Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge
Experience 4.0 Swartland Wine 4.0

Magical Wines Star at Dragonridge

DRAGONRIDGE NATURAL WINES
Friday 22 September 2017
http://www.dragonridge.co.za/

Experience: 4/5
Wines: 4/5

‘Don’t use the satnav, it will get you lost’, I was advised when I made my appointment to taste at Dragonridge. Today was my first tasting in the Swartland and so I was super excited. I did not know what to expect but had heard of and read about the award winning wines of the area. Surprisingly, or perhaps because of their success, the big name vineyards – AA Badenhorst, David & Nadia, Huis van Chevallerie and Rall – were unreceptive to my request for a tasting appointment. They either did not answer or said they were not open for tasting.

Dragonridge

Dragonridge

Dragonridge was different. I headed North of Durbanville towards Malmesbury on the R302, not a road I had driven on before, amid green rolling hills that made for a pleasant journey. Dragonridge is based at the Fynbos Estate that is some 8 kilometres off the R302 along a gravel road deep into the Joubertskloof in the Paardeberg Mountains. The name of the wines comes from the shape of the mountain behind. It symbolizes ‘magical qualities of longevity and potency’.

Dragonridge

Winemaker Johan guided me through the tasting in a room that was once an old milking parlour or stables. He explained how he bought the farm in 1997, planted 15 hectares of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Mourvèdre, Shiraz and Sangiovese on the slopes of the Paardeberg in early 2000, and made the first vintage in 2006. Records of winemaking date back to 1963 with the memory of a previous farm worker pushing back history at Dragonridge to 1933.

Dragonridge

I began my tasting with 2 Chenins Blanc that could not have been more different. The wines are named after constellations that must be beautiful to see in the night skies due to the absence of borrowed light. The first, the Capella, was made using extended skin fermentation, was 85% unwooded and was an unusual deep gold in colour from added straw wine. It was dry and acidic in the mouth and with flavours of shy citrus lemon. I could not detect tropical or stone fruit aromas. This was not a typical Chenin Blanc at all. Was this how the Swartland wines were to be?

Dragonridge

The Cygnus on the other hand was 100% wooded. Warmer and with more character than the Capella, it had good complexity of flavour and a robust tannic and acidic character. This would be a good wine to pair with food and especially a curry.

Dragonridge

The only red blend – an intriguing mix of 4 cultivars in equal proportion – was the Dark Star. It was the only wine made in 2011 due to a fire on the mountain that tainted the vines with smoke. A slight residue remained despite regular changing every 6 months into different barrels. The medium to full bodied wine was full of berry, currant, mulberry and blackberry aromas. The fruity flavours paled on the palate which had a dry, dusty, earthy feel that was high in soft tannins.

Dragonridge

In between tastings – generous amounts taken from unopened bottles – Johan explained his philosophy and approach to winemaking. Simple methods that date back to the 1900s were used. The vines are unirrigated and pruned to produce small bunches with concentrated fruits. Natural fermentation, light pressing, minimal sulphur, natural fining products and no filtering produces wines that are ‘distinct and not as cheerful as chips’.

Dragonridge

A single variety Sangiovese is always a delight to taste and this was no exception. It was my favourite. Full-bodied and a deep ruby in appearance, deeper than the Sangiovese made in Italy, I liked the potent aromas of sour cherry, cranberry, cassis and blackberry. Pliable, big tannins made for a big, bold wine. I bought a bottle as Johan said he would not be making it as a single variety wine again but instead to use the grapes for blending.

Dragonridge

I learned that fermenting Pinotage at 37°C removed the banana, nail varnish and burnt rubber flavours that has for many afflicted the wine. This was another big wine with a potent 14.7% alcohol content. Full bodied and fruity, it was not overt on the nose as many I have sampled but nonetheless showed aromas of plum and dark cherry. Coffee flavours emerged on the palate, a characteristic from the granite sands on which the vines are grown, with firm, dry grippy tannins for an extended finish.

Dragonridge

My final wine of the tasting was another favourite wine and another that I bought. This was another wine that was different in character to those I have tasted before. It was a medium gold to pale brown in colour from 12 months first fill in French oak. Raisin, dried apricot, dried peach and vanilla aromas promised sweetness in the mouth but this was a dry wine due to the high acidity. It also had a higher level of alcohol (14%) than most straw wines as, Johan explained ‘I do not interfere and let the wine ferment out to whatever alcohol level it decides’.

Dragonridge

Dragonridge

Dragonridge wines were certainly different and in a distinct style. I left feeling unsure whether this was a taste, foretaste even, of the ‘Swartland Revolution’ or whether the magic of a radical winemaker. I suspected a little of the former and a lot of the latter. Johan for sure followed his own path and was more than ready to experiment and used unique or ancient methods. It was a pleasure to meet him and to taste his wines, as ever when meeting the winemaker. I departed knowing that the Swartland dragon had reared its head for the first time …

Wines tasted (bought *):

White:

2015 Capella Chenin Blanc – R90
2015 Cygnus Chenin Blanc – R105

Red:

2011 Dark Star (25% Pinotage, 25% Shiraz, 25% Mourvèdre, 25% Sangiovese) – R195
2015 Sangiovese – R165* FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Pinotage – R165

Dessert:

2015 Rigel Chenin Blanc Straw Wine (375ml) – R165*

Dragonridge

You Might Also Like

Honest, Affordable Family Wines at Landskroon

Quality with Style in the Vineyard

Water into Wine at Uitkyk

Serenity without Worry or Preoccupation in the Chapel

Onderkloof Beats All the Odds Below The Valley

Straw Berry Yields for e-Ver-gelegen

Four Partners (not Cousins) at the Vineyard Hotel

Blush-endal!

