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Ingenuity Blends from Nederburg (2)
Dylan wrote: Is it common to have that many varietals combined into ... [read more]

Brief Notes from a Tasting: Boschendal, Stellenbosch (1)
Dylan wrote: 300 years of winemaking! What an amazing legacy to carr... [read more]

Arabella Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Robertson, South Africa (2)
Dylan wrote: It's a balancing act of life. I believe we need the col... [read more]

Photographs from Boschendal (2)
Dylan wrote: I agree Arfi, I love how architecture can evolve by loc... [read more]

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Ingenuity Blends from Nederburg

Distell Wines at The House of JC Le Roux, South Africa
Distell - the largest producer in South Africa or the largest exporter (it might even be both!) I've asked those really nice people at WOSA for some data to back this up but they are terribly, terribly busy people...

The Distell brands will be familiar - Obikwa, Two Oceans, Fleur du Cap, Nederburg and many more. Can't say many of these will get the wine lover excited however. We plowed through the various ranges dimly aware of the passage of time... I even started doodling as our host tried to inspire interest over a particularily unexciting Chardonnay... but wait that last one was rather good...

Under the Nederburg label two blends in swanky bottles - and you know what; our host didn't really push these, or seem to want to discuss them. I'll put it down to our groups obvious inertia and post-picnic lunch slump; sorry chap I did try and stiffle that yawn...




White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nederburg Ingenuity White, 2008, South Africa.
Stockist: SAWinesOnline Price: £15.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Apparently features more varietals than any wine in South Africa (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Rhine Riesling, Verdelho and Nouvelle)

It is led by Sauvignon Blanc (40%) sourced from Groenekloof & Durbanville, offering herbaceous aromas and crisp, minerally green flavours. The next biggest components are Chardonnay (20%) and Viognier (15%) both from Durbanville and super ripe bush vine Chenin Blanc (10%) from Darling. The balance is made up by Semillon (6%), Nouvelle (3%) and Rhine Riesling (3%) & Verdelho.

Eight varieties for eight wine makers. Alcohol 14%.

A marvellous combination of green floral notes, a creamy texture and clean cut acidity. Oak edges and spice. Superb.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4 out of 5]



Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nederburg Ingenuity Red, 2006, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: SAWinesOnline Price: £17.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Italian varietals here - 45.5% Sangiovese, 45.5% Barbera, 9% Nebbiolo aged in Romanian oak barrels. Rather dry and savoury on the finish; food needed. Quite intense on the palate with plenty of complexity.

The Sangiovese was grown in dryland vineyards in Groenekloof, Darling, the source of some of the country's leading quality grapes, while the Barbera came from the cool-climate area of Durbanville, and the Nebbiolo from the high slopes of Simondium. All the fruit was hand-harvested and hand-sorted at the cellar.


Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

There I go again - raving about blended wine!

Nederburg Ingenuity Red Blend

Brief Notes from a Tasting: Boschendal, Stellenbosch

boschendal wine tasting
Under the branches of an old, old oak tree a marvellous romp through a range of Boschendal wines. Hosted by Lizelle Gerber, Head White Wine Maker, entertainingly hosted the tasting.

Lizelle was lovely, fielding my inane questions with gusto and a wry smile. She has been with Boschendal since 2005. At the conclusion of the tasting I asked what she would really like to do, experimentally, outside the day to day work. Two things, she replied. "To make a stickie from Weiser Reisling and to play around with White Grenache" She didn't expound on what she would like to make exactly.

Boschendal have split their wines into 5 distinct ranges; in price order they are:

  1. The Pavillion Range with a Shiraz/Cabernet, a Chardonnay/Semillon blend and a Shiraz Rosé. The range is named after the Le Pavillion Gazebo and come priced at around £6.49.
  2. The Favourites Range with the emphasis on easy drinking. Priced at £7.29.
  3. The 1685 Range with the distinctive bottle shape. The bottle first produced in 1985 to celebrate the 300 years of wine making at the estate and is based on an original 1685 bottle. Priced at £8.99.



    White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay-Pinot Noir, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
    [More: Adegga / Snooth]
    A mix of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) resulting in a golden hued, elegant wine packed with red berried fruit flavours, a touch of lees, and gentle oak. Alcohol 13%.
    Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]


  4. The Reserve Range of single varietal wines - higher quality grapes reflected in a slightly higher price of around £10.99.



