Fall in love with Van Loveren

The drive en route towards Van Loveren Wines must certainly be one of the most scenic journeys I’ve ever embarked on. Red cannas, Van Loveren’s exclusive signature flower, embrace you long before you actually reach the entrance of the farm. It comes thus as no surprise when I’m told that the Retief’s have expanded their realm significantly and now includes at least 10 farms owned by the country’s most famous ‘four cousins’.

The farm, which is as rich in history as it is in fertile soil, dates back to the late 1930s. A third generation farm, Van Loveren was initially part of a larger farm called Goudmyn (Goldmine) before oupa Hennie Retief acquired it in 1937. It was sub-divided and renamed ‘Goudmyn F’ which irked his wife, ouma Jean, who thought the “F” signified ‘Fools and Failures’. Subsequently she persuaded her husband to change the name to Van Loveren, the surname of Christina van Loveren, an ancestor of hers who was the first Dutch relative to arrive in South Africa in 1692. Christina van Loveren’s trousseau chest remains on the farm to this very day.

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The red cannas are a welcoming spectacle.

The first wine, a red muscadel, was produced in 1939 at Van Loveren but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the first bottle of wine, the Premium Grand Cru was launched. Prior to that, wine was not bottled and only sold in bulk. Nico and Wynand Retief, the two sons of oupa Hennie, took ownership of the farm before the four cousins, brothers Neil and Philip and brothers Hennie and Bussel took over the reigns from the 1990s and turned it into a commercial powerhouse.

A household name, Van Loveren’s Four Cousins range exploded onto the wine scene in 2000 with a collection of easy-drinking wines. “Our wines are mostly entry-level, yet premium quality wines and that’s why the South African consumer has taken so generously to it,” Van Loveren Marketing Manager Bonita Malherbe explains to me. “And because we produce bulk quantities of wine, we are able to remain very cost-effective and competitive. And that is one of the reasons Van Loveren is South Africa’s biggest selling bottled brand.”

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Christina van Loveren’s trousseau chest remains at Van Loveren’s tasting room.

Van Loveren has invested significantly into eco-conscious farming over the past couple of years, creating a completely P. E. T. (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottled range, the Tangled Tree collection. It has significantly reduced its carbon footprint in the process and hopes to improve on it in future. Besides for caring for the environment, Van Loveren also cares for its farmworkers, investing in a BEE scheme in which farmworkers acquired 52% of one of its farms. The Five Reserve range is produced by grapes from the BEE farm and a portion of the proceeds are invested back into the farmworkers.

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The Van Loveren Tangled Tree collection is P. E. T bottled.

Arriving at Van Loveren’s state-of-the-art tasting room outside of Ashton on the renowned R317 wine route towards Bonnievale, I was welcomed by tasting room assistant, Nadine Pietersen who seemed as excited to present the tasting as I was to do the actual tasting. The massive glass doors at the entrance give way to a backdrop of white interior which allows for natural sunlight to fill all corners of the room. The perception of light and space has been perfected with this design.

The tasting room’s design, which was inspired by a wine barrel, offers lavish furnishings for a leisurely tasting. The contemporary design against the natural setting of the mountains is any architect’s dream project. Eloquently designed to take advantage of the lush gardens, a piece of art on its own, the tasting room capitalises perfectly on its use of spacious interiors. Architects Kuger Theron did a sterling job with this breathtaking design while Chrislene Retief takes credit for the beautiful interior.

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Beautiful, spacious interiors offered the perfect hideaway.

Nadine, the tasting room assistant, led me to a quiet table before presenting some of their best wines which, I may add, completely swept me off my feet!

Christina van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc

First up, from their premium selection, was the Christina Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc. Classic and full-bodied, this Sauv is any white wine lover’s dream. Handpicked to ensure only the very best grapes are used to make this lovely Sauv. A mix of tropical flavours and grass explodes on your palate from the very first sip. I loved it because it’s a comfortable wine yet it offers a little complexity which allows you to savour every sip.

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Some of Van Loveren’s selection of white wines.

Neil’s Pick Colombar

Named after Cousin Neil Retief the viticulturist, this Colombar was made to entertain the wine enthusiast. A refreshing taste of lime and guava, the Colombar is a real crowd pleaser. It’s an easy-drinking wine and appeals to the simple palate. Guaranteed to hook you from the very first sip.

Christina van Loveren Method Cap Classique

I must admit that I was mostly excited to taste their promised MCC and was delightfully surprised. Well balanced and smooth, this MCC was made for celebration. Eighty six percent Chardonnay and 14% Pinot Noir, this MCC was an absolute pleasure to my palate. A burst of bubbles erupts on your palate with limey and citrusy flavours to fill all corners of your month. It truly is a lovely treat for any occasion.

