Friday, October 27, 2017

Violence has come to the Cape Winelands!!

If this comes across as being a bit emotional, well yes it is, what has happened the past week should be the last straw!

I was born in 1980 and grew up in what you could probably call the rural Boland region of the Western Cape. To me that was probably in the middle of Apartheid and as i grew up you notice things, but don't know any better because that what was 'normal'. My father was a banker and in those days worked at Boland Bank so we moved around a bit between Hopefield, Piketberg, Clanwilliam and then settled in Robertson where i finished high school. My brother is three years older than me and my sister two years younger. My brother went to the army straight out of high school, something a lot of people found strange then, but he loved it and it was something he always wanted to do. He became a "parabat" in Bloemfontein and spent ten years in the army. If it wasn't for politics and affirmative action he would still have been there, but the army was no place for a white guy i guess. My sister had to study in-house with a Financial Firm because my parents couldn't afford two children at varsity. Something i still feel very guilty about till today because it wasn't the field she wanted to study, but i can proudly say she has made a huge success of that. She passed her B Accounting Degree Cum Laude two weeks after giving birth to her first child.

One thing i will never forget was when i had to take a letter home which my parents needed to sign to state that they don't mind if i compete in sport against players of colour. Yes, that happened and not for one second did they hesitate to say NO they don't mind. I was too crazy about anything to do with a round ball anyway. But on a serious note, i do believe that South Africans my age or similar has many similar stories to tell.

We were a lower to middle class family in South Africa. Growing up and living in these small towns many of my friends were farmers or worked in agriculture. Today i have many friends and colleagues in agriculture. So that is me in a very short nutshell...an ordinary South African like so many other!!

In the past couple of years i have been personally affected by the constant attack on farmers, not always murders but lies and making them scapegoats for things they didn't do. All of this politically driven and ignited!
Oom Johnny Burger, Rietvalley Estate, committed suicide not out of guilt but he was a depressed broken man targeted by politics with them wanting to make an example of him to the farmers. What happened to the Papenfus women who ignited this bullshit and created the nightmare??? For some time no one could find her and i bet you she is walking free having a cocktail or glass of South African wine in Hermanus or somewhere else. Why is no one hunting her???

We always hear about the farm murders in the Free State, Limpopo or areas very far from the Cape Winelands. Now it has come to us and as close as Stellenbosch with the murder of Joubert Conradie. Not too long ago there was the murder of Alberto Costa also in Stellenbosch.

This week it hit A LOT closer to home for me, but for the sake of privacy i cannot say who it was.  He was abducted in Ashton, a small town close to Robertson, by three men with knives thrown in the back of his car and driven to Cape Town. I cannot share too much information, the case has been reported to the police, but he miraculously escaped early Saturday morning. To see and hear an older man traumatized and broken, the same man who went to the Angola War when he was 18 and lost friends on the battlefield, saw and experienced things none of us should, is heartbreaking.

Have you seen the short video of wolves being reintroduces into Yellowstone National Park in the USA after 70 odd years and the impact it had, even changing the flow of rivers??? Watch it!!

The murder of farmers will have the same effect as when wolves were taken OUT of the Yellowstone Park, more closer to home, just look at Zimbabwe. I for one have always said that South Africa will not become the next Zimbabwe. Unfortunately what has happened recently is busy affecting my optimism. Violence in general is on the rise to the point where people will start taking the law into their own hands. My heart breaks every morning when i have to hear about another child killed by a stray bullet in Mannenberg or Grassy Park. Those poor parents who has to live with that but keep their heads down and work to earn a living as well.

This is not the South Africa my parents signed YES for, it is not the South Africa I love and wherever I travel invite foreigners to come visit. I don't have a tractor or a bakkie, but I am willing to join anyone who has space in theirs on Monday or whenever! If people can Toi Toi and break down the city for service delivery or student fees, then we must stop being too proud to stand up! Pride will not get us anywhere!!! Huge action needs to be taken and it has to happen very soon, we cannot sit back and keep talking about it around a braai. We are great at talking, but this needs to go over to action which doesn't mean violence. It means government and the world has to take notice!!

