Is Pinotage South Africa’s most famous wine?

Pizza and Pinotage?
The Paul Roos (biltong, feta and mushrooms) at Volkskombuis, Stellenbosch

An excerpt of this pinotage assessment appeared in my larger and more comprehensive South African profile, “Heritage and diversity in South Africa.”

Related – Searching for great heart in South Africa

With Sebastian Beaumont at L’Avenir Wine Estate

What do we know about pinotage?

Here are some essential facts about the grape variety. The year was 1925 when Dr. Abraham Penold of Stellenbosch University exorcized a Shelleyan right to marry cinsault with pinot noir in a successful attempt at creating a new varietal for the ages. Pinotage was born at the hands of a grafter with exceptional foresight. We’re not so far away from the 100th birthday and if you ask any one of the producers profiled here I’d wager most would agree. Pinotage is South Africa’s heritage meets signature red grape.

We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no

To be clear there is a great chasm and worlds apart difference between most important and most famous. Research be denied or not, the distinction we are trying to establish concerns the latter, at least for the time being. Pinotage is indeed famous for being bad, insidious and effluent. It’s much maligned reputation and status is a concern borne from bad farming practices, misappropriated oak make-up and hands-on winemaking gone out of control. The mistakes are no longer rampant and there is a new game being played in Western Cape towns, in many ways same as the old ones established well before a generation of fools and horses took over the scene. Today and going forward the next generation of Pinotage young guns (and some older ones) are simply saying “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Pino Pistols – The next generation of Pinotage young guns

Heritage in South Africa is not just reserved for chenin blanc. “You know what old vines can give you,” says L’Avenir’s winemaker Dirk Coetzee. “We’re here to discuss a pinotage revolution. We’re here to discuss the next generation of pinotage.” Stellenbosch is host to the greatest concentration of Western Cape plantings and over the last ten years it has grown by 52 per cent. “Once we start making authentic product people will start thinking and the product will speak for itself.” In fact it has moved from being the sixth to the third most planted grape varieties. Beyerskloof winemaker Ani Truter adds, “what I tasted in the 80s was not pinotage, it was sabotage. It took 2,000 years for Burgundy to be successful. Don’t worry, it won’t take that long in South Africa.” Only a Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe winemaker could pay a compliment with such direct proposition.

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

David Sadie continued the analysis with his take on soil and cellar as being the reasons for making good and bad pinotage. “If you look at a bad pinotage today you can look at the cellar and not at the cultivar.” This in explanation for how pinotage has improved and is moving on from rubbery, toasted and burnt flavour profiles. “It’s about site selection, planting in the right areas.” It’s also about pH levels. “Your attention to hygiene is really important, it’s pH driven.” And finally, Jacques de Klerk of Radford Dale.” They used to be made at high alcohol levels and the margin for error was very precarious. It comes down to over extraction and over use of oak.” The times they are a-changin’.

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

I tasted 23 examples of pinotage this past September and was impressed by the right, proper and forward thinking presence of them all. The future is already cemented in quality but more than that, in a culture that feels this direction of clarity and transparency is the right one to follow. The followers are coming, now quicker than ever, to get a glimpse and a taste of these dry-farmed, terroir-driven pinotage.

L’Avenir Glen Rosé 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

This dry Rosé is made from pinotage and it carries an amber, skin-contact styled notable tannin and orange skin scrape. Also enough fruit to call it a julep on the aromatic front. Not a major proboscis mind you but one that is classically herbal, never pointed and sweetness is just a faint idea. It’s a bit dangerous in how there is great ease in the knock it back department. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018 lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada

L’Avenir Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to pinotage there are few producers capable of delivering the triumvirate of quality, honesty and ignoring of sickly trends. There is no mocha in L’Avenir’s take on the mistaken identity grape. In this case it’s like you’d expect pinotage to be but also completely unexpected because it takes classic relief, alters the perspective and turns the architectural rendering on its head. Pinotage needs to keep you on your toes, confuse with trompe l’oeuil drawn trickery and offer up great surprise. That’s what makes it special. Here richness is met head on by tannin, dusty fruit by bold acidity and spice mix at the gate of intensity. Just imagine the possibilities in the estate’s single block. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018

L’Avenir Pinotage Single Block 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

Taken from dry-farmed vineyards and put to fourth/fifth passage barrels. Only 4,000L make up this single focused lot out of which both the depth and volume have been turned up. Extract talks in fruit density tannic decibel counts but even higher by acidity so all falls into place. Or will. Eventually. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage 2009, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

The vines would have been just past their 30th birthday and Sebastian remembers the vintage with fond memory, as he would considering he chose to pour this nine years later at a large pinotage tasting. Wood as it was and still is now wholly integrated though both acidity and length are still thriving so structure is the constant and the given. The tang afforded the fruit is spot on with legs stretching, the whole outfit breathing and now with a salty note to ties it all together. Much time remains for pure pinotage pleasure. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018  beaumontwines  @Beauwine  @Smallwinemakers  @beaumontfamilywine  @smallwinemakerscollection

Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage Sixty Barrels 2015, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

So interesting to taste this seminal pinotage by Sebastian Beaumont side by each with his 2009 “normale.” The same 1970s planted vineyard is employed, here from two blocks, one 44 years of age and the other being a spritely 21. The salty note on the aromatic top is faint, hidden beneath massive fruit ability, but it depends (of course it depends), on vintage. This one is full of wealthy possibilities and stealth opportunity, especially when the salt rises to the surface in thew clay. That clay effect is a fulsome one, really notable from 2015 to claim fruit, stash it away in reserve and wait for structure to build, crest and relent. Many years will pass as a result of this pinotage process. This is how you build varietal wealth and worth. One of South Africa’s finest. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Kaapzicht Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

Winemaker Danie Steytler says “we think pinotage is like grenache, or cinsault” and he would be correct in that if you allow it to speaks its own very specific language it will be readily identifiable. And enjoyable. As here, with perhaps the highest level of glycerin content found anywhere in Stellenbosch. Intensely viscous, not as syrup but certainly living the silky dream. From a warm vintage the alcohol is noted and the youth as well, from 19 year-old bush vines planted in weathered granite soil. It may be counter intuitive but the wood is also stronger than the Steytler, having seen 33 per cent new French oak barrels for 18 months. The vintage is even stronger and so the combination makes for a pretty powerful wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  kaapzichtwines  @KaapzichtWines  Kaapzicht Wine Estate

Kaapzicht Pinotage Steytler 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

This is a pure pinotage, a generational wine that carries the family name and the current varietal centrepiece for winemaker Danie Steytler. Low yielding vines are planted in weathered granite topsoil on a layer of gravel, above a crumbly clay sub-soil. The terroir plus a warm fermentation make for pinotage of high glycerin, ethereal texture, generous alcohol ann general warmth in abound all around. Plenty of fresh red fruit and a dry constitution in a structured pinotage pays great homage to George Steytler who farmed Kaapzicht for 33 years. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Anri Truter, the Reserve is aged in 20 per cent new barrels with the remainder second through fourth passage wood. Quite rich and full in terms of pinotage fruit without any mocha make-up though there is quite a level of smoulder. Both the acidity and the tannin are set quite high so overall this presents a structured gambit worthy of the designation. Long and lasting seals the deal. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  beyerskloof  churchillcellars  @Beyerskloof_  @imbibersreport  @Beyerskloof  @imbibersreport

Beyerskloof Pinotage Diesel 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The bush vines are in the 20 year range on gravelly Oakleaf and Klapmuts soil for this highly credible example of what is possible with pinotage, especially in Stellenbosch. This is nothing but a structured red, housed in 100 per cent new French oak barrels for 20 months. After maturation, only 20 barrels were selected out of a possible 300. The fruit is richer, the texture denser and the extraction at the top end of the ideal. There is more of everything here, including savour and it’s anything but reductive or ball bouncy. Big, roasting, boasting and blasting with an exceptional level of quality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

B. Vintners Pinotage Liberté 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

Two oceans facing granitic soils at 250m are the impetus to raise this Cape dialectical, Atlantic meets Indian pinotage. It’s also a whole bunch matter, something that in increasingly important in the varietal lexicon. The plantings are east-west in orientation to avoid overbearing sun exposure, which is really a thing in pinotage and often the culprit for its unwanted “thickening.” Baking spice is all over the notes and fruit purity is duly counted. A very characterful red, spicy, smoky and just plain pleasurable, if on the confident side of all things being equal. Nice work between cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  raatsfamilywines  liffordgram  @RaatsWines  @LiffordON  Raats Family Wines  @liffordwineandspirits

B. Vintners Pinotage Liberté 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

From the cousins Raats and an ode to Cape of Good Hope heritage for pinotage. There is some (20 per cent) modernizing whole bunch maceration giving more lift and chalky texture. Quite a variegation from ’16, with grit and grip, not exactly powerful but there is some tannic structure to be sure. Very floral and so it sure seems like the intention and the goal was centred around and expressly focused on lifted aromatics. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Radford Dale Pinotage Frankenstein 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

It took a few decades for someone to give Shelleyan props to Dr. Abraham Penold of Stellenbosch University, 1925 grafter of cinsault and pinot noir to create pinotage. It’s a literary sidestep of a stretch to compare the science to Mary Shelley’s creature created by mismatched donors, but more than that it’s a cheeky shout out for a varietal often mistaken for a monster. Winemaker Jacques de Klerk grabs fruit from the white marl at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain for a pinotage troika of intention, ability and expectation. Three properties born of terroir, house and winemaker. All are on the same page written by an unspoken agreement to not abuse or confuse this grape. Frankenstein is smoky, curative, red raspberry ripe, right proper and built to last. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  radford_dale  reveriechenin  noble_estates  @Radforddale  @deklerkjacques  @Noble_Estates  @RadfordDaleWine  @NobleEstates

Kanonkop Pinotage Kadette 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (630756, $19.95, WineAlign)

Before penning this review of 2015 there was a taste of the next level ’16 four months later. The two way-street perspective is more than educational because when pinotage is made with this sort of clarity you can really see the glaring differences in vintages. In 2015 the replay of old-school, earthy and chalky is readily recognizable, unavoidable and properly exulted. This send label spends time in second and third fill barrels, for red fruit charm, mildly tannic structure and proper finality. Spice, spirit and warmth define the Kadette in salute to pinotage and Stellenbosch. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted September 2018  kanonkopwineestate  noble_estates  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates  @Kanonkop  @NobleEstates

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

Vines are between 30 and 60 years of age for this prototypical ode to how things were and going forward can almost certainly be in the world of pinotage. Wrinkled, gnarled, grizzled old veteran vines, the Gordie Howe of the genre, Mr. pinotage if you will. Trees of a vinous sort, able to shake of draughts and new wave mochafied drafts, with a hat trick of checks, balances and grit. These vines are the past but more importantly are the future, typified and exemplified in this kind of pinotage, a modern classic made from a place by a maker who knows what’s what. Smoky red fruit with this uncanny variegation of hue, cloudy transparency and complexity of character. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Diemersdal Pinotage 2017, WO Durbanville, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Diemersdal is a sauvignon blanc specialist (don’t miss their eight rows) making pinotage. Sixth generation winemaker Thys Louw has coaxed as much site specific terroir into pinotage as any in the Western Cape. True their is one of exoticism in the aromatics, like the smell of Javanese Mubarak banana pancake drizzled with chocolate condensed milk but there is also the magical and unbelievable nose of spearmint. It’s the local fynbos and dry-farmed agriculture talking, inconceivably coherent and followed by so much far-eastern spice. This is fun stuff, wildly aromatic , with great pulse and intensity. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  diemersdalwines  @diemersdalwines  Diemersdal Wine Estate

David And Nadia Pinotage 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

David and Nadia Sadie’s pinotage is quite possibly and purposefully the lightest there is, clocking in at an impossibly low 12 per cent. It is both the next and other tier for the varietal reconnaissance with vanguard clarity and an honesty to speak of wine made under serious drought conditions. Bright red fruit and that low alcohol make it at once crushable but then sneaky structured. A maturity of vine, maker and grape conspire for such a dichotomy of bemusement though to be fair you could blindly be convinced that you were tasting lithe and ethereal northern Rhône syrah. The mixed magical condition certainly makes you take a step back and a seat to think. It’s a good conundrum and an excellent way to be drinking pinotage. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

