“Buongiorno – it was rather tricky to find your place – no signs or directions”
“Oh well to be honest we don’t do visits and do not really want people coming to our winery”
Not the kind of welcome you expect when you drive over 1,000 miles across Europe keen to learn and thirsty to discover new culture and wines. Nevertheless, too often we faced this direct yet honest greeting while visiting wineries in Piedmont and Tuscany this summer.
Whereas the New World is successfully attracting visitors while generating nice income, Italians are still living in the past. I was shocked by the lack of thought given to wine tourism here. Once you pass the doorstep, it is a totally opposite experience and you are likely to be treated with genuine friendliness.
Luckily some producers are slowly realising the benefits of cellar door sales and the power of communicating with their consumers. Anna Savino @winesavi is one of the passionate people to watch out for as she plans to develop visitor-friendly experience at Vajra in Barolo. Similarly, Manfred Ing @bottleofgrapes, the winemaker of Querciabella in Chianti, is happy to share his wealth of knowledge and is a great ambassador for his wines.
So if you are planning a trip of your own, here are top places to stay, eat, shop and some amazing wines I tried and enjoyed.
PLACES TO EAT:
Antica Torre in Barbaresco – great food, must try Barbaresco risotto
Enoteca Fuoripiazza in Greve in Chianti – fantastic Italian bistro full of locals, very friendly service, must eat in Greve, wine shop
Bar-Ucci in Volpaia, Chianti – rustic but delicious Italian food, recommending panzanella and crostini
Enoteca & Osteria Osticcio in Montalcino – brilliant views of the Montalcino countryside, good food (rather large portions), wine shop downstairs with wide range of Brunellos and French wines (not the best place to buy wine if you are looking for a bargain – prices are €5 higher per bottler then Enoteca di Piazza (see below)
PLACES TO STAY:
Hotel Ca’del Lupo in Montelupo Albese, Piedmont – modern, clean cheap place, with wi-fi, swimming pool and a decent restaurant just across the yard that makes delicious pasta primi
Villa Bordoni just off Greve in Chianti – luxurious place with great garden, swimming pool and top-notch mini-restaurant (some of the best food in Italy)
La Pieve close to Montalcino – great location amongst the vineyards with large swimming pool, but no wifi and rather overpriced, great little restaurant with fantastic food and very well-priced wine list
PLACES TO BUY WINE:
Enoteca Fracchia & Berchialla in Alba – great Italian wine selection from Alto Adige to Sicily, competitively priced, some snippets of European wines
Enoteca di Piazza in Montalcino – based in the heart of this medieval town, equipped with enomatic machines, great selection of Italians wines, competitively priced, ship worldwide
Producer to try
Where to find
Bruno Rocca in Barbaresco
Giacomo Fenocchio in Monforte d’Alba
Renato Corino in Pozzo
G.D. Vajra in Barolo
Renato Ratti in La Morra
Beni di Batasiolo in Barolo
Tricky to find
Poderi Aldo Conterno in Barolo
Conterno Fantino in Barolo
Vietti in Barolo
Querciabella in Chianti
Petrolo in Arezzo
Riecine in Chianti
Isola e Elena
Pian Dell’Orino in Montalcino
Sn Giusto a Rentennano in Chianti
MOSEL: AND WHY YOU MUST VISIT
We should consider ourselves lucky really that the top Mosel wines are still relatively affordable these days. In the 19th century steep slope Rieslings were the most expensive wines in the world and the prices easily exceeded the most famous Chateau wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Quality conscious producers are finding it still hard to win consumers’ trust back after the post-war boom for cheap sweet fruity wines. As the world map of production and consumption is changing considerably, I guess it is just a matter of when (not if) the popularity will rise and prices rocket up. But for now let’s enjoy as much of Mosel Riesling as we can (responsibly of course).
