It doesn't seem possible but another year has gone, carte-du-vin are off to South Africa on the annual wine buying trip. We will visit old and new vineyards in the Cape.
We do know how lucky we are to be packing our bags and flying to this beautiful Country, looking forward to going to favourite vineyards and exploring new ones.
Hemel en Aarde
Marian on Sun 14 Jan
We arrived in South Africa two days ago, now feeling relaxed and refreshed from the overnight flight
It is time to start work!
We are staying with friends in Onrus which is very close to the renowned Wine district of Hemel en Aarde this area has some of South Africa’s most famous vineyards all situated on the one road, we pass Newton Johnson, Hamilton Russell, Creation to name but a few, today we are hunting out wines recommended from our Customers. The first visit today is to Domaine des Dieux and then to search out Alheit.
We wanted to sample Des Dieux Sparkling MCC wines, they were interesting in as much as they are kept on the lees for 4 years and so the vintages being sampled were 2010 and 11, we enjoyed both white and Rosé but the tasting experience could have been better #trainyourstaff #enthusiasm required! Onto the next vineyard just to find you need an appointment to #gowinetasting here, not put off by this we went to the local wine merchant and bought a bottle which we will sample this evening with the #BBQ.
Marian on Thu 18 Jan
Today we have been searching out new wines and have a meeting at Diemersfontein which is on the outskirts of Wellington.
David Sonnenberg the owner of this large estate met us and gave us a tour on the winery and a wine tasting. They make many wines here but we are particularly interested in the Coffee Pinotage and Malbec both are delicious and we will be considering them when we make our final decisions later on this trip.
Bellvue Wine Estate
Marian on Fri 19 Jan
Last year whilst in South Africa we visited Bellevue Wine Estate and started supplying two of their wines on our Carte in the UK.
The wines have sold well in the UK so today we visit the Tasting Room to sample new vintages and other varietals with view of adding more Bellevue wines to our range.
We were met by Theresa the owner’s daughter she introduced us to Wilhelm the winemaker who talked us through the wine making ethos here. We then had an opportunity to sample the wines (a lot of spitting out required!). We loved the wines and have taken several away to sample with food and make some decisions as to which ones to add to our collection of wines from South Africa.
Clos Malverne Wine Estate and Restaurant
Marian on Sun 21 Jan
Clos Malverne is a special place we have been in South Africa only a week and have visited twice!
Firstly, to have a meeting with Suzanne she is the wine maker here and she updated us on what is happening on the farm since our last visit. One of our bestselling wines Clos Malverne |Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc comes from here and we soon will be fully stocked again in the UK. Tasting completed we enjoyed lunch in the Restaurant over looking the vineyards.
Our 2nd visit was purely a social occasion as we met up with friends for Sunday lunch to die for the 4-course tasting menu here is superb. Well-fed and watered we all stayed overnight in their new luxury accommodation. “A perfect way to spend a Sunday”.
Stony Brook Vineyard
Marian on Tue 23 Jan
We stock Stony Brook’s Ghost Gum range in the UK and it is becoming very popular.
The McNaught family have run this farm since 1995 and their philosophy is firmly rooted in the old world style of producing wine taking inspiration from the most revered wine regions of Europe.
The tasting room today is full of customers from all over the world and from here in South Africa.
We sample the whole range and are considering adding to the stock we keep in the UK with their Bordeaux Blend ‘The Max’ this is named after their 14 year old Jack Russel who is still sprightly and sits in the tasting area hoping for a biscuit from the visitors.
La Chataigne Vineyard
Marian on Tue 23 Jan
Next we visit La Chataigne a small Boutique Vineyard on the outskirts of Franschhoek.
The farm was obtained by Richard and Julie in 1972 when they re-located from Sweden. They only bottle a fraction of the grapes under the La Chataigne name (the best are kept for the brand). Wines here are of the highest quality and Richard himself signs all the bottles as no labels are used!
Suzann meets us at the farm Office we know her well now from our previous trips, great news is that she is pregnant and will be leaving on Maternity leave in the next few weeks. We wish Suzann and her husband Lawrence (who is from the UK and his family live just 30 minutes from us) all the best with the new arrival and can’t wait to meet the baby next year.
We leave with new vintages to try.
Marian on Tue 23 Jan
Dieter and Helgard greet us in the tasting room, when we were here last year the vineyard was busy harvesting but this year weather conditions have been different, the grapes are not ready to be picked. It is a difficult time for the winemaker to know exactly when to organise staff to join them for harvesting,
Lynx is situated on the foothills of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains on the out-skirts of Franschhoek, it is the smallest Wine Estate in the Valley producing less than 7000 cases per annum we are proud to stock 8 of the 11 wines produced here and can't wait to have the ever popular Blanc de Noir back in stock!
Noble Hill Wine Estate
Marian on Wed 24 Jan
Today we are to visit Noble Hill Winery. When we started importing wines from South Africa this was one of the first vineyards we chose and each year we return and the wines never disappoint just improve year on year.
As always, we get a warm welcome here, last year when I broke my shoulder during our SA trip, Kathryn & Kristopher were so kind letting us stay on the farm whilst I recovered from my operation. Thank you again!
News from here this year is they have expanded by purchasing the neighbouring farm so now have a further 12 hectares to work, some parcels will need replanting, but they are gaining an area to develop in the successful Noble Hill way!
Tasting finished we enjoyed a great lunch in the restaurant here called ‘Cosecha’ the food here is mainly Mexican and I have fish tacos which paired with their Viognier was delicious.
