Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cape entering new viticultural era


The Cape is embarking on an era of great viticultural exploration. Following decades of sanctions, stifling regulations and export demand largely based on the so-called international varieties in more recent years, Cape growers and nurseries are starting to behave like the proverbial kid in the candy store – and there is much to choose from and contemplate considering the Cape’s diverse terroirs and the number of varieties either currently or imminently available.

Vititec’s contract with French nursery Entav-Inra, Distell’s sale earlier this year of in-house plant improvement facility Ernita to private nursery Bosman Adama (Pty) Ltd, and the likes of leading winemaker Eben Sadie and viticulturist Rosa Kruger, ensure that Cape viticulture is entering a very exciting age.

“We have suffered from Bordeaux envy for too long,” says Kruger, one of the main instigators of cataloguing the Cape’s old (35+ years) vineyards and the importing of new varietal material from Europe. “We need varieties better equipped to withstand our drought and heat while retaining acids until they reach ripeness,” says Kruger.

Sadie is at the “embryonic stage” of what appears to be a life’s work – and commitment – of trial and error plantings of new and exotic varieties. “I started eight years ago and it’s been a complex task of soil mapping and terroir assessment, plus the frustration of dealing with vested interests, politics and bureaucracy.”

Following their contract with France’s Entav-Entra, private plant improvement business Vititec are importing 10 new varieties and/or clones every year. New varieties available from 2013 include Macabeau/Viura, Marsanne, Roussane, Petit Manseng, Piquepoul Blanc, Terret Noir and Vermentino; from 2014, Counoise and Marselan; from 2016, Cinsaut Blanc, Grenache Gris and LLedoner Pelut; from 2017, Agiorgitiko, Arriloba, Asyrtiko, Caladoc, Ekigaina and Sauvignon Gris.

From 2016 Sadie will be planting exotic varieties, new selections and new clones every year for five years up until 2020, with the new varieties – many of them Mediterranean – being tested in up to three different sites. “Once they are planted we will quickly be able to make viticultural notes but notes from experimental wines will take a little longer,” says Sadie.

Kruger has had similar battles in her mammoth project of cataloguing old vineyards but early next year she will launch a website detailing all of the Cape’s old vineyards. Besides locating the vineyards, of course, she was, for example, required by the authorities to contact every single grower to get their permission to publish the details.

Sadie has produced critically acclaimed wines from some of these vineyards known as Die Ouwingerdreeks (The Old Vineyard Series), which sell out on release each year, but is more famous internationally for his red and white blends Columella and Palladius.

Last month Michela and Attilio Dalpiaz, the Italian owners of Ayama Wines of Voor Paardeberg, after working with Italian viticulturist Augusto Fabbro and Johan Wiese of Voor Groenberg Nurseries, planted South Africa’s first commercial block of Vermentino. They believe it to be a good match with Sardinia’s terroir, which includes its tolerance of wind and warm summers, and compatibility with decomposed granite soils. Voor Paardeberg also recently saw the planting of over four hectares of Marsanne. Three years ago Albariño/Alvarinho was established by the Newton Johnson family in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside coastal town Hermanus.

Varieties available from Lelienfontein (Bosman Adama) include Nero d’Avola, Irsai Oliver, Marsanne, Folle Blanche, Prosecco (varieties) and Aubun. There are other varieties that are either planted or in quarantine that are subject to confidentially clauses between the grower and nursery until they are released commercially.

Regardless of the outcome, there is no question that Sadie and Kruger are doing pioneering work, not least because nobody else is doing anything like their scale of experimentation. “Given the Loire’s climate, who would have thought Chenin Blanc would be so suited to the Cape? We have never been in a better position to experiment and we can find varieties that are far better suited to our terroirs than what we currently have. I will be very happy in 20 years time even if only 10% of the plantings prove a success. Too many of our varieties are out of spec. We need varieties that better retain their fruit and acids.’ says Sadie.
– Jonathan Snashall

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Platter's Wine Guide 2015 - Year of the Blends



Winery of the Year
Sadie Family Wines
White Wine of the Year
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2013
Red Wine of the Year
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013

Wines rated Five Stars:

 Méthode Cap Classique
Graham Beck  Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009
Chardonnay
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2013
Iona 2013
Richard Kershaw Elgin 2013
Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2012
Chenin Blanc
Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013
Fram 2013
Kaapzicht The 1947 2013
Grenache Blanc
The Foundry 2013
Sauvignon Blanc
Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei 2013
Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy CWG Auction Reserve Vloekskoot 2013
Reyneke Reserve White 2013
Semillon
Vergelegen Reserve 2013
White Blends
Constantia Uitsig Constantia 2012
David Aristargos 2013
DeMorgenzon Maestro 2013
Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2013
Miles Mossop Saskia 2012
Oak Valley Mountain Reserve 2010
Sadie Family Wine Palladius 2012
Sadie Family Wines Die Ouwingerdreeks Skerpioen 2012
Cabernet Franc
Warwick 2011
Cabernet Sauvignon
Groot Constantia 2012
Le Riche Reserve 2011
Nederburg II Centuries 2010
Oldenburg Vineyards 2011
Stark-Condé Three Pines 2012
Cinsaut
Sadie Die Ouwingerdreeks Pofadder 2013
Petit Verdot
Stellenbosch Vineyards Flagship 2010
Pinotage
Flagstone Time Manner Place 2012
Kanonkop Black Label 2012
Pinot Noir
Creation Reserve 2013
Crystallum Cuvée Cinema 2013
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2013
Sumaridge 2012
Red Blends
Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2012
Ernie Els CWG Auction Reserve 2012
Hartenberg The Mackenzie 2011
Thelema Rabelais 2010
Vilafonté Series C 2011
Shiraz
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2012
Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2012
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013
Fable Mountain Vineyards Syrah 2012
Porseleinberg 2012
Sweet wine, Unfortified
Delheim  Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2013
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Straw Wine 2013
Sweet wine, Fortified
Nuy White Muscadel 2013
Port-style
Boplaas Cape Tawny Reserve NV
De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2012
Brandy
KWV 12 Year Old Barrel Select

