30 May 2014 by Andrea Weiss

Learn more about South Africa’s fine brandy industry

South African brandy is no longer just something you mix with Coca-Cola. It’s a refined drink, both on its own or in a cocktail. Learn more about this emerging industry at the Fine Brandy Fusion Festival.

The Aroma Walk at the Fine Brandy Fusion Festival. Image courtesy of the South African Brandy Foundation

What do the names Mellow Breeze, Fish Eagle Rio and Ama-Lekker Licious have in common? They’re all trendy brandy cocktails that can be tasted on the Urban Brandy Cocktail Routes in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Brandy was once dismissed as only good for polisiekoffie (policeman’s coffee), a mixture of brandy and coke. Today, South African brandies are regarded as among the finest in the world.

The first brandy to be brewed in the Cape was aboard a Dutch ship, De Pijl, while lying at anchor in Table Bay harbour in 1672. Brandy, in fact, takes its name from the word ‘brandewijn’, or burnt wine, because it was the way in which wine was processed and stored on ships.

South African brandy must now be twice distilled in copper pot stills and then aged for a minimum of three years. It comes in three classes, namely blended, vintage and pot still, with varying levels of alcohol (none less than 38%).

To learn more about this emerging industry, enthusiasts can attend the Fine Brandy Fusion festival, which is held in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Johannesburg leg takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre on the evenings of 5 and 6 June this year (Cape Town held its show in May).

Festival-goers in Sandton will be able to sample some of the 50 fine brandies on show, attend a free masterclass hosted by some of South Africa’s best brandy masters, find out how to mix great cocktails in the ‘mixology theatre’, and take part in a chocolate and brandy pairing session.

The R195 ticket also buys 15 brandy-tasting coupons, three cocktail coupons, two premium coffee coupons, a crystal brandy balloon and free access to the live Mi Casa performance.

Taxi services and breathalysers are also available for festival-goers.

Sounds like a grand night out!

Three brandy tasting do's and don’ts:

  • Unlike with wine, don’t swirl your glass
  • Don’t warm the brandy first (it should be drunk at room temperature)
  • Add a dash of water if you like, but make sure it’s spring water

Category: Food & Wine

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