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Myrna Robins

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Wine

Wine reviews, industry news and comment.

Subcategories from this category: Blog, News, Events

Posted by on in News

 

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Before we get to the bottle, the carton warrants a word or two – so cleverly designed it doubles as a display unit, opening on both sides to reveal the custom-made regal bottle, embossed with the initials JR, perched on a raised platform.

Salmon pink in hue, the wine adds to the patrician air with its simple front label, with little more than title and its 2017 vintage visible, although if you have very sharp eyes you will find more info on the producer – Anthonij Rupert Wyne and its Franschhoek setting in minute print along the bottom.

The wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz, is made in the Provençal style – as homage to the founder of L’Ormarins, home to Anthonij Rupert Wyne. Jean Roi, one of the French Huguenots who settled in 1694 in the wilds of what was to develop into Franschhoek, was born in the southern French village of Lourmarin.

Fresh and zippy, aromas of summer seasonal fruit precede the fruit on the palate which finishes with a touch of citrus. Alcohol levels are held at a modest R13%, and the whole effect is celebratory and festive, perfect for the time of the year.

It makes the ideal partner to glamorous menus, enjoyed on shady terraces, with the sound of water as background music.

This limited release sells at R290, which is steep for a pink – but for Christmas, or New Year or any other summer celebration, many will fork out to highlight the holiday or to greet 2019 in fine style. It is also available in a 1,5 litre bottle for R600.

One word puzzles me – why is it called Cap Provincial Rosé instead of Provençal? The rest of the title is French, why the English insert, which has nothing to do with the region, but simply means “of the province” and often is less than complimentary when attributed to its inhabitants.

 

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 For more information, visit www.rupertwines.co

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Bouchard Finlayson describes their estate as treasured terroir, an apt description

 

of the fine soils, pampered vines and ideal climate that combine to allow talented

 

winemaker Chris Albrecht to produce white wines that cannot be resisted. The

 

 

most refreshing of these are the unwooded chardonnay and the best-selling

 

 

sauvignon blanc, a pair that enhances al fresco gatherings and festive feasts over

 

high summer days

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The cellar may be more famous for its full-bodied wooded chards, but those

 

require serious attention and matching to gourmet menus, neither of which many

 

are willing to give or pursue over Christmas family and New Year celebrations.

 

 

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The 2017 San Barrique chardonnay is everything that a summer chard should

 

be – light- bodied, crisp, pure with wafts of melon and apple and sub-tropical fruit

 

titillating the palate all backed by a pleasing hint of minerality. Berries from the

 

renowned Elandskloof vines contribute to the rounded success of this

 

wine. 

 

No doubt this could age well, but it’s unlikely to get the chance to do that! Perfect

 

both as an aperitif and partner to fishy feasts and classic and innovative chicken

 

salads. It sells for around R150.

 

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The 2018 Bouchard Finlayson Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc needs little

 

 

introduction to winelovers who stay with this cultivar and this label whether trends

 

wax or wane.

 

 

And with good reason: it is consistently worthy of its fine reputation, presenting

 

fragrant aromas of characteristic guava and granadilla followed by similar flavours

 

on the palate – it is crisp, with moderate alcohol levels, a balanced structure, and

 

always the Bouchard Finlayson elegance that is so attractive. Whether making the

 

choice for brunch, lunch or moonlight meals, it will rise to the occasion, enhancing

 

any fishy feast and vegetarian main courses Expect to pay around R125.

 

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BEYOND ORGANIC – BIODYNAMIC PRACTICES ENVELOP MODERN AND ANCIENT WINEMAKING AT AVONDALE

 

 

Many moons have waxed and waned since I last visited Avondale, a farm steeped in more than three centuries of history, sprawling acrpss the slopes of the Klein Drakenstein mountains. So an invitation from brand manager Madeleine Laarman to wine and dine at their new restaurant FABER was more than tempting. I have yet to sample the farm-to-fork seasonal fare, but meanwhile was sent the current vintages from Avondale’s unique cellar where owner Johnathan Grieve and long-established winemaker Corné Marais craft an inspiring range of wines that have been certified as organic by international inspectors.

