Seeing Western Cape stars: A guide to Cape Wine 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Regenerative and creative farming, old vines, new frontiers, 80 recommended current releases and braai brekkies

The phenomenon known as “seeing stars” is a common description for disturbances of vision, in seeing bands of light, prisms, sparks or flashing lights. The scientific name is photopsia, a fleeting state most often caused when temporary pressure is placed on the eye, like what happens when you sneeze or bump your head. Seeing stars has also become a symbol of positivity, happiness or renewal. A recent trip to South Africa’s Cape Wine 2022 brought about the literal meaning of the saying as it pertains to celebrity. Wine celebrity that is — and while most Cape personalities carry themselves in complete opposite character to that of an Afrikaans bekende persoon (famous person), their wines on the other hand might bring on that condition called photopsiaThe individual flashes of light called phosphenes may cause dreaminess, giddiness and being weak in the knees. Spend nearly two weeks in South Africa for the Cape Wine fair and you are more than likely to find yourself seeing Western Cape stars.

Related – What comes next for the wines of South Africa?

Old Vines FMC Vineyard, Stellenbosch

The Old Vine Project

In today’s Western Cape, discussions must begin with the entity known as The Old Vine Project. Over the past 20 years viticulturalist Rosa Kruger has focused on discovering, classifying, cataloguing and certifying heritage vineyards. It was a great pleasure to chat with Kruger at a Wines of South Africa ceremony and tasting at Cape Wine 2022, which celebrated her 2022 Decanter Hall of Fame Award. And also with the legend André Morgenthal, orchestrator of the tasting of old vines wines. It is remarkable to see how many estates and producers have come on board — to celebrate and show off the wines they are making from 35-year-old (and older) dry-farmed bush vines. Many vines are even pushing or exceeding the century mark.

He is in fact larger than life – André Morgenthal, The Old Vines Project

“The old method is always the best, because…how did it get so old?” The words of La Motte’s Edmund Terblanche — and yet South Africa is really all about balancing the past with the present. This is why the PIWOSA group — Premium Independent Wines of South Africa — chose the thematic “something old and something new” for their event at Klein Constantia. Old will always be new again, reiterates Andrea Mullineux when she describes the Leeu Passant Old Vine Cinsault Lötter as “a national monument — that must be ripened. Either that or it’s sauvignon blanc and apricots.” Or worse — just apricots.

Preservation is key to the South African wine industry and heritage sites are the assets and the advantage. Chris Alheit is adamant about protecting heritage sites. “I mean, how can you not see this as a Cape treasure? As an ancestral site?” Thus, Alheit’s sémillon, once called La Colline, is also worthy of “monument” status — and though it may not seem to represent the literal definition of a “memorial stone or a building erected,” it does pay homage “in remembrance of a person or event.” In this case, the farmer — and every season of sémillon attempting to seek its fruition for the past 85 or more. Francois Haasbroek of Blackwater uses the term zeitgeist and, yes, the definition is equivocated through the idea of Western Cape single-vineyard wines from off the beaten path, small-parcel sites.

John Szabo MS, Roas Kruger, Godello and the photo bomber

So why are old vines important? Simply put, they are valued for acumen and complexity. They have moved past the imbalance and gawky stage, having achieved life experience, and now possessing profound things to say. Ten years ago, the Old Vine Project considered one per cent of planted vineyards as old, but the truth is 50 percent of old vineyards can be rejuvenated. Most are set into decomposed granite soils, in some instances colluvial as well. These tracts are really old and weathered, predating microbial life. The vineyards dot a landscape occupied by granite plumes exposed above the surface; where below the surface magma cooled ever so slowly and so there is now much more diversity in the life and texture of the rock. Some will wonder how the wines grow on the granite. Physically, the decomposed granite is very friable, and the soils are sandy, two to three meters deep. Roots can dig down, resulting in a bigger canopy — and under that dappled light (as opposed to daytime/nighttime sun), the grapes are able to retain acidity.

Related – Searching for great heart in South Africa

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc and decomposed granite soils

The artist formerly known as Steen, now simply “chenin,” is as complex as chardonnay, with acidity like sauvignon blanc but never searing. For a passionate winemaker like Andrea Mullineux, the grape holds nostalgic qualities. In the Western Cape there are 17,000 hectares planted, more than double that of the Loire. From the 1960s to the ’80s, Lieberstein (a mass market, kitsch wine that launched a sort of South African renaissance) was the most successful wine brand. So much so the government put out a call to plant more chenin in the 1990s.

“When you have old bush vines, you’re going to get chenin blanc that harnesses sunlight, a thickening of the skins and an accumulation of full phenolic character — a taste of sunshine,” says Mullineux with that wry and sly smile. “Granite is the only soil that can give you this super reductive style with great energy,” explains Donovan Rall, who picks his chenin blanc early. “What we learned through the drought years is you don’t have to pick things as you were traditionally taught.”

Andrea and Chris Mullineux

As for recent vintages, 2019 had warm days and cool nights, allowing vines to relax and recover acidity. Then 2020 was very temperate with little diurnal temperature fluctuation, leading to quick yet relatively even ripening. In 2021 the season was cool but dry, though not with drought-like conditions seen in 2018. Veraison only finished in the second week of — quite opposed to previous years when picking was completed by the second or third weekend of that month. Yet 2021 allowed for more precision picking and quite a relaxed harvest.

In 2021 and 2022, vineyards in the Swartland achieved that elusive ideal of full phenolic ripeness. “We say phenolic ripeness, but we call it psychological ripeness,” notes Mullineux. “At least with respect to basing on numbers.” The ripening schedule follows a path starting in Roberston (which is inland), followed by Paarl, Franschhoek and the Swartland, then the coastal regions with Stellenbosch being one of the last, just ahead of Elgin, Wellington, Hermanus and Hemel-en-Aarde.

As for the Hemel-en-Aarde and chardonnay, Chris Albrecht from Bouchard Finlayson indicates that elevation on their side of the valley where fog and humidity settle at the lower levels play a direct role in viticulture and especially the ripening seasoning. Shallow shale soils overlaid with heavy clay is also a factor in determining grape maturity. The Valley has a plateau with an underbelly delivering unique sets of tannin, structure and acidity that, when mixed with sandstone and clay soils, makes for this aspect of how chardonnay sets up for individualistic display.

Related – Memories of South Africa in 60 notes

Fynbos, Vergelegen, Stellenbosch

The venn diagram of organic, biodynamic, sustainable and regenerative farming

Soils in South Africa are ancient and varied. There are three main types along with derivatives:

  • Decomposed granites (oakleaf, tukulu, hutton and clovelly)
  • Malmesbury, bokkeveld or witteberg shale (glenrosa, swartland, klapmuts and estcourt)
  • Table Mountain sandstone (fernwood, longlands, westleigh and dundee)

Still other soils are major contributors to farming styles and the wines they beget. Alluvial, koffieklip, silica quartz, kaolinite clay, river gravels, klipheuwel conglomerates and shales, limestone and malmesbury clay are but a few. Then there are the plutons, dome-like intrusions of igneous magma into the earth’s crust which occurred at great depths and consequently cooled slowly, resulting in a coarse crystalline (granitoid) texture. These plutons have subsequently been exposed by erosion, resulting in mountains or hills such as those in Paarl and Perdeberg and the hills in Darling. In some cases, the exposed domes have been flat-topped by erosion and then covered with sandstone deposits, and have then again been eroded, resulting in sandstone on a granitic base, such as can be found in the Table and Simonsberg mountains. We must also point out the incredible Breede River Region’s characteristic calcareous loam soils and their association with bokkeveld and witteberg shales, dwyka tillite and enon conglomerate. In this part of the Cape it is Malgas that is the only South African wine area with significant alkaline soils.

Johan Reyneke, Stellenbosch

Between the 1970s and ’90s, many of the old vineyards in the fancy regions like Stellenbosch and Costantia were ripped out to plant cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. This was not the case in the “sleepy” Swartland where many old vines, especially of the bush variety, remained untouched. Today a less obtrusive pruning method is employed on “goblet,” which means smaller canopies, lower yields and less water requirements. This method reduces susceptibility to wood rot and also Esca, one of the complex of “trunk diseases” (along with Botryosphaeria dieback, Eutypa dieback, and Phomopsis dieback) caused by wood-infecting fungi.

Between the 1970s and ’90s, many of the old vineyards in the fancy regions like Stellenbosch and Costantia were ripped out to plant cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. This was not the case in the “sleepy” Swartland where many old vines, especially of the bush variety, remained untouched. Today a less obtrusive pruning method is employed on “goblet,” which means smaller canopies, lower yields and less water requirements. This method reduces susceptibility to wood rot and also Esca, one of the complex of “trunk diseases” (along with Botryosphaeria dieback, Eutypa dieback, and Phomopsis dieback) caused by wood-infecting fungi.

“We’re figuring this out and it’s getting fun now,” says Callie Louw. But Louw is the anti-hero, the man who focuses on one large entity. “Working with all these little bits of grapes here and there is not sustainable,” he says, and so 90 hectares produces 850 tonnes of grapes with 85 per cent going into (Boekenhoutskloof) Chocolate Block. “We don’t need to offset climate change with varietal adaptation. We just need to farm better. The problem doesn’t go away. Cover cropping, activate your place, get things growing, the whole profile is run in the top four inches. Below is the bank, the reservoir, the thing that makes the money is on top. Stop tilling! Leave that stuff on the top of soil. It just burns. Keep the active things alive. Increase the carbon in your soil by one per cent and the water will increase by 50.”

With Callie Louw, Porseleinberg

At Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West it is environmental manager Eben Olderwagen who shows how abrasive yellow vine trunk wraps are employed to repel geckos and slugs in lieu of spaying. This sustainability action is part of Vergelegen’s track record as a wine estate renowned for its biodiversity and commitment to environmental sustainability. (Vergelegen is owned by mining company Anglo American.) The recent completion of an extensive programme to rehabilitate eroded watercourses is now the stuff of Western Cape legend. Five sites saw the removal of invasive alien species like Blue Gum trees (between 2004 and 2018) and the replanting of some 15,000 indigenous plants that were housed temporarily while the programme was underway. The 12 million Rand project has saved rehabilitated wetlands and Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos vegetation, which could have been badly affected by sediment washing onto the area. In addition, it has halted sediment contamination of the Lourens River, part of which runs through the estate. Rare vegetation discovered by botanists on the property thought to be extinct has been preserved within the hills and valleys of the 2,000-hectare nature preserve. In 2009 a major fore swept through and burned much of the vegetation, but this is actually beneficial to the fynbos which needs a good burn every 12-15 years for proper rejuvenation. No municipal water is used on the property as water from the Helderberg Mountain is captured in two damns. Vergelegen lays claim to now being the most leaf-roll virus free in the Western Cape.

Johan Reyneke

At Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West it is environmental manager Eben Olderwagen who shows how abrasive yellow vine trunk wraps are employed to repel geckos and slugs in lieu of spaying. This sustainability action is part of Vergelegen’s track record as a wine estate renowned for its biodiversity and commitment to environmental sustainability. (Vergelegen is owned by mining company Anglo American.) The recent completion of an extensive programme to rehabilitate eroded watercourses is now the stuff of Western Cape legend. Five sites saw the removal of invasive alien species like Blue Gum trees (between 2004 and 2018) and the replanting of some 15,000 indigenous plants that were housed temporarily while the programme was underway. The 12 million Rand project has saved rehabilitated wetlands and Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos vegetation, which could have been badly affected by sediment washing onto the area. In addition, it has halted sediment contamination of the Lourens River, part of which runs through the estate. Rare vegetation discovered by botanists on the property thought to be extinct has been preserved within the hills and valleys of the 2,000-hectare nature preserve. In 2009 a major fore swept through and burned much of the vegetation, but this is actually beneficial to the fynbos which needs a good burn every 12-15 years for proper rejuvenation. No municipal water is used on the property as water from the Helderberg Mountain is captured in two damns. Vergelegen lays claim to now being the most leaf-roll virus free in the Western Cape.

Chenin Blanc, Reyneke

“Land caring, land sharing and making quality wine” is Reyneke’s tripartite platform and both story and also that of the cows is like a tree with different branches. The animals graze in high density, moving throughout the year from block to block. They graze and return microbes back into the soil, through their waste and create humus. Vines are fed by this regenerative activity. Dandelions are planted to attract pests so they will leave the vines and roots alone. Downy mold is managed with metabolic enzymes of copper, not always successful on its own but fighting alongside the humus offers a much better chance of control. Not to mention brix levels are raised because of this type of farming. Land sparing essentially means that if you have ecologically endangered endemic plant species you must leave them to live in conjunction with your vines. Don’t reduce them. And for goodness sakes don’t till.

Thankfully by this point roughly 90 percent of farmers in the Western Cape have converted to no-tillage systems to improve the efficiency of crop production. Reyneke also plants new vineyards on contoured angles to control winter water flow but also erosion so that the flow will reach the property’s two dams. There are the fynbos “corridors,” between the blocks to allow wild animals a chance to remain in nature. This all adds up to creative farming mixed with regeneration and sustainability. The first seven years of this policy have all been about renewing the soils and each year the goal is to plant between five and seven new hectares, with 30 on schedule to go in over the next five years. “It begins with organics (which is sustainable), then graduate to biodynamics (which is self-sufficiency) but there is a constant struggle between caring and common sense.”

In other words decisions have to be made, economic ones, to support family, workers and the farm. “People have different tools during different epochs to deal with reality. Science is not about being certain and sometimes it’s about being doubtful. I’m never sure 100 per cent.”

These are the words of Jolandie Fouché of Wolf and Woman Wines: “As shared custodians of the lands that house these vineyards, we also ensure that we partner with growers who farm sustainably in order to produce top-quality grapes without compromising the environment, and the vineyards themselves, in the long run.” And there is Marlise Niemann who recreates the taciturn through gestures so befitting her Momento wines. They like so many of the Western Cape endure for their balance between place and adventure, as well as remaining grounded through their maker’s independence and relationship with the tracts they choose to interpret.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

Agulhas

Appellative blends in red and white

There are reasons why many Western Cape winemakers increasingly turn to accounts spoken in stacked varieties through appellative blends. Not because it can be a French thing to do in the ways of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe but because it makes for wines possessive of immense character.

“We need these wines and to pay a lip service to them is essential,” says Adi Badenhorst. “As a winemaker or in any homestead job you are always influenced by where you grew up and who you worked with. In the Swartland these are the varieties that were there.” Badenhorst’s ideas are echoed and expanded upon by Duncan Savage. “All the wines are directly connected to their sites,” he says. “That shouldn’t change too often. The farms are big here so you can’t afford to own 50 hectares.” Thus, a winemaker and producer like Savage picks their plots and develops their relationships with their fruit over long periods of time.

After the Cape Wine trade fair, we rode over dirt and dust to what felt like The Western Cape’s version of the outback, to arrive near Malgas up above the Breede River just 15 kilometres in from the Indian Ocean at South Africa’s most southern tip. This is the remote and “insane” home of Sijnn Wines (pronounced “sane”) where visionary David Trafford saw the future a few hours away from Arniston and Cape Agulhas. The beautifully shaped and hued river stones (aka, puddings) and Bokkeveld Shale are perhaps the world’s greatest impetus for developing Rhône varieties à la Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe.

Yet this is South Africa and so chenin blanc, verdelho, touriga nacional, trincadeira and cabernet sauvignon also thrive despite the poorest of soils. Winemaking in the hands of Charla Bosman sees a prodigy and savant at one with the land so that the progression from 2015 vintage through wines resting in barrel today may as well be a decades long discovery.

Related – Welcome to South Africa’s Capelands

With Charla Bosman

Why South African producers must sell their wines abroad

There can be no begrudging people who might imagine South Africa as a growing area of sunshine, heat, and potentially high-alcohol red wines. That is why they must be shows how so many phenolically ripe red wines lock in at a low, low 11.5 to 12.5 percent alcohol that seemingly only the Western Cape can affect for grape varieties like cinsault and grenache.

“I’ve never worked with conversion rates this low,” says Donovan Rall, and his cinsault is a testament to the excellence and magic of vintage. “With no compromise to flavour, tannin, acidity and length.” The low alcohol at 11.8 is brilliant, as no push to ripeness was needed to achieve these heights. Mick and Jeanine Craven manage to create this impossibility with cabernet sauvignon, while still delivering ripeness, generosity, and peace of mind. Another bit of voodoo magic from a place and a maker that knows what’s what.

Cape Town

The need to export, to reach as many new customers in as many countries as possible is the challenge for South Africa’s producers. The Cape Winelands are oceans and continents away from most markets and that remains a serious obstacle, not to mention being situated at the southern-most tip of Africa. The isolation was devastating during Covid, compounded by governmental decisions rooted in prohibition, isolationism, and fear. But the world has re-opened to South Africa and seeking representation beyond Europe is necessary, including finding markets in Canada.

Says Eben Sadie: “There is now a healthy competition between producers. There are vineyards that I planted 10 and 15 years ago that I can now say great things about. It’s in the glass. It’s kind of our time now. We have 3,000 people in this country buying fine wine. Guys who are willing to pay $50 to $60 a bottle for wine. We are all selling locally to the same group of guys. The local market is brutal.”

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

How the Western Cape was won

Cape Wine 2022 was my third trip to South Africa’s winelands between 2015 and 2022. That first congress in 2015 opened my eyes to the possibilities of a wild west experience where the planet’s most ancient soils and geography were able to host grape varieties from all over the world. It seemed like anything could ripen anywhere agriculturalists chose and winemakers wished for. Three years later it was understood that what and where you plant was the key to producing great wines of a sort being made nowhere else in this world. This last journey changed everything again and now it is the coalescence of heritage vineyards, magical conversion rates, sustainable and regenerative agriculture that separates South Africa from all the rest. The Western Cape may be an isolated wine industry and exporting the most challenging of any wine producing nation, but these wines must make it onto our shores. They are too good to miss, not just a handful but hundreds of outstanding examples. Quality has risen exponentially, virtually across all places of origin, including new frontiers. The stars are out, and they are aligned.

Braai Brekkies, Franschhoek

Godello’s 80 recommended current releases

Cap Classique

Anthonij Rupert L’Ormarins Cap Classique Blanc De Blancs 2017, WO Western Cape

Drought vintage no matter nor adversity for this 100 per cent chardonnay aged four and a half years on the lees. Palate presence and texture synthesis but also a really sharp bubble of aromatics in lemon zest, ginger and spice. Elegant and sensory, of sips drift worthy for daydreaming and calm. A blanc de blancs of sanguine personality, extroverted, social and active so that you don’t have to be. Good times when a Cap Classique can do it all, leaving you to enjoy, relieve stress and relax. Seventh iteration heaven from a program that began back in 2017. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Johnathan Grieve, Avondale Wines

Avondale Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2015, WO Paarl

From the tradition of Méthode Cap Classique Armilla is a Blanc de Blancs in 100 percent chardonnay, seven years total on the lees, 90 percent in stainless steel, (10) in big French for one year in barrel. Two of the years on the coarse lees were in tank and all is natural. First vintage was 2003. The only thing that has really changed is the extended lees aging but not the moorish acidity extending the freshness and eliciting a keen sense of brioche. The 3 g/L dosage is negligible and so from start to finish Armilla retains its aridity, is never stark but always balanced. More sugar would make it big and fat and see it lacking brightness which frankly is this B de B’s calling card. Resides at the upper echelon for Cap Classique. Cracker stuff. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Jordan Wines Blanc De Blancs Special Cuvée 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A brilliant all in chardonnay Cap Classique from 22 year-old vines growing on Glenrosa and Hutton soils abutting the Stellenbosch Kloof. A Mediterranean climate here, only 24 kms from the ocean at False Bay. Breezes channel in from the West Coast’s Benguela current and it’s not just a repeated adage to say that the Atlantic winds translate into crazy open-air freshness in Jordan’s scintillant of a white sparkling wine. Spends a nurturing 54 months on lees and this bottle is from the second disgorgement, just now in October of this year. First vintage was 2015 and this is just the second for a B de B bubble that will join the ranks from MCC through to CC’s finest. Sharp yet delicate, intensely focused, precise, with citrus squalls and in the end a treat and a dream. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Le Lude Brut Reserve Cap Classique NV, WO Franschhoek

I mean, just classic. Citrus juiced and a ripeness in this particular cuvée, always ahead of the curve and also the Rosé. Nothing taking for granted, sharp and superlative acids causing the chardonnay to flourish, intensity heightened as far as one could wish. Even keeled, never expressing highs to high or lows to low.  Last tasted October 2022

The blend is with pinot noir but in this sister cuvée to the Brut Rosé it’s really about what chardonnay is going to bring to the MCC table. The dosage is just slightly higher than the Rosé, here at 6.5 g/L and 24 months on its lees. Here the shift is towards more richness, almost counterintuitive when you think about blanc vs. rose but Paul Gerber is on to something big. There is a plum compote luxe note stirred into the citrus and so both ends of the fruit spectrum are involved and incredible. “You must taste the sun in the fruit,” insists Gerber, sparkling wine or not and so with verve, intensity and balance this travels to terrific and back. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

The Drift Estate Penelope Cap Classique 2017, WO Overberg Highlands

Penelope by Bruce Jack is 100 percent touriga nacional, first ever in existence as sparkling wine, likely not just in South Africa but anywhere in the world. Also a single vineyard Cap Classique and as crazy a perfect storm of variety and methodology as there has ever been, almost outdone by Jack’s ice bucket and Penelope story when the earth stopped. Go to the website for more details. This CC is raging though the specs are not exceptional and so some sort of Cape voodoo is happening here. The farm is too cold to really get a ripeness converting above 11.5 percent alcohol so sparkling it is and the 20 year-old vines deliver the necessary fodder for top notch sparkling Rosé. Goes all currants and ginger, rooibos and fynbos. As it must. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Old Vines

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon Monument 2021, WO Franschhoek

The artist formerly known as “La Colline” received a name re-branding in the previous vintage yet the source and the song remain the same. That being the 1936 planted (and registered) heritage sémillion vineyard but the farmer passed away in 1938 so the block could actually be as much as two decades older. “Diversity is a matter of having the genetic material to do it,” explains Chris Alheit “and though there may be drifts away from the original DNA, there will always be that connection.” Oldest indeed within the quadrangle composed of Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. “I mean how can you not see this as a Cape treasure? As an ancestral site?” Thus the new moniker and though it may not seem to represent the true definition of a “memorial stone or a building erected” it does in fact pay homage “in remembrance of a person or event.” They being the farmer and every season of sémillon attempting to seek its fruition for the past 85+ seasons. As for 2021 the imprint just feels like a culmination, of fruit speaking in historical terms and bound to structure, of acid, tannin and extract all constructed as confidentially as ever there has been afforded the opportunity. The 2021 Monument is a rock as profound and important as any sémillon anywhere. “Yeah, people don’t you listen now? Sing along, Oh. You don’t know what you’re missing, now.” Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted October 2022

Bellevue Estate 1953 Pinotage 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A remarkable wine to have the opportunity to taste from vines aged 64 at the time of this vintage and interpreted by winemaker Wilhelm Kritzinger. Bush vines, their yields less than one tonne per hectare (in drought years, of which there are many), upwards of 1.75 in the best of times. The location is Bottelary in Stellenbosch and Bellevue seeks gradual extraction, not quite a full on délestage but the whole lot is transferred from vessel to vessel. The normal press time is seven days and this rare pinotage is always fermented fully dry. Sees 23 months in well versed and rehearsed wood for what is tops in terms of experienced and developed pinotage. Secure in character, prepped and purposed in personality, in delivery of the bloody and the iodide, part soil and part ocean water. A metabolic wonder, converter of energy, meticulously made. Total pro with a whole lotta good dark salted chocolate upon the finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Penny Noire, Cape Town

Boekenhoutskloof Sémillon 2019, WO Franschhoek

Tasted with Lynton Kaiser of Boekenhoutskloof and this three vineyard sémillon blend out of this vintage elicits the kind of looks and gestures requiring no words. The 1936 Franschhoek planted La Colline provides half the fruit (with a good portion having mutated into sémillon gris) and the other 50 percent coming from a 1942 site set into the ancient Franschhoek Riverbed, but also including a few points of muscat out of a block planted in 1902. Concrete eggs house 30 per cent of the ferment and neutral barrels do the yeoman work to keep this cuvée in a primary state for what will likely be a minimum eight to 10 years. The bones are hard and unbreakable to indicate structural propriety and so seeing a decade pass is a near guarantee before next level complexities and brilliant complications will appear. For now there is intrigue, the promise of lemon curd, beeswax, toasted lemongrass and the sort of exotic herbs you’d tear into a bowl of aromatically charged southeast Asian broth. Top and benchmark in so many ways, easily deserving of its reputation. Drink 2026-2035.  Tasted October 2022

  

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2021, WO Swartland

Hoë-Steen is one of four single vineyard chenin blanc from a terroir in the “which one of these things is not like the rest” set of propositions. Planted in 1968 to see it recently cross the half century mark and soils are unique, especially as it pertains to chenin blanc. They are red iron oxide clay, rich and deep, location west of Malmesbury direction Darling. The label reads chenin but truth is a few other surviving vines here and there are in the yard, including discoveries of riesling (crouchen blanc), false pedro, palomino, sémillon and clairette blanche. And who does not appreciate the heritage and concept of a field blend? They’ll call them zinfandel in Sonoma but many are layered of a similar ilk, with the likes of grenache, alicante bouschet, petite sirah, mataro and others playing in the band. Hoë-Steen’s adept water retention and cool temps below the surface put this dry-farmed SV in a place of slower phenolic development and longer growing seasons. The effect on chenin is enchanting, divinatory even and never what you fully expect. Round is not the thought because the trinity of fruit, acid and tannin touch all points, in sequence and exact intervals. The wine can keep time and also plays in fills between the lines. It is symphonic, the whole package, in synch. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted October 2022

