Friday, December 17, 2010

Announcement of a change at Warwick

Dear Warwick wine club members, clients and colleagues,


I hope that you are all well.


I would like to bring to your attention some changes at Warwick.

Warwick winemaker Jozua Joubert will be leaving Warwick due to a sad  and sudden death in his family. We share in his grief and wish him well.  Jozua has been and remains an outstanding winemaker and contributed enormously to Warwick. He will be missed by the entire team.


Louis Nel has been appointed as consultant winemaker effective immediately and will oversee preparations for harvest and the harvest itself through April/May 2011. As long-time former winemaker at Warwick, Louis has a deep interest and knowledge in our vineyards, winemaking style and winemaking philosophy and has already slotted in like an old friend. Louis has indeed got outside responsibilities with his own wines, but has made a full commitment to ‘deliver the goods’ at Warwick.


Warwick is currently interviewing extensively both domestically and abroad for a new full time winemaker to commence in the position after harvest 2011. We have identified a number of strong candidates and are quietly taking our time to make sure that we identify the ideal candidate to take Warwick into the future.


Wishing you all the best for a great holiday season.



Mike Ratcliffe

Managing Director

Warwick Wine Estate


the Warwick Wine Club Xmas Party was an enormous succcess!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SA's smart set for The Daily Maverick's The Gathering

THE DAILY MAVERICK, Johannesburg, 26 Oct 2010

SA's smart set for The Daily Maverick's The Gathering, Zwelinzima Vavi, Michael Jordaan, Nic Dawes, Jovan Regasek and Ray Hartley are among the business, media and political heavyweights set to meet at The Daily Maverick's gathering of minds on the first Thursday of November.

Sandton, Friday 22 October 2010 – South Africa's top thinkers in business, politics and the media will be meeting for a day of analysis, discussion and ideas at The Daily Maverick's The Gathering, which is set to take place at The Theatre on the Square, in Sandton, on 4 November 2010.

The full-day session is all about clever people connecting, and talking on issues they know the best and care about most. "The Daily Maverick has established itself as the news and analysis site for people who matter, so it is fitting that our first gathering will feature well-connected, smart thinkers that intelligent people would most like to meet and hear from," says editor Branko Brkic.

Speakers at The Daily Maverick's first Gathering, with Kieno Kammies as MC, include:

Zwelinzima Vavi, general-secretary of Cosatu Michael Jordaan, CEO of First National Bank Nic Dawes, editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian Ray Hartley, Sunday Times editor Jovan Regasek, CEO of ITWeb Richard Mulholland, professional speaker most likely to be confused with a rock star Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City and Moxyland Yusuf Abramjee, head of news and corporate affairs, Primedia Yvonne Johnston, brain-mother to Brand SA and marketer-at-large Khaya Dlanga, prolific blogger and troublemaker Ivo Vegter, columnist and analyst Terry Annecke, operations director of BlackStone Tek Victor Dlamini, chairman of Chillibush Stephen Grootes, Eyewitness News reporter Mike Ratcliffe, Wine marketing guru & owner of Warwick & Vilafonté wine estates, Toby Shapshak, editor of Stuff magazine

The Gathering will stretch over the course of one business day and Brkic guarantees that people who participate won't leave without having their ideas challenged. "The Daily Maverick is creating a forum that will bring people who matter together. We want to offer our readers access to the thinking of some of the most influential people in this country."

To keep things intimate and interactive, seating at The Gathering is limited and only 150 guests will make it through the door.

Tickets have been selling swiftly, but there are still a few open spaces. Those who want to be a part of the event can e-mail for more details or to make a booking. Bookings are offered on a first come, first served basis.

A small number of seats are available, at a heavily discounted price, to full-time students.

