The gift that keeps giving

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For a gift with a real feel-good factor for both the giver and the recipient, Long Distance wines are the perfect present. It’s a win-win situation: the lucky recipient has the opportunity to enjoy a unique limited-edition blend of good Riesling, and you’ll be contributing towards a worthy charitable cause as the entire proceeds will be donated to the South African mentally handicapped national soccer team.

Created by winemaker Christoph Hammel, who produced 1 500 litres of Riesling in Germany, and South African winemaker Morné van Rooyen who produced 1 500 litres of Riesling locally, the end result is a quality wine which is as good on the palate as it is on the conscience. The entire winemaking process occurred while the two winemakers were on opposite sides of the world and relied mostly on technology to perfect their blend.

This pale-straw colour wine with an intense floral nose, bright acidity and a hint of sweetness on the palate is ideal for enjoying chilled during the silly season.

Long Distance is available at Welmoed cellar door at a mere R50 per bottle. Call 021 881 8062 or email info@thecompanyofwinepeople.co.za  to order.

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Silly or sane season?

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This time of year is not called “silly season” for nothing! December arrives and with it comes extended traffic jams, queues and congestion.

This is a time for sharing. Involve your family and friends in all festive preparations. Here are some ideas to help lighten your load.

• As a family set a theme or colour scheme for this Christmas. Involve everyone in choosing decorations and they’ll want to stay involved with setting things up.

• If you are planning on having lots of visitors throughout the day – set the table once – use a long lasting centre piece such as ‘peace in the home’ in terracotta pots, add candles, lanterns and torches for the night time. Set up a separate table for buffet tea/coffee – this takes off a lot of pressure and gives you more time to mingle and relax.

Decide on a simple menu that can be prepared well in advance to reduce last minute stress. You want to be out celebrating with your guests and not cooped up in the kitchen.

Delegate simple tasks to the kids – setting the table (you can do a sample setting for them to copy), gift wrapping, card making. The key is to keep things fun – that way they’ll stay motivated. Tip: set out some coloured card, stars and glitter glue so the children can make their own cards while you focus on more challenging things.

• This is a great time of year to go through the old toys to make space for the new. Involve the children with this task and let them put broken or seldom-used toys aside for giving away. Before Christmas go with your children to a charity of their choice to experience the joy of giving.

Shop for gifts throughout the year – this way you won’t blow your entire bonus cheque on Christmas gifts. Have a list of names with a budget figure next to their name to keep you focused – once you have purchased a gift for that person write the gift next to the name and cross them off your list. Remember teachers and caregivers and have a couple of extra generic gifts packed away in case someone unexpected pops in. (This tip might be a little late… but as the saying goes ‘better late than never’ – now you know the info – get to the stores ASAP)

Keep one running ‘to-do’ list. As a family decide who will take on which tasks. People are far more likely to carry out a task if they have chosen to do it other than being told that they have to do it.

Do whatever preparations you can at least 2 weeks before. On your ‘to-do’ list allocate an estimated time frame for the task – mark in red the tasks that can be carried out before the time and allocate a time for these in your diary.

Remember that this is supposed to be fun. If you feel yourself slipping into the wicked witch of the west… take a deep breath and laugh it off.

Articles supplied by Tracey Foulkes of the national professional organiser company Get Organised. Visit http://www.getorganised.co.za. to download your free organising info pack to help you take control of your clutter and create calm in your life. Contact tracey@getorganised.co.za, 084 507 6891.

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UK newspaper readers vote Cape Town “Best World City”

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The Telegraph Travel Awards for 2008 were released today and New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were voted the readers’ “favourite destinations on earth”; while their favourite cities were voted as Cape Town, San Francisco, Sydney and Vancouver.
The Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town was named one of the favourite city hotels in the world to visit.

More than 25 000 readers were polled in Britain’s biggest survey of travel habits and an overwhelming 92 per cent of them maintain that the financial crisis will not affect their choice of holiday destinations. 96 per cent of the readers polled refuse to downgrade their holiday accommodation.

The readers’ favourite destinations (outside of Europe) can be identified as ones where the pound has strengthened against the respective foreign currencies in the past year (the Australian and New Zealand dollars, and the South African rand). The same can be said for the choices of cities, with the exception of San Francisco (where the pound has fallen against the dollar).