Nicole Kilian, Keermont Wines

Nicole Kilian, Keermont Wines

Keermont Chenin Blanc Riverside 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Keermont is the Stellenbosch farm of Mark and Monica Wraith with their four children. Alex Starey takes care of the vineyards and is the winemaker. This 2019 Riverside was tasted at the Old Vines Project evening with Nicole Kilian who happens to be an American married to a Canadian and their work is purely South African. The 1971 planted single vineyard is the third oldest chenin plot in Stellenbosch. The ’19 was barrel fermented and spent a year in well seasoned oak. The result is purity incarnate, from old vine chenin that has endured nearly 50 years and it just seems like this is the kind of wine that makes itself. The barrels add subtle smoulder and bright luminescence but nothing in terms of density or maturity. A beautiful thing when chenin glides like this and one that will surely sail slowly towards the sunset. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Ken Forrester

Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Really different vintage as compared to 2019, here the FMC is a matter of something definably sapid which would indicate the pH being slightly higher while the acidity is just a bit levelled. The wood elicits density and as a result there is a depth to 2021 that stands apart. Fruit concentration while special is not the solo driver because pH, natural fruit sweetness and texture are what make ’21 shine. The youthfulness will confuse the situation and it would seem that eight to 10 years will be needed to settle this score, like Kabinett riesling, Hunter Valley sémillon or any number of Cape old vines chenin blanc. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted October 2022

Cinsault is the grape planted after phylloxera, which started its devastation around 1900. The idea was essentially to replant all that was lost. The Franschhoek vineyard went in back in 1932, placed upon the mid-slopes, close to but not quite on the valley floor. The Mullineuxs started leasing the block in 2014 and are committed through 2034. This is higher up in these foothills facing west and produces some of the darker cinsaults in the Western Cape, relatively speaking, but especially in contrast to the Wellington (Basson) vineyard. Ethereal and elegant in spite of the shade, more fruit substance and also textural elements. Lötter is the one in this regard, effusive and generous, a wine of soul, soil, history and heritage. A cinsault in the prime time of its epic journey as Andrea Mullineux describes its host as “a national monument that must be ripened. Either that or it’s sauvignon blanc and apricots.” There are two hectares of really healthy and hardy plants, once nearly lost to the sands of time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Old Road Wine Company Sémillon Grand Mère 2020, WO Franschhoek

From the vineyard known as La Colline, a high density Franschhoek plot planted back in 1936. Chis Alheit also uses some of this sémillon and now calls his old vines “Monument.” The Old Road Company chooses the name “Grand Mère” which is precisely what the incredible heritage block is for vineyards that have stood the test of time. Crops at a mere three tones per hectare and delivers the most steely and flinty sémillon on the planet. La Colline is southeast facing at 350m, housing unirrigated bush vines and experienced to the effect that a winemaker must not try to dictate its direction. Grapes are left on the skins overnight and 30 percent are allowed to run through a wild ferment. Barrel maturation in mostly older French oak on the primary lees with regular stirring induces a coagulation of creamy texture to offset the striking metal sensation in the wine. On the boozy side but the vintage and the vineyard truly dictate the course. Will age really well, likely well into the next decade. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Ferdie and Elizma Visser

Olifantsberg Chenin Blanc Old Vine 2022, WO Breedekloof

From Ferdie and (winemaker) Elizma Visser in the Western Cape Breedlekloof (part of the Breede River Valley) at 450m above sea level. The soils are sansdstone and shale with rich alluvials and river rocks for a complex earth from which 1982 planted (certified) old bush vines deliver this exceptional chenin blanc. Olifantsberg was established in 2003 and in just two short decades this producer has connected with their surroundings so tactfully as witnessed in this varietal wine. Now here is something you need to know about, of purity by chenin and a s much rich texture you will ever encounter. Comes equipped with all the minerals and elements of this diverse terroir darting and dodging flesh to preserve and heighten freshness. So Chablisienne in chenin blanc terms, at Premier Cru level and rising. Wow. Drink 2023-2029. Tasted October 2022

Roodekrantz Chenin Blanc Old Bush Vine 2021, WO Paarl

The 1974 vineyard is dry-land, bush vine on deep decomposed Malmesbury shale with more rocky parts than clay-based underlay. “One of the more sought after blocks,” says Marius Burger. “A fight for just a few rows.” He and winemaker Danie Morkel have been interpreting this chenin blanc fruit since 2017, to make this 2021 number five. The vineyard inclines with quite the ungraded slope so it’s hard to pick it right. “Parts of the vineyard have creaky bones in the mornings but we’ve man aged to get it right by now.” This is chenin of a brilliant tenor, bass note placed just below the treble, finding equalization. The fruit shows tempo, mixing with texture to share likeminded frequencies with rhythm and pitch. Just a focused chenin blanc handled by the drogaman wholly respectful of a vineyard’s 47 years of experience. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Mev. Kirsten Wyn Van Oorsprong Stellenbosch Die Sadie Familie Wyne 2021, WO Swartland

The vines that supply Mev. Kirsten Wyn are the oldest chenin blanc in the country, out of Stellenbosch and planted in 1905. In 1947 every second row was pulled out to make room for tractors and the configuration still exists this way. “If South Africa has a true apex white Grand Cru vineyard then this is it” insists Eben Sadie. Facts are facts are you just can’t accede these levels of power, concentration, extract and tannin anywhere else. The nose communicates as an intoxicant of sublime forces and these grapes bestow chenin blanc 2021 are those that transcend fruit, deliver ethereality and a heightened sense of awareness. An awakening from necessary tension, crisis and personal freedoms, existential off the charts, poetic and epic. One hundred and sixteen stanzas recorded, in the books and the finest verse written right here in the most recent vintage. If enlightenment is to be gained from chenin blanc in the Western Cape, Mev. Kirsten would provide the fodder. “The grail. End of fucking story” concludes Sadie. All hail. Long live the queen. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted October 2022

Chenin Blanc

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland

At a tasting where everything is Old Vines Project certified there must be something extraordinary about a wine to stand out from a crowd of greats. David and Nadia Sadie are in fact turning heritage vines chenin blanc (amongst other varietal explorations) into content born of context harboured though never paraded. They are rhythmic and scientific with just enough fantasy and romanticism, but never too much. Plat’Bos stands above Skaliekop and Hoë Steen because 2021 asks it to do so, not because it is better or more important, but it is surely chenin blanc profound. The 1981 Swartland planting is in the steady zone, shed of the mercurial and in ’21 so very linear yet salty of the earth in its sombre-sepulchral tone. There is reduction here because the poor soil nutrients demand that this chenin begins this way. The levels of tension and intensity are most elevated, sufficing to say as high as any from the Western Cape. Attention is paid unwavering to detail, sequencing is in order, purity incarnate, grape and place together pristinely kept. In Plat’Bos 2021 the palate is taken down to the whipping post by a wine built to endure. Given time there will be calm, healing and reward in the end. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2022

Rascallion The Devonian 2021, WO Swartland

A small production of 100 percent Swartland chenin blanc from old vines planted between 1968 and 1982 and at this price ($32 CDN) it solicits an “are you kidding me?” reaction. Bloody rich and concentrated yet so balanced without any slide into metallic or boozy character. Expertly managed with all connective tissue tied to the decomposed granites of the Swartland, blessed of true expressive nature, pulsating and alive. The energy is buzzing and its impressive in the way it grabs, demands and keeps attention. So hard to turn away or think about anything else. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Theunis Kruger

Fram Chenin Blanc 2020, WO Piekenierskloof

Theunis Kruger’s natural chenin blanc from a 1987 or 1988 planted vineyard comes away in one pick and is put to large (15 year) old foudres of 300-400L. He and we agree that this represents the most important grape (Theunis uses the word “best”) and yet they are not all created equal, including this coming from Citrusdal Mountain. Cracks the whip and works the palate like it means business, knows what wants and also what needs. The race of acidity will carry forward for quite some time. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Holden Manz Chenin Blanc Reserve 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Spent nine months on lees, fruit from 43 year-old vineyard on the Simonsberg side of the Helderberg Mountain. A bit further up the valley en route to Franschhoek. Made since 2010 (by Gerard Manz) with a rich and viscous meets metallic chenin. High level of concentration in a high-caste style. No lack of barrel accentuation and well made. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Kleine Zalze, Stellenbosch

Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc Vineyard Selection 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Wouldn’t call this ulterior but there is something curiously upticking, visceral and unique as it pertains to Stellenbosch chenin blanc. Not simply a matter of richness but a varietal wine that elicits a rise of emotion, especially out of flavours and textures with barrel fermentation acting as the catalyst. Buzz of energy yes but also a buttery syrup sensation derived and you could just pour this over your morning pancakes. Not because of sweetness but instead complexity, stylish personality and as they say, deliciousness. Also looking for some fatty protein so pulled duck leg and blueberry on those flapjacks and a glass of chenin blanc will do nicely thank you very much. If you want a chardonnay alternative with less apples and brioche this is the way to go. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

L’Avenir Estate Chenin Blanc Single Block 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Notably concentrated by naturally sweet chenin blanc fruit inclusive of the 1971 planted Stellenbosch vineyard. As a comparison to the Far and Near chenin it’s as if everything accentuates and comes into clearer view. Feels a touch advanced and mature beyond its short time after harvest and my if this just speaks the varietal language of Stellenbosch. If you like the normal then you will come to appreciate the reserve, aka the Single Block. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Miles Mossop

Miles Mossop Wines Chenin Blanc Chapter Two 2021, WO Swartland

From deep Paardeberg granite soils and a series of wines from Miles Mossop predicated as chapters; three being chenin blanc and four with sauvignon blanc, both out of Stellenbosch. This Swartland chenin is the signature for Mossop, from a 1971 planted vineyard, top section of the block, bordering and abutting the fynbos. A chenin of outspoken freshness, high yet taciturn acidity, old vine intensity, concentration and know-how. Experience quantified generates specificities quantized to beget excitement. Chapter Two is an experiential success simply because it is based on top chenin fruit from heritage vines done right. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Schist Roundstone 2021, WO Swartland

Roundstone, aka “ronde steen or rondklip” in Afrikaans but the farm is known by its English name. Another Western Cape account for struggling grapes while here the matter involves smaller canopies, clusters and grapes. The vineyard begets and raises a child of the land’s stony “dakteëls,” roof tiles where everything slides and so the tannins accentuate to procure wines of a certain toughness. This child is street smart and battle ready, got into a few fights in the early days, now able stand up for itself no matter the attack or the scene. Aromatically speaking there is a cheese rind scent in the dry comports of extreme aridity, resulting in intensity and directivity. A slightly higher pH makes this the sapid one, sliding across the palate with its über fresh scathe. This will age with the best of them, more like structured reds but so very capable as chenin blanc. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted October 2022

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines Noa 2021, WO Swartland

The first, named after Donovan Rall’s daughter born during the pandemic. From 2.1 hectares of chenin blanc planted in the Paardeberg in the 1960s on the finest decomposed sandy granite soil. “Granite is the only soil that can give you this super reductive style with great energy,” tells Rall and he cropped to yield at three tonnes per hectare. Picked super early at high acid and low pH (3.28 in 2021, after malo) at the high point of the vitality vortex. Moving away from texture and into the business of lightning and mouth-watering succulence from a chenin so electrically plugged in. All this for only 12.0 per cent. “What we learned through the drought years is you don’t have to pick things as you were traditionally taught.” The decision made was at least two weeks as compared to 15 years ago, climate change aside. Truth. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Reyneke Chenin Blanc Biodymnamic 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Biodynamic, estate farmed, from vines planted in 1974 and 1976, part of the certified Old Vines Project. Surely it is old vines at the source coupled with the principled biodynamic exercises to make for an enlightened and heightened precision in a chenin blanc of purity and trenchant estate desire. Concentration, varietal hyperbole and a reflection of what the farm wants to share are the drivers and we the passengers abide. There is no doubt that this Reyneke exists (with distinction) within the vacuum of what is working and creating haute quality chenin blanc. Success is measured by dint of hard work and respect for all things natural, including humans, animals and plants. This paints a picture and sculpts a figure of fine granite. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2022

With Adi Badenhorst

White Blends

A.A. Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein White Blend 2021, WO Swartland

There are reasons why many Western Cape winemakers increasingly turn to accounts spoken in stacked varieties through appellative white blends. Not because it can be a French thing to do in the ways of Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe but because it makes for wines possessive of immense character. Adi Badenhorst makes use of at least 10 different grapes and you’ll need to read the bottle to know what they are. But seriously chenin blanc is joined by grenache gris, grenache blanc, marsanne, clairette, verdelho, roussanne, sémillon, viognier and palomino, Stacked, layered, integrated and in a vintage as rich as ’21 also acidified just ever so slightly. Says Adi. “We need this wine and to pay a lip service to them is essential.” White Blends they are the walrus. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Sees one year in foudres and one in concrete. Only in South Africa and as here so very noteworthy from the Kalmoesfontein Farm at the base of the Paardeberg do these extract and alcohol conversion rates create magic. Decomposed stone infused, citrus and DNA of granite manifested as a swirl of orange, lemon and lime, tea and cordial fulfillment. Swartland grape varieties combining for brilliance in genius, epically so. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2021, WO Western Cape

The question is posed to Chris Alheit but he says the lighter and lighter (including alcohol) wines are not a matter of intentional design nor aesthetic choice. Farming and the use of grand-sized blending tanks in the mid four to six months increases stability, mobility and consistency well ahead of bottling. Clarity is ensured, true clarity and more purity plus “the guarantee to present the best version of that vintage.” In the end the chenin blanc plus (20 per cent sémillon) Cartology 2021 seems to be the most effusive, sharp and translucent to date, this despite a group of on repeat parcels varying in output from vintage to vintage and quite significantly so. This is primed and ready if perhaps ready to begin peaking as early as next Spring. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

B Vintners Vine Exploration Company “B” Haarlem To Hope 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Cousins Bruwer Raats and Gavin Bruwer Slabbert created Bruwer Vintners Vine Exploration Company in 2014 to celebrate family and Cape heritage through a joint venture. Haarlem To Hope 2021, from the motherland to the Cape of Good Hope, a blend of nearly 70 per cent chenin blanc with just about (30) sémillon plus bits of muscat blanc and muscat d’Alexandrie. All from Polkadraai Hills where Raats’ extraordinary Eden chenin is from. All four blocks of vines are old and Bruwer had to convince a neighbour not to rip them out. The chenin is barrel fermented, the sémillon harvested early and the blend is laden with this amazing glück, a textural component indescribable using any other word. “B” is for everyone involved; Bruwer, Gavin’s mother’s maiden name and the history of the Bruwer Huguenots. Impressed by how this never drifts into oiliness or liquid metals but finds balance between all parts. The texture could be called sumptuous but in any case the two plus two varietal get together walks up and down both sides of a two-way street. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Sebastian Beaumont

Beaumont Wines New Baby 2019, WO Bot Rivier

New Baby was released in June of this year and 2015 was the first vintage of a truly Cape conceptual wine. It was launched as a way to combine the idiosyncrasies and potentially complimentary personalities of different white grape varieties on the farm. In 2019 the lead is chenin blanc at 40 per cent with (30) sauvignon blanc plus smaller amounts of chardonnay, sémillon and colombard. They were all planted by Sebastian Beaumont’s father from 1974 onwards. The style and notion follow the line established by Hope Marguerite. “My mother said every vintage was like giving birth to a new child,” explains Beaumont. “Once you do something it’s hard to shake.” Yet another brilliant white appellative blend to define the Cape’s idiomatic meets wild west psyche and only in South Africa do the interpretations emerge like this. All in barrel and the vapour trail is palpable, especially in the flint and smoulder that come from the Bordeaux grapes. New Baby pops, piques, kindles and snaps, raises the senses and is just a perfect conceptual creation. Hard not to love this bloody wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Christa Von La Chevallerie

Huis Van Chevallerie Springhaas Vin Blanc 2019, WO Coastal Region

Springhaas is the South African hare, a medium-sized terrestrial and burrowing rodent. Despite the name, it is not a hare. Springhaas the white appellative blend is from Voor-Paardeberg, of 40 percent chenin blanc, (33) viura and (27) verdelho. Many winemakers get their “specs” from these vineyards, including Thorne & Daughters. This is Christa Von La Chevallerie’s concept wine but also a signature of who she is. The viura is also used for her Hummingbird sparkling. “It’s from the mountain and people know it,” she says and what she means is this is bloody good juice. “It’s my six dollar version of something fun. Others can play on top of it.” Well it jumps and hops so there’s that, also fine bitters, lime, a fino moment and a sweet brininess that makes you want more. What a fantastic finish, drink enough of it and it goes all refreshing and satisfying. But you’re upset when it’s gone and it makes you realize that you’re also hungry. The chenin from decomposed granite releases the acidity and is the impetus for excitement. Just enough takes the lead to establish balance. Springhaas will have you realize with relief that this is not an invitation to small Pedetidae murder but an alliterative description of an appellative deliveroo. “Here, hare, here.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Franco Lourens

Lourens Family Wines Lindi Carien 2021, WO Western Cape

The influence on and reasons are numerous for Franco Lourens to make this white appellative blend. It begins working alongside Chris Alheit and a little wine called Cartology, develops out of a need to pay for an engagement ring, solicits the assistance of old vine chenin, old for South Africa verdelho plus wisened teens named colombard, grenache blanc and palomino. Finally, it’s success and payout get the ring, marries the girl and the wine remembers it all, named after Franco’s bride, Lindi Carien Lourens. The Stellenbosch verdelho (35 per cent), Swartland chenin blanc (21) and colombard (19), Piekenierskloof grenache blanc (18) and 1972 planted palomino (7) are all expertly judged and delineated in 2021. Five days of skin-contact on the GB does just enough to solidify and texturize the entirety but otherwise it’s “lazy winemaking” says Franco for a wine first made in 2016. Oak is old while the package is just as tight and seamless as a WAB can be, especially in the WC. The layers of components really do like one another, that much is obvious and yes, “all my wines have come a long way,” says Lourens. “I try to tighten the bolts and the screws every year.” These are snug in 2021. Indeed. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

With André Morgenthal and Charla Bosman

Sijnn White 2020, WO Malgas

This 2020 is the first vintage to bring verdelho into the mix with chenin blanc (the OG variety planting in 2004) and roussanne. The Iberian grape takes this intrepid White to a side-stepping, new era level. The first of its ilk and a bit clumsy whilst this young and impressionable but my how this will change perception and forward thinking with respect to Malgas blending. The White iterations from 2017-2019 are stellar wines and represent peak performance for their time. But change and growth are good and necessary, otherwise things get stale, even in this crazy outpost of a wine-growing place. There is much to learn from the 2020 first kick at this new can and there can be no doubt winemaker Charla Bosman will take little time to morph this new identity into something mind-blowing. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Vergelegen G.V.B. White 2021, WO Stellenbosch

A Bordeaux blend of 78 percent sémillon with (22) sauvignon blanc and likely the most dominant blend in this regard anywhere in the Western Cape. The sém portion is usually 50-60 and here from 2021 the standing firm, upright and out is on fully skeletal display. There can be no mistaking the fynbos and on a grander scale the estate farm in this wine. Peaches and cream dictate the fruit aromatics before the sémillon kicks into pedal to metal overdrive, ushering in resins, essential plant oils and strength of character acidity. This was bottled at the end of 2021 and just recently released. Subsequent vintages will be under the reigns of new winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain whose track record includes stints at Château Fieuzal, Cave Dietrich, Château Angelus, Screaming Eagle, Rustenberg and Glenelly. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Red Blends

A.A. Badenhorst Kalmoesfontein Red Blend 2021, WO Swartland

Five grape varieties and as Badenhorst is wont to do they are all co-fermented. As a winemaker or in any homestead job you are always influenced by where you grew up and who you worked with. Tells Adi, “in the Swartland these are the varieties that were there.” And so this is Saint-Éstephe meets Cornas, rustic yet pure, ripe and ripped. No make up and it preaches the Badenhorst philosophy. The elévage is 80 percent in concrete with (20) new casks. Turned out to be a pretty tannic vintage, maybe even as a surprise to Adi. “There’s oxygen here.” The most structured of all these wines and clearly one that can age, with thanks to amazing vineyards. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Glenelly Estate Reserve Red Blend 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Based on Bordeaux varieties and the fruit is almost second wine styled as if Lady May the Glenelly grand vin is Paulliac and this Reserve Red is La Croix Ducru Beaucaillou. Or something along those lines. Here we receive top ecehlon Cape cabernet sauvignon with merlot and petit verdot but the side-swiping catalyst is the generous and liquid peppery splash of syrah, the energizer and impetus to really make this Meritage go. Rich and chocolaty, financed and very clever, warm and woollen. Yes it reminds of Bordeaux in Western Cape earth but that syrah changes everything. Or adds actually, activates notions and sentiments only Stellenbosch and environs are want to do. Creates a new yet old-hearted heritage. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2019, WO Stellenbosch

Abrie Beeslaar is the winemaker of this Cape icon of a Bordeaux blend in 2019 composed of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, (14) cabernet franc and (11) merlot. Beeslaar notes that the carry over of drought is still felt through this ’19 pulled from dryland vines aged 30 years on average and growing in decomposed granite, Hutton and Clovelly. Obviously youthful as to the point of immovable but in a modern world Paul Sauer speaks clearly and the vernacular is as understood as it has likely ever been. Tasted alongside the ’91, ’97, ’09 and ’14 you can see a shift in style over the course of nearly three decades or rather an adjustment to keep up with wants and needs. Change does indeed match the times and while this blend is about as structured as any in the Western Cape there are more handsome qualities and even a moment or two of immediacy. Not exactly gratification because the tannins are a force but things seem measurable. The middle palate is full and flavourful, giving off this cool sensation. Many years of excellence lay ahead. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted October 2022

Meerlust Rubicon 2017, WO Stellenbosch

From a drought vintage yet there can be little doubt that in farming these Bordeaux varietal vineyards almost every bunch, however small they may have been, came out fresh and healthy. Rubicon 2017 is all perfume, of violets and berries, currants and Cassis as a by-product of distilling these varieties down. Still youthful and feeling a bit boozy though the complexities and acidities have yet to arrange, layer and align. The intensities are a bit haphazard and there are so many programming features running on overdrive. A look deep back for a comparison might be 1991 and if there is truly a connection then the future for this vintage is so very bright. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted October 2022

Duncan Savage

Savage Wines Red 2020, WO Stellenbosch

Still called “Red” but since 2017 this artist formerly known to blend with grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional no longer seeks that meritage effect. For good reason because the syrah fruit is tops and under this command it transforms into magic. The idea of cuvée persists but the concept is that of mono-layering, single varietal stacking, syrah on syrah upon syrah. The progression come to this makes perfect sense for a signature wine to define what Savage wines is and needs to explain. This wine is unreal, fully formed and seamless, of a structural indemnity that shifts risk from one party to another, from one layer of syrah to another so that the whole is always protected. Might seem or feel like an impossibility but when one part has the back of the rest and the engineering covers the whole, then the architecture is solid. A beautifully tough and grippy syrah is the result, never gritty or swarthy but so very fine-tuned. Drink 2025-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Springfield Estate The Work Of Time 2016, WO Robertson

Based on the concept that “time is the lost element in today’s winemaking, can be so precious – yet it is free.” Time for a 1992 planted vineyard to reach a level of maturity to make a great wine and so the first vintage is 2001. Time in barrel and bottle, two plus four, then released with the work having already been done. Ready to drink? Not so fast. Time is not of the essence but for the patient. The grapes are cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and merlot for a truth be told in woollen, swarthy and sauvage personality, needing two more years to begin breathing and exhaling the true character of their gathering. Bonded together they will be one flesh and fleshy they will be, fruit and animal, of a vibrancy to speak of cape heritage through red blends. Chalky tannins and high acidity also need to cooperate but in the end this will surely become something really special. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

With Eben Sadie and John Szabo MS

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Columella Liberatus In Castro Bonae Spei Vindemia 2020, WO Swartland

Less syrah (40 per cent as opposed to what used to be 80), with grenache and mourvèdre plus more tinta barocca now in Columella. Results in an even firmer, linear, direct in your face and on the palate kind of red blend. Tannic to the bone, a karst now painted on, slowly to weather and be stripped away, eventually to dry as a charcuterie board of salumi, savoury jam and tart pickle. Eben Sadie feels this stylistic cuvée in his bones, down to his core and know this. Big extraction and heavy oak treatment is not part of the program. For the highest degree of complexity accumulated it would be best to hide this ’20 away and return in 10 years. At the very least. Check in after four or five and there will be great reward if not the kind of next level, millennia or epoch. Drink 2026-2037.  Tasted October 2022

Agulhas

Varietal Whites

Ataraxia Chardonnay Earthborn 2020, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

Snap, crackle, dried green apple skin dusted and pop with white pepper bite. Savoury-herbal by a typically endemic site where terroir is clearly the driver for this particular chardonnay. Vineyards of fruit counteracted by salinity. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Bosman Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Persistently reductive, brown butter nutty and softly aromatic. The notable (13.9 per cent) alcohol accentuates the 15 per cent settled juice aged in Burgundy barrels for six months to make this feel generously wooded. Richer palate and furthered intensity. Tasted as part of a 15 chardonnay flight in perspective at L’Avenir. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Bouchard Finlayson Chardonnay Missionvale 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Pure citrus entry, all parts involved, juice, zest and pith. Well lees aged during its tenure with sweet fruit scents, flavours and naturally occurring caramelization. Old school, less cool and yet herbal minty through the mid stage, then ranging quite long and far. One of the more complex chards with depth and warmth provided by the valley floor. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Braai Brekkies in Arniston