Apparently, Mosel has the largest continuous steep slope wine-growing area in the world. Making for a spectacular road trip. Mosel vineyards are similar to those in the Douro Valley with their unimaginable steepness minus the terraces of course. In some places, bare slate rocks are turned into tiny plots of vines. I think Martians would be impressed. Mind you there is a current discussion between several producers to try out terraces on some of the steeper blocks and if this planting method proofs fruitful it could change how the Mosel landscape looks.
Yes Riesling is king here but some superbly stylish Spätburgunders are already being compared to Burgundy. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Germany cannot produce quality red wine as both Axel Pauly and Markus Molitor and many more can prove you wrong.
So far so good but there is one obstacle that makes Mosel wines such a pain in the butt – labelling. And don’t even start me on the German wine law classification of 1971 as I spent a whole morning talking to Michael Schmidt, Jancis Robinson’s Germany-based correspondent, in a foolish attempt to demystify the meaning. We got ourselves tangled up even more and I am starting to feel that even the producers do not get the labelling system. Nevertheless, Michael is confident that the confusing labelling is going to improve but looking at what has been achieved in the last 45 years I am rather sceptical.
There are different classifications for dry wines and sweet wines, based on must weight or residual sugar, varying across regions and whether you are a VDP member or not and of course there are many exceptions. It’s a labyrinth even for those in the know but an absolute minefield for the casual consumer.
But I love Riesling and its electrifying acidity so the only way forward is to either discover wines for yourself & find the producers that make the style that you like or surround yourself with friends that offer reliable recommendations, unless you happen to know a passionate, knowledgeable and honest local merchant.
And if it all becomes a bit too much – there is nothing better than a nice pint of Weissbier.
WORKING HARD & PLAYING HARD IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africans are the most friendly and genuine people I have ever met. Travelling in a new country is always a bit of a scary business (especially when they drive like South Africans do!!) but I have never felt so welcomed and valued. I visited the major wine regions and worked at a couple of wineries over 5 weeks and loved it all! My highlights – gazing at stars with a glass of Pinot Noir in Hermanus, enjoying a refreshing bottle of Windhoek or Napier after a long day of harvest, quad biking through the vineyards of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, punching down Shiraz at midnight in Franschhoek, picnicking at Cape Point, enjoying a gourmet lunch at the Tokara restaurant in Stellenbosch…well you get the picture.
LAMMERSHOEK – SWARTLAND
UK agent: Richards Walford
Craig Hawkins is a young winemaker to look at but he has a wealth of experience and is already producing some iconic wines from Paardeberg. His unique advantage is that he also takes care of 80 hectares of the estate vineyards planted with exotic cultivars such as Harslevelu, Clairette Blanche and Carignan. Craig thrives in producing unconventional wine styles from old bush-vines (up to 60 years old – this is pretty old for SA) grown on decomposed granite, using wild yeast, minimal use of SO2, whole bunch use, no filtering or fining and sensible use of oak. His experiments include ageing wine under water, no use of sulphur and grape foot-treading.
The LAM range is made in a fresh and fruity style with one of the most attractive and chic labels I have seen and at £6 equivalent per bottle this range is the best value for money coming from South Africa.
A step up is the Lammershoek range with more complex and age worthy wines with single vineyard Rhone-style Syrah, Roulette Blanc and Rouge – both very creative and age worth blends.
The Cellar Foot range is the most unique – Harslevelu 2010/11 with whole bunch pressing by foot in a basket press, fermentation in French casks, no yeast and additives added, no SO2 – creating a bone dry wine with high natural acidity that promises long ageing potential AND Syrah 2011 – with alcoholic and MLF fermentation underwater with no filtration or fining – creating a pure and fresh style Syrah with naturally sweet fruit and delicious tannins.
I also had a chance to taste Craig’s own label El Bandito 2010/11 made from Chenin Blanc which has been left on its skins for 2 years. I applaud Craig’s efforts but must admit that one has to be in the right mood for these beauties.
