Originally published in winemag.co.za.

The first Cape winery to offer a wine made solely from cabernet franc was Landskroon, it seems, with a 1983. The grape had been grown in a small way through much of the 20th century and became much more important from the 1980s, with the rise of the Bordeaux-style red blend where it is a widely used component of greater or lesser significance. A few other producers joined Landskroon with varietal versions, but even by the end of the century there were fewer than ten made. Expansion since then has been pretty spectacular, and the current Platter’s Guide lists something over 70 cab franc wines, reflecting the grape’s success in a range of conditions. In terms of hectares planted, the variety is still under one percent of the total, but this is double what it was at the turn of the century.

In France, there’s little Bordeaux made solely from cab franc (it contributes about 50% to famous Château Cheval Blanc), where, as in South Africa, it’s overshadowed by its progeny, cabernet sauvignon (sauvignon blanc is the other parent). But in parts of the Loire Valley it’s a different story, and in that cooler zone it tends to make a relatively light, earlier-maturing, more modestly oaked, fresher varietal wine than red Bordeaux – a style increasingly appreciated as the wine-drinking world thinks again about heavier, grander styles.

LVL
Lukas van Loggerenberg of Van Loggerenberg Wines.

That turn is happening in South Africa too, including with cab franc, and the shift was the focus of a tasting organised in Cape Town by sommelier and general wine-man Higgo Jacobs for SASA, the Somelliers Association of South Africa – sommeliers tend to love the lighter, fresher style of reds, for their great compatibility with food. Higgo worked with the notably well-informed Lukas van Loggerenberg in compiling the tasting – Lukas is the Cape’s great champion of what we could call Loire-style cab francs, and his Breton (named for a Loire synonym for the grape) has received much acclaim in the few years that it’s been made.

At the tasting, held at the Test Kitchen, we blind-tasted four flights of three wines, one in each flight being a foreigner. The first, Domaine de la Semellerie 2016 from Chinon on the Loire set the tone: a fairly simple, but beguiling wine, with red, raspberry-toned fruit, a leafy, herbal element – common in cab franc and part of its freshness – and a modest but informing tannic structure. It was not hard, in fact, to pick out the two locals in this flight – a little more extracted and ripely sweet-fruited: De Kleine Wijn Koop Knapse Kerel 2016 (herbal & floral notes predominating and quite fresh), and Waterkloof Circumstance Cabernet Franc 2015 (bigger, very grippy, darker cherry fruit, some meatiness).

The Van Loggerenberg Breton was in the next flight, following a very good Loire: Domaine Des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny La Marginale 2013. Incidentally, this wine confirmed a point that Higgo had made – that Loire wines are not by any means always light and modest; many are getting riper and more powerful. What they do have to offer generally, however, is an acidity that complements riper fruit and allows the wine to retain freshness and elegance. Breton 2017 also fitted well into this pattern, however, more than any other local cab franc, being floral, a touch leafy, and fresh, refined and light – just a little sweetness hinting at its Stellenbosch origins. It deserves time in bottle. Hannay Cabernet Franc 2016, from Elgin, was appealing but more awkward, bigger, bolder and more extracted, with a little new oak showing.

It was starting to emerge more clearly what we should be looking for in this lighter style of cab franc: as Lukas suggested, a balance of the herbal, pyrazene note with ripeness of mostly red fruit. A purity of fruit, of course, unmuddied by excessive oak; finesse, definition and texture. These are the qualities that endear this style to sommeliers, as it does go refreshingly well with a range of foods.

The first of the two locals in the next flight was from the producer probably most associated with the variety in the Cape, Raats. The Dolomite 2016 was very fine, arguably more Bordeaux-like in structure, with plenty of tannin and power. The same applies to Eikendal’s Infused by Earth 2017 – also very youthful (some toasty oak evident), needing time for the tannins to integrate.

And then a few more yet-to-be-released Cape wines: Hermanuspietersfontein Swartskaap 2016: rich and fruity, deep, dry and serious, but fresh and pure. Gabriëlskloof Landscape Series Cab Franc 2017 is, to my palate, the best of the three that Peter-Allan Finlayson has bottled; it’s classically leafy (despite its ripeness and 14.2% alcohol), with a velvet, finely textured softness over a firm structure.

The tasting finished with a Chilean wine that came as a bit of a surprise even to Higgo, to whom it had been warmly recommended: Garage Wine Co Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015. Very plush, fruity and showy, though well structured; about as far as one could get from the unpretentious charm of the Chinon, the first wine of the tasting. In that sense it served to remind us again that it’s not easy or even desirable to make generalisations about cab franc: it’s a grape variety and not a brand. The great thing in South Africa now is that with the Van Loggerenberg Breton we’ve got a benchmark of a style that hadn’t been seen and tasted here. Already it seems to be having an effect, encouraging more restraint and lightness in other cab francs. As for terroir – well, we must watch and taste and see where cab franc will do well, do best. I’ll venture just one guess: it won’t be the Swartland.

