Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Prescient Chardonnay Report 2019

This year's Chardonnay Report from Winemag.co.za, in concert with sponsor Prescient Financial Services, was held in the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront last week. There were 93 entries from 65 producers and these were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by a three-person panel. Scoring is done using the 100-point quality scale. An outstanding 52 of the 90 entries (56% of the line up) rated 90-plus. Chardonnay is definitely coming to the fore after a while in the doldrums. It has taken quite a while to get over ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). For many that came about because, for a while when Chardonnay was a new varietal back in the 1990s, and they were discovering how to handle it, much too much oak was used by South African winemakers. Now that we have matured and improved the way we ake wine from this beautiful noble grape, there is gentle and careful use of wood, and we are producing superb Chardonnays in several diverse styles. So do lose your prejudices, should you still have them, and go and taste some of these prize winners
As Editor Christian Eedes said: "Sauvignon Blanc can often be predictable, Chardonnay has something for everyone"
Jacqueline Lahoud, Winemag.co.za's Business Director, began proceedings and later announced the top 10 wines
Many winemakers were present, all of them Chardonnay producers
The venue was new to us and is very spacious, with fantastic views of the city and the mountain
Craig Mockford, MD of Prescient, told us that this is the 5th year of their sponsorship and the 9th Annual Chardonnay report
It was also Prescient's 21st Birthday and they are celebrating Resilience
Editor Christian Eedes asked the question. “What does a bottle of award winning Chardonnay sell for these days?” The average price of the 52 wines to rate 90-plus is R162 a bottle, while the average price of the top 10 is R233 a bottle. Of particular interest to those wine lovers on a tight budget would be the Stellenbosch Vineyards Unwooded 2018; this wine selling for R90 a bottle and placing among the top 10 with a rating of 94 
 There were also another three wines under R100 that each scored a straight 90, these being Durbanville Hills 2018 at R69 a bottle, Meerhof 2018 at R70 and Nederburg The Winemasters 2018 at R75 (prices are ex-cellar and as supplied by the producer at the time of tasting)

To read the full Chardonnay Report click on this link. https://winemag.co.za/prescient-chardonnay-report-2019/
The three judges are Roland Peens, Christian Eedes and James Pietersen
Then came the reveal of the top wines. This is a list of the wines that scored 90 points
Those that scored 91
And then the top wines were revealed, so we could taste them
Creation Reserve Chardonnay has always been a great example of Chardonnay from the cool Hemel and Aarde Valley
This is the 2018 vintage, made by owner /cellarmaster Jean-Claude Martin
Also scoring 93 is the Journey’s End 2018, made by Cellarmaster Leon Esterhuizen and winemaker Mike Dawson
It is clean, rounded and satisfying on the palate. The wood is present. From the Helderberg area, Somerset West
Simonsig 2017 also scored 93 and is full of lovely brioche notes, crisp and a fine minerality; very French in style
A versatile and enjoyable wine that turns you immediately to seek food
Made by Johan Malan and Charl Schoeman in Stellenbosch
Richard Kershaw’s 2018 Clonal Collection Chardonnay also scored 93
Fruit, lees, perfume and wood smoke on the nose. Intense lime, lemon and citrus flavours with minerality and richness
Definitely a wine to choose with food. A wine so carefully and intelligently made. From Elgin
Stellenrust 2018 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, made by Tertius Boshoff
It has a lees character on the nose; peach, apricot and nut hints too
Sparkling lime & lemon flavours with wood supporting; a refreshing Chardonnay, very drinkable
The Delaire Graff 2018 Banhoek Reserve, made by Morné Vrey, scored 94 points
Perfumed, elegant, it is a lovely rich and full Chardonnay, with crisp and long flavours that make its pairing with food imperative
From Stellenbosch
We have written about the Highlands Road 2017 Chardonnay, which scored 94, twice this week
and this third mention really makes this lovely rich golden wine with apple and peach come to the fore as something special
Made by talented winemaker Vanessa Simkiss, it should demand your attention. From Elgin
We are so pleased to see the Paul Cluver 2017 scoring 94; it has always been our favourite Chardonnay from that estate
Crisp, lean and exactly the crisp and elegant style of Chardonnay we love to drink
One that ages well too and goes so well with food. From Elgin
Stellenbosch Vineyards 2018 unwooded Chardonnay has lots of dark flavours we are told are the lees
It is the most affordable wine in the Top 10 line-up, selling for only R90 a bottle from the cellar door
And, finally, the top scoring wine. A well deserved 95 to De Grendel 2018 Op die Berg Chardonnay
Made by Cellarmaster Charles Hopkins in Durbanville from grapes grown on a Graaff family farm on the Ceres plateau,
this is golden perfection, with pears, greengage plums and citrus and light wood notes. So easy to enjoy
The winemakers with their certificates for the top 10 Chardonnays. Johan Malan, Simonsig; Abraham de Villiers, Stellenbosch Vineyards; Michael White, Highlands Road; Charles Hopkins, De Grendel; Tertius Boshoff, Stelllenrust; Mike Dawson, Journeys End; Richard Kershaw, Kershaw; Kallie Fernhout, Delaire Graff; Jean Claude Martin, Creation; Anne van Heerden, Paul Cluver
Some canapés were served. Tuna and pineapple on skewers in a sweet Asian sauce
very crisp bruschetta topped with onion and paté
and more bruschetta topped with tomato, olives, basil and a creamed cheese
Charles Hopkins, proud Cellarmaster at De Grendel 
Mike Dawson, winemaker at Journeys End, and National Sales Manager Janine Lategan with Jacqueline Lahoud
All content ©  John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