The Telegraph readers’ holiday budget remains high – more than half of the readers polled spent more than £1,000 (R15 220) on their last holiday: one in six spent between £2,500 (R38 000) and £5,000 (R76 000) and one in twenty spent more than £5,000.

“As Britain enters a new winter of discontent, taking a break may never feel more needed, but the value for money it provides will be scrutinised like never before,” said Charles Starmer-Smith.

“This is why, during belt-tightening times, readers return to destinations they know – namely, the English-speaking former colonies.”

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Preserving unfinished wines

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This is a dilemma amongst many of us. There are times we want to drink wine but couldn’t finish a bottle alone.

Or when we are with a date who is not much of a wine drinker, we will end up with leftover wine, which of course we do not want to just throw away. Wine is really tough to preserve after opening. But there are gadgets to do this preservation for us.

Remember, re-corking your opened wine does not help much, except prolong the wine for a few more hours. As you know, the cork is porous, and aeration will continue to happen, risking the optimum quality of your wine. Putting your leftover wine into a refrigerator also help very little, and may actually make the wine worse. Not only will the change in temperature of the wine fluctuate drastically, but refrigerators also vibrate, and vibration further agitates the wine. The odour of food in the fridge may also affect the wine.

The only way to preserve wine is to seal it properly. You can buy expensive sealing machines or you can simply buy wine with screw cap closures (also called Stelvin closures).

Numerous wines in the award-winning Kumkani range are sealed with screwcap closures. Unlike former years when screwcaps were used mainly for sealing inferior quality or cheaper wine, these wines are certainly worth preserving for future consumption.

WINE magazine recommends two wine preserving options. One option is the SoWine-bar refrigerated storage unit. If you are not in the mood to finish a bottle of wine, simply place the opened bottle back into the compartment and plunge down the oxidation extraction cap. The oxygen extraction system will draw oxygen from the bottle, keeping it “fresh” and unoxidised until your next party. The SoWine-bar is distributed by Wine Essentials and retails for R4299. Visit http://www.wineessentials.co.za for more info.

The second option is the Preserver Loyalty Can. This can retails for R65 and is an easy and effective way to preserve opened wine. All you do is to squirt the odourless, argon gas into the neck of the bottle to prevent contact with oxygen, then lightly re-insert the cork or screw the cap back on. The bottle can then be kept in a cool place for between one and two weeks. The Preserver is available at winesense. Call them on 021 702 0128 or e-mail info@winesense.co.za for more information.

Seeing how expensive (especially the storage units) and complicated preserving wine can be, I suggest that you only save wines that are worth saving— those expensive and fuller-bodied reds. Also, the fuller or heavier bodied your wine is, the better it preserves on its own for hours without any preservation method.

When I am asked how long a wine should be kept when opened, I always give the six-hour rule—meaning, sip and drink gradually, and your wine should still be good for six hours (at comfortable room temperature). But the lighter the body, the lower the alcohol, the faster the wine loses its elements. For these wines, even the wine preservation gadgets cannot salvage them.

The best (cheapest and most satisfying) solution, however, remains very simple… just finish the bottle.

Sources: manilastandardtoday.com

And Wine Magazine

Recipe: Sparkling Wine Cheesecake

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Summer celebrations usually conjure up thoughts of sweet treats and some bubbly. Here’s an easy, delicious dessert which incorporates the best of both these elements. You’re bound to receive a barrage of compliments from your guests!

Ingredients
– 200g digestive biscuits
-90g butter, melted

Filling
– 15ml gelatine
– 60ml water
– 500g cream cheese
– 85ml castor sugar
– Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
– 125ml sparkling wine
(the Kumkani Infiniti Methode Cap Classique is ideal)
– 250ml cream, lightly whipped
– 1 punnet of cherries, washed, retaining stalks
– Sugar
– Icing sugar

Method
– Crush the biscuits and combine with butter.
– Press into base of a 20cm, loose-bottomed cake pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
– Refrigerate.
– Sprinkle gelatine over water and set aside to form a thick cake.
– In a mixing bowl, beat cheese and castor sugar together. Add rind, juice and sparkling wine and beat again.
– Place gelatine in microwave on medium for 1 minute. Pouring from a height, add to cheese mixture and then stir through the cream.
– Pour into biscuit base, cover and refrigerate for three hours.
– Just before serving, stone a handful of cherries.
– Place in food processor with 60ml sugar, 100ml warm water and 15ml honey. Process till you have a chunky sauce.
– Use remaining cherries to decorate the top of the cheesecake.
– Drizzle over the cooled sauce and sift over some icing sugar and serve.

