Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Porrón at Franschhoek Uncorked

One of the old Spanish traditions is drinking from a 'Porrón' - a glass vessel not dissimilar to a wine decanter, except that it has a spout on one side. At a meal it was customary not drink out of glasses, but instead to share their wine from the porrón (see video clip).

At this year's Franschhoek Uncorked Festival, Lynx Wines will be demonstrating the art of drinking out of a porrón; and you too, can be part of it.

At Lynx our theme is once again Spanish Fiesta (I grew up in Spain) and we will have tapas, live Spanish guitar, awesome wines and porrón competitions. Prove you can do it too, and you could win your own cheeky t-shirt!

Dates are 10 and 11 October 2009. R60 buys you a festival passport with which you can visit all participating wineries and sample their wines. A bus service will take you from farm to farm.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CORK vs. SCREW CAP - a personal experience

There has been a lot written about Cork versus Screw Cap.  There are no definitive conclusions, and I’m not about to regurgitate the information that is available on the subject (mostly biased depending on which camp you're in).  This posting merely gives an account of a comparative tasting held here at Lynx Wines a couple of weeks ago.

Back in 2006, while we were bottling the 2005 vintage, we ran out of screw cap bottles for our Vino Tinto.  We quickly switched over to cork and continued bottling the last hundred, or so, bottles.  The result was that we had the ingredients for the perfect comparative Cork vs. Screw Cap tasting: bottles that came from the same tank, bottled on the same day within half an hour from another.  We kept some bottles back.

Early in August 2009 we opened a bottle of each.  On the panel were my wife Diana, Josephine (Sommelier at Reuben’s), Suzaan (Lynx Assistant Winemaker) and myself. 

The wines had evolved into two amazingly different wines:

Screw Cap:  This wine was vibrant and had retained all of it’s freshness, and most noticeably its fruit.  The wine had definitely developed and was showing a lot more elegance than when it was bottled.   The tannins were more grippy than the bottle under cork, but were nevertheless smooth as one would expect from a 4 year old wine made in this style.  Overall an excellent wine.

Cork: This wine was showing considerably more age than its opponent.  The colour was paler but not necessarily any signs of oxidation.  The presence of oxygen was evident though on both nose and pallet. It had lost much of the upfront fruit.  The tannins were silky smooth.   The wine had evolved showing more age than one would expect from its 4 years.

Conclusion - We all preferred the wine under screw cap (view video for a few of the comments).  The bottle under screw cap will last another 3 to four years, whilst the one under cork should be drunk within the next 12 months.  It did 'prove' that air does get in through the cork closure.

Consideration - We keep our sulphur levels at a low level, particularly so with screw cap reds.  At bottling the Total SO2 was 63 and the Free SO2 was 27.  This could partly explain the age on the bottle under cork.

Showmanship - We usually ask people who come to the tasting room for their preference, and most people give the screw cap the thumbs up.  But on further interrogation many admit they do still like the showmanship of removing a cork (my answer to that on the video).

Myth – Many  visitors believe that there isn’t enough cork to satisfy world demand.  In fact  the contrary is true.  There are cork forests being pulled up in Spain as a result of the reduction in world consumption of cork.  This has led to certain species, like the resident Iberian Lynx, to become endangered (so I should be supporting cork!)

Comments welcome, but not from statisticians who will tell me that one bottle of each does not constitute a representative sample - I know that!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Riding the Credit Crunch

Following a recent article in the Cape Times on how bad the times are for the wine farms, I was asked:

"Does the view in the article reflect your wine farm?"  No.  Foremost, I do not agree that visitors to the farm are trading down to buy cheaper wines.  When visitors come to the farm we sell them an experience – wine sales follow automatically and price hardly comes into it.  Being small only I, as passionate owner/winemaker, or my equally passionate Assistant Winemaker, do the cellar tours and wine tasting.  The fact that all our wines over-deliver obviously also helps. 

We have our premium range and our ‘entry level’ range.  At cellar door the sales of the Premium Range have always exceeded those of the ‘entry level’ range and this has not changed, despite our ‘entry level’ red being really good value for money (Best Value Award from WINE Magazine for three consecutive years).

We have a few very loyal small tour operators – when I say small I mean they usually only do private tours.  Their clientele is usually upmarket and interested in wine and more often than not they have wine sent back home.  The tour operators know we offer cellar tours and tastings in German, and for that sector this is an immediate winner (we offer the same in Spanish, but we don’t get may Spanish speaking tourists!).

At the moment visitor levels are down, but that’s largely a seasonal thing – this time last year was also dead.

Visitor profile to the farm is also seasonal.  From November to Easter we have a lot of foreign visitors, made up mainly from British, Germans, Americans, Swedes and Dutch (in that order).  Gauteng holidays bring visitors that are in buying mode.  It’s refreshing to see how many South African wine aficionados we get in the 28 to 35 year old range.

Non-cellar door wine sales locally come mainly from restaurants and from mail campaigns and neither of these have suffered – in fact restaurant business is up, which may partly have to do with the evolution of the brand. We have never done a lot through retail outlets as the competition there is massive and yes, cut-throat.

When it comes to international sales we have experienced the two extremes.  Sales to the US have suffered – our distributor philosophises about the sushi-to-taco syndrome.  Our premium wines sell for US$19.99, which used to be the ‘sweet spot’, now the ‘sweet spot’ is US$12 – US$15.  Europe, on the other hand, has soaked up what the US didn’t take.  Our Danish distributor reports the best season ever, and our wines are right up there – the result of joint marketing efforts with our distributor.  Holland and Germany are not very different.

In addition we have very recently received two significant orders from UK and Switzerland for the first time.  With a bit of nurturing these will develop into repeat business.

We sit with the [nice] problem that our 2007 reds are all sold out (apart from stock we put aside for restaurants), and yet we don’t want to release the 2008’s as we only bottled them very recently.

In the range we also have two wines that are for early release: the Blanc de Noir and the Rosado.  The 2009 Rosado is already sold out, and the 2009 Blanc de Noir would be sold out had we not turned down orders from our European distributors – we need to keep some here for next summer.

...and under my breath I muttered "Long may this last!"

Friday, June 5, 2009


So here I sit, having read many blogs, and I finally decide to find out what all this hype is about - blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, LinkedIn... what can it all bring? One of my most respected wine writers, Robert Joseph, is looking at effective ways commercially exploiting one (or more) of these.  So I thought Hey, why not give it a try?  Maybe people do want to hear about what goes at a small winery.  And that's what I plan to do.  My second blog (this is my first) will be Riding the Credit Crunch.

Watch this space!