Posted: January 28, 2013 By James Molesworth
Pinotage is a troubled grape—difficult to grow and vinify, never really very charming, yet held up by many in South Africa as the Cape's signature variety. Its plantings have dipped a bit in recent years in favor of more international varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it seems to never have grabbed a foothold in the U.S. market, which Cape winemakers desperately want to crack open. Yet despite that, it still holds a significant place in the hearts of the home folks. And at Kanonkop, it sees arguably its best expression.
Posted: January 25, 2013 By James Molesworth
Bruwer Raats now has vines literally right next door, as he's planted the parcel that surrounds his house-cum-winery. Raats has sourced Chenin Blanc vines from France, preferring a clone called Montpellier that he found a scant amount of in the Swartland and fell in love with for its naturally low vigor, small berries and loose bunches.
Posted: January 24, 2013 By James Molesworth
A relative newcomer to South Africa's Cape wine scene, De Morgenzon has been quickly churning out some superb value Chenin Blanc and Syrah offerings, and has some new bottlings up its sleeve. Owned by Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum, who bought the estate in 2003, De Morgenzon debuted with the 2005 vintage. It has really taken off since the 2010 vintage, when they hired winemaker Carl van der Merwe, formerly of Quoin Rock.
Posted: January 23, 2013 By James Molesworth
The last time I was in South Africa, in 2007, all Glenelly was was an idea. It was basically a hole in the ground and a large crane. Now, the cellar is finished, the vineyards planted and winemaker Luke O'Cuinneagain has settled in nicely.
The estate, purchased in 2003 by former Château Pichon Longueville Lalande owner May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, was planted in 2004 and began making wines with the 2007 vintage, combining some purchased fruit with estate-grown grapes. Since 2010, all the bottlings are from the estate's 148 acres of vines, which are now producing a hefty 25,000 cases annually, with plans to max out around 32,000 cases.
O'Cuinneagain is a good fit: He trained in Bordeaux and brings that mindset to Glenelly, which is focusing primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, though Syrah, Chardonnay and other grapes are in the mix.
Posted: January 22, 2013 By James Molesworth
"Howzit, howzit, howzit?" enthusiastically asked Johan Reyneke as I walked up to his Stellenbosch winery. The wiry, flip-flop-and-sunglass-wearing, well-tanned owner of Reyneke Wines is both laid back and ebullient at the same time. "Come on man! Let's go look at my new cows."
A new pair of female Jersey cows have been brought in to augment the herd at this biodynamically farmed estate located in the Polkadraai Hills of Stellenbosch, and they've found a home with the herd of native cattle. They're all part of the biodynamics program at this improving Cape estate.
Posted: January 18, 2013 By James Molesworth
On the Banhoek mountainside, opposite Thelema, is Bartinney, a new face on the South African wine scene.
"A new face?" asked owner Rose Jordaan, looking at Ronell Wiid, her winemaker. "Maybe some old faces," she joked. "But they are lines of happiness."
Bartinney is a former fruit farm that had been in Michael Jordaan's family (Rose's husband) for generations, but had been sold off. Michael, a Johannesburg-based banker, bought the family property back in 2006 and it quickly became a labor of love for Rose.
Posted: January 17, 2013 By James Molesworth
Up and at 'em on my first full day back in the Cape since 2007, and I couldn't think of a better place to start than at Thelema, the estate of Mr. Precision, Gyles Webb.
Webb is enjoying his veteran winemaker status, spending a bit more time fishing and boating these days. His son Thomas, 36, continues to take on responsibility, while winemaker Rudi Schultz, 43, has been on board since 2001. Rudi has been joined by his brother Werner, 41, who has helped oversee the vineyards since 2008.
Posted: January 16, 2013 By James Molesworth
I'm loading up on espresso in the Swiss Air lounge, waiting for my flight to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town. It's my first trip to South Africa since 2007, and it's safe to say things have changed since then.
I'll be traveling around the Cape for the next two weeks, visiting wineries throughout Stellenbosch, the Cape's wine center, as well as Paarl, the frontier-like Swartland, lush verdant sector of Constantia and out to Walker Bay and beyond. They drive on the left side of the road on the Cape, so I've hired a driver. That way I can focus on the vineyards and the people behind the wines, rather than fiddling with a GPS while driving myself. Since I taste in my office, these trips are more to kick the dirt and get to know what goes into the wines, technically and spiritually, via the producers who put the hard work in. So follow along here on the blog for notes on the producers I visit with, along with my Twitter and Instagram feeds for additional snippets, pictures and sometimes witty one-liners. As always, if you have questions, post them here or to my forthcoming blogs and I will try to get back to everyone in due time.
Posted: October 5, 2012 By James Molesworth
Posted: September 21, 2012 By James Molesworth
I caught up today with Marc Kent, owner and winemaker of South Africa's Boekenhoutskloof winery, a top producer of high-end Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sémillon, as well as several value brans such as Chocolate Block, Wolftrap and Helderberg Wijnmakerij. The vintner has a new Syrah to add to his lineup and as is usual with Kent, he's got a good story to go with it as well (you can read this previous blog entry on the genesis of a previous wine called The Journeyman).
Posted: August 24, 2012 By James Molesworth
Posted: July 25, 2012 By Victoria Daskal
Posted: June 20, 2012
Posted: May 31, 2012
Posted: May 31, 2012 By James Molesworth
Posted: February 1, 2012 By James Molesworth
I sat down with André Shearer, chairman of South African importer Cape Classics, Inc., to talk about selling South African wines in the competetive American and Asian markets. The youthful looking 50-year-old father of three lives in Somerset West, speaks with a gentle South African accent (he was born in Johannesburg) and is now celebrating his 20th year importing South African wine into the U.S. market. His company accounts for one in every three bottles of South African wine in the U.S. and exclusively represents 20 brands, including top names such as Thelema, Mulderbosch, Kanonkop and Ken Forrester. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Posted: September 27, 2011 By Mitch Frank
Posted: September 23, 2011 By James Molesworth
Posted: August 1, 2011 By James Molesworth
Apologies for the rather quiet blog recently. I've had my nose to the grindstone, or at least to the Riedel glass, as I'm in the midst of an intensive tasting period working my way through the bulk of Rhône wines for my annual report, slated to appear near the end of the year as usual. While I've still got a ways to go, it's clear that 2009 provides the best buying opportunity for ageworthy Northern Rhône reds since the superb 2005 vintage. Stay tuned for more on those ….
I did manage to take a short break from the tasting room to catch up with Kevin Grant, winemaker and owner of South Africa's Ataraxia winery, which is now back in the U.S. market after a short hiatus. Ataraxia is one of the small, top-quality producers that's been head-scratchingly absent from the U.S. market, along with the likes of Kevin Arnold's Waterford Estate and Beyers Truter's Beyerskloof.
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