The emprise out of Stellenbosch over to Franschhoek is quick and painless, bumping and gliding over gently undulating arteries into a defined path once traipsed by the great African mammal, treading through Oliphants Hoek. A dreamy way to begin a South African day.
How could I have known? Where inside the deep recesses of my non-mechanical brain could I have hinged the switch of awakening? What frame of reference would trigger a childlike awe in the presence of cars?
We were brought to the Franschhoek Motor Museum situated on the property of the Anthonij Rupert Wyne Estate. Old cars. Famous cars. Really cool cars. Bill McLaren, Jules Salomon, Gioachhino Colombo, Sam Tingle, Austin-Healey, Alfa Romeo, Nelson MANDELA cars. Blow your mind cars.
My own human linguistic capability, or at least the one I hang my perpetual innocence on would have me impose a self-professed “immateriality of the mind” when it comes to particulars or, discreet objects in the material world. Like cars. I would have believed that only universals, that is, characteristics of particular things would have the power to excite my NMB but this place changed everything. Much of the revelation was nurtured by the stories and librarian-like encyclopedic recounting by the museum’s David Magqwanti. Thank you for talking to me, kind sir. The commorancy of coupes and convertibles injected life into the mechanical. I saw universals rising like novella filled balloons from the humanity of cab antiquity housed in these buildings. But enough about that.
Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape
We toured the facilities and were chauffeured across the property in Champions, Hudsons and Studebakers. We sat down with Gareth Robertson, Sales and Marketing Manager at Anthonij Rupert Wines. Verticals were poured; Cape of Good Hope, Leopard’s Leap and Optima L’Ormarins. Then the varietals of Anthonij Rupert and a most unanticipated Eau de Vie.
A sunlight deprived Sauvignon Blanc from steep topography in Elandskloof, an isolated valley north of Villiersdorp. The valley depth and high altitude equals cool climate, pushing harvest back an average six seeks later than that of Stellenbosch. The long, slow, cool growing season, 24-hour skin contact and six months spent on lees add up to a receding depth of richness, like a Monet sunrise. The ’15 gives off a sense of just ripening, tangy tropical fruits like green mango and fig but it just smells like soft French cream. Bright, lit acidity makes it a very direct Sauvignon Blanc, like the lights are turned on. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted September 2015 @
So very different to the hyper freshness of 2015. In brim, vim and savour the ’14 yet pops in lemon and lime and also diverges away from cream into texture. Very flavourful of a juice distilled and settled kind, resolved of itself, more taut in flesh and zest. The closed eyes idea is like grapefruit segments rolled in fresh-cut grass, never sweet, always on the positive side of bitter and then, suddenly awake, open wide. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted September 2015
Of a warmer vintage, now into developed concepts occupied by petrol, base elements and tonics. Strikes as having been a once reductive preparation now into the early stages of graceful decline. Still vibrant though and more like Chenin in its mineral and barrel-aged clothing. Opens the window to discussion for Villiersdorp as a Sauvignon Blanc depot for this type of stylistic aging in veins otherwise occupied by the likes of Chenin, Riesling and Sémillon. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted September 2015
Chenin Blanc with 10 per cent Grenache Blanc out of a warmer Franschhoek climate and 25-30 year-old predominately bush vines. Half aged in barrel for nine months on the lees. Gives off a faux sugary Chenin nose, tangy, foolish and unsettled. The aromatics push texture and the acidity is awkward in up front, in your face demand. Citrus and white flowers foil the tension. This is all about layers of perfumatory sweetness. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted September 2015 @
Grenache Blanc adds a modicum of creamy simplicity rot Chenin Blanc no stranger to the barrel with less yeast carpeting than the follow-up 2014. Leads to an increase in savour, redolence and verdancy. Here Chenin trades fruit for mineral, in expression and for longevity. The trace elements speak a neat chemistry vernacular, bracing the palate for the crushed rocks and stones, the alloy tang and a directness that can be described as lean. Even in the fave of wood this acts like Silex or a wine of slate. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted September 2015
Like 2014 but accentuated fine times fold, this Chenin (major) and Grenache Blanc (minor) blend unfolds as a stark, lean bony white it always must have been. Possessive of fuel in hyperbole as compared to the younger wines, like oldish hunter Valley Sémillon or stark, raving arid Loire Chenin. A very tense and terse white, like a certain kind of dad. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted September 2015
Co-fermented Syrah (90 per cent) and Viognier confessed of enough cure to open a delicatessen. The smoked meat is joined by cherries and Franschhoek earth. Acts natural with a late frenzy of spice. Ripe to be sure, but balanced and not sweet. At 13.2 or 3 per cent alcohol its litheness is lauded and with thanks tom slightly cooler area fruit, but in the end warmth renders its tongue as speaking more southern than northern Rhone. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted September 2015
Back then this co-fermented Syrah (90 per cent) and Viognier was wilder, of sauvage and animale. Like thick-cut bacon, fat beginning its rendering, and a verdant lardoon of smoothness in texture. Tends to the northern Rhone with age playing a bigger role in what is ostensible a cooler, savoury, leaner expression. Sitting still, direct and layered without veneer. Quite brilliant in the prime of life. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted September 2015