Four Paws Winery
Marian on Thu 25 Jan
Four Paws Winery is on the main road into Franschhoek, all their wines are made here but they source grapes from other areas of the Cape, including the high altitude Piekenierskloof. Anne Jakubiec runs Four Paws having abandoned her medical technologist’s career to do something she loves – make wine.
As the name suggests she is a lover of animals especially cats, cats exhibit fine senses and this is what she wants people to experience when they see, smell and taste the wines.
We stock four of the wines including our only South African Dessert Wine ‘Picatso’ (note the cat reference in the name!)
Peter Falke Wine Estate
Marian on Sat 27 Jan
As always on our trip to South Africa we try to search out new wines to add to our range.
We have been recommended to visit Peter Falke Winery is nestled against the Helderberg mountains in the heart of the Stellenbosch winelands.
The Falke family have been doing business in South Africa since 1969 and purchased the Groenvlie Farm in 1995. Since taking over the estate they have transformed the area and the gabled Cape Dutch tasting room is very beautiful no surprise as Peter’s wife Daniele is a renown French interior designor.
Today we met Alexa the marketing manager who told us about the history of the winery, terroir and wines made here. We were very impressed with not only the wines but the whole area is beautiful and we enjoyed a relaxed lunch on the lawns in front of the Farm House surrounded by vines.
We really enjoyed the wines here, the Estate’s ethos for winemaking and care of their staff fit well with carte-du-vin’s, so yes we will add Peter Falke Wines to ones we stock in the UK.
Arendsig Wine Estate
Marian on Mon 29 Jan
We leave the beautiful Franschhoek Valley over the pass to Robertson and the Breede River Valley.
South Africa this year is suffering from a drought and the land is very parched luckily most vineyards have their own borehole so are able to keep the vines irrigated.
Today we have a meeting with Lourens at Arendsig Winery, here they get water by a canal syste3m from the hills around Paarl the harvest here is a little later due to the drought conditions they are able to use irrigation for 2 hours every second day during these crucial times because of this they can bring down the micro climate between 12pm and 2pm during hot summer days, before the South-Easterly starts to do its job. The night temperatures tend to cool down extremely well. This year the grapes are smaller but of a good quality. We have stoked wines from this Boutique Winery for several years and it is becoming very popular in UK. All wines are of a single grape variety, there are two ranges, both are of a superior quality but Lourens keeps the best grapes for the ‘Inspirational Batch’ label.
We were hoping to stock up on Chenin but the 2016 vintage is completely sold out and 2017 harvest is not bottled yet. We are investigating options of how to get some of this wine back to UK later in the year.
Star Hill Winery
Marian on Thu 1 Feb
Star Hill Winery is situated on the famous Route 62 wine trail. They were created by Grant Hatch and Christopher Palmer Tomkinson who sought to find a high-altitude site to fulfil a passionate belief in producing great wines at altitude.
The Estate grows mainly fruit which is sold worldwide but 16 hectares are planted with grapes, they make one red wine Shiraz, two whites Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc and a Rose from the shiraz grape. The soils of the Tradouw Highlands are a well-drained from an ancient wetland, Temperatures in summer can reach 30°C at midday and just as they rise into early afternoon, cool winds drop over the mountain with moist sea air and cover the mountains with a blanket of white cloud. The wind cools the plains making the area perfect for growing grapes.
We have their Shiraz on our list and may add the whites and rose. Watch this space!
Barton Wine Estate
Marian on Fri 2 Feb
We now move on towards the see to stay at Barton Vineyard, the Estate is situated on South Africa, Western Cape, located off the R43 road leading to Hermanus. Lying at the foot of the Hottentots Holland mountain range in the Botriver valley.
Barton borders the Kogelberg National Eco Park and looks across the valley to the Bablionsberg mountains. The farm covers an area of 500 acres (200 hectares), and have plum orchards, olive groves, lavender fields, geranium and rosemary as well as 30 hectares vineyards from which the wines, olive oil, honey are produced and marketed under the Barton label.
This visit we are staying three nights in one of their beautiful holiday villas, the weather is kind to us but on arrival we notice in the distance a fire which sadly due to the drought conditions and brisk winds spreads to the Farm itself and destroys several hectares of scrub land. The Fire service and farm workers work 3 days and night to keep the fire contained and luckily away from the homes.
The grapes are saved but may have some smoke damage only time will tell what the 2018 harvest will be like.
Nabygelegen Wine Estate
Marian on Mon 5 Feb
Wellington area started wine making in South Africa in 1712 and we are staying on the Nabygelegen Wine Estate.
We stock wines from here in the UK and have arrived on the farm at the start of Harvest.
This year has been difficult due to the lack of water and high temperatures which means that suddenly all the grapes are ready to be picked at the same time, this puts tremendous pressure on the cellar to process all of the ripe fruit.
Three days of frenzied activity ensued when firstly the Chenin was picked, destemmed and carefully pressed, a minimum of sodium sulphite added stops oxidation and then into the fermentation tank.
That was Monday but tomorrow the ripe Pinotage will go through a similar process and on Wednesday James’s Merlot vines will give of their ripe fruit.
Busy times indeed!
End of Trip to South Africa
Marian on Fri 23 Feb
Six weeks away in this beautiful Country, we have visited all our suppliers and have found some new wines to add to our list.
Thank you everyone for making us so welcome.
South African wine estates produce delicious wine and we are proud of the Vineyards we represent in UK. However, our annual trip is not just to replenish stock but to search out new wines/vineyards to represent and we have this year added one new range from Peter Falke winery in Stellenbosch and several different varietals from the existing wineries.
We also and are looking at adding South Hill from Elgin Highlands and Lemberg at Tulbagh both wineries match our USP, i.e they are small, care passionately about the craft of wine making and produce excellent wines with as few additives as possible.
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