MULLINEUX – SWARTLAND
UK agent: Berry Bros. & Rudd
Chris and Andrea Mullineaux source their grapes meticulously from 23 different vineyards where on some sides only 2 rows would be chosen. The attention goes to farming sustainability including no spraying, drip irrigation used only for young vines, limiting the yields and understanding the soil potential. There are 3 key soil types – Malmesbury shale (producing well structured wines), granite rock clay (producing elegantly perfumed wines) and schist (producing masculine, deep concentrated wines). Really worth getting your hands on are 2 single vineyard Syrah 2010 wines which are due to be released for the fist time – Granite and Schist – through BBR for £45 a pair, with a limited production of 1000 litres each.
Mullineux is also a member of Swartland Independent which focuses on quality and sustainable wines following practises such as manipulation free winemaking, low yields, minimal use of oak, only French oak, use of wild yeasts, no acidification, no filtering of fining etc. There are 2 labels: Kloof Street Chenin Blanc and Rouge (Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache/Carignan/Cinsaut) – producing fresh and approachable wine styles and the Mullineux range which has been awarded 5 Stars at the Platters Wine Guide. The Syrah 2009 has been blended from 6 different vineyards mixture of granite, schist and coffeeklip stone rich in iron and is one of my favourite Syrah in the world. The visit had a sweet finish with Straw wine 2010 made from 29 year-old Chenin Blanc from Riebeek Kasteel Mountain, late harvest, no Botrytis, a seductive treat of luscious apricots, dried pineapple, juicy mango, caramel, honey and marzipan. Relatively high RS 377 g/l is masked well by high natural acidity (TA 11 g/l) and at only 8% abv this is a strong candidate for my dessert island sweetie.
RICKETY BRIDGE – FRANSCHHOEK
UK agent: Kingsland Wine & Spirits
Franschhoek has gone through a boom in 1990s and is now one the most sought after regions in SA for fine dining & wine and holiday destination. I was excited to be spending a week at Rickety Bridge which is situated just a couple of minutes from the town. Had I known how much fun I was going to have with the two talented & Riesling-loving winemakers – Wynand Grobler and Danie De Bruyn I would have stayed longer. These guys follow the phrase: ‘Work hard play hard’ and will make you wake up at 4am on one day to drive 5 hours to Lutzill land to inspect their grapes during picking and then drive 5 hours back. But on the other hand they will organise possibly the best braai amongst their vineyards and throw in a bit of arm wrestling for a good measure.
The Rickety Bridge wines have changed much since 2007 when Wynand took over the reins of wine making. The wines from 2010 and 2011 (Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay) are in particular my favourites with subtle fruit, fresh acidity and clever use of oak. Saying that the Semillon Reserve 2008 was the best of the range with its elegant aromas of freshly cut grass, ripe lemon skin, sherbet like acidity well balanced with rich fruit flavours on the palate and subtle body weight, a great rounded wine with a pleasing almost seductive soft palate but refreshing at the same time with some ripe toasty and almond/nougat notes on the finish. Semillon magic!
I knew I was here for a treat when on the first night I was presented with a bottle of their iconic The Bridge 2008 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made from super low yielding bush vines grown on a 35 degree steep slope. This wine offers a brilliant persistence and balance of rich plum & cassis fruit, integrated toasty cedar notes, fresh acidity complimented by complex notes of liquorice, tobacco, violets, strawberry jam, balsamic vinegar, oriental spice and chocolate. Closely followed by another stunner award-winning Rickety Bridge Shiraz Reserve 2009 with soft smooth tannins, earthy, liquorice and dark chocolate notes with bundles of mulberries. I had some attempts at punching down the 2012 Shiraz so let’s hope that my efforts will make this the best vintage ever!
Apart from the traditional winemaking, a Pinotage experiment is underway and it is still too soon to judge whether the scrupulous punching down every 2 hours for the first 3 days of the fermentation by Danie will be the winning recipe for this unpredictable varietal.
