Consuming the Impossible

DuToitskloof Sauvignon blanc: FNB Top 10 award winner

No matter how one approaches the task of purchasing wine, whether at the cellar or a liquor outlet, one cannot buy a box of wine without a small ounce of guilt. If you consider yourself a bit of a wine connoisseur, purchasing a vintage in non-bottled form is done with a slight flush of red in the cheeks. However, at some stage, we all do it. Sometimes, budget or volume required simply calls for it.

However, when one does this task with DuToitskloof, the task becomes one that causes a bit of viticulture-vulture schizophrenia. As you may or may not know, DuToitskloof has won the Best Value for Money cellar award five times since the competition’s inception in 2001. In addition to this accolade, no other cellar has ever won it more than once. These guys are not mere experts, they are the foremost authority at giving more than you could expect out of a bottle.

So, when pulling out the box at a casual braai, you do so guiltlessly with DuToitskloof’s Sauvignon blanc. They have been awarded with one of the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blancs’ in South Africa. It may not sound like much, but for a wine that enters the market at its price-point, a wine that costs three to four times less than their Top 10 competitors, this accolade is unheard of. Plus, this is a 2.2 million litre blend! One cannot help but be amazed. Even more remarkable is that what’s in the box is what’s in the bottle: DuToitskloof puts the same quality into any packaging they chose to go with. Who on earth produces this stellar quality at a price that makes dispensing a “top-notch house wine” an inexpensive affair?

Amazing, considering that when DuToitskloof’s previous winemaker suggested making a Sauvignon blanc in the Goudini (Breedekloof) district, it was thought the region’s climate was prohibitive in producing this excellent and sought-after white wine. Yet, this wine has become synonymous with excellent Sauvignon blancs countrywide. One is hard-pressed to find a restaurant or store without it.

To continue what is clearly an exercise in gloating, the cellar took away a haul of medals at the Michelangelo Wine Awards. Here is a brief look at those accolades:

  • Double Gold: Dimension
  • Gold: Cabernet sauvignon; Merlot; Hanepoot Jerepigo
  • Silver: Shiraz; Chardonnay/Viognier; Brut

Point being, you simply cannot put a foot wrong when reaching for either a bottle or box of DuToitskloof. Nobody can fault you for being cheap, even though the price may suggest otherwise.

Debutant DuToitskloof: A Coming of Age

Vintage gift of Hanepoot Jerepigo at the 50th gala dinner

Saturday evening begins with a flurry of excitement. Honoured guests dressed to the nines confidently strut up a red carpet towards two friendly individuals, one handing them a glass a bubbly, the other checking their names off a guest list. As they enter the elegantly decorated foyer, they’re greeting by the soothing, yet contemporary sounds of a French-gypsy-jazz fusion band, Manouche. This is not Los Angeles, even at a push this could be Stellenbosch… but no: This is Rawsonville! A town more synonymous with the “Raw” of its first syllable, than anything else; yet this event is anything but.

DuToitskloof Wines was an unknown entity just over a decade ago. It was nothing more than another bulk producer on that side of the mountain. Being on that side meant the climb was that much more precipitous to gain national acclaim; geography almost suggested you should be forgotten. Something shifted seismically nonetheless over the preceding decade. This red carpet event did not feel foreign to this team, often lauded as the winery most experienced at producing wines of consistent quality that never breaks the bank.

This was not a 50th Anniversary gala event, this was not a sophisticated dinner party or an awards ceremony. This was more of a debutant ball, a coming of age if you wish. DuToitskloof Wines had grown up, was dressed to the hilt in the best fashion and damn, did she look spectacular. She was mature and she was glowing with pride in a way only a self-made success could beam with such confidence.

From all the staff, the invited guests, the members, down to the keynote speaker, company chairman Johan de Wet, all you felt was an air of pride and satisfaction. There was nothing this group was embarrassed about, not a wine they produced they wouldn’t recommend, not an achievement they did not work hard for. Everything this cellar is today was done through pure dedication, taking some serious calculated risks and many a time, being forced to walk the road alone, when other industry insiders said it could never be done.

The cellar’s history was lauded, with founding members being fondly remembered, talk of the days when building facilities cost thousands, not millions of rands. Not a chapter was missed, including the days when the KWV controlled every aspect of wine production, vineyard planting and even wine prices.

After an informative lesson in South Africa’s often difficult wine history, the food was served. Paired meticulously with the best wines DuToitskloof has to offer. The starter of Duck with a ponzu sauce on a bed of egg noodles was simplistic, yet inspired. Paired with the cellar’s Chardonnay/Viognier blend, one could not go wrong. This robust white blend with complex citrus tones and depth was evenly matched by the intense Asian flavours and citrus notes of the ponzu sauce. Neither was overpowered and the combination danced in your mouth to the delight of the taste buds.

