called Light White made by those masters of value for money, Van Loveren. Continue reading “Anwilka”

where’s the sweet wine?

I’m wondering whether winemakers and producers aren’t selling us wine drinkers out. Wine is now more widely available than it ever was before and the quality of wine has risen, across all price points, but especially at the lower and mid-ranges – which is obviously great. But something is being lost, and the makers are letting it happen. Continue reading “where’s the sweet wine?”

Zapped wine

Science has contributed much that is good to the improvement of wine, but it has also opened doors for mischief to slip in, much like its role in the field of genetics. Advances in methods of viticulture and cellar technology have certainly improved the everyday wine we drink today, allowing a modestly-priced wine to be a great deal better than it would have been a few decades ago. Continue reading “Zapped wine”

Fire in wine

Perhaps my memory is errant, but this seasons seems to have had more fires than usual, certainly more fires across areas that are planted to vine. In the valley where I live, the scent of smoke has re-prioritised many a day’s plans, with neighbours dropping everything and rushing out to help.
Having seen a couple of these fires from closer quarters, with a wind rushing the flames across the tinder of dry vegetation, the destructive wonder of a brush fire is truly fearsome. Continue reading “Fire in wine”

Sweet thrills

We have become thrill-seeking eaters when it comes to food and wine. As our foods become more and more saturated with fats, sugars and salts (which mask the underlying flavours) we need more and more flavour enhancers or flavour substitutes to balance these and make our food taste like something.
We are all familiar with the black pepper-wielding waitress, we usually accept her offer – but does the food really need it? Continue reading “Sweet thrills”

Diemersdal wines

Perhaps I am spoilt by all the splendour of the Cape winelands (in fact I have no doubt I am) but these days a winery must have something extra to strike me as truly beautiful. As precociously attractive as many of the new wineries are, and as obviously scenic as sweeping vineyards are, there is little that can replace the harmony of history.
Diemersdal is a case in point. Continue reading “Diemersdal wines”

Iona in Elgin

What is more important to the quality of wine: ideal soils or ideal weather? In a perfect world, you’d have both, but let’s pretend this does not exist (contrary to the PR of most wineries).
Andrew Gunn, proprietor of Iona, contends that ideal weather is the key. Continue reading “Iona in Elgin”

What does mineral mean?

What does the word “minerality” mean to you when it comes to wine? Chances are very little, though you’ve probably heard the word used, or possibly read this term in tasting notes. Wine tasters claim to taste minerality and like to apply this description to wine – it indicates lofty praise.

“The smell of gravel”, “dusty” and “like sucking a stone” are some of the answers when I ask wine-makers what minerality actually tastes like. Continue reading “What does mineral mean?”

Premature reds?

There was a time when you would have to wait a few years for a good red wine. Reds that are considered premium are typically matured in small barrels for twelve to twenty-four months, and a few high-end producers then leave the bottled wine in the cellar to “knit” and bottle mature for up to two years.

The result is that a red made in last year’s 2005 vintage would only be available in 2009. Very, very few local producers still keep to this kind of maturation program. In this age of the quick commodity, the onus shifts to the consumer to mature it if he or she thinks that’s necessary. In the last few years this trend of releasing younger and younger reds has been obvious. Continue reading “Premature reds?”

What wood’s good?

As the dust begins to rise on a new year in the Cape wine lands (for the summer season is once more back with its true South-Easter howl), the appraisal of the white wines of 2005 begins to mount. Nearly a year since that harvest, and the sauvignon blancs have had their chance to settle (if they haven’t mostly been drunk by now) and some chardonnays are arriving.

For sauvignons, 2005 was both triumphal and forgettable. A few producers have made superb examples, and more and more it is those producers with a track record that do this, like Steenberg, Mulderbosch, Neil Ellis, Spier, Durbanville Hills. Another aspect of the vintage that was expressed in many examples I tasted was a moderate level of alcohol, a very pleasant 12,5% being common. I often feel a sense of relaxation coming over me when I spot a figure like this on the label, as if another glass is a guaranteed proposition. Continue reading “What wood’s good?”

Rustenberg not rusty

A wine, like a person, undergoes interesting changes with age. I say “interesting” and not “promising” or “satisfying” because not all wines age well – but the fact that they have a lifeline is a part of the fascination of wine. A wine’s potential to age also gives it a certain cache: the world pays more for wines that mature gracefully, and this ability is lauded on back labels.

Yet this capability is becoming academic as wines are drunk within hours of purchase and producers are responding by making wines that are ready to drink within a similarly short time. Keeping a wine to enjoy its maturation cycle is a hobby of a very small and steadily dwindling number of people. Continue reading “Rustenberg not rusty”