Special Waterblommetjie Edition: The Recipes

Benny Masekwameng (MasterChef judge) enjoying one of the day’s dishes as judging commenced.

To celebrate our successful hosting of the first annual Cape Cuisine event, the Waterblommetjie Competition between Muratie Estate and DuToitkloof Wines on 17 August, we are posting the finalists’ recipes for your enjoyment. Enjoyed by our VIP guests and the media, we trust these recipes can bring some winter warmth to your home, hopefully paired with one of our beautiful wines.

DuToitskloof’s Recipe:

INGREDIENTS

 • 3 kg mutton in large chunks

• 1 chopped onion

• 12 small onions

• 4 cloves of garlic

• 15 small potatoes

• 4 cups chicken stock

• 2 cups Du Toitskloof Chardonnay

• 3 kg waterblommetjies

• 1 cup soy sauce

• Freshly ground black pepper to taste

• A bunch of wild sorrel or lemon juice to taste

METHOD

• Brown the meat in its own fat or use a bit of oil. Remove and brown the small onions until brown and keep aside.

• Braise the chopped onion and garlic and add the meat, wine and stock and place the waterblommetjies and small potatoes on top

• Place the lid on and simmer for about an hour

• Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for afurther 20 minutes

• Serve with crushed wheat, rice, beetroot salad and baked quince

Muratie’s Recipe:

INGREDIENTS

• 1 kg mutton (a combination of platrib, dikrib and sheeps’ tails)

• 2,5 kg waterblommetjies, cleaned

• 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

• 1 onion roughly chopped

• 1 clove of garlic fi nely chopped

• A bunch of wild sorrel, finely chopped

• 250 ml hot water

• 15 ml brown vinegar

• A pinch of grated nutmeg

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Lemon for serving

METHOD

• Use a heavy bottomed cast iron pot with a lid

• Season the meat with the brown vinegar, salt,pepper and nutmeg

• Braise the meat, onion and garlic in a little water until tender

• Add the waterblommetjies and wild sorrel and place the potatoes on top

• Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and add the 250 ml hot water

• Cover with the lid and simmer until tender. Keep hot water handy should you need more moisture – don’t let the contents cook dry or turn into a soup.

• Don’t stir the pot during the cooking but only before serving to mix the meat, potatoes and waterblommetjies

• Serve with rice and lemon wedges.

CLEANING THE WATERBLOMMETJIES – Soak the waterblommetjies overnight in salt water and rinse thoroughly. Remove all sand and dirt as well as the harder parts from the flowers and the leaves.

THE MEAT – If using mutton tails, don’t exceed the weight of the meat as specified in the recipe. If using lamb, braising will be much quicker. The success of this stew is the marriage between the fat of the meat and the waterblommetjies

We Don’t Do Cooperation

Agri WesKaap, the Western Cape provincial department of agriculture, was insightful enough to notice local valley farmers were struggling with environmental legislation. They were proactive enough to come forward with a solution. To cut a long story short, wine farmers sometimes have natural ground on their properties that are suitable for agricultural expansion. However, environmental legislation dictates that environmental impact studies must be done if vineyards are to encroach on virgin land. These impact studies can cost upwards of R100,000 each, often out-of-reach of capital-strained family-run farms.

You would think the farming fraternity would be elated that the provincial government gave the environmental mapping project R400,000, to aid them in identifying suitable land for expansion and cutting costs of subsequent impact studies. However, this was not the case. The forum erupted into a cacophony of complaints about existing legislation, that R400,000 would not cover all potential impact study costs and serious concern if more endangered species were discovered. It was like walking into a 50% off sale at Stuttafords, but having shoppers moan that they still had to pay half if they wanted to buy clothing… it astounded me! Furthermore, Agri WesKaap asked for community cooperation in mapping all potential areas of agricultural expansion. A comment came from the floor, “We’re Afrikaans, we don’t work together.” I was shocked!