Seems to be year of the blends, white blends the strongest category (very lucky to sit on this panel) with eight 5 star wines, red blends got five 5 stars same as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah but red blends the biggest category in 'highly recommended' by some distance followed by white blends, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Cabernet.

There were also 9 wineries achieving 5 Stars for the first time – these were Creation Wines, Crystallum, Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy, Fram, Iona, Oldenburg, Porseleinberg, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Sumaridge.

The Platter Guide 2015 will be on sale from mid-November priced at R195 and is also available online from Platter’s website (www.wineonaplatter.com). The web-based version of the guide is available at www.wineonaplatter.com.


The tradition of secrecy and minor fanfare surrounding the colour continues with this year's colour announced as Beaujolais Ferment.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cape Heritage and Chenin Blanc


“Chenin’s time has come,” says Ken Forrester, head of the Chenin Blanc Association. Understanding the history of Chenin Blanc is understanding the history of Cape wine. For prominent international critics it is nigh on South Africa’s signature variety and symbolic of South Africa’s rising above its burden of history.

Chenin has also overcome one of its greatest attributes – versatility – to stand as one of the most internationally lauded South African varieties. Leading wine critics are comparing Chenin-based blends with white Burgundy which surely ranks as the best value for money – anywhere?

Although there is an accurate recording of when the first wine was made in the Cape – 2 February 1659 – there is less certainty surrounding the early varieties. However, we know that during that first century there were important contributions by Chenin, Semillon, Palamino, a few muscats and Pontac, which saw the beginnings of the Cape tradition of producing more whites than reds.

While they all waxed and waned, Chenin – while never as widely planted as Semillon (Groendruif) under British rule – remained a feature and was one of the grapes grown at Constantia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As recently as 1990, Chenin Blanc comprised more than 35% of plantings and currently comprises around 18% of plantings and over 30% of white-wine varieties.

Is Cabernet a Fit King?


While some doubt remains surrounding Cabernet’s credentials as the king of red grape varieties, it emerged earlier this year that Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most widely planted variety. In the Cape it’s also now the most widely planted red variety, just ahead of Syrah.

With the Cape’s longer viticultural history dominated by white varieties like Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Colombard, it is uncertain exactly when Cabernet was introduced to the Cape but Cabernet’s plantings have been increasing since the 1970s after having been planted in Constantia around the mid-nineteenth century.

Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery (SFW), a Distell forerunner, created legendary Cabernet-based blends in the 1970s that were still drinking very well more than 30 years later. These blends often contained Cinsaut (or Hermitage as it was known locally, although there is no Cinsaut in the Northern Rhône) and smatterings of Shiraz. Cinsaut was the Cape’s most important red wine vine until the 1960s and is a parent, along with Pinot Noir, to Pinotage.

The Six-Billion Rand Question


International tourist arrivals to South Africa in 2013 almost touched the 10-million mark – a new high – and, last week, newly appointed Tourism Minister, the ANC’s Derek Hanekom, addressed Parliament, saying that bold new initiatives are needed to further grow the number of visitors to South Africa.

Mr Hanekom has good reason to be a little anxious about emulating his predecessor Marthinus ‘Kortbroek’ van Schalkwyk, under whom the industry contributed R93-billion to South Africa’s GDP and achieved “a staggering annual average real growth rate … of 7.3% over the past 20 years” in 2012.

There is a sound argument that one of the sectors Mr Hankom should look to is wine tourism. South Africa’s wine tourism in 2012 was rated the best-developed in the world by International Wine Review. “In 2009 wine tourism contributed an estimated R4.3-billion to our country’s tourism revenue, and we believe there is still great potential for growth in this regard,” Mr van Schalkwyk reported in 2012.

Springfontein Rocks


You may expect to find one of South Africa’s best food and wine pairing experiences – and best Bordeaux winelist – in Cape Town’s foodie precinct Woodstock, yet for this one you need to drive about 95 minutes east to bucolic Stanford where five kilometres outside the village, down a gravel road close to the ocean, you will find Springfontein, a wine farm, and its restaurant Springfontein Eats.

Here you will also find, in the vineyard and the cellar, Tariro Masayiti; in the organic orchard, herb and vegetable garden, his horticulturalist partner Hildegard Witbooi; in the kitchen, Michelin-star chef  Jürgen Schneider and his wine expert and Riesling fan wife, Susanne.

Some say craft becomes art when practised over time and you can witness it at Springfontein. Jürgen has worked in butcheries and kitchens for over 40 years, while he and Susanne have been working together for close to 30 years, for 18 of which they held a Michelin star in homeland Germany. Susanne knows Jürgen’s food intimately and she knows her wines – the result is one of the best food and wine pairing experiences in the country.