A Recap of the 2016 Harvest at England’s Gusbourne Estate

“We’re having a wonderful harvest of both quality and quantity,” said Andrew Weeber Chairman and founder of Gusbourne during their  2016 harvest.

Gusbourne's freshly picked Chardonnay grapes
     Gusbourne’s freshly picked Chardonnay grapes
This year’s vintage in England started off with variable damp, cool weather, unfortunately similar to many other wine regions around Europe in 2016.  But, unlike other areas in England that were affected by frost in May, Gusbourne’s vineyards were mostly sheltered, benefiting from being fortuitously located in the Southeast, where the most warm weather in England was seen this vintage.

It’s no doubt that the several weeks of 20 to 30 degree Celsius days leading up to harvest turned the ship known as the 2016 vintage around.  As a result, Gusbourne finished earlier than anticipated on October 7th in its’ Kent vineyards.   In many other places in England, harvest continued nearly to the end of October.

                             Gusbourne’s Kent Vineyard

Gusbourne’s secret weapon could be its Kent vineyard, which make up two-thirds of the estate’s vineyard holdings.

Soil in Gusbourne's Kent Vineyard
                         Soil in Gusbourne’s Kent Vineyard

“We have a lot of clay and a lot of sand within these sites and what we find is that we’re often the most earliest ripening site in the country,” according to Charlie Holland, Gusbourne’s head winemaker.

The Kent vineyards also have some other important attributes, namely a cool breeze that keeps disease away and it offers, “a nice protected micro-climate, southeast corner, kept away from all the bad weather coming in from the Atlantic,” according to Charlie Holland.

Head Winemaker Charlie Holland
                  Gusbourne Head Winemaker Charlie Holland

So far, most of the grapes harvested will naturally reach the desired 10.5% of alcohol without chapitalization or the addition of sugar at the time of fermentation.  In addition, the acidity and PH are all in line with the best sparkling wines.

“The 2016 vintage has been perfect in terms of the acid/sugar profile, we are able to have warm enough days to get the sugars up to where we need to be for secondary fermentation, but also we have cold, cold nights so we retain all that acidity,”  said Head Winemaker Charlie Holland.

The estate was taken over in 2004 by Andrew Weeber and grape vines were planted for the first time.  By 2010, the first Gusbourne wines were released onto the market with the vision that Gusbourne sparkling wines compete head to head with the best sparkling wines offered around the world.

“We’re not Champagne. We have to be better than Champagne,” says owner Andrew Weeber.   As if to prove the point, the estate has since won numerous wine awards solidifying Gusbourne’s position on the international sparkling wine scene.

The estate focuses on traditional sparkling wine production, growing only the classic varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier .  The production is divided between Champagne and Burgundy clones. Speaking of his use of Burgundy clones, Head Winemaker Charlie Holland adds, “what that means is you get a lower yield with more intensity of flavor.”

It was exciting to see the beautiful grapes and to taste some of the just fermenting juice.  It is clear 2016 will be a vintage that will be very pleasing to consumers, even if they will have to wait minimally four years for the chance to try them.

Currently, Gusbourne offers three sparkling wine offerings; a Blanc de Blanc, a Rose and a Brut Reserve and in very limited quantity depending on the year, a still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

A Trip to Barcelona’s Boqueria Market

Barcelona is a food and wine lover’s dream and visiting the Boqueria Market was foodie heaven. So, here is a little video covering my all too short visit to the Boqueria Market. Buen provecho!

Below some extra pictures of the fish in the market, which seemed pretty spectacular:














The 2016 Harvest in the Mosel and Weingut S.A. Prϋm

Raimund Prϋm at the Sitt tasting in London

Raimund Prϋm at the Sitt tasting in London

It was the best of times, and the worst times. Or, to sum up the 2016 vintage in the Mosel region of Germany, it was a nerve-wracking vintage with plenty of ups and downs.

Hail storms in the spring damaged vineyards between Wehlen and Graach and the cool, wet conditions led some to report mildew and botrytis. This was a year that required diligent, expert vineyard management.

“Our vineyard manager [Tomasz] worked so close to the weather conditions that we had none of those infections in our own [vineyards]…All [our] grapes stayed healthy and great looking,” explained Raimund Prϋm, owner and winemaker at Weingut S.A. Prϋm.