 I will be wearing Black on Monday!!!


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Are Site Specific Wines the Best in the World?

I am not sure how many people have actually viewed this as a topic or important enough to discuss, but on a recent trip to the USA and Europe it has come up a few times. Working with Arendsig Single Vineyard Wines (Robertson) and Tonnellerie Baron (Bordeaux) from a producer side it has become a very important point to me as a USP. 

My initial response to the question, "Are Site Specific Wines the best in the World", would be NO. I don’t believe that Site Specific Wines should or will always be the best of its cultivar or blend. It goes a lot deeper and intricate than that. Quality is undeniable, but it is about the aura, track record and sense of place around the wine that counts.

When you look at the Premium World Wine Market and divide it into Old & New World, what comes to mind when you hear: Napa Valley, Marlborough, Burgundy, Bordeaux? Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, Bordeaux Blends.  All of these regions have set a benchmark for the world wine market to follow. South Africa doesn’t feature with any specific varietal although there has been a new resurgent push for Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.


There has been a constant benchmarking of New World Wines compared to that of Bordeaux & Burgundy specifically. The funny thing is that whilst we go out there and use their wines to show trade and wine consumers how good our wines are, the Old World just keep doing what they have done for centuries. Not that they can and should rest on their laurels, but the fact is that because of the strength of their appellations they just make the best wine that they can every vintage. To them the vintage is paramount in their pricing…not so much for the New World. 

Do they make the best wines in the world? It probably depends on what barometer you are using to measure it, but from an historical point they do. When you look at the high regard these vineyards and appellations have amongst winemakers around the world, then yes they do. Are there better wines grown and made outside of these historical regions? YES there are!


I have been part of tastings where SA Wines have gone up blind against the best of France, Italy, Spain etc, many times rated higher and many times not. The difference is that when you purchase top Bordeaux you are buying a piece of land & history knowing that the specific wine was made from a designated area and terroir which cannot be replicated. On top of that it comes with generations of knowledge passed down knowing how certain blocks/cultivars perform in certain soils & vintages on the property. Does it make these wines the best in the world and always top of the selection process in tastings? NO

The most exciting time for me at Arendsig Single Vineyard Wines is when Lourens and I taste the new vintages, freshly bottled or still in barrel. Thinking back at previous ones and if we have a bottle left taste it next to older vintages. Do we always think the new vintage is the best vintage, NO. What we are looking for is that fingerprint thread of each block coming through vintage in and vintage out! The ‘DNA’ of that block that has become the signature of the brand! Some vintages we bottle more, some a little less...volume is not ever a talking point, quality comes first! When you become greedy in bottling more rather than focusing on quality you lose the essence of your wines! 



On the Tonnellerie Baron ( www.tonnellerie.com )  barrel side I can definitely see a big move by producers to have more focus on what they produce, their oak-ageing regime and understanding of their vineyards! This is extremely exciting to see and for the past four years taste the wines from barrel and learning about the producer, their vineyards and brand vision first hand. We won’t necessarily see this immediately but over the next five to ten years which means we have a lot to look forward to on the Premium side of South African Wine. 

I have always said that South African Wine needs to create a better identity for ourselves and it has to start within each region, by each producer. Individually there are amazing stories and examples of how old estates, new independent wineries/winemakers and even corporate wine companies have reinvented themselves with great success. As a whole though there is still too much confusion, saying the one thing, doing the other. We must get this attitude out of our systems of not wishing good business and fortitude on our fellow industry colleagues and friends. There needs to be a system working from Top to bottom not the other way around to change the "value for money" tag. 

