South Africa’s oldest wine event, the renowned Mercury Wine Week, which takes place this year from Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 August 2018, is celebrating 40 years of migrating the country’s premier wine estates from the Cape to Durban every winter.
To commemorate the milestone, the event which is a highlight on Durban’s winter social calendar, taking place over three evenings offering Durban’s wine- lovers a sampling smorgasbord of over 70 wine estates each showcasing their finest wines, will for the first time take place at Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom.
The Mercury Wine Week affords Durban’s wine-enthusiasts with the opportunity to meet and mingle with some of the country’s leading wine-makers from the Cape winelands’ finest red, white, rosé and sparkling wine estates, to sample the country’s finest blends.
To further celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary, a distinctive Bubbly area will feature the large and growing number of SA’s Méthode Cap Classique estates and their wide variety of sparkling wines.
To ensure the safety of visitors, Mercury Wine Week has partnered with internationally renowned transportation network company Taxify, to offer discounted rates to and from the event.
Be sure to be a part of Durban’s premier winter wine event by booking your tickets online from iTickets at R120 or at the door at R140. The price includes a tasting glass and unlimited wine tasting.
For further information visit www.mercurywineweek.co.za


Winelands Bridal Fair, the Cape’s most renowned, exclusive and upmarket bridal show is happening once again at the beautiful venue Nooitgedacht Estate in Stellenbosch.

Visit our stall 4-5 August!


A red muscadel from Orange River Wine Cellars has been named one of the Top 10 wines of the world at the annual Muscats du Monde, the leading international competition for muscat wines which is annually held in France.

The Orange River Red Muscadel 2017 was also one of only two South African wines to win a gold medal at this illustrious competition where judges from around the globe scrutinised 212 wines from 23 countries.

According to Koos Visser, marketing manager of Orange River Wine Cellars, it is tremendously satisfying to see one of the world’s most isolated wine regions featuring on the international wine stage.

“Based in the Northern Cape region around Upington, we are 800km from the Cape winelands – and even further from the wine competition stages of France!” says Visser. “So it is an enormous honour for Orange River to receive global recognition by featuring among the top muscat wines from France, Spain, Portugal and other famous wine-producing countries.

Irrigated by the Orange River, the region’s vineyards enjoy clean air and a temperate sunny climate. The Muscat de Frontignan vineyards are mostly planted on clay soils, which adds to the body and aromatic components of the wine.

“Although Orange River is today also focussing on the production of natural table wines such as Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz and Chardonnay, we remain a producer of top-quality fortified wines due to the climate which ensures our wines are fruit-driven,” says Visser.

“Our Red Muscadel tastes like a mouthful of sunshine – the clean, succulent sweetness of our grapes, without any wood tannins. This wine has been a staple for generations of South Africans passing through Upington on the way to their Kalahari hunting-trips, so it is great news to tell those hunters that in all these years they have had such an excellent taste for award-winning wines!”

According to Henning Burger, Manager of Viticultural Services at Orange River Cellars, the geographic conditions of the vineyards are perfectly suited to yield grapes of outstanding quality.

“The Muscat de Frontignan vineyards that our white and red Muscadels originate from, enjoy the best living conditions imaginable,” says Burger. “They are planted in deep alluvial soils that are rich in clay. Combined with the long ripening period filled with lots of sunny days, this ensures grapes with deep and intense muscat flavours. We harvest the grapes between 26º and 30º Balling when they are full of flavour concentration, which gives our winemakers the perfect fruit to work with.”

“I often joke with the winemakers by telling them that they have no excuse not to make winning wines from this calibre of grapes!”


Orange River Cellars has bought the Farmers Pride Raisins facility – which produces 4,000 tonnes of premier quality raisins a year – outside Keimoes in the Northern Cape, a region internationally renowned for the dried fruit product. Entering the raisin business is in line with Orange River Cellars’ ethos of expanding its offering beyond wine production, according to CEO, Charl du Plessis.

Image Supplied

Image Supplied


“While we have become renowned as a volume wine producer, everyone knows that bigger is not necessarily better,” says Du Plessis, “especially in a wine market where too many large South African producers find themselves as price-takers instead of price-makers. Orange River Cellars is, therefore, undergoing a strategic turnaround with a greater focus on its own branded products that can add greater value to the chain, as well as look at other avenues to complement and grow the revenue stream.”

A natural fit

Farmers Pride Raisins is one of South Africa’s leading raisin companies in an industry that produces some 60,000 tonnes of raisins per year, 90% of which originate in the Northern Cape due to its proximity to the Orange River and the sunny climate’s ability to ensure grapes suitable for drying to top-quality raisins.