Riesling grapes from S.A. Prϋm's vineyards, courtesy of S.A. Prϋm

Riesling grapes from S.A. Prϋm’s vineyards, courtesy of S.A. Prϋm

Although, conditions improved and warmed up in July, the cold, unseasonable weather reared its ugly head again in August, leading to more hail.

“August hail hurt the grapes growing in the best parts of Wehlener Sonnenuhr, and destroyed a hope for outstanding and top qualities[there],” said Prϋm.

Fortunately, by September the weather changed again, as a warm, dry and sunny autumn unfolded.  The grapes ripened and turned a beautiful golden color and attained beautiful aromatics.  But, with no rain for weeks, the sugar numbers weren’t as high as expected.

By October 8th, the vineyard manager at Weingut S.A. Prϋm selected out the hail damaged and botrytis effected grapes and showing nerves of steel, left the remaining harvest to ripen for an extra two weeks to up sugar levels. The risk paid off. A whopping 99.2% of Weingut S.A. Prϋm’s 2016 harvest consists of prädikat level wines with the following break-down:

30.5% Kabinett

63.0% Spätlese

5.5% Auslese

“The first two weeks of our harvesting time we stayed in the middle Mosel picking and selecting. After those two weeks we started at the Ruwer valley and finally organized the harvest in Saar valley with Ockfener Bockstein,” said winemaker Raimund Prϋm.

The estate has 38.5 hectares of vineyard with holdings all over the Mosel and like most top producers, S.A. Prϋm uses “spontaneous fermentation” or natural yeasts to ferment its wines, which some think adds complexity to the wine.  The estate also boasts a new winemaker from Portugal, Miguel Barrosso Louro.  According to Prϋm, ”[Miguel has been ]checking quality from summer to Fall and from vine into the barrel all the time.”  Success is the goal at S.A. Prϋm.

“Today, most of our wines are still in the fermenting process, but we can report already the enormous concentration of fantastic fruit notes and high extract,” says Prϋm, adding that the “long finish” on the wines get’s the estate excited about the new 2016 vintage.

The 2016 wines are slated to be tasted for the first time publicly on the 1st of April at S.A. Prϋm’s Annual Young Wine Tasting.

A Quick Overview of Harvest 2016 in the Rheingau

On a recent trip last month to Germany, I took some pictures of two estates in the Rheingau, Weingut Robert Weil and Steinbergkeller to get a sense of what is going on in the region.

Like most other places in Europe, the Spring was wet and a bit cold, but followed by an amazing Autumn.  Thus, the quality for 2016 looks to be very good.

Also, was able to taste through the 2015′s at Weingut Robert Weil.  The whole range was excellent, but especially liked some of the dry wines.

The 2016 Harvest in Austria at Bioweingut Weingut Diwald; Another Very Good Vintage






















“2016 had two faces: a terrible spring and a wonderful autumn,” according to top Austrian Bio wine producer Weingut Diwald.

During a hectic harvest Elixrr was able to get a few words from winemaker Martin Diwald about the 2016 harvest, which is looking like another delicious vintage for wine lovers…

E: How would you describe this harvest in your region from bud burst onwards?

Martin Diwald [MD]: 2016 started with a very wet winter which is in principle very good as you top up water supply for the summer months. Bud burst was time-wise normal and was good. In may there was a late frost in Austria which affected a lot of regions including Wagram. Nevertheless, in our villages the damages were not too bad. For myself let’s say about 5%. Blossom was also rather normal beginning to middle of June, but at this time it also started that we had a lot of rain. Much more than we are used to have. Therefore the protection of the vines against mildew and other diseases was extremely intense in 2016. Also the canopy management which is also part of the protection. We had to go in our vineyard twice or three times. Very early we took away leaves from the shady side to let the wind to the grapes, but also protect them from sunburn. Then new “secondary” shoots sprouted inside the canopy, which we took out again. At this time we also did a green harvest for some vineyards where yields where too big. Late August we took away leaves from the sunny side to get the grapes ripe. At this time the weather was also nice, which results actually in a very nice and healthy vintage. All in all you can see that it was an extremely intense season. Except the harvest which is rather easy it was probably one of the hardest season I had in the last 10 years.














E: How would you compare this vintage to other recent vintages?