Thereafter, the forum continued to complain that national government did not care about commercial farmers. I can understand this allegation, considering the hostile rhetoric that has come from radical corners within the ruling party, however this was Agri WesKaap and they were attempting to help. How can communities expect government to assist them, if they actively admit they don’t even work together within their communities? Would anyone want to assist an industry hell-bent on undermining one another or being the lone-ranger in a sector that should be collaborating for collective success? Who wants to help communities who look gift horses in the mouth?

Small communities comprising mostly of family-run farms are the first to moan that money is tight, that market conditions are dismal, that overheads are stifling and that government fails to assist them. So, why are economies of scale being ignored by these wine communities? Why in an effort to compete, is there not more cooperation amongst winery cooperatives, farmers and wine region marketing organisations? Are we not missing out on a golden opportunity? I simply refuse to believe it is Afrikaans culture to live with a laager mentality where it’s every man for himself and stuff the neighbour; if he does better than thou, I smite thee. I refuse to believe this is intrinsic to anyone’s culture; as a De Wet I refuse to accept it’s part of ours.

Is this lack of cooperation not simply a psychological byproduct of being somewhat unsuccessful in recent years? Do the difficult trading conditions for wine farmers not a survivalist mentality make, where the collective looks disdainfully upon successes of the few? Where every man tries to be in it for himself, because the less you have, the more you instinctively protect the little you do have?

I’m hoping this is indeed the case. It is neither healthy for the industry nor the region if an agri-business fraternity is out to undermine and consume itself. I’m not suggesting an OPEC of viticulture. Monopolies and cartels are never good for the consumer, however wine farmers going bankrupt is not good for the consumer either. It would curb customer choice and market diversity, it would wipe out wealth and therefore, place strain on job-creation and the provincial economy. We definitely need more wine industry cooperation, not to the level of vine ‘cartelification,’ but at least to a level where the industry is attempting to protect the engines of grape production.

How can we do this? Well, that is the subject of an agricultural-economy thesis and I would end up not writing a blog, but a book. For goodness sake, if we’re given a freebie from government, let’s accept it and use it to the advantage of the valley’s farmers. Additionally, it is about time those in the valley begin looking at internal solutions for external pressures. We may not be able to control the market, control electricity and petrol price-pressures, control restrictive legislation and low global wine-prices; we can control the way we approach it. From where I’m standing, it seems much more beneficial to stand together as a united interest group, than to be competing not only with the world, but also with our neighbours.

Winelands Lifestyle Crutch

Going to the Highveld in the winter is an anomaly for a Cape-resident, particularly if it is not for business. Most Northerners are trekking to the KZN coast or to game reserves for their mid-year break. Those that are brave enough, head down to the Cape, contending with our notorious winter weather for some good wine, green landscapes, snowy mountains and rough seascapes.

The classic South African inter-city rivalry exposed?

As a person doing the opposite, something strikes you: We’re spoilt, spoilt to the point that our environment becomes the overriding factor in many of our decisions, our ability to adjust, our collective psychology and how we interact with people and our surroundings. This may sound like hyperbole, but when you meet recent Cape migrants seeking better employment up north, or even as a visitor, you’re confronted with the “northern” lifestyle, you realise how reliant we are on these seemingly trivial physical geographical aspects of the Cape: weather, scenery, diversity of agriculture and landscape, Winelands Lifestyle and the like.

Sociologically, we are aloof. We hear it repeatedly from our northern cousins: Capetonians stay in their cliques, tend to be a tad dismissive and aren’t good at venturing out of their comfort zones. You may ask as a Capetonian if this is not a gross stereotype. A Northerner may ask why this stereotype is often valid. It’s our environment. The Winelands Lifestyle means one’s comfort zone is as comfortable as one can be without a financial infusion. There is little need to venture beyond one’s province, usual urban-or-rural stomping grounds or even one’s clique. It’s just all too nice. Why does the Gauteng bar have a buzz of activity about it even before the social lubricant (read: alcohol) begins working on the inhibitions? The patrons of these bars seek out the company of others, even those beyond their cliques, as the people they surround themselves with, creates contentment.

