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Paul Sauer 1987 by the glass at R100

By Graham Howe

Fancy a soupcon of Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1987 at R100 a glass - or a splash more, a 375ml carafe at R250? A round of drinks at The Vine may set you back if your partner has outrageously expensive tastes in wine. Fortunately, dipping into the well-chosen wine-list is well within the means of most wine-swirlers.

Without breaking the bank, you could indulge in a glass of Blaauklippen Zinfandel 1998 (R28), Hoopenburg Pinot Noir 2001 (R30), Cardouw Grenache 2002 (R23), Five Heirs Cabernet Franc 2000 (R25) - or even take a vertical flight down under with Coldstream Hills Cabernet 1992 (R50).

The Vine is the Cape's newest wine bar in the Cape's oldest wine region. With some fifty sparkling wines, still wines, port wines and dessert wines sold by the glass - along with over twenty Cape brandies and grappas by the tot, the vinous menu at the Cellars Hohenort in Constantia is not to be sniffed at (apart from the brandy). Newly opened in August, the wine bar is tres chic with wine-stools, an upholstered bar and rows of softly illuminated bottles kept in separate white and red wine fridges at the perfect temperature.

The wine menu is the brainchild of Tatiana Marcetteau, sommelier at The Cellars and Werner Wentzel, food and beverage manager. Newly returned from VinExpo in her native Bordeaux, the enthusiastic sommelier says her philosophy is that ‘it’s not just wine in the glass’ - or in the carafe. A familiar face on the auction circuit in the Cape winelands, Tatiana has meticulously created a wine-list from a selection of over 8 000 bottles she keeps an eye on at The Cellars. She adds, they have imported special gas cartridges from the USA to keep the wine fresh and prevent deterioration once opened.

Varietals are the spice of life in the wine business. The Vines showcase a variety of Chardonnay, Chenin, Riesling, Semillon and Sylvaner - as well as wines closer to home such as Klein Constantia's Riesling and Vin de Constance 1998 (R70 per glass) and more affordable muscadels from the Robertson region. I particularly like the creative choice of lesser-known wines in the dessert wine section - including Sylvanvale Vine Dried Chenin Blanc 2000 and Graham Beck's Rhona Muscadel 1998 (a steal at R12 per glass.)

We sampled a smidgeon of many of these wines at a recent preview of the new spring and summer menu at the Greenhouse at The Cellars Hohenort. Greeted by the merry percussion of whisks and pots struck by a column of chefs - reminiscent of the famous egg-beater's chorus at Mont St Michel - our party of food critics sat down to a real chef's table in the newly renovated kitchen. Executive chef Phil Alcock presented an organic symphony of fare from the Cape, showcasing the flavours of organically grown carrots, beetroot, leeks, mushrooms and onions, a trilogy of chilled summer soups (gazpacho, celeriac/saffron and cherry tomato) and organically produced beef.

In an intriguing twist, Tatiana Marcetteau served three wines with each course - including one deliberately mismatched with the fare. Too many critics might spoil the plot - but we reached consensus fairly easily on the winning combination. Thus, Bloemendal Semillon 2002 was an all-round match for the seafood selection - a baked oyster with a pastry hat and cinnamon cream, chef's home-smoked Norwegian salmon and homemade fish-cakes. The big Louisvale Chardonnay 2002 stood up to the piquant kingklip ceviche and yellowtail tartare - and so the tasting of chef's ‘cuisine du provenance’ went on.

A chorus of ‘Please sir, can we have dry fino sherry’ greeted the wine pairing with the contrasting flavours of the soups - not quite matching Paul Cluver's finely fragrant Weisser Riesling or Altydgedacht's bone-dry Gewurtztraminer. The piece de resistance of a superb chef's table was ‘a surprise from Saldanha’, poached turbot, served alternately with Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Flagstone Viognier and Wilhelmshof Robert Alexander Chardonnay. Spot the odd one out. We were already debating a showdown between Buitenverwachting Noblesse 1995 and Backsberg Hanepoot, served with ‘a lucky seven’ pastry platter created by Cellars' new superstar Elsa Siebrits.

‘Our dream is to go totally organic’, declared executive chef Phil Alcock, ‘though there is some resistance. The flavour of the organically produced beef is incredible (It was.) We're working with suppliers in a different way, asking them, 'Where does it come from?' We're trying out new ingredients available on the South African market for the first time - like the turbot.’ Wines like Bon Cap Organic Winery's Pinotage 2002 - a supple, spicy partner that enhanced a trilogy of fillet, sirloin and rib-eye - and available at R25 a glass at The Vine, like many of the other di-vine wines at the new wine bar at the Cellars.

· The Vine, the new wine bar at the Cellars Hohenort is open to residents and visitors during normal hotel hours. The Greenhouse is open for lunch and dinner, Monday – Friday.

The Vine, Cellars Hohenort
Tel: +27 (0) 21 794-2137
Email: cellars@relaischateaux.com

~ Commissioned articles on WineNews.co.za are sponsored by Distell ~

Tel: +27.218844221   Fax: +27.218844904   Email: info@hoopenburg.com  
R101 Old Paarl Road Muldersvlei Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 7599, South Africa