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Myrna Robins

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News

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Launches and celebrations at the venerable Rietvallei estate outside Robertson are always specials events, memorable for Burger hospitality at one of the valley’s most historic estates. Close family loyalties combine with a fine winemaking tradition going back six generations to 1864 and the results can be as fascinating as proven by this multi-faceted sauvignon blanc.

For many years sauvignon blanc has formed the core of the estate’s wine production, and this barrel-fermented star is the first single cultivar wine in the Esteanna range which was launched in 2009. Previous white vintages saw unwooded sauvignon blanc blended with barrel-fermented chardonnay, chenin blanc and even viognier, with the 2017 blend garnering Veritas Gold at the 2018 contest.

 

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CEO and winemaker Kobus Burger realised the potential of the 2018 harvest early and decided to add a new and wooded sauvignon blanc to the farm’s four ranges of this popular varietal. He used juice from vineyards occupying various unique locations on the estate, including alluvial soils on the Breede river banks and red calcareous soil on the south-east-facing slopes. After harvesting, free-run juice was selected and settled for three weeks before being racked and transferred to steel tanks. The must was then moved to second-fill French oak and fermented dry. After nine months and after regular batonage, the wine was stabilised , fined and bottled without filtration.

This is a big wine, presenting an array of aromas ranging from passionfruit to citrus, green fig and little green pepper. These are followed by a complexity of flavours, lent crispness from acidity and agreeable backbone from the oak. A touch of cream adds to the nice balance of a serious sauvignon, which can pair more than seafood with panache – think of classic French poultry dishes, especially rich versions like chicken with morels and cream from the Jura region.

The alcohol levels are held at just over 14% and the retail price is around R185.

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Just as Robertson Winery has long upheld a reputation for honest, consistent, value-for-money wines, so does it maintain a fine tradition of top quality and well-balanced complexity for its flagship pair, the Constitution Road Range. Add to that flavourful, well-priced enjoyment and you have a description that applies to both the chardonnay and the shiraz.

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The maiden shiraz appeared in 2004, and was joined by the chardonnay some years later. Today fans eagerly await new releases which are not made annually, but when speciality winemaker Jacques Roux finds the right grapes, produces wine to his demanding standard and releases them when they are market-ready.

The latest pair have been adorned with a new label: designer Anthony Lane illustrates four pillars of the SA constitution – liberty, governance, justice and equality and provenance. Robertson Winery applies these as freedom for winemakers to innovate, knowledge shared between generations of winemakers, balance and consistency through understanding of cultivars and vineyards and a sense of place, through creating wines that express their origin.

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The 2016 chardonnay was produced from grapes at the winery’s Wandsbeck farm. Natural fermentation took place in new and second- fill French oak barrels, left on primary lees and underwent malolactic fermentation before aging for 18 months in barrel.

This is a classic chard, presenting aromas of citrus, toast and vanilla, followed by layers of fruit and butterscotch on the palate witha hint of cream and welcome freshness. It has already collected accolades from the 2018 Chardonnay du Monde, and local competitions and sells for around R150.

The 2015 shiraz is a good example of one of the finest vintages of the new century, presenting a vibrant mix of dark fruit, warm spices and a hint of chocolate. Grapes were sourced from Robertson’s Wolfkloof farm, malolactic fermentation took place in new 225 and 300 litre French oak where it matured for three years. It combines opulent complexity with accessibility, and is sure to continue offering pleasure for several years. Alcohol levels are on the high side for modern trends but that has not affected its attracting local and international accolades and four and half stars from Platter. It sells for around R220.

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It’s not just the turreted fortress design of Fort Simon’s tasting centre that differs from the traditional Stellenbosch wine farm architecture, but also the fact that the Uys family-owned winery only started producing in 1997, making them one of the “newbies” in the Bottelary district.

