The pair make the maiden vintages of his Focal Point Collection and there’s more in the pipeline, with a cab to come. Arco Laarman, whose name is almost synonomous with fine chardonnay after his long stint at Glen Carlou, went solo a few years ago, presenting his Cluster Series last year, and this impressive pair, both 2017 vintage, a couple of months ago.
Dubbed the Focal Point, Laarman explains that this range concentrates on specific vineyard sites to express their character, by making a wine that reflects a specific place and time. Deciding on Chardonnay as the maiden white was a given, while settling on Cinsault for the red was influenced both by the existence of fine old vineyards to tap into and the fact that its star is on the rise, just as chenin’s was a decade agao – and look at that so-called humble grape now.
Laarman found his chardonnay grapes in a vineyard in limestone on the banks of the Duiwenhoks river near Vermaaklikheid, a cool southern region that’s been spotted by several adventurous winemakers in recent years. He does not reveal their age, but he harvested quite late, whole bunch-pressed them and used four different fermentation techniques before maturing the wine – half in new French oak, half in neutral oak for 10 months.
The result is impressive on every count. Elegance and freshness are both prominent, the nose offers citrus and pineapple, while rounded flavours and minerality come through on the palate, with a hint of nougat. Alcohol levels of 14% are unobtrusive. Laarman suggests pairing the wine with sophisticated seafood or roast chicken with asparagus and white wine sauce. I think there are several French gourmet chicken classics that would make an excellent companion, especially those from the north and French Alpine regions. At over R300, it’s a chardonnay to match with patrician fare.
To the Cinsault, which Laarman made from berries of 35-year-old vines in the Bottelary Hills. After natural fermentation had taken place and the skins pressed in a large basket press, the wine spent 10 months in 300 litre neutral oak barrels. The result is a delicious violet-tinged cinsaut, where purity reigns supreme, tannins are gentle, fruit, a distinct herbiness and earthiness add to the typical cinsaut character. Moderate alcohol levels of 13% add to its attraction. Those who favour light-bodied reds will be delighted with this fine example, which will enhance warming game bird casseroles, and mushroom dishes – eat your heart out, pinot noir, you have an affordable rival to contemplate. Recommended retail price is R210.
Final comment is on the distinctive and attractive closure of the bottles which sees conventional cork topped with an innovative cork capsule for re-sealing the bottle. It's made by hand locally, it looks good and, being a natural product, beats plastic and wax seals both in looks and practicality.
For more info, see www.laarmanwines.com.