Compiled by Tracy Knox
South Africa When one thinks about South Africa and what makes it what it is, a number of thoughts come to mind: just a few are rugby, braaing, the Big Five, Table Mountain, Mrs Ball's chutney, biltong and of course, brandy. And the best of the best were on show at this year's Fine Brandy Fusion (previously the Fine Brandy Festival), held at Sandton Convention Centre over this past weekend.
Anyone partial to a drop of brandy would have enjoyed this event, which first started out as a small industry event and is now considered to be one of the ultimate expressions of this luxury product and the lifestyle surrounding it. To prove this point, brandy lovers, celebrity guests and Jozi’s social set braved the cold to savour South Africa’s internationally admired brandies at the highly-imaginative, interactive and boutique stands. Not just a social happening, this event also served to highlight just how fine our locally produced, individualistic brandies are, having earned an incredible run of accolades at the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) over the past three decades. No fewer than 14 local brandies have won the much soughtafter Worldwide Best Brandy trophy, the last five years were in succession - and after tasting them we could understand why.
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El Broide and Leeroy Wright
Purists and enthusiastic novices had the opportunity to experience tutored tasting and master classes under the auspices of Kobus Gelderblom, a master distiller and international wine and spirits judge. Gelderblom's tasting talk - 'Share the Spirit: Journey from Grape to Best Brandy in the World' - covered the creation of base wine, to distillation, maturation, then to blending and finally a tasting of six award-winning brandies. The art of barrel-making was also demonstrated, with live performances by veteran cooper Neville Ebraham.
Rare cognac treasures were to be found at the Cognac de Collection Jean Grosperrin. Since 1999 Jean Grosperrin and his son Guilhem have been sourcing precious barrels of single-vintage, unblended cognacs, some up to 50 years old.
Discovering brandy's new modern mojo was a real delight and came in the form of the Brandy Cocktail of the Year, the Amalekkerlicious, created by Kurt Schlechter, with its fusion of cranberries, peach and orange and funky sherbet kiss mark on the rim. Brandy's extraordinary versatility and fun side could be found in the many other inventive, taste-shaping cocktails that all went down very well with the visitors. Said renowned chef Francois Ferreira, Brandy Guild member and head of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in South Africa “In this era of the craft cocktail and retro-classics, brandy is being rediscovered by mixologists for its unique flavours and easy mixability. It's a spirit with body that will support strong flavours without getting lost. As it combines so well with fruits and juices, brandy is the backbone of many classic and contemporary cocktails.”
In addition to the brandies on offer, there was also a range of highend lifestyle brands on display including Aston Martin, Montblanc and Nespresso, brandy-loving foods, famous brandy houses and artisanal estate brandies. For the first time aerial artist Samantha Kotze brought her seamless, breathtaking performance, inspired by the best of SA Brandy, to the event.
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Throwing some technology into the mix was the launch of a new Brandy App, which gives consumers a mobile way to interact with their favourite brandy brand, get detailed information about brandy happenings, the brandy routes, or to track tasting notes for each brandy. In addition, it indicates accolades received and includes a unique 'Share the Spirit' rating system, for users to share their ratings of brandy with their friends. The app also brings the latest brandy cocktails to the palm of the hand.
DID YOU KNOW? • Brandy is the soul of the wine it is distilled from. • It takes 5 litres of wine to produce a litre of brandy. • South African brandy has some of the most stringent production regulations in the world. • South African brandy is matured for at least three years in small French oak casks. • Brandy is South Africa’s largest selling and favourite spirit.
FUN STATS • More than 80% of brandy drinkers are aged below 50. • The highest number of consumers are aged between 39 to 49, followed closely by those aged between 25 to 34, and then 18 to 24. • Women account for a growing portion of SA's brandy consumption - up from around 20% in the mid '90s to almost 30% at present.
DISCOVERING THE BRANDY ROUTE
South African brandy history has always had its small and big players, on and off the stage. Some survived into the modern era, others have been revitalized, some colourfully reinvented and many enthusiastically re-established - providing the backbone to what is today known as the two SA Brandy Routes.
Western Cape Brandy Route
Within an hour's drive of the Mother City some of the world's best brandies wait to be discovered. BACKSBERG ESTATE CELLARS - Paarl Backsberg is home to Sydney Back Estate Brandies, which are made by using wine pressed exclusively from Chenin Blanc grapes, and distilled in a state-of-the-art still imported from the Cognac region in France. The range consists of a 5/6-year-old blend and a limited amount of 10-yearold as well as a 15-year-old exclusive reserve brandy. HAUTE CABRIERE - Franschhoek The only Franschhoek member, Haute Cabrière is known for its Pierre Jourdan Cap Classiques, yet they are the reason why the Fine de Jourdan is so fine. This traditional potstill brandy is characterised by its vanilla bouquet and is totally natural and unadulterated.
DE COMPAGNIE - Wellington De Compagnie makes a limited edition double distilled potstill brandy. This meticulously refined potstill brandy has been double distilled in an antique copper alembic potstill first used by Ben Lategan in 1849 on the historic farm, De Compagnie, Wellington, South Africa. It is a single cultivar brandy made from exclusively designated grapes harvested from well seasoned 1976 Chenin Blanc vines grown on the farm in the Wellington Wine Region of South Africa. KAAPZICHT ESTATE - Stellenbosch Kaapzicht Estate is situated in the Stellenbosch region, against the Bottelary Hills, and produces full-bodied, fruity wines, brandy and grappa with great structure and length. LABORIE ESTATE - Paarl This famous estate, situated in the shadow of the majestic Paarl Rock, launched its first brandy - Laborie Estate Alambic Brandy - at the end of 1997. Set among rolling vineyards, Laborie's historic buildings have made it a popular tourist destination for local and international visitors alike. The Laborie Estate Alambic Brandy achieved Veritas Gold 2010 and Veritas Gold 2011. It received a Gold Medal at the 2011 Concours Mondial and was judged as the Best Brandy in the World at the 2010 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).