Better than a Fair View Where the Goats do Roam!

Heaven Meets Earth at Bouchard Finlayson

The Big Easy Tee’s Off in the Vineyard

Maiden Visit to Lord’s Bowled Me Over

How Do You Grow a Vineyard Like Maria?

Sax ‘n’ Berg at the Vineyard

Multi-Faceted Wines on Display at the Vineyard

All is Not Lost in a Safe Port

In the Vineyard with Beyerskloof

On the Left, but then on the Right …

Fun(ny) Times at Lourensford

The Darling from Darling Steps into the Vineyard

The Vineyard Hotel a Classic Vehicle to Showcase L’Ormarins Wines

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Family Fun in Pairs at Four Cousins

Family Fun at the Greek Harvest Festival

The Gods Come Home to the Vineyard

Grand Wines at the Big Top!

Wagons to the Cellar at Waboomsrivier

Wacky – not Tacky – in Robertson

Purring at the Wines in Tyger Valley

Grape Expectations are Met at Zevenwacht

Mulderbosch didn’t quite Meet the Yardstick

Cabernet Franc – Well Worth a Gamble!

Wines That Don’t Cost The Earth

Sweet and Safe Times Pair Well with the Whales

A Warm Welcome in the Cool Climate at South Hill

Tasting Vines at the Vineyard

Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm

Neil’s Vines on the Tr-Ellis in Stellenbosch

Trading Wines in the City Bowl

Groot Phesantekraal an Unexpected Surprise!

Lithos Wines Soar above Mountain and Forest

It’s High Time Again

Sa-Bot-Riveur!

Oh-MG at Anthonij Rupert

In the Garage in the Heart of McGregor

Warwick Wines Win their Colours

Late at Lateganskop

Barrels of Fun at My First Stellenbosch Street Soirée

It’s all Art and Wine at Almenkerk

Wine on the Slopes at Chamonix

Well Hosted and Enjoyable – Even Though I did not Experience at its Best

Of Female Rugby Players and Ballet Dancers! Let’s Continuously Study Very Seriously: Wines of the Loire and Northern Rhône

Lust-ful Reds in the Vineyard

In the Highlands in the Lowlands of Elgin

Swiss Family Sauvignons at Eikendal

Mixed Spice at the Pinotage Festival

Red Chair in the Morning

SMV, SMG, GSM – BLICS and PAPERCLIPS!

Mooi Mooi Mooi Mooiplaas

Au Revoir France!

More than Just a Destination

Shiraz Purrs at Manley Wine Lodge

Decent Wines Rock from the Pulpit

Masses of Fun and a little Chaos at the Ambeloui Harvest Festival

At the Bend in the Road in Bot River

Baby Thrown Out with the Bath Water?

Malverne Dis-Clos-ed

Waxing Lyrical about Canto

More Still at Tanagra

Pastures Anew at Rustenberg

Beau-tiful Beau-tique Beau-Constantia

From Palette to Palate to Muratie

Great Value in the Swartland

Linga-ring in a Winery in Malawi

Elegant Wines Kiss the Lips in the Vineyard

Bon Courage and Bon Voyage

Nala Wines are Well Engineered in the Vineyard

A Family Occasion – the Story behind the Bottle

Summer Whites …… and Rosés

Iona Wines Remain Excellent In and At the Vineyard

iWine rather than IMAX at the Cape Gate Mall

Verticle Tasting on the Ridge in Elgin

The Phoenix Rises from the Terroir at Thelema

Beyond Expectation

Excelsior Blends Quality with Price

Blaauwklippen was Good for a Friday

Rijk Tulbagh Gives Name to Cellar and Town

Big Preparations in the Little Vineyard

The Terroir is Honoured in the Bottle at Springfield

Wine Notes Composed at D’Aria

On Yonder Hill There Stands a Vineyard!

Quality Abounds on the Mound at La Motte

No Black Marks at Raka

K-eynote W-ines at the V-ineyard

Saxenburg Puts Heart, Mind and Soul into Its Wines

The Garagiste in the Garage at Sonklip!

Seven Reasons To Visit Seven Oaks Wines

Sugar and Spice is Twice as Nice

Class in Glass at Glenelly

Wines Out of the Barrel at Kanonkop

PicknPay Pairs it again at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival

Iconic Steenberg

Vista to Verdot at Glen Carlou

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Mutual Attraction

Altitudes with Wine!

More-ish Wines at Môreson

Boutique de Brendel

Bellville to Bellevue to Belle Wines

Wines to Love on Love Street

Kosie Wynes at Groenland

Value for Money from Angel Gabriel in the Vineyard

Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch

British Reserve and Excellence at Sumaridge

Perfection is Attainable at Boschkloof Wines

Bracing Brakes on the Red Wines at Remhoogte

1 Comments

  1. Grand Wines at the Big Top! – Cape Wine Lovers' Society

    […] many producers. I tend to avoid the estates that I have tasted at – in this case Cape Point, Dragonridge, Kleine Zalze, Rooiberg Winery, South Hill and Waverly Hills – and to enjoy the new […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *