SAME ESTATE, SAME CULTIVAR, SAME VINE-GROWING, SAME WINEMAKING, SAME VINTAGE – DIFFERENT SOILS
Thursday 25 May 2020
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wine: 4.5/5
A month ago, I ‘Tasted Live’ two Sauvignons Blanc from Lomond estate. The wines were identical except that one was made with grapes from clay and the other from sandy loam. It made for a fascinating tasting and to explore whether theory matched practice (read more here) and one worth repeating. The opportunity arose with two Chardonnay from De Wetshof. Both wines were 4* Platter’s rated, of the same vintage (2019), made with grapes of similar age, contained 13.5% alcohol and vinified in the same way: de-stemmed grapes, fermented in stainless steel tanks, unwooded and matured on the lees for 6 months before bottling.
De Wetshof lies in the Robertson Valley. It is the oldest estate in the Valley. Danie De Westhof pioneered the growing of noble grape varieties in 1972, first Chardonnay and then Sauvignon Blanc. Three generations of winemakers later and with 180 hectares under vine, De Wetshof produces mostly white wine (90%). The estate has a range of rocky slate and clay soils with limestone outcrops.
Each soil type brings a different character to a wine. Limestone contains beneficial nutrients to produce better and sweeter grapes. It remains moist in dry weather and has good drainage. It can lead to iron deficiency which is overcome by frequent fertiliser application. The alkalinity in the soil promotes acidity to make zesty wines. Clay retains even more moisture than limestone which it releases throughout the dry summer months. The extra moisture brings a cool soil to slow ripening. The resultant wines are rounder, bolder, more generous and with more structure and colour from deeper extraction. Slate is metamorphosed clay that has been compressed under heat and pressure. It is low in organic matter so does not retain water. Therefore, slate soils warm quickly and retain heat. Broken rocks on the surface shade the roots from the sun and reflect the heat onto the vines, which make them good in cool climate regions. The resultant wines contain higher levels of alcohol, leaner and more mineral in character.
The popular Limestone Hill Chardonnay is made with grapes that are grown close to the River Breede. This has heavy clay soils that are rich in limestone. The Bon Vallon wine comes from vineyards in Bonnievale (hence the name) that contain broken rock with slate. The expectation therefore is that the Limestone Hill wine will show more structure and fullness, with deeper colour and more tropical fruits than the Bob Vallon Chardonnay. The latter ought to show a more steely and mineral character. The Tasting Notes describe aromas/flavours of ‘grapefruit and nuts’ and ‘citrus, wildflowers and grilled nuts, with a nuanced minerality on the aftertaste’ for the Limestone Hill and Bon Vallon wine, respectively.
The proof of the wine is in the drinking, so to speak, and so I poured equal amounts of each into a bowl-shaped wine glass, ideal for Chardonnay. With both wines being unoaked and with the same winemaking, there was predictably little colour difference. I tested the Nose on both wines first without swirling as this can help to detect minor variation. The Limestone Hill (clay) showed slightly more intensity of aroma than the Bon Vallon (slate). With swirling, the Limestone Hill revealed aromas of baked Granny Smith apple, melon, kiwi fruit and green pineapple. This compared with the Bon Vallon that was more citrus in character, showing less tropical fruit notes and more lemon and lime citrus.
The Chardonnay were beautifully balanced on the palate – between fresh fruits, well-integrated acidity, and the medium alcohol – to make two excellent wines. There was a distinct difference on the Palate between them. The warmer tropical fruits of the clay-based Limestone Hill followed through on the Palate that was fuller, weightier and with more structure in the mouth. In contrast, the Bon Vallon showed a livelier and fresher character with a cleaner mouthfeel and more mineral character due to the rocky slate soils.
The tasting fascinated as expected. It was intriguing that the practice of tasting matched the theory as forecast. Whilst the clay soils were cooler than those of the rocky slate, this had the effect of slowing down ripening to allow a fuller structured and rounder wine with more sugar development and hence a warmer fruit profile. The tasting proved, if proof ever needed, the extent to which fine wines are made in the vineyard, together with the vital importance of terroir.
