Yes, it’s been a tough year. All the more reason to feel gratitude for what can and does bring joy. Reconnecting with family and friends. The pleasure of dinners, braais, picnics and parties. Marking or witnessing rites of passage like graduations, engagements and weddings. Extending and experiencing generosity. Together time but also solo downtime for relaxation and reflection. For all such occasions, you’ll have no difficulty in finding outstanding fine wines and specialty potstill brandies presented by Vinotèque. For sharing, gifting or self-spoiling start browsing our gems here:
HOW TO CHOOSE
When there’s so much that’s so good, where to start? Let the experts be your guide. The Platter’s South African Wine Guide has just issued its 2023 list of top-performing wines and brandies. The five- and four-and-a-half star wines represented by the Vinoteque are all drinking superbly now but with lots more life in them to age comfortably over the next few years. You’ll see that some of these wines have also attracted other high ratings elsewhere. The five-star brandies have also been richly rewarded on local and international platforms.
Fleur du Cap Laszlo Red Blend 2019 (also Platter’s 2023 Red Blend category winner)
Nederburg The Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (the same wine to be awarded 94 points and top 10 status in the 2022 Winemag Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report.)
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chardonnay 2021
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Merlot 2019
(also crowned World’s Best Brandy at the 2022 World Brandy Awards, a 2022 Veritas double gold medallist and a 2022 gold medal winner at Concours Mondial).
(also the trophy winner for the best brandy at the 2022 Investec Trophy Spirits Show, a 2022 Veritas double gold medallist and gold medal winner at both the San Francisco Spirits Competition and 2022 The Spirits Business Brandy Masters competition).
(also a 2022 Concours Mondial Grand Gold winner, and winner of gold at 2022 Veritas, the 2022 Investec Trophy Spirit Show and the 2022 San Francisco Spirit Competition).
And that’s not all!
is another beauty, scoring 93 points and top 10 status in the 2022 Winemag Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report.
WHY IS SA POTSTILL BRANDY SO GOOD?
South Africa has a long and impressive history of brandy-making. We also have very stringent and well-legislated quality controls in place (as set out in the Liquor Products Act, Act 60 of 1989) to ensure high standards are maintained.
Locally, we use mostly Chenin Blanc and Colombard grapes (as opposed to the French, who use mainly Ugni Blanc). These two locally grown varieties, coupled with our warm, sunny weather, lend lively, vibrant fruitiness and generous, well-rounded and voluptuous flavours to our potstill brandies.
Made according to the traditional method perfected in Cognac, our potstills are produced from early picked grapes with high acids, which act as natural preservatives. Once vinified from free-run juice, the acids keep the full-flavoured base wines fresh and free of impurities.
Local potstill brandies are twice distilled in copper stills. The base wine is heated in the copper vessel, to the point at which alcohol starts to evaporate (78,3ᵒC), releasing vapours that are trapped, cooled, and condensed.
The initial distillate (low wine) is quite rough tasting. It is only during the second distillation that the liquid expresses the essential stone fruit and floral characters so sought after. The head (the initial fraction) is left to run off, while the heart – the very essence or soul of the brandy - is captured during the second distillation. The skill of the brandy-maker is to know when the heart emerges and to avoid retaining either the head or the after-run (tail) fractions of the liquid.
The heart is captured in a spirit safe. This clear, colourless spirit is matured mostly in French oak barrels for a minimum of three years, according to South African legislation. The regulations also stipulate that these vessels may not exceed 340 litres in size. The barrel staves are toasted to the brandy cellar specifications, anywhere from mild- to medium- to dark-roasted, depending on the desired end-result. However, after at least eight years of maturation in small oak, brandies can be moved to larger barrels, up to 1 000 litres in capacity for further ageing.
The interplay between spirit and wood lends colour to the spirit, (think caramel, honey or amber) while imparting wood spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, star anise), nut and vanilla characters.
The brandy-maker will make up each potstill brandy from a variety of vats to achieve the desired aroma, taste, and palate-weight profile.
Hard, but delicate and finessed work. Definitely worth it when it comes to Van Ryn’s, world-renowned for hallmark fruit vivacity and rich, complex flavours.
For more on brandy-making, visit https://sabrandy.co.za/discover-brandy/