“As part of the Northern Cape’s grape industry, raisin production is a natural fit,” says Du Plessis. “Farmers Pride has a state-of-the-art production plant, knowledgeable and experienced staff and a good client base in the export markets, especially Europe, where the brand has gained a reputation for quality and service delivery. For Orange River Cellars this is an asset that complements our wine offering and cements our position as an inclusive player in the Northern Cape economy and grape-farming industry.”

Raisins drying under the Northern Cape sun. Image Supplied

Raisins drying under the Northern Cape sun. Image Supplied

Outside of wine, Orange River Cellars already produces grape concentrate, used as a sweetener in the wine and fruit-juice industries, as well as grape juice.

“An agriculture business of our size cannot be a one-trick pony,” says Du Plessis. “To turn a profit and to remain a major economic player in your community demands identifying new opportunities and grasping them. We are sure that the expansion into the specialist raisin era is the first of many steps towards greater profitability and a dynamic future for our grape farmer members, staff and the Northern Cape community.


The South African agriculture landscape is not new to Charl du Plessis, newly appointed CEO of Orange River Cellars, but he quickly admits that the country’s wine industry has more questions than answers. Charl, who has worked in – among others – the export fruit and ostrich meat industries before taking up the position with Orange River Cellars in December last year, appears to be as inspired by the current state of the South African wine industry as he is by the challenges and opportunities he faces in his new position in Upington.

“I struggle to comprehend why South African wine (both bulk and packaged) trades at a discount relative to other Southern Hemisphere origins” he says. My experience from the fruit export industry, is that our country’s fruit are sought-after, commanding premium prices due to the quality proposition it delivered ahead of other fruit-producing nations in the Southern Hemisphere. Then you can’t not ask: how can our table grapes, apples, pears, plums and citrus land in the international market-place with a top-end image of quality, but not our wines? This when we are arguably making the best wines in our history. The standard response I receive is that this “unfair” discount is due the level of fragmentation in the industry, which is leading to high degree rivalry in the market place. However, I am a firm believer in Adam Smith’s invisible hand, that will eventually balance supply and demand at a fair value.”

According to Charl, the answer might lie in the matter of association. “New World wine countries have been successful in aligning themselves with one variety of grape and one wine to stake their place and through which to build awareness,” he says. “Argentina has Malbec, Australia Shiraz and New Zealand became the most well-known producer of Sauvignon Blanc in the world by making it their go-to grape. Perhaps that is what South Africa needs, as once you have grabbed the imagination with one point of focus, recognition for our other wines and our industry in general will follow.”

Hailing from Kroonstad in the Free State, Charl initially did not have his sights set on a career in agriculture, choosing to follow the route of logistics. After completing a B.Comm degree in Transport Economics at Rand Afrikaans University he went to Stellenbosch to do a B.Comm Hons degree in Logistics.

“If I finished my studies in logistics in Gauteng, I probably would have ended up working in business there,” says Charl. “However, if one follows this academic discipline in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, you are going to be led into agriculture. And so it has been for me.”

Beginning his career as logistics manager at Anglo American Farms, Charl spent ten years with Capespan, including four years in Belgium where he was involved with the procurement of fruit for various markets from various Southern Hemisphere suppliers as well as managing relations with leading European retailers. In 2011 he joined Klein Karoo International, the world’s leading producer of ostrich products as head of the Ostrich Leather Division, becoming CEO of the company in 2015.

“Fruit is something of a commodity, while the ostrich business is very brand-focussed and much more of a niche product,” says Charl. “And this is what attracted me to the wine industry, the fact that it is a commodity on one hand, but on the other hand it is a business wherein brand development, management and growth are extremely important – as the fact that South Africa has over 8 000 wine brands can attest to.”

He admits to being “passionate” about the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) arena, an area in which Orange River Cellars is making particular inroads with fresh brands and by seeking new opportunities.

“For a business such as Orange River Cellars, it boils down to how much value our farmers can extrapolate from one hectare of vineyard under irrigation,” says Charl. “Growing grapes for wine is currently not a favourable proposition, as farmers can realise far better prices with raisins. Orange River Cellars has to become a beverage company, not just a co-operative cellar that makes wine. We must be an organisation able to flexibly develop an array of wines and other products, build brands and sell them – all adding value for the grower.”

Despite not having yet completed two months in his new post, Charl sees many strong points at Orange River Cellars. “My colleagues offer a wealth of experience and have been a part of changing the way Orange River Cellars does business over the past few years,” he says. “They are open-minded, strategically strong and operationally excellent. I really get that ‘we can make it happen’ feeling when I arrive at work.”

