Posts Tagged ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’


Who is the Big Six in the wine world? Who is the Hale Berry of wine berries, the George Clooney of Grapes or the Naomi Watts of Wine?

Well in the wine drinking world, there is an A-list of grape varieties better know as The Noble Grapes.
These A-Listers are famous culturally and historically and are internationally known and grown, constantly producing quality wines year after year (that is if they are planted in the right type of soil, climate and “directed” by a capable wine maker).

Let’s look at the who’s-who of wine:

Sauvignon Blanc:
Known for its crisp, grassy, gooseberry and citrus flavours. Depending on the growing climate, Sauvigon Blanc can range from the really green, bone dry style to the vibrant tomato vine, gooseberries and green pepper style.
Some Sauvigons are blended with a small amount of Semillon to make the classic Bordeaux style whites while other Sauvignon Blancs are wood matured in French oak barrels to give a distinctive smokey character.

Some love Chardonnay, while others hate it, but no one can deny it. It is an easy growing vine that yields good quality fruit, which makes it a favourite with grape growers. It is also one of the three main varietals used in Champagne (or MCC, if you are in South Africa). It is a versatile grape and can produce a style of wine that’s fresh with lemony notes when it is unoaked or rich creamy style which can remind wine drinkers of buttered toast, almonds and honey.
Unfortunately there are other Chardonnays on the market that are so excessively wooded that the subtle fruit characters are overpowered and flavours and can be unappealing.

This varietal causes quite a bit of confusion in South Africa, because in the past wine drinkers could choose between wines labelled as Rhine Riesling, Weisser Riesling, Paarl Riesling or Cape Riesling.
Current legislation requires that the original Riesling varietal planted in South Africa can be labelled as Riesling where as the wines labelled as Cape Riesling is in fact Crouchen Blanc.
The good Rieslings that you will find can range from wines that are refreshing and racy with a steely acidity, while others can have a more lime and orange pith characters.

Cabernet Sauvignon:
Personified as a very “masculine” wine and is internationally admired. The trademarks of a good Cabernet Sauvignons are the deep dark red colour, the full-bodied character and taste of blackcurrant combined with a good tannin structure. Maturing the wine in oak barrels adds tobacco, cedar wood and chocolate characters which make the wine more complex.
Cabernet Sauvignon or predominantly Cabernet-led blends are the flagship of many wine producers.
Sadly, the poor Cab’s out there have stalky-green characteristics that are not appealing at all.

This is a super popular grape varietal with a large spectrum of wine drinkers. Described as a “feminine” wine, it is a little bit softer and rounder than Cabernet with juicier ripe berry flavours which makes it more approachable. For many wine drinkers, when faced with a choice of wine, Merlot is the go to varietal since it difficult to really get a “bad” one. Merlot also blends well with Cabernet making a good “marriage” between feminine and masculine grape types.

Pinot Noir:
Also known as the “heartbreak” grape, Pinot Noir is probably considered as the Holy Grail of wines. Notoriously temperamental, Pinot Noir can produce a wine that is ethereal, elegant and complex with layer and layer of flavours…
unfortunately Pinot Noir is like the French nouveau art film actors and hardly produces good wines outside its native Burgundy. Many new world wine growing areas tend to blunder Pinot Noir, resulting in a wine that seems disjointed with either too much fruit, hard tannins or just not enough body. Only in the cooler areas of South Africa, does Pinot Noir do well.
Pinot Noir is also one of the three grapes used in Champagne / MCC.

This is not to say that grape varietals like Chenin Blanc, Pinotage or Shiraz doesn’t make as good wine as the Noble Varietals, just that the wines listed are the internationally known.

Any excuse pulling the cork on a bottle of wine, eh?


Blog reposted from winewhiskers.co.za

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With the current prices of red meat it’s not everyday that I can get my hands on a leg of lamb. Fortunately my parentals were kind enough to bless me with 750 grams deboned leg of lamb! 😀

The meat has already been defrosted, so what to do with this beautiful cut of meat on a school night?

Make a quick and easy lamb pot-roast of course!

You’ll Need:

  • 750g leg of lamb deboned or 1kg lamb on the bone
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 table spoons of olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 500ml of beef stock
  • 75ml of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 green pepper roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots chopped


Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Rub the lamb with the olive oil, the chopped garlic, lemon juice, cumin and salt and pepper.

Heat an oven proof casserole and sear the lamb on all sides. Add the stock and chopped onions, add the spices, sugar and tomato paste.
Cover the casserole (I covered mine with foil) and cook in the oven for 2½ hours.

Remove the casserole and pour out the stock into a frying pan.
Place the casserole back in the oven and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.

In the mean time, heat up the stock in the frying pan and add the chopped green pepper and carrots until soft.

Slice the lamb and serve with the vegetables.

The meat is soft and falls apart as I tried to cut it. Was best enjoyed with a glass of 1988 KWV Cabernet Sauvignon. 

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Since I am based in the Helderberg, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West; I often wondered what it is that makes this wine growing area so unique. Is it the climate, the soil type, the location? The answer is yes to all of the above.

The Helderberg  wine growing area stretches from Somerset West to the edge of Stellenbosch and in this area lies the Golden Triangle, a top wine growing area that stretches from the foothills of the Helderberg to the edge of the Stellenbosch Mountains.

Some of the popular grape varietals planted in this area:

  • Chenin Blanc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Shiraz
  • Viognier
  • Chardonnay

So what makes this such a top wine growing area?

The Golden Triangle

The secret lies in the diversity of the soil types as well as the growing climate. Elevation ranges from 60 to 400 meters above sea level and the soil types found in the area includes granite, shale, sandstone and clay.
The combination of these different soils have both great water holding capacity as well as drainage; making it possible for producers to administer a dry-land viticulture method (when no irrigation is used) or micro-irrigation (e.g. drip or trickle irrigation).

Since this growing area is situated close to the False Bay the vines benefit from the cooling ocean breezes, producing smaller berries with optimum ripeness,  concentration of fruit flavour, lively acidity in white wines and colour and smooth tannins in red wines.

According to The New York Times 2008 60% of South Africa’s top wines came from the Golden Triangle.

Next time you are in the Stellenbosch area, be sure to explore the fantastic wines from this region. Cheers!

Want to learn more about growing areas and different types of terroir?
Get your hands on The Essential Guide South African Wines: Terroir & Travel by Elmari Swart
(ISBN 978-098027423-3)

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