Their philosophy is to produce enjoyable well-made New World-style wines, and their 2018 Chardonnay is a good example of success in achieving this goal. Recently released, the estate is pleased that it attracted a score of 90 in the current Gilbert & Gaillard international sommelier contest, a challenge held in France for more than two decades. The wines are tasted blind and results featured in their wine guides - of which more than 50 editions have been published in four languages to date..

Winemaker Dirk Tredoux leans toward making “bold and luscious" wines. Using their best chardonnay berries he fermented them in oak then transferred the wine to new French oak where it matured for some 10 months before being bottled.

 

Although it is apparent that the wine is wooded, it does not follow the pattern of  over-wooded chardonnays common in the USA until recently.

While the vanilla aroma is discernible on the nose as is the flavour on the palate it shares  with wafts of citrus and melon. Flavours of citrus and butterscotch mingle on the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, fresh and uncomplicated, making an enjoyable al fresco aperitif and partnering poultry and seafood – both hot and salad creations – and creamy sauced pasta with flair.

Alcohol levels are held at 14%. The chardonnay costs R132 at cellar door.

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What a pleasure to discover a “new” chenin, and one that is quite delicious and a tad different. It’s crafted from grapes thriving in an unlikely area by a talented (and modest) cellarmaster in the heart of the Klein Karoo.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that I only got to hear about Kluisenaar 2017 by Le Sueur Wines via a roundabout route, as a recluse - as Louis van der Riet has named his creation - does not look for publicity…

But when you get a product as enjoyable as this, with a nice vineyard story to boot, the news is bound to get out…

Louis van der Riet, (le Sueur is his middle name) has been making port and other good wines for De Krans for many years. He has also long held an ambition to make his own wines – a dream that was realised in 2014 when he released his maiden vintage.

Focussing on the Swartberg where the vines deliver harvests that are used mostly for bulk blends, Louis spent much time hunting down lone vineyards of chenin blanc that are hidden among the masses. Having found a few, reclusive, promising  and unloved, he became involved with their wellbeing.  Eventually he was able to transport their harvest to De Krans where he crushed the grapes and cooled the juice before pumping to barrels: one third new French oak, the remainder older wood where it fermented naturally and undisturbed for 10 months. No added yeasts, no fining nor filtering before bottling, so Louis claims, with good reason, that this is a chenin “made from nature, by nature”

Low alcohol levels of 12,5 % feature in this limited edition of 1 550 bottles, the wine offers stone fruit and melon flavours, a hint of toffee and vanilla discernible on the palate. Dry ,with enjoyable fresh acidity, all nicely balanced in a chenin of charm and intrigue. Available from the De Krans cellar in Callitzdorp for R175. Looking at his website, I see there’s a highly rated pinotage/cinsaut blend in stock and a merlot on the way. Book at De Krans for tastings and sales.

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Not at all surprised to read that this unpretentious red blend is Delheim’s top-selling wine. What’s not to like about a captivating ruby-hued wine, medium-bodied, aromatic and fruity, that slips down as an enjoyable aperitif? It also goes on to happily accompany a range of home-cooked favourites, from mac’n cheese to chicken pie, from vegetarian pizzas to bangers and mash. It’s a wine that takes to weekend braais with equal enthusiasm, partnering chicken sosaties, boerewors and ribbetjies and yes, will be as happy paired with burgers, with pasta, with toasted cheese and tomato...

You get the picture. But what lifts this accessible value-for-money above many competitors is that it’s been made with care, offering consumers a delicious meld of shiraz aromas, fruit and spices that are well balanced by typical characteristics of cab. It sells for R85, is vegan-friendly with moderate 13,5% alcohol levels and offers a fine choice for everyday autumn sipping as our menus start to reflect seasonal changes.

Delheim marketers suggest that it will also enhance mushroom dishes, reminding us that their famous funghi foraging days are scheduled for mid-June. Seeing that the farm doesn’t produce a pinot noir, the Delheim Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 will no doubt take on this role as well.

Delheim shared a couple of mushroom recipes with us, one of which I have featured in the food section of this website.

Cheers and bon appétit.

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