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The Best Way To Tour South Africa's Vineyards... (4)
Alison from Cape Town wrote: What a great way to get around. Awesome if you are the... [read more]

Brief notes from a tasting: Kleine Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch (4)
kang wrote: just came across your wineblog and absolutely loving it... [read more]

Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa (1)
Dylan wrote: If it isn't something about wine, I can usually count o... [read more]

Chenin Blanc Comparison - Wine Blogging Wednesday (1)
Dylan wrote: Chenin blanc seems to complement the adventuring winema... [read more]

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The Best Way To Tour South Africa's Vineyards...

Lolita - vintage bike and sidecar

OK, so perhaps a full weeks tour on these little beauts might get a touch wearisome; but for a day (and you can get through several vineyards if you have the stamina) can I recommend these marvellous vintage bikes and sidecars.

You don't get to drive but sit in the sidecar. Immense fun; I don't think I stopped grinning the whole journey! and you turn heads aplenty. Just wave back... Mine was Lolita... saucy little minx...

Vintage Sidecars organised through Go Cape Tourism Services. More pictures of the bikes on flickr.

Vintage Bike and Sidecar Touring Stellenbosch
Vintage Bike and Sidecar Touring Stellenbosch 2

Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa

iona sauvingon blanc
To reach Elgin take the N2 from Cape Town and keep going through the wine lands of Stellenbosch. Compared to the rash of vineyards covering the valleys and hills of Stellenbosch and Franschoek, Elgin has little more than a handful of wineries (with Paul Cluver being perhaps the most well known) in this traditionally apple-growing region. Iona stands alone in the south of Elgin and sadly wasn't on the itinerary of my recent trip.

While flicking through the Reuben's Cooks recipe book a mention of the Iona Sauvignon as an ideal accompaniment to one of the salad dishes - and by the fact that the wine is readily available at Waitrose - led to its purchase.

The salad, (Avocado Salad With Toasted Pine Nuts, Rocket, Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup) a superb starter or with added bread a lighter lunch, is simplicity to prepare. Using the freshest and highest quality ingredients of course, the dish was a most joyous match - about as perfect as you could wish - even if the use of rocket was usurped by pea shoots.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose SAWinesOnline Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A super example of a classy, restrained, refined, Sauvignon Blanc. An edge of fig and peach stones lifts the complex mineral-led palate. Lovely balance- crisply done on the finish married with a weighty feel and nice - not overly assertive - acidity. Alcohol 13.5%.

Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Brief notes from a tasting: Kleine Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

An ideal introducton to the wines and foods of South Africa - the award winning Terrior Restaurant in the Kleine Zalze Estate - one of South Africa's top 10 restaurants.

The wine range is split into four - The Family Reserve Range is at the top "produced from the best hand-picked grapes of selected vineyards. Available in limited quantities and only in certain vintages". Next the Vineyard Selection "Quality grapes from premium vineyards, aged inthe best oak barrels to provide wines with flavour, complexty, structure and cellaring potential" followed by the Cellar Selection (such as the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc) "These wines are made to be be more accessible and friut driven. They represent good value, to suit our customers' tastes. This range reflects our motto: "We make wine for people to enjoy". The bottom rung is the Foot of Africa range "named after one of our farms situated at africa's southern tip. These wines are produced from selected grapes from various vineyards in the Western Cape".

Full pictures of the meal are over on SpittoonExtra.

Blown away by the Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, around £15. [More: Adegga / Snooth] A combination of green bean herbaceous flavours and minerality (the latter from West Coast fruit apparently) Clean, fresh, green pepper, not too grassy. Ages well according to our host Ross Sleet. Stonkingly good with the meal's starter - Crumbed Goats Cheese with Figs.

First introduction to the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]
- 30% of the grapes in this have been influenced by botrytis adding depth and complexity. Totally unwooded.

8,000 case production for the Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]. Available to the on-trade in the UK. Barrel fermentation creating a different beast than the Cellar Selection Chenin but similar in style with a fruity, delicious, roundness. A little young still, 2008 vintage.

Interesting wine selection for the Seared Scallops, a choice of lightly chilled Pinotage Cellar Selection over a Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection [no links as unsure on vintages]. The balsamic reduction picked up in the Pinotage but the Pinot worked beautifully too being a little lighter in style with softer tannins. Table split between the two - I'd edge toward the Pinot Noir if only for those seductive tannins.

The estate is having an exciting time with Pinotage experimenting with terrior and vine placements.
Salze Shiraz-Mouvèdre-Viognier blend, 2007, Cellar Selection range, [More: Adegga / Snooth]
with a split of varieties at 65% Shiraz, 20% Mouvèdre and 15% Viognier. Delicious in a robust, characterful way. Designed to be drinkable/accessible. Screw-capped and 14.5%. Available from Waitrose in the UK.

Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. [More: Adegga / Snooth] Lovely concentration, smooth, richly textured, perfectly matching my main course of Springbok. Plentiful tannins but supple and wonderful with the meat. I was so enraptured with the partnership I failed to note any Madeira flavours in the sauce...

kleine zalze barrels

Kleine Zalze
Die Boord
Stellenbosch, 7613, South Africa
PHONE: +27 (21) 880-0717
FAX: +27 (21) 880-0716

Chenin Blanc Comparison - Wine Blogging Wednesday

kleine zalze chenin blanc
Two different wines can't really be considered a representative sample. More a fun exercise to explore how differing wines from Up Top and Down Under compare (the theme for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday). Having just returned from South Africa a comparison of one the countries local treasures - Chenin Blanc - with an 'original' from the Loire seemed the most apt.

All the major grape varieties are grown in South Africa. The choice could have encompassed Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or a Rhone-style red blend, all of top-international quality. (Only Merlot proved disappointing during my vino samplings on the tour.)

This South African Chenin was one of the first wines poured during my trip. A long, long lunch at Terroir at the Kleine Zalze estate was a superb introduction to the foods and wines of the country. I've posted a few pictures of the meal over on Spittoon Extra...

The Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc 2008 is listed in the UK by Waitrose, as a comparison a similarly priced Loire Chenin was plucked from the same supermarkets shelves, a Domaine du Vieux Vauvert Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2007.

As mentioned in a previous post the wines of South Africa are often described as being a stylistic amalgam of the New World and the Old so the aim is to spot any obvious differences...

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kleine Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £5.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A lively fresh, full, mouthful. Dry - a little spritz noticable - and plenty of apple and pear flavours. Good texture, combining as expected, ripe New World fruit with a textural feel. I love the gravelly, tropical-fruit- tinged finish - guava, mango et al. For the price, excellent and now the 'house wine' with a couple of bottles stashed away in the fridge for visitors... Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine du Vieux Vauvert Vouvray, 2007, Loire, France .
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £6.49 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
First sampled a few months back; my opinion hasn't changed. Marked as Medium-dry, this sweetness, I feel, masks any minerality in palate leaving a nice, if unexciting, roundness. A little more interesting on he finish with a surge of pear flavours and acidity cutting the sweetness. Alcohol 11.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 82/100 [2.75 out of 5]

The expansive range of wines made from Chenin - ranging from bone dry through to sweet - is one of the fascinatiions for South Africa's wine makers. Several mentioned its versatility, the deight they have in experimenting with it and their on-going search for the best planting locations. Certainly several feel it has more potential for greatness than the other 'treasure' Pinotage.

vieux vauvrey vouvray

South African Wine

sunrise over the stellenbosch mountains from the kleine zalze estate
A cliché is a cliché for a reason. I don't think you can view any report, article or commentary on South Africa without some mention of the amalgam of the old world and the new in the countries wines.

An intense week spent touring the vineyards of Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Elgin, Walker Bay and beyond affirms the belief - South Africa is a cross roads striving to take the vibrancy, drinkability and fruit of the New World and combine it with the structure, elegance and food-friendliness of the old. And from what I sampled they are doing it beautifully.

It is staggering to realise that the wine industry in South Africa is, in effect, just 14 years old. The apartheid years were not good - bad grape clones, poor rootstocks, lack of interaction with other wine growing regions (and thus not sharing in the techniques and advances in production and viticulture) led inevitably to a general malaise. The quality of wines became, by international standards, sub-standard. The 'legendary' Pinotage being a case in point - rubber, pencil led, rusty nails are not really something you want in a red wine.

Great improvements have revitalised the wine industry. Vineyards are more than welcoming to day-trippers and tourists with many offering rooms, restaurants, picnic areas, pools and other activities in addition to vineyard tours and wine tastings. Quality of the wine has improved immensely of course. Evangelists for Pinotage and Chenin - South Africa's near unique grapes touted as the countries local treasures - and those experimentng with biodynamics, white blends and obscure red grapes are thrusting the industry though an exciting period of experimentation.

Problems of course exist. The disparity of living standards (although there is a rising black middle class - the black diamonds) and the redistribution of wealth are most noticable while water issues and bush fires are familiar to wine regions across the world. The picture above illustrates this. A beautiful sunrise over the Stellenbosch Mountains from the Kleine Kalze Estate - only the low lying cloud is smoke from the fires that swept over and around the mountains for several days - leaving a smattering of ash over Klein Kalze's award winning Terroir Restaurant and hotel where I both stayed and dined.

As with all tours the time goes all to quickly; you realise you haven't recorded all the wines tasted, wish you had taken more photos (I came back with 649!) and have to adjust to 'normal' 'plain' food again. But the trip has led to a greater appreciation of South Africa's wines and culture - I'm keen to follow several producers as they develop their ranges, plantings and techniques over the coming years - and I have more than enough tasting notes to fill Spittoon for many weeks let alone tying to replicate the delicious foods I enjoyed over the week and play with various wine and food matches.

