The Cape’s Wine of Origin (appellation) system was introduced in 1972 and today, even a single vineyard can obtain Wine of Origin status if it can demonstrate it has terroir worthy of protection. And the search for such “pockets of excellence” is exhaustive as a new generation of winemakers makes great strides to match soil to grape variety. Nineteen wards have been created since 2000, extending the boundaries of Cape fine wine far beyond the traditional parameters of Stellenbosch, Constantia and the like. This tasting focused on some of the most recently created wards.
The Goose Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Upper Landkloof) – if you’ve holidayed in South Africa you may well driven along the garden route. The Landkloof mountains are located inland from Knysna and Plettenberg Bay some 10 miles from the coast. Afternoon coastal breezes lower the heat and, with vineyards at 2300 feet, Goose’s grapes ripen around 8 weeks later than more traditional regions. Stony deep sandstone and red shale soils retain moisture – important when rainfall averages only 250mm. Though quite round in the mouth with a green peppercorn herbaceousness, it has a long, penetrating, chalky finish. Work in progress but promising acid retention.
Sir Lambert Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Lamberts Bay) – Sauvignon Blanc afficionado Thys Louw (winemaker at Diemersdal in Durbanville) has found “no better place” for his favourite variety than Lamberts Bay, 350km north of Cape Town, 3km from the cool Atlantic ocean. Sand and limestone soils produce a mineral style - I’m a big fan of this wine. Textured with a subtle creaminess (lees stirred) to its steely, spicy grapefruit; mouthwatering acidity and a long, fine mineral finish.
Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2005 (Cape Point) – the only producer on the long, skinny Cape Point south of Cape Town. Strong maritime influence (lots of wind) and elevated vineyards to cop it, are the key to talented winemaker Duncan Savage’s superbly structured, complex white wines. Isliedh, a stylish Bordeaux blend is 85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon shows a beautiful, zesty lemon nose and palate with sweet herbal/talcy pyrazines. Rich, ripe, spicy and round it has a long, fresh, mineral finish. Terrific.
Virgin Earth High 5ive 2005 (Langeberg Garcia) – located 300km east of Cape Town in the foothills of the Langeberg mountains in the hot and dry Klein Karoo, cooling mountain winds are key to quality as are the region’s poor, stony hotchpotch of soils. A spraying system keeps the vines cool when it gets too hot and this wine was matured in barrel underwater, again for cooling purposes. I have to say this spicy, smoky, sweet cherry and chocolate blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot didn’t work for me. Too rustic.
Scali Syrah 2004 (Voor-Paardeberg) – though based in northern-most Paarl on the borders of Swartland, afternoon maritime breezes play a part in the freshness and definition of the wines, as do granite and shale soils. Vines are planted Rhone style at high density, each with their own post, which maximises terroir expression. It shows a vibrant hue with an inky core; equally vibrant in the mouth with a lovely purity of fresh red and black fruits, especially blackberry; fine grainy tannins. Very good, very digestible.
Luddite Shiraz 2006 (Bot River) – this Walker Bay ward is located in a river valley, giving a choice of aspects and, though hot in the daytime, by 4pm the vineyard has cooled down 5-6 degrees which winemaker Neils Verburg says makes for a longer hang time and helps him “nurse the wine into bottle without fiddling.” By the same token, shale on cool clay based soils retain sufficient moisture to obviate the need to irrigate, so no fiddling there either! This wine is always dark in hue and vibe but has a refined balance to its coal-edged blackcurrant and berry fruit thanks to freshness and purity of fruit and ripe but firm tannins.
Cederberg Teen die Hoog Shiraz 2005 (Cederberg) – hailing from the highest vineyards in the Cape at 1100m above sea level, the Cederberg enjoys long hang times which account for good flavour accumulation and balance. Fresh red and black berry and currant fruit with charry, smoky mocha oak and grainy tannins. Good.
The Wine Detective
24 September 2008