Cap Maritime Chardonnay 2020, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Cap Maritime is the Upper Hemel En Aarde chardonnay work of Boekenhoutskloof’s Marc Kent. A classic cool climate chardonnay, whether by place or vintage, or perhaps a combination of the two. This jumps out as one made in the most wholesome and also dedicated way, smooth and consistent, surely a factor of an estate’s terroir. Perfectly seasoned and reasoned for great effect. Cool all the way. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Creation Chardonnay 2020, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Quite buttery and rich, fully formed, styled and developed as chardonnay in a cool yet at times foggy and humid climate. A fine mix of toast and texture, energy and appeal. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Zoo Crü – Cape Wine 2022

Crystallum Chardonnay Clay Shales 2021, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

Clay Shales is what Bourgogne not called Grand Cru strives for. That would be stage presence, which is a character trait that less than one per cent of the world’s chardonnay can say it displays. Andrew and Peter Allan Finlayson have mined platinum with this 2021 of a what’s in a name codex for Bokkeveld Shale meets clay soil. Single vineyard chardonnay of one hectare producing only 2,000 bottles is deserved of cru status when it takes a producer’s profound to an entirely new level. Hilltop site, windy as fuck and you can sense the breeze blowing through to mitigate and balance an unreal level of richness and concentration. Not just this but an equality by a tautness that commands respect but also relaxes to let the fruit exhale and express. Clay Shales is an important matter of a single Hemel-en-Aarde ward, a ridge supreme upwards and its makers standing two metres tall, upright and looking over the pack. Chardonnay at the pinnacle for Crystallum’s studio work, conveying much without overstatement. It is almost impossible to imagine any Western Cape chardonnay discussion without it. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Megan Mullis and Sharon Parnell, Domaine des Dieux

Domaine Des Dieux Chardonnay 2019, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Ridge

The mansion of the gods and can’t help but think of a childhood cartoon memory (Asterix) but there is nothing childish or cartoonish about this splendid chardonnay. By a long shot the most reductive of the 12 thus far in this blind tasting flight. Holding back the years and tears, a chardonnay of deem, deed and demand, explaining little, not interested in giving in, clearly designed for longevity. Impressive and of secrets we wish to know. “Hoping for the arms of mater, get to me the sooner or later, oh.” Drink 2023-2027.   Tasted October 2022

Godello in Hemel-en-Aarde

Hasher Family Wines Chardonnay Marimist 2020, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Richly aromatic, emitting the perfume of fresh yellow flowers like few in a 15 strong chardonnay flight from the Hemel-en-Aarde. No let down on the palate in fact texturally this lays it all out, with more fruit and wood interaction than most in an evolved, developed and symbiotic way. Fulsome wine, ready, willing and able. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Braai at La Motte

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc Pierneef 2021, WO South Coast

Pierneef, a reference to the well-known painter. Includes 10 per cent sémillon and the earliest vineyards were planted in the 90s. Pinpointed sharpness in sauvignon blanc and although there is a sense of pungency the urgency of freshness and spirit are the shit. Comes from Agulhas in the Cape’s South Coast which is the most southern vineyard in Africa, perhaps the coolest there is in the Western Cape. There is indeed a Sancerre sentiment here but stands apart, alone, of its own accord. From a growing contract of 25 years, rented, a management contract paid and grapes taken. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Christo Kotzé, L’Apogée

La Vierge Chardonnay Apogée 2018, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Though a 2018 the primary notes prevail in this chardonnay from a cool marine climate. Young vines (eight years of age) on the plateau’s argillaceous Bokkeveld Shale and sea breezes are at the tops of influence. Closed, taut, yes reductive but more so a case of youth, unforgiving and ungiving while in that state. A mildly warming and nutty white caramel indicate change is coming as they carry on and over into a chardonnay expressive of great length. High caste and style though the climax or pinnacle of potential is far from realized. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

Natasha Williams, Bosman and Lelie Von Saron

Lelie Van Saron Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Exceptional and artistically precocious work here at the hands of Natasha Williams, cool and linear, of less barrel than most. A bit taut and tightly wound. Piqued, liquid white peppery, no caramelization, brown butter nuttiness or toast in any shape, style or form. Not the longest finish though also never sharp – nor abrupt neither. Solid construction, plenty of citrus, proper and distinct. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Lomond Wines Sémillon Seven Rows 2019, WO Cap Agulhas

Must be nice to farm and produce in a climate where you can consistently grow and then gift straight sémillon and this from Lomond is about as credible as they come. Obvious richness mixes with herbology in sweetness but most of all the effect comes from barrel fermentation in 500L tonneaux. Lean is not the operative though mineral and elemental surely are, not merely salty but marine influenced at the southern most point on the African continent. It’s something so much more, notorious even, unique, curious and all in. Intensely woven as sémillon will ever get and the real interest is to see how this ages. Great intrigue. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2021, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

Newton Johnson’s is self-professed vibrant chardonnay to rival Bourgogne as well as anywhere in South Africa. Their 2021 raised in the ward of the Upper Hemel-En-Aarde shows so much more than taut mineral activity and is yet so far from anything remotely tropical. Rather it resides on the barrel fermented side of things where fruit richesse and oak fuelled beauty get together in a whirl and swirl of lees and acid, forming a cone of chardonnay in centrifuge, oily and silky at the same time. There are some juicy terpene moments upon tasting and so a disparate moment or two will happen before the warmth of this chardonnay nurtures as it trickles down upon the finish. Feels preserved in great balance and of citrus in oxygenated motion. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Craig Wessels

Restless River Chardonnay Ava Marie 2020, WO Upper Hemel-En-Aarde

To meet and taste with Craig Wessels is to know him because he wears his wines on his sleeve and allows them to do the talking. They in turn speak on behalf of a breeze swept place aboard the plateau of the Upper Hemel-En-Aarde. There is a wee bit of (Tuscan) amphora addition and yet its effect is only sensed in the shadows of this understated chardonnay. Named for Wessels’ daughter with fruit hermetically contained and protected the minute it left the small, profound and single two hectare vineyard. A bit demure, pretty and classic, less ambition and need for immediate recognition but clearly confident without attitude or overt display. Almost convinces of the simple, amenable and how remarkably easy it is to get with, but that is indeed the beauty and subtlety of this wine. Fine wine. Made that much more indelible after tasting a 2015 from Magnum with Wessels over lunch at Hamilton Russell. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Jessica Saurwein

Saurwein Riesling Chi 2022, WO Elgin

CHI is the riesling work of Jessica Saurwein, German-South African, naturalist and champion of both riesling (Elgin) and pinot noir (Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge). The word carries two meanings, translated as “life force” and also the first three letters of CHIUTA, an African rain god. These are spiritual connections that reflect the individualism of the producer and also her wines in the how, where and why they are of a magic produced by the garden. Saurwein’s 2022 is a beautifully balanced riesling of invisible pulse that feels akin to how mushrooms might communicate with one another using electrical impulses. You could imagine attaching a soundboard and speaker through electrodes to the vines to measure spikes in signal activity. Just as a scientist would connect to hyphae and hear them talk. But I digress and in this glass this mix of 11.5 per cent alcohol, 11.5 g/L RS, 7.5 g\L TA and less than 3.0 PH equates to a rich yet linear riesling of full flesh and healthy bones. A riesling aching to explain itself, how it is grounded while also soulful, hovering in weightlessness and ethereal. This may seem like a quiet, standalone organism of a wine but is in fact a complex weave of language transmitting soil, geology and place. It’s really quite special and Jessica Saurwein seems poised to be the Cape winemaker who will translate substrate behaviour with clarity through the language of wine. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2022, WO Cape Coast

The fruit origins are threefold, as are the soil types. Walker Bay (47 percent), Hemel-en-Aarde (43) and Elgin (10) and a sauvignon blanc layering by way of clay-rich shale, decomposed granite and Table Mountain sandstone. Dry, medium to elevated acidity, low pH and moderate alcohol adds up to marine air freshness and what proprietors Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell will say is “tensile character and a marked, saline minerality.” The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley contributes as much as any fruit source in terms of having a say, not dominant per se but leading in its confident way. A track record as solid as any of its ilk to deliver an intensity of flavour and that freshness overload, together thick as thieves, drinking at peak, right now. With four-plus years in bottle a next level flinty magic and fruiting genius will occur, like tooth fungi from mycelium when conditions run ideal. The vintage guarantees such a transition into secondary character will happen. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Hemel-en-Aarde

Storm Wines Chardonnay Storm Vrede 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Vrede is literally “peace,” as chardonnay so named and raised on clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil in the valley where fog and humidity settle at the lower levels to play a direct role in viticulture and especially the ripening seasoning. The soils are shallow overlaid heavy clay and who could dispute this geology acting vehemently as a factor? Rich and golden, reductive yet apple fleshy yellow and cream textured. Protected beneath a savoury-candied shell then later accented by herbaceous rhizome spice. Continues with ever consistent persistence, unrelenting, direct, linear and perhaps while this youthful also just a bit woolly and wild. Must check this out on repeat for the first three-plus years. Tiny production of just 125 cases (of 12). Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2021, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

The juice is up front, the wine opening for immediate gratification, ready and willing to please. Charged though here in a first dimension without any knowable access to further ones available. Quite tart and spirited though on a one way street with a finite finish. Super high acid, early picked and a touch green. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Whalehaven Chardonnay Conservation Coast 2020, WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde

Slow to reveal, unwind and prepare itself for the great revelation, in tact and a chardonnay of firmness and useful tactility. The kind of tact is so apposite to wines that tack or are in fact tacky as this is anything but. The lees are a bit sticky and so there are some thicker glück moments. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted October 2022

Varietal Reds

Beeslaar Wines Pinotage 2020, WO Stellenbosch

Abrie Beeslaar came from Kanonkop so the acumen with respect to pinotage is more than obvious. Beeslaar works with vines planted at the grape’s origins on the north side of Stellenbosch. There are few if any with this type of natural sweetness in the fruit, with thanks to the pinpointed location on the line of decomposed shale that runs up to Stellenbosch mountain. Passes through this pinotage with peaking fruit power and stone intensity. Despite 40 per cent new oak (and you feel the wood) there is a lovely peeking swarthiness about this pretty wine. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Blackwater Wines Cinsault Zeitgeist 2019, WO Darling

Francois Haasbroek makes use of the same Darling block of fruit as Duncan Savage in his cinsault called “Follow the Line.” This used to be called “Hinterland” but Haasbroek has changed the name to “Zeitgeist” and yes, the definition is equivocated through the idea of Western Cape single-vineyard wines from off the beaten path, small-parcel sites. Recall that “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time” is exactly what winemakers consider and exact from these varietal blocks. Francois goes at it with 60 per cent whole cluster and 100 percent concrete fermentation. Results in notable up front fruit with age-prepared softness and a marbling nearly unrivalled in Cape cinsault. Like protein of perfect ratio turning to butter the moment it hits the heat of the pan, this is the effect that transpires when the wine slides across the palate. Cinsualt of bandwidth from dry-farmed bush vines growing on Table Mountain sandstone for indelible grace. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Boschendal Pinot Noir Appellation Series 2020, WO Elgin

Taken from vines growing at 500m on a what’s what of soil types; Heavy red clays, Table Mountain sandstone, Bokkeveld shale, Tukulu and Silica quartz with underlying Kaoline clay. An extreme slope and a place where baboons take what they want and wine is made from the remainder. Serious solar radiation juxtaposed against the coolness of what lays beneath the surface to result in dichotomous pinot noir, blessed of purely Elgin-styled red fruit, richness and tension fighting for supremacy. Earthy enough, element driven, aged in mostly 500L wood, to augment and not infiltrate. Could benefit from another six months of settling. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Jeanine and Mick Craven

Craven Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Mick and Jeanine Craven’s cabernet sauvignon grows right next to the chenin blanc site on mainly granite with some clay underneath. Fermentation includes 70 per cent whole cluster; why…why not…wait…with cabernet sauvignon? Mick shoots that mischievous look and that explains the choice because he gets it. He understands his fruit from Karibib Vineyard site planted in 1999 on these Polkadraai decomposed granites. The whole bunch number was far less in 2020 so maybe if he knew then what he knows now it would have been higher. Maybe not. Notable stem savour but one so piquant, toothsome and then a woolliness but one subtle enough to speak in just a whisper. There feels a syrah comparison but deliciousness in this cabernet comes without iron and closed fisted punches. Kind of Loire franc in its verdant character but again, there really is no reference, nor sauvignon connections neither. Clocks in at a low, low 12.5 per cent alcohol that only the Western Cape can effect for this grape variety while still delivering ripeness, generosity and peace of mind. Another bit of voodoo magic from a place and a maker that knows what’s what. The conclusion? Finesse. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Gabriëlskloof Syrah Whole Bunch 2021, WO Bot Rivier

Now in the hands of Hemel-en-Aarde’s Peter Allan Finlayson of Crystallum and the third vintage of treating Bot Rivier syrah to all in, whole bunch fermentation. All the perfumes that can be pulled might just fill up a small room to do for syrah what only this place can in fact do. The carbonic maceration lasted for ten days before being pressed, taken off the lees and aged in steel tanks for eight months. Clarity, purity and aromatics flown off the charts. You can decide what they are to you but know their omnipotence will draw full attention. Creates a magically sweet, succulent and serious elixir, pretty and poetry in motion, serving up the Bot with sultry sensations. Quite something really. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

With Anthony Hamilton Russell and Johan Reyneke

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2021, WO Hemel-En-Aarde Valley

It has come to the point where we want to distinguish stylistic differences between Ridge, Valley and Upper in the Hemel-en-Aarde and if any pinot noir is capable of creating some kind of definition than Hamilton Russell’s would be the one. From 2021 this feels like a light and ethereal kind, tight and restrained but not backward, which can always be a possibility. Valley pinot is less obvious, slower to reveal, incrementally opposite to the Ridge and apposite to the Upper, both of which are showier, less complex and quick to speak. Anthony talks about less solids being left in the tank (since the mid to late 2000s) to result in a greater ability to diversify in barrel. The great solids epiphany came in 2020, 10 years after the “malo epiphany.” When the Ridge pinots show more persistent tannic structure it can create wines of disparate character while the Upper will usually offer the most perfumed intensity. This is more aromatic than most from HR, gorgeous even, as “Burgundian” as ever there has been. Yet Hamilton Russell from the Valley seeks equanimity and slow maturation, never peaking too early or looking to deliver immediate gratification. Patience is the request, even in a “lighter” vintage. This from ’21 is no exception. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

 

Iona Pinot Noir Kloof Monopole 2019, WO Elgin

Andrew Gunn’s Kloof single-vineyard is the only one on the mountain and he alone makes this Elgin pinot noir from that fruit, thus the Burgundian monopole terminology. There are 12 blocks planted in 1998 and 2010 overlooking the Atlantic Ocean so the wind effect is more than imagined to create the taut tightest, finessed and saltiest on the local (and very parochial) scene. When pinot acts this alive it opens your eyes, nose and palate to a vitality capable of inducing invigoration. A fine example at elevation no doubt with great promise and eventually elegance with thanks to Iona’s focused attention and listening to the winds. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Niels Verburg

Niels Verburg

Luddite Shiraz 2019, WO Bot Rivier

This is the 20th vintage for Niels Verburg’s Luddite shiraz and what he calls “a survivor.” Each time it arrives there is this newfound, newly generated freshness in revival, no matter the season. The 2019 is the last of the drought vintages from which only 5,800 bottles were made for a sku that can be as high as 30,000. Garrigue aka Fynbos, iodine, Velddrif salts, Imphepho and Nasturtium. Lively and jumps right out of the glass. “Quintessential vintage,” smiles Verburg, released a bit early “but this ’19 is really good.” Producers who do it right work this way and this one reels you in though is surely also age worthy. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Kaapzicht Pinotage 2021, WO Stellenbosch

Known for a more traditional style, heavy and round, self-professed by winemaker Danie Steytler. Jokes aside this from Bottelary Road is indeed a dense and thickly consummate pinotage, liquid chalky and structured for a long, slow-cooked and extended warranty. Not that Steytler is trying to coax, extract and demand too much but place and climate do conspire anyway. The endgame is far away, for now embittered in black liquorice and taut intensity. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted October 2022

Restaurant at Kleine Zalze

L’Avenir Wine Estate Pinotage Single Block 2020, WO Stellenbosch

From winemaker Dirk Coetzee, from a registered single vineyard planted in 1994. Smooth, refined and swelling with ample tannin. The more “Bordeaux” within the pinotage pantheon, of graphite and Ribena, a righteous greenness, modern perhaps yet earthy, already showing some soy, balsamic, fungi and truffle. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2022

With Marlise Niemann

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2020 WO Swartland

This grenache noir is Momento’s OG because Marlise Niemann worked in Spain and in 2010 decided to put her faith in this grape. As always low yielding bush-vines in the Swartland grown on its ancient decomposed granite soil are the source and there are few Western Cape examples as beautiful as this. Any origin for that matter because Niemann and the Paardeberg have become soulmates and her choice of one-third whole bunch pressing is spot on. Creates a crust or barque on top of the ferment that carries through to the wine. Cold soak of four days and punchdowns exaggerate the sweetest fruit of sing-song temperament, a varietal Carole King, woven tapestry of longing and love. If you need a restart of your joie de vivre than this is the wine to pour. Aside from its undeniable winemaking genius, the grenache noir endures for its balance between place and adventure, as well as remaining grounded through its maker’s independence and relationship with the Swartland. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Mullineux Syrah Granite Jakkalsfontein 2020, WO Swartland

Jakkalsfontein, “where the dogs spring,” perhaps eternal because granite soils are a gazillion years old and the Mullineuxs have been working with the vineyard since 2014. Whole cluster to the max, open top large vats allowing release and punchdowns keeping that elusive concept of stems working in the success side of trial and error. After that it’s all about tannin polymerization and then refinement. Grandstanding tannins indeed, a vintage of manyfold layers, of warm days and cool nights especially towards harvest, where acid will improve upon tannin . Will be most interesting to watch this one age. Should be a grand granite year. These are true Swartland tannins. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted October 2022

With Alex Milner

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2021, WO Stellenbosch

In 2018 I tasted four different cinsault from Alex Milner and at the time the Darling stood apart. Feels like four years later he has grown to fully appreciate this 1972 Stellenbosch vineyard with deeper understanding and cinsault intuition. This site with its views of Table Mountain and False Bay is picked the latest and in 2021 finished at a mere 11.5 percent alcohol. It is the litheness of glycerol and grace in texture over the palate that makes this far from conventional cinsault tick. That is where the magic happens with thanks to concrete “barrel” aging and guaranteed freshness captured. Tannins are whispers, sweet nothings that melt in the mouth upon contact though they will linger for a few years yet. As soft spoken a cinsault as there is, even by Western Cape standards. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin

Increasingly considered a great vintage in Elgin, backed up by this showing at seven years of age. The 115 grows on shale with Koffieklip and in ’15 the whole bunch number was 50 percent. Settled now and in a most ideal drinking way, with nearly five years remaining for more expressive things to say.  Last tasted October 2022

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Porseleinberg Syrah 2020, WO Swartland

It begins with a right proper rant from farmer, BBQ smoker and winemaker Callie Louw. “We don’t need to offset climate change with varietal adaptation. We just need to farm better. The problem doesn’t go away. Cover cropping, activate your place, get things growing, the whole profile is run in the top four inches. Below is the bank, the reservoir. The thing that makes the money is on top. Stop tilling. Leave that stuff on the top of soil. it just burns. Keep the active things alive. Increase the carbon in your soil by one per cent and the water will increase by 50.” Then to the current release at hand. Porseleinberg syrah 2020 is aged in 90 percent foudre and (10) concrete egg. “A nice vintage,” says Louw, “still stuck in a drought but the first year with average rainfall, just about 400mm.” Healthy canopies, just right there, picking without stress. From 2020 about 70 per cent is from one site and while the soils are consistent, the aspects, gradients and all else bring minor variegation, seasoning and spice.“The success of this is a complete fluke. I literally do nothing with the grapes. I realize I do fuck all.” And yet the consistency of the process prevails; of working with syrah like this, whole bunch, no pump-overs and just a belief in the farming. Not sure many 2020s are the shit but this folks and my friends is. South African wine is not all the same. Drink 2020 sooner, the delicious factor will ride. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted October 2022

Bruwer Raats

Raats Family Wines Pinotage Liberte 2020, WO Stellenbosch

From Polkadraai, picked early to help establish a deeply South African sentiment or even manifesto that allows pinotage to separate itself and announce its uniqueness as a wine unlike anywhere else in the world. These are the thoughts of Gavin Bruwer Slabbert. If you attempt to compare this to a Raats cabernet franc there are so few similarities and in fact here pinotage gains stature, swagger and momentum in ways the Bordeaux family of varieties can only wish for. At what cost you ask and that is a worthy query. Traditional beauty perhaps but even pinotage’s lies in the eyes of the beholder. Thick skins and fleshiness abound to announce their estimable arrival. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2021, WO Elgin

Proprietor Alex Dale takes inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s memoir “A Long Walk to Freedom” as he sees his adopted South Africa as the place where agriculture and winemaking have given him his. The first organic pinot noir from this Elgin outpost for Stellenbosch producer Radford Dale and what winemaker Jacques de Klerk calls “a transitory vintage.” Meaning Elgin Ridge was the original owner and the farming is now fully under RD’s command. This ’21 is glaring and striking in primary freshness, so youthful it feels like bottling happened only yesterday. Chalky tannic, of a formidable density but stone cold salty, like Sonoma Coast and a wedge of Délice de Bourgogne. This is, in the parlance of our times endearingly referred to as “C’est bon, fuck!” Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Testalonga El Bandito Mourvedre Monkey Gone To Heaven 2021, WO Swartland

Craig and Carla Hawkins make many skus, almost all small lot from the Swartland and it feels like there is no true rhyme or reason to the portfolio. That is why Monkey Gone to Heaven is the poster for their work, a Pixies song reference Black Francis (Frank Black) has said was named because it “just sounds neat” and also “it wasn’t like we thought we’d get played on the radio.” Perhaps Craig (aka El Bandito) approaches his work in a similar way. Hawkins goes at is as natural as anyone out there but believe it when he insists he’s simply making wine from grapes. What do people think? Whatever. Are the wines niche, raw or mainstream? Don’t really know. Making a statement on environmental concerns? Probably not. We do know this varietal mourvèdre is 100 per cent whole bunch fermented for nine days in open tanks, pressed and aged in 500L foudres. Wild and full on ambient malolactic fermentation. The winking winemaking equivalent of “If man is five…Then the devil is six…Then God is seven.” Actually less intense and grippy than the Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela and also surprisingly perfumed. Even a bit pretty, of different aromatic and volatile lift, apposite in structure, soliciting an arousal of trenchant imagination. What is this? Sarcasm, Kaballah and good grapes. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted October 2022

Waterkloof Wine Estate Pinotage Last Of The First 2021, WO Stellenbosch

“We like to make wine we like to drink,” tells Nadia Barnard-Langenegger, based in Somerset West. The block for this wine is part of the first commercial one planted in South Africa, on a cool, east-facing bush vine block planted in 1994 to clay and some decomposed granite. In conversion to organic. “I want to taste what I taste in the vineyard, stones and freshness.” The name is Last of the First because there are no others planted on the Skurfberg. Another terrific example of the new pinotage of flesh, savour, lithely bitter liquorice and high acidity. Definite quality once again. Drink 2024-2027.  Tasted October 2022

Wolf And Woman Wines Pinotage 2021, WO Swartland

From Jolandie Fouché and old vines planted in 1973 on truly sandy (meaning zero clay) Paardeberg soils. Fouché’s journey has run the gamut, from matriculating to earning her stripes in the South African industry. And one of her dogs is named cinsault. “Sometimes I’m more wolf than woman and I need to stop apologizing for my ways.” Hers is a most perfumed pinotage, thanks to bush vines with big canopies whereby the vine is mostly in the shade, that and more than ample whole bunch fermentation in a carbonic vein. Less oxygen and no new wood lengthen, extend and create a drift that so few wines of this idiom are able to achieve. WAWW is pinotage of elegance incarnate, not without inherent tannin, yet silken no doubt. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2022

Good to go!

godello

Hemel-en-Aarde

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Memories of South Africa in 60 notes

Water hole, South Africa

As this passage through weltschmerz marches on, the defining feeling of melancholy and world-weariness continues, no doubt magnified in the hearts and minds of the wanderlusts accustomed to consistent world travel. So the question begs, as it has for 12 months, how to summon thoughts that will keep a deep sadness about the inadequacy or imperfection of the world at bay? Speaking from a personal place, a simple and distracting way is to compose retroactive wine reviews, unearthing and editing nuggets of meaningful playfulness, tasting notes created in the past but never having found their way to the light of day. Recent thoughts about South Africa are the impetus for this story.

Related – Searching for great heart in South Africa

In a pandemic-free world Cape Town’s Cape Wine would be taking place six months from now but a difficult and necessary decision by Wines of South Africa has moved the trade show from September 2021 to October 2022. Intensive planning for one of the great triennial wine fairs on the planet begins 18 months out and so with vaccine promise and good hope the time has arrived for the industry to launch preparations for a Spring 2022 Capelands revival. Soon enough the hurdles, obstacles, impediments and hoops of pandemic, lockdowns, sponsorship landing and export bans will be added to the growing list of “what has been overcome.”

Fly me back to South Africa

Related – Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

Wine trips afford tasting hundreds of wines in a week’s time and while all bottles poured by every producer are given full attention and solicit a hundred or so scribbled words on history, tradition, agriculture, winemaking, varietal and regional relativity, many remain in raw form, relegated to computer folders and on the pages of moleskin journals. Pulling them out months, if not years later can induce that elusive feeling of relief and in some extraordinary occasions, epiphany. This to the creator of course, not necessarily to the producer, wine prose seeker, consumer, regional administrator or marketer. Notwithstanding who may be watching or reading, the exercise is a satisfying one and stands on its own merit, if only to be soothed and take refuge in a safe prosaic haven, free from the savage talon grip of a world gone mad.

“What happens in Cape Town stays in Cape Town” carries a three year statute of limitation. With the inimitable Ken Forrester

Nature, farmers and winemakers continue their work. Grapes are still growing and wines are still being made. Cape Wine is one of the greats, a collection and gathering by an industry of more varied character and industriousness than you will ever find. Let’s hope a global correction and stabilization brings everyone back together. During the last edition in 2018 I published several articles and many notes but these are the fruits of unfinished business left unsaid, scattered and streaming bits of consciousness having patiently waited it out for this moment in the sun. With thanks to all these erudite producers who shared a few ounces, engaged in conversation and offered up their time. These are the 60 wines tasted 30 months ago, assessed, critiqued, enjoyed and until now, unpublished.

A.A. Badenhorst Family White Blend 2016, WO Swartland

Simply a case of “fantastic grapes from old vineyards,” small parcels from Adi Badenhorst’s Kalmoesfontein farm, around the Swartland and the greater Paardeberg Mountain. A tienvoudig veldversnit of chenin blanc, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier, verdehlo, grenache gris, clairette blanche, sémillon and palomino. Hard to imagine that ten grapes could be so tactful and get together for such a discreet nose, but they are and they do. Secretive and seductive, full of mystery and enigma, ferments in 3000L vessels and then concrete, of a co-existence executing balance and a dedicated focus on texture. A ten-fold paradigm shift as part of the pioneering, Western Cape appellative white blend parade. Those who know it get lost in the varietal party and just like the makers the soirée will go on forever. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

A.A. Badenhorst Pinot Noir Bokkeveld 2017, WO Swartland

Grown further afield of the great old white grape vineyards, higher into mountainous terrain on the famed Bokkeveld shales. Makes for transitory, lifted pinot noir, “rain-slick’d, rubbed-cool, ethereal,” a little pastiche in a glass. Provides a cool flush of red berries, a note of allspice and truth is the fruit is really quite naturally sweet. Clean, characterful and only an afterthought of subtle savour. More than anything this pinot noir drifts and rises, kind of like reciting poetry. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Hanneke Krüger, A.A. Badenhorst

A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Cinsault 2018, WO Swartland

Of the Badenhorst second tier of wines, a red blend though mainly cinsault (82 per cent) with (10) syrah and (8) grenache. Though this is technically a tank sample it will be bottled next week so essentially across the finish line. There will be 130,000 bottles of this unfiltered wine. Red fruit incarnate Cape style, sweet baking spices and from a band knowing what is needed for playing live in concert, lekker balance seekers capable of working with any instrumentation, including 4,500 and 7,200L blending tanks. Badass sound, fury and energy, dry rocket fuel, pure, raw emotion and precision. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

A.A. Badenhorst Grenache Raaigras 2017, WO Swartland

From the home farm at Kalmoesfontein, a scant 1268 vines by lowest of low yields and considered to be the oldest (1951) grenache vines in South Africa. The Raaigras (ryegrass) is a vineyard choker so without human intervention it would literally strangle a vineyard. One of those wonderful whole bunch ferments though a portion is de-stemmed and well if this is not the right stuff from the right place, transparent, curative, a gastronomy of ancient meatiness and spice. Tannic yet elastic and one of those wines ready to go from creation but won’t likely change anytime soon. For now, long and wide. Feel free to think “see you in 15 years on the other side.” Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Springbock Burger anyone?

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland

A chenin blanc blend of 35-65 year-old 1960s, 70s and early 80s, mainly Paardeberg dry-farmed bush vine vineyards in the Swartland. Some shale and clay soils mix in for a top end chenin meritage with a faint if feigned salty vanilla sweetness. High and dry extract and grape tannin conspire in their conscription and into a stretched intensity requiring some patience for the opening up. Lingers forever thereafter. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Skaliekop 2017, WO Swartland

Skaliekop, “hill of shale,” a curious dale of fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock amongst the Paardeberg granite. For David and Nadia Sadie a chance to make a chenin blanc with both prescient soils lending their presence and tutelage. The people here speak of the Skaliekop, knowing well the wisdom and aridity, the windswept open space, exposed and warm. They recognize and tell of the difference it makes, how a wine such as this can act so implosive, salty, targeted and fervent. The vintage only serves to magnify a sentiment already assured, that fruitful and mineral will align, swell and expand as one from these first grapes to be harvested in the wider Paardeberg zone. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

David and Nadia Aristargos 2017, WO Swartland

In 2017 a Swartland appellative white blend of chenin blanc (58 per cent), viognier (14), clairette blanche (13), sémillon (7), roussanne (5) and marsanne (3). David and Nadia’s only white that sees enough skin-contact to inch it up to but not quite breaching the natural-orange-amber stereotype so moving along now. A free-form, stacked blanc of multifarious juxtaposition, a Cape sensation that does this thing better and more interesting than anywhere else on the planet. Complex because florals and salinity get together and express the Swartland without a care in the world. What really comes across the palate is texture, downy and coddling with a finishing pesto of sweetly herbal fynbos and renosterveld. A perfectly broad expression overall though please don’t typecast or compartmentalize the Sadies’ white blend. Let it be. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Elpidios 2016, WO Swartland

An ever evolving or rather moving target, Rhône motivated but at this point in South Africa’s modern tenure just better to say Cape inspired. Has had many lead singers in its time; syrah, carignan and based on David Sadie’s language, who knows, perhaps grenache will take a turn at the microphone. Here in ’16 carignan (39 per cent) is centre stage with syrah (31), pinotage (16), cinsault (9) and grenache (5) rounding out the players. Elpidios means hope, as in “Cape of Good” and like the place itself there are so many layers to peel away from this heady foreland of a red wine. The berry aspect is magnified by the pinotage and you should know that David and Nadia treat this grape with utmost respect. A mix of styles and inspirations make this both muddled and brilliant as it stretches into breadth and potential. A nexus of varietal and micro-terroirs caught up in a whirlwind of extracts, flavours, liqueurs and expression. Still fresh, spirited and alive so drink this well over a ten year span. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Kreatuur Die Synachin 2017, WO Coastal Region

“A collaboration between a bunch of young blokes, making of-the-moment wines from little-known vineyards around the Cape,” and under monikers that refer to “pushmi-pullyu animals.” Also with the winemaking help of Alexander Milner from Natte Valleij. Really quite the drinkable Rhône-ish blend of 56 per cent syrah, (26) grenache and (18) cinsault. Iron in multifarious soils (mainly granitic) make this hematic and deeply plum but still, not so difficult to knock back. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Kop Ou Treffer Cinsault 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Ou Treffer, as in the ‘old hit’ in Afrikaans, also the old workhorse, in reference to cinsault of the Western Cape. Or if you will, like a hit song as the grape just seems to be the it one in South Africa these days. Or perhaps Traffic, by the Stereophonics. Beautifully aromatic, rich fruit and a soild funk from the particularities in these Stellenbosch vineyards. Half the ferment is de-stemmed, meaning the other half is whole bunch and old vines surely concentrate the fruit, stem funk and spun feeling all-around. Besides, “is anyone going anywhere? Everyone’s gotta be somewhere.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Knapsekêrel 2016, WO Stellenbosch

The second cabernet franc release of the De Kleine Wijn Koöp boys’ Knapsekêrel (a.k.a the spiky little black Cape plant) comes from the Polkadraai Hills. Not just any vineyard mind you but one planted in 2000 and biodynamically farmed by Old Vines Project pioneer Rosa Kruger and current Stellenbosch guru Johan Reyneke. The winemaking hands of Lukas van Loggerenberg are to thank and while this shows the sultry smoky smoulder that often emits from Cape franc it is a challenge and work in project to find the varietal sweet spot. That’s because cool temps and long growing seasons are best but look out for this breadth of a team’s members to find what works. In the meantime the tobacco, dusty plum and pushed to the raisin precipice make up a tasty if humid treat in a glass. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

De Kleine Wijn Koöp Heimwee 2015, WO Stellenbosch

As with the Knapsekêrel cabernet franc, the Polkadraai west of Stellenbosch is the fruit source, a biodynamic vineyard farmed by Rosa Kruger and Johan Reyneke. The boys at the Koöp are back in varietal town and refer to this all-around floral spiced cabernet sauvignon as running “with tannins as smooth as your grandmother’s polished imbuia coffee table.” No doubt and you can almost hear them singing in Phil Lynott workingman’s poetry. That said, this cab is no thin Lizzy, more like thick as a brick. Hung long and well-developed, of a liqueur that oozes of red, red fruit. Or perhaps, “man when I tell you she was cool, she was red hot. I mean, she was steamin’…” Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Johannes de Wet in Robertson

De Wetshof Riesling 2017, WO Robertson

A known fact that riesling and limestone make a great couple so this look at de Wetshof’s Robertson ’17 is met with great mineral anticipation. Yes the finest calcareous blocks are dedicated to chardonnay because Bourgogne is the de Wet inspiration but anyone who has learned a thing about riesling around the world will know that limestone can work wonders. Alsace of course, as in Clos Windsbul but also The Niagara Escarpment’s dolomitic limestone and Germany’s Muschelkalk (especially in the Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Franconia). And so Robertson joins the list as witnessed by this linguistically aromatic example, working the glass with a pure lime distillate notion. A nod to Alsace more than anything else with acidity that doesn’t need to scream and shout but it’s truly there. The potential to pioneer the movement is here, along with Elgin as Cape riesling standard bearers. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

De Wetshof Chardonnay Limestone Hll 2018, WO Robertson

Youth and drought make for the most naked and transparent of the past few Limestone Hill chardonnays. Absolute cool Kelvin freshness and a 270 degree vineyard scope to gather de Wetshof’s Robertson fruit from an amphitheatre of slope and aspect so subtle yet so meaningful. A fulsome regional DNA creates varietal layers gathered to make this cuvée a true spokes-wine for the limestone-based estate. Set foot on these soils, spin around, take it in. Then feel and intuit the truth in chardonnay that speaks to a place. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

De Wetshof Chardonnay Bataleur 2016, WO Robertson

Bataleur, as in a battalion of chardonnay soldiers, fruit up front, reduction and wood falling in, acids taking up the flanks and structure in support by land, air and sea. Or so it seems because this just marches like a military exercise in chardonnay. Flinty, biting back, yet buttered and toasted on the mid-palate with Roberston’s unique limestone felt from start to finish. Vanilla then white caramel with soft French cream fill and then the snap of lime acidity. Biting and downy, one and then the other, all tied up in robes and pearls, equalling out in the end. Fine work from 2016. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2000, WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay

By this time 2000 is the 15th vintage of Hamilton Russell’s pinot noir and tasting both the 1986 and 1997 ahead of this only serves to heighten anticipation knowing full well longevity is by now a solid guarantee. The vintage seems like it must have been a demanding one because there is more hard grip, aridity and austerity here but it really has aged gracefully and beautifully. The posit tug between fruit and earth notes is performed like a string instrument’s bow, bending and angling with dexterity in balanced, fluid motion. Brings in the herbs and spices, wholly and truly of Hemel-en-Aarde origin, on hillsides and between rows of sagacious pinot vines. This is a treat and opens a portal into the future, beginning with the 2012 vintage that will usher in a string of sequentially impressive HR pinot noir. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie Circa Rosecco NV, WO Swartland

From a 32 year-old pinotage vineyard, great old vines that received some TLC from Old Vines Project pioneer Rosa Kruger. Secondary bottle fermented with a little help from “a special blend of liqueur de triage,” so unlike Prosecco in that regard. Early picked which is a given considering the granitic soil and therefore a “Rosecco” of low pH and severely high acidity. ‘Twas just a slight dosage and therefore comes across arid like the Swartland desert. A well cultured sparkling Rosé, crushable and easy like Sunday morning. Drink it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Jan Harmsgat Chardonnay 2015, WO Robertson

True reduction yet to dissipate as noted by the smoky smoulder with a healthy compliment of wood still needing to melt in and away. Looking to settle over the next six months or so and allow the combination of vanilla extract and green apple purée to integrate, compliment and go forward in agreement. Though creamy there is a bite back at the finish so while this is good now it still shows promise for improvement down the road. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2009, WO Constantia

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside the 1987 labeled “Blanc de Blanc” and the 1994. The vines date back to 1979, with the first South African sauvignon blanc made in 1986. That ’87 was a B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. A 100 per cent varietal wine, built by the soil and so bloody mineral as a result. Oak texture but really that’s the end of wood talk, a salty streak, so direct and so personal. The kind of sauvignon blanc that invades your airspace and a vintage more Bordeaux than the rest. Or, if you will Sancerre but not so much this time around. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1994, WO Constantia

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside the 1987 labeled “Blanc de Blanc” and the 2009. The vines date back to 1979, with the first South African sauvignon blanc made in 1986. That ’87 was a B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. The ’94 vintage was another story altogether, apposite, far away from developing noble rot. Not the baller and perhaps even a bit “weak” with less weight but a saltiness that is more than intriguing. Perhaps more Sancerre-esque as a result but certainly lends longevity credibility to those passed over cool vintages neither celebrated nor considered to carry much staying power. May not be fleshy but is surely a curious and electric surprise. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Leeu Passant Chardonnay 2016, WO Stellenbosch

Andrea Mullineux continues to foster the Leeu Passant line of heritage vines wines with work from Rosa KrMuger alongside. The “post (leaf-roll) virus vineyard,” of smuggled in clean material planted in Stellenbosch in the 1980s. The site is home to loam-rich soils of the Helderberg and the wine stylistically modelled after the oxidative approach to chardonnay. “Death and resurrection,” as Andrea puts it, meaning after the fermentation you allow the must to oxidize again, literally to the colour of cola. Risk reward actionable take and one that requires some shall we say, cojones. This chardonnay is not about luck and the methodology can’t help but connect you to the vineyard. You end up with this unctuous, astonishingly rich chardonnay that bears a resemblance to the vines and the place from whence it came. Unlike the Mullineux chenins or Swartland and so say hello to Meursault. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Leeu Passant Dry Red Wine 2016, WO Western Cape

The throwback, ode and homage to South African reds made in the 50s, 60s, 70s, rustic, tannic, structured and reeking of the ancient soils that gave them life. Three locales are in the mix; Wellington, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. The vineyards are the first pro-Phylloxera planted sites, a willy-nilly varietal scattering, blocks of two cinsault, a cabernet sauvignon and a cabernet franc. “It’s a deconstructed reconstruction,” says Andrea Mullineux, “where you break down what you love and build it back up again.” First thing is to show utmost submissive respect to 95 and 117 year-olds, the oldest registered red wine vineyards in South Africa. So you hand harvest their low yields and keep a minimum half of the bunches intact for to ferment these wise and experienced grapes. They spend 20 months in barrel then emerge structured and fit for 20 years of longevity. As with those post mid-20th century wines the profile is rich, tart, spicy, robust and layered with serious grounding. Revivalist red, keeper of faith and a lost style, uniquely South African. Today that translates to vogue. Boom. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Sauvignon Blanc 2016, WO Greyton

The Cape’s south coast work of Samantha O’Keefe, a (500L) barrel fermented sauvignon blanc made in an oxidative way, or rather a wine of early introductions made with oxygen. Flinty no doubt then rich and full on the palate, of throttling grape tannin who’s antidote is a sense of settled calm. Late spice, Bordeaux in temperament but cooler still, an almost northern Sancerre-ish dexterity and layering. Composed and so very genteel. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2016, WO Greyton

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s original Greyton Farm, in re-build for a promising future. This ’16 is 90 per cent estate fruit, a natural ferment and all done up in neutral (300L) barrels, 11 months on lees. No malo except when a great vintage comes along. Simply an orchard and gingered and delight, a woven tapestry of backroads eccentricities and southern exposures, with a kick and twist of finishing spice. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018

Lismore The Age Of Grace 2017, WO Elgin

From rose-quartz soil in cool Elgin, a 100 per cent viognier, so apposite relative to the achromatic shades of Greyton sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. High demeanour and a sense of vivid colour in the aromatic wonder but more so in the levels of palate, front through middle to back. They come like a rainbow, rolling, over stones, in “colours in the air, oh, everywhere.” Orange, peach, nectarine and fine, fine Elgin acidity. They are wrapped in sour spice yet sit cross-legged, in complete control. An aristocratic flower child, surely full of and situated in an age of grace. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Pinot Noir 2017, WO Western Cape

Fruit from both Walker Bay and Elgin and 30 per cent whole bunch (the first vintage was 15). So very herbal, savoury, stemmy and honest. A beacon in pinot noir you want to drink that comes equipped with an edginess about it. Full purity on display, grip, intensity and packed with provisions for the picnic. Marks the early beginnings of a varietal journey with some naïveté and dreams but look out. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Alette de Boer, Lowerland

Lowerland Tolbos Tannat 2016, WO Prieksa, Noord Kap

From South Africa’s furthest northern wine-growing area, a joint effort between grower Bertie Coetzee and winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Wow does this ever smell like tannat with its depth of earthy fruit and suspension of oxidative animation. High acidity reminds of the really cool climate, more Niagara per se than southwest France. There really is something special here, as with Lowerland’s stellar whites, something singular, yet undefined, in enigma and mystery. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Witgat Viognier 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

The viognier may scent of exotic flowers and tropical fruits but as with most of Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee’s range this is surely a cool climate wine. Subtly so and yet of a tension and a demand that accrue a sense of northerly South African wine-growing sense. The wine was made by JD Pretorius at the Constantia property Steenberg and it comes about quite normal, varietally speaking but also beautiful. There is a liquid chalky feel, a product no doubt of quality dry extract mixed with Prieksa soil of desert sand and silty clay. Lean and structured, a lanky viognier that in the end delivers quite the delight. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Die Verlore Bokooi 2016, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

Literally “easy drinking blend,” spoken through an indigenous vernacular from “the place of the lost goat.” At the time a blend of merlot, shiraz and tannat but like the Herd Sire Reserve that too will change over time. A racy and ripe red, earthy and parochial though fruitful in its red, black and blue mixed berry basket. There really is nothing to compare this too, neither old world origin or varietal mash up so assess it on its own terms. Just knock it back. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

Lowerland Herd Sire Reserve 2015, WO Prieska Noord Kaap

A red blend that will evolve (varietally speaking) but in 2015 it is based on cabernet sauvignon with petit verdot and a small amount of merlot. Bordeaux being the message but that too will change because the north of South Africa may actually share more affinity with the southwestern French wine-growing than anywhere else. This unique Noord Kaap Wyn van Oorsprong’s cool climate makes for early drinking reds and the 13 year-old vines here follow the party line for a red blend ripe enough to do what needs. There is more liqueur and spice here than what is noted in the merlot/shirtaz/tannat and also increased acid intensity. Somewhat oxidative but holding well and doling pleasure. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018

Nina Mari and Ernst Bruwer, Mont Blois

Mont Blois Estate Chardonnay Kweekkamp 2016, WO Robertson

After 28 of not bottling their own wines the husband and wife team of Ernst and Nina-Mari Bruwer began again in 2017. This is one of the first, a single vineyard chardonnay off of 12 year-old vines, barrel fermented and aged 11 months. Speaks of Robertson, not specifically by limestone but with that WO’s orchard fruit and realism, by passing spice that’s merely a thought. Lovely snap, crack and bite which is truly Robertson while in delivery of everyday texture and mellow disposition. The kind of chardonnay to stay quiet and simply sip. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Mont Blois Chardonnay Hoog en Laag 2016, WO Robertson

“High And low,” in reference to the vineyard being a terraced block on clay. Heavy clay that is, a Robertson specialty and the Hoog En Laag receives the same elévage as the Kweekkamp chardonnay. Certainly a richer and fruit fulsome expression, less snap and bite. No subtle spice either and yet the barrel notes are equally noted. What this has is full-fledged texture, creamy and smooth, all day long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Mont Blois Chenin Blanc Groot Steen 2016, WO Robertson

The “big” chenin blanc because of the dense clay that gives nutrient life to the 32 year-old block of vines. Quite the steen intensity, ripping with fruit and a mineral streak for layer upon layer of Robertson quality. Naturally sweet pears, ripe and dripping, plus an unusual or unaccustomed to herbology. Perhaps it’s the famous local Rooibos talking. Really persistent chenin with loads of potential. Likely some flint and smoulder in its future. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Western Cape

A true Cape chenin blanc assemblage, in fact it gives meaning to the gathered idea, like an AOC Chablis made by a houses in names of Fèvre, Drouhin, Moreau or La Chablisienne. Mullineux’s twist is the back blending with some old barrel ferments to balance to new and “other” fruit components. A chenin blanc that is bottled the same year it was picked though that’s easier to do in the southern hemisphere where harvest happens in the first quarter months. Expectation always dictates value from the Kloof Street and 2018 does not disappoint with an attractive spiciness that speaks to the preservation of freshness in a chenin blanc possessive of no boundaries. One of the most versatile wines on the planet. Sheet pan sausages and fennel would be just ideal. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Quartz 2017, WO Swartland

Soil is the single matter, catalyst and difference maker to dictate the peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and unique sets of behaviours in the Mullineux single-terroir wines. The chenin develops “freckles” in the sun, tells winemaker Andrea Mullineux and the warmth of the high presence of quartz retains and returns warmth, translating to a conduit of concentrated ripeness passing through the vines. Not a direct heat, otherwise the berries would burn but a reflected back-beat of light and one that is slowly transmitted with naturally occurring temperature control for how and when the plants are in need. The greatest positive is in the maturation of phenolics in the skins and not by a hasty overload in developed sugars. From out of the silica oxide comes vegetative growth that promotes and preserves a physiological process in retention of acid freshness. The result? A phenolic journey unique to chenin blanc as here with a striking 2017, dry as drought yet fresh as a daisy. Though there is some creamy texture there too is hyper intense clarity, a variegate of dappled aromatics and brindled flavours, all bound up in animated acid bounces. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Chenin Blanc Granite 2017, WO Swartland

In chenin blanc the Mullineuxs engage in this single-terroir comparison, first by Quartz and now through Granite. The reference is to the predominant mineral presence in the soil and in how it influences the chameleon varietal. In 2017 Quartz is a major concern but switching to sandy, decomposed rocky soil and everything changes. Berries leave the world of mottled and piebald to one of demure and decor with thanks to the diffused light set upon them. That and a place where roots must burrow, digging deeper through hunks of rock into the sub-strata. This is where trace elements and minerals are to be found in the water table below and while limestone and silex is not the tablet there is some ideological affinity here with the Loire. As such it is this Granite that speaks in a leaner, thoroughly mineral, less spice and increased sharpness vernacular. Precision cut, flint struck, metallic, a song of science and silence. Body and flesh are ambient, less “creamy” than in Quartz, linear in travels, long and of an aging potential surely cast forward. Focused all the way through, unrelenting but always in layers of overlap and subtlety. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Kloof Street Red 2017, WO Swartland

Kloof Street is a “heritage blend,” says Andrea Mullineux, “it’s a wine about the love for making wine, but having preferences.” From vintage to vintage maybe check the bottle for varieties because there is no steadfast formula. Heritage, as opposed to Rhône means playfulness, choices and the inclusion of a structure fortifying grape like tinta barocca, truly integral to the Western Cape meritage experience. Here in 2017 there are some notable added layers of flesh, drying tannin and largesse. An early extracted wine in fast stages of maceration to coax out the fruit and deter astringency. Comes away rich and robust, rocking the free and new world. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Syrah 2016, WO Swartland

“I still consider it a blend,” insists Andrea Mullineux,”because it comes from seven vineyards on three soils.” Spends up to six weeks on skins, depending on how big the tannins are. Big equals patience. Burly early with spice and elongation but that heft and girth will slowly melt away. An invisible friend called acidity will usher the transformation, those gnomes of silent structure. The next stage will celebrate the leathery cherry fruit and cumulative Swartland savour.  Last tasted September 2018

The first drought vintage for the Swartland syrah and so the extract, concentration and density are all in compression mode. The change is felt with palpable impression, meatier, more char, even tar, and a little bit of dogma was necessary to bring in more granite-raised syrah to keep things swimmingly cool and savoury along. It’s a hematic one in 2016. To some this would be the bomb, the massive reason to believe and to others it might seem an impossible wall to scale. With a combination of love and patience the ’16 will please them all. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Syrah Schist 2016, WO Swartland

As with the two chenin blanc Quartz and Granite introspections there too is a Mullineux terroir combing of Swartland soils through the lens of syrah, there by Iron and here through Schist. The style or rather the result is befitting the monikers because Schist is the tamer one of the two and it is interesting to note that the syrah “blend” as Andrea Mullineux calls it is more like Iron than this elegant one. A huge January heat wave could have led this into the raisin danger zone because ripening under the shotgun is no way to approach harvest. Cooler heads and temperatures prevailed to allow for an unfurling, a plumping and a perking up. Schist comes out regal, aromatically civil and demure, but also juicier than a nosing might indicate. Acid retention is strong, sweet and quite friendly to work in cohorts with the cane and Baleni based spice. Dark in complexion, yes brooding yet sneakily serene, salty and so comfortable in its own skin. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Syrah Iron 2016, WO Swartland

The second of two Mullineux soil investigations for syrah is this dramatic and hematic nonpareil exemplar. Cultivar meets terroir, raised off of a heavy, gravelly clay, rich in iron, impressive and hallowed as antediluvian viticultural ground. That may not be completely Cape uncommon but this is clearly a paradigm shifter for drilled down South African syrah in attack meets beast mode, cimmerian, ferric and intense. Modish though, while inexorable character oozes from every pore and a mid-palate wells of extraordinary fill. Sharpens its wits on bullish tannin and expresses Northwest of Malmesbury iron with raw emotion and power, though without rusticity. What it may lack in elegance is made up by sheer force in reckoning, at first engaging and then gripping the palate by all means necessary. The velvet glove future lies somewhere in the next decade, likely latter first half. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2013, WO Elgin

Just a hint of evolution is showing in this five year-old pinot noir which is something because you had to work to find any in the just tasted 2009. The sweetest fruit comes from 2013, on of the riper, purest and most pristine vintages to express what Elgin has to offer. Ethereal actually, not loosely but effortlessly structured with a seamless bond forged between fruit and acids. Tannins are already subsiding in this elegant, balanced and slightly spiced pinot. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2011, WO Elgin

Such a composed vintage, cool, calm and collected. A Beaune Villages feel here, perhaps Aloxe-Corton with darker pinot noir fruit, almost black cherry but less obvious, more complex, full of baking spice. A genial and genteel Seven Flags nonetheless, elastic, pliable, amenable but not without undeniable and underlying composure. That backbone may bend with curvature ease but will not break. Provides the basis to see this Cluver from Elgin live easily up to and likely beyond its 12th birthday. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2009, WO Elgin

Harkens back to a time when the 1987 planted 113 clone was no longer the sole provider for the Seven Flags family after 115 and 667 had been planted in 2001. From 2009 it seems quite obvious the vintage was one to create big, robust, ripe and warm pinot noir. Even as it approaches its ninth birthday the evolution equation remains in early steps computation, perhaps just now moving to the next stage. Secondary development is still around the bend or on the next page, noted by the persistence of a cool climate, liquid but still grainy chalk. Also acts just a bit reductive which seems almost impossible but stranger things have happened out of South African vineyards. Just imagine the futuristic possibilities when these vines soon achieve heritage age. Remind me to ask Paul Cluver for a look at vintages from 2022 onward at Cape Wine 2039. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

Callie Louw, Porseleinberg

Porseleinberg Syrah 2016, WO Swartland

Poured by Callie Louw at Cape Wine 2018, this Riebeek Kasteel, Porcelain Mountain syrah somehow sits at a pantheon’s peak vintage after vintage, as if each one is a once in a lifetime effort. This must have been the epitome of such a consideration because Louw calls it “a fucking hard vintage, eh.” Strong talking words from the stoic and pragmatic BBQ smoker, winemaker and cricket master. Callie may have experienced a craftsman’s pain but the 70 per cent foudres and 30 concrete elévage not only tamed the savage beast, it helped to turn heads and remind of where greatness comes from. Tasted side by each with 2012 and 2013 only magnifies the massive structure in this ’16, a reductively bouncy, glycerin and impenetrable syrah in need of getting lost in the cellar. Will also need an epic song, “into the blue again, after the money’s gone.” Through the next decade and well into the following one this syrah will remain in light. “Same as it ever was.” Drink 2022-2040.  Tasted September 2018

Callie Louw’s smoker hard at work in Malmesbury

The Sadie Family Palladius 2014, WO Swartland

If you Google “South African white appellative blend” the number one result should surely be Eben Sadie’s Palladius and these are the 11 reasons why; chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. Eleven blocks, all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. If looking forward to the brilliant ’16 and seeing it as a wine of mixed tenses, then this ’14 speaks in the imperfect because it strikes as the one to talk about the past and to say what used to happen. As in language, love, war and the past continuous, all is fair when it comes to assessing the verticals of wine, especially in descriptions. The 2014 Palladius is the back to the future vintage, of warmth and spice when things were picked overripe and new beginnings are constantly forged. But the citrus preserve and sheer electric lemon-lime energy looks ahead to the intensity of a youthful 2016, leaving a taster confounded, satisfied and awake all at the same time. This may go forward before it retreats once again. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2009, WO Swartland

When talking about the 2009 vintage Eben Sadie talks of the decision to add sémillon, clairette blanche and palomino to his appellative white blend that already held chenin blanc, colmbard, grenache blanc and viognier. “To up the acidity,” aid and abet the tendencies of fleshy fruit to fatten in overripe behaviour. More than just acidity mind you, Sadie also looked to heighten the “acoustics” in a wine that was quickly becoming a major Swartland concern. Tasting this is September 2018 it can’t help but be noted how development and evolution have nearly caught up to 2005, a vintage cause and effect action no doubt. Here is the spiciest, sauciest and flat out nasty attitude Palladius, unabashed and already having done most of its living. That said the track record of these wines tells us to stay put, be patient and continue to relish the sapid, saline and ever-changing paths carved out. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Pofadder 2017, WO Swartland

Part of Eben Sadie and family’s “Die Ouwingerdreeks,” the old vine series and a reference to either or both puff adder snakes and the small “bushman’s land” town in the Northern Cape. Can be 100 per cent cinsault though the percentage is 85 in 2017, aged in old but not Jurassic wood. The ideal, epitome and exemplar bench-land varietal wine, not to mention a pioneer in the South African paradigm shift to conscious exultation of a plan in collective commitment for varietal, heritage vine and whole cluster ferments. From granite shales (not the decomposed kind) and yet another red fruit incarnate, freshest of the fresh precision wines. Pure Cape cinsault is this, with tannin but the kind that is sweet and stretched. No bullshit here. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Treinspoor 2017, WO Swartland

Afrikaans for “railroad,” perhaps a reference to the method of transportation that brought these European grapes to the Cape, depending on how far back tinta barocca arrived in the Swartland. In fact it was in the 1920’s and now just a bit more than 200 ha’s of this hardy, rustic, dark-skinned, early ripening and versatile red lay scattered about, accounting for two one hundredth’s of a per cent for vineyard area in South Africa. Sadie’s is a single-vineyard line running through the Darling side of Malmesbury, a cimmerian blackish red reeking of Renosterbos which is ironic because animal activists have always believed that the railroads threaten Rhino habitat. Digressions aside this is a prime example of why some might consider tinta barocca to be the future grape of Swartland. Sweetly floral and in 2017 both ways perfectly ripe. Botanicals abound, bosplante in bloom while flowers await the bees. Where this shares affinities with cinsault and grenache is in the curative and salumi aromas leading to sweet yet elastic tannins. The finish and length are expressly Swartland in nature. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Columella 2016, WO Swartland

Red counterpart to the Sadie white signature Palladius and residing in the upper echelon of Western Cape appellative blends. Ontario lays claim to the Stratus White and Red while the Cape knows these. Allowing for some levity there is a kinship to be considered between Eben Sadie and J-L Groulx, two of the more unlikely mad scientists able to capture the lit and woke disposition of mastered assemblage. Imagine Groulx also pouring varietal shots of many different farmed varieties from the back of his pick up truck during a lawn bowl in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The full name is Columella Liberatus in Castro Bonae Spei, Latin for “liberated in the Cape of Good Hope” and as a pillar of strength Columella’s syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and tinta barroca ascend to dramatic expression. Variegated in every respect; hue, perfume, flavour and structure, at once layered and then stratified with doric strength, able to bear the most concentrated weight. Relative acidity, fluted or grooved, wider in youth to help support and lengthen. Intensely fortified with help from the barocca, naturally and of itself, intuitively wild yet controlled. Such a focused wine one rarely comes upon. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family ‘T Voetpad 2017, WO Swartland

The “footpath” from both the Dutch (het Voedpad) and Afrikaans, also the name of Dirk Brand’s rooibos and wheat farm next to this oldest vineyard in the Kapteinskloof near Piketberg. Some say the oldest in South Africa, planted between 1920 an 1928, but others will say the first vines went in around the 1890’s through to the early 1900’s. Takes the Sadie Family “Die Ouwingerdreeks” to the farthest, most extreme reaches of the old vineyards idea. “The vines have seen it all,” tells Eben Sadie, “don’t fuck with us” is their message. “Don’t mess this up.” And so Eben co-ferments in an as is format but more importantly works at the agriculture to a point of obsession. Newer inter-plantings will go in, of sémillon, sémillon gris and palomino from massal selected material. To deal with drought cover crops will also be added between rows, all of course through an organic approach. The blend is sémillon, sémillon gris, palomino, chenin blanc and muscat d’Alexandrie, all processed together, but this is not about extreme winemaking. More like extreme farming, finding ways to keep these twisted kurktrekker and cavatappi bending vines alive for to produce their magic. The wine that emerges is all about tendencies and multiplicities of texture. The dry extract here is off the charts making it seem forcefully and fiercely tannic. Fantasy and zeitgeist just happens and the results are right there in the bottle. A remarkable wine and vintage from an isolated vineyard where drought is always a factor. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018

Abrie Bruwer, Springfield Estate

Springfield Estate Chardonnay Méthode Ancienne 2016, WO Robertson

Burgundian ode, ancient method of making chardonnay, a rare approach these days, with wild yeasts and no fining or filtration. No surprise that Springfield Estate is willing to give it a go because that’s how they roll. The plan is for deep longevity by a method akin to anti-aging serum, though 15 to 20 years would be astonishing in any case. Ground control to major tang, circuits wired tohu vavohu and a lemon custard to curd constitution that is simply merveilleux. Yes it is true that a hint of orange could turn into Cointreau after a half decade or more and the mid-palate cloud cover will continue to deliver warmth and appeal. Curious methodology plus romantic acumen equates to one of a kind. We’ll see where this goes. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Break A Leg Blanc De Noirs 2017, WO Paarl

Often referred to as a pink wine but to choose this term to call Lukas van Loggerenberg’s 100 per cent cinsault grown on Helderberg granite would not tell the right story. Blanc de noirs is more apt but even then more detail is necessary to do it justice. Sees nine months of lees time, “to remove the tutti frutti,” snarks van Loggerenberg, without jest but can you really know when he’s being serious? Leaves the arena of the Rosé absurd and settles at a hue of proper B de N colour, as if that really matters. Saltiness is the thing, the granite kind, the sort to set your eyes ablaze and your heart to rest. Not really a wine about texture, though there is plenty, but that’s not the goal. Anything but sweet and a wresting away from norms into a matter of reckoning. And all about five knee surgeries, something the winemaker and the critic know all about. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Chenin Blanc Trust Your Gut 2017, WO Western Cape

While there are wines in Lukas van Loggerenberg’s world that travel down the kamikaze viaduct, Trust Your Gut is not one of them. In fact there is a normalcy, a recognizable structure and an older Euro soul to the way this chenin blanc acts and feels. Sees 10 months sur lie in old French oak but no bâttonage, nor malo neither. Three zones bring the fruit; 45 per cent each Stellenbosch and Swartland plus 10 from Paarl. Take chenin blanc and treat it like a Villages wine by imagining Loire aromatics merging with Chablis texture. This my friends is a classic example of amalgamated Western Cape chenin style. There is irony in the name and no shocker there. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Early springtime in Cape Town

Van Loggerenberg Wines Cinsault Geronimo 2017, WO Western Cape

Geronimo is 100 per cent cinsault, 60 per cent from Stellenbosch and 40 “Break a Leg” Paarl. The get together finds energy that one without the other would not find “because cinsault doesn’t have high natural acidity,” explains Lukas van Loggerenberg, “it is a very good indicator of vintage.” The 2017 is, wait for it, 80 per cent whole bunch and while that is a factor of the Western Cape’s ripen anything, anywhere, anytime great advantage, it’s still an impressive strategy no matter where you are making wine. Spends nine months in barrel and comes out smelling like roses, candied petals mainly but other florals, hibiscus and such. A handsome cinsault to be sure and one that will take precious time to unwind, great acidity or not. Like the red Cape equivalent of white friulano in Collio, sneaky long and structured. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Cabernet Franc Breton 2017, WO Stellenbosch

A more than obvious ode to the Loire Valley, 100 per cent cabernet franc bearing the old world varietal name. Fruit drawn from Stellenbosch’s decomposed granite soils gets the 60 per cent whole bunch treatment, followed by 11 months in barrel. Transparent as cabernet franc is the understatement, open wide, ease of alcohol at 12.8 per cent and in delivery for the rapture of being alive. Lots of verdant tones but nary a green tannic moment. Seems like the beginning of a beautiful friendship so the future too is wide open. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018

Sheree Nothnagel

Wildehurst Velo White 2016, WO Swartland

A testament to non-pareil, Cape appellative white blend equanimity, of colombard, grenache blanc and viognier, 33 of each, give or take one per cent. Only the viognier is barrel fermented though the equilibrium os never compromised. Intensely herbal, of a nose uncanny in its fynbos reek, lovely glycerin texture, again balanced and knowing the place it wants to be. Acid structure travels though in a pas trop travaillé, no trouble way. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland

Barrel fermented and six months matured, 100 per cent chenin blanc, acting as if freshly spiced and in Cape terms, a really chewy white wine. Counterbalanced by a leanness in vintage while wound tight, just now perhaps beginning to unwind in repeat of its specific refrain. Acid structure makes up the lyrical couplets, sung again and again, as a reminder that fruit and wood will always align and submit to the citrus rhyme. Almost feels like still perlage and chenin blanc like this is very much a string of pearls, inclusive of tannins in long chains. Helps to explain the success of Wildehurst’s Méthode Cap Classique. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Red 2014, WO Swartland

A blend of shiraz, grenache, mourvèdre, viognier and cinsault, aged in old French barrels for 18 months. Like the solo cinsault but an even more held back and hard to crack the savoury and sweet candied shell. Both elements emerge with good agitation, first the sweet variegate of red fruit and then the brushy and dusty fynbos bushiness, here acting as an energizer for equal opportunity. Spills over with that Wildehurst acid-tannin continuum as all the wines take their time to ready, pivot in the glass and then speak of their age ability going forward. Big bursts are all power and no cake. Rich yet elastic and surely capable of going deep. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Cinsault 2017, WO Swartland

Just two barrels were found to be extraordinary and thus pulled by Sheree Nothnagel, away from the red blend and into this solo album. Quite the richly emulsified and ropey red fruit cinsault and while it follows along the varietal Swartland thread the differences are as great as they are to the party’s similarities. That is due in respect to the Wildehurst style, tighter and more acid-structure intense, higher-toned and less in the meaty-salumi-curative vein. Still possessive of that red as red can be fruit but here more akin to barbera or sangiovese from high altitudes and limestone soils. There must be something about Koringberg and the other Swartland sites that bring a special je ne sais quoi to Joanne Hurst’s wines. Maybe in thanks to Swartland shale, granite, silcrete and alluvium Renosterveld. Who does not love the smell of Renosterveld in the morning? Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018

The Wine Thief Costa Del Swart Viura 2017, WO Voor Paardeberg

From the Western Cape’s chameleon of a region where anything goes and all things are considered. Case in point this viura of Spanish roots as part of the single barrel series. Surely Swartland specific (as opposed to Paarl), 100 per cent viura and only 180 bottles produced. Less alchemy and more herbology, but flinty, sharp and exciting. Direct, full of fun and even a bit waxy, with a riesling or sémillon feel that can only mean some petrol in its future. So much citrus gets ya in the end. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A Barque Smokehouse pack of Smoke’s finest wines for home

The Barque Smokehouse Restaurant Relief Case is a mixed 12-pack of wines curated by Chef/Owner David Neinstein and Wine Director Michael Godel. The wines are representative of local and international producers that have been a part of the Barque family of wines during the restaurant’s nine years in existence. The choices for the mixed case are thanks to four outstanding Ontario wine agents who have consistently been some of the restaurant’s most loyal and supportive partners.

Click here to view the Barque Smokehouse wines for home offer from the WineAlign Exchange Agency Cases

The collective challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many hard choices and put great demands on both the physical and mental health and well-being of so many in the hospitality industry. The Barque team is not immune to such adversity and that is why there is great need plus the will to pitch in and help. Part of the proceeds from the sales of these cases will go towards helping The Restaurant Relief Fund as well as much needed financial support for Smokehouse staff currently isolating at home.

Three wines each from Noble Estates Wines and Spirits, Nicholas Pearce Wines, Brand New Day Wines and Spirits and Le Sommelier Wine Agency make up the case. You will receive one sparkling wine, one Rosé, three whites and seven reds, along with a complimentary signature Barque rub.

The final case price will be $275/case plus delivery. Delivery fees are estimated at $17 in Ontario (shipping locations, fees & COVID-19 update). Delivery is expected in late May 2020. The $275 price includes all taxes and our $20 procurement, admin, storage & handling fee.

CHECK OUT THE WINES & ORDER A CASE!

Corretta Chianti Classico DOCG
2015
Italy
Tuscany
Sangiovese
No Place Wines “As Is” Field Blend
2017
Canada
VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario
Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Bussoletti Ciliegiolo di Narni
2018
Italy
Umbria
Ciliegiolo
Sepp Moser Grüner Veltliner Classic
2018
Austria
Niederösterreich
Grüner Veltliner
Alpha Box & Dice Tarot Grenache
2018
Australia
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Grenache
Fita Preta Red
2018
Portugal
Alentejo
Aragonêz, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet
Pearce-Predhomme Chenin Blanc
2019
South Africa
Stellenbosch
Chenin Blanc
Marco Zunino Malbec
2018
Argentina
Mendoza
Malbec
Gilvesy Bohém
2017
Hungary
Lake Balaton
Olaszrizling, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc
Pares Balta Brut Cava
NV
Spain
Penedès
Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-Lo
Mas Buscados
2018
Spain
La Mancha
Tempranillo, Petit Verdot
Les Oliviers Rosé
2017
France
Languedoc
Grenache, Cinsault

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

@BarqueBBQ

Facebook: Michael Godel

Barque Smokehouse

WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)

It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)

The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)

There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Mullineux Cape Winemakers Guild ‘The Gris’ Sémillon 2013, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

This was the year Andrea Mullineux began working with this rare and certified by the Old Vines Project sémillon gris from a 1960 planted (just 2 kms away from the chenin blanc), heritage dry-farmed plot grown on the granite soils of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. Only a few blocks exist anywhere and in 2014 some of this fruit began to augment the Mullineux Old Vines White. It is what Andrea calls “a project of the jumping gene.” It’s like a varietal ride on a pogo stick, in colour from pale like colombard to dark as cinsault. A citrus attack like no other and subjugated to the lush manifestations of skin contact. Still so flinty-smoky, lean and yet of a texture like an emollient of florals keeping the wine moist, fleshy and flexible. Though not the saltiest of vintages this gris is in complete control of its phenolic emotions. It’s also blessed of this unreal incandescence. Wholly unique in every respect. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin (WineAlign)

The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

Palladius is the quintessential spear brandishing South African appellative blend with more varietal diversity than an oenology department’s nursery. It holds chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. No one does varietal interaction and trickery like Eben Sadie. No one. The ’16 is a wine of mixed tenses, the whole echelon and the black hole in the sun. Fruit comes from eleven different blocks all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. Ages in clay amphorae and concrete eggs, then racked into foudres, “to bring it all together.” Palladius holds a casual disregard for synchronizing fruit, acid and extract verb tenses in the way it uses a conditional interrogative without the proper structural order. It’s a wine of fine and unfair intensity, iconic, wise, learned and all for good reason. Imagine this to age well beyond its 15th birthday. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Savage Wines Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region (WineAlign)

Though the négoce roaming transverses the entirety of the Western Cape, sometimes you just go home again. This as small as it gets Girl Next Door resides and is raised out of a 0.38 hectare Noordhoek vineyard, “the weekend hobby vineyard,” as Duncan Savage would put it. A block of great clichés, “the home garden,” or at least close to home and certainly “a work in progress.” The developing plot is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma within a narrative that currently fashions a wine to speak of a long term vision. In these first chapters it is already doling dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful fruit. How this can’t turn into one of the great epic novels of Western Cape lore is beyond you and me. Home is where the heart soothes then savage beast. Winemaker and syrah. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

A single-vineyard is the source and a unique one at that for the Swartland because here is the spot where the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg begins to meet the northern slate. Paardeberg cinsault. If you are not yet familiar with this lovely beast it’s high time you got stoned on it. A varietal echelon rebirth eschews decades of French mistakes and enters into a revolution. As I noted from the ’14, it’s also a revival, a saving and a reformation. Having made itself a home in the Swartland now cinsault can create its own narrative, re-write the book and speak of the terroir. Transparency is truth and in a tightly wound, uniquely tannic way this curls tart and cured meaty filaments around a paradigmatic red fruit core. It’s bloody caesar delicious. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)

Just the second vintage of Lukas van Loggerenberg’s Kamaraderie is a chenin blanc from a 1960s planted, two hectare single-vineyard in Paarl. Lukas picks the bottom of the slope first and the top many days later so there is this natural layering of fruit. Reeks with reminiscence, of fennel and pistachio, of fronds and gelid cream. Only 800 bottles make this one of South Africa’s rarest chenins raised for 10 months in old barrels, unstirred, shaken or allowed to visit with the malolactic king. There’s a dissolve of delicious citrus seamlessly streaked through fleshy fruit in what is just such an organized and structured chenin. Finishes with the brine, oh the brine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Stellenbosch Braai

In VINTAGES

While the August 6th VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.

South Africa picks – August 6th Release

651711, Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Cederberg ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.

652867, House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017, WO Western Cape ($21.95)

Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.

355438, De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018, WO Robertson ($24.95)

Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.

651810, Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, WO Stellenbosch ($39.95)

Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

698274, Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch ($14.95)

Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.

698290, Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017, WO Paarl ($18.95)

Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.

Best of the Rest for August 6th

498535, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)

Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.

668335, Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)

Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.

667527, Château De Montguéret 2017, AP Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($17.95)

Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.

964221, Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy ($29.95)

Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.

260802, Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)

Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.

922054, Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($50.95)

Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.

What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again.

Good to go!

godello

South Africa’s South Coast

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Searching for great heart in South Africa

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink Live in Kalmandi Township

Heritage and diversity in South Africa

as seen on WineAlign

Takeaways from Cape Wine 2018: Bot Rivier, new generation pinotage, regional spotlight on Robertson, Méthode Cap Classique, heritage vines, post revolution Swartland, wot varietal? and kuier

The last time I travelled across the Atlantic and down to the southern tip of Africa was in the warm days of September when I took in the three days of Cape Wine 2015. Beyond the Cape Town commotion of the triennial wine fair there was the added bonus of an expansive, wayfaring wine-lands itinerary. A deep understanding of the Western Cape’s wine landscape came to light, though at the time it seemed like being caught up in some kind of cultural and constitutional revolution. A return engagement with South Africa this past September changes but also cements the notions considered and the lessons learned. South Africa’s scene has now found itself comfortably cast in a post-revolution, full on republic state of wine. Allow me to expand.

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

A deeper understanding

After my return three years ago I suggested that “what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is a playground mentality and their confident executions in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect…the place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden…a certain kind of comparison presents South Africa as the wine equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.”

It’s satisfying to note that three years later the adages, analytics and perspectives remain constant with that initial intuition and yet the changes in mentality meeting execution are far greater than such a short passage of time could normally afford. Winemakers in South Africa are learning everything there is to know about making wine and from every corner of the world. Some are travelling to the sources for the knowledge while others are simply experimenting at home every day to get there. There is no style of wine that isn’t being attempted. I’ll say it again. “Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. Fresh, natural, orange, amber, caliginous and tenebrous have established Cape footholds with enzymatic force.”

The year 2018 will be remembered for many things but at the top of that list are resilience and tradition. After months and months on end of near catastrophic drought the country and in turn the wine producers have found a way to survive and to thrive. Thanks must be afforded the pioneers and those with the most experience, in other words, the people who have been through and seen it all. As a result it is the icons and archetypes of South African wine that stole much of this year’s spotlight. Though they are the antithesis of the young and free-spirited, the lines have begun to blur, or at least overlap in terms of who is who in the winemaking mise en scene. Three years ago these pirates with pirate eyes and pirate smiles made some good wines but a good deal of them were dirty, funky and flawed. Wine geeks gushed because of the cool, natural and revolutionary factor. It was a time of protest and free spirit. Once upon a time in the wild Western Cape. As the boomers have grown older their winemaking has matured and become wiser. There is no abandoning the call for uprising, subversion and experimentation but there is a concerted effort to fashion wines that are a pleasure to drink. Isn’t that the point? In 2018 it seems that everyone has it figured out. South African wines are cleaner by ‘n landmyl, with more purity, transparency and honesty than ever before. Their epiphany is now ours as together we synchronically enter this new world of deeper understanding.

No one does a media package like @wosa_za for @wosacanada peeps. thank you for getting me very ready to tackle @capewine2018

So much to think about

It began at the Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch, home to Spier Wine Farm and Vineyards. It was unseasonably cold with the kind of crisp night air that just makes you think about acidity. The vines were infants at this time in the southern hemisphere vineyards but I could not help but imagine the 2019 harvest possibilities as having forged their beginnings with these early spring conditions. Next stop was Bot Rivier, first with a farm to table experience at Wildekrans Wine Estate. A quick stop to hang with the baboons at Sir Lowry’s Pass and a move to Kalmandi Township.

