Category Archives: Mad Hatter on Wine

Only the best vines will do…. Cheers!!



South Africa boasts many magnificent wine estates and it comes as no surprise, that as I am Proudly South African I have decided to share my secret, seasonally influenced fizz with you all.

It is that time of the year were friends and family gather together and toast to a year’s memories that have passed, but will never be forgotten.  Being a firm believer that these memories should be treasured and celebrated, what better way to do so, than to serve only the best wine.

It is my fond memories that have inspired me to invite you to enter one of the most beautiful wine estates I have visited.

Situated 15km outside the village of Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa in the heart of the Cape Winelands is Solms-Delta.  This 320 year old picturesque Franschhoek farm with breathtaking scenery and warm hospitality is a true legacy to the Cape.  Driven by his South African roots, world-renowned neuroscientist, Professor Mark Solms revitalized this Delta wine estate, nurturing and cultivating Cape wine-making traditions and captivating the very essence of the Old Cape.

With all of the passion, initiative, dedication and hospitality on this estate, it comes as no surprise that a joyous and celebratory wine was created.

Cape Jazz Shiraz, a Petillant style wine, with a 100% Shiraz grape variety is a fusion of fun and liveliness. Low in alcohol, it is the perfect accompaniment to any celebration. Whether it’s a get together of fabulous friends over the weekend or the anticipation of ringing in the New Year, this refreshing sparkler will most certainly steal the spotlight and you will be praised for your wonderful wine taste!

Opening a bottle of Cape Jazz Shiraz makes me feel as if I were tapping into a fountain of youth, festivity and a lust for life and is therefore my reason why I choose to share this red-coloured fizzy with friends and family for any reason to celebrate.

This well-priced wine upholds the Solms-Delta quality and is reasonably priced. It is available for purchase not only in South Africa, but in the UK, Europe and the US.  For further information please visit the Solms-Delta website at the bottom of this page.

Not just a wine estate, Solms-Delta boasts decadent dining. You will be enraptured by the impeccable quality of a very unique and modern take on traditional Cape cuisine.  With a unique name from the Afrikaans language which is untranslatable.   Fyndraai is a fine Cape kitchen boasting culinary heritage.   Built into the site of the farm’s original wine cellar, you will step onto a glass floor which exposes the original foundations that were uncovered during extensive archaeological diggings. The interior of the restaurant is elegant and walls are adorned with 19th Century restored photographs of people of the region, together with colour shots of today’s farm workers.

With a menu as rich in diversity as the South African culture itself, it will tantalize your taste buds and there is a little something for all palates.

Why not try the combo of Cape tempura fried black prawns and pan-fried sea scallops served with lemon flavored pear puree, enhanced with rooibos (red bush tea) and citrus balsamic syrup. Looking for a more meaty meal?    Award winning Karoo loin coated in wild herbs, combined with its own marinated grilled fillet, accompanied by fennel and rosemary braised onions and vanilla potato custard with wild mint flavoring.  Something sweet? Try the Banana and maple pudding with wild sage indigenous herb syrup and nutty ice cream.

The food is made with much attention to detail, one can almost taste the chef’s loving hand with each bite.  All meals are served by smiling and eager waitrons that have all been recruited from the resident farm worker families or from the Franschhoek area and have undergone intensive training, which reflects in the top-notch service you receive.

Catering for all walks of life, Solms-Delta offers perfect picnic baskets for that family outing, right along the estates lush riverside forest. With plenty of space for the kids to run around, while Mom and Dad enjoy one of the many wines available for purchase on site.

Why not gather friends and family and sit back and enjoy a wine tasting and food pairing while listening to the sounds of the on site musical heritage programme – Music van de Caab, who deliver mesmerizing sounds with affluent music traditions from the Cape winelands.

Wine Pairing at Solms-Delta

Whether you live in South Africa or if you are planning a holiday to this Culture Rich Country with an abundance of natural beauty, Solms-Delta is a must visit if you are in the Franschhoek area.

Looking back at my memories this year, I will most definitely raise my glass of Cape Jazz Shiraz and toast to a wonderful wine and an amazing wine estate.  Cheers!

For more information on this magnificent wine estate, please visit their website: and all of your questions are guaranteed to be answered.  If not feel free to contact one of the many helpful staff members who are always available to assist.

All that Cape Shiraz Jazz at Solms-Delta Wine Estate


 Ask any wine enthusiast and I am sure that they will agree with me when I say that wine tasting is a sensory seduction.