    White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Sauvingon Blanc Reserve, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
    [More: Adegga / Snooth]
    The first vintage released in screwcap. Half the Sauvingon is sourced from Boschendal local grapes, the remainder from the Somerset West area. Minerally, limey, lively style. Flinty, citrus and a great mouth-feel.
    Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]



    Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Grand Reserve, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
    A Bordeaux-style blend heavy on the Cabernet Franc (Cabernet Franc (70%), Malbec (10%), Shiraz (10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%)), nicely perfumed, with an edge of cassis and raspberry-meatiness.
    Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]



    Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Reserve Collection Shiraz, 2004, Stellebosch, South Africa
    [More on Adegga / Snooth]
    Sourced from low yielding 10 year old vineyard. Full-bodied, Rhone-style - a touch of elegance missed in with the pepper, herb and spice palate. Potential for some aging. Good tannic backbone. Alcohol 14.5%.
    Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]


  5. The Cecil John Range named after Cecil John Rhodes a major 19th century player in Boschendal's development. Two wines in this 'site specific' range a Sauvignon Blanc (£12.49) and a Shiraz (£15.99), neither, sadly were opened for us to taste.


Check out the Top Five South African Wine Retailer list for stockists. Photos from Boschendal also on flickr.

Boschendal Sparkling Wines

Arabella Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Robertson, South Africa

arabella sauvignon blanc 2008
On a whim I played with the Naked Wine Auctions over the weekend. Admittedly I did have a coupon for a discount off the final auction price but for £25 plus £4.99 postage I won a mystery 6 pack of wines. These mystery parcels are a way for Naked Wines to shift damaged bottles - torn labels or those with wine stains on them and so on, and for the adventurous to pick up a little bargain.

It is so nice just to crack open a bottle without the need for forward planning, menu matching and so on. That was what these wines were for; mid-week slurping with no pressure to blog them. So what if they had damaged labels? I wouldn't need to photograph them anyway.

One of the wines just happened to be a South African Sauvignon Blanc. I had made some particularly garlicky, garlic bread, and a dish of creamy, just as garlicky, pasta with a few sundried tomatoes and torn 'Italian meats' tossed in and was half way through the bottle when I suddenly realised just how good the combination was. The wine, soft and gentle, rather than a gob-smacking, gooseberry-mouthful was a hit with the (always wine friendly) garlic. So enjoyable was the meal that only a dribble was retained in the bottle for 'tasting purposes' the following day.

Arabella was not on the list of visited estates during my recent trip; they are located out in Robertson in the Breede River Valley. Further inland and away from the coastal influences of Stellenbosch and Franschoek the focus of the trip.

With 176 hectares of vineyards Arabella concentrate, like most South African producers, on Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. Interestingly they are experimenting with plantings of Barbera, Sangiovese,Tempranillo and Mouvèdre and something called Nouvelle (a crossing of Semillon and Crouchen Blanc, to be blended with Sauvignon Blanc). No mention on the label of this Nouvelle is included in this bottling; with the planting only occurring in 2006 one assumes not.

They harvest the Sauvignon in two batches. The first, 15%, is picked unripe and 'green', the remainder when fully ripe. The 'green' portion supplies the acidity, cut grass and green pepper flavours; when blended with the ripe fruit the aim is to have a resultant wine with a more complex structure and flavour than a 'straight' wine would have.



White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Arabella Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Robertson, South Africa.
Stockist: Naked Wines Price: £6.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Without the benefit of food - garlic infused or otherwise - the wine is rather 'green'. Alcohol 13.5%. Look for a mix of fruits verging on the under-ripe side of things - guava, apples, asparagus and so on. Expect a little tartrate crystal deposit too. It's on the finish where the greenness manifests with a burst of lime tartnes to help it along.

Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Photographs from Boschendal

Boschendal Cape Dutch Architecture

Highly unusual to be allowed anywhere near a winery during the harvest; most are hectic to the extreme with the processing of grapes to have even a moment to welcome visitors.

A surprise then to see a batch of Shiraz grapes, fresh from a near-by vineyard, pulling up to a destemmer at Boschendal.

With the size of the operation at Boschendal it shouldn't have come as a surprise. Restaurants, picnic areas, gift shop, wine tasting centre and so on are all open to the casual visitor. Boschendal is not one of the top tourist attractions in the winelands for nothing!

