Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ode to Pinot III

Without doubt the centre of the Cape wine universe, Stellenbosch boasts a myriad of producers, varieties and styles but only a handful are dedicated to the most fickle red variety of them all – Pinot Noir.

Those who can be singled out for particular dedication to the grape include Meerlust, Muratie, Vriesenhof and relative newcomer Pepin Conde, all of whom are beginning to master – if it’s possible - the heart break grape.

All have been fine tuning things according to her capricious demands including relocating vineyards (I want a view please), planting of modern clones (only the best gear will do), and experimenting with fermentation techniques and oaking (The best spa treatments please).

It was first planted on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s Simonsberg in 1927 while 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Stellenbosch Wine Route and the 10th of its Wine Festival (28-31 July 2011).
Muratie's at once historic and hedonistic cellar

Muratie – site of the first plantings - have re-located their modern clone vineyard lower down the valley after discovering that higher is not always cooler and have found that gentler extraction is more suited to the new site. This wine (‘09) showed good purity of fruit and was the most structured of the four with firm tannins – for Pinot that is. Oaking here is 30% new from Burgundian coopers. (R150 per bottle ex farm). Winemaker Francois Conradie has been the impact player but he plans on making it a longer tenure.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

What's up WOSA?

Independent South African commentators have been strident in their criticism of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), South Africa’s generic wine marketing agency, directing an overdose of vitriol in particular at CEO Su Birth and Communications Manager Andre Morgenthal.

There is a reasonable argument that the criticism is no longer constructive and has become damaging. It is also broadcasting a potentially divisive image to wine buyers and influencers in major export markets.

Many questions arise, including the challenges wine marketers face on the international stage. Not least – as noted by Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate – are the perceptions created in customers’ minds from decades of negative publicity surrounding apartheid, crime and corruption, not to mention scandals like illegal wine additives.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ode to Pinot II

Lunching with Pinotphile winemaker Peter Finlayson at Bouchard Finlayson is always going to be special, and when you throw in a vertical of Galpin Peak from the last decade it gets particularly vertiginous. Combine that with Kitchen Cowboy Pete Goffe-Wood who did anything but shoot from the hip in his careful food pairing and you have a truly special Sunday.

Well that was the departure point but on arrival we were welcomed by a saxophonist. On our approach, his elevated position up on the Manor House stoep reminded me of the opening scene of Peter Sellers' The Party when an outpost trumpeter is repeatedly shot – but keeps on waning. Regrettably I had left my rifle at home otherwise it would have been interesting to see if he had the same gees.

Can you see him?

Now, nobody has been making Pinot in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley for longer than Peter and with modern Burgundy clones, a Nuits St George cooper, and Burgundy-like high density vineyards (low-yield per vine), his ambitions are clear.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

OM Trophy Wine Show

The temptation to whinge about the imperfection of wine tasting and competitions is great - and tired, so I wont. Besides life would be boring without them.

Producer of the year - Spier (just pipped Thelema)
International Judges' Trophy (inaugural) - Paul Cluver 09 Chardonnay. Probably the trophy of the show when you consider the judges: Neil Martin - Wine Advocate; Debra Meiburg MW - tipped to enter Decanter's powerful list in the next few years (Hong Kong-based); Thierry Desseauve - former editor of La Revue du Vin de France.
Trophy Winners
KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
Hillcrest Quarry Merlot 2008
Meerlust Pinot Noir 2009
Rijk’s Pinotage 2007
Thelema Shiraz 2007
KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2009 (Bdx blend)
Ormonde Theodore Eksteen 2008 (shiraz-based blend)
Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2009 (oaked)
Jordan Riesling 2009
Hartenberg Weisser Riesling 1999 (museum class)
Delaire Coastal Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Lomond Sugarbush Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (museum class)
Cape Point Vineyards Semillon 2006
Spier Creative Block 2 2010 (best white blend Sauvignon Blanc Semillon wooded)
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Special White Blend 2010 (other white blend wooded)
Nederburg Private Bin Eminence Noble Late Harvest Muscadel 2008
KWV White Jerepigo 1933 (museum class)
Nuy White Muskadel 2005

No Trophy for Bubbly (surely Bond knows better?), Chenin Blanc (Chenin newcomer Delaire was top scorer for the '10 with yours truly assisting), Port, Cab Franc, Viogner etc. Only 17 trophies and a mere 25 Gold Medals - down on last year’s total of 25 trophies & 32 Golds, probably through stricter selection rather than a fall in quality. A dramatic increase in Silver and Bronze medals - with numbers of winning wines increasing by around 30% in each category - points towards a widening of quality.