Performers at Amazink Live

This was a truly South African experience of ‘Ubunti’ at Amazink Live‘s township braai with the local entertainment troupe and a big bottle format of Smiley, Silvervis and Terracura with Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons. The fifth season of performance took place in what is called “a place of unity,” a safe space for all guests and groups. Amazink’s manager Zinthle explained that this club offers “a change in the perception of townships, the name alone means “it’s a nice home.” Kunandi Umalaba indeed. “It’s nice to be here.”

On to Roberston for three quick visits with Graham Beck Wines, Springfield Estate and De Wetshof Estate Wines. Then a night under the African sky, a 24-hour out-of-body experience at Sanbona Game Reserve and over to L’Avenir Farm for Pino Pistols – the next generation of pinotage young guns. The next morning at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the start of three jam-packed days of Cape Wine 2018. An evening that can never be forgotten covered the classics – a regional four-decade vertical tasting with eight iconic producers. The trip culminated with lawn bowls in Malmesbury with the Swartland Swingers, artists formerly known as The Swartland Revolution.

Sundowners, Sanbona Game Reserve

Three years after that 2015 Cape Wine experience it’s duly noted how both flow and focus mean that the game is changing. The notion of planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel it just because it will ripen is evolving. Specialization, especially with respect to varietals like chenin blanc, cinsault, grenache and pinotage is the wave of the future and with this furthered isolation of micro-plots and terroir for these very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. The heritage seekers and protectors know what’s what. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

Were South Africa not so far away from the rest of the wine-consuming world I truly believe it would blow every other wine region out of the proverbial water of supply and demand. South Africa’s wines represent the finest quality to price ratios in the world and there is plenty of product to go around. Lying a continent (and an ocean) away from both Europe and North America is an obstacle that will always be too distant to overcome but the global economy’s ability to coalesce and encourage trading of goods from the furthest of poles is only going to increase. If this upwards and positive trend is to continue the current wave of nationalist political tendencies must be curtailed, if only so that we as consumers can continue to enjoy the wealth of extraordinary wines that need to be exported out of South Africa.

Chef Gregory Henderson, Wildekrans Wilde Forage, Bot Rivier

New age of diversity: Bot Rivier

Bot Rivier is south-east from Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10km radius of one another. At Wildekrans we participated in a ground foraging experience alongside Chef Gregory Henderson. Beaumont Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Paardenkloof, Villion and Luddite Wines led us through a blending process to make a wine from samples supplied by all six. Four groups attempted the exercise to mixed reviews. Said Luddite’s Niels Verburg. “We gave you six beautiful wines and you gave us four bad ones back.” Their wines were significantly better.

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2017, WO Bot Rivier-Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The vintage clarity speaks to an unbelievable old vines imperative and in this case a stage presence imperative to scrape, zest and juice all the lemons, tangerines and peaches in the world. The fruit quality and integrity conjures a continuum where distant memory fast forwards to present day reality. ‘Tis an extraordinary time to taste chenin blanc in its modern vernacular, of so many styles with Sebastian Beaumont’s so high on the pyramid. The The 2017 accomplishment includes further complex compliments, dried pineapple, lemon peel and an herbal wonder powder. This is the sauce. “This is the day, your life will surely change. This is the day, when things fall into place.” Soul mining for chenin blanc. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Villion Family Wines Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A moment’s pause to consider the aromatics is unavoidable because the mid-palate complex notions swirl dramatically out of glass, through the mouth and straight into the mind. This with thanks in kind to more than half of the juice having matured for eight months in (36 per cent new) 300 and 400L French barrels. The fruit was not lost in fact it’s uncanny how mandarin orange it is, plus this old vine (30 years and older) mineral-flint strike to round out the third and most expected aspect of the total oeuvre. Rich, unctuous and structured is a great way for chenin blanc to go through life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  villionwines  @VillionWines  @VillionWines

Wildekrans Wine Estate Chenin Blanc Barrel Select Reserve 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

From winemaker Braam Gerricke his chenin blanc layers and variegates richness and spice. There is nothing simple about the designation or the result, very much in the vein of old vines and barrel licked chenin with great expectation. The ceiling climbs high for this type of execution and with some age for this, followed by some adjustments for the rest the future looks very bright. These are wines poised to climb into another Cape echelon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Gabriëlskloof Syrah The Landscape Series on Shale 2016, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

On Shale is forged of a single-vineyard, Bokkeveld site on the Gabriëlskloof property that makes for a stand apart syrah without comparison. A wild ferment encourages idiosyncratic, ferric and hematic tendencies of what can happen on this section of Western Cape geology. The theoretical possibilities from such shale do for syrah what Cape granite and Malmesbury shale won’t, making abstract connections liquid chalk bled through mudstone in the form of herbal amaro syrup. You notice it in the consistency too, so pure, so sappy oozing and in its very intuitive way, extroverted fine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  gabrielskloof_  @Gabrielskloof  @donniewine  @Gabrielskloof

Luddite Shiraz 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Just a few years offers up so many more clues as to what is going on in Niels Verburg’s shiraz world. First of all the 24 months in barrel and the 24 months in bottle are structure building and basically tell us to stay away for an equally further amount of time. Not that you wouldn’t want to taste one or two along the way but time is the necessity. This is shiraz held back to “gain a balanced potential.” Meanwhile, no other Cape shiraz smells like this. Niels talks about the mattress of curry the khoi bushmen used to lie upon to raise them up above the ground and away from the insects. The plants known as “kerrie” have a very particular herbal-savoury scent, certainly present in Luddite’s shiraz and even more pronounced with a few years of time gone by. It’s exotic, an herbal-spice line trod with floral undertone and in part certainly a cause to that vineyard presence of the curry bush. Texture is fine spun silk, integrated and then comes exquisite acidity to complete the picture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  luddite_wines  @LudditeWines  @ludditewines

Paardenkloof Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Planted in 2002, it was 2006 that proprietor Mohseen Moosa first produced this cabernet sauvignon on the mountain that separates Bot Rivier from the Hemel-en-Aarde, three to four kms from the sea, as the crow flies. The cooling breezes help to coax, coddle and accentuate the varietal tendencies, “to promote the primary fruit of the vineyard,” tells Moosa. Beneficial balance and restrained intensity define this wine, from pockets of spice through ultra-violet floral rays. Pleasing fruit meets designate structure for the most solid of South African cabernets. Fine chalky tannins and all in all, really accomplished. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018  paardenkloof  @PaardenKloof  @PaardenKloofEstate

Chardonnay vineyard in Robertson

Regional spotlight: Robertson

The Robertson Valley is a singular and vast South African landscape, a place of wide open spaces and skies. It’s the ideal location for many things, including growing chardonnay and pinot noir for Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines. It’s also possessive of the finest limestone soils in the Capelands which means chardonnay thrives and the ceiling for pinot noir can only raise higher. Pockets of sand and clay are also ideal for Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The history, meticulousness and confidence of Robertson’s winemakers is more than evident. Springfield’s Abrie Bruwer was quick to remind us all “we’ve revolutionized (winemaking) three times over already and nobody’s noticed.” Robertson remains under the radar but know this. Old world defines the collective oeuvre.

Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc Life From Stone 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

What a jolt in how there’s a quick flash of Sancerre and then bam, straight back into a Robertson reality from the rockiest of parcels. The juice is kept at negative three degrees celsius to preserve the sheer freshness of the fruit. It’s not so radical but it’s also not done. What is does is prevent the flavours from disappearing into the enzymatic wind. They’ve been at this process for 11-12 years, seven of them with the entire crop. It’s about keeping the entirety of the lees suspended to buoy and ready the fruit for fermentation, at 13-16 degrees. The fruit is so variegated, at first mostly stone and the towards tropical tendencies, on the back of acidity wise and mature.  Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2018  springfieldestate  @springfieldwine  @springfieldestate

De Wetshof Estate Unwooded Chardonnay Bon Vallon 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (403675, $22.95, WineAlign)

The unwooded chardonnay from de Wetshof is a fascinating wine because it’s one of the very few in the style that needs some time to settle down and in. From the good valley at the lowest point between slopes there is more searing orchard and citrus fruit meeting pure, unaffected by wood nuttiness than a list that includes all of Robertson and perhaps the entire Western Cape. What is pulled from this limestone terroir and without any barrel time is almost impossible but wholly remarkable. It’s also consistently constructed vintage after vintage by the commitment to craft by the family de Wet. Drink 20189-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Graham Beck Prestige Collection Cuvée Clive 2012, Méthode Cap Classique, Robertson, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

Clive is Graham Beck’s most prestigious and important cuvée, what méthode cap classique cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira calls “a respect to Champagne. While previous incarnations were wines of “best selection” the 2012 chardonnay and pinot noir are drawn from a single-vineyard for the first time. Stand in the tasting room and there it spreads out below, on soil riddled with limestone to equip this crisp and arid sparkling wine with all the necessary attributes. Bronze-parched apple and dried quince are noted. Sentiment and data from a 10 year study project of varietal, lees and aging are collected and come to this; a toast demure, a love divine, a wild control. Brilliant sparkling wine and undoubtedly a South African gem. Drink 20189-2027.  Tasted September 2018  grahambeckbubbly  vinexxperts  @GrahamBeckSA  @Vinexxpert  @grahambeckmcc  @Vinexx

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

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.

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’.

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  beaumontwines  @Beauwine  @Smallwinemakers  @beaumontfamilywine  @smallwinemakerscollection

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  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada

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  beyerskloof  churchillcellars  @Beyerskloof_  @imbibersreport  @Beyerskloof  @imbibersreport

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

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

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

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  kanonkopwineestate  noble_estates  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates  @Kanonkop  @NobleEstates

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

Wildekrans Wine Estate

Wildekrans Wine Estate Pinotage 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A cooler, herbal and uniquely floral pinotage from Braam Gerricke. Bush vines grow on a shady site of small acreage and at altitude for the valley. Pinotage of chalky liquidity from you which you feel the oak and a real sour-sorrel tang. Was in barrel for 15 months and it will need a year or two to fully integrate, than drink well for four or five more years after that. Terrific persistence and length.  Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Graham Beck Winery, Robertson

Méthode Cap Classique

Plain and simple, Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is a South African term indicating a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. That said, there is nothing simple about MCC and who would argue that as a category it produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. It’s also very much a wine about terroir. As it stands, MCC has to age on the lees for a minimum nine months to be labelled as such. “We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum should be raised to 15. “Sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” As for sugar dosage he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” It is Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira that has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but more importantly the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. “For Brut we have to extend (the less aging time) to 60 months. So there is no lipstick or eye shadow.”

Le Lude Vintage Cuvée Méthode Cap Classique 2012, WO Franschhoek, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Le Lude’s winemaker Paul Gerber assembles two non-vintage Bruts, blended each vintage for a house style. The fruit is primarily Robertson with some addendum out of Franschhoek. The first vintage was indeed 2012 and this chardonnay (80 per cent) plus pinot noir comes sweet herbal straight out of the riddle with a sultry, piqued spiciness. Already showing a hint of secondary notation by way of a honeyed nougat melted into the soft and delicate mousse. Still plenty of intensity and drive with citrus in whole represent by lime, fresh and juicy. Less red fruit (much, much less) and more white flower with the idea of yellow and green fruit. Stylish, persevering and precise. At 2.6 g/L it’s perfectly albeit sparsely seasoned and mature with Champagne confidence. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  leludemcc  @LeLudeMCC  @LeLudeMCC

L’Avenir Brut Méthode Cap Classique 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

L’Avenir Estate’s Méthode Cap Classique is mainly pinotage with some chardonnay and arrives in the glass as a light and nearly delicate bubble. It’s a succulent, sweet rusty, lively enzymatic sparkling wine with an opinion and a plan of action. Pleasurable to sip from a definite MCC teachable moment. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada 

Genevieve Brut Blanc De Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Genevieve is Cap Classique made by Melissa Nelsen and was first made in 2008, released in 2010. Now with 2014 the lees aging time is 48 months with total output in the 12,00-13,000 bottle range, up from the 5,000 of that first vintage. The goal is 20,000 in the very near future. It’s essentially blanc de blancs, 100 per cent chardonnay as a wise, calm, mature and elegant traditional method sparkling. Just lovely. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  #melissagenevievenelsen  @Genevieve_mcc  

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2012, Méthode Cap Classique,Robertson, South Africa (435453, $23.95, WineAlign)

Slanghoek pinot noir (77 per cent) meets limestone-Robertson chardonnay for a driest of the dry sparkling wine that spent 60 months on the lees. Beck’s attack for the Brut Zero “is based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne,” notes Pieter Ferreira and as such it surely ranks as one of the more mineral-toasty bubbles in the entire Cap Classique category. No sugar added during dosage allows the land to speak. There is a deeper intuition beyond flint-struck, something categorically chalky while delicate and flavour wise it’s simply limon-delicieux. The fineness is noted and the vintage too, from which the team saw enough to make use of the highest quality juice for a tête de cuvée wine. High ceiling for aging here. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Méthode Cap Classique NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Sheree Nothangel’s sparkling Cap Classique is composed of chenin blanc and chardonnay (56/44), at 4 g/L dosage after 24 months on the lees. This is the third year of the program and the first stage speaks to a style that acts in delicasse incarnate. Just lovely and creamy in which lemon billows with elastic solids as curd and there is a real feel of fine lees. Though downy it too is lifted but not explosive by acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  wildehurst  @WildehurstW  @wildehurst

Avondale Wines Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2011, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Paarl, South Africa (451930, $34.95, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2003 for the Armilla blanc de blanc, now out of 2011 and having spent six years lees post whole bunch pressing. It’s a naturally fermented chardonnay of which two per cent saw some older barrel. After two years of coarse lees aging there began this formidable bringing of citrus and sharp apple bite. The following four on fine lees delivered the integration of acidity ahead of the gainful accumulation of toasted brioche. Richness at its best for this Méthode Cap Classique, of preserved lemon, fine aridity (under 5 g/L RS) and high acidulation (over 9 TA). Terrific MCC. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018   avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

Godello with André “The Giant” Morgenthal, Old Vines Project and Scott Zebarth in Stellenbosch

Heritage vines

It may be argued that South Africa’s most important work is being done through the Old Vines Project. “Old vines make wines with a unique character. Wines that reflect the vastness of our South African landscape – our harsh climate, our old and sometimes fragile soils, and our complex culture. They reflect the decades of growing in one place, in the unyielding sun, the cold winter rain, the storms and winds, on a mountain, on a plain somewhere and then producing these delicate but powerful wines.

The Old Vine Project wants to preserve vines older than 35 years by creating an awareness of the heritage of old vines. Winemakers can certify their wines as ‘Old Vine’ and the public will knowingly buy wines that are made from the many ancient and sometimes forgotten patches of vineyards. Through membership the wine drinker will be able to follow the history of these wines and see where they come from – the exact slope or site, the winemaker, the soils and the stories of each.”

It begins with Rosa Kruger, viticulturalist and long time champion of the Cape’s oldest plantings. Using funding from businessman and winery proprietor Johann Rupert, Kruger founded the project in 2016, cementing formal something that had been in the works since 2002. In 2018, the OVP launched its plaques, held tastings and developed certification seals. Kruger has tirelessly promoted the qualities of the Cape’s 2618 hA of old vines. Today the larger than life André Morgenthal instructs, educates and directs on behalf of the Old Vines Project.

Chris Alheit makes an archetypal wine from the poster child vineyard for this intense old block by block pre-occupation, called La Colline in Franschhoek. So what do heritage vines mean to the makers of wines that carry this luggage? “For a clear South African identity you must use old vineyards to call it Cape heritage wine,” insists Alheit. He and more than 40 producers are making wines from a dozen regions housing further dozens of heritage blocks. These are the history and lifeline of South African varietals. It’s not just about keeping old things alive. The Western (and Northern) Cape is one of the few places in the world where old vines continue to produce extraordinary fruit to make beautiful wines. It’s not just about where you come from, it’s also about where you are going. These are just a few of these examples.

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” From a vineyard housing both light and dark-skinned sémillon and if there are others in this world I am not privy to the information. The resulting wine is 85-90 per cent blanc and 10-15 gris. La Colline was planted in 1936 on the southern slope of Dassenberg and is now farmed by grandson Anton Roux, a direct descendant of the Huguenot refugee Paul Roux who arrived in Franschhoek in 1688. The vines stretch up the hill from 310-350m and it is the fruit from the middle slope that is best to leave for picking long after the chenin blanc. This is the indispensable fruit used in Alheit’s Cartology. Thick skins elevate the natural talking tendencies, from a super healthy pH for drupe of apposite attack and confusing like great whites you would not or should not compare it to. Chris Alheit’s invades your head’s consciousness with this amazing depth for sémillon, with no definable context, pretence or precedent. The impossibility is totally unique in the world and yet utterly South African. It’s both tense and nervous but somehow I can still relax. Psycho Killer sémillon.  Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Chris and Suzaan Alheit

gentle humans, givers, terroiristes, magical wine purveyors ~ suzaan and @chrisalheit ~ thank you for the enlightenment ~ #capewine2018 #zoocrew

Alheit Vineyards Chenin Blanc Magnetic North 2017, WO Citrusdal Mountains, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the Citrusdal Mountains SAVA, a.k.a the viticultural area also known as the Skurfberg, a 10 minute drive away at 550m, again red sand and clay. The vines are ungrafted chenin blanc on its own roots but the soil here is an even deeper red, more so than Huilkrans and so now that white hematic thing is happening. Like red blood cells carrying elements, nutrients, ferrous unction and a pulse of power as opposed to the calm in the white of Huilkrans. This is the tenor to the baritone, rich in its crazy depth of fruit and always seared, marked and injected with trace elements. Does it all on its own. There is no winemaking going on here, only a moving target, of intensity and mystery. The vineyard lies a few degrees off true north from the Alheit cellar, poetically licensed as their “Magnetic North.” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

 

Mullineux Old Vines White 2017, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (556597, $37.95, WineAlign)

Predominately chenin blanc with grenache blanc, sémillon gris, clairette and viognier, ushered by natural yeasts and encouraged through malolactic fermentation. The new age textured acidity is accessed without a stir and a highly textured affair it is. The composure rests in seamless mille-feuille layering while vested in slow-developed, all you could dream about in a cape effect white wine. Welcome to the cumulative in Andrea Mullineux’s Old Vines bottling. While Granite and Quartz make pinpointed investigations this is the one to educate us all on what Western Cape and more specifically Swartland chenin blanc blends are capable of discerning. The weight is powerful and weightless, the effort strong and effortless. Amazing really. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018 and January 2019  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce

Huis Van Chevallerie Filia Brut Nature Kap Klaissque NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Filia is the daughter of the Paardeberg, a self-described and cheeky Swartland Kap Klassique chenin blanc made by Christa Von La Chevallerie, dogter to Juergen and the Nuwedam Farm just off the R45 outside Malmesbury. Not just any sparkling wine mind you. Although the early stages of this old vines project from the (mainly) 2015 vintage only gives 18 months on the lees it also provides 1974 planted chenin blanc, for shits, giggles and shut the front door attitude. For Christa it’s a matter of “how far I can go with (the combination of) chenin and lees.” Clearly just the entry point here, with an announced mix of richness and tension, not yet knowing what can and will happen. The coast is clear, the chenin blanc is ready, willing, able and the winemaker will stop at nothing to make this bubble in her own image and way. Look out sparkling world. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  christalachevallerie  @HuisChevallerie  @ChevallerieZA  Christa Von La Chevallerie

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Malmesbury formation is the ground beneath the feet of these 1978ish planted bush vines. Milner calls them “the most isolated block in our collective…on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember.” The élevage is back into concrete egg here because the Darling fruit asks or even demands it. Alex is wanting the florality of violets to be celebrated and “put into a time capsule,” from one amazing environment to another. The egg is asked to capture that. It also brings texture and salve in the form of orange pastille, warmed and lingering. Of the four single investigative cinsault this is the most accomplished, with tannin and structure. Die koppie. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  nattevalleij  @nattevalleij  @nattevalleij

Savage Wines Red 2015, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The kitchen sink is nearly full with syrah, grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional in a back to the farthing future beginning that was the first and now reminds of the regional ideal. While all of Duncan Savage’s other wines will already have evolved, in ’17 this will become a 100 per cent varietal syrah, in the name of fine tuning and a furthering of regional identity. The Red is the most perfumed, also elegant and delicate with a sneaky beauty in its phantom power. Really clocks in and knocks you upside like powerful. Like modern nebbiolo though you’d never really know it unless you were unafraid to ask. Who are you? Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Post revolution Swartland

They are no longer the Swartland Revolution but now the Swartland Swingers, a free and easy collective of South African winemakers who have this winemaking thing figured out. There is a swagger about these women and men who make wine from dry-farmed bush vines set into some of this planet’s craziest antediluvian soils. Their wines collectively have a very purposed focus but what they have more than anything else is flow.

Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $23.00, WineAlign)

While Adi Badenhorst also produces some über fascinating and ultra-expensive chenin blanc (Klip Klop, Golden Slopes and Piet Bok se) the Secateurs, also known as pruning shears or “snoeiskêr” is the glue and the rock in his entire portfolio. It’s one of the original upscale chenin blanc to crack the North American market and open the portal to the rest of South Africa’s bush vine world. Some great old vines help usher this into its echelon and while it strikes with leaner and more direct lines than (especially) the textured Golden Slopes, it still exhibits its own palate wealth. A little bit of this, a little bit of vat, skin-contact, stainless and concrete ushers along the variegation so that feeling balances the fresh spirit of this steen. Salty rock and sweet basil come through at the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  aabadenhorst  hannekebotha  wynbefok  noble_estates  @AABadenhorst  @Noble_Estates  Adi Badenhorst  @aabadenhorst  @NobleEstates

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

For grenache the focus David and Nadia exert is on the red-brown schistous soils of the Kasteelberg, masculine terroir if you like (or will) as a brother to the Paardeberg where they make chenin blanc the order. About half the ferment is whole bunch, plenty enough for grenache and also six amazing weeks on skins. I can only imagine what the room began to smell like with this triumvirate of soil, varietal and execution happening. No other grenache anywhere in the world shows this type of terroir purity, or at least with such unequivocal and parochial relevance. The raspberry notes are uncanny and the transparency of transference is both light and in total control. Who knew so much character and structure could be coaxed from something desperately delicate. It’s like a spider’s web with bonds unbroken, capable of snaring the physical and the emotional while always remaining inherently meta. Aragon nor Rhône this is not, ethereal it is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Porseleinberg Syrah 2012, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

If you would like to explore the pinnacle of richest restraint where South African syrah goes out to concrete then look to this off of Porcelain Mountain made by the phantom himself Callie Louw. A Riebeek Kasteel phenomenon was born out of a Boekenhoutskloof drive and it is the magical glycerin texture that behooves us to think, feel and linger with this top quality example. It’s also reticent, of great humility, needing no attention or introduction. It may be syrah of a certain aloof quality and yet the intensity unparalleled deserves all the accolades it may and will receive. Remembered, remarkable, stoic, unchanged and unchained. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018  #porseleinberg #callielouw  #porseleinberg

Terracura Wines Red 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Contributions are solicited, paid for and received from five different vineyards on three different terroirs in the Swartland; two on Riebeek schist, two on Paardeberg granite and one on Malmesbury ferrous clay. What does is all mean or add least add up to? It’s not Jamet dammit though it may be the most Cornas like because of the deep liqueur in this fruit. Also due in part to the Rhônish funk which gets into the mind of assessment in ahead of Western Cape terroir. It’s a combination of absolute perfection and downright absurdity. The olive brine and meaty cure are there, as is the tannin, like deep, dark sunken eyes. Ryan and Samantha don gothic costumes and zombie make-up, “with white lipstick and one thing on their minds.” Full moon syrah fever. Make a wine like this and you are no longer innocent winemakers. Nothing petty about that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  terracura  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert  @terracurawines

Mullineux Syrah Granite 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $152.95, WineAlign)

Moving in a muy from the seven vineyard syrah and into a Swartland side site committed to granite this is one of three Mullineux syrah specificities, the other being Schist and Iron. Granite is drawn of a single parcel of 19 year-old dry land, bush vines grown in the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg. Andrea Mullineux makes use of a 100 per cent whole cluster ferment and moves into larger (500L) barrels, all aimed at freshness and aromatics. Granite provides a flavour profile that is juicier, fuller, spicier and more provocative than the others but oh to be smitten by tannins so exceptional. There is a taste of blackberry incarnate, a fluidity of seamless transitions and length for Paardeberg days. Brilliant vintage for one of South Africa’s most important red wines. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted September 2018  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  wosa_ca  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @WOSACanada  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce  @WOSACA

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Verticals

Anyone who chose not to attend Cape Wine’s eight wineries, four decades retrospective missed out on a tasting of a lifetime. Time was tight and so the ability to taste all eight and take proper notes in a walk-around format was challenging so here are five of the eight represented. Regrets to Vilafonté, Kanonkop and Warwick for the miss and here’s to hoping another opportunity will be afforded again someday.