The Gathering A conference by The Daily Maverick 4 November Theatre on the Square Sandton Johannesburg Seats available at R2 800

Contact or go to


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top London wine merchant Handford Wines celebrates 21st anniversary with Warwick Trilogy

Top London Wine Merchant Handford Wines Celebrates their 21st Anniversary In Style with a Prestigious Tasting of the Greatest Wines of the World from 1989 (including Warwick Estate and Meerlust!) 1989 - 2010

The 12th of August 2010 officially marked the dawning of a new era for Handford Wines, the London based wine merchant specialising in premium fine wine from the Old World and South Africa, and on the 6th of October 2010, Handford Wines hosted one of the most exclusive and exciting fine wine events of the year so far, paring 24 wines from 1989 with 24 contemporary releases from the same wineries.

Drawing renowned journalists such as Steven Spurrier (Decanter Associate Editor), Neal Martin from, Quentin Johnson from and Chris Kissick from, ensured the event was well attended by some of the leading opinion makers on the vibrant UK wine scene.

Among the glamorous array of fine wines from around the world, many of which were donated from the personal cellars of the proprietors, were the spectacular South African pairings of Meerlust Rubicon 1989 and 2006 and Warwick Estate Trilogy 1989 and 2007.

"The idea was to show premium wines from wineries around the world that have supported Handford wines for all these years and helped make us what we are today - "one of the best indie merchants in London" accordingly to, among others, journalist Neal Martin. Mike Ratcliffe and Hannes Myburgh / Chris Williams were very obliging and ensured we received the best archive stock from the deepest and darkest corners of their wineries" said Greg Sherwood MW, Handford Wine's senior wine buyer.

"We thought it only fitting that wines such as Trilogy and Rubicon should be poured along side global icons such as Mouton Rothschild, Montrose, Palmer, Vega Sicilia Unico, Tignanello, and Clos du Val from Napa Valley. After all, the same private clients who are buying these old world icons are also buying cases of Trilogy and Rubicon weekly" commented James Handford MW, the managing director and founder of Handford Wines.

After recently winning the highly competitive "Small London Wine Merchant of the Year: Runner-Up Award" at the Decanter World Wine Awards in September 2010, Handford Wines are eagerly looking forward to another 21 years of success and hope to be able to pour an entire table of South African icon wines next time around.

"The Meerlust 1989 and Trilogy 1989 were among the favourite wines of the night with some of the most flattering comments coming from the journalists and our highly "wine educated" private clients. We can't say we were surprised though!" commented Greg Sherwood, currently the fourth and last South African to be awarded the prestigious Master of Wine qualification.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Vilafonte Series M takes the GOLD at Tri Nations Wine Challenge

Judging at year eight of the highly regarded and eagerly awaited Tri Nations Wine Challenge was concluded recently. Huon Hooke announced the 13 Class Trophies to a capacity crowd of 200 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney on Friday 17 September. Winemakers from across the Southern Hemisphere came to receive their trophies and a name in the books for this increasingly interesting wine event.

The Vilafonte winemaking team under the leadership of Zelma Long was delighted that the soon-to-be-released Vilafonte 'Series M' 2007 was awarded the sought-after GOLD medal. Vilafonte has had a star-studded year with another nomination for 5 Stars in the John Platter guide as well as Zelma Long being nominated for the prestigous 'WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR" by influential USA magazine WINE ENTHUSIAST.

The "By invitation only" Challenge judged a total of 360 wines across 13 classes from the three nations and 135 were awarded either trophies, Double Gold or Gold medals. All trophy and gold medal wines will go on a trade mission to Hong Kong in October where there will be a major trade and media tasting at the Jockey Club in Happy Valley, demonstrating to Asia the strengths of the Challenge wines.

Results are published at


Monday, September 13, 2010

The beauty of new springtime growth in the Cabernet vineyards

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Friday, August 27, 2010

Have a look at the beautiful new Christmas packaging for Vilafonte

Is Franc the Future for Cape Wine?