~Tim James

  • Tim James is one of South Africa’s leading wine commentators, contributing to various local and international wine publications. He is a taster (and associate editor) for Platter’s. His book Wines of South Africa – Tradition and Revolution appeared in 2013.

Chairman’s Speech – L’Avenir Gala Dinner

Rootstock Session Gala Dinner Speach

In an article published in Business Day and Winemag online platforms in February this year Michael Fridjon asks the question: “Is the SA Sommelier movement losing momentum?”

Michael actually follows on with content in the article that compliments individual and industry efforts and takes a welcome and justified stab (and not for the first time) at distributorcontrolled wine lists, loss of creativity through listing fees and restaurant owners unwillingness to hand the control of their wine programs over to educated, well imbursed wine professionals; I.E. Sommeliers.

We are grateful when someone of Michael’s calibre brings our profession to his audience, and I personally thought that the article mostly had valid points.

But that question in the title line caught my (and I’m sure many others’) attention.

I believe that the answer to this question is NO

If SASA was a wine, it would be like a very young Chenin made from young vines. It’s planted in a promising site and it’s being received well by the industry, but it’s still getting used to its environment, trying to get its roots in deeper (in sometimes hostile soils), and therefore hasn’t reached its full potential.

We have achieved lots in recent years. I would like to share some of these successes:

Our SASA courses are now well established, offering mentorship and certification for sommeliers and wine stewards across 3 different levels. Two recognised academies in the form of SOMM and the Sommelier Academy are licenced to offer SASA courses to students. Made possible by funding from the NDT, the Sommelier Academy has embarked on a project to train and qualify 300 junior sommeliers over the next 3 years.

We are now a full member of the Association de La Sommelier International (ASI). This allows us to compete on the international stage and also offer internationally recognised sommelier certification in SA. I am on a sub-committee of the ASI. We are working towards establishing a regional African chapter in the ASI, and we are shortlisted to host a large ASI event in Cape Town in the nearby future.

We have recently staged 2 very successful competitions for young sommeliers working in SA. The Moët & Chandon / SASA Best Young Sommelier of South Africa (won by Wikus Human, who will compete in SA’s Best Sommelier competition this year); and the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards (won by Joakim Blackadder who is off to Beijing to compete with other winners). Both these competitions are confirmed to continue in the future.

In September this year, we will stage the Best Sommelier of South Africa competition for the second time. The winner will represent us in Antwerp next year in the world championships. Most will recall our success with Gareth Ferreira’s performance at the previous showing in 2016.

We will once again be involved at Cape Wine, including an exciting official calendar event in collaboration with the Chenin Blanc association.

We now employ 2 part time people devoted to driving SASA’s goals and tasks

A PR company to drive further awareness of the association and increase membership has been hired

We are already seeing an increase in membership, also with the help of an improved new website. Watch this space for more interactive online improvements and payment portal

And, of course, our well attended monthly tastings offer education and networking for our

growing membership base

If you had told the founding members back in 2010 when this thing started around a dinner table in Neil Grant’s house that the sommelier fraternity would have achieved all of this in 8 years, I don’t think any of us would have betted on that as an outcome. We didn’t set up for failure of course, but we just wanted to get something going as a platform.

The SASA Board members are custodians of this organisation. Not owners. Not beneficiaries. It is a member driven organisation. I am the only founding member still remaining on the board after 8 years. This shows that SASA gets in new energy and direction on a regular basis. Some of the founding members and previous board members are here tonight.

At some point they may come back to the board and at some point we will entirely hand over this custodianship to the next generation of SA sommeliers. Such is the workings of an NPO and a democratic organisation. It is a group effort.

You can all be very proud of your organisation. I certainly am.

I would like to, once again, encourage all members of all membership types to get involved, make suggestions, make yourselves available, and keep us moving forward.

Thank you to all our sponsors for tonight:

L’Avenir, Stir Food, Gavin Withers Photography, Stellies Beer, Geometric Gin, DowningsandDurr Bottling

Thank you to the wine producers for the wonderful wines sponsored for tonight:

Almenkerk, De Wetshof, Klein Constantia, KWV,Nederburg,Negrar,Vilafonte,Wine Cellar (Drappier),L’Ormarins, Bouchard Finlayson, Creation, Fable andMulderbosch

Thank you to SASA Vice-President, David Clark

Thank you to Event Organiser, Elsa Fourie

Notes to editor: SASA (or the South African Sommelier Association) is an organisation established in 2011 as a not for profit organisation with the goal to further the profession of sommeliers, set standards for excellence in the service of wine and other beverages in the South African hospitality industry, promote the professional interests of our members, and to be a platform for a fraternity of sommeliers to interact with each other and connect with international somms.