Let’s build our regions and create the following and awareness of them under the umbrella of South Africa. Then work on focussing on the sub-regions within the regions. If Stellenbosch is strong then Simonsberg, Helderberg etc will be strong. The same with all the other regions.  It is like Doc Craven said, when Maties is strong Springbok Rugby is strong J

We all want to sell our wines at higher prices in the export markets and should work towards the same common goal. To achieve this we need consistency in quality, specialty in our offering and belief in our wines, doesn’t matter from which region you are.
Site specific wines are not always the best in the world, but you would struggle to get any closer in experiencing a sense of place, passion and uniqueness in wine style! Last year I was very fortunate to meet the people from Tenuta delle Terre Nere from Mount Etna in Italy, www.tenutaterrenere.com  and tasted their wines (imported by www.winecellar.co.za ). Learning about the wines made from vineyards grown in the shadows of Mount Etna in ancient volcanic soils and tasting the wines was an absolute confirmation. I could experience the ‘sense of place’ with the sniff and taste of the wines, closing my eyes trying to imagine those vineyards and land. Was it the best wines I ever tasted, NO, but that’s not the point. It was worth every cent and to share it with people who love wine.


South Africa have these stories, sites, history, skills and everything that goes with it! The product is there and confirmed in the results we see internationally every year. Now it has to be backed up by the brand owners, marketers, winemakers and ambassadors going out into the World Wine Market!


   



Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Release of Transbottle in South Africa!!

My first shipment of the Transbottle 6 will arrive in South Africa this week! After quite some time crunching numbers and working with the company in France I decided to import my first pallet even though the weak Rand made it very tough. However, I believe that it is a product with great potential in South Africa and not necessarily limited to the wine trade alone.

Unit locked 
The Transbottle 6 is your wine suitcase to travel the world and take your favorite wines with you or bring some wines home from your trip. The unit is secured with a combination lock to make sure no one can get their hands on your wines. You can check it in with the rest of your luggage as well. The Transbottle system is developed to protect each bottle and make sure it can withhold any bumps and knocks. 
Unit checked in with Airline. 


View from the top showing each compartment with space for opener and business cards
For the Winemaker, Marketer and Sales Person:
It is a great tool to travel with new vintages, barrel/tank samples to prospective buyers or just to take older vintages with you for a vertical tasting with media and trade. So often we travel abroad and want to bring back wines to taste with colleagues and peers, but just don't have the space in your suitcase or for more than one bottle. 

Why go to a tasting with a cooler bag and a box? Chill your white wines individually with your red wine unaffected by it. One unit to carry around to meetings with potential restaurants, wine bars and shops to work with your wines/beers/spirits. 

For the wine lover:
Whether you are in the wine business or just a wine lover. This product will help you transport that amazing vintage wine you bought or aged for a special occasion. Maybe you like to take wines on your holidays or weekends away. This is perfect to make sure it arrives safely with you. 

You can even use it as a wine shelf 
The price per unit is R1400 ensuring your safe travels with Wine or Spirits.

To order your unit now please contact me directly on:

Tel: +27 82 4979 670
Email: colyn@colyntruter.com

www.transbottle.com  




Thursday, April 2, 2015

Familiar versus Unfamiliar

A topic that I have discussed with a couple of people in the past came up again during the past week. Is it easier to score unfamiliar varieties higher than familiar ones?? The new wave of blends and lesser known varietal wines have changed the landscape of wine judging and scoring. So what do I perceive to be lesser known…basically everything that isn’t Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinotage Shiraz etc. Varieties that the general consumer is NOT familiar with.
Arendsig Inspirational Batch Grenache 2013 - 92 Points Tim Atkin South African Report
There is a hype surrounding Grenache (white and red) and other varieties, but luckily also Chenin Blanc and the various styles it can be made or blends with it as a component. Although this hype is driven by producers/independent winemakers and not yet fully grasped by the general consumer it has changed the dynamic of rating wines…at least from what I can see.