David And Nadia Pinotage 2015, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Siebritskloof is the origin for David and Nadia’s ’15 pinotage, a wine from the early stage of drought conditions taken off of dry land bush vines planted in the early 1990’s in the granite mountains of the Paardeberg on the Paardebosch farm. This is layered and symbolic pinotage as aged salumi or pâté en croûte. The spice variegate runs high while the acumen of working with fruit to craft something so regionally specific treads a gastronomic line so fine. You and I could try to make this wine and fail miserably while David and Nadia just have the touch. Their’s discusses the days and the times with great precision and persistence. The tannins are so accomplished and resurrecting, leading to believe that this will drink at peak 10 years from vintage. That speaks to all of the above. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Stellenbosch Vineyards Credo Pinotage Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Vineyard source is 23-year-old bushvines in the Helderberg basin on decomposed granite, seven kms from and facing False Bay. From winemakers Bernard Claassen and Petri de Beer who deliver a pinotage that straddles the line between the old days and the new generation. From richness comes a meeting with salty oceanic influence towards a cleaner look at a brighter, not so tangy and tight future. The window is opening, the light is streaming in and the credo is on a correct path.  Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  stellenboschvineyards  @StbVineyards  Stellenbosch Vineyards

Stellenbosch Vineyards Pinotage Bushvine 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The Bushvine is also a Heldeberg basin pinotage though it’s more forward, modern and also weightier, carrying 20 per cent new oak plus six to eight months further aging. It’s a Bordeaux sentiment in a pinotage bottle, still with an eye and a nod to the past and yet despite the wood it expresses a real purity of red fruit. Tobacco smoulder shrouds that fruit with the resulting complexity standing to be noticed. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Elmie Pinotage Rosé 2018, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

This is really upscale, chic and perhaps even transformative Rosé, of a collaboration between ex-Delheim winemaker Reg Holder and viticulturalist Etienne Terblanche. The level of dry extract is exulted by fine tannin in a grape must meets pure strawberry distillate pinotage that feeds the imagination with place, varietal, execution and friendship. It’s a whole bunch, free-run, four month on lees exceptionality for Rosé, pinotage and Stellenbosch. So good straight out of a bottle just filled the week before. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  terblanche.etienne  Etienne Terblanche  

Pinotage Dorper 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The name refers to a black sheep in the family and a South African breed of domestic sheep developed by crossing Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian. The wink-wink connective tissue is because pinotage, as we all know is a crossing of pinot noir and cinsault and this Dorpman’s Afrikaans collaboration is between winemaker Reg Holder and viticulturalist Etienne Terblanche. This inaugural release from the virtual Stellenbosch winery is a truly satisfying pinotage, of red raspberry and other sundry red fruits. Blocks of 53 year-old and other 50-plus aged vines adds up to smoky and with just a bit of beneficial reduction. Important tracks put down and a solid future lays ahead. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Southern Right Pinotage 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $27.95, WineAlign)

As for pinotage, Anthony Hamilton Russell is dead serious about thinking about the varietal future and never furthermore to dwell on its past. So is winemaker Emul Ross who pours this ’17 like he means business. It should be remembered that in 1996, Anthony made a bet with Jancis Robinson saying, “one day South Africa’s most famous wine will be a pinotage or a pinotage-based wine.” It may be argued that in 2018 that prophecy came true and we have yet to see the highest potential from the grape and certainly not yet from the HR bookend properties that make Ashbourne and Southern Right. This comes from the western border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards behind Hermanus and it benefits from cold currents rising up from Antartica. The alcohol is handled with best yet ease and the fruit oozes from every pore. There is a tonic gelling with spice, faintly bitter cocoa and acidity to remind us of everything it is. In the end it opens up quickly with minimal tannin and wood in terms of overall structure. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

It could be expected that this 2015 pinotage blend would already act somewhat to quite advanced when in fact the evolution is virtually non-existent. A side-by-side revisit with 2009 is all that is needed to drive the point. The ’15 is still quite demurred, tightly wound, not in a fresh to reductive way but more in terms of its finely-crafted pyramids of Giza architecture. The acidity and the spice are up there on the crests of the upper steps, very near to the pinnacle. Again it is the way the wine stays with you like a slowly rendered demi-glacé made from the lightest roast of bones that keeps the karst of stone sublime in your mind and mouth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July and September 2018

Good to go!

godello

With Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at L’Avenir Wine Estate

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Hamilton Russell three ways

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell are tireless wanderers of this earth. When you consider the amount of time they spend travelling in support of one, their eponymous winery, two, their Hermanus friends and colleagues and three, Wines of South Africa, it’s amazing that they are able to find time to produce high quality wines. That they do with great consistency and though they are responsible for interpreting the Hemel-en-Aarde in three ways, in each case they do one or two things and they do it really well.

Hamilton Russell Vineyards works three appellations. The WO of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a geological wonder akin to Burgundian soils of 35-50 per cent top soil clay layered with exposed shale, closest to Walker Bay. It is here that Anthony and Olive pioneered the raising of chardonnay and pinot noir. Ashbourne red and white blends are fashioned in the Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley, on the eastern border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, built of decomposed granite, with freer draining soils and more diurnal temperature fluctuations then the Hemel en Aarde Ridge. The property is named after Anthony’s great, great-grandfather Lord Ashbourne who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the late 1800’s. Southern Right is the line of pinotage and sauvignon blanc raised on the western border of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, on a 448 hectare property just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus.

In 1991 Hamilton Russell was the only one producing wines. Now there are 22 in the valley. They began running in 1991 and made full purchase in 1994. A cold current rises up from Antartica into the tip of South Africa’s (Western Cape) “making quality winemaking possible,” explains Anthony. “Our soils have been on the surface for more than 300,000,000 years. I like that you can taste ancient soils in every glass.” Hamilton Russell is what he refers to as their “immediate family.” Southern Right and Ashbourne are close relatives.”

As for varietal choices, there is little doubt that pinotage is (once again) booming while others are dropping. The plantings are very much on the rise. “What people thought was pinotage was badly made pinotage. It’s not a bad grape,” insists Hamilton Russell. We like to control what’s happening on both borders of Hamilton Russell.” So Southern Right (1994) and Ashbourne (1996) are more than just passion projects. “We also want to change people’s perception of pinotage,” he adds. There were no releases between 2011 and 2014, instead it was used as a re-thinking period and a chance to reflect on vineyard/agricultural culture, followed by the new age. “I don’t have a beard, I’m in my 50’s (plus) and I’m doing some pretty hipster stuff. We just don’t look the part.”

I have had numerous opportunities to taste, track, re-taste and follow the chardonnay and pinot noir over the past five years. I often add to my notes because theirs are highly organized, Burgundian powered structures that demand re-visits and respect. The Ashbourne and especially the Southern Right varietals and blends have seen less exposure but the notions of longevity (Ashbourne) and drink-ability (Southern Right) are fast gaining attention.

A few weeks back and post i4C Cool Chardonnay conference I sat down with Wines of South Africa’s Laurel Keenan, Angela Aiello and the South African Wine Society to listen in on Anthony Hamilton Russell’s dissertation and a tasting of eight wines. Here are the notes, plus two for their recently released ’17 chardonnay and pinot noir.

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (512277, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Southern Right whale is a frequent visitor to Walker Bay and this sauvignon blanc should be a frequent visitor to your glass. It’s a white wine that acts as a messenger to its proximate location to a cold body of water. It’s a pure Western Cape fresh, flinty and smouldering sauvignon blanc so akin to a Bordeaux White. You could close your eyes and imagine Pessac-Leognan (perhaps even hoping for Sancerre or Chavignol) but there really isn’t any need. Six clones and six yeasts, multiple ripeness levels and some clay-grown vines deliver fat fruit to meet the linearity and tension of other shale grown fruit. In the end it’s a complex and rare chance to taste this kind of value. Drink 2018-2020.  Last tasted July 2018

The pungent nature of this sauvignon blanc brings a vigor sight and taste unseen. Classic herbal meets gooseberry and passionate notes are berry-derived and very floral. The palate confirms the notion and makes one a true believer in Walker Bay. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2017   olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates wosa_za  wosa_ca  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates  @WOSACA

Southern Right Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasting ’15 while ’17 is already sold out back home. From an opulent and wide open vintage, the wine offers just those expressive attributes. Smokiness meets curative meaty notes and an umami sort of South African garrigue. From a vintage where phenolic ripeness occurred at a higher level of alcohol so it carries a 15 per cent volume, but does so with marked ease. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne 2009, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

The Ashbourne ’09 includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and syrah blended in, “which brings nothing really to the party,” says Anthony Hamilton Russell, “but at least it doesn’t compete with Southern Right.” It’s deeply savoury and smoky, continues to smell like chocolate and will always show its wood. The single-vineyard heavy clay block was always in delivery of fruit ripe but never over that edge, all the while telling its shepherds when to pick so that balance and structure can be had. The linger and length are exceptional. “The variety doesn’t suck.” Truth that. Drink 2018-2024.  Last tasted July 2018

Ashbourne is a 25 barrel cuvée and the outlier in the Hamilton Russell pinot noir-chardonnay stable. With more than enough time behind at eight years on it is essentially evolved and resolved, now a downy blanket of Bordeaux fibres woven, seamless and soft. The fruit dries a bit but like all great aging South African reds the candidly curated acidity is years from relinquishing its grip. Ashbourne is not a matter to blow one’s mind but it teaches some vinous life lessons about Hemel-en-Aarde and the greater good of aged South African reds. It can be enjoyed right now and left for another decade. Like Meerlust’s Rubicon it’s an easy on the pocketbook gift in kind to Ontario from proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage 2015, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

It could be expected that this 2015 pinotage blend would already act somewhat to quite advanced when in fact the evolution is virtually non-existent. A side-by-side revisit with 2009 is all that is needed to drive the point. The ’15 is still quite demurred, tightly wound, not in a fresh to reductive way but more in terms of its finely-crafted pyramids of Giza architecture. The acidity and the spice are up there on the crests of the upper steps, very near to the pinnacle. Again it is the way the wine stays with you like a slowly rendered demi-glacé made from the lightest roast of bones that keeps the karst of stone sublime in your mind and mouth. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (486167, $25.95, WineAlign)

“We wanted to work with an unoaked pinotage, to mix with a lighter and brighter cinsault.” In fact the cinsault really shines with (by now) classic Western Cape lithe ability because the pinotage allows it to. Add to that a verdant, pyrazine and currant streak and in the end you get perfume but no impenetrability that an overly green and wooded forest would demand. Beautiful (1972 planted) Paardeberg on decomposed granite gifts a chic and classy, perfectly correct blend of these two made for each other varietals. Will settle into one another so effortlessly and with sleepy grace in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russell Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay 2018, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

There can be no more fruit in a white blend than what bursts from this sauvignon blanc-chardonnay scene. Just released in South Africa and carried by Anthony and Olive (Hamilton Russell) on the plane. Chavignol is the reference point, with lightly structured sandstone soils bringing lightness, airiness and delicate fruit. Or think Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat out of Santa Barbara. It’s democratically priced (a Hamilton Russell first) without gratuitous sugar and still dry, tart and direct. Also the first screw-cap for the company. Bottled just three weeks ago. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

A Hamilton Russell chardonnay must have its nuts, butter and über direct acidity. It just may remind of Bâtard perhaps because depth, richness and a ridges-straddling connection to the valley it comes from all work in this way. But what else brings that connection? In 2017 it’s elegance for sure, but also intensity. This 36th vintage is “a reflection, always of the same piece of ground, even if we are always insecure and trying to improve, it’s a far bigger thing than we are. We feel justice to serve it. We feel we have a duty to this.” This is what Anthony Hamilton Russell told me last year and it perfectly applies to this 2017. Back then he noted that “god made the 15s and winemakers watched. In ’16 winemakers made the wine.” So what about ’17? With heady attention paid to its eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, it’s really a matter of both. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted twice, July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $44.95, WineAlign)