We are a membership driven organisation. We do not receive grants from government or from any other industry bodies. We do not receive any corporate sponsorships other than the membership fees for businesses, which is a fixed annual rate for all. We hold bi-annual AGM’s where we elect the executive, or board members from our membership base. The board (including the chairpersons) do not receive any remuneration for our efforts and time put in. We do invoice for services rendered when we stage events / organise competitions / teach courses. This is usually well below industry related rates.

~ Higgo Jacobs

Gaggenau South Africa Announces Sommelier Finalists

Johannesburg – Gaggenau South Africa has announced the five finalists who
will be competing in the first-ever South African Gaggenau Sommelier
Awards on 23 and 24 May in Cape Town.

After receiving CVs, and completed questionnaires, from aspiring sommeliers
from across the country, Gaggenau, in association with South African
Sommeliers Association (SASA), have selected their top five successful
finalists.

The young sommeliers in the finals are Juliet Urquhart, Wikus Human, James
Mukosi, Pardon Taguzu and Joakim Hansi Blackadder.

These talented wine professionals will take part in the two-day competition,
which takes place at the Gaggenau Showroom, in the Cape Town BSH
Experience Centre. Their skills and knowledge will be pushed to the limit, in the search for the winning young sommelier.

“We are incredibly excited to host South Africa’s first Gaggenau Sommelier
Awards. A celebration of the discipline, art, passion and appreciation of wine
and wine making, this competition is an opportunity to not only promote the
skills of young sommeliers locally, but to give them the opportunity to represent South Africa on an international level,” says Elizabete Nelson, Gaggenau Communications Manager in South Africa.

The Prize

The winner of this year’s Gaggenau South Africa Sommelier competition will
automatically qualify for the International Gaggenau Sommelier Awards that will take place in Beijing, China later this year. Here, the winner will compete against multi-talented sommeliers from around the globe and show off their wine mastery and erudition.

Astute industry leaders, including Higgo Jacobs, Abigail Donnelly, Michael
Crossley and Jean-Pierre Rossouw, will panel the judging for this year’s local
competition.

 

Zimbabwean born James Mukosi is a self-motivated, devoted sommelier who
has been making waves in the restaurant industry in South Africa. He is
currently the Assistant Sommelier at Rust en Vrede Restaurant in Stellenbosch.

 

 

 

Joakim Hansi Blackadder was born and raised in Sweden, where he also
started his sommelier studies and career. He moved to South Africa in 2008 and is currently one of the Managing Partners for Somm Hospitality Enterprises in Stellenbosch.

 

 

 

Juliet Urquhart is currently the Beverage Manager and Sommelier at the Royal
Portfolio Silo Hotel and, since 2008, has lived out her passion at some of South Africa’s most acclaimed hotels and restaurants.

 

 

 

 

Pardon Taguzu is currently a Sommelier at Aubergine Restaurant and Auslese
Function Venue in Cape Town. He is a passionate and dedicated young
sommelier who has been honing his craft since 2015.

 

 

 

 

Wikus Human is currently living his passion as a Sommelier at David Higgs’
acclaimed Marble Restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg. This young
sommelier has been continuously striving to sharpen his knowledge and skills
since 2013.

Gaggenau South Africa Announces First Sommelier Awards To Take Place In May

Gaggenau South Africa announced today that it will hold its first Sommelier Awards for young professionals of the industry during May 2018.

The Prize

The winner of this year’s Gaggenau South Africa Sommelier Awards will automatically qualify for the International Gaggenau Sommelier Awards that will take place in Beijing, China during Autumn of 2018. Here, the winner will compete against multi-talented sommeliers from around the globe and show off their masteries and erudition in front of world renowned viniculturists and international press. “Gaggenau is proud to support the South African wine industry by offering young Sommeliers the opportunity to not only promote their skills locally but by also offering the winner a platform to showcase their talents and represent South Africa on an international level,” says Elizabete Nelson, Gaggenau Communications Manager South Africa.

The international Gaggenau Sommelier Awards were launched in 2014 to offer an insight into the future of wine culture, by recognising and promoting highly talented sommelier newcomers. Astute industry leaders that will panel the judging for this year’s local competition include Higgo Jacobs, Abigail Donnelly, Michael Crossley and Jean-Pierre Rossouw. Nelson further comments that, “If you want to be the best you have to be judged and mentored by the best. So, not only will contestants meet these captains of industry (the judges) during their journey, but we have also partnered with one of South Africa’s top restaurants, The Test Kitchen to host an element of the competition.”

