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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (#122) (article first published : 2005-02-3)

The Vrede en Lust winery, in the Paarl area, is a large modern cellar on a 315-year-old farm. It has been in operation for less than 10 years but has already established a reputation for quality wines, especially a rose called Barbere, and forward-looking policies.

In keeping with this philosophy the cellar has now released its three blended red wines in half bottles, 375 ml each, at exactly half the price of full bottles. Dana Buys, co-owner of Vrede en Lust, says that sounds logical enough, but other 375 ml wines are typically selling at 60 to 70 percent of the full bottle price.

She said: “Our research has indicated that there is a significant demand for half bottles as long as they cost half the price. The tougher drinking and driving laws, as well as more sophisticated wine consumers, create a market with great potential for this bottle size”.

The wines initially being offered in the new bottles are the 2002 vintages of Vrede en Lust Simond, a blend of cabernet, merlot, shiraz and malbec; Cara, merlot/shiraz/cabernet; and Classic, merlot/cabernet/ petit verdot/ malbec. In the half-bottle size the Simond costs about R20 in the shops, the Cara and Classic about R37.

The wines are bottled with screw caps, which are convenient and eliminate the risk of cork taint.

This venture may well be the beginning of a new general trend. The 250 ml “dinky”, in which some other wines are available, is sometimes a bit big for one person and a bit small for two.

These days most restaurants sell wine by the glass but the size of the glass varies greatly and so do the prices. On a recent visit to Cape Town my wife and I indulged in lunch at the five-star Cape Grace Hotel on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. To accompany the outstanding food I ordered two glasses of Jordan Chameleon, a very attractive white blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and chenin blanc.

The wine glasses were stemmed and huge; each could have held a pint of beer. The waitress poured expertly from a newly opened bottle until each wine glass was perhaps 20 percent full. When she stopped I noticed that she had disposed of exactly half the bottle; in other words, 375 ml. It was plenty for our lunch.

The Cape Grace restaurant is not cheap and the wine cost R24 a glass, but both food and wine were worth every cent.

***** ***** ***** *****

Constantia’s most celebrated wine has, after a couple of centuries, returned to an historic palace in Germany.

The Prussian king Frederick the Great kept an extensive cellar in his summer residence at Potsdam, Sanssouci Palace, which is now a world heritage site. The wine cellar was recently rediscovered, restored over a seven-month period by Lutz and Christine Prufer, and officially re-opened as a museum in November 2004.

The cellar was restocked in accordance with the original inventory list of 1777, which included wines from Germany and France, the Hungarian Tokay and the legendary sweet Constantia, recorded as “Capp Constantia”.

The modern successor to that old wine is Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance, a delectable sweet wine. Lutz Prufer, a patents lawyer from Munich, asked Klein Constantia’s present owner, Lowell Jooste, to supply 36 bottles, and these are now in the original cast iron wine racks in the palace.

Today visitors can climb down the cellar steps to look at the cellarmaster’s room with its furniture and decor from the eighteen-forties, including the original glass storage cabinet. Klein Constantia has featured in the U.S. Wine and Spirits magazine as one of the 25 great vineyards of the world. – Michael Green




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