How to have an epiphany. Taste 25-30 year-old #southafrican white wines. Case in point @kleinconstantia sauvignon blanc

Klein Constantia Blanc De Blanc 1987, Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside 1994 and 2009. Planted in 1979, the inaugural vintage and the first South African sauvignon blanc was 1986. The 1987 was not labelled as sauvignon blanc but rather as B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. Honeyed but not in the way you might expect, not pushed by a petrol-fuelled sweetness but instead as the action of an old world inspired mash-up. Like Loire Jolivet Sancerre meeting Huet Demi-Sec chenin blanc head on. The collision explodes into a smoky smoulder with textural consequences. It’s a bees-waxy ethereal treading of chaotic spaces between worlds. The astral travel must have twisted through three decades of nether to arrive at this place, with the low pH vineyard soils to thank. And the magic, despite or perhaps in ode to the ’87 botrytis. In the end aridity wins and the wine drinks so proper, perfect and fine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  kleinconstantia  halpernwine  wosa_za  @KleinConstantia  @HalpernWine  @hansverbier  @WOSA_ZA  @KleinConstantia  @halpernwine

Hamilton Russell Vineyard Pinot Noir 1986, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, AgentWineAlign)

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell went above and beyond in their interpretation of what is means to pour at a varietal tasting by including not only this first HR vintage but also sharing one of only three remaining bottles left in this world. Were the 1997 and 2000 perhaps better structured wines? Likely and even probably yes, but there’s something magical about a first effort. The innocence, hopes and dreams are all in there, along with the honesty and the sincerity. Believe it or not the acidity is still in full flight even if the fruit has vacated the premises and turned to duff. If you’ve ever reached your hands into the Hermanus earth, inhaled in the sense of place and perhaps a lick of stone then you might imagine what this ’86 is like. A combination of plant oils, geosmin and petrichor preserved just long enough before it’s too late. Anthony and Olive timed the opening of the bottles produced to last just long enough. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018  olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2008, WO Elgin, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

In a word meraviglioso, or as they say in Afrikaans, wonderlike. Paul Cluver’s 10 year-old Elgin whispering pinot noir is one to prove something very important. The get together of place, varietal and producer reaches a tri-point of agreement, all vintages being equal, at the 10 year mark. Here from this 2008 we intuit the apex, of tessellate beat and three points where two lines meet. We’ll allow for a give or take of one to two years, duly noted in this vertical that includes 2009, 2013 and 2015 but for 2008 the number 10 finds itself at a pinnacle of evolution. If you appreciate aged reds, developed pinot noir and wise South African wine than here you are. A glass of plum pudding elastic, textured and exemplary in entanglement; notable fruit, fine acidity and tannin of “streel.” An earthy intensity sprinkles over the finale. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  paulcluver  paulcluverwines  @paulcluver  @paulcluverwines  Paul Cluver

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 64329, WineAlign)

Some vintage are surely more special than others and while Meerlust has blessed many of them with a speciality of Bordeaux inspired wine dissertation it is this 1991 that stands erect in a critical test of time. This was tasted during the second of two estate verticals afforded in one calendar year, the first having being drawn from 2010-2003, 1996 and 1984, with this second string consisting of 2015, 2009, 2001, 1991 and 1984. The fruit is both in original form and yet also dehydrated; rusty raspberry, bokser and orange peel. Still a tightness and a faint ramification of tannin but plenty of staying power. A top quality vintage no doubt. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  meerlustwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  MEERLUST ESTATE  @liffordwineandspirits

Sadie Family Palladius 2011, WO Swartland, South Africa (SAQ 13098449, $88.00, WineAlign)

Though the upstart 2016 may well go on to become the best of the lot in a vertical that includes 2005, 2009 and 2014 there is no denying the way this 2011 draws you into its lair of fineness. “An incredible year,” says Eben Sadie and one during which the move was made to aging in foudres. Made for an instant alteration into the new texture and what Sadie notes as “starting to dial in.” This is by now one of the Western Cape’s most accomplished and paradigmatic appellative white blends and while certainly dogmatic it has earned the right to be so. A blend of 33 per cent chenin blanc, (16) roussanne, (11 each) grenache blanc and sémillon blanc plus sémillion gris and palomino, (6 each) viognier, clairette blanche and verdellho. What’s it all add up to? Layers and layers of stratified South African geology, history and potential. The ’05 and the ’09 show what was possible and this 2011 shows what is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  sadiefamilywines  @SadieFamilyWine  The Sadie Family Wines

The 1980s called. They want their culture back.

Wot varietal?

“We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter,” noted Chris Mullineux. “The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well.” 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. That said the wines now being made in South Africa do not solely rely on the current chenin fashion and instead offers up a diverse lot of varietal, region and style.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Cartology exists in a vacuum without peers, in part because it charted and mapped a course ahead of the curve. The 2017 refuses to rest on laurels and pushes the destination even further away so that the journey still remains the thing. Chris and Suzaan Alheit employ 11 dryland bush (30-80) year-old parcels and the whole addition proposes an adage of place and not idea. This is Cartology, a snapshot of time and place. The smaller amount of eighty year-old sémillon is from La Colline in Franschhoek, while the 30+ year old chenin blanc is grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. If Cartology was this rich before I cannot say and only Chris, Suzaan and the Cape can make this wine. Only them and in these places. Best to date. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Smiley Chenin Blanc NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured from magnum as one does with a non-vintage, Swartland chenin blanc inspired by the white Rioja of Tondonia and the idiosyncratic whites of the Jura. Although these originals are most obvious as Ryan Mostert’s first loves of oxidative sensitivity and specificity his Smiley stylistic has surely changed him so that the point in space is in constant flux. And so his is now the precedent because the revolutionary pioneering (along with several of his peers) has established South Africa, which includes Smiley at the forefront as the new reference point. We qualify this by saying that its own way Smiley is a fixed point that stays still and does not move. Drawing on four or five vintages the chenin blanc is blended on the flor, of skin-contact and it’s really all about layers of texture, not to mention “no holds barred.” It’s not nearly as far out there as you’d expect in fact it used to be and is now so much closer to centre. Some might argue against such a compromise but it’s not one at all. It’s made clean, with focus and determination to vinify something bloody great to drink. It’s a Champagne supernova cuvée. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @Silwervis  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert

Blackwater Wines Palomino Pleasure Garden 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Francois Haasbroek goes retro with his first try at varietal palomino, turning it out ambient and atmospheric, tasted here like listening to the Big Thing exactly thirty years on. The Duran Duran of chenin blanc for Swartland is also known as fransdruif or vaalblaar, meaning “White French.” Haasbroek sources his fruit by way of vines grown on shale with Table Mountain sandstone. Clocks in at a light radio’s just over 12 per cent alcohol and there was no fining. It’s a micro-terroir 0.85 hectare block and this 2016 as mentioned is the first kick at the can. Textured, natural, talc silky, with notes of orange zest, kelp, algae and sea spray. Gets creamy with lovely lemon preserve. Palomino is not chenin blanc but it can be coaxed into charm and “if there’s secrets, she has to be party, to every one of them.” We too are listening in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  shot_of_time  @Blackwaterwine   @BlackwaterWine

Lowerland Colombard Vaalkameel 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lowerland is the small northern exposure from Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee. Forget just about everything you think you know about wines from South Africa and settle in for something completely other. Drive 1000 kms north to a place 1000m above sea level, where the summers are hot and winters see temperatures of -10 celsius. Vaalkameel, the “pale camel” is not a reference to the wine’s hue but a note to mimic the local flora. Comes through in the most unique herbal way and so the thickets of horny bushes must have their garrigue say. Some natural grasses (no cover crops) line the rows of this arid and wild viticultural frontier where late summer rainfall and the Orange River supply all that is required. Lime citrus and moments of pith are coaxed into the cool, almost gelid but certainly textured fruit by whole bunch master winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Only 1,000 bottles were made of this trés cool white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  bioboertie  vanloggerenbergwines  alette.waterboer  lowerland_wines  @CoetzeeBertie  @AletteWaterboer  Bertie Coetzee  @LowerlandFarm  Alette De Beer

Avondale Wines Cyclus 2014, WO Paarl, South Africa (295220, $29.95, WineAlign)

The blend is one-third roussanne with smaller parts of chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier and sémillon. Barrel fermented in bigger barrels plus 20 per cent in amphora with the whole bunch component. Toasty, first from the roussanne and then what the sémillon brings. Texture is quite silky and the acidity primps, prompts then lifts the richness of fruit. Such a smart mastering of the South African art of Cape assemblage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

De Wetshof Estate Pinot Noir Nature in Concert 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For a chardonnay focused estate the question posed to Johannes de Wet is why pinot noir? “Because my father loves pinot,” is the straight answer. The brothers grow it on the rockiest soils up the slope seven kms from the winery above and beyond the limestone blocks where the whites thrive. It’s truly uncharted territory, away from the clay and into the hard Robertson granite. “Quite ideal for a variety that is so hard to get right,” muses de Wet. This is beautiful purity of fruit taken from vines that really only see the morning sun. A direct wind and afternoon shadows supply the acidity from what may be the coolest spot and also the steepest. “It’s one of the best/worst decisions we’ve ever made,” continues de Wet. “We don’t make any money but we love doing it.” Clean, linear, striking and in the end, just because. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2017 there are three equal sources for Momento’s tinto barocca; one-third each Swartland, Stellenbosch and Bot Rivier, all old, dry-farmed bush vineyards. The vintage saw 26 barrels made with 20 per cent whole bunch in the mix. “A tribute to old vines in South Africa explains Marelise Niemann.” Surely not the only one, but certainly the unique gatherer of the grape variety off of three distinct soils. Like making an estate Brunello or highest quality Bourgogne AOC, drawing from three apposite yet complimentary micro-terroirs to provide fruit, acidity and structure. The tannin accumulation submits to the possibilities of that structure and in turn, age ability. Brilliant. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018  momento_wines  @momentowines  Marelise Niemann

Savage Wines Cinsault Follow The Line 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $50.99, WineAlign)

Follow the Line investigates, celebrates and extrapolates the unbridled intensity of cinsualt defined, vital, incarnate. A small, seven points of Darling syrah is blended in for pure, spicy and red ropey fruit forward freedom. The full on fruit front is a pulsing current of currants and dried herbs but it’s also sneaky tannic. A creeping, seemingly idle ne’er-do-well this one but do not be fooled. Picked early and ready to explode. Wait for it, follow the line to the blood red shoes, “dancing with the lights on.” Wait for the fire like this cinsault of total excitement. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018   cravenwines  @cravenwines  Jeanine Craven  Mick Craven

Lismore Syrah Estate Reserve 2017, WO Greyton, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Samatha O’Keefe’s excellent work with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier and pinot noir using Elgin, Walker Bay and 2003 planted estate fruit is one thing but this first go it alone syrah from the home vineyard takes a breath, blows a mind and melts a heart away. The Cape’s south coast at Greyton is the new frontier and as O’Keefe admits, “I drove down a dusty road and the rest is history.” While the ’16 syrah made use of half Elgin fruit it is this next wonder of cool-climate South Africa where you need to simply open your eyes and do the math. Steep slopes, prevalent shale and diurnal temperature fluctuations egress to varietal necessity and bring the proverbial Hermitage house down. A wine where together winemaker and taster share a moment of epiphany, for her one of many, for me my first. “All I did was learned to let the terroir speak for itself and to stop making South African shiraz.” Purity, transparency, honesty and paradigm shift all wrapped into one enigmatic yet emblematic syrah. Pay great attention to Greyton. This is South African syrah. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018  lismorewine  greytontourism  @lismorewine  @LoveGreyton  @LismoreWine  Samantha O’Keefe  @GreytonTourism

Van Loggerenberg Wines Graft 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lukas van Loggerenberg remembers his oupa with this tongue in cheek reference for a red blend of cinsault and syrah (55/45) sourced from granitic soils on in the Polkadraai Hills. Grafting, whether it be vines or winemakers is what keeps tradition, hard work ethic and biological diversity alive. Lukas is a larger than life pragmatist methinks and he’s all about putting things together, in place, with the best fit possible. Not so much a master of assemblage as much as one of oversized zen. The two varietal vineyards are 800m apart and separated by 200m of elevation. They are Lenny and George, two parcels joined at the whole bunch hip and for 11 months in French oak. They only add up to 660 bottles. The Mediterranean styling is evident, in black olive, garrigue (or fynbos), pepperoncino and cimmerian darkness. Richness is met by an earthbound ropiness though it’s ripeness is belied by pique, punch and peppery klip. A big and wow tannic finish, but it’s a sweet one. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018  vanloggerenbergwines  @LukasvLogg  Lukas van Loggerenberg  

Ken Forrester Grenache-Syrah 1999, WO Stellelenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

There ain’t a whole helluva lot of precedence from which to go on in deciding what’s going on here save for sitting next to Ken himself and taking in that devilish smile. What an honour to have him pour a spot of this 19 year-old tea into your glass. I suppose it could be considered the older sibling to the Gypsy and elder to Renegade but really it’s just a Rhône blend from another era and mother. Smoke, pepper, spice and mild meanderings remind us of innocent but also difficult times for making wine in the Western Cape. This just feels like sundown in Stellenbosch, of a demurred and soft glowing light, a breeze that picks up and falls away, a stillness in the air. No man made light, at night very bright. A good feeling this wine doth give. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018  kenforrestervineyards  fmcwine noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  @KFwines  @NobleEstates

Kuier

Good to go!

godello

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink in

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On a Rall in South Africa

Donovan Rall

When I returned from South Africa two months ago people immediately began to ask. What’s it like? What’s new, what’s changed, what’s hot? I asked myself the same questions and the most obvious answers forthcoming were charged with the notions of quality and especially confidence. Case in point, fact and controlled emotion regarding the man, the winemaker and the wines of Donovan Rall.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

Three years ago I had the opportunity to taste two of Rall’s wines at Cape Wine 2015. I was impressed with the quiet swagger of the Rall White and Rall Red. The former was from old Swartland (Paardeberg) and Stellenbosch (Bottelary and Helderberg) fruit I noted as “pure white stone groove.” The latter of Swartland schist to cure what troubles and saps. This sourcing, grabbing and snapping up grapes from vineyards, blocks and plots spread across the Western Cape is the humanistic phenomena of an independent South African winemaker’s condition. It’s what they do and yet Donovan Rall has taken the art form to a whole new level.

For one thing he has found the last Mohican of Wellington cinsault blanc and kept it alive for a very small portion of the world to enjoy. He’s mainly a Swartland guy but he also climbs high into the Piekenierskloof and dips into the depths of Darling cinsault. Mostly Donovan Rall is a Schistosier, a man of the Schist, El Schistorino, the Schister. He likes vines grown in the coarse-grained metamorphic rock, especially syrah and it is his latest varietal effort that blew my mind. It is truly one of South Africa’s most impressive varietal syrah.

Rall wines was established in 2008 after Donovan graduated with a Viticulture and Oenology degree from Stellenbosch University in 2005. He set out to travel and then returned to South Africa in 2007 for a Swartland vintage. Mediterranean varietals under his own label from scattered old Cape vineyards was the natural next step. Cape Wine 2018 marked the release of his 10th and 11th vintages in bottle, quite significant to mark the inaugural culmination of his early life’s work.

Donovan and I made eye contact at this most recent Cape Wine and I was flattered that he remembered tasting with me three years before. And so he went out of his way to pull seven bottles, disappear behind a partition and away from the mayhem of the Swartland booth and taste these seven South African beauties with me. The quantities are small but the hearts so very big. Here are my notes.

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Rall Wines Grenache Blanc 2017, Piekenierskloof, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

It would be hard to argue with Donovan Rall that in the Western Cape grenache blanc needs to be made in the freshest, anti-oxidative, anti-leesy way. Zippy, salty, driven by minerals and acidity. In the Piekenierskloof, at 650m plus, done in concrete egg after early-picked fruit, but some skin-contact (like red wine, done in open top vessels constantly punched down) for texture because it’s approached with early-picked acidity preservation. Has the texture but no melon flavours. Love the unique epsom saltiness, low pH and generous spicing. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines White 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Leaving out the chardonnay component, the signature Rall White is now chenin blanc (60ish per cent), verdelho (30ish) and viognier. Mostly old oak, five years being the youngest, with various sizes. Other than the chard omission it’s the earlier picking that makes the difference to…lets say three years ago. That and the increase of the verdelho, which brings acidity. Whatever Donovan thought he might have been looking for and doing then, well he’s really doing it now. This shows how proper wine is being made out of necessity, not from a recipe, but most importantly out of adaptation. Great saltiness, bite, drive and instruction. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Chenin Blanc AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

AVA is named after Donovan’s daughter. From an adjuvant site close to Riebeek-Kasteel off of 20 year-old vines that deliver great concentration by the impetus of decomposed shale, schist and quartz. There are two unique vineyards with rocks galore in the soil. Richly textured and so layered. The concentration delivered is ridiculous. It’s somehow stretched elastic and makes for this viscous, saline, briny and beautiful wine. Malo was done in a week, the pH low and then, nine months of beautiful fluidity and suppleness. While not exactly dry, the minor tough of sugar will help it go petrol, glück and oily over time. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Cinsault 2017, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

From two vineyards, one in Swartland and one in Darling. A direct, lithe and purposed red looking for freshness and the Darling light transparency this varietal storm has created. Really pure berry fruit. Delightful, chalky, traversing the new South African ethos into a realm occupied by the ethereal. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines Red 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Four poster blend, Rhône-related, deeply rendered with great transparency but also major tannins. The syrah is 18 months in barrels, the cinsault and carignan are 15 per cent 2017 vintage, allowed under Swartland regulations. They bring back freshness and nervousness into the wine. It helps to manage that tannin and injects some life and spirit into their grainy weight. The red fruit also balances the purple profile of the syrah. Good glycerin and length. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Rall Wines AVA 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Donovan Rall

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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

Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Godello with Jancis Robinson

as seen on WineAlign

In March I attended Prowein in Düsseldorf, Germany, the world’s largest wine trade fair, tasting a fascinating array of wines. I also added short visits to lesser known regions, first the tiny Ahr Valley as well as Rheinhessen in Germany. Last month I published a brief synopsis report based on the following tastings:

Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greek Assyrtiko, Chianti Classico, Franken Silvaner, The Ahr Valley and Rheinhessen…

It was one month ago that David and I attended Prowein 2017, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?

Canada’s two coolest wine cats present the country’s cool whites to a packed #Prowein house #Canadianwine #ontariowine #winesofbritishcolumbia #drjanetdorozynski #davidlawrason #beyondco

First things first. As a Canadian and a representative of Wine Country Ontario I hung around the Canadian pavilion, talked with our coast to coast winemakers, vintners and marketing representatives, took in the seminars on cool climate wines led by David and Dr. Janet Dorozynski and of course, tasted some wines. I’m glad I did because I might have otherwise missed out on four exceptional Canadian bottles.

It’s @jamiegoode talking up #Canadianwine at #Prowein

Pillitteri Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The quintessential cool climate vintage does for more than chardonnay and riesling as told by this classic tier cabernet franc. From winemaker Aleksandar Kolundzic who is rapidly developing guru status where cabernet franc is concerned, which comes as no surprise when you consider how many variations on the theme he lends his laser focus. The 16 months spent in two to three year-old oak leads to mellow melting integration and that seasoned, grace-gifting wood is used to great advantage. This is floral, expansive, chewy, firm and so very pretty. A wise old cabernet franc that will tell great stories of the years gone by well into the next decade. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @Pillitteriwines pillitteriwines  @PillitteriEstatesWinery  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173609, $28.00, WineAlign)

The two thirds/one third cabernet franc/cabernet sauvignon stunner from Vineland Estates is pulled (and now labeled) from the 60-acre Bo-Teek Vineyard found within the designated viticultural area Niagara Escarpment (within the broader Twenty Mile Bench) sub-appellation. Estate cabernet of such acumen is predicated on the sound wisdom gathered by a viticulturist and Vineland’s Roman Prydatkewycz knows his cabernet. Winemaker Brian Schmidt takes this paradigmatic escarpment fruit, passes it through the optimal sorter, removes five to eight per cent imperfect berries and a quarter of the cabernet sauvignon fruit. What remains is hand-punched, sent to neutral barrels and is forgotten for 15 months. What emerges is a naturally sweet, vegetal-void elixir, sharp, focused, fervently nervous, tart and captured as if in a dark vacuum or void. It’s all tied inside snug, concentrated and intense. It’s too early for the burst but it will happen within another 12 months time, followed by a six to 12 year slow release of flavour, texture and descendent development of tannin. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted March 2017  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt  @WineCountryOnt  winecountryont  @mkaiserwine  @WineCountryOntario

Attention proweiners- Still time to discover cool @WinesofCanada in Hall 9 @CVAWine @WinesofNS #ontariowine #bcwine

Benjamin Bridge Brut Brut Rosé Sparkling 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $44.99, WineAlign)

The adjustment for vintage and evolution means that chardonnay takes more control in the Brut Rosé. Warmth and ripeness were easier to come by in 2012 and though the pinot decrease may seem antithetical and not obvious as a result, it is a brilliant stroke of adjudication. With a 43 per cent stake (plus equal parts noir and meunier) the 2012 Rosé rushes out as an open vein of fleshy aromatics, many of which you will have never nosed before. Citrus and floral exotica, like juice vesicles oozing out of fruit and herbal, of Murraya paniculata, pomelo and kumquat. The omnipresent vitality, energy, intensity and Bridge acidity is never denied and definitely not here but the vintage sets this ’12 apart and furthers the experience with travel around excellency. The liquid hits the palate, expands, vaporizes and recurs. It’s magic really, the sparkling wine tasting equivalent of vaping so cue the health benefits. Just when you thought Benjamin Bridge and winemaker Jean-Benoit Deplauriers had hit the mark they turn the mark on its head. Confirms two salient matters; the Nova Scotia sparkling wine leader is the Canadian commander and blush bubbles are what they do with constant consistency. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2017  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

Blomidon Estate Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay 2011, Nova Scotia (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The 2011 late-picked chardonnay, the “Hurricane” is a hyperbole of itself. Normally picked in later October, the frost-free weather allowed further time and development. Picked from seaside vineyards just ahead of another hurricane (in a season that included Irene), this is sparkling wine you just have to try. Though lean, taut and as intense as you are likely to taste, the developed character and complexity is visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Three years on the lees brings the texture and fills the gaps, holes and voids created by such a tightly wound cool climate chardonnay. The dry factor is exaggerated in 2011 (a one-off says winemaker Simon Rafuse) but the wine takes full advantage of the Extra-Brut intent. Did it require the anxiety of a recent and an impending cyclone? Can it be duplicated? “That’s the story of the Hurricane.” Visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @BlomidonEstate  blomidonestate  @blomidonestatewinery   Simon Rafuse  @WinesofNS  #winesofnovascotia  @winesofns

You can’t see it all, do it all or taste it all, so you pick your spots. The rest of my three-day, 12-pavilion cum airport hangar wanderings can be summed up in five ProWein experiences; Jancis Robinson, Alsace, Greece, Chianti Classico and a great exploration into Franken silvaner and spätburgunder. The grand dame of wine held a special intimate media tasting. With fewer than 18 international journalists in attendance, Jancis Robinson’s seven favourite wines at ProWein were poured, choices she noted “I think should be useful to our readers and seek out value.” Nahe and Weinviertel riesling, Chinese cabernet sauvignon, Crozes-Hermitage, Amontillado and my picks of the lot from Chile and Sicily.

Robinson’s full list of wines chosen and poured were as follows: Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Trocken Bockenaur Schiefergestein 2015, Nahe, Germany, Zillinger Grüner Veltliner Radikal 2015, Weinviertel, Austria, De Martino Cinsault Viejas Tinajas 2014, Itata, Chile, Tenuta delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy, Chateau Changyu Moser Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Ningxia, China, Maison Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2015, Rhône, France, Williams & Humbert Jalifa 30 Year Old VORS Amontillado NV, Jerez-Manzanilla, Spain.

41 years experience. 65,000 to choose from. Seven meticulous picks. @jancisrobinson @Prowein #Prowein

De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault 2014, Secano Interior/Coelemu, Maule, Chile (BCLDB, 72702 $16.99, WineAlign)

Poured by Jancis Robinson at ProWein 2017, the departure for Chile and cinsault hails from just south of Maule and well south of Santiago. Grapes come from a tiny commune called Coelemu and in fact the name Itata cannot be used for ‘un-noble’ grapes so Secano Interior is the nomenclature employed. Done up in old clay jars called “Tinajas,” the cinsault gets a sort of membrane, a cap if you will, of a layer of tannin and acidity due to the clay after 15 days of carbonic maceration plus a full year in those amphorae. The 31 year-old vines deliver the first strike, a natural cure, then bitter cherry and so the wine would service better with a further chill. Robinson notes that it’s “chock full of fruit and tradition,” an exploration wine, in a part of the world not on the bigger maps. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @DeMartinoWines  demartinowines  @DeMartinoWines  @WinesofChile  @WinesOfChile  drinkchile  @DrinkChile

Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito Rosso 2014, Sicily, Italy (Agent, $56.95, WineAlign)

Here is a regional defining Etna Rosso that comes 16 years after the pioneers began to bring these volcanic magma gems to the world, like Frank Cornilessen and Andrea Franchetti of Tuscany’s Tenuto Trinoro in the Val D’Orcia. Made by Marco de Grazie, Santo Spirito is a single vineyard Etna made on the “black lands,” composed of 98 per cent nerello mascalese, deep dark and volcanic, off of 40-100 year old vines. It’s deeply hematic and the nose is like a cross between fennel and the marriage of lava and garrigue. The wine is aged in French barriques and it shows; of vanilla, really mellow liquid bitters. It’s warm (14.5 per cent), young, oak-welling though energetic, playful, like dark modern Burgundy. The finish as so very volcanic twang, like country music, Sicilian style. Such chewy and grainy tannin drapes all over that long finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @tenutaterrenere  @WinesSiciliaDoc  @WinesOfSicily  @GroupeSoleilTO  tenutaterrenere  winesofsicily  realbenhardy  @TenutaDelleTerreNere  @WinesOfSicily

The honour and privilege to taste Alsace is always welcome and especially when the sit down happens with two exceptional humans like Christian and Valerie Beyer. Their Lieu-Dit pinot gris and noir were terrific examples but it was the Riesling that blew me away. From special limestone this is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, of a salty minerality and intensely elegant.

