Rustic Charm at the Altydgedacht Wine Farm
Thursday 31 August 2017
‘Rustic’ was how sommelier Micela described Altydgedacht Estate as I sat down to select 5 wines for tasting (R40). I could not have chosen a better word. The intimate Tasting Room with its aged wooden fittings and furniture seemed unchanged for half a century. Only the wine fridge and printer visible in the office behind the tasting counter – a long wooden bench with school-type chairs in front – gave clue to the 21th century.
Time had passed slowly in the 300 year old cellar with its white-washed walls. I soon learned that the Altydgedacht Estate was established in 1698 to make it one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa. It boasts an unbroken tradition of more than 2 centuries and 6 generations of Parkers in the Durbanville hills. As if to prove a point, Assistant Winemaker Andrew Parker from the latest family generation came to introduce himself to me as I sampled my first wine.
The approach to the Cellar building was down a narrow dirt drive. Had it not been for the Altydgedacht sign by the entrance gate I could easily have mistakenly entered a farm. An old plough and trailer with wine barrels stood outside to remind the long history. It would not have surprised if they were still in use today. En route, I had a nagging feeling I had been here before. I certainly remember the black wine label with the original slave bell tower reproduced as the brand logo, even though I cannot remember the wine itself.
This was nonetheless a first visit and so I was eager to taste the wines. Altydgedacht is renowned for interesting wines and these were the ones I selected. The Weisser Riesling, made with the German grape more commonly known simply as ‘Riesling’, is made in a dry style and has won many awards. Shy but fruity white peach, nectarine and gooseberry flavours followed through to a crisp palate.
Also made in a rare dry style was the pale straw Gewürztraminer that was served from a classic elegant tall bottle. Rose, pot pourri and litchi aromas were prominent on the nose that softened on the palate to balance the alcohol content. I liked the wine. After, I sampled the only blend of the tasting, the Muskarade, an unusual combination of Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Weisser Riesling. Sweet, grapey hanepoot flavours show through underlying nectarine and peach to make for a pleasant light semi-sweet wine.
I like both reds, the first a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon with dry supple tannins. It was the single variety Barbera that caught my eye having recently enjoyed the Italian cultivar for the first time at Idiom wines. Barbera vines were some of the first planted at Altydgedacht and remain in the vineyard. Full bodied, with rich earthy plum, savoury loganberry and slight liquorice aromas, the complexity balanced light tannins with moderate alcohol on the palate. I could not resist buying a bottle.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Parker Reserve Weisser Riesling – R95
2015 Estate Gewürztraminer – R95
2016 Muskarade (43% Muscat D’Alexandria, 33% Gewürztraminer, 26% Weisser Riesling) – R65
2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – R75
2013 Barbera Reserve – R220* FAVOURITE WINE