Monday, 8 August 2011

Hermanuspietersfontein - a real mouthful

Hermanus is not only known around the world for its visiting whale population but is also gaining recognition as a superb wine producing part of South Africa. The Hemel-en-Aarde region is a very happy home to small production cool-climate wines; the likes of Ataraxia, Creation, Hamilton Russel, Newton Johnson and many more.

In the early part of the 19th century the farmers of the area wanted their kids to be taught in Dutch instead of English. A well respected school teacher named Hermanus Pieters was often only remunerated in sheep and these he would graze at a spring near the sea. In 1855, a while after his death, the village of Hermanuspietersfontein was founded in his honour. The name was shortened to Hermanus in the early 1900’s.

The winery of Hermanuspietersfontein chose to pay homage to this esteemed teacher and the people of 1855 by making the commitment to keep all their wine names and labels in Afrikaans. Bartho Eksteen was awarded Diners Club ‘Winemaker of the year 2010’ and has a collection of wines that are causing a bit of a stir in the wine community. He treats Sauvignon Blanc (SB) with the utmost care and attention, always hand selecting and grading and from then on minimizing grape handling and any unwanted exposure to friction.

Their Bloos (a ‘blush wine’) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot that is created through specific techniques like juice bleeding and subtle wood fermentation. Bartho is extremely happy with this wine and feels that it reflects the unique terroir they’re blessed with and confirms their belief that ‘good earth makes better wine’.

I attended a recent gourmet food and wine evening and got the chance to listen to Bartho harp on about his wine and all sorts of other things. He’s a loud bellowing sort of character who speaks with a fairly rugged intensity, quite similar to what you’d expect from a rugby line-out call. We tasted 3 SB's which is, I suppose, what you’d expect at a tasting involving the self proclaimed ‘monster of SB’. All were quality and my pick of the night would have to be ‘die Bartho’, a SB, Semillon and Nouvelle blend, that had its own little party in my mouth.

I asked Bartho for a family recipe that would be good with one of their SB's and his wife Sune has very kindly done just that. She said that would be no problem at all because they're SB fanatics and therefore a lot of the meals in their house rotate around that variety.

Sune’s fresh white mussel soup


- 2-3kg fresh white mussels
- a bottle of white wine
- good quality fish stock
- 6 medium potatoes
- a bunch of chopped leaks
- a knob of butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- a blob of crème fraiche


- lightly steam the mussels in wine, discard any unopened
- take mussels out shell, clean away intestine sack and rinse
- pour white wine stock through muslin cloth
- add fish stock until your get around 2 litres of liquid
- add potatoes and leaks, boil until tender
- chop cleaned mussels and fry in butter with garlic
- liquidise potatoes and leaks in stock and add mussels
- warm through and serve with a blob of crème fraiche and bread

According to Sune their Nr. 5 is super with the soup.

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