MD: It is hard to tell yet how wines will develop as we are still harvesting. I think that it will be overall a very good quality white and red. The whites have enough acidity and we are able to harvest late and everything at the time we want. This is very important for me to wait for cold nights, which we have since beginning of October. If you want to compare it with another vintage I would say that it is somewhere between 2012 and 2013. 2013 for me one of the best white wine vintages in the last then years, but 2013 had lower yields than 2016 and less rain. 2012 was rather warm and overall very ripe. For 2016, I expect a vintage which is very balanced in terms of ripeness/body and acidity. Probably a vintage a lot of people will like.

E: Which wines are you especially proud about?


MD: I have a big love for Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. These are my babies where I always try to get the best wine possible with my own signature which seeks for elegance rather than massive wines. Acidity is a major part and that is why I am very fond of cold years and 2016 will be one.







E: How were yields?

MD: Overall good. Some better some not so good, but in overall I am satisfied.

E: Did you have to make any shifts in wine-making techniques due to weather conditions?

MD: Not really, but I am anyway somebody who does not have a recipe. So I always try things …

Thanks, Martin!  I can’t wait to try Weingut Diwald’s 2016 wines.


London’s First Wheat Whisky Made in a Transatlantic Partnership

History was made on October 6, 2016 when Sonoma County Distilling Company of California, USA partnered with the UK’s East London Liquor Company to make London’s first ever wheat whisky.


“Working with Sonoma County Distilling was the perfect opportunity to do our very own wheat.  We were able to get help and advice from Adam Spiegel, who’s had lots of experience developing his own wheat whisky, while still making the resulting whisky unique to us,” said East London Liquor Company’s Whisky Distiller Andy Mooney about the transatlantic collaboration.

The Whiskey Wash

The Whiskey Wash

The mash bill was made by Mooney in partnership with Sonoma County’s Distiller, Adam Spiegel and incorporates  60% wheat grown in the UK, 5% corn and 35% Pale Ale Barley.

Speaking a little about the mash bill,  Spiegel, stated his rationale for the addition of Pale Ale Barley to the mix.  “While we’re sort of tasting chocolate notes on the back end of it right now…[Pale Ale Barley] will give it a real vibrant flavor.  Wheat is a soft grain and plays off the environment in which it lives, so adding a distinctive barley will give it a lot of extra attention and give it sort of a little kick.”

The wash tasted sweet and pleasantly grainy, maintaining a certain weightiness on the palate.  I tried to imagine how the wash would eventually develop into whisky form. The base was admittedly delicious, so logic would dictate that this would be a whisky worth pursuing. Unfortunately, for those curious to taste the end product now, there is three years of barrel aging ahead of its eventual release to the public.

“As two businesses, we’re both fairly young. I’ve been open for six years and they’ve been open for two, so we’re kind of getting our feet wet, and still figuring out what we like to do,” said Adam Spiegel.


Sonoma County Distilling Company currently has on offer a Rye Whiskey, an in-house made Bourbon they call West of Kentucky Bourbon, and, of course a Wheat Whiskey.

“We’ve scaled ourselves up from a nano-distillery to a micro-distillery.  I hope in the future we will be considered the whiskey distillery of California,” said Spiegel about  Sonoma County.


East London Liquor Company currently offers a variety of premium Gins, Vodka, a Rum and Whisky, not to mention this new Wheat Whisky collaboration.  They also boast a bar on their premises, for those interested in a trying a variety spirits from around the world.

“Since we opened in 2014, we have worked continuously to produce honestly-priced, innovative spirits for the UK and we are delighted to be bringing whisky production back to the historic distilling area of East London following the casking of our pioneering London Rye® in 2015,” said Mooney of East London Liquor Company.

2014: Another Solid Vintage for Bordeaux Region’s Cru Bourgeois Wines


The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux started off choppy with variable cold and damp weather patterns, forcing winegrowers  to up their game in order to keep their vineyards both healthy and on track developmentally.  Luckily, as harvest approached, the weather stabilized  gracing winemakers with an above average warm Indian Summer that brought the fruit through to a good level physiological ripeness.   By all accounts, 2014 appears to be a solid vintage, not to the level of the much touted 2009 or 2010 vintages, but one that can nonetheless provide much drinking enjoyment.

It has been a few weeks since the release of the 2014 vintage Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux wines and the vintage includes  crus from 278 estates representing seven AOCs: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe .  The wines have robust colors, firm tannins, balanced by primary black and red fruit flavors on the palate.  The concentration and tannins present indicate wines that have some ageability with some wines are already showing finesse.




