Clouds Reign in Stellenbosch
CLOUDS WINE & GUEST ESTATE
Friday 1 December 2017
I headed up the Helshoogte Pass out of Stellenbosch not quite knowing what to expect from the Clouds Estate. As I entered the security gate to pass through manicured vineyards, I recall having seen the simple yet very distinctive bottle label with large orange print but could not remember if I had tasted Clouds wines before.
The Estate is like no other. It took a while to find the Reception amid the tight brick paved roads through the luxury holiday villas. It felt like I was entering a private Camps Bay home surrounded by vines and not the ocean. The panoramic views over the Pass were no less spectacular. Tasting was downstairs, I was told, and I had to double take that I was in the right place for tasting. Contemporary modern art, neutral furnishings and tended plants filled the open plan room. High end magazines were tidily on display in racks for guests to read. Outside, through large glass patio doors, guests in bikinis and board shorts relaxed around the infinity pool. Clouds is a wine estate like no other.
Evans was my tasting host behind the guest bar. He briefly explained how each wine was made as he poured the 6 wines for tasting (R60). The dry Chardonnay MCC was as elegant as the décor with fine rising bubbles and a nutty, green apple, biscuit nose aided by 12 months on the lees. The unusual Pink Sauvignon Blanc – the light salmon pink colour coming from a splash (2%) of Shiraz – was the perfect pairing for the azure pool behind me. Delicate and with a light touch to its acidity, I liked the positive aromas of pure strawberry and red cherry.
The still Chardonnay made from grapes from the cool Bokkeveld area and fermented in old French barrels was my favourite of the tasting. A slight green tinge to the pale straw colour heralded delicious baked apples, dry raisin and vanilla aromas. These followed through on the palate for a full, smooth mouth feel and a firm finish. I wanted to dip my feet in the pool and finish the bottle.
Also barrel fermented, using wild yeast, was the Chenin Blanc made from Swartland bush vines grown on granite soils. The wine was more subtle than the Chardonnay to suit the elegant and refined surroundings. The lime, kiwi, greengage and honey flavours were dry and crisp in the mouth.
I rated the 2 red wines as highly as the Chardonnay. The Hemel-en-Aarde sourced Pinot Noir was as light in body as the tanned guests by the pool, and hid a heady 14.5% alcohol. Smooth, balanced and bittersweet earthy, spicy, cherry and black peppercorn flavoured, this was another wine to relax and enjoy, especially on one of the cosy chairs on the lawn with one of the wine or fashion magazines.
The perfumed Shiraz was as warm in character as the noon weather. Like the Rosé, it was all it should be: medium to full body; spicy peppercorn with red and dark plum, cherry, cassis and blackberry aromas; and balanced with dry tannins in the mouth.
Clouds wines were superb. I sensed that winemaker Donovan Rall carefully sourced the grapes for each wine from the perfect area and terroir for the cultivar. The tiny estate is less than 5 hectares in size with vines taking up just over half the area and squeezed into every available space. The guests in one of the 5 villas (or 7 bedrooms in the guesthouse) could easily reach out of their romantic, luxury accommodation and touch either Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.
‘Boutique’ is so often over-used but Clouds was the epitome of the boutique hotel-come-wine estate. The wines were pricy, though I am sure most affordable to the well-to-do guests, and with the quality to match. I liked the clean, vibrant orange labels that were so appropriate for the Dutch couple who have owned the estate since 2012. Visit the website too. It is one of the most elegant, original, simple and beautiful ones I have seen for a wine estate.
It seemed strangely appropriate too, given the impeccable attention to detail, that as I left a member of staff walked through the vines with a bundle of sheets in hand for laundry …. I didn’t realise until after that the bundle was in the shape of a perfect white cloud!
Wines tasted (bought *):
2014 MCC (100% Chardonnay) – R250
2014 Chardonnay – R275 FAVOURITE WINE
2014 Chenin Blanc – R275
2016 Pink Sauvignon Blanc (98% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Syrah) – R175
2015 Pinot Noir – R275
2015 Shiraz – R275