Posted on by Cathy Marston

© Cape Times Friday 27th August 2010

For many winelovers, Cab is king. But after an incredible tasting last week, I think that the real question we should all be asking is – which Cab are we talking about? Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most well-travelled grapes in the world, happily putting down roots in both Northern and Southern hemispheres, making wines in practically every winemaking country there is, oomphing up Chiantis and spicing up Cape Blends. But behind every great grape, there is an even greater one and in this case, it's a variety called Cabernet Franc. And that was the focus of our tasting at the Cru CafĂ© in the Cape Quarter last week.

DNA tests have now proved that Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the love child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Both Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon have enjoyed massive success over the years (if you want to try a few, then head for the Wine Concepts Seductive Sauvignon Festival tonight at the Vineyard Hotel. Call 021 671 9030 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              021 671 9030      end_of_the_skype_highlighting for tickets) but Cabernet Franc has rather languished in the shallows of obscurity. It is used in Bordeaux and makes all the red wines in the Loire Valley, but hasn't really achieved the success of its more famous child.

Last week's tasting set out to prove that all Cab Franc needed was a new country in which to showcase its talents, and various top wine Twitterers and twittering winemakers convened to discuss the topic. We were joined online by internationally-acclaimed wine guru, Jancis Robinson, along with another celebrated UK journalist, Tim Atkin, both adding their 10c to the discussion. Leading the tasting and towering over us all, both literally and vinously, was Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines, widely considered one of the finest Cabernet Franc winemakers in the world.

The tasting covered Bruwer's wines and another Cape Cab Franc legend from Warwick Estate, and included newer entries to the market such as Haut Espoir's fascinating versions made from high-altitude vineyards in Franschhoek (these were barrel samples and will only be released in a few years time – get yourself on the list now!). The Signal Hill Cab Franc from new vineyards in Kalk Bay – only 86m away from the sea – was particularly interesting. Owner/winemaker Jean-Vincent Ridon explained that there was so much salt on the grapes, he originally thought he would have to wash them before foot-stomping, but eventually decided to leave them as they were, creating a perfumed wine which perfectly expresses its terroir.

One awesome wine followed another, each one showing style, individuality and elegance,  each one confirming our growing opinions that Cabernet Franc has got an amazing future in South Africa – I was glad that I'd booked those lovely drivers from Goodfellas ( to take me home because there was very little spitting going on anywhere around the table!  Everyone was passionate about this variety either as a single cultivar which is what Bruwer and Jean-Vincent believe or as part of a blend such as Warwick Trilogy – Neil Moorhouse from Zorgvliet is punting Cab Franc/Merlot blends  as ones to watch so remember where you heard it first!

For those of you who've never tried a Cabernet Franc, it is fairly similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon in that it generally has lots of dense, dark black fruits and sturdy tannins, but Cabernet Franc also has a spicy green edge to it which can manifest itself as herbal, perfumed and aromatic giving multiple layers of flavour and complexity. If you want to give it a go, then entry-level priced ones include L'Avenir at R50, Zorgvliet at R65, Eikendal at R70 and Signal Hill Constantia Cab Franc also at R70. And if, you've already been converted to Cabernet Franc then you can do no better than a bottle of Warwick at R235, the fascinating Signal Hill Kalk Bay at R250 or  the Raats Family at R280. Give one of them a go this weekend – I've tasted the future, and the future's Franc!
Cathy is wine editor of For more information visit  or follow her on Twitter @CathyMarston


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zelma Long & Anya Gallaccio present 'Motherlode' wine project in Healdsburg, California

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Written by Chris van Ulmenstein and posted to her blog


Free-lance writer and second-most read South African food blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, writing the Scrumptious South Africa blog, described food bloggers as “desperate for attention” at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting last night, and their genre of writing can be called “vanity publishing”, she said.  The bloggers present felt that this description probably applies to bloggers across the board! 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was started earlier this year, and “pairs” a different food blogger and a wine blogger every month.   The wines of the Wine Blogger are tasted, and Warwick/Vilafonte’s Mike Ratcliffe brought along his Warwick Professor Black, the unique Warwick Blue Lady without vintage, and Vilafonte Series M 2006 (the highest rated Merlot blend according to Wine Spectator), for the bloggers to taste.  Food was served by Cafe Max.  Meetings are informal, and questions are answered during the two-hour meeting, encouraging fledgling bloggers to obtain input and tips from more experienced bloggers.