2019 De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay – R102
2019 De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay – R142
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wine: 4.5/5
A few weeks ago, during another ‘Taste Live with Dr Peter’ 6pm daily tasting, I experimented with glasses of different sizes with a red wine, a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch Reserve. The tasting experience fascinated with a mix of outcomes, some predictable and others less so. It was always my intention to repeat the tasting with a white wine. The recently released 2019 Oldenburg Chenin Blanc – of similar price and quality – offered the ideal opportunity. The variety is one of the more aromatic common cultivars and perfect to expose any differences between the glasses. The grapes are hand-harvested, de-stemmed and then barrel-fermented using natural yeast in 20% new/80% old French oak, with 10 months of maturation with weekly barrel-turning to stir the lees.
Read the previous article for more background about the wine glasses we own and use. The aim of the tasting was the same. Does glass size and shape really make a difference to the drinking experience, as the glossy marketing material from the single-varietal glass companies will have us believe? The only was to discover, of course, was to put it to the test. Thus, I picked out 3 quite different glasses to compare. There was the utility, durable ISO 21.5cl glass that is used in most tasting rooms and wine courses, retailing at R25 each but far cheaper when bought in bulk. Second, was my trusty Riedel Vinum glass. It is recommended for Cabernet/Merlot, but it is very much a universal size and shape. I am familiar with it as it is the glass, I use for my WSET Level 4 Diploma tasting and a big step up from the ISO glass in quality and price (R400). The final glass was the featherlight White Wine glass from high-end Zalto with an exalted price of R670 to match.
Riedel and Zalto are both Austrian companies. Riedel dates back 11 generations to 1678 and steeped in the history of Bohemian crystal glass. Fast forward to 1973 and it was the first company to make machine-made varietal glasses. The glass promised to ‘emphasize the fruit …. to allow the bouquet to develop’. Zalto has roots in Murano, Venice dating back to the Middle Ages, but it was not until 2006 that the current mouth-blown, seamless glass collection hit the headlines. The shape is said to be inspired by the tilt angles of the earth. Like Riedel, the marketing copyrighters have been busy to claim that the glasses are ‘nearly too delicate to hold’. Surprisingly, there was no mention of Chenin Blanc in the single variety copy (nor for Riedel) but the universal White Wine glass suited as being ‘especially suited to fruit forward white wines’.
I poured the Chenin Blanc into each glass at the same level and at the ideal serving temperature. There were no differences in Appearance as one might expect the wine being pale lemon in colour. As with the similar red wine experiment, I assessed the nose from each glass without swirling to start, as this might best emphasize the differences between them, before swirling. The ISO glass showed simple lemon and lime citrus aromas that, even with swirling, showed limited intensity. The Riedel offered a greater steely minerality on the Nose – typical for this lean style Chenin Blanc – with similar lemon and lime but with delicate white spice and kiwi notes. Surprisingly, the glass brought out subtle vanilla aromas from the barrel-fermentation. Last, the Zalto glass showed the greatest intensity of aroma – more open – with a riper lemon and mineral character that was backed up by a gentle florality of white blossom.
The Chenin Blanc was bone dry on the palate. Like the Nose, the Palate with the ISO tasting glass was simple and one-dimensional, with the wine barely filling the mouth and showing modest length. The aroma profile followed through to the Palate for the Riedel with flavours of lemon, lime citrus, green melon, and kiwi. The big difference was how the broader glass rim led to a fuller mouthfeel with more pronounced alcohol, texture, and length. Further, the glass emphasized the bright, zesty acidity of the Chenin Blanc for a fresher experience. The Zalto glass on the other hand made for a subtler and softer feel to the wine to show off the lean mineral character with a more rounded elegance and finesse.