 

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Having sat through one of these inspections at another organic cellar I know just what heavy demands are made on vini- and viticulturist before they are satisfied. At Avondale the team goes a step further, employing biodynamic principles that make good use of rhythms of both earth and cosmos, using astronomical information and indications of optimal times for sowing, transplanting, cultivating and harvesting, in efforts to produce sustainable soils for healthy vineyards. Ducks replace vineyard pesticides, wasps and ladybirds deal with mealybugs and leaf-roll virus. Organic compost and cover crops increase carbon content in the soil and biodynamic preparations ensure there is no need for synthetic fertilisers.

 

In the cellar natural yeasts work their magic, while some of each harvest is matured in traditional clay amphorae, cast on the farm from its own clay.

 

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In March this year Avondale was the first South African winery to use clay qvevri for the 2018 harvest – egg-shaped earthenware vessels used for fermenting and ageing wine whose roots are found in Georgia, widely regarded as the cradle of modern viticulture. With a tradition that goes back more than 8 000 years, qvevri masters, until recently, were in danger of becoming obsolete. Now the man who made Avondale’s vessels has a waiting list for his creations. Each vessel, says winemaker Marais hold between 800 and 1 000 litres, each is unique. They are lined with beeswax and are buried in soil during use for stability. The effect on the wines of the new vintages is awaited with mounting anticipation.

 

 

 

Avondale’s six wines arrived in a simple but stylish environmentally-friendly cardboard carton, worthy of the quality of the contents.

 

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To start, the baby of the range, CAMISSA 2018 is a vibrant meld of just over half Grenache with 30% Mourvèdre and a splash or two of Muscat de Frontignan. All the vines are over 30 years in age, certified organic (naturally!) and presenting low but intensely flavoured yields. This is as fresh and moreish as the place of sweet water which the Khoisan herders named Camissa -  Table Mountain water( that today is returning to its previous significance in centuries long past.)

Camissa is an exhiliarating blanc de noir, from its onion skin hue,   scented nose and berried flavours with citrus zest leading to a long and dry finish. Alcohol levels of 13% are moderate, but the wine offers more body than most of its siblings perhaps partly because the Mourvedre and Grenache were fermented in second fill French oak and left on the lees for 12 months before being blended with the Muscat and bottled. Can be cellared until 2022 suggests their specs which sounds ambitious, but I am not going to argue... A great choice to accompany your classy New Year picnic.

 

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I remember raving about CYCLUS when I first tasted an early vintage at Avondale several years ago, so opened the 2014 vintage with great expectations. These were fulfilled and even passed:: This is an exceptional white blend, already golden in hue, made up of five cultivars: – Roussanne (30%), Viognier (20%), Chenin Blanc (20%), and finished with Semillon and Chardonnay each at 15%. Vines range in age from 10 to 26 years, yielding between four to eight tons.

Whole bunch pressed, 80% naturally fermented in 500 -litre oak, the rest whole bunch-fermented in amphorae. Left on the lees for a year with regular batonage before bottling, the result is a rich, full-bodied blend,  floral aromas preceding a refined fruit salad of stone fruit and citrus backed by some flint, the Semillon adding a touch of cream . Just 13,5% alcohol levels add to the appeal, and it makes a superb summer aperitif, but an even better partner to elegant fare: Certain Moroccan classics and  perfumed, sophisticated creations from Turkey and former Persia come to mind... Avondale named this special blend Cyclus, Latin for cycle, referring to the power of the vortex, because of the “way that Avondale’s unique life energy swirls through its invigorating layers.”