Source: The Times

Are older vintages always better than younger ones?

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Contrary to what you may expect, most wines today are made for consumption while they are still young (within a year or two of the vintage on the label) and will not improve much over time.

With red wines, you can generally bank on an older vintage having more complexity and smoothness than a younger vintage, especially for age-worthy grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blends containing these grapes.

Because red wines contain age-friendly tannins originating from contact with grape skins and stems, and from aging in oak barrels, they continue to develop and mature inside the bottle and become more drinkable over time.

Fine red wines that are more expensive than average usually will improve with age, whereas lower-priced wines, usually under R40 , are made for more immediate consumption — within months of their release.

The issue of vintage can be complex. There are wine vintage charts (available as a reference resource in many wine stores) that list wine regions around the world and rate each vintage year according to its quality, which is primarily determined by that year’s weather.

Weather in a given year is more critical in France, for example, than in the United States because wine laws in France prohibit irrigation of vines. In other words, the quantity of water that a vine gets is not controlled.

What’s more, the climates in California wine regions are fairly consistent from year to year, making differences between vintages less meaningful.

Red wines age according to a curve that reaches a peak of improvement and then declines. It is just a guess by winemakers and wine critics as to when in the life of the wine that peak occurs

Because white wines are absent of tannins and their preservative characteristics, the older a white wine gets, the greater the chance that it may be beyond its peak and on the downside slope of its “drinkability” curve.

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Pairing wine with people

Buying for a math geek or a collector? Experts offer tips on how to judge a person’s preferences

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Picking out the right wine for someone during the holidays could prove as challenging as buying a present for the in-laws who have everything.

Which varietal? How much to spend? Go bold – or delicate? Is a bottle of Sherry the ultimate insult?

These questions become particularly difficult when you don’t know the recipient’s wine taste. Steer clear of giving wine to anyone who you’re not certain drinks alcohol.It could become awkward if the person is a recovering alcoholic or for religious reasons doesn’t drink.

But if they do, the trick is in the pairing. Our experts have a lot of tips, everything from matching personalities to wine to finding clues in the foods and beverages they drink.

Tim Hanni, a master of wine, has his own theories about people’s likes and dislikes based on how many taste buds they have on their tongue. While it might be a little presumptuous, and definitely strange, to ask your boss if you could get a look inside his or her mouth, Hanni says there are other hints to follow.

Coffee clues

“How they drink their coffee could be a telltale sign,” says the wine master. “If they prefer their coffee black and strong, their wine preference will more than likely lean toward intense wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, old-vine Zinfandels and many Meritage wines (usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes).”
Hanni says cream-and-sugar coffee drinkers are more likely to show a preference for moderately sweet wines, such as Muscat and Riesling. Sparkling wines are also an option. He says to look for labels that have 2 to 6 percent residual sugar levels.

People who salt their food heavily are also likely to go for the sweeter wines, according to Hanni. Same goes for folks who gravitate to sweet cocktails such as mojitos and pina coladas. He says Manhattan, martini and classic margarita drinkers would probably appreciate Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Merlot and Chardonnay. For the whisky, Cognac, Tequila and Scotch crowd, try big, bold reds and oaky, expensive Chardonnays.

Don’t have a clue about what kind of cocktails the person you’re buying for likes or how he or she takes coffee? Hanni suggests going with personality traits. A man with a strong personality who is good at math would probably prefer a wine that’s received a high rating from Robert Parker. If he’s more artistic and a little disorganised, go with Pinot Noir, dry Riesling and wines you would describe to your merchant as delicate and expressive.

For a strong woman, Hanni suggests Shiraz, Pinot Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay. For an artistic woman, go for something sweet, like a fruit wine, he says. “Of course these are all generalisations,” says Hanni. “But in my experience, they tend to work.”
If you don’t know someone well enough to judge their wine taste, get something festive that they can share with other people. Good choices are Champagne, sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc – it goes great with food.

Source: sfgate.com