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Banele, KB and Bevin
LOUIESENHOF - Stellenbosch Until 1993 Louiesenhof was part of the Koopmanskloof Estate, where brandy was distilled since 1920. The first batch of brandy produced on Louiesenhof was done in conjunction with the research station in Stellenbosch and Ugni Blanc and Columbar grapes were used for this brandy. NEDERBURG - Paarl The longstanding harmony of tradition, quality and innovation that has established Nederburg as the home of South Africa's most awarded and widely enjoyed wines, offers a Natural Potstilled Solera Brandy - the natural progression of 200 years of winemaking. OUDE MOLEN DISTILLERY - Grabouw Situated in the heart of the fast emerging and prestigious Elgin Wine Region, RenĂŠ Santhagen's Oude Molen Distillery is a fine tribute to the man, commonly known as the 'Father of South African Brandy' and home to the Oude Molen Brandy range. OUDE WELLINGTON ESTATE - Wellington In a timeless process, the Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Chardonnay grapes magically turn into brandy. The double and triple distilled spirit of the grape concentrates its flavours in the traditional copper Cape potstill. Crafted with care and free from
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additives, it's a true reflection of the fertile terroir and all its purity. This international award winning brandy proudly bears the name of the one who made it - Dr. Schumacher. SAVINGNAC - Wellington Savingnac is handcrafted in small batches at Jorgensen's Distillery in Wellington. Each brandy is matured for 12 or more years in small French casks to create the ultimate expression of all that the noble grape can become. TOKARA - Stellenbosch The modern Tokara winery is located at the top of the Helshoogte Pass (R310), 5 km from Stellenbosch on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg. Tokara's 5-Year-Old Potstill Brandy has been produced according to a traditional method in a Prulho alembic still, and matured in French oak vats. The annual production is very limited and each bottle is presented in an exquisite gift box. UITKYK - Stellenbosch Uitkyk Brandy Cellar, situated on the R44 towards Paarl from Stellenbosch, produces one of South Africa's finest 10-year-old estate potstill brandies. Situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, this estate certainly has one of the most beautiful settings in the Cape and is well worth a visit. UPLAND - Wellington Upland Estate is a certified organic farm near Wellington. Distilled from organic Chenin Blanc and Riesling grapes, the 100% potstill brandy is matured for 10 years in small French oak barrels. This Cognac-style brandy has an unmistakable character; wafts of dried peaches and apricots, citrus and pineapple and topped with vanilla. Guinevere 10-Year-Old Pure Brandy is the proud flagship of Upland Estate.
VAN RYN'S BRANDY DISTILLERY - Stellenbosch Just 35 minutes drive from Cape Town, visitors can learn about the origins of Van Ryn's dating back to 1845. See the burnished copper potstills and watch skilled craftsmen at work at the one distillery in the country with an on-site cooperage. Find out how they potstill our brandies, mature and blend them. Sample the international award winners with hand-crafted chocolate and coffee.
KANGO WINE CELLAR - Oudtshoorn Kango is the oldest co-operative in Oudtshoorn and has become a major producer of wine and brandy in the Little Karoo region. It's passion for brandy is underscored by the numerous accolades it has won, especially its famous Hanepoot Brandy and Kango Premium VO. New additions to its range include Buchu and Ginger Brandy.
R62 Brandy Route
KLIPDRIFT DISTILLERY - Robertson The Klipdrift Distillery in Robertson promises a generous dose of South African hospitality to all who come to visit. The informative tastings and tours through this world-class distillery also includes entertaining glimpses into the history of everyone’s favourite brandy.
When you head into the heartland of Cape brandy making, take a slow, leisurely journey and discover fine brandies as unique as their legendary makers. BARRYDALE CELLAR - Barrydale The Barrydale region has a long history of brandy making and Barrydale Cellar has built on this to become one of South Africa's top potstill brandy producers, competing with - and beating international brands at international level. BOPLAAS - Calitzdorp Boplaas’ distilling heritage dates back to 1880 when current owner, Carel Nel’s great-great grandfather, exported his first consignment of fine Boplaas Brandy to England. Boplaas was also the first cellar to release an Estate Brandy and is well known for its award winning potstilled brandies. GRUNDHEIM - Oudtshoorn Just outside Oudtshoorn, on the road from Calitzdorp, lies the vineyards of Sandkoppies, home of Grundheim Wines. Grundheim launched its maiden potstill brandy in 2002 and the family's recipes have ensured that their homemade liqueurs and witblits preserves have walked away with numerous awards.
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MONS RUBER - Oudtshoorn Situated on the picturesque road between Oudtshoorn and De Rust, Mons Ruber has a long tradition of distillation. When world prices of ostrich feathers plummeted in 1913, farmers survived by distilling and selling witblits; an event that sparked the Little Karoo's unique distillation culture. In more recent years, Mons Ruber has been making estate brandy - distilling it over an open fire in a still that dates back to 1936.•
Information sourced from www.sabrandy.co.za/routes.html
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