 

Avondale’s other white wine is a Chenin Blanc, 2015 vintage, named Anima, meaning vital lifeforce or soul, referring to the minerals of the farm’s soils which lend spirited character to the wine. The grapes used range in age from 10 to 34 years, and most were whole bunch- pressed, then fermented in 500-litre French oak, while a small percentage went to amphorae, which have added a distinctive body to the wine. This is an intense, wine, golden in hue, golden in character, more than a hint of honey accenting the wafts of melon, peach and pineapple, and all balanced by the minerality whichi is prominent but not assertive. Moderate alcohol levels, and this wine can be squirrelled away until 2023 the cellar suggests – I find it oxidative, concentrated and dense and wonder if it has not already reached its peak -  it lacks the freshness I expect from quality chenin. Time will tell...

 

And so to the two reds:

 

 

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LA LUNA 2012 is a fine Bordeaux-style blend comprising of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, the remaining percentage supplied by Cabernet Franc and and Malbec. First to third-fill oak barrels were used for malolactic fermentation and maturation for more than a year. The result is impressive, purity and freshness allied to smooth tannins, the dark hue indicative of restrained berry flavours,  all backed by minerality that is nicely integrated. It’s a wine that deserves to be sipped again and again, hourly, to appreciate the changes, and, while it already offers elegant enjoyment after six years, should go on delighting those who open it in future years.

Alcohol levels are unobtrusive at 14%, and its name, which reflects the biodynamic practices of Avondale  adds a nice touch of celestial romance.

 

SAMSARA SYRAH 2009

This Shiraz presents impressive proof of the regional quality of the cultivar for which Paarl is renowned, here with additional refinement that reflects both Avondale’s unique soils and handling. Freshness is there after nine years, along with characteristics typical of the varietal: berry flavours spiced with white pepper, a little cinnamon and hints of violet.

As Samsara seems unlikely to improve further in bottle, it should be enjoyed soon, especially if paired with well-cooked and spiced red meat dishes.

 

ARMILLA BLANC DE BLANC CAP CLASSIQUE  2011

Delicious and impressive, a bubbly that will heighten the joy of any celebration. It is also home to the only mistake I spotted on any Avondale label - "classic" replacing the correct "classique." This all-chardonnay Brut ,with  just 11,5% alcohol levels, produced from vines ranging in ages from 10 to 22 years, is lively, with traits one would expect – toast and green apple, restrained fruit, and a long finish. Here it marks the finale of this review, but it really deserves to be at the beginning to set a sparkling pace of wine and viniculture that are both kind to the environment and our planet.

 

 

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A nice contrast here: the label of the Vriesenhof Unwooded Chardonnay 2017 is as traditional as can be, simple wording above and below a black and white drawing of a venerable Cape farmstead backed by the Stellenbosch mountain. But - it arrived in a cardboard carton labelled MILK, then, in smaller font “This is not...” . On one side, a description of the wine, while on another we are given a little of the owner’s winemaking philosophy. When you discover that this farm and wine brand is owned by Jan Boland Coetzee, the delicious mix of trad and zany trend is right in tune with those of its renowned and relaxed cellarmaster.

I make no secret of the fact that I usually enjoy chards that are not wooded more than some of their posher, richer and more complex cousins. I savour their natural freshness, uncomplicated elegance and fruit, often backed by flint that adds character. This wine fits that description almost exactly, with some citrus and stone fruit flavours and more than a hint of minerality lending it substance. Moderate alcohol levels, a back label advising consumers to chill and drink soon, it’s simply a delicious summer aperitif without pretensions. It sells for R100 at both large liquor outlets and at Wine Concepts and, of course at the cellar door and online from the farm. The milk carton pack is only obtainable from the farm.

In the past Jan Boland Coetzee was a traditionalist, only making wines classically austere, dry and with no upfront fruit. This wine, made by long-standing winemaker Nicky Claasens, presents a departure from that style, one that is sure to be more popular with the majority of consumers.

Vriesenhof is running a digital competition with this product: Punting it as the perfect accompaniment to be ‘cool by the pool this summer’,entrants that buy a bottle need to  tag @VriesenhofWines in a post being cool by the pool this summer to stand  a chance to win a case of this charming chard!