The Process

Gaggenau in association with SASA (South African Sommeliers Association) will select five candidates to participate in the South African Gaggenau Sommelier Awards that will take place at the Gaggenau Showroom in the Cape Town BSH Experience Centre. All interested applicants between the ages of 25 and 35 can download the first-round question paper on the SASA website at http://www.sommeliers.org.za/gaggenau and submit their completed questionnaires, current CV and portrait photo to Elizabete.Nelson@bshg.com.

The application submission deadline is Friday, 23 March.

Nebbiolo Tasting

Originally published on somm.co.za

It’s two months on as I sit down today and re look my last tasting, “Nebbiolo from Around the World”. If lasting impressions where what we judge wines on then it must have been epic. Scanning over the list of wines tasted I can remember almost every tasting note without the need to refer to my dog eared, wine stained, Moleskine notebook.

It all started about two years ago in Barolo. The heat is the first thing that hits as you leave the sanctuary of the air conditioned bus. Stifling, sticky. That unmistakable tension in the air as the humidity builds, minute by minute and the pressure rises to the point where the air feels thick around you as the whole town seemingly holds its breath, waiting for the relief of the thunderstorm now imminently clear in the ominous blanket of black cloud rolling in from the East.

I thought this was a moderate climate… No textbook prepares you for this. The Oxford never mentioned the deafening hum of cicada’s, the crushing heat. Hugh Johnson failed to fully articulate the sheer mind numbing plethora of aspects. No topographical map truly manages to capture the mind bending complexity of micro patchwork of vineyards wrapped around a thousand little hills, crammed into this tiny area with world renowned vineyards vying for space with – and hugging, historical buildings. Intersected by a random cris cross of roads, skimming the sides of dark green foliage.

The short walk from via Roma to Barolo castle leaves a lasting impression. The excited banter falls silent, each person trying very hard not to be the first to start panting like an asthmatic chain smoker. Laboured movements are carefully calculated to avoid or delay the inevitable profuse sweating that is sure to follow. The final steps to the castle are done with embarrassing effort of hand to knee, catch breath, stop, try again.

Barolo is hot, it is steep, it’s infinitely varied and it is breathtakingly beautiful.

We started that morning by tasting over twenty Barolos, to young to drink, unapproachable in their youth and we loved all of them.

It took a long time, lots of planning and the help of many people to finally put together a little slice of Barolo, a glimpse into what the region has to offer.

Here follows a brief snapshot into our presentation of Nebbiolo wines, hosted in Stellenbosch and repeated in Johannesburg with wines from the Langhe all the way to Cape Point.

  1. Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco 2013 (R240, Vinotria)

 

The first wine of the day sets the bar very high. Affectionately called their baby Barolo the Perbacco comes exclusively from vines in the Barolo commune although de classified from the DOCG and treated to shorter aging, some in small barrique, this is a rare example of a top quality wine from the region with entry level price tag. This wine can easily be enjoyed in its youth but will equally reward with a few years cellar ageing. Textbook Barolo aromas with approachable tannin, good structure and long finish of sweet black fruit.

 

  1. Arcangeli Romulus Nebbiolo 2016 (R155, Arcangeli Wines)

 

Coming in on a hard act to follow the Arcangeli Romulus is produced by renowned winemaker Krige Visser from 10 year old Michet vines planted in Rawsonville for Sandro Arcangeli, first generation Italian, currently calling South Africa home and wanting a wine in the portfolio that harks back to their Italian Heritage. The wine is immediately upfront in its fruit, unmistakably new world. Candifloss and rose geranium with a hint of cherry and liquorice. The palate is soft, almost plump in comparison to the previous wine but with good concentration and a long pleasant finish of bright red fruit.

It’s definitely not Barolo or Barbaresco, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  1. Enrico Serafino Roero 2013 (R160, Vinotria)

A modest one year in large format barrels and six months in bottle before release creates a classic example from the Sandy soils  North of the Tanaro. Vibrant, upfront, juicy, bright red fruit. None of the characteristic earthy flavours of its Northern cousens, backed up with zippy acid structure, juicy tannins and an abundance of bright red fruit. This is the epitome of everyday food wine.

  1. Enrico Serafino Barbaresco 2010 (R330, Vinotria)

Restraint on the nose with just a hint violets, wild herbs and black fruit. Its Barbaresco heritage becomes glaringly evident on the palate with biting acidity, hard-, unyielding tannin and a tantalizing promise of future rewards in the long dry finish of black fruit with a herbal edge. This is not wine to be drunk in its youth and will best reward those with patience, a large glass and time to savour its delicacy on its own.

  1. Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2013 (R470, winecellar.co.za)

Laden with history dating back to the Cantine Sociali, disbanded under fascist rule before being reunited by the church. Produttori del Barbaresco flies in the face of convention and stereotypical bulk cooperative winemaking with one of the most classic examples of Barbaresco money can buy. Fifty one independent growers, painstakingly caring for family plots passed on from one generation to the next gives Produttori del Barbaresco access to over 100 ha of vines scattered over the Piedmont landscape.

