The real coffee/chocolate wines
07 June 2016
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Jenny Crwys–Williams : So now, Carried Adams, tell me what we’ve got here in the first place?
Carrie Adams: Well, we’ve got a couple of things that are cherry and chocolate and coffee and vanilla and all the flavours that you don’t normally associate with wine. We’ve got Diemersfontein Pinotage, which is the original coffee/chocolate Pinotage.
Then I brought along Weltevrede’s Cherry Choc Merlot, cause I thought that might be fun. Then we’ve got Darling Cellars Chocaholic and I think that’s also a Pinotage. So there are three main contenders for the cherry-choc-coffee, whatever, aroma flavoured wine.
JCW: I was telling you about a party of late teenagers who checked into a hotel, as a 19th birthday present and they ordered a bottle of red wine and do you know what the red wine was?
CA: It was probably a Diemersfontein.
JCW: It was the Chocolate Block.
Chocolate Block (it’s only in the name)
CA: Oh was it? Well, that, of course, is a little bit different because that is the brainchild, marketing brainchild, of the person who gave that wine that label. But it doesn’t even vaguely resemble chocolate or coffee or anything of the kind. It’s actually a Shiraz blend.
It’s just the label and the name that has really catapulted that wine into the stratosphere. But so strong is the brand. So strong is the connotation on the label, that everybody will come into my shop and say: I want that chocolate wine and I say: Which one, the Diemersfontein, the Weltevrede, the Barista coffee wine? No, no, that Chocolate Box or that Chocolate Block or that, they are convinced that it tastes and smells like chocolate.
JCW: So they’re happy.
CA: But they’re happy and it’s just so interesting. Because I know that you want to explore, well, what should we call it, the vagaries of this ghastly connotation that’s attached to these wines. That are supposedly coffee and chocolate. I actually don’t think they’re that ghastly. I think that a lot of people are snobbish and awful about them. There’s a reason why these wines taste like chocolate and coffee.
JCW: Why, just explain why.
CA: Well, I think it was in 2000 when David Sonnenberg who owned, I think he still owns Diemersfontein. But he came to see me and he had launched this Diemersfontein Pinotage. It was, he was definitely going to market it as such. It was the first coffee/chocolate Pinotage that had been launched and it was in 2000, sort of 16 years ago.
The secret ingredient in a coffee/chocolate wines
I asked him how he had made it and it was all a great, big state secret and what have you. But on a little bit of investigation it’s very easy to know. There is a yeast that you can use for the fermentation purposes of this wine, which actually delivers or imparts a coffee/chocolate flavour to the wine.
JCW: There’s no additive as such?
CA: Well, listen, I think there are some people who do put an additive in. I wouldn’t like to sort of be the person to say who I think they are, but we know that in South Africa and all over the world, they do put additives into wine to enhance flavours and aromas.
But the main reason for, I know the Diemersfontein tasting like coffee and chocolate is a yeast that they use. Then added to that, they age it, they ferment it and then age it with heavily toasted oak staves. The oak then imparts those vanillas and those sort of toasty, oaky, choccie sort of flavours that come out of some of those heavily toasted oaks.
JCW: There is a whiff of this when you taste it.
CA: 100%, so the oak is imparting aromas and layers of flavours and aromas to the wine that has already started to taste like coffee and chocolate, if it’s been fermented with this specific yeast.
JCW: We’ve got three bottles here, the one you were talking about Weltevrede Cherry Choc, which is going to be difficult for me to drink –
CA: I know –
JCW: And even more difficult, Chocoholic Pinotage.
Diemersfontein – a virtual tasting
CA: And we’ve got Diemersfontein, so which one do you want to ready-steady-go with?
JCW: I want to try the Diemersfontein.
CA: Okay, so here we go. There’s one for you, there’s one for me. Let’s just smell. You can smell the coffee immediately.
JCW: I can smell coffee grains, I don’t know.
CA: It’s instant, it’s Nescafe, I hope it’s not Ricoffy! It’s infinitely approachable and my colleagues will say that they won’t do this wine because they’re snobs. I have to say that it wouldn’t be my first choice, but I also have to say that it is immensely popular. People come and ask for coffee or chocolate smelling or flavoured wine.
JCW: This I don’t mind and I think will go really well with steak –
CA: It’s not over isn’t it?
JCW: Not at all.
CA: You can smell the whiff, you can taste the coffee on that back palate, there’s not much chocolate on here, but there’s a lot of coffee.
JCW: Would you serve this Diemersfontein maybe with a cheese board?
CA: You could do with cheese board, maybe nice smoky cheeses as well. Because there is a smokiness to this wine as well, from all the oak I think. I love, and because it’s Pinotage, I love Pinotage and specifically coffee chocolate Pinotage with duck. Anything to do with duck, it loves Pinotage. Then can you imagine maybe a chocolate fondant pudding with sort of runny sticky dark chocolate in the middle and some of this, I think it would be fine.
