Tag Archives: South African wineries

Get the most of your visit!

Well I am back, safe and sound from my travels to South Africa, ready to tell you about the vineyards I visited and give you some pointers on how to get the best out of a visit to a winery.

I visited four wineries in total. The first being Hamilton Russell Winery in Hermauns, here we had a fantastic private tasting with Anthony Hamilton Russell – the owner. We started with his Southern Right range, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinotage. The Sauvignon Blanc is a nice fresh crisp clean wine and the Pinotage is a very good example of how this grape should taste – this is my favourite winery for Pinotage in South Africa. We then tasted the Hamilton Russell wines, of which there only two. A Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The Hamilton Russell wines I feel are the closest in style and taste to burgundy, that you can find outside burgundy itself.

The next was Moreson winery in Franschhoek. Here we had a private tasting with Clayton – the wine maker. We spent a very interesting two hours tasting from the barrel of the previous years vintage and even tasted one wine from this years vintage. Then we went back to the tasting room and tasted the red wines they make. The one which stood out for me here was the 2008 Petit Verdot, a grape you do not normally find on its own.

The next two wineries I visited where Thelama and Tokara in Stellenbosch. I have been a long time fan of Thelama wines; we tasted all the range they produce. The one which stood out the most here was the 2008 “The Mint” Cabernet Sauvignon – a really full bodied fruity wine, with loads of flavour. We even got to taste a 20yr old Riesling they found in the cellar for us to try.

The winery of Tokara was a new one for me; but I am sure we will become life long friends after I tasted some of their wines. This is a very modern looking winery; great care has been taken in its construction. I tasted 6 of their wines, two stood out. 2009 Tokara Directors reserve white – blend of sauvignon blanc & Semillon and the 2010 Tokara Zondernamm Grenache rose, I liked the rose so much I bought a bottle to take back to Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa.

As you can see I had some great tastings and to help you have the same, here are some points to consider when going wine tasting.

  1. If you can, do some research on the winery before you go. If you show you know a little about them and what wines they produce, they will more likely spend more time with you.
  2. Use your contacts. Ask them to arrange if possible tastings at a couple of wineries, this way you are more likely to get the VIP treatment.
  3. Ask questions, i.e. if they say this a wine made from a blend, ask what the percentage is.
  4. Take notes on the wines you are tasting. This shows you are taking the tasting seriously and they will more likely spend more time with you.
  5. Pace yourself don’t try and do too many wineries in one day. Tasting wine is very tiring and your taste buds will not be able to tell the difference by the end of the day.
  6. If you are tasting a lot of wines, do not swallow all the wine; spit most out. This will help you not become drunk. Also have a drink of water between each wine. This helps to refresh your palate between wines.
  7. Make sure you have a good meal at the start of the day, never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. Also if you are tasting all day, try and refrain from drinking too much at lunch time.
  8. Always try and have a designated driver. You can find that the police around wine regions are very strict on drink driving.
  9. Dress accordingly. If you show up at the tasting room scruffy, the chances are you will not receive a very warm welcome.
  10. Never turn up having had one too many. You will not be severed. When you have reached your limit, save that last winery to the next day.

Well I hope you have found this interesting and if I have wetted your appetite for South African wines. We are having a wine dinner on 1st July with Moreson and Dane Friedman will be talking about his wines. I hope to see you all there.http://www.donningtonvalley.co.uk/events_julaug.asp

Chris Neeves
Head sommelier