A delicate dusty perfume greets you on the nose with just the faintest hint of deep black fruit in the background. The pallet is hard and tannic but the endless mouthwatering finish of dark black fruit, spice and perfume gives some indication of the future of a wine that should definitely not be drunk now and which will reward over a decade or more of careful cellaring.

 

 

  1. Fontanafredda Barbaresco Coste Rubin 2013 (R476, Vino.co.za)

Although lately more marketing than fact, the conversation about classic vs modern styles of Nebbiolo has to a large extent defined Piedmont. Here, side by side, is perhaps one of the best examples of that. While the previous two wines were hard and unyielding the Fontanafredda is soft and approachable without losing the DNA that makes it Barbaresco.

Ripe plum and blueberry aromas vie for attention alongside violets, liquorice and tobacco. While ripe black fruit balance out the characteristic bracing acidity leading to a pleasantly long, slightly herbal finish. This wine can be drunk now, long before others in its category might reveal themselves fully but will still benefit from up to five years of careful ageing

  1. Fontanafredda Vigna La Rosa 2011 (R836, Vino.co.za)

The fist of the Barolos for the evening and it does not disappoint. The tasting note for this wine could have come straight from a WSET textbook. Medium intensity garnet in colour with that unmistakable orange tinge to the rim. The wine is neither reserved nor upfront but rather poised and brooding with dark fruits of bramble & blackberry, herbal notes of liquorice, aniseed & wild brush. Aromatic perfume of roses, candied orange rind & violets and that tell tale sign of great Barolo… Savoury earthy nuances of freshly tilled earth, tobacco and tar.

 

The wine is markedly more full bodied with less noticeable acid than the Barbarescos and the tannin, although it completely dominates the experience on the palate, lacks that hard edge of the former. The flavour descriptors might also look the same as that of its cousin but it clearly leans more towards dark fruit with less perfume and more savoury earthy character.

This is an outstanding wine that can be drunk now but will very much benefit from up to 10 years of careful cellaring. If you can’t wait that long serve it with rich dishes to absorb the acidity which are either high in starch or protein to balance out that tannin structure and ideally with a savoury, umami flavour profile.

  1. Morgenster Nabucco 2011 (R270, Morgenster Wine Estate)
  2. Morgenster Nabucco 2013 (R270, Morgenster Wine Estate)

Owned by Giulio Bertrand, born and bred in Piedmont Italy, with consultation from the renowned Pierre Lurton of Chateau Cheval Blanc and cared for by Henry Kotzé, Morgenster wine Estate, nestled on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains, have quietly been producing world class Nebbiolo without enough of us noticing.

The 2011 is more upfront on the nose with dark fruit, earth and showing the first signs of tertiary development. While the 2013 is almost Barolo like in its poise and restraint with classic aromas of blackberry, wild herbs, roses, tobacco and tar.

Both these wines have the audience scratching their heids. In a blind tasting it’s genuinely hard to tell… Are they from Piedmont?

With high acid, high tannin and a classic Barolo like flavour profile, only a palate trained in the region or an audience with the benefit of having a world class Barolo in the glass in front of them to compare could spot the subtle nuances that make these wines new world. The acid is less biting. The tannin is somehow more yet simultaneously less aggressive. The fruit is more dominant, there is more herbal character and less perfume, but do not mistake this for a lessor wine. Having tasted every vintage of this wine since its release, the 2011 has the feeling of a wine getting into its stride, perhaps the vineyards maturing or the team learning how to coax the best out of them. But while the 2011 is drinking well now, the 2013 is the one to look out for. Although it might not age like a Barolo this is a very good wine that will reward best with another five years of cellar ageing.

  1. Steenberg Nebbiolo 2015 (R180, Steenberg Vineyards)

One of the best known Nebbiolos in South Africa this wine seemed least at home of all the wines in this lineup. Although objectively still a very good wine it is similar to but lacks some of the hallmarks of classic Nebbiolo.

The fruit is much more upfront and red fruit driven with cherry and raspberry but the perfume is what really dominates the nose with aromatic rose geranium. The palate is richer and softer than the previous wines and the dry herbal, tannic finish that had dominated the flight is replaced by a soft juicy finish of red fruit with just a hint if phenolics.

This is a very good wine, concentrated, complex and well balanced but does not shout Nebbiolo, old world or new.

  1. Enrico Serafino Barolo 2012 (R470, Vinotria)
  2. Fontanafredda Barolo Silver Label 2012 (R476, Vino.co.za)

Our last two wines from Piedmont was chosen to be served side by by side to see if the group picked up much, if any, differences in the two wines, both produced from grapes sourced all over the region, aged for two years in large format casks, a further year in barrel and sold for roughly the same price.