There are a few different classifications of Bordeaux wines, so it is interesting to take a step back to look at the history of the Cru Bourgeois classification to understand the wines better.  The origins of Cru Bourgeois dates back to the Middle Ages and Bourg, a town in the Bordeaux region.  Bourg was the home of many of the Bordeaux wine region’s wine merchants and vineyard owners.   During the period of English rule, the Bourgeois were given special privileges and rights including tax exempt status on the sale of their wines.   Enriched by international trade, by the fifteenth century, the rich Bourgeois bought the best properties in the region and thus earning the name “Crus des Bourgeois.”

The intervening centuries marked by the French Revolution, the classification of 1855, the First World War and the Great Depression all impacted  the Crus Bourgeois wines in some fashion or other.  War inevitably caused disruptions in their local and export markets and sometimes the removal of preferential tax statuses.   And, the 1855 classification incorporated some of the Crus Bourgeois, listing 248 different chateaux mostly considered just a bit below the cru classes.  Nonetheless, despite all of these challenges the term Cru Bourgeois has continued on to the present day with a slight interruption in 2007 when the Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux annulled the 2003 official classification of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc.  By 2008, a new system to determining Cru Bourgeois was set into motion.

Cru Bourgeois du Médoc  can come from vineyards located in one of eight Médoc AOCs:  Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.    This designation is subject to a blind tasting of samples from the estates , tasted and scored by a jury of experts made up ofprofessional tasters recognized  in the industry,  with six tasters per session.  Average of the scores are taken, if the wine obtains a score greater than or equal to the representative sample, it is a “Cru Bourgeois”.   According to Conseil des Vins du Médoc , 2014 produced 30 million bottles, from 278   estates, mostly from AOC Medoc and make up 33% of Médoc’s production.

Some Compelling Examples of the 2014 Vintage:










Chȃteau l’Argenteyre Medoc   – meaty, red currant,    raspberries, cherry made  from 55% Cabernet  Sauvignon, 30% Merlot,  15% Petit Verdot.














Chȃteau Bégadan Medoc –  deep ruby color, tea, black  plum, black raspberries,    full-bodied, firm tannins.



Chȃteau Bournac Medoc – Tannic, blackberry, brambly, very extracted, good backbone.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.

Chȃteau La Gorre Medoc – Fragrant violet, floral notes herbal dill notes, black fruit: plums, black cherries.  60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot.



















Chȃteau Aney Haut-Medoc  - red fruit: red currants, raspberries, plums. 65%  Cabernet Sauvignon,  25%  Merlot, 7% Cabernet  Franc, 3% Petit Verdot.
















Chȃteau du Cartillon Haut-  Medoc – Very lush,    blackberries, black plum,  firm tannins yet lush.  67%  Merlot, 28% Petit Verdot,  5% Cabernet


Sauvignon.Chȃteau Lestage Listrac-Medoc – Fragrant sweet red and black fruit, lots of firm tannins balanced by concentrated fruit. 62% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot.
















Chȃteau Liouner  Listrac-Medoc – Plummy  black fruit, very firm tannins.  70% Merlot,  30% Petit Verdot.


















Chȃteau Pomeys Moulis-en-  Medoc – Good  backbone,  violets, plums, black fruit.  55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet  Sauvignon.





The Sherry Region’s Delightful Dark Horse


It’s inky, mahogany in color, thick and syrupy; oozing with aromas of dried fig, dates and raisins.  This dense, muscular monster is punctuated with flavors as far ranging as licorice, coffee, figs, cocoa and treacle.  What is this intriguing wine, you ask?  Why, it’s the Sherry region’s most decadent “dulce naturale” wine, made with the grape Pedro Ximénez.

Some love it, while others hate this nuclear bomb in a glass. Not for the faint of heart, Pedro Ximénez or PX, the grape used to make one of the richest, sweetest dessert wines on the planet somehow manages to maintain a certain freshness and elegance that belies the fact that many examples exceed 400 grams of sugar!  Of course, this has to do with its relatively high levels of acidity.

The secret to obtaining this elegant balance is through “asoleo,”  or literally, the “sunning” of the grapes.  The benefits of drying grapes out in the sun is that the acidity remains intact as the grapes raisin and their juices concentrate.