We use our environment as a sociological and psychological crutch. When all else fails, the mountains and vineyards remain. We use the environment to bring about the aforementioned contentment. Having a glass of wine on your own in Johannesburg can feel lonely. Here, having that same glass with a gorgeous view fills this void. However, the void is still there, the mountain in front of your eyes is just masking it.

What am I getting at? The question is do we collectively live in a fool’s paradise, where our personal issues are glazed over, professional and personality flaws are masked and where comfort is so easy to come by, we fail to take risks, either professionally or personally? Are we truly happy or is the environment forcing our happiness; contentment coming from the external, rather than the real, internal contentment?

In Afrikaans they say, “Elke huis het sy kruis.” For those less well versed in our other language, it basically states idiomatically, that every home has its cross to bear. Upon returning to the Cape after a short stay in the Highveld, it becomes evident. It is not evident in the fact that the Cape is a bad place, but actually in how great it is. The effect this has on its residents and how those who don’t live here compensate and how we’re often too complacent.

It is perhaps the hyperbole of the sociological and psychological consequences of living the Winelands Lifestyle, but there are definitely profound affects. As the Highveld has its crosses to bear, so do we, although often fail to realise it. We gloss over so much ugliness, we are content with so much less because the environment provides so much more. We often fail to see our fellow humans because the mountains blind our eyes. Perhaps in all our intrinsic arrogance, we can learn something from these Northerners. Perhaps if we can analyse our glamorous Winelands Lifestyle with some introspection, we will see that we don’t have it all. What we have externally, we sometimes neglect internally.

Don’t let the Winelands Lifestyle blind you: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Global Warming Wine Warning

Molenaars River – Slanghoek Peak and Slanghoek Needle with snow, seems to be diminishing each year.

Perhaps I should have written this is summer. It becomes almost impossible to punt a climate change agenda when most people are pining for the sunny days of braais and pools to return. However, I chose winter for one reason: we lose it, we lose the crop and you lose your wine.  Winter is arguably our most critical season as it provides the majority of wine-growing regions worldwide with that one thing nothing can live without, water.

Grapes are a Mediterranean crop, this means it thrives best in a Mediterranean Climate, characterised by balmy, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Arguably, the Mediterranean Climate is the most pleasant climate-type worldwide; being neither too cold, nor too warm, being neither too humid, nor too arid, neither frost-prone or snowy. It is situated within the climate sweet spot between the subtropics and the cooler temperate latitudes, between hot deserts and wetter maritime climates. This places these areas at greatest risk due to climate change. Laying in such a precarious sweet spotmeans that any minor global temperature increase can cause the sweet spot to move poleward, leaving that area arid, hot and starved of vital winter precipitation.

It is something that worries innumerable wine producers. We are the first to notice minor changes to weather patterns. A city-dweller’s livelihood is not directly related to what the troposphere is doing, so it’s understandable that many are not aware of these changes. Trust us, they’re happening and they’re worrisome indeed.  The canary in the coal mine is mountain snowfall and it is drastically deceasing year-on-year.

Many people are excited by the prospect of warm winter days.We are not, by any means, pleased by it. Yes, we enjoy breaks in the rain and cold, same as anyone, but when it carries on for weeks, our level of anxiety rises precipitously. Urbanites may chastise the weather every time it bestows its winter best on the Cape, but remember where your water, food and drink comes from. Without those July tempests, your grocery bill will skyrocket and taps in the summer will run dry.