Jane-Anne said that through social media, “opinion has been democratised”, creating a serious threat for traditional media, with their short lead times in publishing restaurant reviews, or food information, compared to traditional magazine and newspaper publishing, and this is leading to tension between the two media types.  She started her blog three years ago, and it reflects her love for cooking and for developing recipes.   While one may not get financial reward out of a blog, especially if one does not accept advertising, which is Jane-Anne’s policy (nor does she accept freebies), she feels that she is adding value to her readers, and she herself receives emotional, intellectual and entertainment satisfaction from writing her blog.  She advised that food blogs must focus on accuracy in terms of ingredients and method of preparation, but also in terms of spelling and grammar. 

Online integrity is vital, and one must trust one’s palate in expressing what one experiences, even if it is not the popular view, one blogger said.  One should track one’s performance, and Jane-Anne advised that referring to, and tagging, names of chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay leads to increased web traffic.  She also advised that one “should find one’s voice” through the blog, and allow one’s readers to “get to know you”, and one’s personality should come through, whatever one’s communication style might be.  While content is king, a “yummy and descriptive” headline is vital in attracting readers into the content, and photographs should be of a “reasonable quality”.   Jane-Anne feels that it is sad to see so many young people’s idea of food and cooking being shaped by chefs and cookery book writers such as Ramsay, Lawson and Oliver, without them having exposure to a more classic cooking culture.  With her Scrumptious blog, Jane-Anne hopes to broaden their cooking knowledge.  

Mike Ratcliffe is probably the most experienced social media marketing wine marketer, and impressed with the different tools he referred to and uses: Blogging, Twitter, FourSquare, Twideo, Google Maps Latitude, and Nice to Meet You.   He has opted out of Facebook, due to the lack of control.   He writes a Vilafonte and a Warwick blog, being the Managing Partner of the former brand, and the Managing Director of the latter brand.  Vilafonte grapes are grown near Sante Wellness, between Paarl and Franschhoek, and the wines are made in a state-of-the-art venue at Bosman’s Crossing in Stellenbosch, while the Warwick wines are made the traditional way by Mike’s mother Norma on their farm.   Her 25th vintage celebration will take the Warwick wines around the world with 40 dinners, at which 10 vintages of their wines will be tasted.   Mike is an irregular blogger, as he travels a lot, and finds he has more time to blog when he travels.  He “leans to controversy” in what he writes, he says, yet he will not pick a fight, and will step back in a fight.  He complimented for their platform on which he is encouraged to write, creating huge exposure to their 40000 unique readers per month.    

Mike advised bloggers to be responsible in their blogging, as one influences views.  One must check one’s information sources, and not use a blog as a platform for retaliation.  If one disappoints one’s readers, they will no longer follow the blogger.  A blog is successful when one is passionate about one’s topic, and about writing.   Twitter is on a growth trend, he feels, and positional tweeting (crowdsourcing) will be introduced soon.  Mike uses traditional marketing communication media too, such as advertising and PR, and the 2000 members of the Warwick Wine Club are an important testing and tasting ground for new wines developed.   He claims that his marketing is spontaneous and dynamic, but one gets the impression that Mike Ratcliffe knows exactly what he is doing in marketing his brands, and is acknowledged by his peers in this respect.   He was praised by a fellow blogger as a professional.  

The next Food and Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting is on Wednesday 18 August, and will “pair” Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir in Franschhoek.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The most beautiful Winter morning at Warwick Wine Estate

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the train to Soccer City - the world Cup final vibe is awesome

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa