Elgin under a cloud

On May 28, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Living in Elgin, Cape carries a price. Summer is more often grey and gloomy than not. You could well be living in Elgin, Scotland. If you get invited, bring a jersey. You might need it.

I guess that many of Elgin’s homes are empty at the weekend. Everyone’s gone to look for some sun. You don’t have to go far.

Elgin South Easter three 02 10

This is sunrise on a summer’s day on the road from Cape Town to Elgin. The vineyards of Elgin and Grabouw are ten to fifteen kilometres east of this point. They are blanketed by the cloud formation, regularly lowered over them by the the Cape’s summer South Easter. They won’t see the sun all day. 

This particular day, after the cold and windy Pinot noir grape-harvesting, just a 10 minute drive back towards Cape Town brought clear blue skies and sunburn warnings. At midday in Stellenbosch, the temperature was 34 degrees C. At the same time in the Pinot noir vineyard at was 18.

What isn’t fun for people seems to be good for the finicky Pinot. A constant cloud cover doesn’t stop photosynthesis, just slows it down. The longer the bunches hang on the vine, waiting for ripeness, the better everything works.

Pinot Noir Rowey Elgin b&w 02 10

The Pinot noir vineyard is exposed, on the 350m. altitude crest of a ridge. The ocean is about 8km away, in a line with the right edge of the picture

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See-through chocolate

On May 26, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Shiraz blanc no 2 14 02 10

Inside each one of these blue-red-purple Shiraz skins lies a heart of colourless (clear) juice. Getting it out and making the world’s most different white wine without the dye in the skins making it red is a Nico Vermeulen speciality. In a few months you’ll be able to taste and see the proof of the pudding.

Making white wine from red grapes is like taking the brown out of chocolate.

Nico Vermeulen has made a study out of what makes red wine red. And now he knows how to take the red colour out.

Why does he want to do that? Because Shiraz Blanc has a unique taste in the way that every grape variety has a different flavour. As soon as you make the wine with the red skins, the whole taste profile changes.

Shiraz Blanc is crisp and racy, filled with light and bright fruit flavours, like kiwi and litchi. Blows your mind away.

How does he do it?

He has to squeeze the red Shiraz grapes to get the juice out. Normally, the dye in the skins then colours the juice pink, just like pink Zinfandel.

The secret is in the squeezing. You can get clear juice if you know how to squeeze.

In two and half weeks time, the pickers will come into this vineyard to cut the bunches off.

I will keep you up to date on the process and its progress.

When the Shiraz grapes are in the press and the squeeze is on, Nico will throw a few baskets of orange-skinned Viognier grapes on to the top of the pile, because Shiraz and Viognier go together like ice cream and hot chocolate.

Nico and Stanley in Shiraz blanc block 02 10

Stanley Louw, the Shiraz vineyard owner, points out the direction of sunrise in the mountain-blocked valley. This vineyard was chosen because it get 4 hours less direct sun every day in summer, perfect for making white wine


What’s going on with old Pinotage

On May 25, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Everyone believes that special old wines are expensive and sought-after. But few people have ever tasted any. No one keeps wine for drinking ten or twenty years from now.

We often get asked “how long will this wine last?”. But some wines actually get better and better. Favours that weren’t even hinted at in the young wine emerge and become a source of surprise and satisfaction. So it’s less a case of ‘lasting’ than becoming a different and more rewarding wine.

Three bottles of old Bordeaux with premium heritage arrived in Cape Town in the luggage of a visiting Frenchman. So we got a few Frenchmen and a couple of South Africans and we organised a last minute pick-up test match where tasters and most wines were in the over-30 category.  The main events were to be the wines from Paulliac with the always-memorable food prepared by Harald Bresserschmidt. The venue was Auslese, the invitation-only food and wine venue on Hope Street, Gardens, Cape Town. We warmed up by tasting some venerable South African whites and reds with well-known names. Then came the Latour 1983 and Lynch Bages 1998 and 1979. Terrific stuff.

We were ready for our gourmand lunch, tugging our chosen bottles, when someone noticed that we had ignored the 5 Pinotages, all in their 30’s, standing open. We sat down again.

Old Pinotage 2 Socks Wine Club 2010 19s

Harald Bresserschmidt, master chef (left) and Denis Garret, fabled sommelier and enfant terrible at the Auslese test match

From the first bottle, a Simonsig Pinotage from 1972, we were in a serious contest for ‘wine of the tasting’. From the second, the battle was over. The five Pinotages, dated between 1972 and 1976, showed delicate aroma, outstanding depth and breadth of flavour, fruit, structure and balance that put them in a different league to all of the other wines. None of them tasted like recent-vintage Pinotage. When the wine ages, it becomes a different beverage. 

At lunch, we decided to do it again next year with some chosen grizzled warriors from around the world, and let Pinotage defend its crown.