While professional wine tasters such as sommeliers undertake rigorous examinations to learn how to analyze and best describe the flavors, aromas and general characteristics of wines, for the average wine enthusiast it is much more of a recreational event, allowing oneself to explore the wine world using a less analytical approach but still using similar terminology.

 I believe that a good wine tasting experience should leave you with a sense of achievement. You should walk away with more knowledge about wine, more appreciation and certainly have bought more wine from the vineyards you were in!

 Wine tasting is one activity that never tires me and if this was an Olympic sport, I have no doubt that I would win a gold medal.  The longer I am at a wine tasting, the more developed my sensory skills become.  (This might be due to the fact that I do not spit my wine out in a spittoon!)

 Your first wine tasting experience should be compared to that of a child tasting their first piece of chocolate.  Your general curiosity should leave you wondering, your first taste should leave you so inquisitive, wanting you to immediately know more about where this taste sensation is coming from, how it was created and where you can find a constant supply.  I have been lucky enough to have visited many wine farms and whilst the majority do follow a similar routine when it comes to tastings – a school-like approach, filled to the brim with information and allowing you to be shown how to taste like the connesiours.  I have however had the misfortune of visiting a few wine farms that have not had proper time management.  Allowing for a very brief explanation about the wine that you are sampling and before you have had time to savor the aroma and taste it, the next wine is being introduced.  In my opinion a good wine tasting should take time, you should experience  sitting in a room full of strangers or even good friends, swirling your glasses and sniffing away at aromas that intrigue your imagination, leaving you feeling like a little child.

 A wine tasting should cover the “five S” steps:  see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor.

This is the basic foundation of wine tasting and the quality assessment of a wine should be achieved through the above method.  There are however further  comparisons with recognized standards  that allow wines to be categorized  according to price range, regions, vintages, styles or certain wine making techniques.

 Please find a brief explanation of 5 steps of wine tasting.

 SEE:  This stage is all about color.  By looking at your wine you should be able to distinguish whether you will be sampling a heavy or light wine by distinctive variations in color.   Red wines that are full-bodied and heavier may appear to have a deeper red color.   White wine shades will vary from anything from appearing to have a golden or caramel color to slight off white color. It is recommended that during this stage, you hold your wine glass against a white background and slightly tilt your glass as it allows the color to run.

 SWIRL:  By swirling your wine gently it is exposed to oxygen.  This is done with most wines, with the exception of sparkling wines as it increases the speed at which bubbles are released. You might notice streaks running down the side of your glass after swirling your wine.  These are referred to as legs or tears and are caused due to the surface tension of the wine against the glass and alcohol content.

 SNIFF:  The aromatic experience of a wine is known as a wine bouquet.  As you gently swirl your wine, smell the aromas coming from your glass and write them down.  The first thoughts that come into your mind, as bizarre as you might find them will leave you pleasantly surprised when you overview them later. The aromas that you picked up may appear on what is known as an aroma wheel.  This is a guide that provides a breakdown of aromas that are commonly picked up on during tastings. These may range from spicy smells such as black pepper and cloves or burnt smells such as burnt toast or coffee. 

 SIP:  Taking a small sip of wine allows for flavors to be perceived.  Once inside your mouth, the exposure of heat allows for your taste buds to be saturated and you may experience the texture, taste and weight of the wine.  By slightly opening ones lips and allowing air in, significantly adds to this experience.

A word from the wise:  When I had my first wine tasting, I was extremely concerned when I saw a group of people spitting out their wines they had just tasted. I found it downright rude and offensive to the vineyard we were visiting.  It wasn’t until my good friend explained that it was an uncommon practice for wine tasters to spit their wines out in to what is known as a spittoon and then proceeding to clear their palate and glass with fresh water.

 SAVOR:  The initial sip of wine whether it may tasting a new wine or a good old favorite, always leaves me in a state of reflection.  Savor these moments especially after your tasting and note the feelings that you have from tasting the different variety of wines.

 Wine tasting can be more complex and if you have enjoyed your basic wine tasting, why not ask the person who hosted the tasting for more information on advanced wine tasting classes.  In this day and age, anybody can do a wine course, be it for professional or personal satisfaction.  Ask about your local community if there are any wine clubs and if not, why not start one up yourself!

Once you get involved, start paring cheese and other delectable dishes with your wines and enjoy every minute of it.

 Life is filled with so many learning experiences.  If you get presented with the chance to do so, take on the challenge.  A simple wine tasting will astonish you and remind you how unique your sensory system really is.    Whether you are fortunate to live in a country with a vast array of vineyards and cellars or if you find yourself on a foreign holiday where you can take advantage of visiting a vineyard, it would not be time wasted. 








Wonders of Wine Tasting