PULPIT ROCK WINERY
Friday 22 September 2017
Pulpit Rock reminded me of my trip to the Wolseley area and of Mountain Ridge winery in particular. The tan concrete building set back a short distance from the road. The functional but rather stark Tasting Room. The lack of food and souvenir boutique shop. There were none of the ‘vinotourism’ trappings of deli, restaurant, art displays or mountain bike trails here. It was good to get away from the fancy Stellenbosch wine estates for a change.
The winery is named after the weathered, rocky mountains of the Kasteelberg. The vines – some 450 hectares on 2 farms – are grown on the lower mountain slopes in soils of shale and weathered sandstone. Red grape cultivars outnumber white ones by 2 to 1 with all the big name varieties (Grenache too) being grown. Pulpit Rock has a reputation for ‘fruit driven’ wines, especially Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. In keeping with the Swartland region and Riebeek West area, many of the Chenins Blanc are wooded and softer in style whilst the red wines often contain higher alcohol levels than most due to the hot, dry summer temperatures.
Eliza was my cheery tasting host. She told me how Pulpit Rock is owned by the Brink family who have farmed the land for over 5 generations. The family dreamed about making wine for decades. Grandpa Brink was asked, as long ago as 1918, to become the winemaker at Groot Constantia but he declined the offer as the time was not right. It was his son, Ernst, who sent sons Haumann and Van Der Byl to study wine. The first grapes were harvested in 2004.
I chose to sample 5 wines from the Reserve Collection. The range covers the major variety white and red wines together with a Cape Blend. The Chenin Blanc was warm in character with aromas of lemon, lime and pineapple. The acidity was moderate and the finish average. I preferred the barrel-fermented Chardonnay that I tasted after. Apple, guava and vanilla aromas followed through to a creamy palate with a more pronounced finish.
The red wines were all matured for about 16 month in 60% new French oak. The Shiraz was typically fruity with aromas of spicy, smoky black peppery blackcurrant and blackberry. The fruit flavours faded on the palate to leave firm tannins. I did not like the Pinotage as much. Juicy chocolate and blackcurrant aromas showed average complexity but the tannins were astringent and overpowering on the palate.
My favourite wine was the flagship Cape Blend that was 50% Pinotage, though each vintage differs in blend mix. Named after ouma and matriarch Louisa, it tasted warm and alcoholic (14.8%). The fruit aromas of each cultivar – plum, currant and berry – showed through with good complexity. Grippy tannins were better balanced on the palate than they were for the Pinotage.
My tasting at Pulpit Rock was short and sweet. None of the wines are Tim Atkin or Old Mutual Trophy competition winners but they are not meant to be. The winery produces decent no-frills wines and caters for the local and export markets. I am sure they sell well at festivals too.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Reserve Chenin Blanc – R75
2015 Reserve Chardonnay – R75
2013 Reserve Shiraz – R95
2013 Reserve Pinotage – R95
2013 Reserve Louisa (50% Pinotage, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Shiraz) – R140 FAVOURITE WINE