MANLEY WINE LODGE
Saturday 27 January 2018
There’s a saying about London buses that goes along the lines of that one doesn’t see one for ages and then 2 come along together. Well, that’s true of today. I had only once before visited a guest house for wine tasting in over 120 occasions, to Clouds Wine & Guest House in Stellenbosch. The Manley Wine Lodge happened to be the second guest-house-come-wine-estate I found myself at in 2 days, having been to Le Manoir de Brendel in Franschhoek yesterday.
The 4-star Manley Wine Lodge, little more than 1½ hours drive from Cape Town, lies just to the North of Tulbagh. Conveniently for me, it was next door to Rijk’s Private Cellar from where I had just come from. The Wine Lodge offers boutique accommodation for guests to explore the beautiful Tulbagh surrounds. It has its own non-denominational chapel for weddings and, newly built, the Owl’s Nest for conferences.
I was there to taste the wines and had arranged in advance to meet Werner Barkhuizen, the Winemaker since June 2016. The Lodge, with its distinctive painted barrels outside, could not have been easier to find which was a welcome change from my lost experience at Lateganskop at the start of the day and, to lesser extent, the Tasting Room at Rijk’s beforehand. Tasting was R30, waived on bottle purchase.
The Manley property lies in 38 hectares of land, of which almost 8 hectares are under vine. Yields of the 20 year old vines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz – are dropping due to their age, exacerbated by the drought. I sense it won’t be long until Werner decides to replace them and plant new vines ‘ripped’ to 1200cm rather than the present 800cm to give the roots better depth. Meanwhile, and to meet demand – both 2015 and 2016 vintages have already sold out – grapes are bought in to supplement the harvest, hence the Wine of Origin Coastal Region on the bottle labels.
The Sauvignon Blanc was sold out to leave red wines only for the tasting. The first was a ‘house’ blend of mostly Merlot (80%). The opaque, full bodied wine intrigued – my neighbouring tasters too – as it had a distinct aroma that I could not pick out and therefore describe. Was it fruit influence? Or bottle age? Or winemaking influence? The unusual tinge that added to the berry fruity intensity of average complexity was most likely terroir driven. Dry tannins were more grippy than customary for a Merlot and left a good finish which made the wine excellent value at just R55.
The remaining reds were single cultivar wines and sold for R110. I tasted together Pinotage from 2013 and 2014 (the latter being not yet for sale and held back for competitions). Both wines were full in body and ruby red with purple tinge in colour. The older vintage had a similar bouquet to the Thatch House Red, with good intensity of cranberry, plum, cherry and graphite aromas. The wine was well made if not exceptional, with tannins to the fore on the palate and through to the finish.
The younger 2014 cousin was also fruit-forwards with good concentration of aromatic fruits on the nose and a greater peppercorn spiciness. The palate was smooth and well balanced. I noticed that the bottle labels offered ageing advice which was a nice touch.
My favourite wine of the tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon. This was rich ‘cab sav’ with a great intensity of classic dark berries on the nose. Typical grippy tannins balanced well the fruit flavours in the mouth to make for a good value wine. I didn’t like the Shiraz as much. The bouquet was less intense and contained limited spiciness to complement fruit and dry leaf aromas. Dusty, dry tannins were too bright and forwards on the palate and left a bitterness at the finish.
Werner showed me around the new Cellar area and equipment, soon to be put to good use for the imminent harvest, after the tasting. I could see that Werner has big plans afoot as he gets to know the vines and the terroir. That is, unless he is as easily distracted as I was by the beautiful tom kitten he has aptly called Shiraz. Meanwhile, Manley Lodge produces some excellent value-for-money red wines that are obviously popular and sought after. I wish Werner well.
Wines tasted (bought *):
NV Thatch House Red (80% Merlot, 10% Shiraz, 10% Pinotage) – R55
2013 Pinotage – R110
2014 Pinotage – R110 (not for sale)
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – R110 FAVOURITE WINE
2014 Shiraz – R110