The PX of the Sherry region is different than most dessert wines in that it is fortified with the addition of a wine spirit.  Once Pedro Ximénez has been stabilized on a microbiological level, the fermentation arrested using wine spirit, further wine spirit is added to fortify the wine up to between 15 and 17 degrees of alcohol.

The PX is then usually put into oak casks that are part of a solera, Sherry’s famous system. This allows the wine to age via fractional blending.  The final product will be a mix of different years, with the exception being “Vintage” Sherries or “Añadas,” which are aged in the same cask.

Interestingly, when purchasing sherry, you may notice VOS (Very Old Sherry) 20 or VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) 30 on the label.  This means the average age of the solera wine is at least 20 or 30 years old.  A solera can date back to the 18th century, theoretically meaning that some drop of wine from many years ago could still exist in the solera.  In order to determine the rough age of a bottle of wine, the Consejo Regulador  uses carbon dating and puts the wine through a panel tasting.   A 30 VORS could actually be closer to 50 years old, which from a wine geek perspective is pretty amazing.

Delicious alone or with a dark chocolate cake, on ice cream or blue cheese, PX is a bargain in the dessert wine world, especially when you consider the level of aging each of these wines undergoes.    I recently tasted one that was about 70 years old and I cherished every drop in my glass.   Of course, this wine was extremely expensive, but very good PX can still be found between 20-30 GBP.

Below are some compelling examples of PX:


Fernando de Castilla is a small, independent sherry house taken over in 1999 by Norwegian Jan Pettersen.    Since then, the bodega has focused on making their Antique range of single solera Sherries top notch.

Fernando de Castilla’s Antique Pedro Ximénez VOS has flavors of sticky toffee, dark chocolate and figs.  This 20 year old is well integrated despite logging in close to 500 grams/liter sugar.


Salto al Cielo is a boutique almacenista Sherry producer.  Their Salto al Cielo Pedro Ximénez is from one single butt, so supply is very limited.  Salted caramel, coffee notes and dried prunes were among some of the rich flavors present here.









Osborne was founded in 1772 by English entrepreneur Thomas Osborne Mann, who started shipping his own sherries in 1804.   Today, Osborne owns a large bodega complex on the outskirts of El Puerto de Santa María, as well as an older bodega in the center of town that used to belong to the family Moreno Mora.  This bodega has a fantastic range of VORS sherries and is worth a taste and a visit, if you are lucky to get to the Sherry triangle.


Osborne’s Venerable Pedro Ximénez VORS 30 Year old is very elegant and full bodied, with dried dates and figs, cocoa and molasses notes.


Another cool, smaller bodega producing interesting sherries, Bodega Yuste Aurora ‘s Pedro Ximénez  is well-balanced and ready to drink now despite its density.  Loaded with figs, dates and cocoa flavors, the opaque brown-black wine toffee, black coffee flavors.


A typical sherry tasting at Lustau’s bodega, available to visitors.

Bodega Emilio Lustau is one of the most lauded producers in Sherry.   In fact, the bodega was the most awarded European winery at the recent 2015 Wine Challenge.   They definitely have an extensive range of fantastic sherries that are worthy of serious attention, and their estate tours are not to be missed, as you can see above!  I was there a few years back and had a fantastic time trying their range of sherries alongside some of the best charcuterie in my life.  It was pure heaven!


Now about their PX…Lustau’s Pedro Ximénez  VORS comes from one cask selected from a Solera of six, set aside as a family reserve in the 1930’s.  This PX is a luscious, deep mahogany with aromas of dried prune, sultana and spicy fig.  Concentrated and Sweet, the finish on this wine goes on forever.


Now, last but not least is the Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana, one of the oldest, family owned bodegas in the Sherry triangle. In fact, the estate is now in its 7th generation of Hidalgo’s running the bodega.  While the whole Hidalgo line-up is excellent, it is best known for its flagship wine, their Manzanilla La Gitana.  This is apparently the most popular Manzanilla world-wide and I can believe it.  I try to have this Manzanilla on-hand at home whenever possible as it is so versatile with food and in cooking.


Now back to PX…Hidalgo’s Pedro Ximénez Triana VORS 30 is a top end example of PX.  Dark mahogany, densely concentrated, with tea, date and caramel aromas and Black plum, prune and treacle flavors on the palate. This wine has a persistent, long finish.

