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Myrna Robins

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News

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When the second vintage of a new wine is even better than the first – and the first was memorable – then you know you have found a label to love. When the winery does not raise the price to unaffordable levels just because it’s attracting awards, the said label becomes even more attractive.

So it was with the release of the 2018 vintage of Tanagra Colombard, which I sampled at the 10 year anniversary celebration of this beautiful boutique wine cellar, distillery and guest farm, a few kilometres from the village of McGregor.

Colombard (or Colombar) is not a noble cultivar., but a modest varietal occupying just more than 1,9% of South Africa’s vineyard area. It is used largely as a major component of base wine for our illustrious brandy production. And, has now proven to the wine world that it can yield grapes that – having been nurtured in the vineyard and enjoyed careful and talented attention in the cella -, it can produce a fine wine of quality.

The maiden vintage, 2017 presented us a golden-hued wine that, along with being delicious , enjoyed the element of surprise. Would its successor maintain the quality?   It did, in every aspect, adding something of a polished character as if to say – I’m here and ready to stay! The grapes come from a single vineyard on the farm, 22 years old, yielding enough berries to produce 2 300 bottles. The early-morning harvest was gently crushed, and natural or wild yeasts used to ferment the juice .

The wine spent a month in third-fill oak barrels before bottling Alcohol levels are held at a modest 13%. The wine offers flavours of sub-tropical and stone fruit on the palate, including a hint of the characteristic guava. Medium-bodied with some flint, it is fresh without being acidic and a hint of cream adds to well -rounded happiness

A charming aperitif for spring days and summer nights that comes into its own as a companionable partner for many an al fresco dish, including tomato-based fare which is usually difficult to pair well. Robert and Anette Rosenbach have received reports from far and wide on how well their Colombard adds enjoyment to both luncheon and supper menus, while it’s equally happy to partner local cheese.

It sells for R100 and details of stockists and deliveries can be found on their website www.tanagra-wines.com. Visitors to the Robertson Wine on the River festival in mid-October will be able to taste it at the Tanagra stand.

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Heritage month makes a great excuse, should we need one, to focus on our Cape history – its viticulture, architecture and cuisine, among other aspects. So when a trio of Lanzerac wines arrived that all embody this colourful heritage, the subject of this September blog required no further debate.

A few years back cellarmaster Wynand Lategan added the maiden vintages of a new range to the Lanzerac wine portfolio. Headed the Keldermeester Versameling he focussed on fine harvests of uncommon cultivars, bottled them in heavy glass bottles closed with wax and added a minimalistic white label. The back label offers some info, and only Afrikaans is used.

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There are two whites in this range, both of which are worth sampling when next you visit the tasting centre. There’s very little pinot blanc in South Africa, but Lanzerac boasts a single, low-yield vineyard in the Jonkershoek valley which Lategan used to make Christina in 2001, a rare example of this varietal, launched to coincide with the arrival of the new millennium and given the thumbs up by Tim James in the 2002 edition of Platter’s wines. Fast forward to 2017 when the first vintages of the Keldermeester Versameling were released, one of which is a limited edition, named Bergpad, a wooded pinot blanc which I enjoyed enormously. Golden in hue, it makes quite a bold statement, (I received the 2016), full bodied, old oak melding with flavours of pineapple and semi-tropical fruit, freshness thanks to muted acidity.  The wine is  a fine example of well-balanced handling, just different enough to offer a nice altlernative to the usual whites. It is a fine tribute to the famous mountain path that stretches from Coetzenberg sports ground to Lanzerac, that has seen generations of Stellenbosch students tramp their way to the famous bar on the farm.

Bergpad was joined by Bergstroom last year, a 2017 vintage blend of homegrown sauvignon blanc and semillon from Elgin. Fermentation took place in old French oak, using mostly natural yeast, and six months of maturation preceded blending and bottling. It is a charming example of a classic blend, offer ing green fruity flavours of kiwi and gooseberry, a long delicious mouthfeel that lacks the acidity that often dominates sauvignon blanc. Alcohol levels of 14% are not obvious, and this makes both a moreish aperitif and fine partner for local salmon trout with beurre blanc. Bergstroom also pays pleasing tribute to mountain streams, both those of Stellenbosch and of many a small South African dorp, offering irrigation lifelines to people, livestock and crops.

Both these delightful whites, limited editions and numbered, are available only from Lanzerac, priced at a reasonable R200.

No vinous discussion about heritage could exclude our one true indigenous grape – pinotage is not only enjoying global acclaim at present, but Lanzerac estate is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Lanzerac pinotage which was produced by then owners,  SFW co-operative, under the Lanzerac label. Created by Stellenbosch universty’s Professor Abraham Perold who cross-pollinated pinot noir and cinsaut to produce just four seeds in 1925, the new cultivar, pinotage flourished and was first used in blending with other dry reds.

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Today cellarmaster Lategan continues to specialise in pinotage, offering winelovers and connoisseurs an easy-drinking rosé, a full-bodied classic pinotage from the premium range and the flagship Pionier Pinotage, a single vineyard champion .

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Iconic wine from an iconic Cape estate: Having been fully restored after a major fire two years ago, Lanzerac is back on the winelands map, as beautiful and elegant as ever. More than three centuries of history can be experienced in the special ambience found in some sections where old walls and woodwork retain the patina of many an ancestral presence. Beauty abounds in a magnificent setting, as the estate wears its three centuries with effortless grace.