Christina van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon

Nadine ended our lovely tasting by offering me a sip of their award-winning Christina van Loveren Cabernet Sauvignon. Fourteen-months wood matured, this Cab Sauv is an absolute treat to the palate. Full-bodied, it has all the characteristics of a dark red wine. Although slightly heavier on the palate, this wine will appeal to both the simple and complex red wine lover. I truly enjoyed this wine.

Van Loveren also offers a selection food and wine pairings including cheese and wine, chocolate and wine, and nougat and nuts and wine. For the nature lover, it also offers a range of activities including a 7.5 kilometre hiking trail, bird watching and mountain biking. Christina’s Bistro restaurant, also on the premises offers a delectable menu for the hungry traveller.

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I fell in love with the large variety of delish delicacies they stock in their tasting room.

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Choices included olive oil and a variety of yummy jams.

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A display of massive bottles of Van Loveren Wines was intriguing.

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My tasting ‘partner-in-crime’, Nadine and I.

I’d like to thank Nadine for the lovely tasting, I had a wonderful time at Van Loveren. Thanks also to Bonita for running me through the farm’s history, it was very insightful. If you’d like more info on the wide selection of Van Loveren Wines, including their wine prices, please see their website. Please also follow them on facebook and twitter.

Did you like this review (of course you did!)? Then please subscribe to my blog (see top right hand side). Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Till next time, hugs and high5’s!

xoxo

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Step into luxury at Graham Beck Wines

From the time you step into Graham Beck Wines’ tasting room in Robertson, you immediately notice that this is not just another tasting room. The opulence is immediately noticeable and you know you have entered into a completely new ball-game. The tasting room is like no other I’ve experienced before. I used the word ‘experienced’ on purpose, because the Graham Beck Wines’ tasting room offers you exactly that; an ‘experience’. It was thoughtfully designed purely for leisure.

I could tell you about the exclusive pieces of art on the walls; or the crafted sculptures which add a mix of contemporary and antiquity flair; or the carefully selected pieces of furniture in the room; or the endless glass walls which capitalise perfectly on the exquisite views; but instead, I really want to tell you about their unique selection of MCC’s.

Upon entering the tasting room on Friday, I was greeted pleasantly by sales executive, Ricardo Booysen and escorted to their little bar-seating area, which again, looks out on the most gorgeous views of the Langeberg valley. The tranquillity of the views compliments the tasting impeccably.

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A massive bottle of Graham Beck bubbly (left) and the beautiful views from the tasting room (right).

I’ve touched slightly on what an MCC is in my previous post, but I was completely fascinated with Ricardo’s explanation that I really want to delve a little deeper into it, in this post. Also, Graham Beck is mostly known for its delish MCC’s and so I think it ought to be the cornerstone of this review.

An MCC, or Méthode Cap Classique is, in layman’s terms, a champagne. However, the word ‘champagne’ is restricted to be used only for wine that’s produced from the grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. The method, however, for producing both an MCC and a bottle of champagne is essentially the same. It requires, amongst other, a secondary fermentation period of the wine in the bottle to create the carbonation. This method is exclusive to a bottle of champagne or MCC.

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Their gorgeous bar-seating area (left) and one of the many sculptures in the tasting room (right).

Graham Beck Wines is one of only a handful of cellars that produces MCC’s in the region and not surprisingly so. I have renewed respect for winemakers Pieter Ferreira and Pierre de Klerk. It takes an intensive process of planning and nurture to produce the perfect bottle of MCC, Ricardo explains to me. The MCC grapes are harvested early to ensure the perfect balling reading. Essentially, the balling reading should contain a high acidity and low sugar reading of the grapes. Grapes are then harvested before sunrise to manipulate the balling reading.

After the first fermentation period, which includes settling the juices of the two cultivars and fermented separately, the two are then cross blended and bottled for the second fermentation period. The second fermentation (as mentioned) requires the MCC to be bottle-fermented. It is then bottled and left for 15 month to 18 months yeast contact time before disgorgement. During this period, the bottles are riddled occasionally. Although this process was done manually during earlier years, it is now all automated, Ricardo says. (Apologies for the in-depth explanation but I was completely blown away by this info.)

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Another bottle of bubbly (left) and their spacious tasting room (right).

After the second fermentation period concludes, and after numerous tests have been performed to ensure the MCC is perfect (and delish!), the yeast is disgorged. To ensure a slightly sweeter taste, a hint of dosage (liqueur d’expédition) is then added to all the MCC’s with the exception of the Brut Zero, which contains no sugar.

All Graham Beck Wines’ MCCs contain a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with the exception of the Blanc de Blanc which contains 100% Chardonnay grapes. The red Pinot Noir grape is sourced from Graham Beck’s Firgrove farm while the Chardonnay grapes are grown at the Robertson estate, right here in the Langeberg valley. All MCCs are produced at Graham Beck’s state of the art cellar, in Robertson.