Main course refused to be overshadowed. The lamb roll delicately placed atop a potato and pea mash, with a stunning red wine reduction, with two baby carrots contributing a burst of orange on the plate, made the plate a work of art. The only red that could possibly match this was DuToitskloof’s double-gold Michelangelo award winning Dimension. This red- blend is like velvet on the palate. The tannins are already subdued, making this wine ready for enjoying immediately; despite this subtlety in the wine, the ever powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz provided complexity and spiciness, the Merlot, a wonderful soft fruity tone. It was the perfect partner to the flavourful lamb. The red wine reduction and the Dimension seemed to fall in love with each other somewhere between the tip of the tongue and the tummy; the happiest tummy in recent months after the class-act that was the starter and entrée.

Francios Botha, DuToitskloof’s vice-chairman, proceeded to thank all those who made not only this night, but the cellar as a whole a success. A special mention has to go to a talented young woman, Elzaan Geldenhuys, who in her organisation skills and attention to stylistic detail, may be in danger of being snatched up by the Academy Awards organising committee in Los Angeles.

Desert was a to-share chocolate fondue with the most scrumptious and adorable biscotti, shortbread, nougat and fruit selection. It was a fun and interactive way to end the culinary part of the evening. People laughing as the noshed on the sweet delights held precariously between chopsticks, as they savoured the always appealing DuToitskloof Red Muscadel.

Marius Louw, the managing director and Shawn Thomson, lead winemaker, looked as proud as punch. One could only compare the glint in their eyes to what one may have if one’s daughter had just graduated cum laude from Harvard Law. As Johan de Wet stated in his keynote speech, DuToitskloof’s success is in its people. After such an evening of generous hospitality, this is indisputable. These are people who live, work and breathe DuToitskloof. They’re not personnel, members or directors, they’re family; their metaphorical daughter had grown up and what a phenomenal woman she has become.

Our winemaking team proud as punch with recent accolades – celebrating at 50th Anniversary. Left to Right: Jaco le Roux, Willie Stofberg, Alain Cajeux, Chris Geldenhuys, Shawn Thomson

Away From Glass

DuToitskloof-Fairtrade 75cl TetraPak wines

I am definitely a wine traditionalist. Nobody can deny the joys of sitting in a gorgeous setting, preferably on a Cape wine estate, pulling the cork out of an elegant bottle, hearing the pop sound followed by the aroma of a stunning nose reaching for oxygen for the very first time. There is nothing like the cork and bottle combination that screams wine sophistication and I’m a sucker for the elegantly-wasted.

However, times are a-changin’ and those who do not follow trends are relegated to the trash-heap of formally glorious brand names, like a viticultural Pan Am. The latest wine-spawn of the ever forward-thinking DuToitskloof Cellar is wine-in-a-box. However, I’m not referring to those now famous three litre boxes, the ones that Constantia house-wives hide in their fridge. I’m talking about their new United Kingdom venture with Waitrose and importers, Raisin Social.

This is a 750ml bottle of wine in a Tetra Pak. You know what this packaging looks like, even though its name may be unfamiliar, the concept definitely is not. Many a trip to Pick ‘n Pay, Tesco or Publix is dominated by Tetra Pak items from milk to juice to even olive oil, so why not wine? After all, who’s 2012 Best Value for Money Cellar? Would we not expect them to find ways of saving on packaging costs to bring the consumer wine at the best prices possible?

“You wine heathen,” I can hear people scream, the vitirati would be appalled and would not be caught dead pouring out of such a low-class contraption. Is there method in DuToitskloof’s madness, is there a glimmer of genius in this blatant anti-traditionalist move?

Fairtrade in the UK is big business and DuToitskloof being as big a Fairtrade project as it is, bringing the cellar’s name and its responsible production partner together in one package, can only benefit the brand.

Glastonbury Festival and Hyde Park concerts are synonymous with this island nation. The Brits love to get out into an open field and have a party, once cloud cover is down to only seventy percent and temperatures soar to a searing 18°C. This is a market that is hostile to the bottle. No glass on the grass, please!

We are British, so also do it green, please. Unlike China, Europe and the UK actually realises that earth’s resources are finite and they actually sign climate accords. Tetra Pak constitutes only four percent of the net product weight, versus forty percent for glass. It’s fully recyclable, can be easily compacted when disposed of, transports more efficiently and takes up less storage space. It ticks all the right tree-hugger boxes, but fails in the, “May I open that for you, monsieur,” department. Not to mention the responsible producer guarantee that comes with the Fairtrade stamp. Unlike China, Fairtrade labour is… well, you get the point!

However, when it’s somewhat sunny, does the UK huddle up indoors or at restaurants? Or does the isle spend time outdoors, sucking up the northern summer for what little it provides. This is the lifestyle DuToitskloof-Fairtrade 75cl Tetra Pak aims to become part of. Bringing wine to the wine drinker where bottle openers, glass and heavy weight is a liability; think a picnic overlooking a glorious sunset with a Cabernet-Merlot or drinking a chilled Chenin-Sauvignon styled white under a waterfall. Now, that’s living life and enjoying life is what the wine lifestyle is all about. So, maybe DuToitskloof is not so insane after all.