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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES (article first published : 1999-10-7)

Wines from Stellenbosch were served at the gala dinner held to mark the recent opening of the Scottish Parliament, a function attended by Queen Elizabeth. The wine producer who achieved this honour is Ken Forrester, the former Johannesburg restaurateur who has become a successful wine farmer. It was an appropriate choice: Ken Forrester has a Scottish background

The wines came from Kenís farm Scholtzenhof, near Stellenbosch, and the dinner provided excellent exposure for him and indeed for the entire Cape wine industry. Two columnists in the Glasgow Herald, Joe Fattorini and Tom Shields, noted that Ken and Teresa Forrester bought Scholtzenhof only a few years ago and that their maiden vintage in 1994 was an outstanding sauvignon blanc.

Scholtzenhof is, in fact, one of the oldest wine farms at the Cape, granted in 1689 by Governor Simon van der Stel. For the past century its grapes have been delivered to the nearby Helderberg Winery but the Forresters are now producing six different wines under their own label. Since 1998, the wines have been made by Martin Meinert, one-time Johannesburg newspaper journalist, who built up a big reputation as winemaker at Vergelegen, Somerset West.

The wines served at the Scottish Parliament dinner were the 1998 Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc and the 1998 Ken Forrester Grenache/Syrah. The sauvignon is a big, full-bodied white, 13 percent alcohol, with the gooseberry, flinty flavours typical of this cultivar. At a retail price in South Africa of about R27 it is good value. The red Grenache/Syrah is a 67/33 blend that has spent nine months in oak. The grenache grape is not well known here but it is widely planted in southern France, Spain and California. Syrah is another name for shiraz, a grape that has been part of the Cape scene for many years. The Ken Forrester Grenache/Syrah has fruity, mulberry, pepper, clove features and retails at about R36.

Scotland is, of course, famous for whisky, not wine, and a newcomer to South Africa is a single malt Scotch whisky called The Balvenie. It comes from Speyside, on the east coast of the Highlands whisky region, and three variations of this whisky have been imported to South Africa by the Stellenbosch-based Vinimark company in spite of forbidding prices (blame the weak rand again).

Single malt whiskies are distilled from pure barley malt and are not blended with whiskies from any other source. The Balvenie Founderís Reserve, aged 10 years, retails in South Africa at about R205 a bottle; the Balvenie Double Wood, aged 12 years, at R230, and the Balevenie Single Barrel, aged 15 years, at R295. As you may imagine, all three are superb: mellow, subtle and complex. Vinimark believe that there is a niche market here for whiskies of this calibre. The connoisseurs should be able to find them in leading liquor stores, hotels and restaurants.


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