You may also notice a substantial difference in price between their Vintage and Non-Vintage MCCs. Essentially, the long and short of it is that; the Vintage wines are produced from one specific year while the non-vintage varieties can be more than one year’s harvest. No year is thus recorded on the non-vintage bottle labels. This makes their vintage wines a tad more expensive than their non-vintage range.

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I was literally in bubbly heaven with endless bottles of MCCs (left) and a portrait of the legend himself, Graham Beck (right).

Ladies and gent’s, we have officially reached my **favourite** part of the interview; i.e. the tasting!

Graham Beck Brut NV

Of course I insisted that Ricardo opens our tasting with the legendary Graham Beck Brut NV. It is after all the MCC that both former president Nelson Mandela and US President Barack Obama served at their respective inaugurations, and it did not disappoint. A citrus, limy taste explodes on your palate from the very first sip. Ricardo explains this is because the soil is treated with a limestone which gives it the zesty flavour. I loved it because it is so refreshing and citrusy. A real treat.

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Ricardo doing what he does best (left) and a lovely glass of bubbly (right).

Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc Vintage 2009

If I thought the Brut was a lovely treat, I was in for a pleasant surprise; the Blanc de Blanc completely blew me out of the water. This was my absolute favourite of all the varieties. I loved the complexities yet elegance that accompany this MCC. It is robust and full-bodied yet fresh and versatile. If you never try any of Graham Beck’s MCCs, please at least try this one. It was a real delight.

Brut Zero Vintage 2008

Although a tad bit drier than their other varietals, the Brut Zero Vintage 2008 is not only fresh on the palate but also light on the hips, with no added sugar. If you’re anything like me and like to watch what you cram into your pie-hole, this MCC is a lovely alternative. No dosage was added to this MCC making it one of the purest wines. It offers an invigorating, natural taste to be savoured and enjoyed leisurely.

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Bubblies to pick and choose…

Graham Beck Brut Rosé Vintage 2009

Ricardo was filled with child-like excitement upon pulling out the bottle of Brut Rosé. Cheer filled his voice as he explained this MCC, his absolute favourite, to me. Pretty and pink, this 82% Pinot Noir and 18% Chardonnay MCC is slightly softer and fruiter than its Brut counterpart. In a South African first, the whole bunches for this MCC were co-fermented; the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes were jointly pressed as a blend in the same press. The Brut Rosé’s delicious salmon pink hue makes it attractive to both the eye and the palate and I could relate to Ricardo’s enthusiasm.

Graham Beck Bliss Demi-Sec NV

Another light MCC, the Bliss Demi-Sec NV, offers full flavour yet is softer on the palate. A mix of sophistication and simplicity, this MCC is a tad sweeter than the other varieties. It is easy drinkable and those who prefer a lighter wine will appreciate this MCC.

Graham Beck Gorgeous

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Their lovely new rosé, Gorgeous.

Let me start off by saying that I’m always sceptical of the media hype around a new wine. I’ve read a lot about the new Gorgeous before I had the change to actually taste it and so of course I had to insist that Ricardo sends me off with this new rosé.

Please quote me on the following: “Graham Beck’s Gorgeous completely and utterly lives up to the hype as portrayed in the media.” I think it is safe to say that the media frenzy around this new wine is completely justified. Point proven. Wow, what a lovely rosé it is!

Gorgeous is lower in alcohol content which means that I can have more glasses of wine (score!). Just in time for the summer, this rosé is a refreshing pick-me-upper. The fruity salmon pink hue makes it softer on the eye and gives it a slightly feminine characteristic. It’s a delightful wine and will appeal to both the delicate and the complex palate. It truly is this summer’s must-drink wine.

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Ricardo (left) with Tasting Room Manager, Nadia Lakey (right) who ensured that I had a lovely tasting.

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GBW Accounting Manager, JC Kriegler (right) lend a helping hand when the tasting room started to fill up.

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Both Ricardo and I were very impressed with his great tasting. This picture was taken right after the tasting.

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The impressive GBW building in Robertson.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Graham Beck Wines and was so sad to leave. I will return to their tasting room soon, if only to get another sip of their Blanc de Blanc and delish Gorgeous.

I’d like to thank Ricardo Booysen for his enthusiasm and professionalism. I had a fab time drinking (oops… I mean tasting!) and learning about their lovely wines. Please visit Graham Beck Wines’ website for more info and prices. Follow winemaker Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira on twitter. Please also follow GBW on twitter and facebook.

If you liked this review (of course you did!), please subscribe to my blog (see top right hand side). Please also follow me on twitter and follow my blog on facebook. I’ll be posting a lot more reviews over the coming months.

Till next time… xoxo