TANAGRA WINERY & DISTILLERY
3 June 2017
Tanagra Winery & Distillery was my final Wacky Wine Weekend tasting before I returned for a late Saturday afternoon meeting in Cape Town. The vineyard was conveniently on the road between McGregor and Robertson and an easy stop for me. As I left Bemind Wyne, I wondered what the origin of the Tanagra name was. It felt like an anagram or word puzzle, or even the name of a card game. The farm brochure explained all. The name stems from a giant wild fig tree that gave the 78 hectare farm its name, Tanagra. The name also echoes the Khoisan word for ‘main shade’, much needed on summer hot days.
The property was well signposted from the road and flanked by a formal entrance gate, whitewashed and bearing the estate name. It was but a short drive through orange-leaved vines to the parking area beside the Cellar and Distillery buildings. The estate has 12.5 hectares under vine and specialises in Cabernet Franc. I could see signs for blocks of Cabernet Franc as well as Colombar. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz are also grown. The farm offers holiday apartments and cottages too.
The Wacky Wine tasting was in the Cellar. I walked past a spreading fig tree and wondered if this was the one that gave the farm its distinct name. It certainly provided much shade from the winter sun; cool enough for the family dog to lie in full sun beside a low wall.
Husband and wife team, Robert and Annette Rosenbach, relocated from the Moselle region of Germany to South Africa in 2009. They swapped business consultancy and academia in linguistics for an adventure in the country making wine and spirits. Robert brought with him a 200 litre still that produces very pure spirits. A dazzling array of Marc and Grappa (distilled from grape-skins), Eau de Vie (distilled from fermented fruit), Lemon Eau de Vie (from macerated fruit) and Orange liqueur – in flavours of each grape cultivar as well as apricot, peach and quince – were available for tasting. I resisted even a sniff of the 40% alcohol liquor as I would have been unable to drive home. Tasting will have to wait for another time.
I wanted to taste the wine. The wine linguistics were heady with phrases like ‘handpicked’, ‘handcrafted’, ‘traditional method’, ‘minimal interference’, ‘terroir’, ‘wild yeast’ and ‘whole berry fermentation’. It was thus no secret that Robert is assisted by winemaker Lourens van der Westhuisen from Arendsig. The only reason why Tanagra makes single vineyard – and not estate-bottled – wine is that they are made at Arendsig. I selected 4 for tasting.
The first 2 were 100% Cabernet Franc, in 2 styles. The first, a Blanc de Noir – pink wine made with red grapes – was a watery pale blush in colour with a delicate rather than shy strawberry and raspberry nose. It was dry and elegant in the mouth and made very much in Lourens’ style. By contrast, the red brought more complex and layered red-to-dark berry, currant flavours (mulberry, loganberry, blackcurrant) to a silky tannin palate.
The Cabernet Sauvignon was my favourite wine and I bought a bottle. It was muscular and masculine in comparison with the feminine Cabernet Franc. Deeper in body and with forward darker berry fruits, it too was velvety and rounded in the mouth. I finished with the Shiraz that shared many of the same characteristics: warm berry fruit flavours with green and dark peppercorns, liquorice too; fruitiness giving way to soft tannins in the mouth; and a lingering finish. The red wines unsurprisingly were all at the higher end of the alcohol range: 14.5%, 14.0% and 14.5%, respectively.
I didn’t linger as I needed to return to Cape Town. My first Wacky Wine Weekend was over and I can barely believe that just 2 days ago I was starting at Rooiberg Winery. Tanagra offered another unique tasting experience and range of wines. I should like to return with more time to explore the walks in nature, the accommodation and the distillery. More still, the Eau de Vie could easily become joie de vivre.
Wines tasted (* bought):
2017 Cabernet Franc Blanc de Noir – R80
2015 Cabernet Franc – R130
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – R100* FAVOURITE WINE
2014 Shiraz – R100