Élevage for the Optima is begat from the most grown-up, mature, wise and judiciously enriching maneuvers. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is cold-soaked, with fermentation lasting 20 days. The juice sees 225L new French oak and the absolute awesomeness of 10,000L wooden tanks. The separate wines are aged for 18 months in 225L French oak barrels. Blending leads to six months in barrel and tank and a further bottle-maturation for 24 months before release. What’s it all mean? It means Cabernet Franc stars on the right side of the mountain. The added warmth and ripeness stirs into Rooibos, currants and rich earth. Such a soil-driven Bordeaux blend with wood spice, liquid chalk and variegated, relegated integration. Still, very young, heart-beating, life-affirming stuff. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted September 2015
Though the 2006 is relatively subdued when compared to the 2005 tasted alongside, to call it anything but a full-bodied and mature red wine would miss the mark by a mountain or two. Warm fruit has come to its crossroads, to this very developed stage. Like stepping into time, with a plum to raisin aromatic compote, though the mise en place is fresh, not yet any sort of drying fruit expression. More oak apparent than even the fresher 2011, doling out a tempered chocolate ganache and the nibs of earth. Some tannin persists though the fruit wane suggests the time to drink up is now. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted September 2015
Very much like the closest younger sibling 2006 but even more of a brooding wine, muscular, masculine and a syrupy, liqueur feel. Possessive of more polish and elevated acidity, the chocolate finer and the overall energy yet circulating and buzzing. Makes you realize that the acidity in 2005 has not only left the building but was low-level to begin with. This strikes as a better vintage, at least in terms of more modern tastes and like subsequent vintages going forward were directed to follow. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted September 2015
From 1964 vines in red sand and clay on the Skurfberg mountain, surrounded by fynbos, tended by growers Basie van Lill of Arbeidsend and Jozua Visser of Oudam. These Chenin Blanc vines are the pioneers and 50 years have laid the foundation for an exceptional varietal home. One of the broadest extensions appeals with style, refreshment, elegance and a bar-rasing level of refinement and poise. Underlying mineral joins unstirred Rooibos tea and a wealth of acidity. Imminently drinkable without agitation so it’s so interesting in that within this calm context it has developed its own mid-palate. It seeks no need for residual sugar, lees texture or chalk to find balance. Not sure I’ve ever come across a Chenin Blanc so at ease and this comfortable in its own skin. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted September 2015
The Serruria Chardonnay is truly cool-climate inspired and substantiated, equal and opposing to those from the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. Elandskloof is the new darling of Overberg, where these vines grow at high altitude (700-900m) on the slopes of the Stettyn mountains outside Villiersdorp. Unique drives initial thoughts. Understated, elongated and mineral-injected, in constancy and ironically so. Chardonnay of altitude is so proper, felicitous, of economy and amenable to the proverbial catalyst of soil (or lack thereof). Cool-climate Chardonnay of site, site, site is a perfect thing imagined, a mirror of its geology, especially when the raising follows suit. First, 2nd and 3rd fill barrels for nine months. We are told that further restraint is exercised in 2014. How much more does it need to be? Drink 2015-2020. Tasted September 2015
From the L’Ormarins farm, from carefully selected sites and the lowest of yields, Rhône échalas style densely planted (6 250 to 8 333 vines per ha) on slopes too steep for mechanical production. Syrah of ancient, natural cure out of very special earth, the granite soils of the Groot Drakenstein Mountains, on warmer, northerly facing slopes with better drainage at different altitudes. An absolutely (14 per cent alcohol) bloody hematoma of layers and hues, with nary a moment of vinyl or veneer. The bloodstream pulsates with extroverted energy and pitch-perfect fruit. Remarkable Syrah meaty and of conceit. Incredibly valuable Syrah. Mind-blowing, must get to know Syrah. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted September 2015
From low yielding vineyards in granite with clay on the Helderberg (80 per cent) and Rooderust (20) farms. Oh the cured humanity of what Cabernet Franc can be, where fruit grown at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain mimics the moniker: “Clear.” Not too similar to the Syrah in terms of hematic intensity but the coursing paints a slower flowing halcyon picture and the wood is not handled with the same brightness and elastic breadth. The CF is aged for 18 to 24 months in 225 L new French oak barrels, bottled unfiltered and bottle aged for a year. Varietal chocolate and general girth make for male libido red wine fixations. Still the poise and the ability. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted September 2015
Litchis are sourced from Malelane, a farm up near the Mozambique border. The pulp is brought down the Anthonij Rupert Cellar in Franschhoek, de-pipped and shelled in frozen form. The frozen litchi juice is left to thaw once it arrives on the farm. Once thawed the pulp is inoculated with yeast and fermented into wine and treated with an Armagnac methodology. So very floral, intensely aromatic, from lychee to laurel. The palate is remarkable in that it swims beneath the surface, with flavours of orange peel and lemongrass. Drink for eternity. Tasted September 2015
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel