Villion was the first wine estate I visited during a tasting day in Bot Rivier. The winemaker is Kobie Viljoen who worked for 20 years at various vineyards before going solo in 2015 with wife Elnette to make Villion wines. The name originates from a family ancestor called Francois Villion. Kobie has used the Barton Cellar since 2017 which explains why the tasting of Villion and Barton wines is collocated at Barton Vineyards, both of which share the same entrance. It makes sense therefore to review the wines together.
The entrance off the R43 just South of Bot Rivier on the N2 was easy to find, leading to the common Tasting Building through an avenue of trees flanked by vineyards. The simple Tasting Room is next to the Cellar and Office. I sat down to taste and tried hard to concentrate with the noise of cellar cleaning drowned out by a very loud radio. Elnette was my tasting host who told me that Villion makes red and white wines in broadly similar amount. The wines have a common, elegant label bearing the family crest in red with bold and italic lettering. The observant will see the change from French to Afrikaans at the bottom of the newer 2018 labels.
I began with a Chenin Blanc that showed a style that was to set the tone for all the Villion wines I tasted. All the wines are oaked – in this case 38% in new barrels – and showed a vibrant and concentrated nose with great intensity. Classic honeyed tropical, guava and vanilla aromas followed through to a smooth, fresh palate with firm acidity and good length. I rated the Chardonnay that was made from Elgin grapes the same. The wine showed even more vanilla on the nose (61% is matured in 42% new oak) that threatened to overpower lemon citrus and green to yellow apple notes with similar excellent intensity to those of the Chenin. The sweetness of the apple flavours emerged on the palate but these were held in check by a balanced acidity that prevented the wine from being flabby.
The Blanc de l’Atlantique white blend, so named due to the proximity of Villion to the ocean, unusually was Viognier-led (68%). The wine showed marginally lower complexity but I could detect white peach and jasmine from the Viognier, together with the honeyed Chenin Blanc and vanilla Chardonnay. The palate had a slight spiciness and Viognier oily texture, again with good intensity and concentration of fruit for a long finish.
The Villion part of the tasting ended with 2 red wines. My favourite wine (Barton wines too) was the Villion Pinot Noir. Matured for 10 months in 2nd fill French oak, the medium ruby, light to medium bodied wine scored well in all areas. The elegant nose was alive with just sweet to slightly sour red cherry and cranberry aromas that combined with those of green herbs, fynbos and white pepper. Concentrated sour fruits were prominent in the mouth which was superbly balanced with a fresh acidity and tight but not too bracing tannins.
The Syrah was another good wine, beefed up by 15% Mourvèdre for smooth texture and matured for 21 months in 30% new/70% 2nd fill barrels. The wine was excellent value for money (R150) with cool climate aromas of violet, mulberry, cassis and clove. The spiciness catches up on the palate that is surprisingly approachable for a 2017 wine, with fruits, tannin and acidity in harmonious balance.
Barton wines come from 30 hectares of vines that are grown on sandy, quartztite soils at 190 metres above sea level on the gentle slopes of the Kogelberg Mountains. Afternoon sea breezes and the southerly aspect of the vines extend ripening time for fruits, acidity, colour and tannins for 9 white and red cultivars. The 200 hectare property was bought by the British Neill family in 2001. Six hectares of Chenin Blanc vine were supplement soon after, in 2003, by plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Barton is also known for olives, lavender and excellent guest accommodation.
I tasted 3 wines. The pale salmon rosé showed more fruit unripe strawberry intensity on the nose than the palate, with slight spiciness and cream fudge sweetness. It was dry and with medium-plus acidity in the mouth. The Barton Rouge, a red blend of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, was excellent value for R70 and especially so being a 2015 wine. The stellar vintage showed by the good intensity of red and dark fruits with characteristic Shiraz spiciness. Merlot contributed smoothness and Cabernet Sauvignon structure on the palate which had good balance and length.
The final wine, also full bodied and of the came vintage, was a Merlot with typical red fruits of redcurrant and mulberry with cedar spice. Bright tannins were drying in the mouth but not too bitter. The Barton wines all showed the blue cane on the simple yet elegant label. Two families of the Blue Crane, a threatened species and also the national bird of South Africa, are found on the farm.
I greatly enjoyed the double-tasting that made an excellent start to the day. Villion and Barton make excellent and elegant wines, marketed at different price points that are of high quality. The Villion style is for wines that are oaked more than most but make up for with superb intensity of fruit flavours and aromas. I liked the simpler Barton wines too and the two brands well complement each other. I highly recommend a tasting of both at the rural Tasting Room that is close to the N2. Oh, and as I left Bot Rivier at the end of the day, I saw an elegant Blue Crane on the road ahead of me and in the sloping pastures beside ….
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Chenin Blanc – R190
2018 Villion Chardonnay – R180
2016 Villion Blanc de l’Atlantique (68% Viognier, 22% Chardonnay, 10% Chenin Blanc) – R170
2018 Barton Pinot Noir Rosé – R70
2016 Villion Pinot Noir – R300 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Villion Syrah – R150
2015 Barton Rouge (Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon) – R70
2015 Barton Merlot – R150