Says Anthony Hamilton Russell. “It took the French to teach me not to care about the colour of chardonnay, but to only worry about flavour and texture.” Fermented with a healthy amount of solids and introduced to oxidation in its youth. This helps and results in a chardonnay well-adjusted to adult life and to adults. “You cannot measure an aesthetic with a number,” meaning you can’t learn from a measured response. Literally speaking. The balance is as good as this archetype of an HR white has ever been. It is after all, the HR white.  Last tasted July 2018

No stone is left unturned in the Hamilton Russell 2016 chardonnay because it speaks with utmost Hemel-en-Aarde Valley clarity. There is less make-up in 2016 so the fruit, acidity and subtle salty quality all must have begun to speak from the word go. The first pressed, non-clarified must would have done nothing but made the maker’s smile, mimicking a foggy morning over Walker Bay and so they have allowed the wine to speak for itself. This is a beautifully restrained and go it alone rendered to be measured chardonnay, with beauty and grace. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

’m not sure it can be stated often enough that when you continually do one thing well, without compromise or mutation, than you’re more likely to do it very well. This is the case with a Hamilton Russell pinot noir, the only one that is produced. From the best fruit available and swinging in the direction of the vintage, either into or away from the winds of vineyard or winemaking. The 2017 is like the chardonnay in that it’s a best of both worlds seasonal and acumen-focused display, neither one or the other dominant and in the end, so balanced. The fruit depth is exceptional, the acidity deeper still and the intensity wound around it all. It’s so precise and layered, like a pinot noir prism, like staring far inside the intricate and symmetrically patterned angles in a diamond. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2018

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $58.95, WineAlign)

“We believe in wines of consequence.” How pinot noir is capable of performing in South Africa can be defined right here, with a wink and a nod to Gevrey-Chambertin. Pure unbridled Hamilton Russell cerebral joy, nothing taken for granted and all possibilities celebrated.  Last tasted July 2018

This welcome ethereal return of Hamilton Russell’s Hermanus benchmark pinot noir follows on the heels of the early-picked, dense, muscular and compressed 2015. Comfortable alcohol meets optimum phenolic ripeness so lets think on it in terms of ’08 burgundy, though perhaps not as tight and classic. This is the second fully organic vintage, not certified but with no systemic use of chemicals. Young (just last year turned 30) winemaker Emul Ross from Chamonix and viticulturist Johan Montgomery have reverted to gentler pressing and travelled further away from hyper-reduction. Open fermenters handle the entire pinot noir harvest at once so there is nary a posit tug of war or movement at shock times. Thus the elegance and as mentioned, the ethereal. It should always be noted that all the HR grapes go into these wines, with no tactical moves and philosophical aberrations (any more), no reserve wines, no single-vineyard, no divergence from monopole, always staying the broad expression course. “We committed to this in 1981 and other than experiments, we’ve stayed this way,” says Anthony Hamilton-Russell. There is simply no plot, block, aspect, top, middle or bottom slope separation. It’s pinot all in for one purpose, fully conjoined and conspiring to make the Hamilton Russell expression. This expression, of pure fruit, no drudgery, clarity and exceptional length. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted October 2017

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell at Ridley College

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Eleven fifteen

"We ate flank" "You ate flank?" "We ate flank."

“We ate flank”
“You ate flank?”
“We ate flank.”

It may just be my favourite time of day. The flurry begins at seven. It takes four hours to shake off the rust, clear the morning ill, brush away the demands piled up since the night before and effectively settle the morning score. By a quarter past the hour calm begins to set in. 11:15. And now, a bit of Torah, Bible and liturgy.

The imagery of sweet rock ‘n roll, Revelations style is synonymous with the farthing, quartern, mid-morning, all change of pace: The Seventh Trumpet. The day after the Shofar has sounded to end the holiest of holy Jewish days, a sonorous wind-blown through the ram’s horn, a call to lead a flock home and into a new year. Is there a connection between the purpose of the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (and Yom Kippur) and the end of satan’s authority at the Seventh Trumpet?

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

The Shofar. Old Testament instrument as central element of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. The summoner to assemble before the Lord, a sound for battle and the announced coronation of a new king. New Testament return of Christ in the clouds to gather God’s people via rapture, sound the Lord’s wrath of battle cry and Christ’s returning as the King of the world. Seems obvious enough but where is the eschatological connection: How does the Jew’s attempt to summon God’s past and promised redemption share common ground with the Christian’s call to Satan?

A rabbinic tradition may indicate that the shofar is sounded on Rosh Hashanah to confuse Satan (or some he who shall not be named evil tempting spirit). The multiple blows and shrieks invoke the idea (and promise) that the Messiah had arrived and thus putting an end to the pernicious authority. Revelations agrees. “It is time for the dead to be judged. To reward your servants, the prophets, the saints, and all who fear your name, both unimportant and important.”

There’s an angel standing in the sun, 
and he’s crying with a loud voice, 
“This is the supper of the mighty one”, 
Lord of Lords, 
King of Kings, 
Has returned to lead his children home, 
To take them to the new Jerusalem.

Nah. It’s simply a matter of judgment and kingship. Like suggesting wines from a VINTAGES release. October 15th is but two days away. At 11:15 am you may just be arriving at your local LCBO in search of a few bottles. Here are 11 recommendations.

3c

3c Premium Selection Cariñena 2013, Do Cariñena, Spain (461350, $14.95, WineAlign)

The grape the place come across with classic Cariñena firmness and regional culture out of the impressive Grandes Vinos e Vinedos cooperative. You may recognize Spain’s third largest cooperative as the producer of Beso de Vino garnacha. The 3c is juicy and gregarious like so many garnacha but here as cariñena, with moderate alcohol, acidity and amenable tannin. This represents very good value for the price, as well as the brusque and breviloquent Aragonese appellation. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @VinosCarinena  @Noble_Estates

Fielding Estate Bottled Riesling 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (251439, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Bench can’t help but determine the style but what winemaker Richie Roberts is able to gather and concede is what needs from the vintage. The brutal winter and subsequent mild, calm and elongated season means that acidity can be tempered, sugar should play a small role and fruit will lead the way. In this riesling it does, with help, let and place from the support staff. Really juicy, slightly tart, citrus-spiced and purely Bench styled. Proper. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

easy

Ernie Els Big Easy 2014, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (220038, $19.95, WineAlign)

This latest Big Easy swings harder than the previous 2013, a wine that quietly emulated its founder’s approach. This 2014 displays more grit, firm grip and big dog length. This is no three-wood off the tee, lay up or fat part of the green safe play. This goes straight for the pin, over water, false fronts be damned and defiant to danger all around. It’s exciting and full-throttle, high acid and risky. But the reward is now, busily bursting with energy, not mired in tannin and ready to play. Makes for great TV. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @ErnieElsWinery  @TheBig_Easy  @VintageTrade  @_AlexHamilton_  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

loosen

Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett 2015, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (160846, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tremendous verve, vitality and energy from buoyant and round acidity brings immediate balance to sweet citrus and tart tropical fruit. This Mosel ripper has a tender side and will sooth many a savage beast. Kind of like Elvis. If you want to turn someone onto riesling this is a wonderful place to start. So good and worth protecting. “Well, you can do anything but stay off of my blue” slate riesling. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted September 2016  @drloosenwines  @Select_Wines  @germanwineca

optima

Anthonij Rupert Wines Optima L’ormarins 2012, Franschhoek, South Africa (455915, $24.95, WineAlign)

Franschhoek Bordeaux stylistic defined in affordability by structure and for dark, depth of fruit. Espresso dusty and soil imparted make for the specific Anthonij Rupert departure. The headline reads: Unheralded and righteous outfit makes red blend to go the distance. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2016  @AnthonijRupert  @Vinexxperts  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

manzoni

Rocche Dei Manzoni Bricco Manzoni Langhe Rosso 2010, Doc Piedmont, Italy (459651, $38.95, WineAlign)

And then there were three; Barolo, Barbaresco and Langhe. Here a serious perfume and brooding emits from Manzoni’s Langhe Rosso, a back to the genesis of roots nebbiolo highly skilled and deep into the motherlode of many equally appointed Barolo. “Ah well if you knew then, just what you know today,” the divergent paths of Langhe and Barolo may have been very different. Even if some of the Bricco Manzoni’s parts may walk at large the tannin is in your face and ready to rumble. There is a sweetness about the fruit and an oaky layering but darkness never descends upon this wine. It remains bright and alive. It will live for a decade or more. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted September 2016  @RoccheManzoni

juillot

Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, Burgundy, France (473793, $39.95, WineAlign)

The beautiful dichotomous relationship between ripe and juicy opposite firm and sweetly tannic is met in this functional Mercurey, a premier cru of upbeat excellence. Very representative of place because of the grip but it goes light years beyond the lithe and the under-performed. You could pour this for Burgundy label chasers and they would cry sweet Nuits St. Georges. Raspberry and strawberry with plenty of umami minerality and that firm tannin up the back. Really tempurpedic acidity never reacts and always supports. This is a 10-15 year Mercurey. No fooling. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September 2016  @vinsdebourgogne  @BourgogneWines

ham-russell

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (931006, $42.95, WineAlign)

The pattern repeats in HR’s 2015 chardonnay, up there with the Cape’s most elegant and wholly indicative of the Hermanus oeuvre. Ripeness, just a hint of the barrel and windy sunshine locked up in chardonnay that could not come from anywhere but the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. The finish allows for some noted sensations indicative of yeast, warm bread, drawn butter and a golden bathed afternoon. A time to linger and make a polite request of this chardonnay to indicate best show times in the near to not-to-distant future. Though tempting to drink now this will improve and up the elegance factor. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2016  @OliveHR  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA  @hermanuswine

orcia

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Largesse and a firmess of being as per the house style are rampant in Col D’Orcia’s 2010, a wine that reminds me of 1998 and 2000. A wine that will seem lean, mean and terrifying in its youth but will prove everyone wrong when it hits the 12-15 year stride. This is a monster bringing leather and chocolate to the table. It is nearly unapproachable at the present time but you can imagine and embrace the possibility of potential. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted September 2016  @Coldorcia  @ConsBrunello  @DionysusWines

gagliardo

Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2011, Piedmont, Italy (713602, $54.95, WineAlign)

Instinctive, intrinsically essential nebbiolo without any equivocation whatsover. The fruit at the core is the crux and the catalyst to aseemble the forces of Barolo entrance strategy. The floral freshness in potpourri does not concede any more quality than right here. Suave, gentle, restrained and yet so forthright, generous and inviting. The grip is right at the back, in the mouth and on the brain. Diligent, purposed and highly intelligent nebbiolo with decades of future ahead. Drink 2019-2039.  Tasted September 2016  @giannigagliardo  @WineLoversAgncy

ridge

Ridge Geyserville 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (723072, $63.95, WineAlign)

A deep and thoughtful vintage for Geyserville, from plenty of sunshine, deep aridity and top notch acidity. The fruit is wondrous, full of berries in all shades and even some black currants. Shadowing with less chocolate than some this is all about fruit with tannin to structure it for a long haul. So very Geyserville and nothing but pure pleasure in bottle. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @VinoTorino  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

But first, October

steak

L’shanah tova, happy new year, peace, happiness and health to all the members of the tribe out there. New beginnings, sweet and good times to you and yours. I’ve just returned from Italy, specifically Verona and Valpolicella. While I was in transit a new VINTAGES release crept into stores.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

Tuscany, Rioja, Thanksgiving. These are the main themes of the VINTAGES October 1st release. As from me for the first it is Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione that occupies the best sangiovese position in the central thematic. Second comes entry-level excellence from Álvaro Palacios and for the last three, pinot noir from disparate outposts; Sonoma County, the Willamette and Hemel-En-Aarde Valleys. A further 12 recommendations explore 10 regions; South Africa’s Coastal Region, Veneto, Loire Valley, Beaujolais, Alsace, Piedmont, Calatayud, Montagny, Paarl, Arroyo Seco and 14 additional grape varieties; chenin blanc, garganega, sauvignon blanc, gamay, riesling, arneis, garnacha, sylvaner, chardonnay, grenache blanc, picpoul blanc, roussanne and nebbiolo. Something for everyone.