In drawing together the conclusions, I am mindful of the results from the comparison of the different glasses for the red wine as there are similarities. The ISO tasting glass offered a limited tasting experience, in terms of both aroma and flavours on the palate. The glass did not do justice to the wine and that is a sobering thought (pun intended) for the many Tasting Rooms that use this size and shape of glass as their standard. The Riedel and Zalto were closer in how they presented the wine than to the ISO glass. The Riedel better brought out the aromas and flavours in both intensity and complexity. Interestingly, and I am unsure why, I detected enhanced vanilla notes on the Nose for the Chenin Blanc and for the Cabernet Sauvignon during the red wine comparison tasting. The Zalto, meanwhile, displayed softer aromas and flavours of lesser intensity than the Riedel but with more refinement.
It certainly does seem therefore that bigger is better – and that size does matter 😊
2019 Oldenburg Chenin Blanc – R150
Friday 28 February 2020
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 4.5/5
My (new) wife told me after breakfast that she had a lunchtime business networking meeting at Perdeberg Winery. “Do I want to come with? You could do some wine-tasting”, she said. I did not need a lot of persuasion. I had been to Perdeberg before, nearly 2 years ago, for the annual Pinotage and Biltong Festival which returns for its 6th edition on 18-19 April. I had not tasted the Perdeberg wines, so this was too good an opportunity to miss.
Perdeberg lies some 10 kilometres to the North West of Paarl amid dry rolling wheat land. I well remember the large cellar building that is a legacy of the former co-operative winery. It was built in 1942 by Jan Roussow so that the local wine growers could gain best prices for their high-quality grapes. It is this kind of innovation that has become a tradition at Perdeberg. It was the second cellar in South Africa to introduce cold fermentation in 1956, the first winery in the region to employ from 2010 a full-time viticulturalist and, recently, to use aerial infra-red photography for the extensive vineyards.
The sun shone brightly as I sought a shady space to park. Inside, the Tasting Room offered a relaxed environment. There were relatively few guests for a Friday lunchtime but, I suspect, most were enjoying the new East@Perdeberg Restaurant upstairs. Des was my attentive and efficient host. The room was simple rather than opulent, functional rather than expansive and with wine and associated product displays on surrounding shelving against bare brick walls. The tasteful decoration in black, white and red perfectly matched the Perdeberg ethos of doing simple things well. The tasting offer was 5 wines for R50 from a selection of almost 30 wines. These were divided into 3 main collections (the iconic Speciality Range (2 wines) and the easy-drinking fruit-driven Soft Smooth Range (3 wines) were not available for tasting): the Dryland Collection, from selected grapes of dryland vineyards that showcase their terroir and made in the New World style; the single variety Vineyard Collection made from specific vineyards chosen for their combination of cultivar and terroir; and the Classic Collection of elegant fruity wines that can be drunk with or without food.
Choosing just 5 wines was a challenge and especially so when the choice included less common varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Cinsault and Malbec. Fortunately for me and knowing my interest in wine, Des was generous in allowing me to taste a wide selection. I began with a side-by-side comparison of bush vine Chenins Blanc from the Dryland Collection. Both the wines were a shiny pale lemon in colour with distinctive Chenin Blanc aromas of ripe lemon and lime citrus, tropical mango and pineapple, with an undertone of fresh herbs. The unwooded ‘Braveheart’ was crisp on the palate and fresh despite its 2015 vintage with medium+ acidity and a rounded feel at the average finish. I just preferred the 9-month French oak, barrel-fermented ‘Courageous’ that cost just R10 more. The nose was fuller and more concentrated to show a more honeyed, sweeter character together with nectarine stone fruits. The intensity of aroma followed through to the palate that was predictable more rounded, softer and with better integrated acidity. The 2 wines made an excellent start to the tasting and of excellent value for money (R100 and R110 only).