For more info email her at Kirsten@kirstenhopwood.co.za .

 
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“Come and taste the sea with Fryer’s Cove vineyards” suggested the invitation. In the end my wine samples were tasted inland, here in McGregor, and my first sip of the Doring Bay 2017 sauvignon blanc did indeed offer more than a lick of the icy Atlantic which crashes onto the rocky shore of Doringbaai, some 300km north of Cape Town.

I closed my eyes and imagined the scene at this tiny hardy settlement, a fishing community where the inhabitants are as hardy as the coastline is rugged. The vineyards of Fryer’s Cove are just 500 metres from the shoreline, so it's hardly surprising that the wines produced from these harvests have a distinct maritime flavour.

The Fryer’s Cove booklet relates how the winery was established on a part of the Laubscher brothers’ farm, and the cellar was set up in the former crayfish factory – not many others can point to ocean waves lapping their cellar walls as their wines mature in tanks.

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Before getting down to the sauvignons produced from their vines, I’d like to share some of the background of this coastal winery which makes a great story - typical of the tough conditions and equally tough weskus entrepreneurs who make things happen, no matter how adverse their surroundings.

Back in 1985 Elsenburg student Wynand Hamman was on holiday in the Strandfontein area and this aspirant winemaker shared his vinous dream with Jan and Ponk van Zyl , who later became his in-laws. It took 14 years before Fryer’s Cove cellar was born and early years proved hard going: The area was drought-prone and existing groundwater had too high a salt content and desalination was too expensive to contemplate. The only solution was a pipeline to bring water from Vredendal, nearly 30km away, which also had to cross three farms en route. The farmers agreed, so Jan built the pipeline as the 20th century drew to a close. The neighbours received water for their co-operation and the Laubscher brothers got shares for allowing a buffer dam to be built and for 10ha of their land which is where the first vines were planted.

There are some good reasons to counter the difficulties: The ocean deposits salt flakes on the vine leaves, whifh helps repel disease, as well as imparting a distinctive minerality to the wine. Indigenous plants between the vines act as a natural ground cover , while seashells and limestone in the soil add flinty character.  Fryer’s Cove Wines belong to the Jan Ponk Trust, H Laubscher family trust and cellarmaster Wynand Hamman. They are part of  Bamboes Bay, the smallest wine ward in South Africa.

 

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The Jetty restaurant is a community venture, part of the local development trust, 70% community owned and run, where you will relish snoekkoekies, pickled fish, calamari and local linefish as well as more conventional burgers and steak. I look forward to a visit in 2019.

 

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To the wine; Doring Bay sauvignon blanc 2017 is already showing off an array of four gold medals from some of the smaller competitions. It makes the ideal aperitif to open on a sizzling day, offering - along with tangy and ocean aromas - a crisp zestiness well balanced by a combo of grassy and tropical fruit flavours. Quite high alcohol levels at 14,4% are not obvious. This is an easy-to-love wine selling at R95.

The Bamboes Bay 2017 is a much posher cousin, a limited edition in a heavier bottle, also unoaked but presenting a far more complex meld of herbaceous, seaweed and granadilla notes on the nose, followed by an array of fruit and lemongrass on the palate. It manages to be crisp and steely yet offers a richer experience than its Doring Bay cousin and is priced at R260 ex-cellar.

 

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Winemaker Derick Koegelenberg made both these wines.

I prefer the cheaper one for most summer days, but the Bamboes Bay is the one to choose when serving a seafood extravaganza. Also, its potential is impressive – not many sauvignons taste better the next day after being open for 24 hours, but this one did. (Of course it could also be that my palate was more receptive, but – either way – Doring Bay for most warm days and Bamboes Bay for special occasions.) There is a third sauvignon blanc that is a patrician cousin, limited edition and numbered, aged 18 months in bottle. It’s called Hollebaksstrandfontein Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, but, having not tried it, I cannot comment. It sells for R295.

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