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Reds or whites, cellars are flying the green flag

With the products of more than 500 wine cellars from which to choose, consumers are spoilt – and often overwhelmed – for choice.

Some select by price, others for prestige, while an increasing number enjoy supporting producers who are socially responsible, environmentally conscious and who are reducing their carbon footprint through sustainable management.

Simon Grier in Villiera's vineyards.

Let’s pay fleeting visits to wineries in three Cape regions which qualify as responsible producers, while offering wines across the price and style spectrum.

Recent releases include the 2010 merlot (R60), a wine they have produced for more than 20 years and that has picked up awards ranging from Veritas double gold to bronze in the London International Wine Challenge. While few drinkers are likely to tuck it away, the Griers are sure it will improve over the next few years. Right now it offers soft tannins and dark fruit, and makes a delicious partner to lighter winter dishes.

The 2010 cab (R66) could benefit from cellaring but is an undemanding wine ready to enhance relaxed and robust fare. The classic fruit and soft tannins are complemented by a little grassiness.

For something different, the Down to Earth Red 2010 (R45) should be sampled – here Jeff Grier has blended 58 percent touriga nacional with shiraz for an intense winter warmer, the spice and fruit combination proving how the classic port cultivar contributes character to pleasing blends.

What about an intriguing blend of Mediterranean varietals – made in the Roussillon – for under R100? It’s been six years since the Grier family bought their southern French vineyard and, with French winemaker Raphael Graugnard, have made intriguing wines, brought back and offered at palatable prices.

Odyssea 2009 is 50 percent syrah with 30 percent carignan and 20 percent grenache – it’s lightly wooded, with a mineral backbone that will enhance Provencal classics.

With solar-powered production and educational and empowerment programmes for farm staff and their families, Villiera offers additional reasons for applause.

This month this Robertson family cellar has added a new dimension to an entry-level range that will go down well with an eco-conscious public.

Tangled Tree wines are a range of five quaffers, bottled in light, recyclable PET plastic bottles, labelled using Treefree labels made from renewable sugar cane fibre, retailing at just under R30 each. Choose from a fresh sauvignon blanc, a fruity mix of summery flavours, not overly acidic, and a chardonnay labelled Butterscotch, which pinpoints a characteristic of this lightly wooded rendering.

There’s a spicy shiraz which spent 10 months in French oak and a Chocolate cabernet sauvignon in which toasted oak chips provide, but not overwhelmingly, the hint of cocoa.

An off-dry moscato rosé completes the uncomplicated range, named after two veteran Rhus lancea trees in the cellar grounds. These were planted by Jean and Hennie Retief back in the 1940s and grew tall, entangling their branches, becoming the first of a subsequent grove of indigenous and exotic trees.

Winemaker Hilko Hegewisch counters this, however, by labelling two of his unpretentious Solms-Astor wines after the folk dances that locals enjoyed, and which have been revived, thanks to Richard Astor’s Cape musical heritage project. Vastrap (R55) blends chenin, semillon and riesling into a cheerful wine for al fresco affairs, while Langarm (R55) melds pinotage, touriga nacional, shiraz and mourvedre into a delightful partner for Cape indigenous fare, pizzas and braais.

The closing date is August 8 and the entry fees remain the same as last year’s.

The contest continues to enjoy impressive credibility, and the double gold, gold, silver and bronze medals adorning bottles are used by consumers contemplating purchases.

Judging of wine and brandy will take place from September 3 to 7 and the results will be announced in Cape Town on October 6. - Weekend Argus

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