I opted for the Vineyard Collection Sauvignon Blanc next, but Des was keen for me to taste and compare with the ‘Expression’ sibling from the Dryland Collection. Their appearance was comparable, with the ‘Expression’ being a slightly deeper pale lemon in colour. The Vineyard wine was made in green style and dominated on the nose by bell pepper and grassy, herbaceous notes that developed in the glass to include lime and tropical fruits. The bright acidity on the palate led to a slight bitter finish but this was nonetheless a decent example of a warm region Sauvignon Blanc, again great value for money (R70). I much preferred the ‘Expression’ wine from the Dryland Collection. Sporting a cork rather than screwcap closure, the Sauvignon Blanc unusually was matured for 18 months in old French oak barrels with lees contact. This was very different wine albeit with the same herbaceous and green pepper aromas. These were toned down and layered with notes of sweet lemon, gooseberry, tropical fruits and vanilla. The texture was more rounded and the balance better with an integrated acidity and well worth the extra R30.
The last 2 white wines I tasted were a Grenache Blanc and a white blend called Roussow’s Heritage. Grown in just 0.14% of South Africa’s vineyards, the rare Grenache Blanc is commonly found in Rhône white blends. It is suited to dry conditions and I expect to see more wines in the future (Anysbos, for example, in Bot Rivier has recently planted). The wine, now in its second year of production, showed a medium+ fruity intensity of fresh stone fruits of peach, nectarine and lemon citrus. I detected slight notes of vanilla and white pepper to suggest a modest use of oak in maturation. Surprisingly, the intensity on the nose weakened on the palate. The acidity was firm with just the edge of sharpness rounded off (also suggesting some use of oak) to make for a clean mouthfeel. The wine makes a pleasant alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and was again excellent value at R75, when premium pricing for a rare cultivar might be expected.
The Roussow’s Heritage of the same 2019 vintage was a Chenin Blanc-led blend (59%). Des did not know the percentages of the 5 cultivars of this Southern Rhône-style white blend, but the website does not show it either. This was my favourite wine with an inviting, medium+ intensity nose that combined the honeyed tropical fruits from the Chenin Blanc and the herbaceous grassy aromas of Sauvignon Blanc together with delicate white stone fruits and blossom. The flavour intensity held up much better on the palate than for the Grenache Blanc with an elegant, rounded texture and a decent finish.
Perdeberg lies between Durbanville and Malmesbury in the Agter Paarl region. The extensive vineyards total a sizeable 2,564 hectares out of the 6,000-hectare owned property, a reflection of the former co-operative winery era. The vineyards, on varied soils, are largely un-irrigated to give concentrated fruits that benefit from cooling sea breezes during ripening. Most of the wine that is produced is red (60%) made from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsault, Pinotage and Shiraz grown in the Perdeberg vineyards. White cultivars include Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc and hence most wines are Wine of Origin Paarl, with some Wine of Origin Coastal Region among the red wines.
Lesser known Cinsault and Malbec were the first red wines I tasted. The 2 wines were from the Vineyard Collection, of 2018 vintage. 14% alcohol and priced a very affordable R85. The pale ruby Cinsault was a more representative example of the variety than the Waverley Hills wine I recently tasted. The wine showed classic red strawberry and raspberry fruits of bold intensity in the glass with a beautiful balancing violet floral character so typical of the cultivar. The fruitiness weakened a little in the mouth but were finely balanced by a fresh acidity and light tannins to give a youthful but not overworked wine. The Malbec was also youthful but typical of the grape with a deep ruby-purple colour with delicious, luscious red and dark fruity aromas of red and dark berries, cherry and plum. Dry oaky tannins emerged on the palate to give structure to balance the ripe fruits. The Malbec is a great food wine and improve with age as the tannins soften and integrate.
Des was not letting me taste single wines and so I sampled Pinotage and Shiraz from both the Vineyard and Dryland collections side by side. I rated the Dryland ‘Resolve’ Pinotage higher than the Vineyard wine. The 2 wines showed characteristic plush ripe, more dark than red fruits of cherry, plum, mulberry, prune and estery banana on the nose. Whilst the Vineyard Pinotage was lighter on the palate than I expected, the Dryland ‘Resolve’ showed added pepper spice for a more concentrated nose. This intensity carried through to the full-bodied palate with tight tannins that showed its youth (2017 vintage).
I ended the tasting – I could have sampled the Cabernets Sauvignon, Joseph’s Legacy red blend and Longevity Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc and more – with Shiraz, again from 2 collections. I scored both the same although they were different in style. Classic spicy, dark fruits of cassis, cherries, mulberry and blackberry notes hid underlying aromas of black pepper and liquorice on the nose. The Vineyard wine was fresh fruity, with a soft candy/ester Pinotage tinge, and of more delicate style hence, I imagine, the Rhône-shaped bottle. By contrast, the ‘Tenacious’ from the Dryland Collection showed greater focus and concentration of ripe fruits so typical of the outstanding 2015 vintage. The Bordeaux bottle nodded to a bigger style of wine with riper, fuller tannins that will soften with age.
Perdeberg offered an excellent range of, mostly, single variety wines and so much more than the Chenins Blanc for which the winery is known. I could have tasted or bought sparkling MCC Chenin Blanc and Rosé, Cinsault Rosé, Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blanc de noir, dessert Chenin Blanc and more. I was especially impressed by the rare cultivar wines in the collections together with the same variety made in different unwooded and wooded styles. I liked the distinctive shield-shaped label on the Vineyard Collection labels that gave a modern yet classic feel. So too did Merlot the mascot zebra, complete with own blog (!)(albeit the website link did not load), that gives a nod both to the historic wild zebra and quagga that once roamed the Paardeberg mountains and roamed the early vineyards and also to current conservation measures to preserve endangered fauna and flora. Perdeberg has clearly come a long way from its historic co-operative beginnings to produce some excellent, well-made wines. These were served at the right temperature (not always guaranteed, even at the most prestigious wine estates) and with minimum fuss. The wines offer superb value for money and I highly recommend a visit for tasting and to buy wine. Perdeberg has indeed ‘earned its stripes’!
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Dryland Collection ‘Braveheart’ Chenin Blanc – R100
2018 Dryland Collection ‘Courageous’ Chenin Blanc – R110
2019 Vineyard Collection Sauvignon Blanc – R70
2016 Dryland Collection ‘Expression’ Sauvignon Blanc – R100*
2019 Vineyard Collection Grenache Blanc – R75*
2019 Dryland Collection Roussow’s Heritage (Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc) – R130* FAVOURITE WINE
2018 Vineyard Collection Cinsault – R85*
2018 Vineyard Collection Malbec – R85*
2018 Vineyard Collection Pinotage – R80
2017 Dryland Collection ‘Resolve’ Pinotage R120
2018 Vineyard Collection Shiraz – R80
2015 Dryland Collection ‘Tenacious’ Shiraz – R120
HARTENBERG WINE ESTATE
Saturday 29 June 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 4.5/5
I have greatly enjoyed Hartenberg wines at successive Stellenbosch Wine Festivals, the Shiraz & Charcuterie Festival and at a Steele Wines Trade Show but I have never visited the estate itself for tasting. It has been a wait of 2 years so I was pleased again to be in the Bottleray Road area, North-West of Stellenbosch. My plan was to visit Hazendal and Fort Simon before going to Hartenberg for lunch and wine tasting. At last!
I nearly missed the entrance in my excitement before heading up the paved road through winter vines with detailed signs for each block. A low stone wall gave clue to the free draining soils on the North, West and East facing slopes of the Bottleray Hills that bring either morning or afternoon sun to the varietals. I parked above the Tasting, Restaurant and Cellar historic buildings with their quintessential white washed walls and heritage green painted windows.
