Van Loverens four cousins  Philip, Neil, Bussell and Hennie Retief  share the 2012 Farmer of the Year award.

Cape Town - Talk about ending the year on a high. Being named 2012 Farmer of the Year by Agricultural Writers SA provides the proverbial cherry on the top for the four Retief cousins of Van Loveren Private Cellar.

It’s a case of four into one does ago, as the two sets of brothers are so inseparable that the award was made collectively.

Journalists consider empowerment of workers, conservation, innovation, development and production growth when assessing contenders for this award, in which seven South African farmers were considered.

Recently, guests worked their way through a mountain of oysters and many bottles of Christina van Loveren Cap Classique at the launch of the cellar’s new tasting centre.

Venerable trees that form part of Granny Jean Retief’s historic spinney now frame part of the sophisticated contemporary structure where glass panels soar skyward, lined with wooden rods that have tempted at least one small visitor to try them out as a climbing frame.

The central island is staffed for tastings and food and wine pairings, while the deli is well stocked with the Van Loveren ranges plus a selection of mostly local cheese, preserves, oils, confectionery and branded items. Choose from charcuterie, chocolate, cheese or nut platters which are matched with wines to enhance enjoyment. Outside, the deck is shaded by tall trees and visitors look on to the tangled tree – two entwined rhuslanceas planted about 70 years ago.

The centre complements Christina’s bistro, which opened a year ago and is noted for its sophisticated burgers, pizzas and salads. The farm has two mountain bike routes and the Fish Eagle hiking trail. The raison d’être for these attractions is the wine, which comes in half a dozen ranges and sufficient styles and price points to please a range of customers. The budget-beating Four Cousins wine, both still and sparkling, is the country’s top seller in glass bottles.

The accessible Tangled Tree range in PET bottles with recycled labels pleases eco-conscious consumers while the premium label, the limited edition Christina van Loveren, has enjoyed pleasing recognition this year, the four-star sauvignon blanc garnering double gold at Veritas, while the shiraz has picked up silver medals, as has the Cap Classique.

The 2008 Rhine Riesling NLH makes a delicious accompaniment to robust cheese and to festive desserts, and with an alcohol level of just 9 percent, it makes a stylish aperitif over ice.

But perhaps it is the winery’s human resources principles that should be lauded most loudly: Van Loveren bought the 138-hectare De Goree farm in partnership with its 116 workers in 2006, the latter owning just over half through a trust.

Director Chrisjan Williams and his team grow a variety of wine grapes, which produce the Five’s Reserve range, from which they receive dividends and profits, and a premium on sales through Fairtrade accreditation. De Goree was chosen as National AgriBEE project of the year in 2008 and Williams has been honoured by the Langeberg region this year.

Van Loveren, in the Roberston region, is open seven days a week, but the bistro is closed on Tuesdays.

Top pinotage blends get in the awards mix

Pinotage producers have been blending this home-grown cultivar with cabernet and other Bordeaux varietals for more than a decade, and the resulting Cape blend has evoked much comment and debate.

Last year saw the first Perold Absa Cape Blend competition being held. Contestants could use as little as 30 percent and as much as 70 percent of pinotage.

There were 42 entries this year. The winners were

Beyerskloof Faith 2009

KWV Perold Tributum 2010

Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend 2010.

Beyerskloof blends 37 percent pinotage, 27 percent cab, 27 percent merlot, 9 percent shiraz.

KWV blends 36 percent pinotage, 27 percent cab, 22 percent shiraz, 5 percent petit verdot, 5 percent tannat, 5 percent malbec.

Windmeul has 60 percent pinotage, 30 percent cabernet, 5 percent merlot, 5 percent petit verdot.

The runners-up were the Grangehurst Nikela 2005 and Lyngrove Platinum Latitude 2011. - Weekend Argus