REYNEKE – STELLENBOSCH
UK agent: New Generation Wines
Reyneke is the only certified biodynamic winery in South Africa but even if you do not believe in the ducks, camomile infusions and cow horns then you must try their SB and Reserve SB – one of the best examples of SB coming from South Africa. When asked why they had made the decision to follow biodynamic practises, Ryan Mostert the assistant winemaker explains: ‘We want the vines to become part of the farm and become sustainable to express the terroir as much as possible and to have more mineral input due to the deeper root structure’. I was intrigued to find out their approach to making Pinotage which can often display disagreeable rubbery and burned flavours due to acrolein phenolic. To minimise the skin contact, carbonic maceration is used at Reyneke which to some extent creates a more instantly approachable and fruity style of Pinotage. I also very much enjoyed the Reserve Reds – in particular the Syrah 2009 and a Cabernet blend called Cornerstone 2010 due to its serious individuality and ageing potential.
TOKARA – STELLENBOSCH
UK agent: Enotria
Miles Mossop, the winemaker is an enthusiastic surfer so unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of meeting him as the waves won but I enjoyed his Saskia 09 Chenin Blanc/Viognier full of toasty vanilla, fresh apple flavours with sweet aromatic spices and nutty notes with savoury hints on the finish, and still have to look forward to his Max 07 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot/Merlot. The Tokara’s Director’s Reserve white and red were more impressive and complex wines in comparison to the Tokara Collection in my view.
DELAIRE – STELLENBOSCH
UK agent: Justerini & Brooks
Morne Very, the winemaker is a keen Cape (=port) specialist and this was the first chance I got to taste Cape made as in Portugal from Touriga Nacional primarily. In his spare time Morne also makes still wine – Sauvignon Blanc sourced from Darling (which comprises almost 50% of the total Delaire production), Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot – all from Stellenbosch. The winery in a nutshell – 200k bottles production, 200-400 altitude, grapes sourced from Stellenbosch, Darling and Swartland, (30ha) and 20ha owned, leaf roll in occurrence, a combination of clay and oakleaf soil, 12 year old vines all grafted, 50 local/50 export sales. The estate has been injected with plenty of cash and also houses the Graff diamond salon, luxurious lodge & spa and 2 gourmet restaurants.
MEERLUST – STELLENBOSCH
UK agent: Maisons Marques et Domaine Ltd
Chris Williams is a profoundly knowledgeable winemaker (also MW student) but his passion and expertise extends to vineyards and that is the first place that he took me. Meerlust has 110 hectares under vine based on alluvial soil at lower basin, and more decomposed granite with clay at the higher blocks. Chris knows the surrounding vineyards well, in fact so well that he also sources grapes from the best sites for his own label The Foundry which is being distributed in the UK by ABS. Production is limited with only 6000 bottles but the 2012 Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Syrah tasted from barrels were showing great potential.
From the Meerlust estate range I enjoyed the Pinot Noir 2010 displaying fresh earthy aromas, red forest fruits with nutty toastiness on the nose, vibrant sweet spice, ripe black cherries and savoury notes on the palate with fresh backbone acidity and lingering finish, this is a keeper. Rubicon 2005 would give many right bank Bordeaux (round £35) a run for their money with its iconic cedar box, smoky, earthy dark fruit and sweet new oak notes. This wine was aged 24 months in 75% new French Nevers oak barrel and 25% 2nd fill Nevers and Alliers oak barrel. It is like opening a cigar humidor.
KEN FORRESTER – STELLENBOSCH
UK agent: Enotria
I chatted to Peter Rossouw, the viticulturist and farm manager, about the 2012 vintage, as the general consensus throughout SA was for a late harvest. Peter confirmed this saying: ‘The 2012 harvest was particularly late (up to 3 to 4 weeks) for whites but not so much for reds, however uneven ripening will be seen”. Their Chenin Blanc and SB were picked the first week in February but the reds will stay on until end of March. The estate owns 27 hectares in Stellenbosch but also sources grapes from Swartland. There is no use of pesticides or herbicides in the vineyards and weed control is done by hand. This may sound like normal practice for a boutique winery but it all has a visible impact on the overall cost of the wines as Peter points out that it costs 3 times as much to do hand weed picking than to use herbicides. In order to harvest the best possible grapes, Peter admits, they can pick their Chenin Blanc 6 times so that the phenolic ripeness is at an ideal balance. It may not surprise you then that their total labour investment accounts for half of the whole cost. Ken Forrester is a very hands-on winemaker as he travels a huge amount of time mainly to the USA and UK to promote his wines.
