BLOEMENDAL WINE ESTATE
Monday 15 July 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 3.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 3.5/5
Bloemendal did not entirely make my arrival easy. The slide across sign at the entrance gate indicated that both the Bon Amis Restaurant and Tasting Room were closed (it being a Monday) whereas the Restaurant only was shut. The security guard at the gate seemed utterly disinterested when I told him, as did Alisha in the Tasting Room. I expected someone to recognise the mistake and take it upon themselves to correct it (or lose Bloemendal potential business) but perhaps I expected too much. I would naturally do otherwise. I found signage for parking for the Tasting Room confusing too and ended up parking in the mountain bike car park. Fortunately, it was but a short walk to the small, tidy Tasting Room with seating outside.
Arrival frustrations aside, Bloemendal is located on the Tygerberg Valley Road just half an hour to the North of Cape Town. The region is home to many wine estates as it twists and gains height. I have been to most: popular Durbanville Hills; Klein Rosboom (closed on Monday or I would have visited today); boutique Hillcrest; trendy Nitida; and old-world Altydgedacht. Bloemendal is one of the oldest and was originally established in 1702 to provide fresh produce for the Dutch East India Company ships that plied their way between Cape Town and India. Today, all the major French cultivars are grown on the 239 hectare farm, together with Sémillon and Pinotage. Sauvignon Blanc is considered a speciality. The majority of the grapes are offered to selected vineyards with the result that only 10% are used for the production of Bloemendal wines. These fall into just 2 ranges: the entry Waterlily Range (R85 to R95) and the premium Estate Range (R150 to R475). The standard tasting (R50) allows a choice of 2 Estate wines and 3 from the Waterlily Range.
Historically, Sémillon was widely grown in South Africa but is now an uncommon cultivar that is grown in little more than 1% of vineyard area. I have tasted the wine at 3 of my last 5 tastings as luck would have it, at La Bourgogne and Haut Espoir in Franschhoek together with, earlier today, at Hillcrest. The Bloemendal Sémillon showed the same lightly oaked lemon citrus character and with none of the rich, beeswax and stone fruit flavours that I expect and have experienced at Steenberg, Vergelegen and Rickety Bridge. The wine, one of 1,000 bottles, was chilled and not at its best but nonetheless it showed fresh, semi-aromatic lemon and shy vanilla aromas of limited complexity. It showed more Sémillon character on the palate with medium body and acidity together with a slight creamy texture.
The Suider Teras or ‘Southern Slope’ is Bloemendal’s iconic and highest priced wine (R475) and first made in 1987. The flagship Sauvignon Blanc deserves its 4½ Star Platter score and reputation. The wine, together with the similarly priced (R430) Houtskool Wooded Sauvignon Blanc from Bartho Eksteen, was one of the best South African Sauvignon Blanc I have tasted and made from 37 year old vines. The shiny pale straw wine had incredible intensity and complexity on the nose due to barrel fermentation (70% in new 500 litre French barrels) and ageing for 6 months in similarly sized barrels. The Sauvignon Blanc showed almost Marlborough, New Zealand style with pungent gooseberry, green pepper, asparagus and lemon notes. The oak treatment gave an unusual wooded character to the wine with an elegant and rounded feel with great intensity of flavour, integrated acidity and distinct length.
One would normally seek to taste low before high quality but my choice of wines meant that I just happened to taste in the opposite order. Thus my last 3 wines were from the lifestyle Waterlily range. The Shiraz Rosé looked the part with its salmon colour and caramel strawberry aromas. I detected little else in flavour and, interestingly, the Tasting Note gives no flavour description either. These sweet aromas led to a dry wine on the palate that was simple and undemanding. Alisha called it ‘a party in a bottle’ as we reminisced about how we started drinking with cheap, sweet wines.
I rated the Pinotage the same. This was another simple wine that hit the right notes but was nothing special. The full bodied, medium ruby to purple wine showed all the classic ripe red to black fruits – plum, cherry, mulberry together with banana – as well as toasty oak flavours that dominated the palate. I wondered if the wine was made using oak staves but read after that the Pinotage was matured for 16 months in 2nd/3rd fill 300 litre French barrels.
I ended my tasting with the Malbec which, like the Sémillon, I had tasted at several other recent tastings. It was the best red wine with sweeter plum, cherry, mulberry, blueberry, violet and vanilla aromas to show good complexity on the nose. The closed tannins balanced fresher forest floor fruits on the palate. I liked the beautiful purple red colour.
Bloemendal was rather like the Curate’s Egg, namely good in parts. Alisha did a fair job to host given that she was untrained and only recently moved into the tasting Room from finance. She certainly has the personality for the role and will improve with knowledge. The wines were variable, ranging mostly from simple and average to the sublime Sauvignon Blanc. This makes awarding the wine score difficult and, given that the Estate Sémillon was modest in quality leads me to round down from 4/5 to 3.5/5 rather than vice versa. That said, I would recommend visiting Bloemendal for the Suider Teras Sauvignon Blanc alone.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2014 Estate Sémillon – R205
2015 Estate Suider Teras Sauvignon Blanc – R475 FAVOURITE WINE
2018 Waterlily Shiraz Rosé – R85
2016 Waterlily Pinotage – R95
2016 Waterlily Malbec – R95