Old new & new new

In my last post, I failed to mention so many more excellent wines I tasted at Cape Wine, let me rectify that now.

Bellingham is a name, for those of us with long memories, associated with Bernard and Frieda Podlashuk, their beautiful property in the Franschhoek Valley and its own railway station. It’s also associated with the first Premier Grand Cru and commercial shiraz. For those slightly younger, Bellingham was part of the Graham Beck portfolio and where he built a modern cellar and tasting room, until the brand was sold back to Douglas Green Bellingham (yes, that’s what the B stands for!). More recently, the whole property has passed into the hands of neighbour, Anthonij Rupert Wines, leaving Bellingham but a name on a bottle.


wine-roussanneThe Bernard Series (named after ‘Pod’, as he was affectionately known) sits at the top of the Bellingham range and regularly carries off bits of silverware at shows, but I hadn’t had a serious taste through the wines for a long time. Cape Wine offered the perfect opportunity. The wines, sensitively crafted by Niel Groenewald, are individual and easily equal to many of the more fashionable names around. My stand-out is the 2015 Whole Bunch Roussanne from Voor Paardeberg. The fruit purity – white floral notes – is enhanced by lack of oak, but this vessel’s usual benefits – richness, structure and firmness – are imparted by lees ageing and, I guess, a great vintage. One of SA’s first two varietal marsannes is also drawn from Voor Paardeberg. Again crafted to highlight the slightly more exuberant white peach fruit only a portion was in (old) oak. I was also privy to a preview of a splendid new white blend, including, if I remember rightly, this pair among other varieties. It should most certainly be regarded among the top tier of this much spoken-about genre.

As for the reds, the Basket Press Syrah has varietal clarity, gentle tannins (as one might expect from the name) all harmonised & polished by subtle oaking.

The Bernard Series range may be tasted at the re-furbished Franschhoek Cellar, on the right just before entering the town. Do so; there should be no disappointments.

Of the five ranges under Anthonij Rupert Wine, I tasted the Cape of Good Hope and flagship, Anthonij Rupert wines with Marketing Manager, Gareth Robertson. One could hardly find two more stylistically different line ups.

Cape of Good Hope SemillonCape of Good Hope is home to some of the old vineyards from where Eben Sadie also sources his Ouwingerds range: Van Lill & Visser Chenin Blanc and Laing Semillon, while much younger vineyards in Elandskloof, near Villiersdorp are channelled into Altima Sauvignon Blanc and Serruria Chardonnay. Paardeberg provides fruit for Basson Pinotage. Freshness, moderate alcohols and a sense of hands-off winemaking lends each of these interest and the desire for another sip to discover more.

By contrast, the all-red Anthonij Rupert wines, current vintages around 2008 – 2010, are in the increasingly old-fashioned ultra-ripe, over-oaked, heavy style, though Robertson assures me younger vintages are heading in a fresher, less oaky direction. One can only be thankful for that.

David and Jeanette Clarke’s Ex Animo trade tastings are never to be missed; the wines shown earlier this week were all most definitely at the cutting-edge of current trends.

For those under the illusion that winemakers work only during harvest, bear in mind the recent schedule of many pouring their wines at this event. Two weeks’ ago was Cape Wine, three days of the show itself but with many satellite events before and after; hardly was that over, than many hopped on airplanes to the UK for the New Wave tastings in London; some have gone on elsewhere, others returned home with several on stage again, pouring and discussing their wines at the Clarke’s event on Monday. And every time, answering many of the same questions; I don’t envy them. Perhaps this explains the soubriquet ‘lunatic fringe’ that’s been tagged to them!

Kyle Dunn works with Adi Badenhorst and, like his other co-worker, Jasper Wickens, has now done his own bit of moonlighting. Skinny Legs is presumably a play on Dunn’s curiosity about skin contact (his own legs being unknown to me!) as his Semillon 2014 and Grenache Gris 2014 from the Swartland and Voor Paardeberg respectively have undergone two weeks on skins. A year in 300 litre oak, followed by six months settling in bottle has delivered a brilliant semillon, pale gold in hue with an incredible intensity of orange blossom and orange peel aromatics. The flesh is sweet, the tannins dry and a reminder that white wines do not lack in this structural element. Alcohol at just 11% follows what is becoming the modern norm. I love this wine, which should retail around R140. As should Skinny Legs Grenache Gris 2014, which is more austere, its acid and tannin lacking amelioration of the semillon’s sweet fruit. A challenge alone, it will show at it’s best with food.

Craven ClairetteI’m glad Mick and Jeanine Craven of the eponymous label have decided to use only a portion of skin contact wine on their clairette, 65% in 2015, with just 35% fermented in older oak. Jeanine says the 100% skin contact version wasn’t so popular, but both they and I prefer the blend, the latest combining delicacy with terrific length of flavour, a tug of tannin and just 11.5% alcohol. Versatile and individual.

It would be difficult to beat Trizanne Barnard’s Syrah Grenache for value and deliciousness. Retailing for +-R100, 2014’s spicy savouriness is full of lightness and life. ‘Open and drink,’ Barnard advises; I’d add have a second bottle handy. Her skills are clearly evident in her Elim Syrah 2014, which she describes as a very difficult year with disease drastically lowering quantities. Due for February 2016 release, it’s a wine of quiet pleasure, probably peaking before the 2013.

I tasted nearly all Craig Hawkins’ new Testalonga range last; all nine were unbottled samples of this year’s crop, but it’s clear that not only do they confirm the quality of the harvest, but that they benefit from Hawkins’ full attention since he left Lammershoek. His management of skin contact now allows for much better balance between fruit and tannin, but there’s still plenty of distinction. The reds too are also on a par with the whites; Baby Bandito ‘Follow Your Dreams’ Carignan, +-R115 retail, is a dream and, for any who don’t know the variety, a valuable experience.

So much to excite and harvest 2016 isn’t that far off.

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