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Given the growing trend to produce wines that reflect a sense of place , it’s good to see Stellenbosch Hills join the mode with the release of a pair of classy limited edition wines that now form their flagship duo. The range will soon be expanded with the addition of a MCC.

Both the white, a wooded chenin blanc and the red blend have cork closures and attractive front labels, the former featuring a wild chestnut flower, the latter our beautiful sunbird , his beak deep in a Sugarbush Protea. These features are found on the farm(s) from where the grapes were sourced.

Kastanjeberg 2017 is a wooded chenin, produced from a single vineyard growing high on slopes facing False Bay. This is a bold, full-bodied chenin, offering aromas of honey and stone fruit and whiffs of vanilla from its time in oak. There is more fruit on the palate, where flavours of peach and apricot are complemented with some nuttiness, oak lending tannic structure and vanilla, and acidity assuring freshness. It’s a big wine in every sense (including high alcohol levels at 14,5%) and will make a good partner with complex poultry and game bird dishes, pork and also complement Asian fare from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Suikerboschrand is a Cape blend from that superb vintage year 2015 and comprises one-third pinotage, with 29% shiraz, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot and 10% petit verdot.  All the components were vinified separately and spent 24 months in new French oak before blending and bottling took place. This is a voluptuous blend, where an array of aromas – berries, chocolate, cigar box – are followed by a complexity of flavours on the palate, fruit melding with tannic structure from new oak. Alcohol levels of 14,5% do not overwhelm the wine which is both accessible and well balanced.

As these flagship wines are destined to be savoured by connoisseurs and those keen to know more, both about the “place” or terroir from where the harvests came, the age of the grapes, and – in the case of the chenin – how long the wine spent in wood, and was it first, second or third-fill oak, it seems a pity that these facts are neither on the labels nor can be found on the website. I would like to ask the winemaker why he decided that a bold, wooded chenin would offer a better sense of place, (that is the high single vineyard), than a wine where the grapes could have expressed their particular terroir.

The Kastanjeberg sells for R285 and the Suikerboschrand for about R385 both from the cellar and some boutique wine stores. Email info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za for more info.

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We have come to expect the best from Waterkloof wines, and I have yet to be disappointedThe estate’s fierce commitment to traditional organic and biodynamic methods is well-known and there is no doubt that these are reflected in the purity of their wines,  accompanied by a delicacy that promotes, rather than restrains,  expression of terroir. Add to this a natural elegance that  has long been winemaker Nadia Barnard-Langenegger’s  characteristic style, and you know what to expect as you unscrew the cap of the 2016 vintage of Waterkloof Circle of Life White.

Winelovers will be delighted to find the components listed on the front label – 67% sauvignon blanc, 29% chenin blanc and 4% splash of semillon. I found the sauvignon to be dominant both on the nose and slightly less so on the palate, but there are few typical chenin characteristics. The chenin has, however, softened the sauvignon's acidity and added a backdrop of flint Fruit is restrained, but adds roundness to the blend which lingers to a long, complex,  satisfying and serene finish. Moderate alcohol levels are in keeping.

Winemaker Nadia co-fermented the sauvignon and chenin in a combo of 600 litre barrels and concrete “eggs.” No additives were used, and extended time on the lees and with bottle maturation contribute to the fine integration that is characteristic of this blend.

A persuasive example of the positive effects of eco-farming, organic and biodynamic vini- and viticulture, this retails for around R160.

 

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Before adding my ten cents worth as to what Voltaire was satirising in his 18th century novella Candide, let’s look at this wine, a charming, even enchanting blend from the historic Babylonstoren estate, home to magnificent gardens along with winery, accommodation and restaurants.

Fruity, satiny, as fresh and moreish as the spring we await, Candide 2018 is a four-way blend of cultivars all grown on the enormous estate: Wine of origin Simonsberg-Paarl, the bottle proclaims – and apart from its moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% - it tells us little else.

Not even on the website will curious consumers find much about Candide, so here are some facts about this captivating wine, gleaned from their efficient marketing professional Lize Grobb and the Platter guide.

Candide is chenin-led, at 45% with 24% viognier, and the remainder almost equal proportions of chardonnay and semillon. The grapes are all grown on the Simonsberg slopes and the chenin and semillon underwent cold fermentation in tanks after pressing, then kept on secondary lees for four months until bottling. The chardonnay and viognier were fermented in French oak and were kept on the lees for four months.

The results are gentle yet quite complex, where a stone and tropical fruit flavours meld with citrus in a crisp medium-bodied wine where each element is in fine balance with the others. There’s a feminine touch to this little gem, which made me wonder if the only female winemaker on the Babylonstoren cellar team, Marina Laubser had significant input to its creation. Both elegant and eminently approachable, Candide serves to strengthen my belief in chenin-led blends being the pinnacle of Cape white wines with regard to quality, diversity and offering great enjoyment.

Apparently the 2019 vintage will be on sale in September, which is definitely an item for the spring shopping list. Meanwhile '18 is not to be missed. It sells for R155 from cellar door.

Back to the choice of name, designed, I am sure, to get winelovers talking over their Candide aperitif: As Voltaire ends his work with its best-known phrase, which, translated, reads “We must cultivate our garden” – it could literally refer consumers to the sumptuous beauty of the estate’s gardens. But that would be a waste of an opportunity to argue about what Voltaire was targeting – optimism? War? Persecution? The tolerance and the rights of the individual were among his concerns and they are there for readers to find in his fast-paced action across 18th century continents.

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