Star Hill Wild Yeast Chenin Blanc - Single Vineyard
Scoring Wines:
How good must a Sauvignon Blanc be to score higher than 90 points when there are so many in the category. In SA I think some very good ones go unnoticed because of quick vintage changes and the consumer demanding the freshest, newest vintage on shelf. I still think one of the best Sauvignon Blanc’s that I have ever tasted was the Suider-Terras 2013 from Bloemendal Estate in Durbanville (I do not work with them anymore, for reasons I do not want to elaborate on in this post). 
Even Tim Atkin scored it 94 Points in his South African Report when the wine was still very young and both Francois Haasbroek (Winemaker) and people in the know felt it will only get better with age. Unlike the Suider-Terras that has an amazing story and heritage behind it or Thys Louw with his various styles of Sauvignon Blanc, Cape Point who’s brand driver is Sauvignon Blanc…can you imagine how saturated the local media/judging palates must be of Sauvignon Blanc??

When the winemaker use Sauvignon Blanc in a blend with Semillon, Chenin Blanc or Viognier with a funky brand name then that wine gets more attention and a higher rating? In general I think so, because it is something different and not a wine you come across every day. White blends especially getting high acclaim in Platter 2015! 

Similarly we can use Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage as examples. There is a lot of negativity towards these varietals if you follow certain groups of people on Twitter, but they are the ones punting whatever is odd, different or lesser known.  

On Monday we hosted some wine media and trade at Journey’s End outside Somerset West to taste through some older and current vintages. After a sit down tasting of wines we moved outside for lunch and to taste through old vintages from the property. The wines date back to 2001 Journey’s End Kumala Cabernet Sauvignon and 2002 Journeys End Kumala Chardonnay (which was a standout wine on the day). Having the likes of Christian Eedes and James Pietersen there as Wine Critics and Judges was very interesting comparing it to what the trade guests thought of the wines. There were definitely two schools and feedback from the general Trade being more complimentary and impressed. Christian Eedes and James Pietersen were a bit more critical, maybe because of the nature of their jobs.

Stunning Views over False Bay from Journeys End Vineyards
However, when Leon Esterhuizen (Winemaker) started talking about Carbonic Maceration, use of various types of oak and fermentation on his Griffin Syrah 2012 it suddenly caught the attention and created more interest with guests. Christian later on scored the wine 91 Points although I thought he would give it 92 or more knowing him from previous tastings J

Yes the style of this Syrah is very different to the other Journey’s End ones, but I felt the Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was a standout wine deserved of a high rating. But it was Cabernet made in a very old world style compared to the interesting Griffin Syrah. The point was not whether the Journeys End wines were below par, but maybe just too similar to what they taste daily or safe as some might call it. 
Does this prove my earlier point? I would like to think so, but it would only be human to appreciate an interesting and different wine a bit more than a wine/variety that you are so used too. Just being different doesn’t mean it is a good wine. It still has to be well made and of great quality to earn high ratings.
Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon
Christian Eedes is a trusted wine colleague and someone who has supported me tremendously the past three years in coming to my portfolio or individual producer tastings. As outspoken and opinionated as he can be about wine or sport, so is he a very good sounding board to discuss wine facts and trends with. I enjoy reading his posts about the wines he taste and he is a bit of a 'funky wine lover' as well :). 

Although I don’t think wine critics always understand what consumer behaviour or buying patterns are, because they get exposed to mainly taste top end wines on a very regular bases. Their input and feedback is always very needed to trigger the winemakers mind and discuss different opinions. 

Unless a country or region starts to push a certain wine i.e Pinot Grigio, Malbec, like some have done, the lesser known varieties will stay a novelty to most. I cannot see white blends, Grenache or Pinot Noir from South Africa outselling Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot real soon.
It is great to taste and see what some of the winemakers and brands are doing with the cultivars. But I can confirm from first-hand experience that the consumer will order and buy the wine they are familiar with.

Personally I do feel that lesser known varieties and 'funky' wines are getting a lot more traction these days than very well made familiar ones. Does this mean winemakers and brands should go out looking for these grapes to create a wine for their portfolio? NO, please dont! Stick to what you have and make that better and better every vintage! In such a way building a brand through consistency and credibility. 


     

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Swartland versus The Rest??

I am probably a bit late in this whole debate about the launch of an Anti-Swartland wine and the misquotation of Mr Andre van Rensburg and Mr Gary Jordan. Then Mr Miguel Chan from the Tsogo Sun Group also commented about the amount of producers using their physical location to market and sell their wines, rather than where the grapes are grown. So killing two birds with one stone/”Twee vliee met een klap”:

It doesn’t matter how you look at it, you have to give credit to the Swartland for the identity they have created for their region. Something I have advocated for years lacking from South Africa on the world stage. Yes, it is wonderful to have drivers like Eben and Adi behind it, but a group of winemakers bought into the idea and worked with it. Whether you agree with their philosophy, winemaking style or techniques, it doesn’t really matter. They have created a hype around a region that was not even mentioned anywhere to anyone just a couple of years ago.

Similarly I have to congratulate Franschhoek with the launch of the AGP. Forget that there are only a couple of cultivars that they want to focus on, they have created a target and focus to distinguish themselves. Most importantly is that within the region the wineries using their own grapes or at least Franschhoek grown grapes want to tell the world about it and differentiate from the ones buying in. 
The reinvention of Stellenbosch issue is something different to me. Stellenbosch has everything going for them i.e historical value, wine tourism, perceptual value of high quality wines but most of all a very diverse wine region. Yes, Miguel mainly refers to the branding/packaging in his comments, but to me the problem goes a bit deeper and this accounts for producers everywhere, not just Stellenbosch.
Kanonkop Estate, Meerlust Estate, Rust en Vrede…what do you think about when you hear their names? Pinotage, Bordeaux Blends, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon…to mention a few? Besides the cultivars mentioned there is a common thread aligning them…FOCUS! When everyone went Sauvignon Blanc crazy a couple of years ago and bottled it even if they didn’t have a vine on the farm, did these producers do it? NO. How easy would it have been for them to tell their importers/local distributors that they can bottle a Sauvignon Blanc under their label if they needed to? VERY EASY. They didn’t do it, but stayed true to what they have always done, kept their heads down and believed it will increase the following of their wines. What has that done to their brands? Increased Perception of Top Quality and Value, created amazing Brand Value!!
Doing a vertical tasting of Bruwer Raats’ Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc is similar. Bruwer believed that these cultivars will create a niche market for him and eleven/twelve years down the line it paid off!! In saying all this I am not promoting that one producer cannot do both red and white really well. However, the producers who has a historical but deserved international following and appreciation are the ones who has focus.
I don’t like the fighting of regions with each other, but historically that is what we have done all these years. We always try to talk down our neighbouring  farm or other regions. When are we going to accept that WINE PRODUCERS should support WINE and one another and grow wine consumption against other beverages?? We must accept that Cabernet from Stellenbosch, Paarl, Robertson and Darling will and should taste differently, not that the one is always better than the other.
The issue that Miguel Chan raised is something I fully agree with, you shouldn’t be able to use your Estate brand for bought in grapes or wines. But this issue is mainly at the lower end of the pricing scale. I believe that the first troubles in the Swartland will start when a producer who grew a very strong brand with his Swartland Region label, starts to buy in wine from other regions to supply his volume and then bottle it under WO Western Cape. (I stand corrected whether this has already happened?) They created an identity and we should applaud and learn from it. 
For the South African category on a global scale…we need more of this and we need our winemakers to understand their own regions/farms first, then learn about the rest as well. There is amazing historical value and quality from generations of family owned estates that deserves more credit! The fact that I missed the 40 year Vertical tasting of Vergenoegd Cabernet still haunts me...
Lastly, to the Swartland Revolution boys...don't downplay Merlot, Cabernet or Chardonnay as if it is the worst thing that's happen to wine. Chardonnay is still the biggest selling White Wine and known red cultivars i.e Cabernet and Merlot. You have made your point and done a great job with your Chenin, White Blends, Shiraz and Cinsaut, but will they ever be bigger than Cabernet or Chardonnay?? Use this as your USP to differentiate yourself from others, that will make you stronger!
It is not the Swartland versus The Rest it should be South Africa versus The Rest!!

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Drunken Fowl...

Last Thursday was the launch of a funky new wine from historic Saxenburg Estate outside Stellenbosch. Known for Shiraz and maybe best known by the older wine consumer, Saxenburg took a step to attract a new wine consumer to their brand.

One thing I have to say is that the branding, name and style of wine definitely falls into a very innovative category for the South African market. A Shiraz with a slightly higher Rs (around 7g/L) although it doesn’t come across as too sweet. Matured in older French and American oak just rounds the wine off very nicely. I think it is a wine you can put in the fridge for a little while and enjoy chilled.

Saxenburg explains it like this:

Bertie as you all should know is Saxenburg’s

resident beau. Better known as the drunken

fowl he surfaces quietly, like a night owl.

And when no one is there for the securing, he

consumes the wine that in the barrels is maturing.

Shiraz is his favourite one, and brings a wiggle to

his wee bum.  With his rich spicy and plummy flavors.

He shouldn’t be the only one to savour!

The packaging is fun and light hearted with a very affordable price to come with it of R65 at Cellar Door. We might see some other type of Drunken Fowls this coming season J
 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Montpellier de Tulbagh celebrating 300 years!!

For those who have followed my blog or twitter would know that I have a huge passion for tradition and heritage. This was one of the reasons why I started working with Montpellier de Tulbagh in June this year and this past weekend we celebrated their 300 year anniversary, 1714 - 2014. South Africa has a rich history and wine heritage which is sometimes overshadowed by the modern and cutting edge tasting rooms of revamped or newly established wineries.


The Manor House
Visitors enjoying the music, food and wine
When you drive onto Montpellier de Tulbagh you get transported back in time with the vineyard Chapel on the right, driving down the lane of “bloekom bome” and entering the big garden and impressive manor house.
The Vineyard Chapel
Lucas van Tonder, Advocate of the High Court in Johannesburg, bought the property around twelve years ago to realise a dream. When you talk to him the passion and love for the farm is tangible. When you see the renovations and constant upgrading of the historic facilities you fall in love with the romance of this wine farm.


Lucas entertaining the crowd
Montpellier has three very distinctive and impressive venues for weddings or private functions, plus a newly built Deli which will be opened towards the end of 2014.  The plan for the deli is to have local produce available as well as all the wines from the Tulbagh valley. A great idea to have all the wines from the whole valley at one place whilst visitors can enjoy the hospitality of Montpellier.



Functions in the garden


The Dome long table
Dome Cathedral for your special occasion
Another step towards future growth was the appointment of young, energetic ex-Val de Vie winemaker, Harold Versfeld. He joined Flip Smith as winemaker in September 2014 and brings new ideas and plans to revamp and structure the range of wines. Although the Estate is planted with around 11 cultivars there will be a restructuring of the range of wines. The focus will be on certain cultivars that does well consistently. The Montpellier Shiraz has been one of those wines winning Gold at the recent Michelangelo Wine Awards.
Harold Versfeld
Harold and I are very excited to be working with this historic property and taking it to new heights with the passion and love that Lucas has for Montpellier. You can be sure to hear a lot more of Montpellier in years to come. Be sure to visit their website www.montpellier.co.za to read the wonderful story of the farm. One of the oldest wine producers in South Africa and still under South African ownership!! Here's to another 300 years and more...

Contact:
www.montpellier.co.za
montpellier@montpellier.co.za
Facebook:   Montpellier de Tulbagh
Twitter:       Montpelliersa