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News

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You’ve got to hand it to Overhex. This innovative player on the African wine scene is not shy to make its labels stand out on the shelves. Before it was elephants balancing on a stool, this time it’s a stolid Nguni cow, whose adventurous spirit led not only to her survival as a free-range animal, but one whose portrait gazes out at consumers as she chews the cud in flat and grassy Swartland pastures – the iconic windmill not far behind her.

She jumped off a truck travelling a country road and landed on a Swartland farm named Constantia, where she – plus her offspring – live to roam free today. This farm is the source of the grapes that produce the four-strong Survivor range, and the current vintages are only the second to be released onto an enthusiastic local market.

 

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There are two 2015 reds - a cab and a pinotage, both hearty wines with plenty of upfront fruit and smooth oak. The cabernet vines are middle-aged, and yielded berries of optimal ripeness. The wine spent 18 months in a mixture of new and second fill French and a little Hungarian oak. The pinotage, from young vines on the same farm, have also yielded a fruity wine, that offers characteristic plum and berry flavours . Both wines have 14,5% alcohol levels and sell for R130. Both sport gold from the 2016 Michelangelo Awards .

The white pair,  are, to my mind, of greater interest, the chenin being a barrel-fermented wine that combines some backbone with plenty of stone fruit flavours and a pleasing zestiness. The sauvignon blanc is partially barrel-fermented in large French untoasted oak, and presents plenty of fruit, tempered by some friskiness and there's a hint of minerality as well. Their alcohol levels are limited to a moderate 13%, another plus. Both these 2016 wines cost R95. Just one query - Why not screwcapped?

 

Survivor is just one of several ranges that Overhex has introduced since its creation in 2005. They also offer consumers a popular bistro along the R60, some 10km outside Worcester.

 

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Many of us know that Bot River is no longer just a quaint part of the Overberg region, alongside Elgin and Walker Bay. It has blossomed into a flourishing district that is producing exciting and impressive wines, attracting young winemakers both innovative and talented.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_gabrielskloof4_20161001-113152_1.jpgPeter-Allan Finlayson has already stamped his name on his highly-rated range of Crystallum wines: Now that he has moved to Gabrielskloof in Bot River – where he is both cellarmaster and married to Nicolene, the co-owner’s daughter – he is making his mark on their wines, while continuing to produce his own .

The farm has just released the first duo of its new Landscape Series, a maiden chenin blanc called Elodie 2015 and a fresh take on an existing  semillon/ sauvignon blanc blend,  Magdalena 2015. The name of the range reflects the rolling hills of the farm’s setting as depicted in a series of landscapes by artist Neil Jonker, who is producing a painting for each label in the range. They form a tranquil if subdued black and white background to the front labels of the two new releases.

Looking at the maiden chenin first, the grapes were sourced from Paardeberg dryland bush vines more than 35 years old, offering very low yields. As we know, these are exactly the vines that are enabling Cape winemakers to produce extraordinarily fine chenin : Finlayson whole-bunch pressed the berries, transferred the juice from tank to old French oak where it was left to ferment wild.

The result is gratifying, golden, bright chenin, with a citrus and floral nose, preceding a host of fruit and nutty flavours and that touch of lanolin that reminds one of semillon. The character is complex and layered, complemented by a brisk and welcome freshness. Alcohol levels are held at 13,6%’ and, for those disciplined enough to tuck away a case or two, they will be rewarded in years to come.

Although this is a patrician chenin, it is not (unlike some of its equally impressive colleagues) too intense or concentrated to drink and enjoy and to pour a second glass. And, while not inexpensive, Gabrielskloof has resisted the temptation to join others that are priced off the market for many South African wine lovers.

The Magdalena, a Bordeaux-style blend of equal quantities of semillon b2ap3_thumbnail_gabriellskloof5_20161001-113118_1.jpgand sauvignon blanc has been produced since 2009. The 2015 vintage was produced from Franschhoek semillon, around 34 years in age and 13-year-old sauvignon from the farm. The wine, made in oxidative style, was matured in French oak and presents a classic meld, that is quite intense but well-balanced. The nose hints of citrus and berry, while on the palate a verdant friskiness dominates. Coming back to the wine after an hour or two, I did ot detect much in the way or cream or waxiness which are mentioned in the tasting notes.  

My only criticism regarding this poised and impressive debut - why the cork closure, which renders them a little stuffy?

Like its companion, alcohol levels are kept at 13,6% and both wines sell for R234 and are stocked by wine stores and some restaurants as well as the farm.

I look forward to making acquaintance with the next three Landscape wines, due for release next year.

 

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It was with keen anticipation that I screwed open a sample of Asara 2015 chenin blanc from their Vineyard Collection range. It has been a long while since I tasted any of their wines, although I often thought about them when swinging past their entrance on route to Stellenbosch.