Saturday, October 19, 2019

This Week's MENU. Sommelliers Selection, Elgin Chardonnay, Veritas Awards, Speyside, Skye to Glasgow, Vichysoisse

A traditional lugger in full sail in the distance between Mallaig and Skye in Scotland

Here we go again. Paying in wasted hours for the years of corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and total lack of maintenance of our electricity generation system by the people who have pretended to run our country while lining their own pockets with the money which should have been used to make life work for our beautiful people. They call the power outages “load shedding” and they have cost us more than 6 working hours in the last two days

On  a more enjoyable note, there are three lovely wine experiences coming up this month. Wine Concepts’ “Finer Things in Life” Bubbles and Boas themed Champagne Festival at the Vineyard Hotel, Wade Bales Cap Classique & Gin Affair (#BubblyGinAffair) with more than 50 MCCs and 70 craft gins at Grand Africa Café & Beach in the V&A Waterfront and Caroline’s White Wine Review at the Table Bay Hotel, which will give you the opportunity of tasting Caroline Rillema’s choice of the best white wines made in South Africa. Click on the event names above to see booking details

We were invited to attend the Sommeliers Selection wine awards last week at 11 am and we drove through to Franschhoek, making sure that we would be on time. As we arrived, we discovered that the award ceremony had already taken place and many of the winners were leaving. So our story is very short. We asked why we had not been invited to the ceremony and were told that they have been told by other media that it is boring! ...

This year's Veritas Wine Awards dinner was held in the Ballroom at the Cape Town International Convention Centre last Friday night and was a huge success. The format worked so well, the awards went quickly and smoothly, the food was really excellent this year and the entertainment was rather special. It is a black tie event and people really had dressed beautifully…

It is well known in wine circles that Chardonnay grows better in South Africa's cool climate areas; the flavours are more complex and interesting, the wines more long lasting and commercially they command better prices. There are two such areas, Elgin and the Hemel and Aarde Valley who have both done in depth seminars to examine, explore and compare their wines. This time it was the turn of Elgin and we were very pleased to be invited to take part in the Chardonnay Colloquium last weekend, which was also being celebrated as the Blossom weekend…

While we were in Elgin for the Chardonnay Colloquium and the Elgin Blossom Weekend, Cath Boome, the Executive Head of Elgin Grabouw Tourism had kindly organised for us to stay over at Galileo Farm in one of their cottages. The orchards on the farm were in full blossom, both pear and apple. We were given use of Lemon Cottage…

No one deserves to get ill while on holiday, sadly we find that we invariably pick up something on the plane and the flu that John caught early on then made us both rather ill. So ill that we both spent a Sunday in bed at the Inn at Rothes, such a waste. Dinner downstairs that night, when we emerged, was a simple pea and barley soup, all Lynne could manage…

The next stage of our expedition was to Rhu (also known as Helensburgh on the Clyde), one of Scotland's top 10 seaside resorts. We were to travel via Oban at the express instruction and advice from several people both in SA and in the UK who said "we must NOT miss it". So we didn't. Oban is a small seaside resort with a perfect horseshoe bay, which grew up around the distillery and made famous by Sir Walter Scott in his poem The Lord of the Isles…