Boschendal Rachelsfontein Chenin Blanc 2015, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (455881, $12.95, WineAlign)

Classic chenin blanc from Boschendal, tart, balmy, savoury, smoky and spirited. Conjures up simple pleasures, breathing and bliss. A morning walk in a glade, a bubbling brook, herbs everywhere, wildlife. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @BoschendalWines  @LiffordON  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada

San Raffaele Monte Tabor Soave 2015, Doc Veneto, Italy (277392, $14.95, WineAlign)

Always a good Soave buy and especially in the ripe and easily commercialized 2015 vintage. In fact this preface is a clear indication for such a wine because it can basically make itself so it smells, tastes and delivers just like itself. Citrus and herbs, Maresina, Pisacan, Sciopeti and then more citrus, followed by a mouth feel with an accent of stone. Delicious little commercial Soave. So correct. Drink 2016-2018.   Tasted September 2016    @RegioneVeneto

versant

Foncalieu Le Versant Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Vins De Pays D’oc, Loire, France (470336, $14.95, WineAlign)

Terrific scintillant of a sauvignon blanc with extract to burn and the gesture of giving generously. Pungency be damned this goes at it with vitality, energy and the great sweetness feigning, peachy sauvignon blanc equalizer. There are few Midi SBs that can both thrill and appease with ease like this Pays d’Oc. Crowd pleaser to pour at weddings and other large gatherings. The finish guarantees success. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @foncalieuwines  @LoireValleyWine  @azureau

aviron

Stephane Aviron Beaujolais Villages 2014, Beaujolais, France (468744, $15.95, WineAlign)

The juicy appeal of gamay. In its purest form it struts and flaunts in full peacock display as in this $16 Aviron Beaujolais. He or she who could not drink a tank full of this BV is missing out on one of the go to pleasures of the wine world. Fresh and outright getable, when risked with a more than slight chill this could do no harm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016 @DiscoverBojo  @Nicholaspearce_

palacios

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (674564, $15.95, WineAlign)

Rioja to grab for, spread out the blanket, pull out the jamon and kick back. Fresh, juicy, slightly smoky and full of nothing but fruit with a quick shake of spice. The simple pleasures provided by Alvaro Palacios at the lowest of low affordability. You can find Rioja with a much greater and historically profound sense of place but it will cost an arm and a leg. And I’m not sure it will get you anywhere. So put aside the serious face and embrace this modish value-driven sketch by Palacios. I too will abide. “It’s not that I care any less for that philosophy, but I would spend one night with you in trade for all that I’ve achieved.” Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @WoodmanWS  @RiojaWine

kuhlmann

Kuhlmann Platz Riesling 2014, Ac Alsace, France (196741, $16.95, WineAlign)

From the cooperative Cave de Hunawihr where the winemaking is overseen by Nicolas Garde here is a typically tart and citrus-driven riesling from alluvial flats. Salinity and a touch of brine with a minor note of spritz makes this nothing but fun. It’s certainly lean and direct but such an Alsace riesling line is fine when done with no agenda in mind. Well made with enough complexity to add five years onto its life. Drink 2016-2021. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted September 2016  @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ChartonHobbs

arneis

Cordero Di Montezemolo Langhe Arneis 2015, Piedmont, Italy (455162, $21.95, WineAlign)

Prodigious and revered producer meets resurrected varietal in this hear me roar and highly expressive roero arneis. From Langhe vineyards in La Morra, Guarene and Govone. The level of extract and texture is elevated to where the grape can go but we so very rarely get a chance to enjoy. This has mineral, loads of mineral, like a chew of rocks in bubble gum form. With this on offer who wouldn’t choose to chew every day. More acclaim for arneis and that makes me smile. The freshness will offer perfect window drinking in years one through three but why not put one or two aside and watch them develop some honey and petrol in years five through ten. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016    @ProfileWineGrp

breca

Breca Old Vines Garnacha 2013, Do Calatayud, Spain (329086, $22.95, WineAlign)

Very floral garnacha from gravelly slate with more than enough blueberry and blackberry to bake into a hundred pies. As per the modern norm this 100 per cent garnacha from typically regional (upwards of 100 year) old vines pushes the scales in extraction, weight and alcohol. If any Aragonese garnacha can handle such largesse it is Calatayud because the combination of gnarly vines and rocky soil gives essential nutrients to fruit for balance. It may only be a distraction but when the wine is polished (albeit sweetly so) the looming alcohol is kept in threaded check. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016  @CSWS_ON  @WinesofGarnacha  @GarnachaOrigen  @docalatayud

wildewood

Wildewood Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon (462994, $23.95, WineAlign)

If mountain herbs and tea could burrow or seep their savoury ways into a Willamette Valley pinot noir this Wildewood would be a viable candidate. It’s a global, pinot from everywhere and for everyone affair in here so call the aromas what you will; fynbos, rooibos, Peloponnese clandestina, wild thyme, rosemary, lavender. So pretty in its sauvage, so suave in its ruggedness. This pinot noir understands what it is saying and selling. Unlike the gritty poet, it is in complete control of its phenolics and its faculties. The palate pales but delivers straight to structure. The aridity and the salinity seal the deal. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016     @Nicholaspearce_

Maison Roche De Bellene Montagny 1er Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (470476, $26.95, WineAlign)

Such thews and texture are wonderful to elevate Montagny and you can tell that important Nicolas Potel time was allocated into turning this into something rocking. Plenty of citrus and wood intertwine in layers of chardonnay flesh. This is quite something. Gregarious, talkative and alive. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @RochedeBellene  @vinsdebourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  @BourgogneWines

sylvaner

Domaine Loew Vérité Sylvaner 2013, Ac Alsace, France (462598, $25.95, WineAlign)

The truth of sylvaner explodes into olfaction with the flats left for others and the slopes of Alsace greasing their way into this wine. A wow factor of 13 on the texture scale brings it here. Oily doesn’t due this sylvaner justice. You could run heavy machinery on this juice. Beyond the oléagineux there is great bite from old wood, tonic from the varietal necessity and bitters so very artisan crafted in nature. More British aperitif than Italian digestif in that sense but strictly Alsatian and in requiem for a match made in Foie Gras heaven. Needs two years to settle. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted September 2016     @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace

avondale

Avondale Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2009, Méthode Cap Classique, Wo Paarl, South Africa (451930, $29.95, WineAlign)

From a farm dating to 1693 purchased by Johnathan Grieve’s family in 1996. Poster bubbles, for the Blanc de blancs habitation and for the Avondale oeuvre, the Armillary sphere, Roman “circle of life” and ancient astronomical instrument used to show the position of stars around the earth. Traditional production, with a kiss of oak and a final act of dosage. Five total years on the lees, including two on coarse and one in bottle. Picking was accomplished at the end of that January, in purpose of stylistic elegance and beautiful bitters born of natural and integrated acidity. Terrific dip of biscuits into honey. Like Baklava in a glass though equally savoury to dessert. Baller bubble, balanced and with the sense to envision evolution, to the look ahead of an adult age. Would retail for approximately $28 CAN. Drink 2015-2027. Tasted twice, May and September 2015  @Avondalewine  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  @RareEarth_Wines

doon

Bonny Doon Beeswax Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2013, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California (95331, $34.95, WineAlign)

The Beeswax Vineyard is not just a pretty face. That this blend reeks of the bee’s work can’t be a coincidence. The ‎Rhône is but a mere smirk or memory here with fruit so ripe and vital you can hear yourself think. Arroyo Seco does cool chardonnay but it works for these varieties in another worldly way; with viscosity and texture. The pitch from the lemon and the flesh of creamy tropical fruits come together with a party gathering crafted tonic. And yet there is this rhythmic, low-toned, folk-roots-blues riff tenderness to Le Cigare Blanc. Really. J.J. Cale (by way of Don Nix) if you will. I’m going Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon, Doon. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016  @BonnyDoonVineyd  @RandallGrahm

ama

Castello Di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Ama has chosen their signature San Lorenzo Vineyard to qualify for Gran Selezione designation, one of three such highest level Chianti Classico produced at the estate. The high Gaiole elevation and argilo-calcaire soil make for a specific style, still deep and mineral but not so much like what happens from sangiovese raised on Galestro or Albarese solis. The liqueur here is a grander kind of sangiovese ooze (with 20 per cent malvasia and merlot), more hematic and of a purity only it can express. There is more liquorice and less leather, more iron and less cherry. Certainly less fruity but not as mineral. Here the umami is conspicuously undefined and so I am oriented to say it is simply San Lorenzo. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2016  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @chianticlassico

ratti

Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2011, Docg Piedmont, Italy (713479, $53.95, WineAlign)

The Ratti Marcenasco is in a league of it own but it shares the club with like-minded nebbioli, wines that steep in tradition and breath an aromatic liqueur only its kind resemble. Deep waters here, always mysterious and hiding sunken treasures. Candied roses and liquid tar, savoury forbidden forests and intricate tannic chains. You have to exercise extreme patience with Marcenasco, avoiding years five to 10 and best to look in at 15. Everything will rise to the surface. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted September 2016    @LiffordON

hr-pinot

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $57.95, WineAlign)

In 2015 the hyperbole of the Hemel-en-Aarde shines bright in magnified reflection with fruit and land combining for full effect. I get cola and beet root in ways I cant necessarily recall from most recent Hamilton Russell pinot noir and I also get depth like I’ve not encountered before. This is a massive expression in 2015, not a gentle one. I imagine the vintage was raging with adrenaline and testosterone so you have to take what is given. A masculine wine is the result, muscular, chiseled and ripped. At present the Hamilton Russell homiletic Hemel-En-Aarde verbiage is a tad evangelical. With such Adonis-like features and marbled structure it will need a few years to recoil, recalibrate and recharge. By next decade it will soften and preach with a bold style yet remain humble enough to change. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016  @OliveHR  @hermanuswine

flowers

Flowers Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (215202, $68.95, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir that is all coastal, from vineyards far and wide but inclusive of some fruit from the Sea Ridge Estate Vineyard. An extreme brightness of being pinot noir with that distinctive Sonoma Coast feigned red candy nose, first raspberry and then strawberry. Exquisitely perfumed and gainfully rendered with mindful, purposed and calibrating acidity, propped up and misty fine. Such effete fruit and unassuming character does not materialize with enough regularity out of these parts. The finesse and fineness of this wine is what California does best when it comes from the heart and not from the hand. Though his chardonnay is otherworldly you just have to appreciate David Keatley’s touch with Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted twice, February and September 2016  @FlowersWinery  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

VINTAGES March 19th beauty is a joy forever

Shanks for the memories

Shanks for the memories

If reporting on the VINTAGES wine release wheel were considered as a species of religious writing, say like Marilynne Robinson in her Emersonian Gilead, then the bi-weekly offer would be like the morning, a splendid dawn passing over each of our houses every two weeks on its path to Ontario wine stores. We the consumer roll out of sleep and into the constant, grandly announced VINTAGES light and we just turn over in it.

Related – The Italian cometh

So every VINTAGES release is in fact the selfsame release, materializing every two weeks and within which everything turns to light. Or like Keats, “therefore, on every (wine), are we wreathing.” The $15 Chenin Blanc, the $24 Méthode Cap Classique and the $58 Pinot Noir, all from South Africa. The $18 and $27 Syrahs, from Chile and France. The $29 Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and the $32 Sonoma Pinot Noir. The $40 Spanish Tempranillo, the $47 Châteauneuf Du Pape and the $57 Haut Médoc. There are many others that might be invited up to the sanctuary in one of the most unconventional conventionally popular wine programs of the 21st Century. Limits must be imposed for reasons 0f space and clarity and so these are the 10 wines on the March 19th altar.

Related – March of the Canadians

Vinum

Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2013, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (739995, $15.95, WineAlign)

Flinty, reductive, lemon scented and weighty Chenin Blanc with just the right amount of strength. A Winery of Good Hope product of master blending by winemaker Jacques de Klerk. Always great value. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @WineryGoodHope  @Noble_Estates  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Ninquén Antu Chilean Mountain Vineyard Syrah 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile (675371, $17.95, WineAlign)

Fathoms of red fruit, tones to match and the unwavering smoky beat of slow meat roasts and smoulders beneath herbal branches. Black olives, their brine and aromatic bark are thrown into the pit. Pitchy tannin and then finally, after the smoke clears, that fruit, unquestioned in its ripeness. A well-crafted and priced Colchagua Syrah that finishes with heaps of tar and tannin. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @WinesofChile  @DrinkChile  @KirkwoodDiamond

Graham Beck

Graham Beck Premier Cuvée Brut Blanc De Blancs 2010, Robertson, South Africa (907568, $23.95, WineAlign)

Robertson Chardonnay with a purpose, a Champenoise intent and success by way of controlled and slow-evolving micro-oxidation. The autolytic effect is one of slow release, the oxidative lean just a tease at present. There is near-ethereal weight (or lack thereof) on the palate and the citrus injects drive and meaning into airy mousse. Some bitters, pith and stone fruit pit add complexity. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @GrahamBeckWines  @Vinexxperts  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Château De L’ou Infiniment Syrah 2012, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, Midi, France  (440610, $26.95, WineAlign)

Massive, brooding, full on chocolate Syrah with enough structure to house an addition with no further need for supports. The cantilever of fruit, wood and grain is synched to impossibly obscene. Can a wine be so bloody versed in the ways of modern Syrah architecture and still achieve balance? With tannin and length to match the effective conclusion here would seem to say yes. That’s the objectivity of assessment. Will it please? You get to answer that. Maybe wait a year to find out. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @ChateaudeLou  @Vins_Roussillon

Clos Henri

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand (675629, $28.95, WineAlign)

Full on flavour wildly maxed out, all in Sauvignon Blanc, with bright acidity, ripe fruit and a mineral quality. Beautiful from start to finish. carrying itself with class and focused, positive direction. Grapefruit is juicy, lemons are preserved and lime is sweet. Very nice. Should age into honeyed territory. For now serve this darjeeling limited SB as a refresher to passengers settling in their cars. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2016  @ClosHenri  @ChartonHobbs   @nzwine

La Crema Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast, California (732040, $31.95, WineAlign)

The brightest red cherries infiltrate the notes in every aspect of this Sonoman crafted from vines in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Los Carneros and Green Valley. Then exhilaration of a great Pinot Noir vintage comes across with mid-palate spice and late structure bite. You can’t deny the quality of 2013 fruit nor can you argue what the winemaker has left for it to pursue. Really good length lines the immediate to near future time frame. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted (from both 375 mL and 750 mL) March 2016 @LaCremaWines  @sonomavintners  @bwwines  @thesirengroup

Muga Selección Especial Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain (712067, $39.95, WineAlign)

A rich, concentrated and effectively tangy Tempranillo, full of cedar, leather and baking spice. The Muga Seleccion Especial straddles the north/south, old school/new class line better than any with one foot mired and the other wired to new social convention. The flavours are flirtatious and yet markedly sunken into the sands of Riojan time. Many grains gather, sift and re-collect to speak of history and filter progress. This drink now Tempranillo will give five years more of elementary pleasure. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2016  @bodegasmuga  @RiojaWine_ES  @Vinexxperts

Château Mont Redon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2011, Ac Rhône, France (959627, $46.95, WineAlign)

Ripe and warm though structure from the outset is a thing in 2011. Mount Redon celebrates firm fruit, tannin and acidity no matter the level of phenolics so in 2011 the all in mentality will carry the torch and send this deep into the next decade. The level of concentration and intention is less than massive but there is decadence to be sure. This is a balanced Chateauneuf with temperament and understanding resting comfortably on its side. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted March 2016  @MontRedonWines  @VINSRHONE  @RhoneWine  @FWMCan

Château Coufran 2005, Ac Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France (446666, $56.95, WineAlign)

Bang on righteous, well made and properly preserved Haut-Medoc that while not inexpensive is a must buy for those who can afford and want to drink older Bordeaux. There is some earthy complexity and cheveux de cheval but there is plenty of brightness and unshaken personality. Does not swagger but rather dances. A show piece for the dinner table without having to raid someone else’s cellar. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @imbibersreport  @BordeauxWines

HR

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2013, Wo Hemel En Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, $57.95, WineAlign)

It’s a funny direction to go, having tasted the 2014 HR back in September, six months ahead of this 2013, but one whiff and I get the feeling the order was pre-ordained for a reason and a purpose. This 2013 needed the extra time. It must have been a demanding drop in its early youth, as it still is, but the fine-grained fruit and even finer tannin can now speak its Hemel-en-Aarde vernacular mind. Only that valley brings this type of sweetness, not sweet, but sweetness. The red fruit, painted ochre and then mineral, juxtaposed, intertwined and bled from the earth. Though the days of $40 and $45 are gone, the price is justified for such Grand Cru South Africa. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @OliveHR  @TrialtoON  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA  @hermanuswine

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Wines of South Africa: It’s the fling itself

High five Sunday, at #winecarboot with @PIWOSA @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada #journeysendvineyards #schapenberghills #sirlowryspass

High five Sunday, at #winecarboot with @PIWOSA @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada #journeysendvineyards #schapenberghills #sirlowryspass

A few weeks ago there was this South African fling in Toronto. Anyone who fancies themselves as anything showed, because everybody was there. Joshua Corea and Archive Wine Bar graciously played host. Cape wine swelled like water and the mass of sommelier humanity flowed like wine.

After we had first returned to Canada from Cape Wine 2015, Will Predhomme and Wines of South Africa Canada’s Laurel Keenan had asked Rémy Charest, Scott Zebarth, Nicholas Pearce and I a question in requiem of some deep Jack Handey thought. Of the bottles we tasted in South Africa, what would we most like to see at a paradigmatic tasting back home? We offered up our lists and many of them were presented at Archive, along with a tumultuous quantity more. The likes of such an amassment had never been seen this side of the great pond. Cape Town loomed in de Chirico casted shadow in the backwater distance, watching, wondering, judging. So I tossed a pondered abstraction out to the winds that drift in the South African wine diaspora. “What page is loomed in the giver?”

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

My mind travels back to the Western Cape. The retrospection remembers wines yet brought to North American light, to intrepid voyages still to disgorge and to stories ultimately untold. Looking back it occurs to me, from a northern point of view, having witnessed and experienced an immersion and exposure into the culture and wines of South African life, that it is not the thing you fling. It’s the fling itself.

It began with the trebuchet. At Journey’s End the Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA) threw a car boot and catapulted some rather heavy objects at targets far away.

The prepossession laid out with tastes of The Drift Farm, The Winery of Good Hope, Glenelly Cellars and Mullineux & Leeu. Later the night begged and belonged to vignerons gathered at Longridge Estate, the following morning a tour of the Franschhoek Motor Museum and a tasting at Anthonij Rupert Estate.

Each of the three days at Cape Wine begat evenings in Cape Town of world’s away preoccupation. Velvet dissident South African Braai at Publik, her majesty’s secret service at Ellerman House and born in the USA-DGB in the Winelands. Events de facto, recondite and unshackled.

Publik, Cape Town

Publik, Cape Town

Then the Canadian boys played cricket with the Swartland cowboys and while our swings looked more like hockey snap shots and our bowls like little league change-ups, in the end we held serve and thankfully no one got hurt. True Swartland smoking at the hands of Callie Louw linked Groot Frankenstein to Barque Smokehouse BBQ.

Cricket adversaries #swartlandswingers

Cricket adversaries #swartlandswingers

A #braai in the hand is worth two in the bush #callielouw #porseleinberg @SwartlandRev #swartlandindependents #swartlandswingers #swartland

A #braai in the hand is worth two in the bush #callielouw #porseleinberg @SwartlandRev #swartlandindependents #swartlandswingers #swartland

An epic 12 hours followed the matches, first with Ken Forrester and a speed tasting across a portfolio shot through the heart with some striking, older bottles. Then the group got down to trials at the Winery of Good Hope with Alex Dale and Jacques de Klerk. Remy Charest, Scott Zebarth, Kler-Yann Bouteiller and Godello helped mix, match, add and subtract percentages of fermented juice to decide upon the blend for the Pearce-Predhomme Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc. Nicholas and Will are now taking orders for delivery in the new year. Then in order, wagyu beef and Radford Dale wines at Ken’s 96 Winery Road Restaurant, World Cup Rugby and Burgundy.

The view from the Winery of Good Hope

The view from the Winery of Good Hope

On the final day we paid a visit to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley along the Hermanus wine route, with a tasting at Bouchard Finlayson and lunch at La Vierge winery.

I tasted hundreds of wines during the eight-day journey around the Western Cape. In due course I will put up tasting notes for as many as possible but for now here are a couple of dozen, specific to and in conjunction with the people and places that hosted us.

The PIWOSA Wine-Car Boot, Journey’s End Winery

The Drift Farm

The Drift Farm

The Drift Wines Year of the Rooster Rosé 2014, Overberg Highlands, South Africa (Winery)

Winemaker Bruce Jack’s 100 per cent shaken, not stirred Touriga Franca was inspired by a trip to the Douro. Rhubarb and salinity rub the ripe fruit in the right way. If 007 were to drink Rosé, this would fit the metrosexual bill. From four barrels. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted September 2015  @TheDriftFarm

Drift Farm The Moveable Feast

Drift Farm The Moveable Feast

The Drift Wines The Moveable Feast 2013, Overberg Highlands, South Africa (Winery)

A blend (that drifts and changes every year) of Malbec and Shiraz with Tannat, Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir. Though the notes are played without excess, the specs ruminate for infinite possibilities, with aspects as from mine run-off, ocean salinity, high body acidity, muted sunshine, rusticity and veneer. Rides a sonic highway, to “crossroads with nothing to lose.” The feast and the famine, a fighter, “put back together by a troubled groove.” From minimalist Hemingway to Foo from Grohl. Get the drift? Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015

The Drift Wines Mary le Bow 2011, Robertson, South Africa (Winery)

A farm-designate red blend (Wildepaardekloof, Langeberg Mountain) built upon Cabernet Sauvignon (38 per cent), Shiraz (31), Petit Verdot (23) and Merlot (8). In ode to the Cockney saint, big Bow Bell and crusader’s crypts. Extended barrel age and the deepest, darkest maturity makes for a brooding red reflective of a Kloof’s tale from a crypt. Not for the faint of red blends. Indeed it trembles with power. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2015

JRN3YS End

Journey’s End Sauvignon Blanc The Weather Station 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWinery, WineAlign)

A product of the first Sauvignon Blanc clones planted in South Africa (next to a weather station). The wine had been bottled less than a week ago so while the pyrazine factor is set to high the equal and mitigating fruit freshness trumps the green. Free spirited, of spice, in bite and quickly settling, into balance. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @JourneysEndWine  @vonterrabev  @colyntruter

Journey’s End Destination Chardonnay 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineryWineAlign)

A nicely, effectively minor reductive Chardonnay that knows the barrel well. Divides by mitosis the cells of mineral and spice into furrows, chiseling a secondary cytokinesis flavour profile in cut by brilliant gemstone flexure. From fruit fracture to cellular overlap, out of (approximately 10 months) wood and into impressionistic stone. Tasting accessed through four stages imagines time to be exigent; through reduction (prophase), oak (metaphase), stone (anaphase) and texture (telophase), until the ultimate descent toward’s the journey’s end. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2015

Journey’s End Trebuchet 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWinery, WineAlign)

