Thursday 23 February 2017
Experience: 4.5/5 Wines: 4/5
Mountain Ridge was the remaining wine farm to visit from those promoted by the Wolseley Tourist Office. Yesterday I visited Seven Oaks, Waboomsrivier and Bergsig. Previously, I had tasted at Waverley Hills. Intriguingly, Mountain Ridge and Waboomsrivier were both established in the same year, in 1949.
Mountain Ridge was easy to find off the R303 between Worcester and Ceres. The vineyard is flanked by the most spectacular scenery and Mountain Ridge could not have been a more suited name. The actual address translates as ‘Love Street’ and what better place for a Cape Wine Lover to taste. The way was the first road along which the Dutch leased land to farmers in the area.
The airy, open tasting room provided a warm Wolseley welcome that was to remain throughout the tasting. The colourful tourist banner at the entrance beside an old copper still highlighted both ancient and modern. Humour too was immediately apparent – and what a contrast to Bergsig – with the funny, cartoon labels designed by Frans Groenewald for the De Liefde entry range prominently displayed on the tasting counter. Zyda, the accountant, and then Elizma guided me through the tasting with typical Boland hospitality.
I was distracted by the cellar before I started to taste. Large concrete tanks, built in the late-1940s, led away from the tasting room. Used primarily for storage, some were relined in 2013 and have been put back into use. I read after on their website that Mountain Ridge has a 9,000,000 litre bulk capacity. The winery uses some of the most modern centrifuge and bulk filter equipment. This allows it to custom-make wines to the client’s preference. I learned during the tasting that wines are exported inter alia to Hungary and China. Open top fermentation tanks (‘kuipe’ in Afrikaans) dating back to 1949 are used to make red wines. Next time, I shall ask for a cellar tour.
I took my cue for tasting from Zyda. The Mountain Ridge Sauvignon Blanc was first and my favourite of all. Less acidic in style than those I am accustomed to from the Constantia Valley, the pleasant gooseberry, grassy and asparagus nose made for easy drinking. Next, were two wines from the De Liefde range, a Chenin Blanc and an unwooded Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. These wines make ideal drinking partners for the monthly Saturday Farmers’ Market and with a quality to match the R35 per bottle price.
I sampled the medium-tier Mountain Ridge Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon next. Both were medium-ruby in colour and fruity wines. The step up in quality from the De Liefde range showed albeit they were lightweight in tannin, of simple complexity, and with short finishes. The Merlot would have been an interesting challenge for a ‘blind’ tasting as I struggled to pick up the characteristic chocolate or cedar wood on the nose.
The premium Romansrivier range is named after the old Romansrivier Cooperative Winery, part of the Mountain Ridge heritage. These wines are made with a long shelf-life of 10-15 years and so young now. The full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon improved on the Mountain Ridge version by having a deeper ruby colour, greater fruitiness and complexity and a longer aftertaste.
Last were the two Shiraz, one each from the Mountain Ridge and the Romansrivier range. I enjoyed both but the more mature Romansrivier wine (2012 compared with 2014) edged ahead on quality. It had high alcohol content at 14.5% that is typical of a New World Shiraz.
The highlight of the tasting was to follow. I had asked so many questions that Elizma asked Christo, the winemaker, to join us. This was a real privilege. He explained the different marketing of bulk wines for different export countries. Samples are sent by courier before bottling and these can be refined several times before the exact taste is agreed. Christo let me taste a tank sample of the 2017 Chenin Blanc. This was my first 2017 ‘wine’ and how fascinating and exciting. He explained how the grapes were picked just one month ago. It was cloudy, yeasty and with a slight fizziness as one would expect. I could have chatted for ages with Christo but conscious that his time was precious during the busy harvest period.
Mountain Ridge was fun and relaxing and informative. Wines are produced for every type of wine lover, including a sparkling, alcohol free De Liefde grape juice that the children can drink at the Farmers’ Market. I bought a bottle together with the ‘Smooch’ De Liefde salmon-pink Sparkling Wine and Mountain Ridge Sauvignon Blanc.
Mountain Ridge is little over an hour from Cape Town and well worth the visit. I shall certainly be returning and to visit the Farmers’ Market to taste, drink, meet and enjoy the local hospitality. The 2017 Chenin Blanc will be my first choice to drink – perhaps Christo will join me too!
Wines tasted (bought *):
De Liefde Grape Juice – not tasted – R25*
2016 Mountain Ridge Sauvignon Blanc – R45*
De Liefde Chenin Blanc – R35
De Liefde Smooch Sparkling Rosé – not tasted – R50*
De Liefde Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (70% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 30% Merlot) – R35
2014 Mountain Ridge Merlot – R70
2014 Mountain Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz) – R70
2011 Romansrivier Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – R120
2014 Mountain Ridge Shiraz – R70
2012 Romansrivier Shiraz Reserve – R120 FAVOURITE WINE