Wine of Malgas is the phrase under the Sijnn name on the contemporary labels. A name long connected with holiday homes, great angling and a venerable ferry, but now also a wine ward with a single cellar producing singular, exceptional and delicious wines.
The black and white photograph below graphically illustrates the stony path – well, a road of sorts – to the low cellar with its curved roof .
A trio of recent releases took me right back to the memorable evening when the cellar, nearly but not quite complete, opened its doors to visitors for a celebration –
Founder and co-owner David Trafford took us through the young vineyards where bush vines had settled as part of the indigenous landscape, among two distinct soils which vie for sheer quantities of stone they carry . They did not deter vines from not only surviving, but thriving in this apparently inhospitable climate with its low rainfall and constant wind.
The Breede river made a blue and placid contrast as, far below, it snaked around hills and through dales on its last 25km to the Indian Ocean.
During that evening I sampled the maiden vintage of Sijnn White, and became a fan for life. As I have said before, more than once, white blends, especially when chenin-based are perhaps the Cape’s finest achievement . The Sijnn example is not only as fine as any other but offers unique characteristics that can be attributed to both terroir and minimalist handling.
The team has now released the Sijnn white 2017 and, unsurprisingly, this is what I opened first, knowing well that I was going to savour every sip.
Comprising 84% chenin, 13% viognier with roussanne making the remaining 3% , this is the 10th vintage , from vines now 12 and seven years old. A good year for the vintage. grapes were picked early, some bunch- pressed the balance basket- pressed. The wine was fermented in French oak, of which 11% was new, for 10 months before being lightly fined and bottled, unfiltered, in December 2017.
The wine is golden straw-coloured, with a nose presenting wafts of fruit sparked with wild fennel. On the palate, layers of complex flavour to relish, some peach and a little lemon, overlaid with dusty spices which don't mask the essential freshness. I did not detect as much fruit as the tasting notes suggest, but came across a subtle wildness – herbs and minerals – with hints of maritime brine. Irresistible .
Their tasting notes suggest that its ideal on its own or with fish and seafood. Agreed. But it’s also a white that can enhance several Cape Malay classics, -including bobotie, especially when made with fish, chicken curry and chicken breyani. R280 at the cellar.
Sijnn Reds 2011 and 2015
The 2015 vintage is acknowledged as one of the Cape’s finest, and equally so for Sijnn, where the wine was made in the stone cellar for the first time, avoiding the long journey to Stellenbosch. It was also winemaker Charla Haasbroek’s maiden vintage as she produced the 2015 Red using 47% syrah, 19% touriga nacional, 19% trincadeira, finished with nearly equal quantities of mourvèdre and cabernet. The vines, now 10 and 11 years old reaching maturity and – with the weather playing its part – the harvest was picked and sorted early, fermented in small open tanks and oak vats. Natural fermentation preceded a basket pressing and malolactic fermentation in 225 litre French oak for the first year. Bottled by hand in December 2016, unfined and unfiltered.
Already hugely enjoyable, but worth squirreling away as well, the freshness is there, no cultivar dominating; on the palate concentrated fruit and a little fennel well balanced by tannic structure. Spicy, rich and with a long finish, it features . alcohol levels of just over 14%, This wine calls for red meat given gourmet treatment, but will also complement rich dishes based on black mushroom. R350 from the cellar.
Because it took a while to open up and show its charms, the 2011 Sijnn Red has been released only now. The year saw a dry windy summer and the vines were irrigated during the growing and again during the ripening process, but otherwise left to themselves. Back in Stellenbosch the grapes were crushed into open tanks and oak vats. Spontaneous natural fermentation followed with maturation in barrel for two years before bottling in January 2013. The nose says Malgas, the palate is rich with firm tannins and its easy to see this is a wine that will go on offering enjoyment for several years to come. The wildness of venison and game birds will be enhanced by this blend – with syrah comprising over half along with 19% touriga nacional, 17% each of trincadeira and mourvèdre, finished with 6% each trincadeira and cab. It sells for R250 at the cellar door.
Finally, a word of appreciation to the team who compiled the information: well-written, concise and accurate, comprising everything a reviewer would like to know. If all the spec sheets and releases that come my way were as smart as these, my emails would be reduced by half.
For more info see www.sijnn.co.za