Posh Spice in Franschhoek!
SHIRAZ & CHARCUTERIE FESTIVAL
Saturday 26 May 2018
The Shiraz & Charcuterie Festival was in full swing when I arrived hotfoot from a long morning of Cape Wine Academy Diploma Studies at Morgenhof Estate. It was a push to get to Anthonij Rupert Wyne in Franschhoek from West of Stellenbosch but I had to be quick for afterwards I was heading for the 5.15 pm Stormers v Lions Super Rugby match back in Cape Town. Such is the life of a wine student with a passion too for sport!
I hadn’t been to the Festival before and so made the sacrifice of a restful afternoon after my studies. Single variety festivals are fun though and give the chance to taste a cultivar in more depth than usual. I had recently been to the Pinotage & Biltong Festival and to the Cabernet Franc Carnival but not for Shiraz. The Festival had started at 11am and due to end at 4pm so I had a couple of hours to enjoy the time I had. Tickets cost R280 that included the obligatory branded tasting glass (larger than the usual pattern), tastings of wines from the 19 participating estates, and sample charcuterie tastings.
I had visited Anthonij Rupert Wyne in mid-January for an excellent Estate Package tour that included a visit to the Franschhoek Motor Museum, tram tour, lunch and tasting at the Terro del Capo Tasting Room. I thus knew there were 2 entrances and 2 tasting rooms at the estate. My ticket didn’t say which entrance to use so I took a chance and passed the Motor Museum/L’Ormarins entrance and headed a few kilometres further East on the R45 towards Franschhoek. My risk, though time was short, proved correct. Parking was ample and easy too. It was just a short walk from the large stretch tent in front of the Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room.
In the shade beneath were half a dozen charcuterie producers selling their meats, breads and olives, a coffee roaster offering cappuccinos and more, bottled water for sale, together with a selection of platters and snacks from Anthonij Rupert. There were Shiraz/Syrah wines from Anthonij Rupert Wyne, Bon Courage, Boschkloof, Eagles Nest, Ernie Els, Hartenberg, Holden Manz, Keermont, La Bri, La Motte, Mullineux & Leeu, Rickety Bridge, Saxenburg, Stark-Condé, Tamboerskloof/Kleinood, Terracura, Cirrus, Thelema and Waterford. I had tasted wines from about 2/3 of the estates before and visited nearly half and so I focused on sampling Shiraz from the vineyards I did not know.
There seemed no order to the layout, which mattered not as there was plenty of space for the 500 or more people attending to mingle and enjoy the wines. Terracura is a new estate with their Syrah made from 6 Swartland vineyards of different soils. The wine was fruity more than spicy and light in style. I liked it. I liked too the Mullineux & Leeu wine, made also from several vineyards with varying schist and granite soils in the Swartland, Perdeberg, Riebeek-Kasteel and Malmesbury. It showed a great intensity of red and dark fruits on the nose. Pepper spiciness emerged on the palate which had a good finish.
I preferred the Keermont Syrah over the one from Tamboerskloof/Kleinood, neither of which I had tasted before. It had a good concentration of red to dark peppery fruits, was light in style and not overly wooded. The Tamboerskloof wine, in contrast, was punchy on the palate due to maturation in oak wood. The Syrah was big all round with forward ripe fruit flavours and 17% alcohol.
Another big wine was the Holden Manz Syrah. It was big on price too, being the 3rd most expensive at the Festival, at R600 per bottle. The Syrah was intense on the nose with spicy, spicy black fruits together with a bold smooth palate with a bitter finish. I preferred the Hartenberg Estate Shiraz at 1/3 the price, which shows the benefit of being able to taste and compare a range of wines at a Festival. Quality may show a positive correlation with price, one would hope so, but as they say ‘there’s no accounting for taste’ and personal preference is very much an important consideration. The Hartenberg wine showed a better poise and balance between pepper spice and red to dark fruit berry aromas, with good intensity, as well as on the palate as tight tannins balanced the flavours and alcohol. This is a wine that will age well.
I bought a tasty charcuterie platter from Bread & Wine to ease my hunger. It was excellent value at just R150 and well presented with a combination of salami, garlic sausage, Parma-style ham, chorizo and bresaola. The meat was very filling and as much as I could eat alone. The chorizo, in particular, was heavily spiced – too much so as it took a while for my palate to recover to be able to enjoy the subtleties of the wines after. Other producers who offered their range of cold meats included Begk’s Smoked Food, Joostenburg, Richard Bosman and Wild Peacock.
The Cirrus Syrah was also well balanced with stalky tannins matching spiciness of flavour that followed through well from the red and darker berry and currant fruits on the nose. The wine is made at the Guardian Peak vineyard in Stellenbosch, blended with a dash of Viognier (3%) and matured for 18 months in 30% new French barrels. This helped it to retain a freshness and cleanliness that I liked.
Franschhoek boutique winery La Bri offered a similar Syrah – 24 months rather than 18 months oak maturation – also with added Viognier (5%). The medium-full bodied wine was more restrained that the Cirrus sister, with softer flavours on a rounded palate. It was also great value too for the quality, at R150 per bottle. If you prefer an earthy style, then the Ernie Els Proprietor’s Syrah would have been to your liking. Dry and savoury, the bright fresh aromas offset well darker spicy fruits.
I sampled 2 vintages of Waterford Shiraz, from the Kevin Arnold Range. The 2013 wine offered warm fruits on the nose that eased on the palate as spicy flavours increased to join grippy young tannins. The 2010 vintage was not for sale but I enjoyed a taste of it, being offered ‘to demonstrate ageing potential’. It was one of my favourite wines. Rich dark and red berry fruits had a good intensity of aroma. The Shiraz improved further on the palate, with a powerful and potent intensity and more rounded, softer tannin structure. It would not surprise to be even better in another 5 years.
I could easily have spent longer at the Festival and would otherwise have done but for commitments before and after. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of sampling the many Shiraz and Syrah and in their different styles and characters. It is hard to pick a favourite but the Hartenberg Estate Shiraz showed class and value for money at R190 per bottle. Many of the wines were priced at or around R200-R230 and with a broad range (R60 for the Anthonij Rupert Wyne Protea Rosé to R1100 for the Hartenberg flagship Gravel Hill Shiraz. The wines were thus higher priced than at other single variety or regional Festivals I have been to. This didn’t surprise for 2 reasons. First, Franschhoek attracts a price premium of its own. Second, the quality of the wines and reputation of the estates was notably high. The wines were all well made with very few that were over-oaked or unbalanced.
A small suggestion for the future is to ensure that the different stands have sufficient spittoons and water for rinsing glasses. Water was for sale (R15) but I would have liked to have been able to clean my glass between tastings. This is a common experience at wine festivals and easy to correct for the future. It is but a small observation and certainly did not mar my overall enjoyment. I left with a delicious cup of cappuccino from Terbodore roasters and a smile on my face. If you did not go this year, and of like Shiraz and Syrah – charcuterie too – then I well recommend you attend next year. Spice up your life …
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Terracura Syrah – R350
2015 Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Syrah – R330
2014 Keermont Syrah – R200
2014 Tamboerskloof Syrah – R200
2015 Ernie Els Proprietor’s Syrah – R255
2013 Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz – R225
2010 Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz – not for sale
2014 Holden Manz Syrah – R600
2015 Hartenberg Estate Shiraz – R190 FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Cirrus Syrah – R250
2015 La Bri Syrah – R150