JCW: I think it would absolutely fine. Do you think this is a girl’s wine?
CA: Yes, I do think it’s a girl’s wine. I don’t think there are many boys who would openly go for it.
JCW: Of all the women you know who drink wine, who do you think would respond? I think Wendy would love this.
CA: Wendy would drink this wine –
JCW: Does she buy it?
CA: Cause she’s fun and she’s game for almost anything and she would probably drink it and she also doesn’t mind too much what anybody thinks about her. But you know, there’s so many wines that we could say, oh my goodness. There’s so many wines in South Africa that I would never ever split on any of my customers and admit that I even sell those wines to them. Because there are lots of wines that you and I would really pull our noses up at, that the most alarming people buy.
So, who are we to judge what anybody is drinking. I think that if it is making wine more accessible, and more specifically to young people. To bring in what everybody now affectionately terms the ‘main market’ that has been previously excluded from lots and lots of stuff to do about wine. I can tell you that the Chocolate Block is one of the biggest selling wines in Soweto.
CA: 100% They sell, I don’t want to fib to you now, but I know that it’s over 50% of their production in Gauteng, in Soweto.
JCW: Goodness me, so you could go just about any Chesa Nyama and they’re going to have the Chocolate Block there.
CA: Whatever, Chocolate Block is a great, big success in Soweto and A, it’s the name that we said, B, it is juicy, sweet fruit that’s crammed into that bottle.
A Pinotage that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth
JCW: I’ve got a sweet taste in my mouth from this and Pinotage doesn’t normally leave a sweet taste in my mouth.
CA: Well, if it’s made nicely, it should be sweeter than Cab. I mean Cabernet, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, they’re all a whole lot more savoury than Pinotage is. Pinotage has got lovely layers of gorgeous, sweet, red fruit.
JCW: Now that it doesn’t taste of nail varnish remover, because it used to.
CA: A lot of them, and paint stripper, it was just dreadful, they were acetone’y.
JCW: I think this is really, really nice, I really like that.
CA: It’s drinkable, isn’t it?
JCW: More than drinkable. I was turned down by two notable wine writers who said, we’re very sorry, we’re not doing this.
CA: They don’t want to be placed on record as drinking this. I think it’s cool, I think that if it’s bringing new drinkers, wine drinkers into the wine world in SA, why ever not, why are we being judgmental of it? Are you ready for the Cherry Choc Merlot, here we go.
Cherry Choc Merlot – a virtual tasting
JCW: It’s a big sip isn’t it? Cheers.
CA: Cheers. I can smell cherry pudding, like plum pudding, it’s cooldrink with a bit of chocolate on the back.
JCW: It is, it’s very sweet.
CA: It’s Ribena, it doesn’t resemble Merlot in any form.
JCW: No and it’s quite thin.
CA: I was going to say, I was about to say dilute, it’s almost as if it’s been watered down, but there’s definitely black cherry flavours on it and there’s definitely chocolate on the back of it.
JCW: And something plummy.
CA: It’s like plum pudding, like Christmas pud, it doesn’t taste like Merlot at all. They haven’t overly used oak on this wine, I don’t think either. There’s not a huge presence of oak. So I think that it’s probably the fermentation, the yeasts that have given this wine the flavour that it’s given it.
JCW: If they were to use oak, that would probably add to the cost wouldn’t it?
CA: And this wine is not expensive.
JCW: And to the longevity as well.
CA: This is for buying, unscrewing their ghastly screw-cap, and drinking it and that’s what it is –
JCW: And having fun.
CA: And having fun and it’s not purporting to be anything more than that, which is quite nice, it’s very honest.
JCW: Kitchen tea?
CA: Kitchen tea, baby shower, young girls having fun, lots of chocolate brownies and sticky meringues and chocolate éclairs. All of those sort of things and a glass of Cherry Choc Merlot.
JCW: Absolutely perfect.
The Chocoholic Pinotage from Darling Cellars
CA: We’re having a veritable tea party, here comes the Chocoholic Pinotage from Darling Cellars. Now, Abe Beukes is one of my favourite people. He’s the winemaker at Darling Cellars, I do love him. I’m going to forgive him this Chocoholic label. I have to concede that I have not drunk Chocoholic, but it’s a Pinotage from Darling Cellars, let’s have a go.
CA: It’s also not overtly chocolate or coffee.
JCW: It’s also plummy, it’s coffee grinds I think.
CA: Could be Frisco, coffee is much more evident on the palate. Sweet fruit, again, very, very sweet fruit, ripe, sweet Pinotage.
JCW: I like this, I would never buy it because of the label, but I don’t want to be seen with it.
CA: Come on now, you’re being like those snob writer, who wouldn’t talk to you.
