Friday 2 March 2018
The view over False Bay from the top of the ridge was as sudden as it was glorious in the late summer morning sunshine. Somehow I did not expect it. I had been at Lithos Wines amid the montane forest and fynbos. But as I walked through to the rear of the dining room of the large log cabin I saw the Bay set out below as if from a buzzard high above.
I was visiting to taste the Skaap Wines. This is done in the luxury Lalapanzi Lodge in the midst of the Wedderwell Country Estate beneath Sir Lowry’s Pass close to Somerset West. It is in the Helderberg wine region and at the end of the Schapenberg Wine Route. The Country Estate is vast at over 600 hectares in size. The Lodge extends to 17 hectares, of which 4 hectares are under vine. Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz are plante4d with other cultivars for the Skaap wines bought in from Durbanville and Stellenbosch. It is the coolest Stellenbosch wine region, above False Bay and at 250 metres above sea level.
Skaap was the third guest-house-come-wine-farm that I have tasted at in barely a month, strangely so as I previously hadn’t tasted at any in over 14 months of wine tasting. First, there was Le Manoir de Brendel in Franschhoek and then Manley Wine Lodge in Tulbagh. Rose was my tasting host and had set out 4 small glasses with bottle beside and tasting notes under each glass.
As she filled each glass in turn, she explained that Schapenberg is Afrikaans for ‘Sheep Mountain’. The farm is owned by Dutch banker Thierry Schaap who fell in love with the Cape when first on holiday in South Africa in 2005. I can well understand why he stayed, as I have since arriving in 2010. By happy coincidence, Schaap means ‘sheep’ and so the playful wine name Skaap was born. The bottle labels feature a woolly sheep in different metallic colours according to the wine.
Guests were checking out and Rose was busy seeing to their needs. I was left much alone for the tasting. I would have preferred more explanation about the wines but I sensed that Rose knew little. As she said, ‘I just work here’. The Okuphinki Rosé, made from Sauvignon Blanc and (Durbanville) Merlot free run juice, was a deep salmon colour. Simple strawberry and raspberry aromas led through to a dry, acidic wine on the palate with an ordinary finish.
The Sauvignon Blanc was similar in character and my favourite wine. It showed a vibrant intensity of fresh green fig, lime, bitter lemon and asparagus, with mineral undertones. The more promised more than it delivered in the mouth as the flavours fell away all too soon.
Three days pre-soaking extracted the maximum deep, deep purple colour from the Shiraz grape skins. This was classic spice forwards Shiraz – black peppercorns and cloves overlying mulberry, black plum and blackcurrant on the bouquet. Stalky, grippy tannins overpowered any fruitiness on the palate.
The final wine of the tasting was a red blend called Nathan. I didn’t find out the reason behind the name but enjoyed the red Merlot fruits that softened to dark Cabernet berries on the nose. Flat, dry unassuming tannins gave medium length.
Skaap was worth visiting even if just for the view. The wines warmed up as I tasted and so were not at their best. They were not to my preference and style. That’s ok. No one has to like all wines. The wines were better on the nose than on the palate. I wanted more depth and intensity and a firmer finish, especially for wines priced over R200. I didn’t buy for this reason but enjoyed the chance to visit another estate.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 ‘46’ Sauvignon Blanc – R120 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 ‘46’ Okuphinki (55% Sauvignon Blank, 45% Merlot) Rosé – R120
2016 ‘45’ Shiraz – R240
2015 ‘44’ Nathan (34% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc) – R240