I Needed to be Guided by the Angel Gabriel
GABRIËLSKLOOF WINE ESTATE
Friday 29 April 2019
Let us get this out of the way now but I was not on a good mood when I arrived at Gabriëlskloof. I had taken well over an hour to get here from Villion and Barton vineyards, a distance of barely 10 kilometres. My mobile had no signal for satnav or routing and there is only one way over the N2 in Bot Rivier between the two estates. I had been up and over the Houw Hoek Pass twice. It did not help that there was a broken down truck right in the middle of the road at the requisite turning point to distract me. I left Villion and Barton ahead of my planned time and arrived at Gabriëlskloof behind schedule. Rant over!
I first tasted Gabriëlskloof wines nearly 2 years ago at a Monday evening tasting at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town. I vowed then to taste at the estate though did not expect it to take me so long to do so. Interestingly, looking back at the wines I sampled in May 2017, there was not one that I tasted today. The reason for this was because wines from the Estate and Reserve Range (R60 for 6 wines) were brought to the Vineyard Hotel and I sampled from the flagship Landscape Series (R150 for 6 wines) today. Marianna was my calming, patient and attentive host in the large, comfortable Tasting Room.
The 2 white wines I tasted were priced the same and similarly made, being barrel fermented and matured for 6 months in old, large (400/500 litre) French oak barrels. The Magdalena Sauvignon Blanc-led Bordeaux-style white blend, from 36-year old Franschhoek bush vines, offered lime citrus and green pepper herbaceous aromas on the nose. Sauvignon Blanc acidity and minerality was offset by smoother and honeyed Sémillon to make an interesting palate.
I preferred the single variety Chenin Blanc due to its excellent palate and long, leesy finish. The pale straw wine showed similar white honey notes together with those of tropical fruit salad, mango and slight white blossom on the nose. The wine showed great intensity and smooth texture on the palate.
Gabriëlskloof is a few kilometres east of the village of Bot Rivier and just south of where the N2 and R43 follow each other. The estate buildings sit on top of a low hill and are easily visible from the approach road. The setting reminded me of Tuscany except for the smaller hill and lack of tall cypress trees. It is a relatively new estate, as many in Bot Rivier, having been bought by South African Bernhard Heyns in 2001 as land to ‘root him to the spot’. It was canola and wheat land at the time but is now planted with 66 hectares of red and white Bordeaux and Rhône cultivar vines. Gabriëlskloof seeks to make wines with the minimum of intervention, distinct and of high quality that reflect the soils and terroir.
Marianna, sensing that I did not have time to eat any of the hearty food in the Restaurant, brought me a welcome taster of bread and olive oil, the latter from 5 varieties grown, extracted, blended and bottled on the farm. Cabernet Franc from the second vintage made on the estate was my first red wine. It was my favourite wine of the tasting due to its superb elegant yet powerful palate with near perfect balance between red cherry and redcurrant fruits, light tannin touch (18 months in large old barrels) and fresh acidity. The wine showed just enough restraint on the nose to interest with natural fynbos and herbs giving green aromas to match the red fruits.
The last wines were poured together in large open glasses to maximise their aromas. The 2 Syrah were identical in viticulture and winemaking (light extraction, minimal pumpover, 18 months maturation in 30% new French oak) but come from grapes on different soil types: shale, near to the Tasting Room, and Table Mountain sandstone on the far hill visible from the Tasting Room. It is always a treat to taste wines from different soils. I recall doing so with Chardonnay at De Wetshof and, more recently, tasting Syrah from different blocks at Haskell. The soil rocks beside the glasses was a nice touch.
The wines were different in colour – the shale wine slightly redder and the sandstone Syrah a little more purple – and had recognisably different aromas and flavours. The Syrah on Shale was fruitier with sweet/sour cherry, cranberry and oregano aromas on the nose and clean, tight, weightier, structured tannins on the excellent palate. In contrast, the Syrah on Sandstone showed an earthier character of slightly smoky sour cherry notes that opened out with greater intensity in the mouth with a sweetness that led to a spicier finish.
I am pleased to report that I left Gabriëlskloof in much better mood than when I arrived. The scattered clouds had gone and the views from the courtyard arranged buildings over the surrounding hills were magnificent. I departed clutching my 2 bottles of Syrah ready and waiting for the right chance to enjoy them with my wine lover friends.
Wines tasted (bought*):
2016 Magdalena (69% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Sémillon) – R290
2017 Elodie Chenin Blanc – R290
2016 Cabernet Franc – R375 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Syrah on Shale – R375*
2016 Syrah on Sandstone – R375*