Enjoying an excellent multicourse meal, along with an abundance of even better wine, is occasionally a journalist’s duty.

And as an objective and well-researched wine recommendation is a thing to take seriously, the FM felt compelled recently to give it a good go as far as Stellenbosch wine estate Neethlingshof’s outputs are concerned. At fancy Joburg steak house Marble Restaurant, nogal. The Neethlingshof label, which was sold during the unbundling of Distell’s Lusan Premium Wine business (a joint venture with German financier Hans Schreiber), is now in the hands of one family, the Schreibers. It also owns the Hill&Dale brand.

There is, of course, something very comforting about knowing that there’s a family entirely invested in a product — giving the brand its all to ensure success. And you get that feeling about Neethlingshof now that it has gone it alone.

Wine maker De Wet Viljoen talks about the estate’s varietals as if they are his children. He gets that proud twinkle in his eye as if they have done something good. And indeed they have. The brand just took five top awards across a range of categories at the 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.

These included silvers for the Short Story Collection: The Six Flowers white blend 2017, the Neethlingshof pinotage 2017, the Neethlingshof cabernet sauvignon merlot 2016 (in the Bordeaux-style red category), and The Short Story Collection: Maria noble late harvest 2017 in the dessert wine category.

Another story

The latter is certainly worth praise. Dessert-style wines seem to be having a resurgence in popularity, and this golden yellow example has notes of fruit cake and honey — critically, it’s sweet without being cloying and overwhelming.

For winter weather and meals to match, both the Caracal red blend and the Owl Post pinotage (the FM enjoyed the 2015 and 2016 vintages, respectively), are good picks. Interestingly, the full-bodied, plummy blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and cabernet franc is named for the wildcat that has returned to the estate, thanks to the attempt to restore the farm’s natural biosphere.

The Neethlingshof team has reintroduced islands of renosterveld vegetation among the vines to offer these fine creatures places of shelter.

That kind of story endears the brand to one, but ecology aside, these wines are definitely something to add to a must-try list.

For more info visit neethlingshof.co.za. Neethlingshof wines are available online from Cybercellar, Bottleshop and Makro