On comparison the Enrico Serafino is somewhat more expressive with darker fruit, earth and vanilla undertones while the Fontanafredda is more herbal, spicy and red fruit driven with liquorice and raspberry. On the palate they are near as makes no difference with perhaps a touch more austerity from the Fontanafredda.

In conclusion these are two great wines from the region that are complex, concentrated, show typicity and all at prices that don’t require an increase on your credit limit. Buy both, drink the Enrico tomorrow with a creamy mushroom risotto and save the Fontanafredda for another twelve months before serving with some rosemary roasted lamb ribs.

  1. Idiom 900 Series Nebbiolo 2012 (R290, Idiom Wines)
  2. Idiom 900 Series Nebbiolo 2008 (R290, Idiom Wines)

Owned by Italian import Alberto Bottega and managed by his homegrown son Roberto, the last two wines in our flight, the Idiom 900 series Nebbiolos by Bottega Family Vineyards, is another that harks back to a family’s Italian heritage.

Named after the fact that only the best three barrels, 900 bottles, are selected to craft the wines in this range, these are big bold expressions of Nebbiolo. The colour on both wines are dark garnet with just a hint of orange in the rim. Upfront aromas of dark, brooding, ripe black fruit including mulberries and blackberries give way to spicy notes of liquorice & fynbos before earthy primary characters seamlessly blend with tertiary character of  tar, earth, wet soil and sun dried tomatoes. There is much more oak in these wines than in most of the previous examples but it feels seamlessly integrated with the ripe dark fruit.

 

Side by side the 2012 shows slightly more brightness of fruit while the 2008 is more brooding, riper and obviously, due to age, more tertiary. Although rich and full bodied both wines retain their Nebbiolo DNA with bracing acidity and hard tannin.

These are very unique new world expressions although great wines in their own right and unmistakably Nebbiolo.

For those who want to enjoy world class wines that show elegance and poise, driven by savoury nuances rather than primary fruit. For those who enjoy wines with structure which aren’t afraid of tannin. For fine wine appreciators who no longer wish to pay the outlandish prices of even an ordinary bottle of Burgundy; Nebbiolo, even Barolo and Barbaresco, still offer some rare gems at prices that don’t necessitate the sale of a firstborn. But act now, there is a storm brewing.

Before you all rush of and while you’re still contemplating what excuse you will use to justify to your better half why you had to buy six bottles of the same grape variety I just wanted to extend a quick thank you to Esmé Groenewald for all the logistics in making this tasting happen, printing tasting sheets 30 minutes before the event was due to start, polishing glasses, collecting wine and making sure everything got to Joburg. To The Saxon Hotel in Sandton for hosting our Johnnesburg tasting and thanks to all the producers who sponsored their wines and their time to answer my questions and to Collisioni for keeping my passion alive for this region. Especially to Franchesca and the whole Vajra family for making us run around the vineyards in Piedmont, in the middle of summer completely over dressed for the occasion, supplying me with slideshows to prepare and for the wine that I unfortunately could not include in the tasting because it had to be done twice but which was very much enjoyed over dinner afterwards. Thanks.

Now you may go buy your wine.

 

At What Age is Wine at It’s Best

Drinking Perfectly. At What Age is Wine at It’s Best: Tasting Follow Up

Tuesday 15th August

Bocca Restaurant

Wines:

Diemersdal Sauvignon blanc 2015,2016,2017

Vondeling Babiana ,2010,2012,2015

Eagles nest Shiraz,2009,2012,2015

Delaire Botmanskop 2010, 2012,2015

The Idea of the tasting was to establish at what age a wine would drink optimally. Granted there are various external factors such as storage to consider. However, in broad strokes, keeping as many factors within our control equal, we would attempt to see the influence time would have on the wines and if indeed as it is often described, does wine get better with age.

The wines were all supplied and in some instances generously donated from the respective farms vinotechs. All the wines were served in the same glasses and at the same temperature.

The wines selected were all highly acclaimed and well reputed examples. Indeed, there were 5 5 star platter wines in the line-up.

The wines were poured in four flights, different vintages in each glass. The panel were aware of the wines and the various vintages in the flight, they were however unaware of which vintage was in each glass. They were tasked with righting a note, scoring them and arranging them in order, from their favourites to their least favourites. At the end of the tasting the vintages were revealed and rather surprising results ensued.

From the sauvignon flight the unanimous favourite was the 2017, followed by the 2016 and then the 2015

From the Babianna flight the unanimous favourite was the 2012, followed by the 2010 and then the 2015

From the Shiraz flight the favourite was the 2012 followed by the 2009 and the 2015. This was a slightly obscured result as the 2015 had just been bottled. Nonetheless it was a fantastic opportunity to taste the wine at such an early stage in its development. It was the general feeling by all that it will turn out to be an outstanding wine.

