It is not often that one receives an invitation for an evening media event, and that in Worcester, with the offer of accommodation taken care of, and a shuttle bus transporting one to the function venue. When the invitation arrived from Waterford Communications to attend the Overhex Wines International launch of its intriguingly branded Survivor range outside Worcester, it was accepted immediately.
I had the whole day to get to Worcester, and once I had survived the drive through the Huguenot Tunnel, I popped in at the newish Melissa’s franchise at Du Toitskloof Wines outside Worcester, similar to all Melissa’s branches except that they serve pizza too. It was easy to find The Habit B&B, in which all invited writers were accommodated. We found a Survivor box in our room on arrival, containing a number of items as well as two bottles of Survivor wines.
It was a surprise to see so many invited guests when we arrived at Overhex Wines International, and the lovely warm evening allowed us to enjoy the welcome drink outside. The Overhex Bistro had been doubled in size, and the function was held in it, the builders having finished the job just two hours before we arrived, we were told, but there was no sign of this at all.
Once we were seated, Overhex Wines International MD Gerhard van der Wath shared that their cellar processes 10 500 tons of grapes, making economical wines which makes the company one of the ten largest exporters of wines. Having spare capacity, it was decided to launch the Survivor range, made from grapes sourced from the Swartland. The name came from an indeginous Nguni cow, one of thirty, jumping off the back of a truck into a Cabernet Sauvignon block of Oom Danie Rust’s Swartland farm, and surviving the experience, having since borne five calves. As the cow embodied the ‘robust spirit of the Swartland … (the wine) pays tribute to our noble Nguni cow, Survivor’. The pay-off line for the brand is ‘Survivor: The Cow Stops Here‘! The label is attractive, focusing on a Nguni cow.
Revered wine writer and judge Michael Fridjhon was involved as a consultant in the making of Survivor, setting the broad parameters of the Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, and Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It was left to consultant winemaker Jean Daneel (who made his mark at Buitenverwachting, has made wines in Germany, and now makes wines in Napier under his own name) to ‘skaaf‘ the wines into what they have become, Jean explained to me. Michael complimented Overhex Wines International on its progress in its 10 year history, and how it has evolved from cooperative winery to being a top export winery, mainly based on Gerhard’s inability to take ‘No‘ for an answer! Michael added that it is intensity and commitment which defines Overhex Wines International.
The Survivor wine range was introduced as follows:
*. Sauvignon Blanc 2015: fruit from the Swartland, 40% barrel-fermented, creamy texture, minerality, and tropical fruit notes (R85).
*. Chenin Blanc 2015: fruit from the Swartland, fermented in new French oak, but untoasted (therefore not showing any caramel elements), apricot and peach flavours. Alcohol level 13,5 %, 4,5 g residual sugar. The barrels were rolled daily, to give a ‘leesy’ quality (R75).
*. Pinotage 2014: grapes from the Swartland, matured in French oak, creamy on the palate, hearty fruit flavours with spice and cedar, easy to drink yet complex (R125).
*. Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: matured in French and American oak for 16 months, notes of sweet fruit, vanilla, and dark chocolate (R125).
Gerhard introduced Chef Jaco van der Westhuizen, whom he had met at a game lodge, and who had previously worked at Rovos Rail and at a large hotel in Nigeria. Chef Jaco explained the menu to us upfront. On the table four canapés had been presented per setting, consisting of Boursin cheese, pea purée, tomato chutney, and deep fried artichoke served on crostini; smoked salmon with an asparagus spear wrapped inside, on crostini, and topped with peppadew ricotta; both of which were paired with Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2015. The Survivor Pinotage 2014 was paired with a deep-fried crumbed chicken cordon bleu lollipop stuffed with goat’s cheese and Black Forest ham; as well as Boerewors-flavored beef fillet, served in a vol-au-vent.
The starter of candied walnuts and caramelized onion, which was plated on top of a round of Cambrini cheese, was served with butternut crisps and very crispy Melba toast. It was paired with Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2015. The main course was a tasty Karoo rack of lamb, served with what was described as a mushroom risotto but disappointed, with broccoli, red pepper, and a Parmesan crisp, which was paired with Survivor Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.
We were transferred back to the guest house, some of the group savoring more of the Brandy, enjoyed a good night’s sleep, and a hearty country breakfast the next morning. All in all it was an unusual event in its location and wine range launched, enjoyed by most, despite some mutters about the food.
Disclosure: The Survivor box, consisting of Survivor Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend, a Survivor Sauvignon Blanc 2014, an apron, a bottle of Willow Creek extra virgin olive oil, Gevonden natural herb salt, and a cow-shaped silver brooch, was part of our media pack.
Overhex Wines International, 71 Stockenström Street, Worcester. Tel (023) 347-6838. www.overhex.com Tuesday – Thursday 10h00 – 17h00, Friday and Saturday 10h00 – 16h00.