Posts Tagged ‘Pinotage’

Durbanville Hills cellar 01

 

 

From its first vintage 15 years ago, Durbanville Hills Wines, which is located on the Tygerberg Hills and overlooks Table Mountain and Table Bay, has produced some of the best received super premium wines in the country.

Cellar master Martin Moore, who was appointed in 1998 when the cellar was still in the early stages of construction, reminisces fondly of the first vintage and the memorable wines produced in 1999.

“When the first grapes were delivered to the presses, work had not even started on that part of the building which today houses the maturation cellar, restaurant and wine-tasting area.

“But regardless of the challenges both the Luipaardsberg Merlot and the Biesjes Craal Sauvignon blanc from our first vintage received double gold at Veritas while the Durbanville Hills Chardonnay was awarded gold. During that first vintage just over 3 000 tons of grapes were pressed. Within a few short years production moved up to reach the cellar’s full capacity of 8 000 tons,” says Moore.

“Over the years we have extended our product range to showcase the diverse terroir of the area. During the 15 years we have created a number of what I believe are quite remarkable wines; wines which in my view truly capture the unique flavour spectrum found on our valley slopes.”

Durbanville Hills has over the years become particularly known for its top-quality Sauvignon blanc, due also to the cool-climate location of its production units which all enjoy ideal conditions for growing this cultivar.

“During the summer months and then mostly in the late afternoon, the southeaster , blows off False Bay over the Cape Flats, bringing with it cool, moist air. The wind is surprisingly cold as it comes sweeping over the contours of the hills, cooling down the vineyards even on the hottest day. And when the southeaster is not blowing, a westerly wind coming off the cold Atlantic produces the same results,” says Moore.

Sauvignon blanc is represented across the cellar’s three wine ranges. All of them regularly receive awards at national and international competitions. Although the wines can be enjoyed immediately, the winery’s Sauvignon blancs are known for their longevity, with the Biesjes Craal in particular lasting for up to ten years.

The wines are available from the cellar and leading liquor outlets and retail for about R52 in the case of the 2012 Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc and R85 for the 2012 Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc while you should expect to pay about R115 for the 2012 Biesjes Craal Sauvignon Blanc.

 

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There are easier ways to get to Durbanville Hills Winery than aboard a snorkel-equipped Land Rover, but I don’t think there’s a better way to go.

They brought out the 4×4 vehicles (snorkel-equipped — who knew? — so the engines can breathe even in deep water crossings) so that we could experience and appreciate the hills, the vineyards and the rugged terrain even before we came to the winery itself and the braai lunch that was planned for us there.

 

Surrounding vineyards.

 

My visit to Durbanville Hills Winery started as adventure and became a learning experience about the diverse nature of wine in South Africa. Now it is also Exhibit A in the case against the One Big Tank myth that I wrote about last week.

 

Entrance to Durbanville Hills Cellar at night.

Entrance to Durbanville Hills Cellar at night.

 

The Big Tank theory is that giant wine and drinks companies with dozens of brands in their portfolios offer consumers the illusion of choice, not real choice. It’s as if all the different wines came out of one big tank.  Although there is a grain of truth in this idea, I think it is fundamentally bogus and Durbanville Hills is a case in point.

From Oom Tas to Nederberg Noble

Durbanville Hills Winery is part of the Distell drinks empire. As I wrote last week, Distell is South Africa’s largest wine and spirits producer and is a global power in several beverage categories. They superficially fit the Big Tank stereotype, but within their range of brands you will find choices over a wide range starting with very basic wines such as Oom Tas (described as “an inexpensive, dry, golden, unsophisticated wine of constantly good quality and taste”) and Kellerprinz (” an unpretentious, fun wine, its quality is nevertheless good and consistent, offering value for money”) and moving on up the ladder to the rather special Nederberg Noble Late Harvest wine I wrote about last year.
Read on …

 

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Nelson Mandela. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Nelson Mandela. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

 

In his old age, South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela is apparently doing battle with wine writers rather than oppressive regimes. The Wall Street Journal was forced to run a correction to an article that ran last week about South African wines, which included a mistake about Mr. Mandela’s drink choices.

The story, which was about reporter Lettie Teague learning to appreciate Pinotage, a varietal with roots in South Africa, included mentions of wines made by the House of Mandela, a winery “conceived of and led by the women of the Mandela family.”

Read on …

 

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Taking a bath in Pinotage at Delluva Vinotherapy Day Spa.

It is even good for your skin. Taking a bath in Pinotage at Delluva Vinotherapy Day Spa.

THERE ARE VERY FEW wines I truly don’t like, and only one that I’ve ever declared I despise. Except that wine writers are not supposed to “despise” wines. While we can be disappointed, or crestfallen, or even seriously dismayed by certain bottlings, to “despise” a wine is unprofessional—or so I was told by a reader who wrote recently to upbraid me after reading of my professed enmity toward Pinotage.

The Pinotage grape in question.

The Pinotage grape in question.

Never mind that this particular reader also happened to be a Pinotage grower—I decided that he might have a point. Were my feelings about Pinotage really fair—or, for that matter, accurate? After all, it had been quite a few years since I tasted much Pinotage; perhaps there had been some changes in winemaking or viticulture. Perhaps there were even some overlooked gems?

Pinotage, for the uninitiated, is a grape created in South Africa in 1925 but currently grown—in a fairly limited fashion—in many other parts of the world. It was created in Stellenbosch by Abraham Izak Perold, a professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University. A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the workhorse red grape of the Rhône (then also known in South Africa as Hermitage), Pinotage was also called Perold’s Hermitage x Pinot, but Prof. Perold preferred the Pinotage name. (The other instance in which “Hermitage” was appropriated in another country was Penfold’s Grange, of Australia—once known as Grange Hermitage until it was shortened to simply Grange at the behest of the European Union.)

Read on …

Now also read the truth about this South African Grape Varietal:

Pinotage Wine Guide