From the Botmanskop flight the favourite was the 2010 followed by the 2012 and the 2015

The results were very interesting, certainly the preference with sauvignon was to drink it young.

The result from the white showed that the development in the older wines was greatly appreciated, though the 2010 might have been slightly just passed its best

The result from the reds also varied, though unanimously the youngest wines scored the least. The older 2009 shiraz lost out only slightly to the still youthful 2012. Though it was a close-run thing. Would perhaps go as far as saying on a different day the results could have been reversed.

It was unanimous with the Botmanskop that it improved with age which is very much in line with conventional thinking with respect Bordeaux style wines.

The Sommelier profession comes of age in South Africa

In a recent piece from the respected pen of Michael Fridjhon (see article below) he makes mention of the considerable strides made by the likes of SASA member Gareth Ferreira in the international competitive arena. We are immensely proud of Gareth’s achievements, but it is also important to note that these opportunities are a result of the work that SASA does locally as an organisation. We are increasingly providing a platform for young sommeliers to train and qualify here, with the chance for those rising above their peers to compete internationally and thus launch their careers. In the same sense Gareth has trained under Francis Krone at the Saxon in the early part of his career. Francis was a founding member of SASA and Gareth himself has served on the SASA board in 2014.
Also important to mention that our profession is maturing in South Africa, allowing for more specialization opportunities. While some of us are currently well prepared for competition or exam pressures, others may be more advanced in tasting or teaching, or specifically suited to the customer interaction within their specific establishment. As both our hospitality and wine industries develop, the opportunities for sommeliers to apply themselves professionally arise in varied branches of the industry.
Perhaps the most interesting question raised by Mr Fridjhon is that of whether local restaurants are getting on board to offer appropriate remuneration for professional sommeliers, or will we lose the talent to other sectors of the industry, or even to other countries.

-Higgo Jacobs

Enthusiastic wine waiters get a taste for knowledge

First published in Business Day on 28 April 2017
By Michael Fridjhon

Until quite recently the culinary world was not considered a desirable career choice at top-end South African schools. When I was at school it would never have made its way onto our guidance teacher’s C List. If you knew you weren’t cut out for an academic matric, you either gravitated to Woodwork/Metalwork or else you tiptoed quietly away for a cram-college matric, followed probably by a B.Com and a world of risk and riches. More or less the same views prevailed at our sister school, where the girls with academic prospects avoided Domestic Science with the same dedication we put into keeping out of the Industrial Arts class.

Fast forward a couple of decades – and even before Masterchef transformed fast-food freaks into food voyeurs, the world of hospitality had become an acceptable career choice for the children of the gentry. The UK set the trend, where smartly brought-up debutante-types did cordon bleu courses to secure cooking slots at the City’s executive dining rooms. Gastro-pubs took on gap-year students who emerged from the experience ready to go into hotel management, cooking and wine service. Suddenly being a sommelier was potentially as respectable as a position at a long-established wine merchant – not the same thing as a Bonfire-of-the-Vanities job in the banking sector, but much more fun.

South Africa has been slow to follow the lead, though Cape Town with its wealth of restaurants surviving off the Euro-Dollar-Sterling trade appears to have filled its front-of-house positions with private school accents. Sooner or later someone was going to say  “it’s no longer acceptable to have a wine waiter, let’s find us some sommeliers.” At first this was simply a linguistic sleight of hand: jumped up wine stewards with gold-plated lapel badges in the form of bunches of grapes to denote some special expertise in getting the punters to part with more money for the same-old, same-old wines. But then a strange thing happened – the wine waiters were bitten by the wine bug and they got together, formed an association, connected with international sommelier associations and started the long and arduous process of becoming real sommeliers.

Make no mistake, there’s a world of difference between wine waitering and what is required of a specialist. Gareth Ferreira, who hails from Johannesburg and began his career at the Saxon before continuing it abroad, is living proof of the requisite upgrade. Last year he finished 15th in the World Sommelier Championships – an achievement which sets him way ahead of anyone else who has ever come into the profession from South Africa. However, he still has to pass his Master Sommelier exam. In anticipation of the obscure information he will need to have at his fingertips, he walks around with an app he has pre-loaded with 4000 arcane questions against which to test himself. These include details about hitherto unknown appellations in Spanish Basque country, and the name – in the local dialect – of the major grape varieties. That this information is likely never to be required of him in the daily performance of his duties is irrelevant to his examiners: the mere fact that it exists is sufficient reason to contemplate it for the exam.
While there are no such outrageous demands made of members of the local association, their service skills have to be significantly better than those expected of wine waiters. Standard tests include dispensing a bottle (or for the more advanced, a magnum) of Champagne so that, when the bottle is empty, each glass in the line-up has exactly the same amount, without any second pours or topping up. Knowledgeable, competent and polished serving staff (food or drink) enhance the dining out experience. The work should not be interim employment. It requires appropriate training and it should attract appropriate remuneration. The training protocols are in place and the aspirant sommeliers are committed. Whether the employers are on board is less certain: this may explain why we find great service such a rarity.

