The wines we drink: Testalonga El Bandito

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Craig Hawkins is probably the bravest man in the South African wine industry; sticking to his guns and wine making philosophy, going where the grapes take him and adding as little as possible.  He admits to making a few mistakes, but he is learning from every one, it makes him understand the vineyards better and it makes him a better winemaker.

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We recently had the pleasure of tasting his current releases at the fabulous Chalk & Cork in Kloof Street (go support them, please – they have a decent wine list and serve a mean cup of coffee).  We tasted the following wines: More

The wines we drink: Keermont Single Vineyard Series

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Yesterday saw the release of the first Single Vineyard wines made by Keermont.  Their white blend, the Keermont Terrasse, is a firm favourite but until yesterday we have never visited the farm, situated in the Upper Blaauwklippen Valley in Stellenbosch.

The Wraith family from Gauteng purchased two adjacent farms in 2003 and Mark Wraith still resides on the farm. These two farms are now farmed as one estate known as Keermont Vineyards.

Mark Wraith & Alex Starey

Mark Wraith & Alex Starey

Alex Starey (winemaker, viticulturist and all round nice guy) took us on a tour of the vineyards, stopping at the specific single vineyards designated on the various wine labels (Topside, Steepside and Riverside).  SAWIS’s rules regulating a single vineyard designation is quite interesting and will (and should be) a topic for many a debate; but suffice to say, all these wines are legally registered as Single Vineyard wines.  The opportunity to see exactly where the wines come from, to be able to identify the individual terroir (soil, aspect, elevation, meso climate & a little bit of magic) always adds to the drinking pleasure. More

Tapas at Chefs Warehouse

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We’ve never mentioned Chef’s Warehouse on these pages; what do you say about your local “go-to” place?  Situated just around the corner from our office, we’ve spent a good few hours browsing the kitchen equipment and cook book selection (and we may have spent a good few Rands there, as well).

Being “locals” we never visit when it gets too full, so we’ve never had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the full compliment of tapas on offer at the Canteen as they are understandably, very popular.  What a menu it is!  Eight delicious tapas dishes for R320 (more than enough for 2 people sharing).  My calculator tells me that is R20 per person per dish!

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The wines we drink: Vriesenhof Pinot Noir

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When you get invited to a vertical Pinot Noir tasting hosted by Jan Boland Coetzee, you drop everything and go.  No month-end deadlines, demanding bank managers or red tape ensconced civil servants would hold us away from this.

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The old Vriesenhof Farm holds many charms, the vineyards, charming homestead and ages-old oak trees set against the magnificent Stellenbosch mountains exude a strange mystique the moment you set foot on the farm.  It is as if ancient magic happens there. More

The wines we drink: Sutherland Rosé 2014

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Following on from our Grenache post of last week, here’s the first of our Grenache reviews.  A rosé nogal. I know most of you will wonder why we bother. Rosé isn’t sexy. Rosé is a kugel drink. I hear it is best consumed at 11 o clock in the morning after a heavy session with your personal trainer whilst your husband is swindling some elderly person out of money. Money that he uses to pay for your botox and bleach (hair and teeth) habit. The truth is we don’t drink enough rosé. It is refreshing, it is easy to consume and it often beats the myriad one dimensional entry level Sauvignon Blancs on the market that we drink to have something refreshing. Cheap Sauvignon Blanc isn’t just beaten in the flavour stakes. Also on value and interest.

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On competitions…and men

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Us humans sure are a competitive lot.  We’ve had to be; out-evolving the Neanderthals, getting rid of those pesky mammals who were a threat to Homo Sapiens – all competition.

We just cannot help ourselves; researchers may soon find a link between dopamine release and winning, the way we are going.  As much as we love winning, we hate losing; think back 2 weeks ago to that horrible loss the Springboks suffered at the hands of the Irish…now think about the win against England – see?

Sport is an easy way of explaining competition:  You are usually pitting apples against apples and pears against pears.  When you lose a race against Usain Bolt it’s because the guy ran faster than you (and looked better than you while doing it, but that’s another story).  Competitive sport was probably invented for the simple reason of competition, once the necessity part of say, running a mile to send a message, was a moot point.

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We are also a blood thirsty lot; you cannot really see the difference between the thousands cheering a gladiator in the Colosseum and the way Social Media drools over every salacious detail of awards ceremonies of some sort (same thing, just less blood in modern times). More

The wines we drink: Grenache

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As described in the preceding article – we spent last weekend geeking up on wine at The Swartland Revolution. The first weekend in November has become synonymous with tasting, drinking and discussing wine in Riebeek Kasteel and there is inevitably a discovery or comment made that changes our perception of wine. It also changes our buying patterns and therefore what we consume at home and with friends.

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This year was a particularly good year for geekery. The international wines on show were absolutely mind blowing: the highlight being the tasting of the amazing Chateau Rayas from Chateauneuf du Pape. Made from 100% Grenache (strange for CdP as 13 varieties are allowed) we subsequently found out that we can’t afford it, nor can we get it even if we could. The Rayas along with Chateau Musar from Lebanon were standouts. But the weekend’s aha moment came during the tasting of Craig Hawkins’ and David Sadie’s wines on the Saturday morning. More

Swartland Revolution 2014: An introspective retrospective

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This was going to be our last Swartland Revolution; for the foreseeable future.  It was time to give it a rest, 5 years in a row is long enough…

The Swartland Revolution has grown from the first event in 2010, where just over a 100 wine geeks & wine enthusiasts were awkwardly milling about on the Royal Hotel’s lawns & the Swartland Independent was launched.  It has evolved into a beast, with more than 450 attendees, entire roads being closed and marquee tents erected all over Riebeek Kasteel.  The Revolution has taken on a life of its own, rolling onwards, sweeping us up in the excitement that is WINE.

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Ticket prices was a big topic beforehand and on Friday afternoon (2011 tickets were R1,750 and 2014’s R2,450).  Quite a few people asked outright whether I thought the event was still “value for money”.  My reply: No.  “No” because we are not attending to get a bargain, we attend the Swartland Revolution to learn, taste wines that we could never afford to buy on our own or physically have access to. More

You think you know the Swartland Revolution?

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You know 3 different routes from Cape Town to Riebeek Kasteel and the staff at the Royal know your G & T order even before you speak?  Here is the very first Swartland Revolution Quiz – leave your answers in the comment section below.  Winner has the dubious honour of buying us first round of drinks on the Royal’s stoep.

During what year's Revolution did this poster grace the airwaves?

During what year’s Revolution did this poster grace the airwaves?

 OK, that was an easy one – let’s get a little bit more technical.  Or not… More

The wines we drink: Paserene Chardonnay

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Martin Smith’s day job is being the winemaker at Vilafonté.  After hours he has been working on his own wine making project, called Paserene.

Some history on the man:  After finishing high school in Worcester, Martin set out on his wine journey.  He worked at Amorim Cork in Portugal, returned to South Africa and studied at Elsenburg .  His internship was served under Jan Boland Coetzee at Vriesenhof.

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Martin had a romantic vision of cruising through the USA driving his Ford F250 truck with his girlfriend and a dog.  This dream was cut short when his first Napa harvest lead to a full-time position as viticulturist at Cosentino Winery.  He stayed there for 5 years before accepting a position Caldwell Winery before moving to Newton Winery in 2007 as their winemaker. More

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