Until the present generation, Sauvignon Blanc was seen as a niche variety, best grown only on the upcountry reaches of France’s Loire River, east of the chateaux of the kings.

This was read to mean that Sauvignon only felt at home in cold climates (have you been up the Loire without a jersey?).

And then came Marlborough in New Zealand. And now many places in South Africa. All making Sauvignon that stops the traffic. The only terroir issue that these places have in common  is moderate maximum temperatures during ripening.

Most of the main Southern Hemisphere vineyards are close to the sea. That’s a moderating influence – low max and high min temperatures.

079   With a bit of effort, you can see Table Bay, through the blue summer haze, in the top right of the picture. This wonderful Sauvignon block at Diemersdal in Durbanville has maritime influence from both Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

On the creative front, it seems that winemakers of great Sauvignon are born that way. Every top winemaker in South Africa and New Zealand wants to make a 5 star Sauvignon Blanc. Not every one does. And many of the successful ones can do it wherever they find a good vineyard. 

Mzansi Wine Route1

At Dido wines we like to try things a little differently. One of the latest mobile applications to be taking the world by storm is called Foursquare. We have teamed up with them to create South Africa’s first Mzansi Wine Tour.

Foursquare is a location based social app that allows you to discover new places and challenges you to explore your neighbourhood in new ways. We have selected some of the best venues around South Africa’s favourite cities to bring you a bring you the Mzansi Wine Tour.

When you check-in to each location using the Foursquare app on your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry phone you will receive a note rewarding you with a glass of fine Dido Wine. Don’t be shy to leave a note for us at the location using foursquare.

Celebrate Mzansi with us over the World Laduma Cup period, this ones on us.

The promotions will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks. A Google map of some of the venues participating can be found by clicking here. More venues will be added as we continue this journey together.

Sala Kahle

p.s. To find out how to get foursquare on your phone click here

Mariah Carey Gets Bubbly

On February 17, 2010, in Entertainment, Wine News, by admin
Imagine if establishing a new winery, creating the product and getting international news outlets to pay attention were as easy as getting drunk in public, then typing a single sentence and hitting the “send” button on your social media platform of choice? Well, it is that easy, if you happen to be pop diva-turned-actress and soon to be wine label owner Mariah Carey.

Earlier this month, Carey attracted a great deal of media attention for the loopy, lengthy acceptance speech she gave at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, after winning the breakthrough actress award for her role in the film Precious. She blamed her behaviour on Champagne, which kept the news cycle going for a few more days, then took to her Twitter account to announce the 2010 release of her own rosé bubbly, Angel. Newspapers like New York’s Daily News and the UK’s Guardian took that news at face value, with Stuart Heritage of the Guardian going so far as to predict it will “taste like a bottle of sweat that’s had an AA battery dropped in it.”

What no one has seemed to notice is that Angel is a 13-year-old brand based in Reims whose bottles have recently begun to appear in popular music videos, including Carey’s—meaning that “her” Champagne brand will likely be little more than a simple licensing deal, á la the hordes of other wines “created” by musicians and bands. We’ll admit that her Champagne endorsement deal is at least better than the untrue reports of her investment in Mariah Zinfandel.
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Ever been stuck at a party, desperate to open your wine but corkscrew is nowhere to be found ? If so now you have the answer. Just watch the video above from a plucky inebriated Frenchman, who manages against all the odds to open his bottle of vino using nothing but his shoe.


The general idea is to place the flat end of the wine bottle into a shoe with a soft heel, then whilst holding the bottle firmly, hit the sole of the shoe against a hard surface like a wall. The pressure of the air forced onto the cork when the shoe and bottle hits the wall will eventually push the cork out enough for you to just pull it out and enjoy your wine.

Lets be Frank….

On February 17, 2010, in Education, Entertainment, Marketing, Wine News, by admin
It’s been said a million times before, but people want meaning in their lives. When it comes to buying something – parting with hard-earned dosh – it’s natural to feel that you deserve some kind of bang for your buck. Because you do!
We’re working on 38 wines and there will be at least 38 packages to work on for all of these things that we are creating this vintage. Each of these wines has a story – they have provenance, a maker, something remarkable about them – but we should be doing everything we can to make them engaging too.
I stumbled across this earlier and it made me chuckle. Perhaps “B Frank” takes engagement too far, but it addresses a key point: that everyone’s reason for buying each bottle of wine is different: the wine is as much a social object as a mode of refreshment.

B Frank: a striking idea, though maybe a step too far?

I’m not sure that I’d have the guts to fire somebody via a wine label, but imagine a package like this in a bar or restaurant – folks would love to play with it; it’d become the talking point of the evening. Which is more than most bottles of wine ever become… so these guys are clearly on to something…

Via: Underground Winemaking

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