With over 850 farmers supplying grapes to Orange River Cellars, healthy relations with the farmers play a major role. “They farm in a massive geographical area, so I still have to do some serious driving to get to know all the regions. I am really looking forward to working with a strong management team that is well equipped to meet the challenges with the support of ORC’s stakeholder leadership.

An immediate objective, and one where Charl has jumped in boots and all with his strong belief in brand-building, is to reach the critical mass targets set for the Delush brand. This new natural sweet range was launched last year to the fashion-conscious black female market and Orange River Cellars plans to make it a market-leader.

“We have invested a lot in marketing and distribution, so year two of Delush has to be aimed at getting the books into the black,” he says. “But if we can continue the positive trend, it will happen.”

From an agriculture point of view, Charl has identified the need for Orange River Cellars to plant a high-yielding red grape variety, as exposure on the red side is too low. “We are also seeing more wine cultivation west of Upington – to the east the farmers are being battered by hail and gripped by frost. Climate change is real, and I predict that we could see many Western Cape wine companies looking at perhaps investing in vineyards in our region.”

After a day’s work, Charl enjoys Orange River’s Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. “To put it euphemistically, Upington has a great climate in which to enjoy cold white wine!” he says. And on the Orange River, Charl finds time to pursue his love of canoeing. “The other day I was on the water and out of nowhere a fish eagle dropped from the sky to grab a fish, right next to me. Then I knew, this is a special place.”

Charl is married to Magdalena, and they have two sons – Karel (10) and Frederick (8).


Accolades for Orange River Cellars Muscadel wines are hardly news for wine consumers these days, but this year the Northern Cape producer’s long-running success story has truly reached new heights. In the recent launch of the Platter’s Wine Guide 2018, South Africa’s pre-eminent ratings system, Orange River Cellars garnered its first-ever Five Star award, this for its White Muscadel 2016.

According to Koos Visser, marketing manager of Orange River Cellars, this is the most prestigious South African award to be bestowed on the winery in its 52 year-old history.

“The annual Platter’s Wine Guide is the country’s most comprehensive and inclusive wine-rating system where most of South Africa’s wines are scrutinised and rated by an esteemed panel of wine experts,” says Visser. “The guide is also one of the most printed and sold wine guides of any country and is essentially the Michelin Guide for South African wine. Everybody and anybody interested in the country’s wines buys a copy of Platter’s. So to be selected as one of only 111 wines to achieve five stars is certainly going to boost the presence and image of Orange River Cellars – not only for our Muscadel, but our other wines too.”

But what makes Orange River Cellars’ Muscadel wines rank among the best in the world?

“Our Muscadel is not made in the old traditional way anymore; we make use of modern technology to ensure that the balance and quality are perfect before we bottle,” says Chris Venter, manager of the wine portfolio at Orange River Cellars.

“We take part in Platter’s and other competitions annually because the feedback we receive from the judges help us better our product. In addition, the sticker on the bottle draws the attention of the consumer which leads to better sales,” says Venter.

Venter explained that the 2016 harvest was a good one for ORC because it was a hot, dry season which led to a more concentrated flavour profile – perfect conditions for Muscadel wine.

According to Henning Burger, manager of viticultural services at Orange River Cellars, the geographic conditions of the vineyards are perfectly suited to yield grapes of outstanding quality.

“The Muscat de Frontignan vineyards that our white and red Muscadels originate from, enjoy the best living conditions imaginable,” says Burger. “They are planted in deep alluvial soils that are rich in clay. Combined with the long ripening period filled with lots of sunny days, this ensures grapes with deep and intense muscat flavours. We harvest the grapes between 26º and 30º Balling when they are full of flavour concentration, which gives our winemakers the perfect fruit to work with.”

“I often joke with the winemakers by telling them that they have no excuse not to make winning wines from this calibre of grapes!”

According to Visser, Orange River Cellars is in the favourable position of making Muscadel wines that also have a loyal following among consumers.

“The Muscadel market has declined in the past few decades, but our brand is standing firm among Muscadel lovers,” says Visser. “It is good for us and for our region, but more importantly, good for South Africa and for Muscadel wines that are such a wonderful part of our industry.”

The Platter’s Five Stars caps an illustrious year for Orange River Cellars, one in which it also won two Platinum Awards at the Muscadel SA Competition, one of South Africa’s most influential fortified wine competitions. Here both the Red Muscadel 2016 and White Muscadel 2016 were awarded Platinum.

Visser is upbeat about the effect the Platter’s Five Stars could have on wine tourists who will now include the Northern Cape on their must-see list. “And now we have a fantastic tasting venue to show our wines,” he says. “If tasting rooms were part of the judging criteria, we would have received six stars!”