PX is fun to drink and when paired right, can really add to an evening with friends…or alone.  In addition, the high sugar and good acidity levels means that an open bottle can remain for several weeks in the refrigerator without going bad.  Not a bad deal.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby! And, other musings about South African wines

img_1063 Time flies when you’re having fun, so the saying goes.  It’s hard to believe that I tasted my first South African wine circa 1996–It seems just like yesterday.  Back in those days, South African wines were just barely hitting the shelves in the US market and there seemed to be a certain amount of mystery surrounding these wines. No one seemed to know much.

As might be expected, I was excited to have my first taste of South African vino.  And one day, the occasion finally arrived, my chance for a taste!  An importer new to the wine business, looking for distribution into my market was keen to taste me on his prized Pinotage, a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault.

My first taste of Pinotage that day was surprising…and shocking, but not in a good way. The wine in question came from a cooperative and the importer unabashedly admitted that the wine racked in at above 15.5% alcohol!   I should have been prepared for the unbelievable hotness of the wine, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the funky medicinal, banana-ish, nail varnish flavors that I came to learn later were characteristic of poorly made Pinotage.

Thankfully, times have changed, and in the meantime, South African wine producers have learned how to hone the unique South African terroir using world class wine-making techniques.  The wines are often well-balanced with good fruit and acidity and best still, South African wines offer a big bang for the buck. These wines are commonly featured on restaurant, wine bar and pub by-the-glass menus due to the obvious value offered in terms of its quality/price ratio.

At the recent Intrepid Tasting, a tasting featuring only the wines of South Africa, I was lucky enough to taste some very interesting wines from some, perhaps, lesser-known, boutique producers.


I stumbled upon Eikendal Vineyard’s wines and was happy to taste a whole range of interesting, very well-made wines.  The one that stuck in my mind was the 2015 “Janina” Unwooded Chardonnay, probably because it was both well-made and very reasonably priced.  I often wish I could go to more restaurants and find a wine like this by the glass. From Stellenbosh, it has rich flavors of pineapple, mango and peach finishing on limey mineral notes.












Next, I found a fellow-American who recently purchased a wine farm in South Africa and started producing a range of wines.  I really liked the Straw Wine and her Chenin Blanc, in particular.  Her Botanica 2014 Chenin Blanc is lean, citrus, quince and finishes on a lightly flinty mineral note. Perfect to hangout on the porch and drink with friends and serious enough to pair with top end food.  The cool labels were created by incorporating collages painted by British artist Mary Delany in the late 1700′s.  It’s nice being able to appreciate artistry both in the bottle and on the outside of it.


Next up, is Thorne Daughter’s 2015 Old Vine Semillion.  This wine exhibits stone fruit aromas of peach and nectarine.  Weighty on the palate and filled with notes of apricot and honey it is intriguing now, but I wonder what it will taste like in 12-18 months.


Soms-Delta Amalie is a white wine blend of Viognier and Grenache Blanc. The Grenache Blanc grapes are desiccated on the vine following an ancient Greek practice that concentrates color and flavors. The Viognier was sourced from six different sites to achieve a complex flavor profile. Both grape varieties were fermented and matured separately in new French oak barrels for a slow fermentation and extended lees maturation, and were blended prior to bottling. Amalie has intense fruit flavors of tangerine, honeysuckle, vanilla, layers of complexity and a well-integrated tannic structure and lingering finish.


Solms-Delta’s 2015 Rose is made up of mostly Grenache Noir 97% and a touch of Cinsault 3% Style of Wine this dry rose is like a bowl of fruit freshly picked at peak ripeness in summer, with raspberry, strawberry and a touch of green apple on the finish. This Rose has a beautiful  pink- salmon color that reminds me of one of my favorite Rose Champagnes.


Now, back to South Africa’s famous Pinotage.  Eikendol Vineyard makes a lighter more delicate version of Pinotage.  It’s 2015 vintage is made from Pinotage sourced in Stellenbosch from a non-irrigated, 20 year old vineyard comprised of decomposed granite and koffie klip’. Aged for 12 months in Burgundian and this wine is more pinot noir-like and refined compared to many other Pinotages that display a more muscular flavor profile.  This wine is light and fragrant, red currants, wild strawberries and black raspberries.


The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage on the other hand is a heavier, more alpha male version of Pinotage, but also enjoyable, nonetheless.

Rich, and packed with toasty vanilla, red and black plums, black cherries, black berries and a touch of chocolate and a bit of spicy notes, this is a heavy, full-bodied wine that must pair with game and red meat very well.