The walk to the Tasting Room is past a slave bell and down a flight of steps. Slave bells remain on many of the Cape’s wine estates and, as I paused to look, I was unsure of the ‘monument’. Slave bells were brought from Europe to regulate and control the routine of slaves for 180 years until slavery was abolished in the Cape 180 years ago. There is a fine balance between retaining the history of a nation and modern day diversity, inclusiveness and sensitivity. Witness, for example, the name changes of countries, regions and streets; removal of the Cecil Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town following pressure from the #rhodesmustfall campaign born out of the 2015 #feesmustfall movement; or even last week’s decision by Nike to withdraw the special 4th July edition of the Max 1 trainer that featured the Betsy Ross flag. The two needs do not always sit together in balance -especially when symbols can be hijacked by others for other needs long after their original purpose – and so I make a mental note to return to the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum in Cape Town.
I was reminded of the history of winemaking at Hartenberg by a 1920 piston wine pump as I make my way for tasting. The estate dates back to 1692 when settler friends Cunraad Boin and Christoffel Esterhuizzen were given permission to farm 20 hectares of land. They cleared it to plant 2,000 vines (I wonder what cultivar?). Christoffel was granted the title deed for ‘Het Hartenberg’ twelve years later, in 1704, by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. The property was planted with 10,000 vines by 1718 to produce 4 leggers of wine. A legger is an Old Dutch unit of liquid capacity used by the East India Company, equivalent to around 575 litres in today’s measure. Ownership of Hartenberg changed hands many times during the next 260 years, including by the Finlayson and the Gilbey families, until Ken Mackenzie purchased the estate in 1987, 2 years after launch of the Hartenberg flagship brand. Today, 85 hectares of the 187 hectare property are under vine, growing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz from which the wines are made. Production is mostly red (80%) with Hartenberg famed for its Shiraz.
I chose to sit inside the Restaurant-come-Tasting Room rather than outside in the Courtyard Garden or small Tasting area beneath. The Tasting Room shares the same space as the Restaurant (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) to make for a warm and cosy environment to relax in and to enjoy the wines, with its log fire, yellowwood tables, riempie chairs and terracotta tile floor. There were several winter specials on the menu to tempt. I ordered a very tasty and filling beef ‘Hartenburger’ that was excellent value for R120 and came with crisp potato wedges. There were 2 wine tasting options: the Premium Wine Tasting, R50 for 5 wines from the Premium Range; or the Super Premium Wine Tasting, R150 for a set tasting of 5 of older vintages of the best wines, including the Flagship Gravel Hill Shiraz. I opted for the former. Roderick was my attentive and very knowledgeable host who, seeing my obvious interest in the wines, generously allowed me to taste from both ranges.
I enjoyed the white wines in 2 paired flights to compare. First, were the dry and off-dry Riesling. Both wines were a similar shiny pale straw colour in appearance and contained 13% alcohol. The dry wine showed typical Riesling diesel notes balanced with lemon/lime citrus, delicate white honey and floral aromas. These followed through for a fresh, green, acidic palate with a medium finish. The off-dry wine, picked later and with longer skin contact for a more concentrated, acidic must, offered like lemon/lime notes but sweeter and with less pronounced diesel on the nose. The body was noticeably fuller on the palate with a greater intensity of flavour than the dry wine, with the extra sugar (20 gram/litre compared to 5 gram/litre residual sugar) deftly balanced by the higher acidity to maintain freshness.
Second, was Chardonnay from the two different ranges. They were of like pale-medium straw colour and both barrel fermented and matured. The Estate wine, blended from 4 blocks of vines, was shy on the nose with aromas of lemon, lime, yellow apple and buttery vanilla. The smooth mouthfeel and light style made for a Chardonnay with a delicate elegance albeit limited complexity. Unsurprisingly the Super Premium Eleanor at nearly 3 times the price, made from a single block and named after matriarch Eleanor Finlayson, showed a greater intensity and complexity on both nose and palate. The wine was richer and weightier with much better length, aided by longer ageing in a smaller proportion of new French oak (13 months in 25% new/75% old oak compared with 11 months in 34% new/66% old oak). I preferred the Eleanor.