The problem with clichés is their narrowness; South Africa offers such an exciting, vibrant and beautiful country and people that a few simple words can't possibly encapsulate it all.

chardonnay vines kleine zalze estate, stellenbosch, south africa

Tanqueray Gin / Magnum Photos Photography Competition & Exhibition

tanqueray gin
The makers of Tanqueray Gin have teamed up with prestigious photo agency, Magnum Photos, to offer photographers the chance to win £5,000 and have their work showcased alongside Stuart Franklin, the President of Magnum and some of the world's greatest photographers in a unique exhibition.

The exhibition, 'A Taste for Life', will feature images from renowned Magnum photographers which celebrate rich, intense moments in life to reflect the intense taste of Tanqueray. From romance in Paris to crowd reactions in the US Presidential elections, the exhibition will feature a wide range of images which capture intensely deep emotions, reactions and feelings.

Alongside the project, a competition is being run by the makers of Tanqueray gin to give ten photographers a chance to feature in the Magnum Photos exhibition as well as winning a top prize of £5,000. Entrants in the two age categories (18-24) and (25+) will need to capture their interpretation of a 'Taste for Life' and provide their own rich, intense moments. To help guide entrants there will be five categories to enter covering adventure, relationships, cocktails & glamour, achievements and festivals & celebrations.

All entrants will be judged by a panel of experts including Stuart Franklin, President of Magnum Photos, Jeremy Langmead, Editor of Esquire magazine, Alan Sparrow, Picture Editor of Metro, Nicky Catley, Picture Editor of The Daily Telegraph and Kristof Fahey, Vice President of Marketing for Yahoo! Europe.

To inspire entrants, the makers of Tanqueray have commissioned Stuart Franklin to capture his own 'Taste for Life' images. To view these images and enter the competition visit A shortlist of forty entries will be selected for the final judging process and all pictures will also be put forward for the public to vote for a People's Choice to feature in the exhibition.

'A Taste for Life' exhibition will launch with a glittering launch party this spring at iconic design venue Liberty.

If you have any interest in photography the galleries, where you can vote for your favourites, are well worth an inspiring peruse.

Great Iberian Wines From Vinoteca

Bodega Acoustic Acoustic Vinyes Velles
Two lovely people - Ryan and Gabriella - from Catavino, hosted an excellent Iberian wine tasting at Vinoteca, London last Friday. Unusually for me I'm getting some notes down on the site while still fresh in my mind, which, as many will attest has the attention span of a gnat... or the memory capacity of dead mouse...

Generally the whites disappointed. There were eight whites available, four each from Spain and Portugal and most were either over priced or just plain unexciting. Or a combination of both. A shame really as several wines from the SITT tasting (Specialist Importers Trade Tasting) the Wednesday prior offered some really exciting whites from Portugal in particular.

Fourteen reds were opened for the crowd. Apart from one (where a lively debate ensued where I thought it lacking but my tasing partners disagreed) my fellow tasters/bloggers (Andrew Chapman and Denise Medrano) were in agreement on the quality. The best being...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodega Castaño Monastrell, 2007, Yecla, Spain.
Price: £6.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A crowd pleaser being full, soft, flavoursome with sweet ripe fruit. Deep black-fruits, leather complexity, inky finish. Monastrell is Mourvèdre. Good value.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Acoustic Vinyes Velles, 2006, Montsant, Cataluna, Spain
Price: £14.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A little expensive perhaps (the victim of the poor pound!) but a delicious, stylish wine. Montsant is a small region lapping around Priorat (had to look that up on an excellent map available at the tasting) that most seemed unfamiliar with. A super blend of Garnacha and Carinena from 15 - 35 year old vines.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Telmo Rodriguez Gabo do Xil, 2006, Galicia, Spain.
Price: £8.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A producer that all should be familiar with; seldom offering a disappointing wine. This 100% Mencia has an excellent nose, balance and a delicacy and poise that we pinpointed to violets. Ripe strawberries adds to the complexity of flavour.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: A & J-L Gomes Azamor, 2005, Alentejo, Portugal
Price: £7.85 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A blend - which always seems to work better than single varietals from Portugal - of 40% Syrah, 40% Touriga Franca and 20% Merlot. Great fruity aroma, still fresh despite a few years of age. Lovely, soft, plummy palate with good structure and acidity. Some elegance.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta do Centro Pedra Basta, 2006, Alentejo, Portugal.
Price: £12.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A blend of Tridadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouchet and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe fruit with savoury touches to the aroma, excellent balanced palate a little sweetness to the fruit. Notes ended with a scrawled 'I like this a lot!'.

Chilled White Wine On Ice at Vinoteca Wine Tasting