-Michael Fridjhon

In a recent piece from the respected pen of Michael Fridjhon (see article below) he makes mention of the considerable strides made by the likes of SASA member Gareth Ferreira in the international competitive arena. We are immensely proud of Gareth’s achievements, but it is also important to note that these opportunities are a result of the work that SASA does locally as an organisation. We are increasingly providing a platform for young sommeliers to train and qualify here, with the chance for those rising above their peers to compete internationally and thus launch their careers. In the same sense Gareth has trained under Francis Krone at the Saxon in the early part of his career. Francis was a founding member of SASA and Gareth himself has served on the SASA board in 2014.
Also important to mention that our profession is maturing in South Africa, allowing for more specialization opportunities. While some of us are currently well prepared for competition or exam pressures, others may be more advanced in tasting or teaching, or specifically suited to the customer interaction within their specific establishment. As both our hospitality and wine industries develop, the opportunities for sommeliers to apply themselves professionally arise in varied branches of the industry.
Perhaps the most interesting question raised by Mr Fridjhon is that of whether local restaurants are getting on board to offer appropriate remuneration for professional sommeliers, or will we lose the talent to other sectors of the industry, or even to other countries.

-Higgo Jacobs

Enthusiastic wine waiters get a taste for knowledge

First published in Business Day on 28 April 2017
By Michael Fridjhon

Until quite recently the culinary world was not considered a desirable career choice at top-end South African schools. When I was at school it would never have made its way onto our guidance teacher’s C List. If you knew you weren’t cut out for an academic matric, you either gravitated to Woodwork/Metalwork or else you tiptoed quietly away for a cram-college matric, followed probably by a B.Com and a world of risk and riches. More or less the same views prevailed at our sister school, where the girls with academic prospects avoided Domestic Science with the same dedication we put into keeping out of the Industrial Arts class.

Fast forward a couple of decades – and even before Masterchef transformed fast-food freaks into food voyeurs, the world of hospitality had become an acceptable career choice for the children of the gentry. The UK set the trend, where smartly brought-up debutante-types did cordon bleu courses to secure cooking slots at the City’s executive dining rooms. Gastro-pubs took on gap-year students who emerged from the experience ready to go into hotel management, cooking and wine service. Suddenly being a sommelier was potentially as respectable as a position at a long-established wine merchant – not the same thing as a Bonfire-of-the-Vanities job in the banking sector, but much more fun.

South Africa has been slow to follow the lead, though Cape Town with its wealth of restaurants surviving off the Euro-Dollar-Sterling trade appears to have filled its front-of-house positions with private school accents. Sooner or later someone was going to say  “it’s no longer acceptable to have a wine waiter, let’s find us some sommeliers.” At first this was simply a linguistic sleight of hand: jumped up wine stewards with gold-plated lapel badges in the form of bunches of grapes to denote some special expertise in getting the punters to part with more money for the same-old, same-old wines. But then a strange thing happened – the wine waiters were bitten by the wine bug and they got together, formed an association, connected with international sommelier associations and started the long and arduous process of becoming real sommeliers.

Make no mistake, there’s a world of difference between wine waitering and what is required of a specialist. Gareth Ferreira, who hails from Johannesburg and began his career at the Saxon before continuing it abroad, is living proof of the requisite upgrade. Last year he finished 15th in the World Sommelier Championships – an achievement which sets him way ahead of anyone else who has ever come into the profession from South Africa. However, he still has to pass his Master Sommelier exam. In anticipation of the obscure information he will need to have at his fingertips, he walks around with an app he has pre-loaded with 4000 arcane questions against which to test himself. These include details about hitherto unknown appellations in Spanish Basque country, and the name – in the local dialect – of the major grape varieties. That this information is likely never to be required of him in the daily performance of his duties is irrelevant to his examiners: the mere fact that it exists is sufficient reason to contemplate it for the exam.
While there are no such outrageous demands made of members of the local association, their service skills have to be significantly better than those expected of wine waiters. Standard tests include dispensing a bottle (or for the more advanced, a magnum) of Champagne so that, when the bottle is empty, each glass in the line-up has exactly the same amount, without any second pours or topping up. Knowledgeable, competent and polished serving staff (food or drink) enhance the dining out experience. The work should not be interim employment. It requires appropriate training and it should attract appropriate remuneration. The training protocols are in place and the aspirant sommeliers are committed. Whether the employers are on board is less certain: this may explain why we find great service such a rarity.

-Michael Fridjhon