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Rise of the Sunflower

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Zonnebloem gets sexy again

I was invited to the Zonnebloem & Fat Butcher media event. Normally I turn such invitations down, because I am aware that the point is that you will then promote someone’s products for nothing (a free lunch doesn’t pay the bills). However, this invitation intrigued me, because I had nothing better to do that day, and also because it is Zonnebloem.

Zonnebloem??! Zonnebloem is what our grandparents drank with Sunday lunch. Zonnebloem is a name that I blanked out of my consciousness years ago because it’s old school and part of the childhood furniture. But, now an invitation to a media event – what gives?

So I trotted along to the Fat Butcher in Stellenbosch to see what this was all about. And let me say from the outset – I had a really fun afternoon – lovely food, wine and company, and nowhere else I needed to be.

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The meal was delicious and the portions generous. For starters, salt-baked pulled short rib, served with pickled radish and beetroot, Vietnamese salad and harissa mayonnaise. The starter was tasty, pretty and textured. It was paired with a Zonnebloem Sauvignon Blanc limited edition 2011. This is a wine that has held up well, but I am not sure that it was the best pairing for the starter – those pickles needed the zinginess and fruitiness of a younger wine, whereas the 2011 was slightly understated and nutty – it would be fairer to try the wine again without food.

We also tasted a limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, a limited edition Shiraz 2012 and a Zonnebloem Pinotage 2015. These are all impressive and smooth wines, and typical of their styles – the Cab showed ripe plums and rich smooth earthiness; the Shiraz velvety dark fruit, vanilla and warm spices (clove and pepper); and the Pinotage full-bodied smoky savouriness. All showed balance and harmonious oak integration.

The main course was fillet, with roasted bone marrow, pan-fried foraged mushrooms and a creamy brandy sauce. The steak was perfectly cooked and extremely tasty. All three red wines worked with this meal, as they all had the earthiness, intensity and weight to hold up to the rich sauce.

Then the treat – we got to taste a Zonnebloem Cabernet 1980, and a Zonnebloem Pinotage 1978. These beauties have held up spectacularly, still showing flavour, freshness and healthy acidity.

Wisely, no pairing was done with the chocolate brownies, as even a dessert wine would have battled with the rich sweet chocolate. But afterwards we tasted the Lauréat 2013 – a sumptuous blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and a dash of Petit Verdot, showing savoury herbs, rich black fruit, chocolate and coffee.

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The food, wine and company was fabulous, but a highlight of the day was meeting the new white-wine maker at Zonnebloem – Dumisani Mathonsi. He is a passionate man who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, with a BSc in Agriculture from Stellenbosch, who has worked harvests in Bordeaux and California, and has 14 years’ winemaking experience. It was very soon apparent from his knowledge and enthusiasm that he loves what he does.

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The hallmarks of Zonnebloem are still consistency, quality, good value and dependability, but with a new freshness. The labels have been updated, the range extended, and the team has taken on new members and ideas. And the calibre of the media event showed that they mean business.

If there are any doubters out there, try the Lauréat 2013.

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You can obtain the limited edition wines, and also back vintages of many Zonnebloem wines from Vinoteque. See also Zonnebloem and The Fat Butcher for more information.

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