The Bernard Series Basket Press Syrah is made up of a blend of Syrah (98%) and Viogner (2%) this wine is an aromatic wine with hints of mulberry, dark chocolate and a black raspberry and violet on the palate.  Another great food wine for the BBQ or Braai.










Deux Freres is a small family owned winery located on the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch and run by brothers Retief and Stephan du Toit.  The brothers focus is in producing quality wines that reflect their unique terroir. With their wine “Liberte,” a blend of Cabernet and Petit Verdot, they have managed to create a wine that is lush and velvety at the same time as having plenty of backbone to carry the fruit.  This Bordeaux style blend has plenty of flavor; I got lots of black plum, black cherry, current, cocoa and vanilla flavors on the palate.  Their Shiraz/Mourvedre blend and Blanc de Noir are worth exploring, too.


There has to be one “sticky” at any given tasting that grabs your attention and for me it was Miles Mossop’s 2014 Kika Late Harvest Chenin Blanc. This is a decadent treat made with 100% botrytised Chenin Blanc.  A golden, viscous, sticky treat of liquid honey, orange blossoms, dried apricot, peach and almond flavors.  Harvested at about 42 Brix/ this wine has about 147 g/l RS and 9.3 g/l Acidity, so although sweet, it has plenty of acidity to balance off the sugar.  Yum!




Some New(er) Faces on the Spirits Front


A New white aperitif, chenin Blanc based and made off of an old Cape recipe

Everyday new products appear on the market, some are hum-drum, some are just plain strange and others have the potential to revolutionize a category or at least, offer a welcome addition to what is currently on offer.  At the recent Imbibe tasting, there were definitely some interesting, fun, new,  or at least, relatively recent additions to the spirits market.


First, was a Pastis from a small micro-distillery from Cornwall, called Southwestern Distillery.   The UK’s first Pastis and a double gold winner at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, this handcrafted spirit is made with freshly foraged gorse flowers and orange zest.  The end result is a viscous, unctuous spirit with notes of anise, citrus, fennel and licorice that seems to work at soothing jangled nerves and anything else that may need calming, such as an off-kilter digestion system.  Delicious with some water and ice.


Nomad Whisky is a collaboration between master blender Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay and sherry producer Gonzalez Byass .  A blend of whiskies sourced from Scotland’s Highlands, Lowlands and Speyside, Nomad is aged for over five years in sherry butts before being shipped to Jerez for an extra year of aging in PX casks.  The warmth in the bodegas speeds the ageing process up, making this whisky taste more mature than its years and bringing some secondary dried fruit characteristics that only comes with age.   This blend really represents the best aspects of each of the represented Scottish regions and shows itself to be velvety, with tons of dried prunes, peach and apricot, spice, vanilla and orange, citrus notes.  Very velvety, almost sweet on the palate, this is a complex, spicy fruit bomb.

blended whisky

Boutique Whiskey Company has a number of interesting whisky’s on offer, many of which come from a single barrel.  Most of their range is compelling, but the one that caught my attention was the Blended Scotch Whisky, which is a comprised of a blend of, on average, 37 year old whiskies.   The nose is an unbelievable blend of butterscotch, vanilla, spice, pepper and floral notes.    On the palate, some caramel and tobacco.  Lots of layers of flavors and very well rounded.


Drumshanbo Gunpowerder Irish Gin a fusion of east and west, made with locally foraged meadowsweet and vapor infused oriental lemon and lime, fresh grapefruit and gunpowder.   All the botanicals smell so fresh and citrusy with lovely floral notes.  It is smooth on the palate and the botanicals are well balanced.  This is delicious straight up.


Sweden’s Gottlands Bittar is an amaro of about 38% ABV that is made up of 30 different herbs, many originated locally. A mix of herbs and sea flavors, many of the herbs included in Gotland Bittar have been used for millennia for their medicinal properties that are thought to aid in cardiovascular health and digestion. Gotland Bittar includes a distillate of beer aged one year in French oak barrels.  This is a unique Swedish drink that can be used as an aperitif or as part of a Negroni.


Windspiel is a German gin made from potatoes.  It is very broad and creamy on the palate has some woody components mixed with citrus, floral and herbal notes.   The botanicals in this unique gin include cinnamon, ginger, juniper, lemon peel, coriander and lavender.