A winemaker with his own label
If Neil Patterson’s name isn’t so familiar (he was winemaker at Anthonij Rupert Wines before branching out on his own) it quite possibly soon will be, especially for those who have a sulphur allergy problem, as does Patterson himself.
His new Neil Patterson wines are made without the addition of sulphur – which doesn’t mean they’re sulphur free, as is often supposed, tiny quantities being a by-product of fermentation. ‘Under 10 parts per million, rather than the average normal of 80 to 120 ppm,’ Patterson explains.
In itself, this isn’t a first; there have been other still wines produced without the addition of sulphur but none have persuaded me they’re worth drinking. But – and I have to admit to my very pleasant surprise – Patterson’s wines go beyond the merely drinkable; they have character within a generally restrained style and, in the case of the 2009 Merlot, prove to have staying power.
The method Patterson has used to secure this result is SurePure photopurification technology, which employs ultra-violet light to destroy bacteria; ‘providing a ‘green’ alternative to traditional preservative methods, ensuring less harmful chemical intervention for the consumer.’ as Patterson’s press release describes it.
The use of ultra violet light energy in the purification of wine was legalised only in 2010 and this is the first time the method has been used for a full range of premium wines.
Suitably, for such a first, the range was launched at Franck Dangereux’s Foodbarn, where his line up of dishes perfectly matched and showed off how well the wines go with food. ‘If the wine and food touches anything inside of you, we are winning.’ Right Franck, they sure did.
Sauvignon blanc 2013 from the Helderberg, was poured first; nicely understated with substance and freshness yet unaggressive, the moderate alcohol and dry finish also pleases. It is both unfined and unfiltered, so there may be a bit of sediment advises Patterson. If the Chenin Blanc 2012 initially disappointed our little coterie at one end of the table, it turned out to be temporary; a little warmth and air did wonders. Ageing, rather than fermentation, on its fine lees in old oak barrels for 18 months, imparts a supple yet fresh feel with a concentration appropriate to its aged Franschhoek vineyard. Franschhoek is also the source of the youthful cabernet sauvignon 2012. As with the chenin, ageing in older oak takes place post the SurePure process. New oak would have unnecessarily gilded the lily that are the diffuse ripe flavours; ‘Rich in fruit rather than fruity’ is Patterson’s apt description. It should benefit from a further year at least.
I defy anyone to guess the source of the merlot, so distinctive is it under its home-label guise, but Patterson assures us his Merlot 2009 does come from Steenberg fruit, despite a total absence of mint! Dark, soft fruits, creamy feel and rounded tannins make this a merlot worth exploring, whether or not you’re allergic to sulphur and that’s some recommendation for a variety that rarely receives a positive review here.
The whites will retail at around R100, reds slightly more.
In introducing this wine and food pairing, Franck Dangereux claimed it was the most exciting event he has done to date. I have the feeling that Neil Patterson’s SurePure treated, no-added-sulphur wines could be one of the most exciting new ranges of this type yet to be launched on the South African market.
A wine farm under revival
It was around five years’ ago, the wonderfully wild Jackie Coetzee decided surfing won over wine, so he up and left Bloemendal, selling this beautiful and old 250 hectare property to a consortium of businessmen.
Being businessmen, they saw $$$ signs not from the farm’s potential for quality wine but rather for development. As this photo from the top of Kanonberg, where the Bloemendal restaurant commands one of the best views in the Cape, shows, they had a point. (As one friend wittily responded when I posted it on Twitter, ‘Proposed site for Nkandla 2?’) Of course, the very thought of any development in the heart of the Durbanville winelands, when the boundaries of the town itself are a constant threat, had all the wine farmers up in arms.
It has, apparently taken those five years to dissuade the owners to back down from their plans and turn their efforts to the farm’s right and true calling: quality wine. Wine has been made in the interim (though you really don’t want to see the labels, which look sufficiently gaudy for the brothel madams!) but the 135 ha of vineyards have fallen into some state of neglect, something which had started prior to Coetzee’s departure.
A top team has been appointed to oversee Bloemendal’s revival: Lombard Loubser, previously at Waterford Estate, oversees the vineyards, while his erstwhile colleague at Waterford, Francois Haasbroek is consulting on the wine side. Colyn Truter joins them in the marketing role and Eddie Hauman has designed these evocative, smart new labels.
They have much work on their hands. We stop to inspect the famous 31-year-old Suider Terras sauvignon blanc vines on our way down from Kanonberg. As dryland bushvines, lack of attention has seen them grow horribly out of shape. Loubser demonstrates how it’ll take two men to remove excess growth without inherent damage to the vine. Neglect is also illustrated by the paltry 1000 bottles squeezed out of this 8 hectare block in 2013. Future vineyard development will be fitted with irrigation.
It’s over to Haasbroek now, who explains specific vineyards have been isolated for each range and that they stylistic focus will be on lower alcohols and dry wines.
Apart from its pretty label, the Waterlily range is the value offering; whites sell for R65, reds R75. Both 2013s – sauvignon blanc and shiraz rosé – are delightful, epitomising deliciousness without dumbing down. Not everyone liked the malbec 2012 – I did, but then I like the variety’s more rustic qualities – but there was more positive consensus about the juicy pinotage 2012.
The Bloemendal range, firmly setting its sense of place on the label, provides a leap up in quality and price (R200 each for the Suider Terras and Kanonberg, R175 for the Chardonnay). The common thread in all three 2013 whites is elegance and restraint; don’t be in a hurry to judge, they give what they have with time. I think the oaked Suider Terras will surprise Durbanville sauvignon enthusiasts with its quiet conviction, while the 70/30 sauvignon semillon Kanonberg blend can stand proud among its many South African peers.
As I leave, Bloemendal’s Les Bons Amis restaurant is full of happy lunch-time guests, many enjoying end of the year parties out of from their Durbanville offices, a stone’s throw away. As Bloemendal Estate once again finds its feet, they and visitors from further afield, will find much to celebrate.