Boschendal is one of the oldest wine producers in the New World with a French Huguenot "viticultural heritage" dating back to 1685. The manor house, one of the most photographed wine buildings in the world I would imagine, dates back to 1812 and is a prime example of Cape Dutch architecture. Think of the Cape and this style of building immediately comes to mind.

The Boschendal vineyards cover an area of 254 hectares. Geographically they extend for six kilometers along the slopes of the Groot Drakenstein Mountain towards the Dwarsriver, to the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain.

'Signature' grapes are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but more recent plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz demonstrates the aim of becoming one of South Africa's top red wine producers. Note though the lack of any mention of Chenin Blanc or Pinotage...

Shiraz grapes just arrived at Boschendal winery


Shiraz grapes about to be processed at Boschendal

Boschendal Oak Trees shading the Cape Dutch Buildings
As with all original photographs on Spittoon and SpittonExtra you can click them to view at a larger size. A large number of photos taken during my visit to South Africa can be viewed on Flickr

Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa

fmc chenin blanc
It's a long, long story but I didn't have that long with the mighty Ken Forrester; as the others drank and ate in the marvellous Salt River Food Market in Cape Town I languished in the N1 City Hospital. Don't ask...

I did make it back for a brief hello and a slurp on the stunning Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc. Ken plonked a delicious Almond Croissant in my hand - which was a stonkingly good match. There is a little residual sugar in the FMC that made it such a superb match with the pastry. I'd also try it with Chinese and other oriental foods; and try it you must for it is excellent.

Sorry for the red colour-cast this is due to the red umbrellas shielding this part of the food hall.



White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, 2007, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £17.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]


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

Newton Johnson Winery, Walker Bay, South Africa

View from Newton Johnson, Walker Bay, South Africa
Even the hazy cloud cover couldn't dampen the thrill of the view. After a gentle meander alongside the Onrust River passing Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson (both top wine producers) we discover Newton Johnson pearched on hillside; its restaurant, Heaven, gives commanding views across the De Bos Damn (pictured), down the Afdaks River Valley and on to distant Mount Horeb and beyond.

Newton Johnson pitches itself at the premium end of quality in a boutique type manner. Plenty of wines opened for us to spit, swirl and sniff starting with a comparison of Sauvignon Blancs. As an aside our host, Bevan Newton Johnson highlighted a cultural difference - the South Africans prefer their Sauvignons younger and more acidic than us Brits, a point evident in the Newton Johnson 2008 Sauvignon Blanc - A quite 'green' acidity being evident despite the addition of a little Semillon "to give firmness and a balance for food". A second Sauvingon, also 2008, with a higher ratio of Semillon (25% against 7% in the first) was racey, firm and despite its youth delicious. Only 180 cases were made of this 'yet to be released' wine; when available in 2-3 months time it should retail for around £10 plus.

Two Chardonnay's next. The Newton Johnson 2007 being the most beautiful of wines. Sourced from high altitude vineyards giving cool mornings and evenings results in some magical fruit. A lively citrus streak, minerality, weight, fig-led flavours with a walnut complexity. A touch of oak too. Superb. The 2008 vintage was elegant but tightly-young with a more oaky complexity evident. Nicely creamy mouthfeel.

To the delight of our female companion - Felicity of Fresh Escapes magazine - the next wine was the Newton Johnson Felicité Rosé, 2008. With a full palate and a lovely clean, fresh, palate this 75% Shiraz/25% Sauvignon Blanc blend comes across as a great food wine.

From a vineyard right under the tasting area the 2008 Newton Johnson Pinot Noir offered plenty of complexity and a tight, focused palate. Let down only by its slightly high price (a little under £20). A second Pinot - better value at under £15 - offered a smoky edge, a touch of restraint and a delicious, juicy finish. The difference between the two? The first comes from clay soils, the second from fruit grown in Elgin on quartz plus a cooler climate during the evenings. A great demonstration of terrior differences you could never hope to find for both wines were distinctively different.

Finally a Rhone-style blend that accompanied a 'bit-too-hearty-for-lunch' Bobotie (declared the national dish of South Africa by the United Nations Women's Organisation in 1954) - the Newton Johnson Shiraz Mourvèdre 2006. A delicious savoury edged, spicey wine with a lovely mouthfeel and, bearing in mind my penchant for blends (and Rhone style blends in particular) my favourite wine on display.

