Newsletter - May 2005

The members of Stellenbosch Hills are all keen anglers and the often heard saying amongst them is that a bad day at the waters is better than a very good one at work.

The members of Stellenbosch Hills are all keen anglers and the often heard saying amongst them is that a bad day at the waters is better than a very good one at work. Well, during the recent pressing season I felt honestly that the making of wine should be seen as more rewarding than fishing. Firstly, there is always something happening with winemaking and secondly I feel it is better to dirty your hands with wine than with red bait or white mussel. And lastly you always know you will be rewarded for your trouble with wine. As a winemaker every harvest and every wine made is a reward. I always remind people that you only experience around 30 harvests in a lifetime.

This year the harvest yielded some 7 400 tonnes, around 300 tonnes lower than last year. But this can be ascribed to members who took out vineyards and not with other circumstances. The grapes, to put it mildly, came in sporadically because the strange weather conditions complicated the ripening processes. It was surely an interesting time.

In spite of this the quality was more than satisfactory and we are expecting a very good year for chardonnay, cabernet and merlot.

All the good wine in the world will be kept in vain of there are no markets to sell them to and marketing can be more painful than anything to do with harvesting. I am quite sure that marketing takes more energy than to make a good Bordeaux blend.

The Stellenbosch Hills trademark is luckily gaining currency, a relief for everybody involved. However, change is not easy, especially the process of converting an old cellar like Vlottenburg to Stellenbosch Hills.

But thanks to the quality of the wines, the good corporate identity and the support of the media we are quite satisfied with the establishment of a quality trademark. Stellenbosch Hills is already available in quite few restaurants, a very important process to ensure that consumers can get used to our product. The fact that our 1707 blend receuived four-and-a-half stars in the Platter guide also stimulated interest. And without over-stressing the point, quality publicity also played its role.

The trademark will appoint a distributor this year to ensure that our presence in restaurants and shops is managed properly.

But perhaps the most exiting activity is at the cellar itself. People drive here, stop for a while, taste our wines and most buy some bottles. More importantly, they return for more! It is important to associate our wines with a place and a face. Wine is after all an intimate product that cannot be produced in a factory. We create it at our home, the Stellenbosch Hills cellar and that is where we want to attract people to taste our products.

This winter we will be using the cellar for the first time to feed hungry souls on cold evenings. From 1 June we will host food and wine evenings, but not the kind of events where seven different wines will be tasted with small portions of high French cuisine. No, we will offer glasses of wine with ample portions of soul food like tripe, stews and waterblommetjie bredie. Watch the media for details or phone the cellar at (021) 881-3828.

Until then, a recipe to keep you warm:

Guinea Fowl with Prunes and Red Wine
Place the bird in a large bowl. Take 12 to 13 prunes, remove the pits and place them in the bowl next to the bird. Take two ample cups of wine and pour it over the fowl. Take two or three fresh laurel leaves and place the bowl or pot in a cold place, preferably in a fridge. Let it stand for at least 10 hours and scoop of the wine over the fowl once in a while.

After 10 hours heat the heavy bowl or pot and remove the bird from the liquid and prunes. Dry the bird with kitchen paper. Keep the prunes separate. Heat three spoons of oil in the pot and fry half a pack of shredded bacon in it until brown. Remove the bacon. Fry one large chopped onion in the oil with the portions of guinea fowl. When the bird is brown, throw the bacon back in and add three large chopped carrots, two sticks of celery and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the butter and celery is of blended colours. Add one cup of brandy and port mix, close the lid and led the dish simmer for around 90 minutes. If it looks too dry, add more wine. When the meat starts tearing from the bone, add the prunes that you kept aside to the pot. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. If necessary, thicken the sauce with Maizena or one packet of brown onion soup.

Enjoy with Stellenbosch Hills Shiraz or Merlot.

PG Slabbert
Cellarmaster and Manager

Stellenbosch Hills Wines