Friday 29 April 2019
I was perhaps pushing my luck to taste at 5.00 pm on a Friday even though Anysbos produces 2 wines only. It had been a long day of visits to the Bot Rivier vineyards but I thought I would try my luck one more time. Besides, I had passed the Anysbos entrance on my way to Leeurivier Wyn and so could not have been closer. Johan Heyns was kind enough to oblige – after milking! – and so I arrived with the shadows lengthening under dappled blue skies. It was a beautiful late winter afternoon with the gentle rolling Overberg countryside looking at its best. Anysbos was easy to find on the good quality, gravel Swartrivier Road that runs South-West of Gabriëlskloof where I had tasted earlier in the day.
The road through the simple entrance led thought Pinot Noir and other vines, past a dam, up the slope on the other side that was flanked by olive trees of between 4 and 10 years old. I parked beside the family home to be met by Johan and several large dogs. The setting was blissfully rural and made me think, again, about living in the Southern Suburbs, Cape Town. Johan told me how he too had left ‘the big smoke’ and the movie industry in Johannesburg some 10 years ago. The life transformation must have been immense but, as he kindly gave me a bakkie tour of the 320 hectare property, he seemed very content in the countryside.
Johan and wife Sue bought the 320 hectare wheatland farm in 2007. They have achieved a remarkable amount in little over 10 years. The old stone cottage has been converted into a cosy family home. Dams have been built and some 20,000 olive trees planted that are starting to come into their initial fruiting years (I learned that olives need more water than vines). Impatient for the olives to bear fruit, Johan established a small Toggenburg stud and goat herd and began making goat’s cheese that is sold locally and online. I can vouch for the aptly named ‘Caprino’, a pecorino-styled cheese made from the goat’s milk. I saw cheddar, feta and halloumi in the impressive cheesery housed, together with an olive press, in converted former farm outbuildings.
Grenache Noir vines were the first to be planted in 2012, in very rocky soils as dryland bush vines. Shiraz and Cinsault were next planted with new, mostly Rhône, cultivars being added each year. These include the little grown Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne together with Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. I sensed that not all olive and vine plantings were quite where they were best suited and that Johan enjoyed, or perhaps suffered, the trial and error approach. Nonetheless, many of the young vines looked healthy as they start to establish themselves. The 2019 vintage will be the first to be made at Anysbos. Hitherto, the wines have been made by the young, talented Marelise Niemann of Momento Wines at the Gabriëlskloof cellar.
I was eager to taste the 2 wines and I was not disappointed. The white wine, called Disdit or ‘done and dusted’, was a Chenin Blanc-led blend with Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. The uncommon blend was pale straw in colour with excellent intensity and complexity of lemon, peach fruity and honey aromas. I liked the elegant vibrant character and clean mouthfeel.
I preferred, but only just, the pale ruby light bodied Grenache Noir. It had attractive notes of fruity but not over-ripe cherry, raspberry and cranberry on the nose with just a hint of black tea and dried herbs. The palate was smooth with slight spiciness and silky, refined tannins. As I finished sampling the 2 wines, Sue explained that the name Anysbos comes from an aniseed-scented, pink flowering herb that commonly grows in the Overberg and on the farm. Agathosma cerefolium is also known as Coast Anise Buchu though a member of the Rutaceae plant family and so not a true Buchu.
Johan and Sue were generous and charming hosts and, even so, I did not wish to overstay my warm welcome. It was late anyway and time to return to Cape Town. I left with a large chunk of Caprino and a bottle of the Grenache Noir that seemed like a perfect and fortuitous pairing. Anysbos may currently be little known but keep your eyes open in the rating, lists of high scoring wines and wards over the next few years. I shall be very surprised if Anysbos does not feature prominently.
Wines tasted (bought*):
2017 Disdit (61% Chenin Blanc, 21% Roussanne, 18% Grenache Blanc) – R250
2016 Grenache Noir – R250*FAVOURITE WINE
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*