Thursday, April 10, 2014

Van Ryn brandy tasting and tour

On Tuesday morning we found our way to Van Ryn in Stellenbosch where we had been invited to do a brandy and chocolate pairing, a tour of the distillery and then lunch in their elegant dining area. We have both studied brandy and other distilling when we took the Cape Wine Academy diploma a few years ago and we had an intensely interesting tour of a brandy distillery in Cognac last year and a negociant producer, which we wrote about. South African brandy deservedly  wins many international awards. We make fine products in the correct manner and it is always nice to see the process again. Sadly, we cannot show you all the pictures, as some areas are not available for photography. Which means you might just have to book yourself a visit to see the process and taste some fine South African products...
The Van  Ryn distillery is just off Baden Powell Drive, which leads from the N2 and goes past Spier on the way to Stellenbosch. This is their elegant formal entrance where you can, in good weather, do a tasting and eat lunch
Some traditional and some quirky decor inside the tasting area
A miniature model of a working distillery
We were warmly welcomed by Fre-Nay Brown, Brand Home Manager at Van Ryn's Brandy Distillery, who told us what the tour tasting and  lunch would entail
Our able guide was Marvin Moses, standing here in front of the original still used in the 1840’s
Low wine is boiled and turned into steam which is then distilled out as a liquor. In South Africa we double distill and we then mature for a minimum of three years in oak.
These are storage tanks for the base wine which is early picked chenin blanc or Ugni blanc of high acidity and low alcohol, with no added sulphur. These wines are made elsewhere for van Ryn and then sent to the distillery to be turned into brandy
One of the highlights of the tour is watching Jackson Mnqavana, one of their experienced master coopers, who takes you through the whole barrel making process. A cooper makes just one barrel a day and it is an extremely skilled process. The Coopers even have to make their own tools which they then use throughout their career.  Here he shows us how he trims the staves with a very sharp adze
His own set of very special tools, each of which has a precise use in the art of making a barrel
Trimming the  barrel with an adze to make space for the lid
Planing the rim of the barrel
The very smart restaurant area
Other visitors enjoying the brandy tasting
Here we taste a 12 year old, 15 year old and a 20 year old brandy with three expertly matched chocolates. The black coffee is to refresh your palate between each pairing. We did taste each chocolate with all the brandies and found that they went perfectly with the brandy they had been paired with.  You might disagree... go and see for yourself. 
Milk chocolate with the 12 year old, cinnamon and orange with the 15 year old and 70% dark bitter chocolate with the 20 year old.
Marvin, our guide, took us through the tasting
A small but very good menu should you want some lunch after your tasting
Robert Bruwer is in charge of the catering
John chose the cheese and charcuterie platter
Lynne the unusual and absolutely delicious salad of smoked chicken and fior de latte mozzarella  with fresh strawberries, avocado, caramelised nuts and dressed with a local raspberry vinaigrette
Robert insisted we finish with a slice of dark and moist chocolate and brandy torte.  Deliciously wicked and very,  very sweet and rich
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2014

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