Friday 4 May 2018
Landskroon Wines was the very antithesis of the Charles Back-owned duo of Fairview Wines and the Spice Route Winery. Located adjacent to these 2 brand giants, the De Villiers family-owned estate on Paarl Mountain was honest and simple by comparison. The whitewashed gate entrance led up the hill through the vineyards to a series of outbuildings with oak trees providing sparse shade for parking. I met oom-de Villiers on my way to the Tasting Room, passing an interesting collection of Stone Age implements found on the farm. He spoke only in Afrikaans and claimed to be the owner, rather than co-owner and fifth generation winemaker brothers Paul and Hugo de Villiers.
As I entered the simple Tasting Room, complete with family photos and award certificates on the walls that was vaguely reminiscent of Groenland Wynes, I felt at home again. No branding, no fuss, no ‘vinotourism’ – just the wines. There was a sense of peace to the room aided by the classic wine labels from the Landskroon Range and the premium red Paul de Villiers Range. Landskroon is a family farm with a long history, stretching back to 1689 when Huguenot refugee Jacque de Villiers arrived in the Cape. Just 3 years later, the farm was granted to a Swedish immigrant from Landkrona (meaning ‘little bear’) – hence the current name of Landskroon – by Governor Simon van der Stel.
Fast forwards to 1974 through multiple de Villiers generations and the consolidation of different farms, and the first wine, a Cinsault, was made under the Landskroon label. Wines were first exported in 1994 and the cellar expanded and upgraded in 2000. Today, the farm produces mainly red wines (80%) from the 190 hectares (of 300 hectares) under vine. Surprisingly perhaps for a farm with such traditional historic roots, there are some unusual and interesting varieties grown in addition to the noble grape cultivars: Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. I read on my return home that Cape Vintage (Port) is made which explains the latter.
Bevena was my attentive host as I chose which wines to taste. I had to start with a Sauvignon Blanc as today was International Sauvignon Blanc Day. The bright shiny wine was my favourite of the tasting. Made in green grassy style, it showed decent complexity of fresh lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas. The palate was fresh and clean, with high acidity, as any Sauvignon Blanc should be. It was good value for money too (R57).
The barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc (85% in French oak) was more restrained in style, shyly revealing notes of baked apple, ripe melon and sweet lemon on the nose. It was watery and thin on the palate, moderately dry, and needed to be more robust for my taste.
Cinsault was my first red wine and the first to be made at Landskroon. Popular in China, the lightly wooded, light to medium bodied wine showed typical Pinot Noir colours of pale ruby. Complexity of sweet fruited aroma was limited but pleasant – red cherry and wild raspberry, together with light pepper spice – which gave way to light tannins in the mouth.
The Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend – both classic Bordeaux Right Bank varieties – was also light in style. This was my first tasting of either variety of the day and a return to the red fruit flavours and grippy, bitter olive tannins. I preferred the single variety Merlot, matured in oak for 12 months, which showed a better intensity of ripe redcurrant, red cherry, red plum and cedar. The wine was tannin-forwards on the palate and showed medium length.
The Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon, also my first tasting for the day, was a multi-award winner. Full bodied and deep ruby in appearance, aided by 16 months in 85% French new oak, the wine showed greater intensity and complexity than either the blend or the Merlot. The balance on the palate was better too though the tannins were still not yet fully integrated or developed.
The Shiraz, also from the Paul de Villiers range, was good also with a bolder bouquet of spicy red-to-dark berry aromas. The tannins were olive in character but not too aggressive to contribute to a decent finish.
I sampled last the Pinotage Blanc de Noir – literally a white (pink) wine made from red grapes – which I bought a bottle of. Transparent and shiny in appearance, the delicate eye of the partridge colour is from just 2 hours of skin contact. Classic Rosé ripe strawberry and sweeter candy aromas showed on the nose to follow through to a dry, clean wine on the palate.
Landskroon Wines stuck to the basics without the razzmatazz of neighbouring Spice Route and Fairview wine farms. I enjoyed the simple wines that were decently made. Some were lighter in style than I prefer but all were very affordable at R50 to little more than R100. When the big boys next door are busy, the car parks full, and range of activities and attractions overwhelming, give yourself a little peace and visit Landskroon. You will not be disappointed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Sauvignon Blanc – R57 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Paul de Villiers Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc – R111
2017 Pinotage Blanc de Noir – R49*
2015 Cinsault – R49
2016 Cabernet Franc/Merlot (56% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot) – R59
2016 Merlot – R71
2015 Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon – R116
2015 Paul de Villiers Shiraz – R116