Two Cabernets and a Malbec conjoin to catapult funk-less, heavy laden red fruit into an atmosphere of veneer. The flavours are inclusive of pomegranate and anise, with some rust and circumstantial metallurgical magnification. The tang is a factor to be reckoned with in this primeval red blend. Crushes unsuspecting objects upon landing. Let it settle for 12 months. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015

Journey’s End Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineryWineAlign)

A 100 per cent varietal wine from a wind that blew through and away. The child of a markedly perfect vintage blessed with chalk, grit and terroir. Views from within the new barrel have diminished along with once terrible teeth gnashing tannin. At six years-old it sits cross-legged, big-boned, fruit fleshy, structured and sure. The evolution is far from complete with berries seemingly so presently ripe, the late spice and coffee kick making cause for yet jittery times. Two or three more years will offer further guarantees of pay dirt and peace. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2015

Godello, Leon Esterhuizen and Colyn Truter from Journey's End

Godello, Leon Esterhuizen and Colyn Truter from Journey’s End

Glenelly Estate Shiraz “Glass Collection” 2011, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Screw cap Shiraz reason number one here, fresh from Stellenbosch, single-vineyard, whole bunch fermented for aromatics and 10 months in one-third new oak, for maximum flavour. “These wines are to be drunk young,” notes export manager Nicolas Bureau, “within five to six years of the vintage.” And so, why put a cork in them? From the hands of winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain and Secateurs minimal intervention wine consultant Adi Badenhorst. Sparkle, vigour and dew. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @GlenellyWines  @VinexxWine

Glenelly Wines

Glenelly Wines

Grand Vin De Glenelly Red 2009, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (360339, $19.95, WineAlign)

There are components of the Shiraz and the Cabernet in the Grand Vin though its composure comes neither from sparkle nor funk. Nor does it pay direct homage any more to the Rhône than it does to Bordeaux. With time, the Grand Vin will go it alone, from Stellenbosch to the world. Time spent in oak was lengthy (18 months in one-third new) for a blend composed of Syrah (42 per cent), Cabernet Sauvignon (40), Merlot (14) and Petit Verdot (4). The estate clearly considers blends as more than the sum of parts. The Grand Vin is the thing. The Glenelly king. It’s hard to get under its skin, to comprehend its nuance, to know it as a child. The wood, the terroir and the structure yet relent to understanding. A matriarchal wine to be sure, a generation may need to pass for the Grand Vin to carry the torch. The Pichon Longueville connection is not lost or left to chance but this prodigy will need to find its own voice. Red wine of such eternal maturity exists towards a future that begins now. Or on in two to three years. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2015

With Nicolas Bureau, Glenelly Estate

With Nicolas Bureau, Glenelly Estate

Mullineux & Leeu Syrah 2011, Wo Swartland, South Africa (Winery, Agent, SAQ 12490545, $36.00, WineAlign)

Grasps the subterranean funk of the Swartland terroir and runs with in, through fields of atmosphere, in a wholly singular way. A culling combination if shale, schist and granite, brushed by (15 per cent new) oak for 11 months. Pure, natural, fresh and rising, by citrus zest and inflating acidity. The oscillating flavours prick, pierce, push and pull with elemental and mineral inflections. Like a light show in the sky, Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s Syrah is a quiet spectacle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted September 2015  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxChris  @Nicholaspearce_

Mullineux & Leeu Cinsault Rosé 2013, Wo Swartland, South Africa (WineryAgent)

Tangy tangerine, rhubarb and liquid chalk are the emotive emissions from this skin contact blush as much orange as it is pink. Wild in sauvage, perfectly musty, a Rosé of its own accord and spacing within the parameters of its very won world. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted September 2015

Mullineux & Leeu White 2013, Wo Swartland, South Africa (WineryAgentWineAlign)

An old bush vines blend of Chenin Blanc (80 per cent), Clairette Blanc (13) and Viognier, 10 per cent of which was fermented in old oak. A wild and carpeted ride for Chenin Blanc, melding into gentle acidity with layers of smithy portent and even a bit of Greekdom. “The son. And the heir. Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.” There is so much spice and complexity, from the skins of many citrus fruits. Strips, stripes and skirts the mouth with layers of mineral life. How soon is now for wines like these in South Africa and to be shared with the world? Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted September 2015

Mullineux & Leeu Syrah Iron 2013, Wo Swartland, South Africa (WineryAgentWineAlign)

If such cure, grip, ferric grab and intense tannin has ever infiltrated South African Syrah it has not yet found its way over to me. In a side by side comparative tasting with the Schist Syrah this one wrestles to win. The Schist is all perfume and soft elegance. The Iron draws power to strength from strength. It is an unrelenting conduit of energy, from soil clearly designed to outlive humanity. The Syrah is a product of geological wonder and winemaking that steps aside to let the terroir speak its mind. Demanding and filled with tension now, time will soften the stranglehold and loosen the wires. Lots of time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2015

Radford Dale Nudity 2014, Voor-Paardeberg, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

From the Winery of Good Hope, vignerons Alex Dale and Jacques de Klerk. Ancient granite soil from a single-vineyard on Paardeberg mountain. Organic, dry-farmed, total consciousness, flowing robes, grace, striking. Low alcohol, high natural acidity, fresh, spirited, energetic Syrah. Impossible South African Syrah. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @Radforddale  @WineryGoodHope  @deklerkjacques  @Noble_Estates

With the gang from Radford Dale

With the gang from Radford Dale

Radford Dale Black Rock 2013, Perdeberg-Swartland, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

From old bushvine vineyards scattered amongst the granite outcroppings of the Swartland, the blend combines Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier for full Rhône homage, if not necessarily effect or intent. The percentages change with each vintage, left to seek harmony in the hands of master blender de Klerk, a man who plays and has the mandate to do so. Natural fermentations persist, as they should and they rightfully accomplish goals of freshness, natural acidity and that elusive you’re born with cure that extends health and longevity. Modern South Africa of ancient longing here on display is just the tip of the bare essentials, in ferments and blends, yet to come. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015

Working on South Africa with a sundown over Stellenbosch @WOSACanada

Working on South Africa with a sundown over Stellenbosch @WOSACanada

The Stellenbosch Experience, Longridge Estate

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2014

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2014

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

A markedly different and intriguing Chenin Blanc that saw seven to eight months in second and third fill barrels. Well-groomed, direct, crisp, clean and pure within the wooden framework and not even close to flirting with oxidative leanings or an overly creamy texture. A pleaser avec plaisir in excelsior, expression and exemplary restraint. Very tidy winemaking. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @FleurduCapWines

Venison and salted chocolate, Longridge Estate

Venison and salted chocolate, Longridge Estate

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Pinotage 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryAgentWineAlign)

If it was not for this early sip of Fleur de Cap’s Pinotage on the first night of the South Africa trip I’m not sure the doors to new perception would have ever been opened. Fresh, red fruit juicy, base, natural and nearly naked. A step into giving new meaning for the great hybrid history and varietal future. Though other examples over the course of a week would blow my mind, this unfiltered beauty set the altering stage for what was to come. Unexpected excellent match to Venison with salted chocolate. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015

Chenin gem @LongridgeWines & munificent hospitality @StellWineRoute @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada #stellenblog

Chenin gem @LongridgeWines & munificent hospitality @StellWineRoute @WOSA_ZA @WOSACanada #stellenblog

Longridge Estate Chenin Blanc 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent)

Covers the essentials for Chenin Blanc in a Vouvray style; mineral, lemon, bitters and salinity. Emphasizes mastered qualities with proper stability and a strength of character. Will not usher in any sort of revolution but it takes beautifully bitter pear-like fruit from wizened vines and hits the target. And though it spent 11 months in second and third fill barrels you would never know it. A flinty fleeting moment, a slow ride and a shelter from residual sugar that might try to alter its corse. Instead it will munch on that sweetness to live on. Silky smooth, momentarily pungent and refreshing as can be. Stellar Chenin. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @LongridgeWines

Ken Forrester Vineyards Renegade 2011

Ken Forrester Vineyards Renegade 2011

Ken Forrester Renegade 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa (SAQ 10703084 $24.25, Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Mainly Grenache and inculcated with varietal layers thereof, though in the end it is the Rhône blend accrual that bounds over hills and dales. I’m not sure any number of Stellenbosch investigations will unearth more expatriate quality for the coin than is found in the Renegade. A true marker of its maker, The specs are spot on to produce heft, strength and confidence from tireless work. Healthy pH, minimal sweetness, virile acidity and generous alcohol. Like a blood transfusion even though you weren’t sick. Like drinking snake’s blood in grain alcohol on the side of a Hanoi road. Like an hour of intense yoga. Ken Forrester, all in, fully, completely engaged. This red blend speaks in his voice. “Renegade! Never been afraid to say. What’s on my mind at, any given time of day.” It’s no jay but it covers the Stellenbosch bases, from A to Z. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted September 2015

Ellerman House

Godello at the edge of the world #capetown #ellermanhouse #banghoekuncorked #southafrica

Godello at the edge of the world #capetown #ellermanhouse #banghoekuncorked #southafrica

Tokara Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Collection 2014, Elgin, South Africa (Winery, Agent)

From the atmospheric growing conditions of Elgin, the new South African geographical epiphany for the cool-climate varietal future. From the winery’s Highlands farm, transported to Stellenbosch and fermented with tact, cold, stainless, with acidity intact. Tokara’s Sauvignon Blanc is bone dry (near and dear to 2.0 g/L of RS) and a straight piercing heart of an SB as ever there was. Takes the likes of Marlborough and teaches it a thing or two about the coastal ways of the Western Cape. Tasted with viticulturist Aidan Morton. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @TOKARA_ZA

Brandy sculpture @Ellermanhouse @WOSA_ZA #banghoekUncorked #capetown #southafrica

Brandy sculpture @Ellermanhouse @WOSA_ZA #banghoekUncorked #capetown #southafrica

Oldenberg Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

From vines planted in 2006 on alluvial soils. A tight, lean and bracing Chenin Blanc with seamless attribution. Simplicity of fruit meets oak (30 per cent ferment for 10 months in 300L French barrels, 50 per cent new) but somehow freshness wins outright. This in kind to sharp, feisty, sour-edged acidity that is lemon bracing and a linger for a good length of time. Also in spite of generous alcohol (14.11 per cent) and relatively low pH (3.21). Jasmine and honey? “Fields of flowers deep in his dreams (Ha ha, honey), lead them out to sea by the east (Ha ha, honey).” The reminder of Stellenbosch and Chenin Blanc. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @Oldenburgwines  @HHDImports_Wine

Thelema Mountain Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Sparkling generously donated to with agreeable richness from eight year-old vines out of Tukulu soil. Generous of yield (16 t/hL) at low red/yellow saturated slopes near the basin floor. The dosage keeps it comfortably Brut, the acidity cozily numb. Classic bubble methodology, including three years lees aging, in line for such fine elegance. Runs for a straight purpose, of citrus incarnate with a penchant for piercing. In its youth it knows nothing of oxidative and yet that dimension will lengthen its future. For 15 years it will reside in the refreshing valley in between. Though he is a multi-varietal maestro and with no disrespect to the rest of his Thelma and Sutherland portfolios, if Sparkling is not winemaker Rudi Schultz’s true calling then I’ll have to spend three more hours at dinner with proprietor Thomas Webb to find out what is. Drink 2015-2030. Tasted September 2015  @ThelemaWines  @tomwebbsa  @EpicW_S

We've been expecting you, Mr. Bond #ellermanhouse #banghoekuncorked #007 #capetown

We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Bond #ellermanhouse #banghoekuncorked #007 #capetown

Thelema Sutherland Viognier-Roussanne 2012, Elgin, South Africa (WineryAgent, WineAlign)