The are 3 levels of wines, from the Petit range – fruity and approachable, easy drinking style, the Ken Forrester range – your mid priced well executed wines, to the 2 flagship wines FMC and The Gypsy.
FMC Chenin Blanc 2010 (‘Fucking Marvellous Chenin’) – soft apricots, sweet lemon, lemon meringue, nutty, toasty, sweet juicy citrusy fruit, creamy smooth texture with hints of white pepper. Rather high alcohol at 14.5% but well integrated with the fruit richness and texture. Not cheap at a touch over £30.
The Gypsy 2008 blend of Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre – full of fresh forest fruit with earthy toasty notes, great acidity lifting up 14.5% abv and a more savoury herby finish. A definite keeper 10 years +.
7SPRINGS – HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY
From a label perspective, the vineyards that Seven Springs source their grapes, come under the Overberg region, in Theewater ward, but the climate and quality is more distinctive of Walker Bay to me and that is why I have included it in this section. I spent 2 weeks working alongside Riana van der Merwe – a young and talented winemaker already making her own stamp with her individual winemaking style. Being a women winemaker is tough – let’s be honest here but being a women winemaker in South Africa brings this to another level. There is no doubt in my mind that you have to have the strength of an elephant, the determination of an Olympic runner and the confidence of a general, but fortunately Riana has it all. She is learning every day and is an inspiration to others, managing the whole production of Seven Springs wines.
Working closely with Peter Davison, the vineyard manager and managing the expectation of Tim Pearson, the UK based owner of this new venture. While plans for building a new winery are being prepared, all the grapes are processed in Almenkerk winery based in Elgin. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Almenkerk is a contemporary, modern-built winery with all the desired up-to-date equipment and with the benefit of having an experienced winemaker, Joris van Almenkerk on hand, however the tank storage and pressing facility can be a bit of a juggle at harvest time. Not that Riana is unused to overcoming such challenges being thrown at her at every stage, from grape transport, knowledgeable worker availability to dry goods management. I had the chance to try Riana’s 2010 and 2011 wines which are both made from young vines and are a great preview of what is to come from this young lady! It was a great privilege to be involved in the 2012 vintage and even though it will be a while before their release, I cannot wait to see the results (especially the Syrah!). The good news is that some of 2011 SB, Chardonnay and Syrah (I believe) will be available through Bijou Bottles in the UK very soon.
NEWTON JOHNSON – HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY
UK agent: Bibendum Wine Ltd
Newton Johnson is family owned gravity based winery in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde valley. With its 2 km proximity to the ocean, average mean temperature of 19.8C, annual rainfall of 750mm and at an altitude between 100-300m, this an ideal spot for Pinot Noir and boy does it show! The family owns 140 hectares with 18 hectares planted under vine and can boast 100% no leaf roll (amazing given the close proximity of the famous leaf roll vineyards of Hamilton Russell). Gordon Newton Johnson’s winemaking philosophy focuses on gentle handling where gravity processing plays an important role. The use of a combination of whole bunch pressing, natural yeasts and the practise of only punching down (no pump over) is favoured. It was interesting to be able to compare 4 Pinot Noirs based on different soils all from the 2010 vintage:
Sand based – bone dry, gentle red fruit perfume, sharp acidity, light body and colour, smooth finish with hints of white pepper
Sand & clay based – a combination of plum and raspberry fruit flavours, richer fuller style with slightly bitter peppery hints on the finish
Clay based – more masculine style with smoky, meaty and toasty perfume, and crunchy more visible tannins
Granite based (Elgin) – complex aromas of blue cheese, meaty, mushroom flavours, almost smoky, ripe rich red fruit notes with fresh acidity and smooth spicy finish
These guys create Pinot Noir heaven!
