Kept Alone at Kaapzicht
KAAPZICHT WINE ESTATE
Tuesday 23 January 2018
Kaapzicht was barely a kilometre along the Bottleray Road from Groenland and an easy turn off up a road flanked by tall trees and opening out through vineyards. The farm itself was harder to find but I found the turning right and made my way to the Office where I asked the way to the Tasting Room. There was one couple finishing off their tasting but otherwise it was quiet. The Tasting Room walls were covered in Award certificates and memorabilia, with 2 large square wooden tables in the middle. There was a lazy air of calm amid the history in the room.
Sunell, my tasting host, showed equal calm. Five wines for tasting cost R20 and I could pick any from the Tasting Sheet. The ‘Ice’ wine was a must, as was the Pinot Noir, a rarity for the area. I began with the Kliprug Chenin Blanc, so named after the ‘rocky bank’ of granite and quartz rocks in the vineyard. The wine has classic lively, aromatic Chenin aromas of warm lemon, honey, granadilla, and pineapple. Less dry than a Sauvignon Blanc, it showed a moderate acidity and decent length. I bought a bottle.
The Rosé, with attractive bottle label, was shiny pale salmon in colour and with limited aromas of wild strawberry and marshmallow candy. It was light on the palate, too light even for a Rosé.
I was hoping the estate Pinot Noir, the second vintage made by Kaapzicht, would be better and an unusual find for a Stellenbosch vineyard. It had a fuller body than most, pale ruby in colour but opaque in appearance. I picked out some cherry and plum aromas in the bouquet and a mustard spiciness beneath. The palate had a moderate grip from the tannins but there was little else going on. I concluded that Stellenbosch was not the area for Pinots Noir.
I much preferred the Vision, named after the Steytler family who have owned the vineyard since 1946. The Cape Blend – aimed as an ideal Cape Blend – showed plumy, fruity Pinotage leanings together with full blackberry and dark plum aromas from its Cabernet Sauvignon understudy. These followed through on the palate that softened and refined for a smooth finish.
Sunell, who would rather have chatted with her friend outside (and did as I tasted the final wine), seemed to know little about the ‘only South African Ice Wine’, as the Tasting Sheet described the Kaapzicht Ice. Was it an Ice Wine? How were the berries frozen to concentrate the juice? Or was it a Straw Wine? If so, how were the berries desiccated outside? On straw? On palettes (as at Vergelegen)? She was confused and simply did not know. Nonetheless, I liked the wine. It was an unusual deep gold to pale brown in colour with aromas of dried fruits, apricot, bitter marmalade and over-ripe raisin. It was light on alcohol on the palate (just 9%) but pleasant, sweet and very drinkable.
I didn’t ask to taste any more wines. I paid for the Chenin Blanc and left. I would liked to have known more about the family run estate (1984 was the first vintage) and its history (the Steytler family has run the 190 hectare farm for 3 generations) and the grapes grown on the 162 hectares under vine of which 70% are red (there’s some interesting ones like Cinsault, Petit Verdot, Hanepoot, Roussanne, Sémillon and Verdelho if you read about Kaapzicht). ‘Kaapzicht’ means ‘Cape view’ too which describes the magnificent vista of Table Mountain and Cape Town that can be seen from the farm. As for the ‘Ice’ wine, apparently some of the grapes are artificially frozen before being pressed, whilst the remainder are from grapes dried on straw.
It wasn’t as if the Kaapzicht Tasting Room was busy and, whilst I understand that not every wine taster wants to hear a long commentary about the estate and its wines, the tasting hosts are there to serve and to have a degree of knowledge about where they are working. The tasting sommeliers are ‘front of the house’ and integral to sales from visitors to the Cellar. It nonetheless never ceases to surprise me of the variation in quality between different wine farms in their Tasting Rooms. Rant over.
Oh and I have yet to find out what grapes the ‘Ice’ wine is made from ……..
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Kliprug Chenin Blanc – R130 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Pinotage Rosé – R60
2016 Pinot Noir – R130
2015 Steytler Vision (50% Pinotage, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot) – R400
2009 Kaapzicht Ice (375 ml) – R180