In the realm of two-thirds to one-third ratio from Seven year-old (at the time) vines grown on Tukulu and Glenrosa soils. The ramp up of Roussanne percentage elevates acidity to balance the richer, broader and wide-ranging Viognier breadth. There is great grape tannin in this Elgin white with healthy yet balanced alcohol, negligent sweetness and that bouncy, bountiful acidity. Lays about happily in a pool of bleed from rock and stone. Possessive of the je ne sais quoi all impressionistic whites must have, vry of the land and tonic attention. In the end bitter grapefruit draws a cheek full of wince and sends goose bumps down the spine. Gotta love that. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015

Panels of terroir @Ellermanhouse Face in the crowd #terroirwall #angustaylor #rammedearth #paulharris #winegallery #capetown

Panels of terroir @Ellermanhouse Face in the crowd #terroirwall #angustaylor #rammedearth #paulharris #winegallery #cape town

DGB in the Capelands

Others would kill for her Pinot fruit and Lizelle Gerber kills it for @BoschendalWines #dgb #DGBinthewinelands

Others would kill for her Pinot fruit and Lizelle Gerber kills it for @BoschendalWines #dgb #DGBinthewinelands

Boschendal Cap Classique Jean le Long Prestige Cuvée Blanc de Blancs, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent)

Chardonnay curried favour from impeccant and licid (2007 base wine) cool climate fruit and then ingratiated by 60 months plus one year on the lees. Of added significance by only having been sulphured at disgorgement. A yeasty B de B of beautifully beckoning oxidation and bone dry at 2.3 g/L of RS. Fizz of finesse and elegance, a feet sweeping, inveigling, influence exerting Stellenbosch cuvée. A skillfully applied mound of preserved lemon and freshly grated wild ginger, piled like airy mousse, or like lustrous wasabi without the burn. Benchmark for the Méthode Cap Classique B de B style. Drink 2015-2027.  Tasted September 2015  @BoschendalWines  @LiffordON  @liffordwine

Cape Oysters Vietnamese #chefswarehouse #capetown

Cape Oysters Vietnamese #chefswarehouse #capetown

Boschendal Cap Classique Grand Cuvée Brut 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

Time is the settler is this Pinot Noir (51 per cent) and Chardonnay (49) of aeration and ripeness from its days as a sun-worshipper. From fruit primarily sourced in Stellenbosch with some help from the Elgin Valley. Disgorged in the Spring of 2014, six months post 36 months on its yeasts have brought it to a very happy place. As it found itself in requiem of a less than Brut profile, the sugar level is higher (7.8 g/L), a munching magic mousse transformative indeed, enacted during secondary fermentation and measured dosage. Distinctly nutty, rich, torch toasty and presented in purview by citrus. For Cape oysters, at the least, or foie gras and with a bowl of salted nuts. Drink 2015-2029.  Tasted September 2015

Boschendal Cap Classique Grand Cuvée Brut 2009

Boschendal Cap Classique Grand Cuvée Brut 2009

Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Elgin, South Africa (WineryAgent)

From the highest of and one of the latest ripening mountain plateau vineyards in Elgin, 500m above sea level and only 18km away from the Atlantic Ocean. The Eikenhof farm offers well-drained Bokkeveld Shale soils and with a healthy yet restrained sugar component (4.4 g/L), here Sauvignon Blanc goes at it rich and grassy, herbal and highly textured. The white pepper olfaction in lieu of capsicum makes a yummo aromatic impression. Here SB executes in expatiated flection, with layers waiting to be peeled away in discovery of what lays beneath. I would suggest not treading near the surface. You will miss out on the mysteries weighted in its depths. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2015

Pork Belly at DGB in the Capelands food truck event

Pork Belly at DGB in the Capelands food truck event

Boschendal Chardonnay 2013, Elgin, South Africa (WineryAgent)

Slow-ripened, low-yielding Chardonnay seasoned from unirrigated mountain slopes of Bokkeveld Shale mixed with some clay. Chardonnay paid attention in detail only a small farm can afford, followed by prudent picking in a warmer than average vintage. The barrel has its say in a heartfelt way, the integration with delicate fruit sprouting wings more effete than mannish. One quarter of the 80 per cent oak ferment is new and the rest either second or third fill. Fresh now, reductive to a necessary degree and built for a minimum five with an optimum seven to eight year shelf life. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015

This guy loves Canada @WOSA_ZA #DGBinthewinelands #foodtrucks

This guy loves Canada @WOSA_ZA #DGBinthewinelands #foodtrucks

Boschendal Pinot Noir 2013, Elgin, South Africa (WineryAgent)

This is the bomb. Lizelle Gerber may be benevolently pegged as the white wine maker at Boschendal but place Pinot Noir fruit from the second highest vineyard in South Africa in her hands and shazam; welcome to the hallowed alchemy payoff. The treatment is not unlike what Gerber effects upon her Chardonnay; 50 per cent natural fermentation, 12 months barrel maturation in (25 per cent) new, (35) second fill, (15) third and (25) fourth French oak. Variability comes by way of heavy red clays, from Table Mountain Sandstone, Bokkeveld shale, Tukulu and Silica Quartz with underlying Caoline clay. So what? Balance, so what. Her Pinot Noir finds separation by soil. The small berries are so prized even the baboons want in. The windswept vineyards are a place of chaste, inviolable grounds, where Pinot Noir needs little human interference save for some predator protection. The gathering here imagines Willamette salinity, Otago purity and Beaune delicacy. Gerber’s Pinot is simple, cast from only overnight free-run juice, unpressed, pitch perfect, virtuous and riddled with the tension of decorum. It will age for 10 years plus. Drink 2015-2025. Tasted September 2015

Good to go!

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Once upon a time in the Western Cape

Cape Wine 2015

Cape Wine 2015

Independents, rebels, rogues, zoo biscuits, risk takers, revolution. Buzz words, gathered sects and constituents of rebellion. Clusters of assemblage ruminating, circulating and percolating at the latest edition of organized wine in South Africa.

Who among us might have foretold in dramatic foreshadowing the story of September’s Cape Wine 2015? Who could have known that the southern hemisphere’s largest gathering of producers, marketers, buyers, sellers, sommeliers and journalists would do more to quell preconceived notions and stereotypes for any wine producing country than any trade show that has come before? Total, utter energy.

PIWOSA

PIWOSA

Centuries ago, when the fishing and trading boats would return west to the Cape they would mistakenly enter the wrong basin. “There’s that confounded bay again,” they would curse. False Bay. During the week preceding and following Cape Wine we climbed aboard cars and vans headed out from Cape Town or Stellenbosch. En route to a farm, estate or winery, more often than not, out the window, there was False Bay, like a magnet, drawing attention, setting and re-setting the excursion compass. As we watched the bay ache into and fade out of view each jaunt-acquiesced day, it just seemed as though we were always heading north and gaining altitude. Not really.

Cape wine country meanderings exist in requiem well beyond points A to B. Directional challenges are inclusive of L-shapes, U-turns and rotations. Lines draw as much east, southeast and northeast as they do falsely north. Journeys always conclude in a valley, at the base of a mountain or in an amphitheatre bound by geological reality. The getting there is often hazy but the arrival always comfortable.

Maybe I’ve a reason to believe 
We all will be received 
In Graceland

South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the wine lands compounded the about-face turn of mind. Tastings, tours and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde saw to that. South Africa is not what you thought folks, but it just might be what you dare to dream. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk.

The frontier is inhabited by cowboys and their multifarious varietal schemes. It’s surfeited by demi-century established Chenin Blanc bush vines, painted pell-mell with expatriate rootstock and cuttings outside the Bordeaux and Burgundy box; Nebbiolo, Barbera, Tinta Barocca, Albarino, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo and Tannat. Nothing is sacred and everything is fair game. Rhône blends are the current rage and Cinsault is going it alone with nothing short of remarkable results.

The Zoo Biscuits

The Zoo Biscuits

Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. The eco-bio movement has challenged the fundamentalist incumbency and forced sweeping reforms. Fresh, natural, orange, caliginous and tenebrous have taken the Cape by storm. Praetorian makers are changing their ways. Pinotage has abandoned decades of Bordeaux wannabe style to once again don bell bottoms and retro suede. In 2015 South Africa, cats and dogs are living together.

Zoo Biscuits poster

Zoo Biscuits poster

Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk. So what? What’s so special about a nation of winemakers who work as one with their soil, their meso-climate and their geology? You’re supposed to intuit those abstracts to make great wine. “You’re supposed to take care of your kids!”

No, what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is the playground mentality and the execution in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect in the vast growing region known as the Western Cape, or in the local vernacular, the Cape Winelands. Any varietal of choice can find its way to achieve perfect phenolic ripeness virtually anywhere the grapes are planted. The mitigating effect of Cape winds eradicates all disease. The place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden. Or, as in the case of the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, a verdant, fertile valley known as “heaven on earth,” the adage takes on the paradisiacal guise of the sublime. South Africa is the wine collective equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes.

Heap big trouble in the land of plenty
Tell me how we’re gonna do what’s best
You guess once upon a time in the west

I will expand, in due course, on all the wines tasted during the eight days I spent in South Africa. A list of top wines and a preponderant unfurling are sure to follow in the form of fifty odd tasting notes. For now I will concentrate, in the name of lede consistency, on the varietal and stylistic revolution taking place.

Swartland Independents

Swartland Independents

The following notes will unquestionably focus on three platoons, Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA), the Swartland Independents and the Zoo Biscuits. The first is a collective of straight-shooting, accordant, premium, independent wine producers from across the diverse wine regions of South Africa’s Western Cape. The second comprises 25 (give or take) cricket playing, indigenous fermenting, Anglikaans-gabbing grape shepherds. The third may draw their name from beloved childhood memories of packaged iced silhouettes of animals on cookies when in actuality they are a gaggle of like-minded, boundary-pushing, fun-loving, serious winemakers.

Suzaan and Chris Alheit

Suzaan and Chris Alheit

Cape Wine 2015 may have seen 300 presenters toting thousands of South African bottles but the swagger of 40 young vignerons stole the proverbial show. They did it with passion, innocence, acumen beyond years and attention to history. They go it alone and with a pack mentality. They care about old vines, tradition and respect for the land but they also have chutzpah. They don’t really give a fuck what the establishment thinks about their winemaking.

Jamie Goode and Godello, CapeWine2015

Jamie Goode and Godello, CapeWine2015

Three days at the Cape Town International Convention Centre allowed for extensive coverage of the South African wine scene. It was a perfectly organized show. Credit begins with the vignerons. Their work is tireless, especially when all must be dropped to focus on all-in, three relentless days of pouring while offering elaborate dissertations about their wines and their place in the South African scene.

At the lead there is Wines of South Africa, headed by Michael Jordaan and Siobhan Thompson, chair and CEO, respectively. André Morgenthal and Laurel Keenan head up communications, marketing, events and PR for WOSA, in South Africa and in Canada. The show and the excursions around the Cape Winelands were made possible by their collective efforts. Their immense efforts and impeccable work can’t ever be overestimated

Chenin Blanc

No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of Chenin Blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Chenin Blanc Skin Contact 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

It begins with viticulturist Rosa Kruger and the cleanest fruit this side of Matroosberg Mountain. Vigneron and winemaker Chris and Andrea Mullineux use egg inversion to press and skin contact lasts for three months. This plus old barrels hyper-intensify umami; part bread dough, some pine forest, all wild yeast and a hint of Matsutake mushroom. The meld into acidity is a wild carpeted Chenin ride. Exhibits layers of Greekdom, in spice and complexity. The long inosinate to guanylate finish arrives and lingers in thanks to the scraped skins of many citrus fruits. They strip, stripe and spank the mouth. The spirited lashing and accumulated bejewelling is a sign of spiritual and plentiful life. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @MullineuxWines @MullineuxChris  @SwartlandRev

A A Badenhorst Wines

A A Badenhorst Wines

A. A. Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, SAQ 12135092 $18.05, BC $23.00, WineAlign)

From Adi Badenhorst, old bushvines planted in the 1950’s and 1960’s and whole bunch handled with no crushing or de-stemming. Fruit is transferred to concrete and 500l old foudres. The simple, minimalist approach and lots of less stirring, leading to great texture, right up there with the most complex Chenin. Also possessive of the righteous level in bitters, intense citrus and bookworm herbology. Lucent, lambent, capable Chenin Blanc. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @AABadenhorst  @SwartlandRev

Riesling

Not exactly household or predominant by any stretch of the imagination, Riesling does play a bit part in the white idiomatic presentation of South African wine. With the emergence of Elgin as a cool climate growing area capable of expertly ripening both aromatic and aerified varieties, the future will crystallize with more Riesling, Gewürztraminer and offshoot concepts.