What would climate change do to the local wine industry? First and foremost, summer drought reaches critical levels, thereby affecting the ability to irrigate the vines, reducing yields, causing intolerable stress to the vineyards and causing significant reduction in crop-yields. Secondly, winters become warmer, negatively impacting the ability of the vines to enter their period of dormancy. This reduces the next season’s yield and makes for an unsustainable annual growth cycle. Already, producers are struggling to get vines pruned before budding begins. Premature budding results in heightened crop damage risk, as early-Spring storm and wind events damage the delicate shoots. Thirdly, summers simply become too hot. This exacerbates evaporative losses worsening drought conditions and intensified heat-waves literally turn plump, flavourful grape berries to raisins, directly on the vines.

This all means the consumer pays more for less. Overstressed vines do not produce quality fruit which means a lower quality product in the bottle. Successive lower crop-yields and failed harvests mean one of two things: producers either go bust, or wine prices skyrocket.

All these eventualities are not yet reality, but if trends continue unabated, it will come to fruition. So what can we do? Firstly, be thankful for those irritating rainy winter days, we don’t know how long they will last. Secondly, do what you can to reduce your carbon-footprint, either through driving more efficient vehicles, using public-transit where possible, conserving energy and recycling. Thirdly, buy sustainable products; either FairTrade, IPW or Biodiversity & Wine Initiative accredited wines.

We cannot curtail climate change alone and neither can you, however, if we all do a little, we have a massive collective impact. Help us to continue to farm so you can continue to get great wines at great prices: be a buddy to the Earth.

The SAA of the Wine Industry

Our national carrier has been the subject of great scrutiny by the Competition Commission for a number of years now and often, on the receiving end of massive anti-competitive fines. This is due to the abuse of its hegemony over the local skies, offering travel agents illegal incentives and subsequently dissuading potential customers from using South Africa’s other carriers, like Kulula, BA-Comair and others. So, what do our skies have to do with our wines? More than one would think.

A similar trend is emerging in the wine industry. In fact, this problem has been a few years in coming. It has recently become worse however. Collusion and anti-competitive practices are almost endemic in South African industries; take the construction sector for example. Many companies over-inflated prices during the World Cup construction boom period and almost all of them, except Power Construction, were issued with hefty fines.

Walk into South African restaurants, particularly the chain establishments. What do you notice? Have you realised that wine lists often look mysteriously similar. Some are almost so alike, it appears like a copy-paste exercise, yet the restaurants in question do not have the same owner. This is by no means an accident.

You may ask: so what is the big deal? Simply, the restaurant patron is being duped and robbed of the best the Winelands has to offer. Rather than the owner of that restaurant in question going through a portfolio of various wines on offer from various companies and choosing the best for their wine list, they’re being bought out.  The restaurant patron is not getting the best wine list they can, they are not getting variety, they are not getting value-for-money and are not getting the opportunity to choose something out-of-the-ordinary. The patron is bombarded by the same wines over and over again, without consideration, by the establishment, if those wines truly add value to their restaurant.

You can walk into a grocery or liquor store on any given day and buy from a range of mass-produced wines. However, when you go out dining, what do you want to see? Most of us like two things; firstly value-for-money options where quality wines are on offer at affordable prices and two, a selection of boutique wines not readily available in the retail sector, for those special nights out when one wants exclusivity and estate-level quality. Establishments who put themselves up “for sale” rob you, the patron, of this need.

Restaurants exist that do not give in to the large wine marketing companies who throw cash, equipment, incentives and unlimited resources around. These establishments stand their ground, only choosing wines they want on their wine lists and house wines that offer value-for-money, not plonk foisted upon them by the merchant. Too often, these establishments are the stand-alone, owner-operated restaurants with a sommelier or manager with a fine palate that simply won’t settle for being a cultivar-sell-out.

However, there are many more establishments that wear an invisible For Sale sign. This is when the wine merchants and marketing companies with industry hegemony swoop in, dangling every form of a carrot in front of the owner or manager and effectively hijack the wine list. Can the restaurant be blamed for this? In the current economic climate, not completely; some establishments are struggling to make ends meet and in the winter off-season, many jump at the opportunity of a carrot that will pay for expenses and/or equipment they would otherwise deem unaffordable.

