Superb Whites in the Near Dark at Mont Blois
MONT BLOIS WYNLANDGOED CELLAR
Friday 1 June 2018
Mont Blois hardly seems a likely name for a Robertson wine farm. Franschhoek yes, with inter alia Allée Bleue, Grande Provence, Le Manoir de Brendel and Plaisir de Merle, but Robertson? There are the likes of Langverwacht, Rietvallei, Rooiberg, Van Zylshof and Zandvliet but also Bon Courage and Paul René so perhaps the name should not surprise. Nonetheless, I was intrigued. It was the second day of my second Wacky Wine Weekend and I had tasted at 4 wineries already. It was late in the afternoon too and close to 5.00 pm. The Festival is usually pretty strict about a 5.00pm daily cut off but I thought I would push my luck and phoned Nina to ask if I could come to taste and she agreed. I expect few venture deep into the Klaasvoogds West area to the North of Robertson, nestled beneath the Langeberg Mountains at any time of day. I had read good things about Mont Blois and wanted to explore.
It was twilight when I arrived at the top of a steep narrow lane having passed a large winery complex, built in 1884, on the way to Mont Blois. I parked beside a magnificent Cape Dutch farmhouse to be met by Nina. Husband Ernst Bruwer is the 6th generation owner of the farm that was first bought in 1869. Nina explained how the 297 hectare wine farm was previously a grower of Muscadel. Winemaking stopped in 1991 and the some 4,500 tonnes of grapes were sold in bulk to some of the biggest and most well known labels, including the makers of MCC and sparkling wines. As we sat on the stoep in fading light that made taking photographs difficult, Nina told how winemaking re-started in 2016 – 2 years after she qualified as a Cape Wine Master – and Muscadel was re-launched.
The farm grows white cultivars, notably Colombard, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Muscadel. The wines I tasted were all from the début 2016 vintage made in small amounts from single blocks of vines. Nina poured the first 2 wines, Chardonnay from different soils, together so I could compare. The first, the Kweekkamp was from crumbly chalky limestone soils. Just 5 barrels are made and the pale gold wine showed delicious baked apple and lemon aromas on the nose. It was elegant on the palate, showing great complexity of citrus flavour and a creamy texture, with excellent balance and length.
The Hoog & Laarg Chardonnay, of which 4 barrels were made, was barrel fermented with 11 months spent on the lees before bottling. This gave the wine a slightly deeper gold colour. The grapes were grown on red clay soils to give bolder apple notes, less citrus, and a fuller nuttier mouthfeel. This wine too was very well made with similar very good balance, complexity and length.
Conversation was flowing easily. Not only was Nina an excellent host but I was eager, having just completed my Cape Wine Academy 2nd Diploma Module and with aspirations to become a Cape Wine Master, to learn all I could. The shiny pale Chenin Blanc from 30 year old vines showed excellent complexity of fresh lemon, honey, vanilla and butterscotch aromas, with slight hint of clove spice, and luscious flavour. This was another clean, balanced and rounded wine with a good finish.
I was getting chilly on the stoep as it was almost dark. The final 2 wines warmed me with their 16% alcohol, the grape juice fortified with wine spirit without fermentation. As with the Chardonnay, Nina gave me the chance to compare and contrast the 2 Muscadel together. The Pomphuis came from a dryer location than the Harpie, in damper vineyards that are prone to botrytis. Both were superb – smooth, refined, elegant, and long-lasting – and I rated them the same. The Pomphuis was a deep straw colour with a crème brûlée, brunt caramel and peach nose that led to apricot, sweet marmalade and tangerine flavours on the palate. The Harpie just shaded it as my favourite of the 2 wines with a litchi, honey, spicy floral complexity on the nose with nuttier, slightly perfumed dried apricot and rum flavours in the mouth.
I could easily have stayed for longer as Nina fascinated by her knowledge and the ability to impart it simply together with the jars of soils to explain. The wines, admittedly pricy for the Robertson Valley, were of obvious quality and refinement. Darkness upon me, I needed to return to McGregor for my evening meal. Mont Blois made an excellent end to the 2nd day of my 2nd Wacky Wine Weekend. Next time, I shall make an earlier appointment to saviour the excellent wines with the classic gold and lettered labels for longer. Oh, and by the way, Mont Blois does not stem from the woods surrounding the farm house and mountain views but from the town of Blois in the Loire Valley, France, from where the Bruwer family originated.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Kweekkamp Chardonnay – R295
2016 Hoog & Laarg Chardonnay – R295 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Groot Steen Chenin Blanc – R295
2016 Pomphuis Muscadel – R250
2016 Harpie Muscadel – R250*