The Master of Cape Syrah

Cape winemakers can hardly afford to be one-trick ponies. Unlike their Old World brethren who spend most of their lives committed to working a handful of grape varieties into two to three wine-styles, South African vignerons must tap into the national vinous psyche. Which in most instances demands an almost promiscuous approach in handling a vastly diverse array of grape varieties and wine-styles under one umbrella brand.

Here in the New South, it is not uncommon to find one winery happily producing Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Merlot – with a Cap Classique bubbly or two thrown in for good measure. Port and Noble Late Harvest, optional. It is wild and varied, and we like it.

Specialisation is a rare luxury afforded only a few winemakers. Although, there are a handful of Cape winemakers whose skill with a certain variety has risen to the surface; the yin meeting yang, the experience, craftmanship and commitment offering the consumer a guarantee of something exceptional. Danie de Wet and Chardonnay springs to mind. Beyers Truter and Pinotage. Jan Boland Coetzee with Pinot Noir, while Sauvignon Blanc happens rather well when handled by Thys Louw.

Taking Cape Chardonnay to infinity and beyond

The South African Chardonnay Forum has been re-launched under the chairmanship of Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate. In a heart-to-heart Q&A he outlines the objectives and flies the flag for Cape Chardonnay.

Q: What role does a cultivar grouping, such as the Chardonnay Forum, play?

Johann de Wet: Well, I’d like to start by saying that this grouping had been dormant for a few years, so at the end of 2020 we did a re-launch after talks with South Africa’s Chardonnay producers. These discussions, and the decision to re-look this specific cultivar grouping, were inspired by the astounding positive reception Cape Chardonnay has been getting – local and internationally – over the past few years. Positive comment, plus the undeniable quality of Chardonnay we are currently seeing, inspired myself and a few like-minded industry players to get the forum back on track.

As far as the role of such groupings, I don’t think there is one overriding ethos and vision representing all such collectives. Like the country’s wines and the different terroir they represent, we all have unique traits. The SA Chardonnay Forum aims to provide a platform committed to two aspects. First, to use the forum to share technical information as well as to identify these pertinent topics and issues for communicating.

New Tokara Double Gold vintage toasts 50th year of Cap Classique

Tokara, the prestigious family owned Stellenbosch wine estate, celebrates the 50th anniversary of Cap Classique with a Double Gold medal awarded in France for the new 2013 blanc de blancs vintage.

Claiming its rightful place on the international stage as a South African Cap Classique, Tokara’s 2013 vintage garnered 93/100 points at the Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge held annually by one of France’s leading wine guides.

The third offering of this consummate Méthode Cap Classique was crafted entirely from Tokara’s outstanding cool climate Chardonnay vineyard in Elgin. The extraordinary depth of flavour, elegance and complexity of the 2013 vintage can be attributed to barrel maturation of the base wine for eight months followed by seven years on the lees in the bottle to develop richness and finesse.

The mousse is exceptionally fine and consistent, enlivened by aromas of lightly toasted almonds, lemon preserve and a hint of fresh green apple. These zesty aromas are enriched on the palate by freshly baked gougère.

“The finest of bubblies, the palate is a wonderful interplay between silky fluidity, crystalline acidity and fine mousse. It is incredibly moreish and will leave you yearning for another sip,” says winemaker Stuart Botha.

Featured Winemaker – David Nieuwoudt

David Josephus Nieuwoudt was born on 9 May 1972 in the Citrusdal Hospital – the youngest of five children. During 1990 he finished school in Clanwilliam. After completing a year in the old SA Army, David joined the Elsenburg Agricultural College where he excelled as a student. After completing his studies, he worked at Lievland for a year under the strict eye of Paul Benade. At the end of 1996 he moved back to the Cederberg Wines and took over the winemaking reins from his uncle, Oom Flippie Nieuwoudt.

Three years later Cederberg Private Cellar was awarded a 4.5-star rating in the 1999 edition of the Platter’s SA Wine Guide – for a Chardonnay.

Today, these Chardonnay grapes are being processed for a vintage Méthode Cap Classique.

In 2004 the Cederberg Shiraz 2002 won the award for the best red wine in South Africa.

During 2008 the Cederberg Shiraz 2006 was awarded an International Trophy for the Best Rhône-style wine at the annual Decanter World Wine awards.

Cederberg Shiraz 2014 took out top Trophy honors against the very best New World Shiraz/Syrah style wines from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, the USA & South Africa at the 2016 Six Nations Wine Challenge.

Diemersdal Wine Estate Becomes WWF Conservation Champion for Preserving Endangered Ecosystem

Diemersdal, the Durbanville wine estate which has been under ownership of the Louw family for six generations, has become the first wine farm in the Durbanville wine region to achieve WWF Conservation Champion status.

This unique wine initiative, managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature and unique to the Cape winelands, underscores the local wine industry's commitment to conservation, the close relationship between wine farmers and their natural environment, and the indigenous natural setting where the country's wines are made.

The WWF Conservation Champions, represented by 45 Cape wine farms, showcases the extraordinary measures local winegrowers have gone to protect and conserve the inimitable natural habitat situated in and around their farms.