CREATION – HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY
UK agent: SA Wines Online Limited
Everyone raved about this new winery – built in 2006 in Hemel-en-Aarde ridge so my expectations were high. The 22 hectares of vineyards were planted on pastures where sheep would be originally farmed for the sheepskins. Crazy? Not at all as the terroir is perfect for early ripening cultivars such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – located 350m above sea level with a mixture of clay and decomposed shale subsoil and maritime influence with cooling coastal breezes. JC Martin, the Swiss-trained winemaker creates good varietal driven wines from SB, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet bend and Syrah – all with consistent linear quality but rather restrictive and lacking the desired uniqueness and distinction in my view.
ATARAXIA – HEMEL-EN-AARDE VALLEY
UK agent: Stone, Vine & Sun
Kevin Grant (ex-Hamilton Russell winemaker), purchased 46 hectares in 2004 in Hemel-en-Aarde ridge 400m above the sea level and is now producing SB from Elgin, Chardonnay blend from Elgin and his vineyards in Hemel and one red that he calls Serenity. The blend is a secret – based on terroir and not grapes as it has been explained to me. I am convinced Syrah is a component! Watch this space for a Pinot Noir that is about to be released for the first time.
BEAUMONT – BOT RIVER
No UK agent
Beaumont is one of the oldest family owned wineries in SA dating back to the 1700s. The farm is situated in the village of Bot River at the foothills of the stunning Houw Hoek Pass on the border of Overberg and Walker Bay. While Marelise Jansen van Rensburg took us through her wines I could not stop thinking why is it that some of the best wines tend to be hidden in unpretentious cellars off the main wine routes? Both flagship wines are great examples of what Sebastian and Marelise are capable of.
Hope Marguerite 2011 Chenin Blanc selected from some of the oldest vines (30yrs old) very low yielding (half of the norm) undergoes natural barrel fermentation with lees contact for 10 months yet retains 12.5% alcohol level and pH 3.3. This is a rich and luscious Chenin with aromatic notes of fresh apples, nectarine with hints of Turkish delight. Balanced fresh acidity with a relatively low alcohol level, supported by naturally sweet fruit and with a creamy mouth feel.
Vitruvian 2008 quirky blend of Mourvedre/Pinotage/Syrah/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot – intensely rich yet smooth and fresh red that may look like a wild pick but this wine has been balanced out to perfection. Complex flavours of fresh forest fruits, ripe cherries, juicy mulberries and raspberries, sundried tomatoes, complemented by sweet oriental spice, cinnamon, hints of pinecones and mature toasty notes. Lifting acidity together with generous flavour concentration, ripe tannins and silky texture. The wine length will keep you entertained throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy!
LUDDITE – BOT RIVER
UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrenes
Luddite vineyards are just phenomenal, situated on the slopes of the Houw Hoek Mountains, some 30km away from the ocean, these are southeast facing slopes with prolonged sunshine spells, ideal for long ripening Shiraz. Neils and Penny Verburg practise dry farming on their low yielding 5.5 hectares of vineyards planted back in 1996 on decomposed shale with clay. No irrigation in these parts could be fatal but the vines seem to thrive here so much so that Penny also planted a block of Chenin Blanc last year. I had a cheeky preview of the 2012 Luddite Shiraz from the tank and you should see the deepness and darkness of that colour – like a night sky. Let’s hope that rain keeps visiting this small hidden batch of vineyards so that we can keep enjoying this luscious beast!
IONA – ELGIN
UK gent: Enotria
A quick visit to Iona will take you through mountain pass 450m above the sea level where Baboons hide from the roasting sunshine during the day. Werner Muller, the new winemaker was busy with his first vintage at Iona and we got to do some barrel tasting before retiring to the tasting room. I am sad to say but the current release of SB 0211, Chardonnay 2009 and The Gunnar 2006 (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot) were lacking the desired freshness and were more dominant on alcohol and oaky character.
