Last year the Griers decided that their venerable bush vine (unirrigated) sauvignon blanc vineyard, renowned for berries that produce an unique, intense wine, was worthy of special treatment. Barrel maturation would allow the intensity to feature, while the trendy egg-shaped tank would be used for partial skin fermentation. French oak – half new wood, half old – was used to complete fermentation, and batonage occurred weekly. The wine was stabilised and bottled after three months.
The result – Villiera Bush vine Blanc Fumé 2016 - a delicious wine that fascinates while it impresses: Harking back to the era when blanc fumes were much in vogue, yet presenting a thoroughly modern version, where frisky freshness nicely complements the structure and figgy and green notes are mellowed by gentle oaking. It is certain to age with grace and should partner a range of white meat dishes and autumnal vegetarian combos with panache, including various fungi. Alcohol levels of 13% and residual sugar of 2,5g/l are, I am sure, accompanied by a minimal use of sulphites as I experienced no problem in relishing it. It sells for R144 and is pithily described by Jeff Grier as “Grown on old bush vine vineyards. Hatched from an egg. Matured in a barrel.”
What other updates from this family farm that does much to conserve the environment without being certified organic? Most winelovers know that the cellar is solar-powered and that both the Owethu clinic and The Pebbles Project, are centred at Villiera: these important facilities continue to progress, while the Early Childhood Development Centre has enjoyed a renovation.
New additions to the estate, both four- and two-legged include kudu, waterbuck and wildebeest, with game drives in demand at least twice daily in season.
The two-legged newcomers are a pair of youthful winemakers, being Nathan Valentine, whose childhood in the Stellenbosch winelands led him to complete a BAgric degree at Elsenburg while spending vacations working in the Villiera tasting centre. He followed this with stints at DeMorgenzon and Chandon in California before returning to Villiera. A vintage at Domaine Grier in southern France preceded his appointment at the home farm.
Nathan will be joined by another member of the Grier family, namely Xander, son of David Grier, known to South Africans as an extraordinary adventurer for worthy causes. Xander has already notched up cellar and viticultural experience in Napa Valley, Australia, France, Tasmania and Elgin before returning to the Cape where he worked at Villiera and at la Vierge in the Hemel-en-Aarde.
We wish them well with their careers at an estate where visits and vision, value and versatility feature as major attractions.