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2013, Elgin, South Africa (Winery, LCBO 500396, $23.00  WineAlign)

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this Riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry Riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African Riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for Riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @paulcluverwines  @PIWOSA

White Blends

A category not to be taken lightly, what with so many varieties available to work together and with the idea of appellative blends not necessarily so far off or far-fetched. Chenin Blanc is most certainly the pillar and the rock with support ready, willing and applicable from Clairette Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Semillon, Roussane, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Colombard.

Duncan Rall

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines White Coastal Region 2014 (Winery)

A contiguous king blend of Chenin Blanc with Verdelho, Chardonnay and Viognier from vineyards allowing for increased production year after year. Natural fermentations acquiesce varying degrees and species of spiced dipped flowers set upon expressions of lees. The Chenin is 41 year-old Swartland (Paardeberg) fruit with Stellenbosch (Bottelary and Helderberg) quartz soil Chardonnay and Verdelho. Anise, star anise and pure white stone groove me in a gather of complimentary and controvertible Chenin (and friends) complexity. “Uhh! Awww, sookie sookie now!”  @SwartlandRev

Other White

What obscure or less heralded white grape variety would you like to play with? Ask the Cape winemaker that question and he or she might keep you awhile. The rules again need not apply. Spin the wheel and work your magic. Odds are at even that a handful of least employed Châteauneuf and/or Gemischter Satz varietal wines show up at a CapeWine Fair sometime soon.

Cederberg Bukettraube 2014, Cederberg Mountains, South Africa (Winery, Agent, WineAlign)

David Nieuwoudt’s Dwarsrivier rare take on the cultivar (less than 77 hectares of vines remain planted worldwide) is a wine with altitude and attitude. Cederberg is one of only three South African farms in kind of these vines in Glenrosa and sandstone soils on the escarpment atop the Cederberg Mountains. Natural sugar of 25 g/L from the arrested ferment is toothsome in a next to Spätlese way, though the citrus and herbal crasis separates this from Riesling. What brings it circling again is the formidable acidity, circulating and rounding up, culminating in a viscosity and a palate coating that ends with none word. Delicious. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @Cederseun  @imbibersreport  @PIWOSA

Cinsault

There was a time when all South African Rhône varietal wines needed to be compared to the mother land and many continue to encourage the adage “you can take the varieties out of the Rhône but you can’t take the Rhône out of the varieties.” The modern Cinsault maker has turned expatriate exploits on its axiomatic head. You’ve not likely had your way with these versions of Cinsault and like me, once you have, you may never go back.

Radford Dale 'Thirst' Cinsault and Gamay Noir

Radford Dale ‘Thirst’ Cinsault and Gamay Noir

The Winery of Good Hope Radford Dale Cinsault ‘Thirst’ 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

If the Thirst Gamay from vignerons Alex Dale and Jacques De Klerk is “a live rock concert rather than a manufactured, boyband studio album,” the carbonically macerated Cinsault is weekend long palooza replete with music, clowns, acrobats and roaming minstrels. The wonders of natural, nouveau Gamay are well known but the natural fermentation application on Cinsault goes funky, wild and complex in a whole other attitude. Chilled properly this Thirst adds a Mad max factor to the circus, tannins even and most certainly an explosive grit. If the Gamay is smashable, the Cinsault is obliterateable. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @Radforddale  @WineryGoodHope  @Noble_Estates  @PIWOSA

Syrah

The globe trekking grape has been backed into a corner, with blood primarily spilled at the hands of big box Australian producers but some blame has also circulated South Africa’s way. Heavy petting, elevated heat and alcohol, street tar and vulcanized rubber have combined in resolute, culprit fashion to maim the great variety. As with Cinsault, but in an entirely more mainstream way, the fortunes of Syrah are wafting in the winds of change. Natural fermentations, some carbonic maceration and especially prudent picking from essential Syrah sites are turning the jammy heavy into the genteel and dignified wine it needs to be.

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Journey’s End Syrah ‘The Griffin’ 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, AgentWineAlign)

The ’12 signifies a departure and a new style for the winery and for Syrah in the Cape. Some (three weeks) of carbonic maceration leads to a dichotomous passion play in which the middle romance is acted out in seven barrels for 18 months of (70 per cent American and 30 per cent French) oak. It’s as if the grapes are shocked into an awakening and then slowly brought down to calm. As if the fruit develops a protective shell, protected from and coerced by and with ushering along by slow motion micro-oxidation. This is Syrah void of cracked nut, pepper, veneer and big league chew. It’s a terribly beautiful experiment, the Syrah equivalent of similar function world’s away, done with Chardonnay, in Orange and all the while with natural yeast that sling the fruit to destinations previously unknown. At least around here. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @JourneysEndWine  @colyntruter  @vonterrabev  @PIWOSA

Callie Louw's smoker

Callie Louw’s smoker

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

They call Callie Louw a lekker ou. Having played on his side and under his tutelage for a bowl and a bat or two, I can concur. He is a nice guy. Having eaten his smoked pork shoulder, brisket and wings, I can tell you that he is a master smoker. Having tasted his ’13 Syrah twice, I can also say he is a great winemaker. Louw is proficient at many things, including cricket and smoking Swartland’s best BBQ. Making Syrah from the schist soils of Riebeek Kasteel is his true calling and with thanks to Marc Kent (of Boekenhoutskloof) he is able to work with some of South Africa’s best fruit out of one of its harshest climats. Picked fruit is left to its own devices, 40 per cent in concrete eggs and 60 in larger foudres. I’d hate to smack a natural sticker on this one because it resides outside the realm of labels, generalizations and uneventful stipulations. It has killer tannins and the legs to walk the earth. What else do you need to know? Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted September 2015  @SwartlandRev

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013

Pinot Noir

The future for Pinot Noir is bright beyond the pale, with certain exceptional growing sites producing varietal fruit so pure and of ripe phenolics as profound as anywhere on the planet. A few producers have found their way. More will follow and when they do, South Africa will begin to tear away at the market share enjoyed by the likes of New Zealand and California.

Blackwater Wines

Blackwater Wines

Blackwater Wines Pinot Noir Cuvée Terra Lux MMXI 2013 (Winery)

Winemaker Francois Haasbroek is not merely on to something. He has it figured out. The elegance of his wines (sourced from vineyards across the Western Cape) share a strong affinity with one another. In a consistently distinguished line-up this Pinot Noir may not be his most accomplished but it is his most definitive bottle. From three Elgin Vineyards this spent 18 months in older 225L barrels and help me if this does not purely express the humanity of Pinot Noir. Oh, the natural funk of Elgin, where Pinot Noir need be embraced and fostered. Not unlike Haasbroek’s Syrah, the sweetness is impossible, the imagined imaging haunting and asomatous. With time the true luxe will emerge, in the form of mushroom, truffle and candied cherry. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @Blackwaterwine  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Pinotage

For so long we ignorant, pathetic and far away people knew not from Pinotage. We imagined its machinations through, by way of and expressed like espresso, forced and pressed with nothing but wood in mind. That the grape variety could have a personality bright and friendly was something we had no reference from which to begin. A visit to the Cape Winelands re-charts the compass and the rebirth is nothing short of born again oenophilia. The new Pinotage may be what it once was but it is also what it can never be again.

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Pardelbosch Pinotage 2014

David and Nadia Pardelbosch Pinotage 2014

David and Nadia Paardebosch Pinotage 2014, Swartland, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

From parcels of the highest possible elevation and black rock that imparts swarthy tannin on a frame of alcohol sharpened at 12.5 per cent. Nothing short of stunning aromatics. Whole bunch fermentation, three weeks of skin contact and minimal punch downs are directed with pinpoint precision to what Pinotage should and simply must be. Fresh, lithe and promising. Good-bye Pinotage being Pinotage. Hello Pinotage in pure, honest perfume. Older oak barrels (4th, 5th and 6th fill) round out the texture, amplify the arroyo seco and excellence washes through, with simple acidity and riverine length. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015 @DavidandNadia  @SwartlandRev

Red Blends

The sky is the limit for what can be attempted and achieved with the varietal kitchen sink of availability. In consideration that any red variety can scour the Cape Winelands in a journeyed search for phenolic ripeness, a prudent pick, ferment (or co-ferment) will certainly, invariably conjoin towards assemblage nirvana. Rhône styling is most often mimicked, from both north and south but OZ indicators and even California flower child prodigies are both seen and heard. There is no tried and true in this outpost of red democracy. In the case of Cape wine, anarchy rules and there is really nothing wrong with that.

Sheree Nothnagel, Wildenhurst Wines

Sheree Nothnagel, Wildenhurst Wines

Wildenhurst Red 2012, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Shiraz (62 per cent) co-fermented with Viognier (5) is joined in rank by Mourvèdre (33, though is some years it’s Cinsault) in an unembellished red that not only lies back but rises in free spirit. A red to express the personality of its maker, Sheree Nothnagel. Silk and lace, cure and mace, spice and so many things nice are the aspect ratios of a very natal wine, like a prevailing wind. A real stretch in tannin, sweet and smooth of grain leads to length, from Koringberg to the slopes of the Picketberg and Paardeberg mountains. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @WildehurstW  @ShereeNothnagel  @SwartlandRev

The wines of Duncan Savage

The wines of Duncan Savage

Savage Wines Follow the Line 2014 (Winery)

The Western Cape has likely never seen such polish and precocious affinity with its varied soils as it has or likely soon will when Duncan Savage is making wine. The blend of Cinsault (58 per cent), Grenache (21) and Syrah (21) is predominantly Darling grapes and shows a deeper, funkier understanding of Cape soil. Bright red cherry fruit supports life on this brooding planet and propagation is furthered with cinnamon-like spice and a purity for supplementary red fruit so direct and so very pure. The wine’s moniker comes from the farming expression “follow the line.” All rows lead to the farmhouse, eventually.  All winemaking roads in the Cape will lead to the name Duncan Savage or at least involve him in the conversation. He is the farmhouse. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam and Cartology

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam and Cartology

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Days of Yore 2014 (Winery, WineAlign)

Chris Alheit’s brand might allude to a chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers but Days of Yore must pay some homage to the 80’s thrash metal band and with great irony. This Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault blend is no Doomsday for the Receiver and certainly No Place for Disgrace. What it is instead is pure liquid brilliance. Old 1960 Cabernet Sauvignon bush vines are (even if unintentionally) farmed the way they used to be, back in the days of yore. Now cropped, tended and produced in pitch perfect cure, the resulting wine (when Cabernet is blended with Albeit’s dry-farmed, stomped and tonic-singular Cinsault) shows smoky depth and musicality. Sour-edged or tart can’t begin to describe the tang. It’s something other, unnameable, sapid, fluid and beautiful. It brings South Africa from out of the heart of its wayfinding darkness. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisAlheit  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Other Red

Momento Wines

Momento Wines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2013, Bot River, South Africa (Winery)

From a south-facing, 40 year-old, one and a half hectare vineyard in Bot River that Marelise Niemann convinced the farmer not to rip out so that she may continue to produce some 2,000 bottles of a variety you can’t really find or are want to grow anywhere else. This has been a small love affair since 2007 with this block. “My child, my charity case,” she admits.  I am not sure I tasted any other wine in South Africa with such fresh, pure, unspoiled innocence as this Tinta Barocca. “You have to have a connection to the vineyard. To guide it.” The underlay of perspicuity is a streak provided by Bokkeveld shale. The clarity of red fruit and deferential tannin is too sacred to spit, too beautiful to spill and too genteel to waste. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Godello and Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Godello and Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Good to go!

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