Sunday, September 28, 2008

a day in the Cape & evening at Stellenbosch

Lionel: I spent the day with my good friend and S.A.’s only resident Master of Wine, Cathy Van Zyl. Her husband the editor of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide and her were kind enough to take us out for a drive round the Cape peninsular.

This really should be on everyone’s list of things to do before I die. We stopped at a wonderful restaurant called Harbour House in Kalk”s Bay Harbour. And after a whole morning of driving, we were all parched and the first bottle was a love Chenin Blanc from Raats Estate, it had lovely crisp acidity with hints of green apples and minerals. Yum, Yum. The second bottle was from Klein Constantia, an estate renowned for its sweet wines but we had a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. Savoury, minerally, dry but with lovely fruit on the front palate. I’ve written an article once about trying S.Africa’s Sauvignon Blancs, as I think they are actually lovely, imagine a cross between a Sancerre and the fruitiness of the N.Z. ones. It was perfect for my Grilled whole Calamari with paprika.We even managed to spot some whales from the restaurant, amazing. 

In the evening, we went to 2 different estates in the Stellenbosch region where tastings were hosted together with dinner. And were they different, it was pretty much like chalk and cheese!

The first was an estate called Stellenrust. This is an estate that only recently started to produced their on wine. They were previously just grape suppliers to the larger wineries and in fact, I believe the main bulk of their grapes are still sold. Lovely property with and amazing view of the sunset and they had nice wines too.  While there, we tasted some good wines including the wines of South Africa’s first black wine maker Carmen. The wines are labelled Amani, which mean “Place of Peace”.

Now, the other estate was Waterford. Now, this is an estate that has put in some serious money, it shows both in the property as well as the wines. We were taken on a short tour of the wine making facilities and then a whirlwind guided tasting of all the featured wines both from the estate and other selected ones by the resident cellar master, Francois Haasbroek.

This is a young man who is obviously extremely passionate about his wines. Looking remarkably like a slim version of The Rock, he epitomizes what South African wines are today, European style, infused with modern technologies, money and new world terrior.

A few wines stood out for us, a white Bordeaux style blend called MagnaCarta, nice use of oak, minerally and savoury on the finish and good acidity on the long finish. And then there was the most expensive wine from South Africa and no it wasn’t from the Stellenbosch region but rather from Swaartland.

The wine, named Columella from Sadie family wines and made by the talented Eben Sadie. Eben Sadie left Spice Route wines in 2000 inspired by the Swaartland, and travelled overseas to get some European inspiration. And he returned to make only 17 barrels of his maiden Columella resulting in an instant hit. And the 2005 vintage getting the highest Wine Spectator rating of 95 for a Cape wine. A blend of Shiraz and Mouvedre, controlled power and freshness with dark ripe fruit, perfumed nutmeg and spice, supple and savoury, yum, yum.

Cathy Van Zyl MW, Francois Haasbroek cellarmaster Waterford Estate and moi!

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