SYLVAN VALE VINEYARDS
Thursday 18 July 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 3.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 3.5/5
My fiancée was attending a lunch time networking session at the Devon Valley Hotel, North West Stellenbosch, and so I thought I would travel with her for some wine tasting. It was a decidedly wet wintry Cape day but that did not detract me. The area was not one I had visited much before, save for Clos Malverne more than 2 years ago, and so I was excited to return. The Devon Valley road, rural in its surroundings, was subject to major road works with a 20 minute ‘Stop/Go’ and so it made sense to head further up the valley. My tasting at JC Le Roux took less time than expected and so I returned to the hotel to sample the Sylvan Vale wines. The 3 wines are made from the 4.3 hectares of Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon vines that surround the 8 hectares Devon Valley Hotel. Though the Hotel dates back to 1947, the South-East facing vineyards with their cooling Atlantic breezes and rich, red soils have been in existence since the 1960s.
The word ‘sylva’ is Latin for things that have an association with wood. It also refers to wooded, rural and pastoral charm. Both meanings are well suited to wine in general and to the Hotel setting and to the wines in particular. Tasting was in the Bar of the Hotel with its comfortable seating and warm log fire to chill the bones on the cold winter’s day. The aptly named Ghost Tree – named after the trees outside the Hotel, all ghostly and bereft of their leaves – was half labelled and served very chilled, is made from an unusual combination of Chenin Blanc and Colombard with a dash of Hanepoort. The unwooded wine was a shiny, clear pale straw in appearance with yeasty fresh apple and honey aromas that strengthened on the palate. Medium acidity and a rounded mouthfeel made for a simple wine.
The Rosé was unusual in not only being a Cape blend but also a blend of red with white grapes. The deep pink colour was equally rare with obvious signs of extended skin contact. As I was tasting, a group besides were meeting to discuss Spiegelau and other wine glass makes and shapes. I mentioned my imminent review of ‘normal’ v Nachtmann v Zalto glasses and joined in their conversation. The Spiegelau representative lent me a glass for the Rosé tasting. It was fascinating how different the nose was. The ISO standard 100 millilitre tasting glass with 30 millilitre pouring was flatter on the nose with strawberry notes compared with the larger, 260 millilitre Spiegelau glass that showed fresher and noticeably more intense aromas. The difference was less on the palate that was dry and with a light finish.
Made from near equal amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the Ghost Tree Three Colour Red just edged out its white cousin as my favourite wine. It was full bodied and shiny in appearance with red and dark berry and other fruits. It was difficult to distinguish the individual fruit flavours but the wine was simple and approachable on the palate, light in style and with modest tannins and finish.
I suspect that much like the boutique guest houses of Le Manoir de Brendel and La Bourgogne in Franschhoek, the Sylvan Vale wines are made for and consumed by the guests of the Devon Valley Hotel and, perhaps, local restaurants. They serve this need well, not only by offering a white, a rosé and a red wine but by offering affordable, easy drinking and undemanding wines. The simple wines are not made to win major awards as they do not need to and that is no criticism. The venue and the tasting were friendly and welcoming so, if ever you are eating (I had a tasty chicken burger after) or meeting at the Devon Valley Hotel, order a glass or two of Sylvan Vale wine to go with.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2018 Ghost Tree Three Colours White (Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Hanepoort) – R65
2016 Cape Blend Rosé (28% Pinotage, 26% Cabernet sauvignon, 17% Shiraz, 12% Chenin Blanc) – R100
2016 Ghost Tree Three Colours Red (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot) – R65 FAVOURITE WINE