JCW: I know.
Don’t judge a wine by its label
CA: This label is very retro, it looks like those old cigarette cards –
JCW: 1950’s, yes, definitely
CA: It’s very retro and I’m into retro at the moment, I love it.
JCW: You like the label.
CA: I don’t dislike it, I think it’s fine, I think it’s quite snappy and it’s eye-catching. You would certainly never forget it.
JCW: You wouldn’t.
CA: It looks like it should be on a roll of sweets or on a packet of toffees or something, it doesn’t look like a wine label. But you wouldn’t forget it would you?
JCW: No, you definitely wouldn’t and you can scream with laughter if you want to. It’s almost kind of like a Beaujolais or a Rhone wine, it’s light.
CA: It’s Beaujolais Nouveau.
JCW: That’s right.
CA: It’s just been stomped on, it’s just been squeezed out, it’s just been wrapped around in that. I don’t even think it’s seen the inside of a barrel, if you want the honest truth. It’s obviously had a whole lot of staves and things thrown into it in a stainless steel tank. I think it’s been picked and pressed and punched and packaged and –
JCW: Bottled and there you are. Well, I must say, my favourite is, so far, it is the Diemersfontein –
CA: I have to agree.
JCW: I think that’s the most sophisticated of the three.
JCW: But I like the Weltevrede and I actually really like the Chocoholic.
CA: I’m not averse to any of them.
JCW: They’re all very nice to buy.
CA: And as we have quite rightly said, they are wines that are, they’ve gone fishing. They’ve gone fishing for new clientele in the wine industry and they’re doing exactly what they were meant to do.
A wine you could drink for breakfast
JCW: I can see, quite happily. Because you know when you go on one of those game drives and I’ve been on one or two.
CA: The morning one or the evening one?
JCW: Well, the evening one I’m thinking of!
CA: This is coffee, it could be a coffee substitute.
JCW: Well, we can suggest that. Which of these three would be a coffee substitute on your morning game drive?
JCW: Okay, but in the evening, I mean you might want some other wines. But it’s also quite nice to have a pre-coffee before you have your dinner.
CA: Absolutely, but I could almost have that Chocoholic from Darling Cellars, slightly chilled, it’s so sweet and such a delicacy. It’s like a liquid sweet.
JCW: If you’re in the Kruger and it’s incredibly hot, then you would chill this down?
CA: I would slightly chill it.
JCW: Definitely and if you’re on the back seat, particularly, of a Range Rover, you can have your own bottle and vaguely see the animals and just have the most wonderful time.
CA: Put a straw in it, as long as you’re not driving, straw into the bottle. The Cherry Choc Merlot, I’m trying to find a time of day for and I think it might be morning tea’ish.
JCW: You could, before you have your snooze.
CA: Before you have your snooze before lunch, you could have a glass of that. it’s very light, it’s terribly light.
JCW: It’s Beaujolais light.
CA: It’s Beaujolais light and you would either have that as a sort of pre-lunch drink or as I say, before your morning snooze, I don’t know.
JCW: Well, I tell you when I think you could have it as well, because you need to get onto the game vehicle reasonably upright, but you could, that late afternoon, or early –
CA: Or dusk.
JCW: When you can hear the crickets and the cicadas and all of that. You’re just sitting there and maybe you don’t go on a game drive, maybe what you do is you watch the dusk.
CA: You sit on the veranda, which I’m want to do, and so are you – this is a dusk wine on the veranda, much better.
A quick recap
JCW: Okays, so here are our three wines and it is the Weltevrede Cherry Choc Merlot and –
CA: From Bonnievale.
JCW: That tells us a lot doesn’t it? There is the Diemersfontein Pinotage and it’s 2014 –
JCW: Okay, hot-hot-hot and there is Chocoholic Pinotage. It doesn’t have a year, but it’s Darling Cellars, which has got an outstanding reputation. So you pay your money and you take your pick.
CA: And they are none of them hugely expensive. I think the Diemersfontein, the most expensive, retailing at just over R100, the other two are between R60-R70 a bottle, they’re not expensive
JCW: So it’s worth a kitchen tea, without a shadow of a doubt.
JCW: Carrie Adams, thank you very much indeed and of course there are lots of other chocolate’y, coffee type wines.
CA: There is, there’s one called Barista, I think. There’s one called Chocovino, there’s any amount of them and we do shy away from them a little bit, let’s not be too brazen here.
JCW: We don’t do a cooking show called Choccy Woccy Doodle.
CA: No we don’t, not yet, but we could do a wine show called Choccie Coffee Doodle. But these are three, probably of the best examples of the coffee chocolate wines that are available on the market.
JCW: I think we should have a little toast.
CA: Cheers, thanks Jen.
JCW: Thanks Carrie Adams, many, many thanks.