We have tasted so many really good wines this week and as MENU is going out so late because of all the power cuts, we can only recommend you to any of the 2017 Elgin Chardonnays we tasted, they are all worthy of praise and purchase

An old favourite, perfect for our current on and off Spring weather as you can serve this hot or cold.  We can no longer get watercress in this country as it has become a notifiable alien.  Lynne suggests you might try using wild rocket instead, it would give that nice peppery hit…

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MENU’s Wine of the Week. An Elgin Chardonnay

We have tasted so many really good wines this week and as we are going out so late because of all the power cuts, we can only recommend you to any of the 2017 Elgin Chardonnays we tasted, they are all worthy of praise and purchase

On the MENU this week Vichyssoise Soup

An old favourite, perfect for our current on and off Spring weather as you can serve this hot or cold.  We can no longer get watercress in this country as it has become a modifiable alien.  Lynne suggests you might try using wild rocket instead, it would give that nice peppery hit

3 medium leeks, finely sliced - 1 medium onion, finely sliced - 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced - 60g butter - 1 litre of good chicken stock - 125 ml cream - 125g chopped watercress or peppery wild rocket - salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fry the leeks and onion slowly in the butter till transparent. Add the potatoes and the stock and season.  Simmer until the potatoes are cooked.  Liquidise or pass through a sieve.  Add the cream and adjust seasoning. You can serve hot but it is much better served cold.  Stir in the watercress or chopped chives just before serving

Serve with crisp croutons and a good chilled Chardonnay

Elgin Blossom Weekend. Galileo Farm, Highlands Road Estate

While we were in Elgin for the Chardonnay Colloquium and the Elgin Blossom Weekend, Cath Boome,
the Executive Head of Elgin Grabouw Tourism had kindly organised for us to stay over at Galileo Farm in one of their cottages
The orchards on the farm were in full blossom, both pear and apple
We were given Lemon Cottage for the night
A huge, very comfortable room with an enormous bed, a separate bathroom and a small self catering area; with a table to eat or work at and good WiFi. Good linen, a comfortable bed and it was nice and warm despite Elgin being a little chilly at night
The bathroom also has a large walk in shower
To book, contact Lisa Beaumont at bookings@galileofarm.co.za
We got up after a good sleep and went through to the Elgin Railway Market to buy some of their good vegetables and we also popped in to the Peregrine Farm Stall to buy some of their famous Venison pies for our freezer and for dinner later that week
The market cat is tiny and very, very sweet. She loves gentle strokes and didn’t mind at all the buzzing beehive exhibit
which was being demonstrated behind her
Then to Highlands Road, where winemaker Vanessa Simkiss had invited us to visit and taste some of her award winning wines
We loved the Chardonnay when we tasted it at the Colloquium the previous day
It has won many awards and gained two major ones this week - Veritas double gold and top 10 at the Prescient awards
The Sine Cera blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is one of our best blends, one to buy, treasure and drink with special food
which it so enhances. Crisp and green with herbaceous notes, full of citrus fruit and lanolin mouthfeel, a classy wine
Owner Michael White was there and we chatted with him and Jacqueline Lahoud
Lynne learning about the wine and the winemaker
The Semillon is dusty, grassy with loquats and yellow fruit on the nose and very elegant, generous on the palate
with limes, lemon, crisp but not acidic, another major food wine
The enjoyable 2014 Pinot Noir has a very pretty nose with raspberry and strawberry, incense wood
In the style of Gevrey Chambertin on the palate, delicate initially then it opens out
with sweet raspberry fruit and lots of depth and length; you cannot put this glass down
For the Blossom Weekend, Vanessa was cooking stir fried Calamari and large prawns in the Skottel Braai
She uses a prego sauce and is a dab hand at this
Very skilled and they were delicious
We shared a bowl and got nice and involved and covered in sauce. It went so well with the 2015 Shiraz with incense wood and lovely spicy red berry fruit with notes of amaretto. A blend of dark black and morello cherry fruit and black pepper on the end
A view over the Highlands Road dam
Nymphoides thunbergiana, Small Yellow Waterlily, Geelwaterlelie, not really a true waterlily,
but prolific and good for small or large areas of water
Other guests arriving for a tasting and some lunch
They had pre-ordered this superb meat and cheese platter with pickles, chutney, fruit, olives and peppers
So relaxing to sit outside and taste the wines and soak in a Sunday in the sun. Thank you Highlands Road