Bobotie Lunch at Heaven Restaurant, Newton Johnson
The following Newton Johnson wines are currently offered by Bibendum; approximate prices have been given per bottle, although you can only buy each in batches of six (or 12 for the dessert wine).



Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Shiraz Mourvèdre, 2005, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £12.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]



Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Pinot Noir, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £14.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]


White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]


Dessert  Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Chenin Blanc Noble Late Harvest L'Illa, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £14.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

In The Company of Wine People: brief notes from a tasting

Isabel from the Company of Wine People
The lovely lady in the picture is Isabel, Brand Development Manager for the Company of Wine People who led us through a marvellous tasting on the summit of Bottelaryberg (I think). The Company of Wine People may not be familiar to you; their brands names though you are highly likely to recognise - Arniston Bay, Thandi, Kumkani, Welmoed and Versus.

Now Arniston Bay may well be one of those ubiquitous brands that clog the wine aisles; but actually the wines are not too bad. Look out for the Reserve bottling of the Sauvignon Blanc (fresh, crisp finish, touches of lychee, soft, upfront sweetness) and those offered in innovative pouches.

Sometime ago I received a sample of an Ariston Bay Chenin-Chardonnay in a pouch and, to my annoyance, neglected to write anything about it. It's the packaging that offers the interesting story, but the wine itself was surprisingly drinkable for a mid-week slurp.

Developed at some cost by the Company of Wine People the pouch is a world first in terms of packaging.

The pouch offers an environmentally friendly solution to wine packaging, creating 80% less environmental impact from cradle to grave than the equivalent volume in glass bottles, 90% less waste and takes up less space in a landfill than two glass bottles. It is also 20 times lighter than a wine bottle and preserves the wine for up to a month once opened.

"We have worked hard to create a packaging solution to redefine the boundaries of sustainability in the wine industry and make people think differently about the cradle to grave lifecycle of wine"

They are available in Chenin/Chardonnay and Pinotage Rosé styles from branches of Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons priced at around a tenner for 1.5 litres.

Incidentally the Arniston Bay website offers a little downloadable book detailing recipes for Governer's Trifle, Peri-Peri Chicken Mozambique Style, Tomato and Prawn Bredi, Egg Plant, Date and Cashew Nut Briyani and Chilled Butternut, Orange and Cumin Soup - all designed of course to complement one of their wines.

The Kumkani Range is a step up in price and interest. Kumkani is a word derived from the Xhosa word translated as 'King' - you have to practice the tongue click on word Xhosa; Isabel demonstrated and despite a few half-attempts we all spectacularly failed at replicating. Anyway the Kumkani range comprises single varietals, dual varietals, the Reflections range and award-winning single vineyard wines.

Particularly noteworthy is the stunning Kumkani Sauvignon Blanc Lanner Hill with grapes sourced from a single vineyard - Groenekloof in the Dorking region. A lovely slice of 'green gooseberry' intensity with a mineral, flinty complexity (listed by Majestic £11.99)

Great pleasure and hums of excitement - well you can't say much with a mouthful of wine - greeted the Kumkani VVS 2005. This has stonkingly good complexity and superb balance/intensity coupled with a fascinating aroma from an unusal mix of grapes - Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho. There's a touch of oak in their somewhere too.

"This unique wine is the first white wine blend in South Africa to have Verdelho as a blending component. All the components - 40% Viognier, 40% Verdelho and 20% Sauvignon Blanc - of this wine were fermented separately before blending. The Viognier and Verdelho fermented in 20% first fill, 40% second fill and 40% third fill 300-litre French oak barrels. Kept on fermentation lees for eight months, batonage two times a month. The Sauvignon Blanc component was fermented in stainless steel tanks. No wood treatment on this component, kept on fine lees for eight months."

Our sample was the 2005 vintage, the initial release, so a little age development. Currently the 2007 is available but I'm still waiting details of UK stockists.

The Kumkani Cradle Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, proved to be a damn delicious, serious wine. Hefty tannins, so give it another year or so or bring on the Springbok! Rich and classy. The Kumkani blog suggests pairing with Rump of Beef Cooked Slowly in Red Wine and provides the recipe. As with the equally superb Kumkani Shiraz 2007 I'm lacking details of stockists or prices sadly.