This wine, states estate manager Pete Gottgens, is the first of a vinous renaissance at Asara, the maiden result of a new regime and team. It’s an impressive chenin on every count, from its nose presenting a meld of honeysuckle and ripe stone fruit followed by a rich and concentrated mix of fruit flavours and subtle oak. The alcohol count is 14%, which is higher than Europe and the UK like, but most South Africans are less concerned about this facet with consumers in the Far East are even less so. The wine has just walked off with an international trophy for Best New World Wine at the 2016 Japan Wine Challenge, bringing home gold as well which is a pleasing start for their quality projections.

The estate grapes were sourced from a 20-year-old block, just short of 2 ha, sited at 200m above sea level. Winemaker Danielle le Roux and consultant Abe Beukes left the berries hang until mid-March before harvesting. After pressing the wine went straight into oak. While the wine is agreeably fresh in spite of its fruit intensity it could be even more palatable if discernible minerality added backbone:   Perhaps this aspect could develop in bottle.

Food wise, this is a chenin that will accommodate complex salads and all manner of poultry dishes, including some Oriental classics.

Priced at R80, it offers good value as well. While I haven’t tasted the 2014 chenin, one thing’s for sure – the 2015 is worth a lot more than the 2 and half stars Platter awarded the previous vintage.

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The Paulina’s Reserve flagship trio is one of the two top ranges from Rickety Bridge, that most picturesque of Franschhoek estates. As regular visitors will know, Paulina was a pioneering widow who acquired the land straddling the river and mountain at the close of the 18th century, one of the Cape’s first woman farmers in wild and woolly Olifantshoek .

 

Cellarmaster Wynand Grobler, appointed winemaker back in ’07, will be celebrating a very successful decade at b2ap3_thumbnail_r-bridge-wynand.jpgRickety Bridge next year: His wines have just gone on improving by leaps and bounds, and the recently launched latest vintages of Paulina’s Reserve  labels are ample proof.

 

The 2013 cabernet sauvignon combines impressive quality with pleasurable drinkability, which is in itself unusual: this wine,  scoring 90/100 in the 2016 Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report and chosen one of the top 12 offers  complex aromas of berries, herbs and spice, and goes on to present silky medium-bodied wine, both fresh and with smooth oaked quality.  It was produced from Franschhoek grapes on the Dassenberg slopes, and sells for R250.

 

The 2015 Reserve chenin blanc is a brilliant example of our ever-improving chenins – I don’t know if it was entered into the Top 10 chenin contest, but, had I been  a judge, it is likely to have made  my top 10 selection. It was sourced from 20-year-old Worcester vines, and Grobler fermented in barrel and then transferred the wine to foudre and casks for six months. The nose is prominently floral, a mixed bouquet  of aromatic spring blossoms along with stone fruit  and honey. The wine is powerful, luscious and rich, packed with fruit, with a creaminess that harks of chardonnay or semillon. Alcohol kept to 13%. Selling for R130.

 

 

The 2013 Reserve semillon, also priced at R130, is a fine example of just how impressive Franschhoek’s mature semillon grapes can be – in this case 24 years old, toddlers compared to some. This really is a connoisseur’s wine, oxidative, waxy as semillon usually is, but here also minerally, powerful, with spice in the background, oak  adding richness. It is a wine that requires the whole sniffing, swirling, sipping routine – more than once –  to begin to take in all the facets.  Not everyone is going to enjoy it, but it is a fascinating wine that I am going to try matching to northern Scandinavian fare, if that doesnt work, then take it to somewhere in the Orient...

 

 

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Always exciting to unearth a winery new to one - and when I received a trio of Groenland wines I found that this Bottelary farm was one I did not know existed, even though it's near well-known cellars like Hazendal.  b2ap3_thumbnail_GROENLAND-2Steenkamp-bottle-shot-NV-resized.jpg

Turning to Platter I found that the Steenkamp family has been farming there since 1932 but only produced their first wine just under 20 years ago.

They now have more than 150ha under red and white cultivars and produce 13 000 cases of wine annually.

There are three ranges: Premium conisting of four reds, all four-star rated,  Classic – which includes a frisky green, slightly dusty sauvignon blanc which I enjoyed -  as well as a cab, shiraz and red blend, and the Landskap range – a 2015 chenin (which was fresh, accessible and very pleasant) and a shiraz-merlot blend.

In July they - father Kosie and son Piet - released a flagship 2013 Bordeaux-style blend, called simply Steenkamp, in honour of  Kosie Steenkamp, the family patriarch. This is a deep, dark wine, well-balanced, with fruit and tannins presenting in appealing meld. It opened up nicely in the glass, and will surely go on improving for several years.

While the limited edition Steenkamp sells for R285 in keeping with its status, the other Groenland wines offer excellent value for money – the Landskap chenin is R37, the Classic sauvignon blanc R49 and two award-winning shiraz (which I haven’t tasted) are R64 and R115 respectively.

The emphasis at Groenland is on friendliness, old-fashioned hospitality and a complete lack of pretension. Sounds like my kind of venue and my favourite sort of people. Their website www.groenland.co.za is very informative.

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