Winemag.co.za is pleased to present the second annual Signature Red Blend Report.

Why should South Africa be bound by the Bordeaux model when it comes to creating great blended red wine? Perhaps the Rhône is a better reference point given local growing conditions, while the so-called “Cape Blend” incorporating Pinotage potentially provides a unique selling proposition. Then, of course, there are the red blends of yesteryear – Alto Rouge, Chateau Libertas and Rustenberg Dry Red, to name just three – which conformed to no particular model but are revered for their complexity and longevity.

Winemag.co.za has come up with the collective name of “Signature Red Blend” for those wines which are distinctive of their makers and draw particular attention in the market.

What is the state of the category? The Signature Red Blend Report was designed to answer precisely this question with 82 entries from 62 producers received this year. These were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by the three-person panel and scored according to the 100-point quality scale.

Results were announced on 1 August at Villa 47 in Cape Town. The following wines rated 90 or higher on the 100-point quality scale:

92
Joostenberg Bakermat 2015, Newton Johnson Granum 2015, Olifantsberg Silhouette 2013, Vrede en Lust Artisan Range Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

91
Creation Syrah Grenache 2015, DeMorgenzon Maestro Blue 2015, Eikendal Charisma 2015, Guardian Peak Summit 2014, Luddite Saboteur Red 2015, Opstal Carl Everson Cape Blend 2015, Rust en Vrede 1694 2014, Vondeling Erica 2014

90
Fairview Extraño 2013, Haskell II 2013, Haut Espoir Gentle Giant 2012, Le Riche Richesse 2015, Orange River Cellars Lyra Vega 2015, Spier Creative Block 8 2014, Stellenbosch Vineyards Credo Shiraz Merlot Viognier 2014, Warwick Three Cape Ladies 2013

To read the report in full, visit www.winemag.co.za.


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Orange River Cellars Continues Domination of SA Muscadel Competition


Muskadel SA Awards 2017 – Third win for Orange River Cellars

 

The 15th annual Muskadel SA Awards function, sponsored by Enartis SA, was held at Noop, Paarl on 25 May. Amongst 23 entries, five more than in 2016, Orange River Cellars from the Northern Cape was triumphant for the third consecutive year winning two platinum awards. 

Orange River Cellars White Muskadel 2016, as well as their Red Muscadel 2016 both, received platinum awards – Muskadel SA Awards’ highest accolade adding to ORC’s already stocked Muskadel SA Awards cabinet having previously won five platinum and two gold awards since 2013.

The Breederivier Valley was well represented by Du Toitskloof Cellar with their Du Toitskloof Cellar Red Muscadel 2014 being awarded platinum a second year running.  This 100% Muscat de Frontignan with a plain, yet striking label and excellent aging potential is a definite must for the cold winter nights ahead.

Alvi’s Drift Wines from Worcester was the fourth wine to be awarded platinum at this year’s awards for their Alvi’s Drift Premium 2014.

Other winners

Two cellars situated on the R60 between Worcester and Robertson was awarded gold; Nuy Winery for their Nuy Rooi Muskadel 2012 and Rooiberg Cellar for their Rooiberg Rooi Muskadel 2014.

Another winner from the Northern Cape is Landzicht GWK Wines who took home gold for their Landzicht Red Muscadel 2016.

Boplaas from Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo rounds up the top performers with gold for the third consecutive year, this time for their Boplaas Heritage Collection 2014.

Judging

Tasted blind, the wines are judged and scored according to a tried and tested points system. The uniqueness of the packaging also contributes to the final points tally and often means the difference between a gold or platinum award. Consumers can identify winning Muscats by the Gold or Platinum Muskadel SA stickers on the bottle.

The five judges for this year were Dave Biggs (wine writer and founder member of the Wine-of-the-month Club), Hans Lösch (previously Monis, now Columbit South Africa), Cerina van Niekerk (winemaker), Raymond Noppé (Cape Wine Master) and Nina Mari Bruwer (Cape Wine Master).

From the Muskadel SA office

Henri Swiegers, the chairperson of Muskadel SA, says the quality of entries was exceptionally high this year, seeing that four platinum and four gold awards were awarded.

“During my ten years as chairperson of Muskadel SA we have recently started seeing a lot more delicate and lighter styled wines opposed to the traditional raison-heavy muscats. Packaging has evolved from the traditional sweet wine bottle to more elegant packaging. There are cellars that put a lot of effort into their labels which adds to the face of muscadel wine in South Africa,” says Swiegers.


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