An @AlsaceWines reconnect with Christian & Valérie Beyer @EmileBeyer @Prowein #justlikestartingover #eguisheim #riesling #rieslinggrandcru #pfersigberg #pinotgris #lieudit #hohrain #pin

Emile Beyer Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2012, Ac Alsace, France (Winery, WineAlign)

The Pfersigberg or “hill of peach trees” consists of limestone conglomera Muschelkalk and Jurassic stone. Its south exposure on very deep soil produces early maturing wines but from the exceptional 2012 vintage Christian Beyer’s Pfersigberg will last a decade or more. His family’s domain has been farming organically since ’05, officially since ’12 and half of the producers in Egusheim are indeed organic. Christian explains that this Grand Cru is a special kind of limestone, so similar to Burgundy and it lends the salty minerality of itself. Always carries richness with lime fresh citrus, stone fruit acidity and some honey in a riesling that will turn waxy in secondary life. It’s really about mouthfeel and the crisp crunchy rock salt so I and I believe you should really concentrate on the aftertaste. This is more refined than similar Alsace from granite, here from 35-45 year old vines and 35 hL/L yields. Intensely elegant. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted March 2017  @EmileBeyer  emilebeyer1580  Emile Beyer  Valérie Beyer  @VinsAlsace  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  @vinsalsace  @AlsaceWinesOfficial

With Panayiota Kalogeropouloun and Margarita Damigou of Domaine Sigalas at ProWein

I also sat down with Panayiota Kalogeropoulou and Margarita Damigou for a ProWein date with assyrtiko and it was a revelation to taste a single-vineyard white that turns the world on its head.

Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2015, Santorini, Greece (Agent, SAQ 11814421, $31.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not yet tasted the Kavalieros 2014, so this single-vineyard, 18 months on lees done in stainless steel Kavalieros 2015 made by “Mr. George” is the benchmark for Santorini, assrytiko and salty white wines everywhere. The first release was 2009. Straight up and turning the world on its head, like the old man on the label and upside down against Apollo’s Aegean Cyclades. This ’15 richer still, more than the seven villages wines and a hyperbole as compared to the entry-level assyrtiko, of deeper mineral, compressed, layered and fantastic. Crushed rocks permeate in aggregate, it’s quixotically saline and textured, of intense presence and finally, structured. For 15 years at least. A late shot of natural Santorini tonic swirls in centrifuge with assyrtiko so wound up. This will need 10 years to unwind and allow for cracks to form in the mineral shell, followed by the birth of its fruit. It should never be forgotten that assyrtiko can and will show fruit but with Kavalieros you’ll have to be patient. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @DomaineSigalas  @MajesticWineInc  domainesigalas  @DomaineSigalas  Panayiota Kalogeropoulou  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

As does a natural Peloponnese Roditis, a white that ignites the light fantastic’s wire.

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2015, PGI Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, WineAlign)

Roditis 2015 is the natural one, racked from the top and finally now settled (so at this time of tasting 2016 is not yet in bottle but at this time of writing should already be as it always does in April). This is the cleanest and purest of the natural wines on the planet, low in pH, high of natural acidity and without a care in the world. With nothing to fear in regards to spoilage it can go on its own personal shopping spree, accumulate character, personality and confidence with the end result being that there is more of everything in the natural one. Its terrifically repeatable, replicable and clonal acidity makes it quite trippy, stepping on and igniting the light fantastic’s wire. You just have to take a stab in the dark with winemaker Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos’ roditis. Or ye have not yet lived. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Tetramythos  #tetramythoswines  @tetramythoswines  Devon Masciangelo  @DrinkGreekWine  winesofgreece  @newwinesofgreece

A roam through the Italian pavilion afforded tastings in Puglia, Sicily and as always Tuscany with a one on one face to face with Chianti Classico’s President Sergio Zingarelli and his estate’s flagship wine.

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sergio Zingarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $122.95, WineAlign)

This is the flagship wine from the famed estate, a Gran Selezione that bears the patriarchal Sergio Zingarelli name. As expected it is a richer, deeper and depth welling GS, clearly aimed towards the crowning achievement of place, more hedonism, but of course, seeking purity and elegance. The extra year or two in bottle means integration and wood having subsided a bit. “We decided to change the vineyard in 1974 in front of Rocca to be the best vineyard with the best grapes and we will produce our best wine,” I am told by Zingarelli as we taste at ProWein. What was 90 per cent sangiovese (planted in 1999-2000) this 2012 is accented by colorino but in 2014 it will be 100 per cent sangiovese. Elegant as much as sangiovese and Gran Selezione will likely ever strive to be. It is hard not to be impressed with this wine. It bursts with the essence of plums and richest of red cherries, but it’s not without it’s requisite crunch and chew. The absence of astringency is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the fruit and the gentle touch while working with such phenolic ability. Start drinking this anytime. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  chianticlassico  @ChiantiClassicoUSA

Cantina di Ruvo Grifo Nero di Troia Riserva Augustale 2012, DOCG Castel del  Monte, Puglia, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Grifo in Castel del Monte was established in 1960 as a cooperative, with 400 farmers and still operates as such with flagship wines based on the local nero di troia. The output is quantified at 1,200,000 bottles per year and increasing. Augustale is the top tier varietal wine from a selection of the vines and produced in small quantities. There is no mistaking what it is, with that specific yeasty bright fruit, slightly volatile to funky but ripe and generous grape scent and bursting with flavour. Spent approximately one year in oak “but the greatest liars are the winemakers,” says Riccardo Ravasio, Direttore Generale presso (General Manager), with a wink and a smile. Mainly big barrels, plus a smaller percentage of small barriques. Fresher than primitivo and with more structure. This has presence and distinction with just a hint of dried fruit, flowers and truffle towards the finish. Classic adult, mature, experienced NdT.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    @FedericaSchir  @cantinaruvodipuglia

Miracle on #etna from @PlanetaWinery eruptive #carricante of such acidity! The lime! #eruzione #1614 #patriciatoth #prowein2017 #winesofsicily #Prowein

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014, Doc Sicily, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

“Not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” save perhaps Planeta’s Patricia Tóth, a winemaker who celebrates the past, the endemic varietal and in the present, the glaring truth. The name Eruzione is evocative of the estate’s Cru dell’Etna and in a mind’s eye transports history through the narrative of carricante (with 10 per cent riesling). It brings the legendary 1614 Mount Etna eruption to life, a longest ever recorded catastrophe that lasted ten years, halting just on the border of the vineyards of Sciaranuova. This is veritable mountain altitude wine, from high (790-890m) terraced, volcanic black soils delivering fresh conifer savour, saltiness and palpable mineral style. It is sharp and composed on the nose, with citrus distillate and elevated acidity. It does not matter whether you are wide awake or deep in R.E.M sleep. At all times it is a revelation for carricante. This is what it can be! There was no need for crop thinning, it was picked four to five weeks after the sparkling and it spent five months on the lees. The texture and the potential longevity are thankful for this. “Combien, combien, combien du temps?” At least seven years. Talk about the passion. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @PlanetaWinery  @Noble_Estates  planetawinery  plant dependent  noble_estates  @planetawinery  Tóth Patricia  @NobleEstates

No self-respecting wine journo departs #Prowein without tasting #carricante @PlanetaWinery with #patriciatoth #etna

The Germany pavilion is the epicentre of the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are nearly behind us and while several modern, clean and pure examples match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet, one stood apart.

Franken Silvaner

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @frankenwein  #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @Weingut.Rudolf.May  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. Rudolf May once again impressed with their Retzbach Benediktusberg but as I was about to pour myself a taste of the next wine, a Franken booth associate swooped in to slip me a Burgundy glass, so I knew this was going to be different. It was the next wine that taught me what Franken pinot noir can be.

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (Winery, WineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The desparate grade of Ahr Valley vineyards

On day three of ProWein I jumped on the großer Magie Bus with 17 international journalists and headed for the Ahr Valley, one of Germany’s (of 13) furthest northern wine regions. With an area of 150 hectares (of 100,000 total in Germany), even the Mosel is not so far north. Our first visit was to Meyer-Näkel, a young winery in its third generation. Before that there was a winery (Meyer) and Näkel (restaurant). When the grandparents married the entities merged. In 1982 winemaker Meike Näkel’s father took the winery and her uncle the restaurant.

Michael and Meike

Starting out with two, now there are 20 hectares under vines. The slopes are ridiculously steep, prized for their blue slate soils and so difficult to work. Spätburgunder steals the Ahr Valley show and while Meyer-Näkel’s lieu-dit and grand cru (Großes Gewächs) are impassioned and important works, in Ontario you can find their affordable entry-level treat. It really is what basic German spätburgunder needs and is expected to be.

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder 2015, Deutscher Qualitätswein, Ahr Valley, Germany  (427898, $26.25, WineAlign)

The entry-level pinot noir was bottled in the summer of 2016, after a hot season and dry elsewhere but in the Ahr it rained and it was cool overall. Picking was actually late and the aromatics show off the long, cool, floral temper. De-stemming and fermentation is immediately initialized but the maximum fermentation is 10 and usually six days. The pips are just a quick doo-wop to keep both green and bitter away. A focus on fruit, an absence of tannin and a pure varietal expression. Red trumps green, large wooden casks (15-20 years) also impart no tannin so the finality is simply cherry. That said, this carries some almond pit and green strawberry on the palate. It’s really what basic German spätburgunder is and expected to be. Nicely balanced and in at 13 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    @vonterrabev  Weingut Meyer – Näkel  vonterra  @MeyerNaekel  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Yet nothing could prepare me for what a former German wine queen would pour. Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. The world should get ready for her alternative Ahr universe.

World get ready for #juliabertram and her alternative #ahr universe pinot noir @weininstitut #ahrvalley #spätburgunder #handwerk

Julia Bertram Spätburgunder Handwerk 2015, Ahrweiler, Germany (WineAlign)

Former German Wine Queen Julia Bertram grew up in Dernau, gained experience at Meyer-Näkel and Klumpp. In 2013 she launched her own her vineyard with just half a hectare and now farms three and a half. Nothing fascinates her and the “SchlAhrVino” (association of young Ahr vintners) as much as ripe wines, especially pinot noir. Her whole bunch, wild ferment spätburgunder is nothing short of intense. Bone dry, tart and spirited by crisp acidity, the young vines and used barrels deliver notes that are embattled in a spontaneous, natural, posit tug. The world should get ready for her alternative ahr universe pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017    #juliabertram  Julia Bertram  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

The next two were Rheinhessen days, first with five Appenheim village winemakers at Weingut Willems & Hoffman, followed by a visit to taste more deferential and singular spätburgunder at Weingut J. Neus. The single vineyard of Hudertgulden in Appenheim is one of the Rheinhessen’s finest. At Neus we got grippy with the muschelkalk soil meets spontaneous ferments from the team of Operations Manager Lewis Schmitt and agronomist/oenologist/winemaker/cellarmaster Julien Meissner’s pinot noir.

Weingut Knewitz Riesling Hundertgulden 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From the Burgundy-like soils of this special rolling hills nook in the Rheinhessen, replete with shells and corrals, the Hundertgulden, “hundred guilders” is the most important single vineyard in all of Appenheim. The vintage trumps 2014 and nearly bone dry is still the operative in this super salty, linear, lengthy and age-worthy riesling. A true blue limestone vernacular is spoken and the stone simply slides and glides through the wine. Definitive of place, with leesy texture, elegant, balanced and seamlessly woven through. There is more lime zest and juice than the Appenheimer and more overall citrus tendency. The mirror of Appenheim. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017    weingutknewitz  @Weingut.Knewitz  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Getting grippy with #pinotnoir #jneus @weininstitut #spätburgunder #ingelheim #muschelkalk

Weingut J. Neus Spätburgunder Muschelkalk Alte Raben Trocken Ingelheim Am Rhein 2014, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

From vines 25-40 years old, depending on which barrels are chosen for the final blend, off of the estate’s singular limestone muschelkalk soils. Even some 45 year-old vine fruit can be used, ferments kept separate, just as winemaker Julien Meissner will do with the Großes Gewächs. After tasting the younger vines spätburgunder and trocken first this acts less up front fruit forward, now spirited, of a phenolic tonic, variegated, characterful, open and spontaneous. Large (600 and 1000L) 100 per cent new oak barrels add char and spice to the rampant cherry, but also structure that takes you on the ride from background to foreground. “A strict style of pinot noir,” says Meissner, a cellar master who triples as agronomist and oenologist. Reduction begs for patience and time, tannins are taut and there is this minty, Mornington Peninsula pinot effect. Fruit, tannin, chalk and the conduit of Neuss acidity. The whole package. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @JNeus1881  jneus.ingelheim  @J.Neus.Weingut.seit1881  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

We moved away from the red wine thematic and into more familiar territory when we stopped in at Weingut Thörle for a visit with Christoph Thörle. The single-vineyard Hölle and Schlossberg rieslings are as exceptional as any in Germany but the Ontario presence of the Feinherb should never be overlooked.

Some of Germany’s finest #riesling coming to @TerroirTalk May 29th #thorle #Terroir2017 #christophthorle #saulheim #rheinhessen #terroirsymposium #holle #agotoronto

Thörle Riesling Feinherb 2016, Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, Germany (420091, $18.95, WineAlign)

Off-dry riesling does not always have to be bottled as such but in the Rheinhessen and at Thörle the category of Feinherb is anything but an afterthought. This started as a side fermentation in its first years but is now an important wine in the estate’s multi-tiered processes. The cuvée is gathered from younger vines plus one barrel of premier cru Saulheim fruit. A slight skin maceration (12-18 hours) is employed which helps to temper the tartaric acid though this will be swapped for whole bunch fermentation in warmer years. Hides some of its sugar, especially on the nose which is quite floral, of white flowers and honeysuckle. Honey and wax with sweet herbs bring all into playful light to taste, with plenty of sweet lime and lik-a-maid sour touches. For every Indian Food list in the world. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  Weingut Thörle  @WeingutThoerleGabsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

On our last day in the Rheinhessen we stopped in at Weingut Manz and if you ever find yourself in their tasting room, expect a multi-varietal experience. On any given day you may taste weissburgunder (pinot blanc), riesling, grauburgunder (pinot gris), sauvignon blanc, spätburgunder (pinot noir), merlot, cabernet sauvignon and finally, huxelrebe trockenbeerenauslese. On this day it was the wines spoke to the territorial low yields and late harvest work of Eric Manz.

#goodcombo #weingutmanz #rieslingauslese #herrenberg #restaurantvolker #oppenheim

Weingut Manz Riesling Spätlese Trocken Kehr, Weinolsheimer 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Kehr from Eric Manz is riesling of extremely low yields and a late harvest for what shines to be high in complexity and aging potential. Generous skin contact and even more so in lees action effect makes this quite different than the Kehr “M” but also the Herrenberg Trocken Spätlese. With the sugar here remaining in line with the Hipping (Niersteiner) it is the high acidity that drives the Kehr machine. This seems less arid than the Hipping, more energetic and more reductive than the “M.” Higher potential for aging with so much lime cordial sparkles and brings spirit that will persist into a petrol and honey future that would have to be bright. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted March 2017     Weingut Manz Weinolsheim   @weingut.manz.weinolsheim  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

I don’t always taste #roterhang Riesling but when I do it has to be in the #fockenberghütte

The week in Germany saw virtually no sun, that is until the final morning outdoors above the Rhein River under the shelter of the Fockenberghütte. Here we tasted the Nierstien wines of Weingut Domtalhof, St. Antony and Louis Guntrum with our charismatic M.C. Konstantin Guntrum. We walked the famed Roter Hang Vineyard and had the great fortune to taste Guntrum’s ethereal 1976 Neisteiner Heilgen riesling. Guntrum wears the passion for his home vineyard in his expression, on his sleeve and by the way he walks. “Roter Hang is a geological statement,” he explains. Red soils of friable sandstone, steep and breathtaking. Nierstein is the portal into which you can peer to wonder about great riesling grown above the Rhein.

Weingut Louis Guntrum Riesling Trocken Nierstein Oelberg 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Nierstein’s Oelberg is for vintner Konstantin Guntrum a changing landscape, of different light and greater fog. This dry riesling gives off the sense of intelligence and so grabs your attention and demands your concentration. It also solicits conversation. Takes its time to open up, with no petrol note but the grace of mineral is back there. Lean but slowly changing and developing in just the short time in glass, the charm envelops your sense of smell and taste, renders them keen and then you give it up for the aftertaste and the persistence. While the layers will not yet peel away they will, though may need two full years to do so. Forget the need for immediate gratification because this one is mineral skin deep. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017  @LouisGuntrum  #louisguntrum  Weingut Louis Guntrum  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

When you see one grand cru you’ve seen another grand cru #nierstein #rheinhessen #rhein #roterhang

The German wine experience is owed great thanks to Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller of ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. I have been on many Press trips over the years and the organization in Germany was second to none. I will now begin looking forward to ProWein 2018. Until then.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

We take you now to garage wine in Chile

The antediluvian revival one percent from #chile @garagewineco via @cruontario with @cbriesling #derekmossmanknapp #pais #carignanfieldblend

‘Twas back in September that Charles Baker brought Derek Mossman Knapp to Butcher Bar for a sit down with Chile’s newest and oldest wines. You all know Charles from Riesling and Stratus Vineyards fame. Derek is a Canadian in Chile and few winemakers, expatriate or deeply local generational have delved as deep into the country’s heartland, oldest vines and ancestral traditions.

Known to the locals as “That Garage Wine Company,” Mossman Knapp and his wife Pilar Miranda source Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in Maipo. They draw Carignan and Cinsault from Itata. Derek and Charles (by way of Cru Wine Merchants importing agency) brought their Maule Valley project wines to taste; dry-farmed Mediterranean Carignan field blends grown on centuries-old rootstock by small farmers with Garnacha, Mataró and Cinsault. They also poured Pais.

Each wine is from a different place: Caliboro, Sauzal, Truquilemu and Portezuelo. Separate parcels of one or two hectares each belong to a small farmer who works with horse and plough as his family has done since colonial times. The wines are made by hand with native yeasts in small tanks, punched down manually and pressed out in a small basket press.

I tasted one Pais and three Carignan field blend lots that day with Jamie Drummond and Sara d’Amato. Here are the notes.

Derek Mossman Knapp with Jamie Drummond and Sara d’Amato

Garage Wine Co. Pais First Salvo Ferment 2015, Secano Interior, Do Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

“You tell me there’s an angel in your tree,” or in this case on the Pais vine, a.k.a. “Mission” or in the local vernacular, “Pipeño.” In the hands of Canadian Derek Mossman Knapp these high-yielding, nouveau producing Maule Valley ancients are taken on a tour of resurrection. He and winemaking partners Pilar Miranda and Dr. Alvaro Peña are taking these ‘old becomes new again’ varietal vines and making history in a glass. The First Salvo Ferment as they call it is “the wine they drank in colonial times” but here original, purer than natural, with minimal sulphites after the (no new oak) barrel ferment. As a red berry liquid salve it is chalky and full of grape cure, “a one winter wine” as Derek likes to call it. So enjoy this between when this is tasted and when this is written (April 2017), literally. A wine that pushes the lore of measurement, history and precision. The price reflects the one winter promise. familiar somehow and fantastic. So please, don’t burn down the mission but feel free to “take all you need to live inside.” Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Garage Wine Co. Lot #48 Carignan Field Blend Portezuelo Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

From a wine company in which harvests were and are still are measured in barrels. The fruit is fermented in open-top vats, caps are punched down by hand, pressing is manual, yeasts are strictly native and work is done in a renovated (circa) 1840s cellar. The Portezuelo Vineyard in Itata is just the sort of place to give a bottle a wine a story, like this parcel of a hectare (or maybe two) farmed with horse and plough as the farmer’s family has done since colonial times. This carignan field blend curated by Derek Mossman Knapp, Pilar Miranda and Dr. Alvaro Peña delivers a deeper wealth of fruit so should be considered as carrying a longevity into a second winter. It is possessive of some sweet and fine-grained tannin and forges an impossible connective route from one fruit on to another; pomegranate to raspberry and vice versa. Really remarkable into its great length. Exactly what you need from a two winter wine out of which the field variegates in the glass. Also offers up proof that these wines are about places not varietals. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Garage Wine Co. Lot #47 Carignan Field Blend Truquilemu Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

A sister to the Lot #48 grown in Portezuelo, this Truquilemu field-blend of carignan, garnacha & mataró is grown by a small farmer using ancestral hand and horse methods in the tradition of the Secano Costero. This strikes an accord in similarity to Lot #48 but here of a more pronounced, deeper cure that is not just grape-derived but takes a bigger risk. More granitic, schist syrah-like with charcuterie aridity and the intense tang of dried smoky, meaty flesh running through its veins. More hematic, ferric too, deeper, grittier and firm. This carries tannin and will go three to five winters deep, at least. But you never forget about the fruit here. There are blueberries mixed into the red drupe. A complex conclusion is drawn. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Garage Wine Co. Lot #45 Carignan Field Blend Sauzal Vineyard 2013, Maule Valley, Chile (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Lot #45 comes from the Sauzal Vineyard and like sisters 47 and 48 is a carignan field blend co-planted with garnacha and mataró. The location is on the road to Constitucion in Empedrado in the shadow of the Sauzal Coastal Mountain Range. The older cracked granite soils cool slower than those of Andes proximity. If the Lot #48 in Portezuelo showed the region’s red fruit and #47 out of Truquilemu the schisty-mineral and meaty cure than it is here in Lot #45 where the twain is met. The freshness antithetical to taut stylistic combined and distilled into the most amenable is quite something. It makes sense that Derek Mossman Knapp would pour this last of the three, if only for educational purposes, but I prefer to call it revelation. Now we are tasting something you can store between two and five winters. The Sauzal persists as red fruit sumptuous with quite a bit of liquorice within a solid core of acidity. Fresh and yet quite firm, bright and cool. This will gift the broadest appeal because it has less cure and more middle of the road desire but it is still so very different than 99 per cent of Chile. Also noted are some herbs and fennel but it is not distinctly savoury. It is also the most tart of the four, the most recognizable in any commercial sense and yet it is anything but that. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Pearce and Predhomme get their négoce on

feels-like-shrovetuesday-came-a-month-early-a-varietal-negoce-feast-with-pearcepredhomme

Feels like #shrovetuesday came a month early. A varietal #negoce feast with @PearcePredhomme

Nicholas Pearce and Will Predhomme form the intermutual Ontario wine agent and sommelier-consultant union extraordinaire. If you’ve not met them, tasted with them or traveled to South Africa with them, you have not yet lived. Pearce-Predhomme are the proud papas of wines made in Oregon and South Africa. Their mission is as builders and facilitator-importers of wines from their favourite appellations. Three days ago I tasted their most recent releases.

Hyland Vineyard is a rather large 185 acre plot on a south-facing bench in the foothills of the Coast Range near McMinnville in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. French winemaker Laurent Montalieu makes the pinot noir for Pearce and Predhomme at the Northwest Wine Company.

The Helderberg (Afrikaans) or Clear Mountain (English) is the ancient place in South Africa’s Western Cape from which the boys draw their chenin blanc. The bush vines are found in the southwestern-most corner of Stellenbosch adjacent to False Bay. Their first kick at the red blend can is a syrah-cinsault schlepped off of old bush vines on antediluvian Helderberg Koffieklip (ironstone) soils. Both wines are produced in collaboration with winemaker-oenologist Jacques de Klerk and Alex Dale’s Radford Dale brand at The Winery of Good Hope in Stellenbosch. Here are the notes.

mgodello-willpredhomme-getting-geeky-on-the-new-pearcepredhomme-releases

@mgodello & @willpredhomme getting geeky on the new @pearcepredhomme releases.

Pearce Predhomme Pinot Noir Hyland Vineyard 2015, Mcminnville Ava, Willamette Valley, Oregon (Agent, $39.99 plus HST, WineAlign)

It was Eyrie Vineyards’ David Lett who started this whole volcanic pinot noir thing 40 years ago and it is here out of this single, heritage vineyard in McMinville where Nicholas Pearce and Will Predhomme are laying négoce roots. This pinot noir is from a Pommard clone with opposing and complimenting ripeness and anti-ripeness attributes, located on a monster hill of 185 acres. The wine is made at the Northwest Wine Company by Laurent Montalieu and in 2015 we are witness to a pattern forming (or joining, depending on your vantage point) for McMinnville pinot noir. Here very floral with a sous-sous-terre saline current and richness that is forever held at bay by rock, viaduct geology and that specific Oregon salumi cure. A bit ferric in the best New World possible way. Really chewy pinot noir, not dangerous mind you because I’ll get over it and so will you. That’s volcanic for you. The alcohol cut above is honest at 13.6 per cent, not uncommon for Pommard and its inherent greeneess, which is a thing in terms of heredity and perpetual genetics. Ah, clonal selection, though certainly not clinical. Nice choice of vintage too. There were 120 cases made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted January 2017  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce_  @WillPredhomme

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc Whole Old Vine/Wild Ferment 2016, Clear Mountain, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $19.99 plus HST, WineAlign)

Made at Radford Dale Winery and in homage to the afrikaans nomenclature for Clear Mountain known as the Helderberg, this is the second vintage of the Pearce-Predhomme chenin blanc. Comes