STEENBERG – CONSTANTIA
UK agent: Armit
Steenberg estate (vineyards, winery, hotel and spa) is owned by Graham Beck since 2005 with JD Pretorius being appointed as wine maker in 2009. Every winery has a story and this one belongs to one of the most courageous and controversial woman – Catharina Ustings Ras. She was only 22 years old when she first arrived in South Africa but that did not stop this determined woman from setting up the first woman-run farm back in the 1680s, a time when woman had virtually no rights. Her colourful journey took her through 5 husbands, whose fate seemed rather unfortunate – from being killed by a lion, trampled by an elephant to being murdered by Hottentot. In her honour Catharina wine is produced – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Cabernet Franc – a well-made wine but I could not help thinking that given her crazy story there should be more Pinotage with hints of Gewurztraminer? Ok maybe not….
Steenberg sources grapes not only from Constantia (SB, PN, Chard) but also Darling, Stellenbosch and Robertson where 70% of the total production is white wine. Unusually machine harvest is favoured here due to the lack of workers available in Constantia and its speed. JD also experiments in using acacia wood along with French and American oak. There are 2 wines that you should try – Magna Carta 2009 a blend of 60% SB 40% Semillon displaying aniseed and green bell pepper notes with savoury rich texture and lean acidity, coming with a high price tag of £37 per bottle equivalent and Nebbiolo 2009, planted in Constantia in 1996 for only £14 per bottle at the cellar door.
UK agent: Bancroft Wines
If you plan to visit this remote ward, 250 km north of Cape Town, you need to come prepared as Riana says: ‘The best thing about this place is that there is nothing here’. 46 km from the main road through two rugged mountain ranges you will find a spot of a real beauty. Cedeberg vineyards are situated up to 1100 metres above sea level in a continental climate where summer temperatures can reach 35C but then it can get pretty chilly during winter down to minus 10C bringing frost at times. The Cedeberg estate is in an area of outstanding natural beauty where you can indulge in endless walks through the wilderness. The wine was first made here in 1979 by David Nieuwoudt’s grandfather and David invested the last 15 years in better understanding and mapping of the soil and temperature and replanting with the more suitable rootstocks. David sources Semillon and SB from Elim for his Ghost Corner label but the rest of the grapes, primarily the late ripening such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, are grown in Cedeberg. Tasting through Cederberg, Five Generations and David Nieuwoudt’s Ghost Corner showed a quality consistency of the wines with MCC Blanc de Blanc 2006 being my favourite with 4 years on its lees, complex flavours of biscuit, brioche and lemon with clean smooth mousse and hints of coffee and cream cheese.
TOP ROCKING & ROLLING WINES:
Chamonix MCC Blanc de Blanc 2006 Franschhoek – Champagne like quality, gentle perfume of lemon skin, white flowers and melting honey, rich and complex palate full of ripe lemon, bitter caramel, toasty almonds and brioche, refreshing vibrant acidity with hints of freshly cut apples and smooth mousse on the finish
Newton Johnston Family Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – delicate more Burgundian style (South African Chambolle Musigny)
Rickety Bridge Semillon Reserve 2008 Franschhoek – with its elegant aromas of freshly cut grass, ripe lemon skin, sherbet like acidity well balanced with rich fruit flavours on the palate and subtle body weight, great rounded wine with pleasing almost seductive soft palate but refreshing at the same time with some ripe toasty and almond/nougat notes on the finish
THE BEST RESTAURANTS:
Tokara in Stellenbosch for gourmet
96 Winery Road in Stellenbosch for extensive wine list
Burgundy in Hermanus for seafood and ocean view
La Vierge in Hemel-en-Aarde for spectacular view of the valley (unfortunately Shane the chef has left now)
Col’cacchio in Franschhoek for great pizza and friendly smiles