Who should know better? The wine company in question, dangling the carrot, should know better. Like SAA and their abuse of the skies, so these companies use monetary clout to rob the customer of real choice, real quality and real diversity. Using anti-competitive practices and frankly, borderline restaurant bribery, they force you to drink what they want you to. Should you be able to choose whichever carrier you wish to fly to Johannesburg, or should some large company decide for you? You would be pretty vexed if you were forced to fly a certain carrier at a lesser level of service for a higher price, so why tolerate establishments foisting this philosophy upon your dining experience.

There are two ways to get what you want; one, to demand better from the establishment, make your voice heard and say, “I want more choice and don’t accept this copy-paste wine list, or I’ll stop eating here.” Or two: wine producers can take the suspected parties to the Competition Commission. The latter option incurs large legal costs, costs most likely passed onto the consumer. The former option is free and is the simple expression of one’s right to the wine of your choice. Choose the latter and help us keep freedom of choice in restaurants. An establishment with happy patrons who habitually frequent them will be more successful and those corrupt carrots will become less enticing.

What Makes a Wine Region Successful?

The lesser known wine regions often desperately ponder what makes a wine region successful. It often erupts into a highly emotional, raucous debate where conflicting views pit conservatives against liberals and protectionists against the globally-minded.

Visitors enjoying some wine at a seemingly more successful Soetes&Soup Festival

What is very concerning about insular and lesser known wine regions, is often the fact they are lesser known, makes them even more adverse to letting go of their protectionist, almost survivalist mentality; the whole psychology of, the worse off you are, the harder you try to hoard what you have left. However, this is often a counterintuitive measure that results in more hardship.

Albeit, the worse your financial position is, the more difficult it becomes to invest in the very things that will improve your financial position. This goes for wine regions in general and some forgotten rural towns of the Western Cape. Such wasted glory is a sad sight; beautiful towns with surroundings that take your breath away, towns that Europeans, Americans and Canadians would die to see. However, these towns are locked in a poverty cycle, locked in protectionist mentalities and economic stagnation; few amenities exist and poor tourism and economic vision creates a toxic mix perpetuating the hardship.

Most wine regions also understand that any large body requires a heart, a core; a tourism and services hub that ties all the far-flung estates, cellars and other attractions together. Stellenbosch uses this very effectively and although Pniel, Kylemore and Klapmuts fall within this wine-of-origin area, they realise their core is the town of Stellenbosch. Even the new kid on the block, Robertson, grasps this. Bonnievale, McGregor and Ashton playing the role of the smaller cousins, but the natural and logical nucleus is Robertson and this name is what draws the tourists to the region as a whole.

Robertson is often used as a paragon of how an obscure region can quickly and effectively propel itself into the national and even international wine region limelight. Their festival, the Wacky Wine drink-fest that it is, is either loved or loathed. However no matter which way you slice it, it is deeply ingrained in the wine-drinking psyche and Robertson has created a model of marketing success. This success spills into their town’s main streets; cafés, restaurants, boutiques and new retail outlets are opening on a regular basis. Their main thoroughfares are well-maintained, meticulously landscaped and their success and tourism-mindedness almost exudes out of the pavements.

Contrast this with the Breedekloof Wine Route, a wine region with no town’s name, a region created for marketing purposes only. In fact, no Breedekloof exists, except in a brochure and in company name. Breedekloof is geographically, simply the western Breede River Valley. Then there’s the dysfunctional heart, Rawsonville – The town that never was. Here, lack of vision exudes from the cracked pavements, stagnation and rural blight is exposed for all to see. A horrific pity for a wine region that probably boasts the best value-for-money wines, produces the most wine in the country and arguably has some of the most dramatic landscapes of any wine region south of the equator. In fact, it is the region where the most vineyards get planted annually – production is on the up, in stark contrast to many regions in contraction. Where did it all go awry?

