Thursday, July 29, 2010


Written by Chris van Ulmenstein and posted to her blog
Free-lance writer and second-most read South African food blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, writing the Scrumptious South Africa blog, described food bloggers as “desperate for attention” at the Food and Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting last night, and their genre of writing can be called “vanity publishing”, she said.  The bloggers present felt that this description probably applies to bloggers across the board! 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was started earlier this year, and “pairs” a different food blogger and a wine blogger every month.   The wines of the Wine Blogger are tasted, and Warwick/Vilafonte’s Mike Ratcliffe brought along his Warwick Professor Black, the unique Warwick Blue Lady without vintage, and Vilafonte Series M 2006 (the highest rated Merlot blend according to Wine Spectator), for the bloggers to taste.  Food was served by Cafe Max.  Meetings are informal, and questions are answered during the two-hour meeting, encouraging fledgling bloggers to obtain input and tips from more experienced bloggers.
Warwick 'The Blue Lady'

Jane-Anne said that through social media, “opinion has been democratised”, creating a serious threat for traditional media, with their short lead times in publishing restaurant reviews, or food information, compared to traditional magazine and newspaper publishing, and this is leading to tension between the two media types.  She started her blog three years ago, and it reflects her love for cooking and for developing recipes.   While one may not get financial reward out of a blog, especially if one does not accept advertising, which is Jane-Anne’s policy (nor does she accept freebies), she feels that she is adding value to her readers, and she herself receives emotional, intellectual and entertainment satisfaction from writing her blog.  She advised that food blogs must focus on accuracy in terms of ingredients and method of preparation, but also in terms of spelling and grammar. 

Online integrity is vital, and one must trust one’s palate in expressing what one experiences, even if it is not the popular view, one blogger said.  One should track one’s performance, and Jane-Anne advised that referring to, and tagging, names of chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay leads to increased web traffic.  She also advised that one “should find one’s voice” through the blog, and allow one’s readers to “get to know you”, and one’s personality should come through, whatever one’s communication style might be.  While content is king, a “yummy and descriptive” headline is vital in attracting readers into the content, and photographs should be of a “reasonable quality”.   Jane-Anne feels that it is sad to see so many young people’s idea of food and cooking being shaped by chefs and cookery book writers such as Ramsay, Lawson and Oliver, without them having exposure to a more classic cooking culture.  With her Scrumptious blog, Jane-Anne hopes to broaden their cooking knowledge.  

Mike Ratcliffe is probably the most experienced social media marketing wine marketer, and impressed with the different tools he referred to and uses: Blogging, Twitter, FourSquare, Twideo, Google Maps Latitude, and Nice to Meet You.   He has opted out of Facebook, due to the lack of control.   He writes a Vilafonte and a Warwick blog, being the Managing Partner of the former brand, and the Managing Director of the latter brand.  Vilafonte grapes are grown near Sante Wellness, between Paarl and Franschhoek, and the wines are made in a state-of-the-art venue at Bosman’s Crossing in Stellenbosch, while the Warwick wines are made the traditional way by Mike’s mother Norma on their farm.   Her 25th vintage celebration will take the Warwick wines around the world with 40 dinners, at which 10 vintages of their wines will be tasted.   Mike is an irregular blogger, as he travels a lot, and finds he has more time to blog when he travels.  He “leans to controversy” in what he writes, he says, yet he will not pick a fight, and will step back in a fight.  He complimented for their platform on which he is encouraged to write, creating huge exposure to their 40000 unique readers per month.    

Mike advised bloggers to be responsible in their blogging, as one influences views.  One must check one’s information sources, and not use a blog as a platform for retaliation.  If one disappoints one’s readers, they will no longer follow the blogger.  A blog is successful when one is passionate about one’s topic, and about writing.   Twitter is on a growth trend, he feels, and positional tweeting (crowdsourcing) will be introduced soon.  Mike uses traditional marketing communication media too, such as advertising and PR, and the 2000 members of the Warwick Wine Club are an important testing and tasting ground for new wines developed.   He claims that his marketing is spontaneous and dynamic, but one gets the impression that Mike Ratcliffe knows exactly what he is doing in marketing his brands, and is acknowledged by his peers in this respect.   He was praised by a fellow blogger as a professional.  

The next Food and Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting is on Wednesday 18 August, and will “pair” Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing

Monday, July 26, 2010

South African Sauvignon Blanc is full of suprises

A brillaint article by Jamie Goode and posted on

South Africa is full of surprises. Before the World Cup tournament, most commentators were expecting trouble as the world’s soccer fans arrived en masse. The challenges of logistics and security were deemed to be too great, and many were predicting disaster, but instead the tournament went without a glitch. Overall, it was a great advertisement for the rainbow nation – even the Dutch thuggery in the final as they tried to kick the Spanish off the pitch couldn’t spoil things.
Warwick Estate
'Professor Black'
Sauvignon Blanc
In terms of wine, probably the biggest surprise about South Africa is how well it has done with Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a variety that flourishes in cool conditions, and if you were to sit down with a chart showing the growing degree days (a measure of average temperature) of South Africa’s key wine regions, Sauvignon wouldn’t be your first choice grape for planting. But winegrowers have managed to find combinations of vineyard sites and soils where Sauvignon can flourish, have managed these vineyards well and worked hard in the cellar, and as a result Sauvignon is now South Africa’s fastest rising variety.
Back in 2002 it accounted for 6.7% of vineyard area; by the end of 2009 this had risen to 9.3%. There is now more Sauvignon than Chardonnay in South Africa, and the only white varieties more widely planted are Chenin Blanc and Colombard (most of which is used for brandy production). It may surprise you to learn that with 9446 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc planted, South Africa now ranks third, behind France and New Zealand, in the Sauvignon league table.
Sauvignon Blanc is an interesting grape variety, because it’s probably the one where we have a better handle on the science underpinning how the viticulture and winemaking affect the flavour than for any other variety. There are two groups of chemicals that are considered to be key to the flavour of Sauvignon Blanc.
The first is the methoxypyrazines. These are responsible for the herbal grassy/green pepper flavours and aromas, and are an important part of Sauvignons varietal character. If you want to train your nose and palate to recognize methoxypyrazine, then take a green pepper and cut it open. That’s methoxypyrazine, and in high levels it can be quite pungent and even unpleasant. It’s produced by the grapes, and levels are initially high during the early stages of ripening, falling as the grapes get riper. Viticulturalists have been working hard on ways of managing the grape vine canopy (the leaves) to get just the right level of methoxypyrazine when the grapes are ripe and ready to pick. These methoxypyrazines are stable and the levels remain unchanged during fermentation and ageing.
The second is the thiols. These are sulfur-containing compounds produced during fermentation by the yeasts, from precursors present in the grapes. They’re closely related to compounds that can cause problems in wine, so it was a surprise to find out that three thiols – 4MMP, 3MH and 3MHA – are actually responsible for attractive fruity notes in Sauvignon Blanc. Their typical signature is passionfruit, grapefruit and boxwood, and if you want to get a handle on what they smell like, take a passionfruit, slice it in half and take a good sniff. Thiols aren’t all that stable, and can be lost with ageing. Because they are seen as desirable in Sauvignon Blanc, a lot of work is taking place trying to identify the precursors that the yeasts use to make them from, and then finding out ways of enhancing these precursor levels in the grape by intervention in the vineyard.
The key to successful Sauvignon Blanc is getting a balance between these more tropical fruity aromas and the green herbal notes, and this is what South Africa seems to be doing very effectively. Part of this comes down to growing the grape in the right place, either in cooler regions (such as Constantia, Darling or Elgin) or in cooler spots (such as south-facing vineyard blocks) in otherwise quite warm regions. But it is interesting to note that even among the leading examples of South African Sauvignon there are stylistic differences.
Perhaps the biggest difference in style relates to the level of greenness, contributed by the methoxypyrazines. Some people just can’t get enough of them, while others can only tolerate them in small quantities. A little grassy, green pepper character is an important element of Sauvignon style, adding freshness and focus to the wine. Sometimes, however, this character can be dominant, resulting in overtly green herbal wines. Still, the high-methoxypyrazine style is very successful with some consumers. An example would be Springfield Estate’s Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc, which is one of South Africa’s most celebrated Sauvignons. Personally, I find this level of greenness off-putting, but this is very much an individual taste issue. My preference is for wines with less of this character, such as Warwick Estate (Professor Black) or Vergelegen.
While Sauvignon Blanc has proved immensely popular with consumers, there has always been a feeling that it is a non-serious variety. You just don’t find many Sauvignons priced £15 and over, whereas for most other varieties, this sort of price ceiling doesn’t exist. For this reason, it’s exciting to see the work being done by Duncan Savage at Cape Point Vineyards. From this cool, maritime spot Duncan has for some years been making one of South Africa’s top Sauvignons. With some oak and a bit of Semillon in the blend, the Cape Point Isliedh is one of the world’s best expressions of Sauvignon, complex and precise and capable of ageing. This is the sort of wine that could see Sauvignon taken much more seriously by the fine wine community.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

picture taken today on the coast road

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious food blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte wine blog together for the first time

The third Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place next Wednesday 28 July, from 18h00 - 20h00, and will pair Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious food blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte wine blog.
Mike Ratcliffe is the Managing Director of Warwick wine estate and Managing Partner of Vilafonte. He has a B.Comm (Economics) from the University of Stellenbosch and a Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide. He is a Board member of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), has been involved on the marketing committee of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, is the Deputy Chairman of the South African Wine Industry Trust (encouraging black economic empowerment and land redistribution), and is President of the United States/South Africa Foundation, a fundraising charity based in the USA. He is an international wine judge, industry commentator and marketing co-ordinator, and is an industry leader in embracing social media marketing in the marketing of his wines.
Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious blog is a freelance journalist, editor, author of three books (on local touring routes, and on raising toddlers), cook, food writer and recipe developer. She writes as Juno, and her blog is independent, in that she does not accept any advertising or sponsorship, nor does she accept freebies. She does use Google Adsense. She is passionate about “food, fresh local ingredients and punchy flavours”. She loves writing recipes. Jane-Anne was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines. Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others. Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging. The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others. Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers. The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 18 August: Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir
Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog
Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog
Wednesday 24 November: Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Mike will introduce the Warwick & Vilafonte wines served. Snacks will be served to match the Vilafonte & Warwick wines. The cost of attendance is R 150. Bookings can be made by e-mailing

The meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be held at Cafe Max, 126 Waterkant Street, in De Waterkant, Cape Town. From Somerset Road turn up Highfield Street (opposite Green Point Traffic Department), alongside the Tafelberg Furnishers/Kfm building, and turn left into Waterkant Street. Cafe Max is about 200 meters further down the road, on the left.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The most beautiful Winter morning at Warwick Wine Estate

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the train to Soccer City - the world Cup final vibe is awesome

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Having fun at the Warwick & Vilafonte table at the Nelson Mandela World Cup ball in Joburg

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Trilogy 2007 scores amazing 93 points!

Warwick Estate Trilogy 2007

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Dry Red (Cork), 14.5% abv
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are aged for 20 months in mostly older French oak. Big plush nose, with that very characteristic herbal note that is part of the Warwick terroir. Strong minty and eucalyptus character. Thick, sweet, ripe fruit powers through and this is close to being a blockbuster, but it retains finesse and savoury bite. Find on

Score: 93/100