Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stellenbosch, South Africa, February 28,2016

There are 160 wineries in this area - am I dead and in heaven?  Today we visited 4: Simonsig, Fairview, Dieu Donné, and Zorgvliet-

Simonsig was the first farm to make champagne in South Africa in 1971 which they sold for 3 rand/bottle or 25 cents.  Today they sell 1.9 million bottles (not just champagne) to 49 countries.  

Chenin Blanc makes up 60% of all grapes grown in S.A.  Not only is it used to make white wine, but it's also used to make brandy.  

White wine will have a yellow or green hue.  Yellow means it contains more alcohol and comes from a warmer climate such as South Africa.  A greener wine means it has less alcohol and comes from a cooler climate such as France or New Zealand. 

When sampling wine, it's important to look at 3 things: color, taste and smell. 

The grapes that make up my favorite wine, Shiraz, are 6000 years old and originated in Persia - today's Iran.

Red grape skins are used for color and produce tannins which are what make our mouths do backflips if it's not a great wine.

I don't mind pinotage which is a combination of Pinot Noir and Hermitage.  It has made a huge comeback because in 1960 there was only one bush left - it's the only grape that grows on a bush - all the others hang down in clumps.

At Fairview we enjoyed cheese and wine pairings: Sauvignon Blanc with Camembert, Viognier with Roydon- cow and goat milk cheese and Pinotage with Chevin - goat's milk, black pepper and paprika.  The last 3 cheeses are Crottin, Camembert and Blue Rock.  They were paired with red blends-

Harvest takes place in February and March.  The grapes are picked, their sugar content is measured, the skins are crushed and the juice is collected in these 51.000 litre drums-

Yeast is added and it combines wth the natural sugar in the grapes to form alcohol.  Only champagne and dessert wines have extra sugar added.  The percent of alcohol is determined by the reaction of the natural sugars and yeast as well as the time the wine stays in oak barrels like these that cost $1200 each-

The barrels come from France and can only be used for 5-7 years.  

I had a great day and am looking forward to more wine tasting in a few days when I'm on my own.  We're off to Cape Town tomorrow - it's our last day.

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