Peter Falke Didn’t Knock my Socks Off
PETER FALKE WINES
Thursday 14 March 2019
It made sense to pay a tasting visit to Peter Falke Wines as I was in the Annandale Valley for the day. The valley, to the South of Stellenbosch, is part of the ‘golden triangle’ and home to some famous and excellent wine estates: Haskell, Rust en Vrede, Ernie Els, Guardian Peak and Alto to name but a few.
The entrance to Peter Falke was well signposted and I parked above the winery buildings. The route to the Tasting Room was past the Shop and Cellar that showed the last signs of the 2019 harvest. I popped into the ‘Little Store’ shop on my way where I had one of my many ‘light bulb’ moments: Peter Falke socks and Peter Falke Wines are one and the same.
The Manor House with its thatched roof and 18th Cape Dutch gabling looked glorious in the March sunshine. Outside the white painted Cellar and outbuildings was a large grassed area with cream umbrellas for guests. Striking were the giant corkscrews with their red ‘PF’ corks atop at different locations in the gardens.
The contrast in the Tasting Room could not have been greater. Classic, conservative, restrained, heritage turned to contemporary, über modern, bright and brash. The Peter Falke website refers to a ‘contrasting modernity within’ the Tasting Room in the stately old homestead. It could not have been more correct. The stainless steel reception desk looked like a giant kitchen mixing bowl. Modern art in brand coloured red and black (oddly not matched by the website) was displayed beside smoked glass doors leading to the maturation cellar.
On my right was the Tasting Room that was an angular mix of bright white lights, mirrors, black cabinets and furniture, red strip lighting and black bar stools. There were red flowers and red glass water jugs to match. The spittoon – which I did not recognise as I thought it was an ornamental vase until I asked for one – was a piece of art itself in pewter and maroon colours. I wondered whether the interior designer had been on a trip when furnishing the room. Peter Falke meant to make a statement and to differentiate – and he did. The contrast with the Haskell Vineyard Tasting Room, also contemporary, could not have been bigger. This was not a place to relax.
I lowered my bar stool to the correct height for the long table whilst Reuben poured me some water that I had to ask for. He showed me the spittoon too. Peter Falke has 2 ranges of wines – the Signature Range ‘for the connoisseur who appreciates wines with personality’ and the PF Range with wines that have ‘social charm and perfect for any occasion’. I chose a selection of wines from the PF Range (R65 for the tasting) with their distinct coloured labels and large silver ‘PF’ letters.
I wanted to taste the Sauvignon Blanc first but Reuben had other ideas, preferring to give me the Blanc de Noir. This messed up my tasting notes and irritated. A blanc de noir, distinct from a rosé, is a pink wine made from red grapes (a rosé is a pink wine made from red and white grapes). The wine itself, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, was a pleasant blush pink in colour. The nose was simple and sweet, strawberry fruity, with a slightly oily texture on the palate and medium-high acidity.
I rated the Sauvignon Blanc the same. The complexity of tropical guava, melon and litchi fruits was limited, as the flavours on the palate, but there was a decent acidity for a clean mouthfeel. The lightly oaked Chardonnay (12 months in 3rd fill French oak) was also nicely chilled with aromas of vanilla, baked apple, lime and nuts on the nose. The palate showed a creaminess that was not unlike that of the Blanc de Noir but suffered by flavours that fell away in the mouth.
German born Peter Falke has been doing business in South Africa since 1969 and the winery is the realisation of his dreams when he gained ownership of the property in 1995. Six hectares of the 24 hectare estate are under vine. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted (4.5 hectares) with an additional 1.5 hectares of Shiraz. Small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot were planted 3 years ago. I read after that Peter’s wife, Danièle, is a Parisian interior designer of note with an eye for the ‘smallest details’ so perhaps the Tasting Room was one of her projects.
By now Reuben was pouring wine with urgency. I had barely started one glass when the next was poured. The Pinot Noir was better than the white wines but was still low in aroma and flavour intensity and complexity. I detected sour cherry but little else. The wine was simple, clean and low in tannin on the palate. This was indeed an undemanding wine for any occasion.
The Ruby Blend, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in equal amount, was as full bodied as the black label on the bottle. The wine showed a good fruity, spicy intensity but the complexity of the red and dark fruits was limited. It was, however, the best balanced wine of the tasting with smoothness on the palate.
The two last wines were Cabernets Sauvignon from different vintages. The younger, 2016, wine showed an earthy, fruity intensity on the nose with a good depth of flavour on the palate. The tannins were suitably grippy in the mouth without being aggressively so. I preferred the 2015 vintage, a near perfect year for South Africa wines, for its greater, fruitier complexity (cassis, blackcurrant and blackberry). The wine was more rounded on the palate than its younger sibling with a like grip and smoothness.
The tasting was rushed and unnecessarily so for the time of day and number of guests (me only). I felt that Reuben was immune to my needs and poured in robotic fashion whilst giving the minimum of information. I did not feel encouraged to ask for more. The bright lights and surrounding glass and mirrors (making photography near impossible) hardly helped.
I am pleased that I stopped by but I did not buy any wines. They ranged in price from R150 to R200 that, in my opinion, was too high for their quality by at least a third. Peter Falke did not suit my preferred style and there is nothing wrong in that. I am sure that the garden seating below the Manor House is full on a warm summer day. The service experience was poor and that is not down to preferred style. The website invites the guest to ‘enjoy an experience beyond the ordinary, an unforgettable enriching adventure that touches the soul’. I did not feel that my soul was touched. The experience nonetheless was unforgettable, albeit perhaps for the wrong reasons. I certainly would never have known from the tasting about the socks and leg wear if I had not ventured into the shop on my way to the Tasting Room. In sum, Peter Falke did not knock my socks off.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2018 Sauvignon Blanc – R150
2017 Chardonnay – R200
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir – R150
2017 Pinot Noir – R200
2015 Ruby Blend (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah) – R180
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – R180
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – R180 FAVOURITE WINE