It was soon time to enjoy the red wines on which Hartenberg’s reputation is built. I started with two well made Estate wines of 2016 vintage, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines were distinct and characteristic of the cultivar. I liked the Merlot most for its vibrant red cherry and red plum fruited nose, complemented by sweet spice and cigar, that well followed through to give a good intensity of flavour and classic silky Merlot tannins.
The Cabernet Sauvignon substituted spicy sweetness for more herbal, minty flavours, red fruits for fresh dark fruits – blackcurrant, blackberry and mulberry – and tannic silkiness for cleaner, textured yet angular and youthful structure in which the fruits did not balance the tannins as well as for the Merlot.
I sampled the Estate Shiraz beside the Stork Shiraz which, like the Chardonnay had a three-fold price difference. The Estate wine, from grapes grown on rocky sandstone soils, was a classic, lighter styled Shiraz with medium purple colour, fresh cherry, plum and mulberry fruits, a tinge of greenness and white peppercorn on the nose together with a delicate and balanced palate.
The Stork, which I had previously tasted elsewhere, was a step up in all wine criteria. Named after WWII fighter pilot Ken ‘Stork’ Mackenzie, so-called because of his long thin spindly legs, the wine was deeper and more intense in appearance. As fruity as the Estate, the wine was more vibrant, less green in character and with a leathery smokiness to the darker fruits of black cherry, dark plum and cassis with their cinnamon and pepper spice aromas. Slower ripening grapes from the single vineyard on cooling clay soils meant that the latest of harvests brought a rich, ripe fruitiness of flavour that superbly balanced tannic grip and structure on the palate.
The Stork was my favourite wine until Roderick persuaded me to end with a tasting of the flagship Gravel Hill Shiraz, double the price of The Stork at a dizzying R1300 per bottle. I needed little persuading as he poured me a glass using a Coravin to maintain wine quality once opened. I had a new favourite wine. The wine, made from grapes from the small and unusual ‘gravel hill’, was first made in 1978. It develops very slowly and is labelled only after 5 years, this being of 2006 vintage. The unique geology rests on concentrated iron laterite ‘koffie-klip’ stone underlain by fine, deep clay. The combination gives water retention in the wet winter whilst just enough of a reservoir for summer moisture to limit vine vigour.
The Gravel Hill was the fullest bodied wine of the tasting with a rich and deeply intense nose of brooding blackcurrant, mulberry, bramble, ripe plum and white peppercorn. The wine, like all classics of supreme quality, had a freshness that belied its age. Power, focus and concentration were the hallmarks of the palate that was smooth, intense and perfectly balanced. Intriguingly, and testament to its quality, I could drink this wine alone as much as with food.
Hartenberg was well worth the wait, as I had much expected. The wines were all extremely well made, with good cultivar definition, and priced at the right level for their quality. I liked the wide price range (from R95 for the entry Alchemy Range, which I did not taste, to a stratospheric R1300 for the Gravel Hill) that meets those of every budget. The experience was good too with pleasant setting where it was easy to enjoy simple home-made food whilst sampling the wine. I could easily have chosen any item off the lunch menu. Sadly, I did not think of visiting the underground cellar, the largest privately owned of its kind in South Africa, but that just gives me an excuse to return. This I shall. I recommend that you also do so. Oh, and bring a friend or two for lunch at the same time.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Riesling (dry) -R120*
2017 Occasional Riesling (off dry) – R120*
2016 Estate Chardonnay – R140
2016 The Eleanor Chardonnay – R375
2016 Estate Merlot – R200
2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – R200
2016 Estate Shiraz – R200
2016 The Stork Shiraz – R700
2006 Gravel Hill Shiraz – R1300 FAVOURITE WINE