Diemersdal received its official status as WWF Conservation Champion in July this year after numerous thorough audits by WWF field officers who manage this programme.

Diemersdal's emphatic conservation credentials include its preservation of a 16.8ha conservation area on one of the farms pristine hills on which a number of scarce renosterveld plant species are found. This conservation area spans the Dorsberg, the most northern hill range within the Tygerberg cluster.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Shows 2020 Vision in Chardonnay Focus

The just-released De Wetshof Limestone Hill, one of South Africa's most popular unwooded Chardonnays, emphasises the reputation 2021 is garnering for being a top vintage for white wines in the Cape, especially Chardonnay.

According to Johann de Wet, CEO of De Wetshof Estate in Robertson, the fact that this year's harvest was characterised by cool, mild conditions is well reported. But with the wines now bottled and in the market, the magnificent quality of the season's offering is coming to the fore.

"This year's harvest commenced two-to-three weeks later than the average," says de Wet, "the reason being a cool, mild spring, the conditions continuing into summer. This caused the whole vineyard cycle of bud-break, flowering, berry-set and ripening of grapes to slow down. Here in Robertson we could literally count the number of 30°C and warmer days on one hand. And as a result, our Chardonnays are truly showing exceptional quality this year."

De Wet says cooler, slower ripening allows for balanced chemistries in the grapes – should one choose to look at the academic side of things. "What is evident for all is the bright, crunchy freshness we saw in the harvested grapes as they arrived at the cellar, as well as this zesty life-affirming energy now evident in the latest release of our Limestone Hill," he says.

Experience a culinary escape to Italy at Terra del Capo this winter

Satiate your wanderlust for a Mediterranean adventure at the Terra del Capo Antipasto Bar in Franschhoek, where celebrating the “secret season” has inspired the new winter menu. Quintessentially Italian in all aspects, the focus is on flavour, freshness and generosity - la dolce vita.

This approach is complemented by the finest seasonal produce, produced on the Anthonij Rupert estate and sourced from local artisans, showcased across a feast of tapas-style vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes, and sharing platters. Great food and wine go hand in hand, and the estate’s Protea, L’Ormarins, Cape of Good Hope, Anthonij Rupert and Terra del Capo wines are available to elevate your enjoyment.

As South Africa’s first producer of the Black Perigord truffles, the truffle tagliatelle, truffled Angus beef sausages and truffle salami offer intriguing, earthy umami delight. The freshly-made tagliatelle is tossed in a velvety parmesan cream, while a tangy homemade wholegrain mustard aioli plays with the richness of the sausages. Local beetroot-cured salmon trout, dressed in a lime vinaigrette and matched with the Cape of Good Hope Semillon, is a mouthwateringly memorable pairing. The journey continues with delectable dishes such as the warm duck and pancetta salad, griddled zucchini, and smoked bocconcini pinchos.

Vinpro Survey: SA Wine Industry At The Edge Of A Cliff

The South African wine industry is at a tipping point, with many wine businesses, especially smaller companies and those under black ownership, facing potential closures in the next three to twelve months due to the recurring and now fifth domestic wine sales restrictions. This according to a survey by Vinpro in the past week.

According to the Impact of Covid-19 on the Wine Value-Chain Survey that Vinpro conducted early in July 2021 among wine grape producers, wineries and other wine-related businesses, 58% of the 549 respondents indicated that their businesses would have to make drastic changes over the next year to be able to overcome the current challenges related to Covid-19, and 22% will in all probability not be able to survive at all. Even more alarming is the fact that 46% of black-owned brands and farms believe that their businesses won’t be able to survive the next year.

Around two thirds of all respondents’ revenue is generated from domestic wine sales, which reiterates the importance of domestic trade for the survival of the industry. The local market is of particular importance to smaller wineries and black-owned brands which are heavily reliant on sales channels such as their tasting rooms, hospitality offering and ecommerce.

De Wetshof Mines Gold at Decanter with Awards now More Important than Ever

De Wetshof Estate, South Africa's pioneering Chardonnay producer in the chalk-rich Robertson wine valley, confirmed its reputation for continuously making excellent wines from this variety with two Gold medals at the Decanter World Awards held in London.

The Gold medals went to the De Wetshof Lesca 2020 – labelled 'Finesse' in South Africa – and to the estate's icon Bateleur Chardonnay 2018, made from a single vineyard planted at De Wetshof in 1987.

The Decanter World Wine Awards was judged by over 170 expert international judges who scrutinised the 18 000 wines entered from 56 countries. Judging took place last month at Canary Wharf in London at the offices of Decanter magazine, with the awards announced earlier this week.

The Decanter Gold medal is the third major accolade bestowed on De Wetshof's Lesca (Finesse) Chardonnay from the 2020 vintage. Earlier this year, the same wine took a Gold medal at the Chardonnay du Monde, the world's leading competition devoted to Chardonnay, and was also named in the Top 10 wines at this year's Du Monde. This was followed with another Gold at the Mundus Vini Competition in Germany, also regarded as one of the wine world's major wine shows renowned for selecting wines of revered excellence through a thorough judging process.