GOEDE HOOP WINE ESTATE
Thursday 18 January 2018
Ask around and few will likely have heard of Goede Hoop Wine Estate. I hadn’t either but had found the farm off the Bottleray Road, North-West of Stellenbosch, located between Hazendal (currently closed for refurbishment) and Bellevue. It’s on square C3 of the Stellenbosch map in the back of the 2018 Platter’s Guide if you’re curious too.
Unknown wine farms always interest and intrigue. Goede Hoop did both with style. The 1 kilometre trim gravel road leads straight up the North-West facing slopes to the top of the hill and over. White painted gate posts and a metal railing gate gave little clue that I was entering a wine farm. It could have been a private home as I stopped beside the late-1800s farmhouse. Old farm implements rested against ancient walls in dappled shade as I parked.
I found the Tasting Room through an open door. Johan met me and explained that the regular Tasting Room was being used for a marketing meeting. Instead, he led me through cement tanks and open clay fermentation bins. They were empty and awaiting grapes from the 2018 harvest but it was as if time had stood still. I was reminded of the tanks at Delheim that were built by ex-Italian prisoners-of-war.
Johan led me past barrels in open, former tanks and into the most amazing Tasting Room I have seen in South Africa. There was a sign called Pieter’s Private Cellar and inside the former sherry cement tank a long table was set for 10-12 persons. The surrounding walls were piled high with wines of ancient vintages going back to 1971, whites on one wall and reds on the others. Dusty chalk writing on each shelf listed the wines above, their bottles untouched for years and covered in decades of dust and cobwebs. The Cellar hosts dinner events where 6 couples may each choose a vintage bottle for the table over a gourmet 4-course dinner.
I was open mouthed and I had not tasted a drop of wine yet. Johan was son of owner Pieter Bestbier and responsible for much of the business marketing. It was my privilege as I soon discovered to spend a couple of hours with him talking about the Goede Hoop wines and many other wine topics. His dad is a 3rd generation winemaker. The Malmesbury family bought the property from KWV in 1828.
Johan asked if I knew ‘sabrage’, the art of using a sabre to slice open a bottle of MCC. I did (and have a 17th century sabre at home) and first opened a bottle using one during the Cape Wine Academy Certificate Course last March. It was an invitation I could not resist. One sharp horizontal blow along the ridge where the bottle is made with the wire muselet removed and the cork was cleanly off. Precious liquid poured out of the shattered bottle neck but we caught enough for the tasting. The MCC was bottled in 2017 after an extended time (5 years) spent on the lees. It showed in the yeasty and biscuit aromas and lees feel on the palate. The wine was fresh and refreshing, with a good dry mouthfeel and decent length. What a start to the tasting!
The refined Sauvignon Blanc was unusual but it was not easy to detect why. Barrel-fermented, as Goede Hoop’s wines are, there was a granite minerality to the bouquet that brought a subtlety to the notes of citrus and pineapple. Acidity was good and there was an almost creamy mouthfeel to the clean palate. Johan told me that pineapple aromas are a clue to the white wines of the Bottleray region.
Johan was enjoying test me about the oak maturation of each wine as I sniffed and tasted it. Subtle 2nd/3rd fill oaking both balanced and gave warmth to fruity baked apple and caramel flavours of the Chardonnay. It was a cultivar, grown on lower slopes, that is used only to make wine when the quality allows. The wine was smooth and balanced showing a great length. I bought a bottle.
There was no label on the Estate White, a pure Chenin Blanc, and instead there was white hand-written lettering on the bottle. This was my favourite wine of the tasting – and there were a few reds to compare and challenge that too! The wine was elegant, shy, honeyed and citrus fruity. It was another interesting wine with a heady 15% alcohol, 12 months spent maturing in new French oak and silky smooth with great balance.
As we started to sample the reds, Johan explained how most of the slopes were north facing, barely 10 kilometres as the crow flies from the sea and with cooling False Bay breezes. Merlot is a difficult wine to make really well (perhaps more even than Pinotage) and I sampled 2 wines next: a 2017 vintage (R50) and a 2014 vintage (R86). Both were made in open tanks – Johan reminded how the wines used to be moved around in the Cellar via open sluices (so much for gravity fed/no-pumping modern viniculture) – and the younger Merlot made using oak chips. My notes describe similar aromas of forwards cassis, red plum and cedar for both wines. I preferred the 2014 wine for the brighter fruitiness and smoother tannins. I bought a bottle.
Pinotage, as I have recently written, is like a stand-up comic for me. I either like or not at all. This was a Pinotage I liked and helped by its 2012 vintage. It was ripe, plum fruity on the nose, without any tinge of acetone aromas, and what was best was the open silky tannins. The Shiraz, one year older, was equally smooth and with bold flavours of fruity dark peppercorn, spicy blackcurrant and smoky mulberry. I rated them equally highly.
Another favourite, and a bottle I could not resist buying, was the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a classic of the type, of excellent quality and value for a 2011 wine. I liked the deep ruby and full-bodied appearance. This invited the red and dark fruit bouquet of blackberry, mulberry and blackcurrant. The tannins were still slightly closed but nonetheless balanced with the alcohol and fruit flavours, smooth too.
The final wine of the tasting – how I was spoiled by Johan – was the Estate Red. This was a blend of traditional Bordeaux, Rhone and Cape cultivars (5 in all) and the first South African red wine blend to receive a Best Blend award in 1973. Poured unusually from a Rhone-shaped bottle, each variety contributed to a ripe forwards intensity of cassis, mulberry, plum and cherry fruit flavours with a firm refined mouthfeel and a great finish. This wine will keep for another 10 to 15 years too.
I was not surprised to hear at the end from Johan that only the best 5% to 10% of grapes, cultivated on 71 hectares of vines of the 122 hectare property, are used for Goede Hoop wines. The rest of the harvest is used by mass wine producers such as Perdeberg and Beyerskloof. As a result, the hand-crafted wines are of superb quality as well as value for money, with many being of older vintages than I usually taste whilst visiting vineyards. Goede Hoop gave too my first ‘sabrage’ at a wine estate.
I believe, from my clumsy British translation of Afrikaans that ‘Goede Hoop’ means ‘hopeful’ though I know not the background to the name origin. I do know, however, what Johan meant when he described the winemaking as ‘authentic’. Hope was not needed at Goede Hoop to make decent and honest wines. Few estates gain a 5/5 rating for both their wines and the tasting experience. Do stop by for a tasting. It’s not just the big name and award-winning wine farms that have the best wines, far from it. Peter certainly had fun in Pieter’s Private Cellar!
Wines tasted (bought *):
2012 Brut MCC (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) – R350
2017 Sauvignon Blanc – R69
2016 Chardonnay – R116*
2015 Estate White Domaine Chenin Blanc – R320* FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Merlot – R50
2014 Merlot – R86*
2012 Pinotage – R99
2011 Shiraz – R129
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – R171*
2011 Estate Red (Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Cinsault) – R310