French flair on show in Franschhoek

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Cape Town - This year, the Gallic element acquires authenticity. The Bastille Festival traditionally sees Franschhoek dressed in a sea of red, white and blue, with aromas of coffee and buttery croissants drifting from main road eateries. In July, 10 winemakers from the Rhone-Alpes region will present their wares to visitors during weekend tastings, adding both French accents and a range of syrahs and, perhaps, viognier to the mix.

A collaboration between France and SA produced an agreement to stage the SA-French Seasons 2012-13, and the visit by Gallic wine producers is the first during the five-month promotion.

The northern Rhone is a region of high, rocky hills on either side of the river, where syrah (or shiraz) flourishes, growing in five vineyard areas: Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas, St-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. Some 70 years ago the crus were languishing from lack of interest and investment. Today their reputation for making some of France’s finest wine is assured, even though production is minute, thanks to the narrow valley to which the vineyards are restricted. While reds form the bulk of production, handbooks on the area list small quantities of viognier, marsanne and roussanne.

The Bastille festival, taking place on July 14 and 15, promises the usual attractions, such as the boules contest, the waiters’ race and the barrel-rolling contest. The market in the town hall is always worth a visit, and restaurants will create irresistible festival menus.

As before, the Food and Wine marquee will be open from noon, where Franschhoek estates will pour fine wines and local chefs will match them to tantalising nibbles.

The Rhone-Alpes wines will be housed in a VIP marquee, alongside a selection of local wines and French-inspired gourmet platters. Entry is R395, which also gives access to the Food and Wine marquee. Alternatively, visitors can head to Grande Provence farm, which is hosting two tastings of the French wines.

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The visiting winemakers include Gilles Barge from Domaine Barge (Cote Rotie); Jean Luc Monteillet from Domaine de Montine (Cotes du Rhone); Gilles Verzier from Vignobles Verzier (Cote Rotie, Condrieu, St Joseph); Nadia Fayolle from Domaine des Martinelles (Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage); Yves Cuilleron from Cave Cuilleron (Cote Rotie, Condrieu); Andre Mercie from Vignerons Ardechois, (Vins d’Ardeche, Cote du Rhone); Dominique Courbis from St Joseph, Cornas; Yann Chave from Domaine Yann Chave (Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage); Pierre Mollier from Mas de Bagnols (Ardeche, Cotes du Vivarais); and Laurent Vial from Domaine du Colombier (Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage).

l* Visit www.webtickets.co.za to buy tickets that cost R150 for the food and wine marquee, R395 for the VIP marquee and R395 for the French tasting at Grande Provence. For more information, visit www.franschhoekbastille.co.za or contact the office on 021 876 2861.

Quality and style meet at La Motte

While La Motte may not be able to claim viticulture extending back for a millennium, the farm has been in existence for 317 years. Long home to historic cellar and farmstead, recent renovation and expansion have added attractions such as an art gallery, museum and a restaurant that acquired its enviable reputation during its first season. La Motte wines have long been recognised for quality and style.

In Gallic mode with Cape credentials is La Motte’s 2009 Cap Classique, produced from their own chardonnay and pinot noir in 60/40 proportion with whole-pressed bunches maturing on the lees for more than two years. A little more than 3 000 bottles were released late last year, offering a patrician bubbly with a fine mousse and a touch of salmon in its hue.

La Motte is also renowned for its shiraz that could stand comparison with its French counterparts. Both the ’08 and ’09 are fine examples.

The second vintage of the flagship blend Hanneli R 2007 has just been released, a blend of shiraz from Walker Bay and Elim, finished with 10 percent grenache and nine percent mourvedre from Darling. After two years in wood, the components were blended and then spent a further 24 months in barrel. The fruit and spice are restrained, the oak prominent, and the silky results show an agreeable freshness. Neither the cap classique nor the Hanneli R are included in the usual tasting room range at La Motte, but serious buyers are likely to be offered tastes of both. - Weekend Argus

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