Isabel is a fascinating person; shame we didn't have time to chat longer. Prior to demonstrating her beautiful singing voice (in Xhosan too) she mentioned her work in promoting wine to the rising black middle class. Wealth divisions in South Africa may take many, many years to even out but the progress in just a few years has resulted in greater affluence for many - the 'Black Diamonds'. Isabel is involved in township wine clubs for example... as I said, just one fascinating story I would have liked to explore further...

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani Lanner Hill Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: Majestic Price: £11.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]



White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani VVS, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
[More: Adegga / Snooth 2005 Snooth 2007]
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]



Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Kumkani Cradle Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

vineyard workers koopmanskloof

The photo above is of vineyard workers being trucked to their next picking assignment. Taken half-way up the hill on the Koopmanskloof estate, where we briefly halted to look at some ripened Chenin Blanc grapes.

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box

Rudiger Gretcher

Rudiger Gretcher is a fine fellow. Not only an excellent host during our meal at Reubens but entertaining plus he gave each of us a bottle of the Chocolate Box to take away...

Rudiger is the wine maker at Boekenhoutskloof, a boutique operation at the far end of the Franschoek valley. He first cracked open two Semillons for comparison both from a small vineyard strip and well worth trying if you can get hold of them. The younger, a 2006 I believe, was deliciously fresh and vibrant compared to the elder bottling from the 2003 vintage that had developed plenty of honeyed, waxy complexity that, incidentally, worked beautifully with my tempura starter.

(Photos of the food are on SpittoonExtra).

In the wide ranging discussion - everything from the state of the UK wine trade, through to the importation of bottles and cooks - Rudgier also explained his own thoughts that blends would rise to be the 'spearhead' of South African wines. His current fascination with Southern Rhone/Languedoc styled blends stemmed from a recent in-depth trip though the vineyards of Southern France. Boekenhoutskloof is also well advanced in its plans to embrace bio-dynamic wine making. Rudigier's passion for these ideals had us all convinced that 'everyone' should follow such practices.

Surprising though to find Cabernet Franc also seems to be a champion variety for Boekenhoutskloof - Rudiger was not the last wine maker during the trip to mention this.

Other wines sampled included a mint-edged Syrah (although my fellow tasters didn't really agree with me on the mint aspect so that might be down to the deep fried mint that my main dish - Quail - came garnished with). The style was aging rich but restrained with an edge of peppery chocolate.

The star wine for me was the Chocolate Block - again reaffirming my belief that blends work better than single varieties (talking red wine in general here and not just South African wines, although it holds true here too) - but for a Rhone inspired blend the addition of a little Cabernet Sauvignon was unusual. But it works. The wine a blend including Viognier was a cross over in style taking in the new worlds natural ripeness and the old world's structure.

Pinotage though is not seen by Rudiger as being the standard bearer for South Africa that many think it should be. To paraphrase -you start with poor quality grapes and you end up with poor quality wine. Pinotage vines are often stated as being of poor quality and of poor parentage.



Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: SA WinesOnline Price: £18.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Syrah 55%, Grenache Noir 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 16%, Cinsault 5%, Viognier 4%. Production just 586 barrels. 14.5% Alcohol.
Served slightly chilled in the warmth of South Africa I also chilled it briefly back in a, significantly cooler, UK to the wines benefit.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Reubens Grilled Quail with Chocolate Block Red Boekenhoutskloof Semillons

Top 5 Shops to Buy South African Wine Online

Fountain Vergelegen, South Africa
Plenty more wine notes and recommendations (plus some foodie bits) to come; but if all this chat about the marvels of South African wine make you wanna try something more interesting than can be found in your local offie here is a list of the top South African wine retailers in the UK (in no particular order):
  1. SA Wines Online - a huge and excellent selection and available by the bottle. Take advantage of £10 off your first order.
  2. SWIG - this West London based merchat offers a smaller but quality based range
  3. Stone, Vine and Sun - a smaller, but quality selection from this award winning independent
  4. Amps Fine Wine - a good selection ranging in price from £5.50 a bottle up to one at £59.50! Most in the quality/affordable range mind.
  5. M&S Direct - come here for small parcels that never make it to the stores. Currently offering 25% off all South African wines
Incidentally the photograph was taken in the gorgeous gardens at Vergelegen, South Africa.