Frankly, lack-of-vision, protectionism and absence of partnerships; Breedekloof has been given a double-edged sword: genuine, down to earth people who make you feel you’re the only tourist here. The other unfortunate edge, the one whose roots are so deeply imbedded in the soil of the valley, the branches cannot reach over the mountain, never mind the rest of the globe. Thus, the solution; allowing visionaries to take the reigns in forging partnerships to get the town off its knees, allowing the knowledgeable to drive regional marketing and permitting lateral-thinkers to assume positions where a mandate can be carried out. Conservatism and protectionism is often threatened by these very aforementioned traits, often extricating or dismissing these individuals and ideas, using emotive arguments protecting tradition and patriarchy. However, disallowing this will end up only perpetuating the very hardship these protectionists lament.

Can lesser known wine regions achieve success? Yes, it has already been done, the proof exists. This success comes from letting go of those things the collective within the region know little about. Most are farmers, wine-makers or in associated agricultural services. Do what you do best, stick to your core business and allow people who have vision, to cultivate your success outside the vineyard. However, a word of warning; other regions are moving apace. To build a strong collective Cape Winelands brand, it is imperative that all Cape wine regions can hold their own and compete on a similar level, in a healthy manner. Waiting too long to jump aboard the marketing-train makes for an even more difficult game of catch-up. Don’t allow your region to eventually wake up one day and realise:

Our valley has been forgotten!

False Accusations: Bad Commercial Farming Industry

It is indeed a horrible pity that more often than not, negative reporting sells best in the media. One cannot blame them, as sensationalism sells and just like any other industry, media is also a business. However, the negative publicity the wine industry and commercial farming sector has received in recent years, is not only damaging to the image of South African wine, it also harms the very people biased reports claim they want to help.

I cannot recall who uttered the words, but in paraphrasing, they said something like, “Malema would have never had a leg to stand on calling for land seizures if all commercial farmers were FairTrade accredited.”

Many report findings are made out to be representative of the entire wine industry, when we never see these people in our area analyzing labour practices of people like us, FairTrade accredited producers. The Western Cape’s agricultural sector is painted with one broad brush stroke, when I’m personally quite confident that gross labour transgressions are very much in the minority.

I digress there will always be those bad apples amongst any crop. Thus, stating that the entire commercial farming sector is completely above-board and no rotten practices exist, would be both naïve and foolish. However, on the opposite side of the same coin, to claim oneself as a statistically accurate researcher or above-board journalist; making sweeping statements insinuating the entire commercial farming sector (and by that inference, the wine industry) is rotten, is also foolish.

It is a pity, because such reports harm people like us, wine producers with more stringent labour regulations than South Africa’s famed tight labour laws. Our FairTrade project assures our employees receive the best possible staff-housing, conditions of employment, adult education and perks one could possibly have as a semi-skilled worker, anywhere in the world. Actually, education sophistication, amenities and technological advancement amongst FairTrade learners are better than many high-income-earner children receive. A feat we are proud of and will continue to develop.

It is a pity our land-based empowerment project is on ice. The reason sadly being a lack of cooperation and support from the national government departments; one that claims to put rural empowerment and land redistribution first. Inadequacies and budget-constraints tend to relegate responsibility in partnering with farmers to help address land-ownership imbalances. We’re hoping we can revive these aspirations in the near future with the very efficient Agriculture Western Cape department.

We will continue to deliver a product that is produced in a responsible manner and invite any interested party or industry skeptic to see what can be done. Being the world’s largest single FairTrade project gives us authority to question the negative image and challenge beliefs that commercial farming puts rural peoples last. We also challenge government’s view that our industry wants to claim all profits, benefits and land-wealth to ourselves. It is an easy electioneering ploy, but devoid of statistical proof. If government actually made an attempt to meet those who want to empower rural people half-way, there would be little fuel for the land-inspired emotive anger in more radical leftist circles.

 Stop blaming the cow for spoilt milk, when one continues to buy that milk from a grocer that refuses to turn on their fridges.