Shiraz Tasting At Die Bergkelder
Being a food blogger means that I get a lot of press releases from various media companies. One of them caught my eye recently, and that was to do a shiraz tasting at Die Bergkelder in Stellenbosch. At only R60 a head including a light dinner, I considered this to be a bargain. I called them directly only to be told they were fully booked – and had been for a month. So, why are the media company sending out press releases then? I sent an email to the media company with the information, and the next thing I knew, we were being squeezed in! And, if everyone had arrived for the evening, it would have been a squeeze indeed.
I was asked to pay ahead of time and went in to use my credit card – confusion reigned and after a few attempts I was eventually charged the right amount. We arrived with a few minutes to spare on the night, and we were given a glass of Pongracz to drink while we milled around waiting for the evening to start. These were briskly taken from us, unfinished, as we walked off to the wine tasting venue.
These events are held the first Thursday of the month, and since the inception, the wine club has proved to be quite popular. Dave and I are tasters in the sense that we either like a wine or we don’t. We were given a page of the wines we were tasting, with one missing, and we tried to make head or tail of it as the winemaker did not follow the list in the order we had been given it.
Guy Webber led the evening – he is the winemaker at Stellenzicht – one of the estates we know well, and like. He gave us an explanation of the shiraz growing and wine making methods involved.
- A good shiraz is meaty!
- Use your entire mouth to taste the wine
- The riper the grapes, the more alcohol there will be in the wine
- Grapes that are picked later create a wine that can be drunk earlier
- Top wines need new oak
- A new oak barrel costs anywhere between R4500 and R10500 for a 330l capacity, depending on the cooper and the oak used. French oak is the most expensive, and Hungarian the cheapest
- Oak is used for oxygenation and the flavours that are extracted from the oak
- There is a gut feeling to wine making
- Each grape tastes like its wine (and I tested this at the Vergenoegd to make sure!)
- In wine making, the skin thickness as well as the pip ripeness, together with the origin of the grapes and the cool winds is very important.
In South Africa there are two terms used for the same grape – Syrah and Shiraz. Syrah is a name used for reserve wines from estates and is basically down to marketing. We tasted 12 wines and the one thing that became clear is that wine needs to breathe. Many improved after breathing. With this in mind, the next time we had a dinner party I opened a bottle of wine as soon as we started the first one – this way the wine had an entire bottle worth of drinking to breathe, instead of one glass. I also poured smaller amounts into a larger glass.
The evening was very informative, a lot of fun and the supper afterwards a great way to end our night out.