Grandees at grand prices (mainly)

There is a genre of wine that does not fit neatly into a producer’s more formal range should he or she be mindful of creating such a wine. I’m not sure how to term it, maybe an idiosyncratic indulgence (if that doesn’t sound too rude!), made to honour or please an owner. Because it stands apart from the main range, a more free-flying approach is possible (that includes pricing as you’ll understand from the two below), though quality is of prime importance.

Two such wines were among the line-up of new(ish) releases, my colleague, Tim James and I tasted yesterday.

The first, an MCC from Elgin Ridge, labelled MV 2011. The story goes that Marion Smith, wife of Brian, they being owners of this property, requested her husband to make her an MCC. Marion’s quite understandable logic was, ‘what’s the point of a girl owning a vineyard if she can’t have her own bubbly.’

Elgin Ridge's vineyards are certified organic. Cows, ducks and a handsome Percheron are all part of Brian and Marion Smith's family.
Elgin Ridge’s vineyards are certified organic. Cows, ducks and a handsome Percheron are all part of Brian and Marion Smith’s family.

Brian obliged, with the proviso that the wine would not be released for five years. During that time, this 83% pinot noir, 17% chardonnay spent two years in old French barrels, followed by three in bottle.

Idiosyncratic fits this wine perfectly, starting with its pinky-gold apricot colour. A note of maturity is evident in the warm bready aromas, but it is the texture that really surprises – it’s extremely rich (much gained from time in oak) but also the red grape influence. Offsetting the richness is its really fine, bright bead and whistle clean dry finish; not a drop of dosage was added. A delicious aperitif, I can just imagine how well it would partner either of the Duck curries in Erica Platter’s Durban Curry. Classic, MV 2011 (Marion’s Vineyards), is not but it is well-made and delicious. Ex this organic farm, you’ll be paying R100 for each year between harvest and release (R500).

Edmund Terblanche, Cellarmaster at La Motte holding a bottle of Hanneli R
Edmund Terblanche, Cellarmaster at La Motte holding a bottle of Hanneli R

Our other individual also honours an owner, specifically Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg of La Motte. Hanneli R aims for supreme quality, so is not made in every vintage: 2005, 07, 09 and the most recent 11 are the only years to date. Shiraz is the constant variety joined by whatever other varieties will provide the quality required. In 2011 that’s the interesting duo of petit syrah and tempranillo (09 was the more traditional grenache, carignan and cinsaut). Origin is also mixed: in 2011, Elim and Bot River provided the shiraz, Franschhoek the other two, so by no means is this a vin de terroir, although each will add its own character to the end result. There is definitely a sense of coolness to the wine.

And a 2011 is a grand and beautiful one. La Motte cellarmaster, Edmund Terblanche has a sensitive, understanding touch, as I’ve found each year I’ve tasted his wines for Platter’s. Everything about the wine speaks of polish but also personality. Rousing scents of spice, red cherries, liquorice & even a hint of tar maintain an elegance found in the intense, lively flavours. It’s hard to believe it’s been in 300 litre oak barrels for 40 (yes, 40) months. The ripe tannins are appropriate for a wine intended to mature; indeed the overall balance should allow for many years’ improvement. The other big plus for me is the declared 13.5% alcohol and really dry finish.

It is quite delicious and drinking it makes one feel rather special. Well, except for that ultra-heavy bottle and outrageously deep punt.

I spoke of perfection earlier. Hanneli R comes in its own finely crafted wooden box with dovetail joints and perfectly fitted loose lid. Not the sort of item one would want to discard.

Alright price – it’s the sort of wine that if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. R980.

From top of Eagles' Nest with their vineyards & False Bay in distance.
From top of Eagles’ Nest with their vineyards & False Bay in distance.

Whilst I’m on a rave trip, I’ll slip in a stunner for R825 less, Eagles’ Nest Viognier 2015, a snip at R155. Quite simply this would give a top Condrieu a run for its money; I can confidently say it’s the best South African viognier I’ve had to date. This is how viognier should be: intense but not blowsy, more spice than apricot with nutty kernel tones, a subtle natural acid propelling the wonderful heavy silk texture, all concluding with an unending crescendo of that spice. An elegant, grand wine. It’s going places, including a swift departure from the cellar door. Get in quickly!

More on the other wines we tasted to follow.

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