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
Friday 4 May 2018
Landskroon Wines was the very antithesis of the Charles Back-owned duo of Fairview Wines and the Spice Route Winery. Located adjacent to these 2 brand giants, the De Villiers family-owned estate on Paarl Mountain was honest and simple by comparison. The whitewashed gate entrance led up the hill through the vineyards to a series of outbuildings with oak trees providing sparse shade for parking. I met oom-de Villiers on my way to the Tasting Room, passing an interesting collection of Stone Age implements found on the farm. He spoke only in Afrikaans and claimed to be the owner, rather than co-owner and fifth generation winemaker brothers Paul and Hugo de Villiers.
As I entered the simple Tasting Room, complete with family photos and award certificates on the walls that was vaguely reminiscent of Groenland Wynes, I felt at home again. No branding, no fuss, no ‘vinotourism’ – just the wines. There was a sense of peace to the room aided by the classic wine labels from the Landskroon Range and the premium red Paul de Villiers Range. Landskroon is a family farm with a long history, stretching back to 1689 when Huguenot refugee Jacque de Villiers arrived in the Cape. Just 3 years later, the farm was granted to a Swedish immigrant from Landkrona (meaning ‘little bear’) – hence the current name of Landskroon – by Governor Simon van der Stel.
Fast forwards to 1974 through multiple de Villiers generations and the consolidation of different farms, and the first wine, a Cinsault, was made under the Landskroon label. Wines were first exported in 1994 and the cellar expanded and upgraded in 2000. Today, the farm produces mainly red wines (80%) from the 190 hectares (of 300 hectares) under vine. Surprisingly perhaps for a farm with such traditional historic roots, there are some unusual and interesting varieties grown in addition to the noble grape cultivars: Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. I read on my return home that Cape Vintage (Port) is made which explains the latter.
Bevena was my attentive host as I chose which wines to taste. I had to start with a Sauvignon Blanc as today was International Sauvignon Blanc Day. The bright shiny wine was my favourite of the tasting. Made in green grassy style, it showed decent complexity of fresh lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas. The palate was fresh and clean, with high acidity, as any Sauvignon Blanc should be. It was good value for money too (R57).
The barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc (85% in French oak) was more restrained in style, shyly revealing notes of baked apple, ripe melon and sweet lemon on the nose. It was watery and thin on the palate, moderately dry, and needed to be more robust for my taste.
Cinsault was my first red wine and the first to be made at Landskroon. Popular in China, the lightly wooded, light to medium bodied wine showed typical Pinot Noir colours of pale ruby. Complexity of sweet fruited aroma was limited but pleasant – red cherry and wild raspberry, together with light pepper spice – which gave way to light tannins in the mouth.
The Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend – both classic Bordeaux Right Bank varieties – was also light in style. This was my first tasting of either variety of the day and a return to the red fruit flavours and grippy, bitter olive tannins. I preferred the single variety Merlot, matured in oak for 12 months, which showed a better intensity of ripe redcurrant, red cherry, red plum and cedar. The wine was tannin-forwards on the palate and showed medium length.
The Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon, also my first tasting for the day, was a multi-award winner. Full bodied and deep ruby in appearance, aided by 16 months in 85% French new oak, the wine showed greater intensity and complexity than either the blend or the Merlot. The balance on the palate was better too though the tannins were still not yet fully integrated or developed.
The Shiraz, also from the Paul de Villiers range, was good also with a bolder bouquet of spicy red-to-dark berry aromas. The tannins were olive in character but not too aggressive to contribute to a decent finish.
I sampled last the Pinotage Blanc de Noir – literally a white (pink) wine made from red grapes – which I bought a bottle of. Transparent and shiny in appearance, the delicate eye of the partridge colour is from just 2 hours of skin contact. Classic Rosé ripe strawberry and sweeter candy aromas showed on the nose to follow through to a dry, clean wine on the palate.
Landskroon Wines stuck to the basics without the razzmatazz of neighbouring Spice Route and Fairview wine farms. I enjoyed the simple wines that were decently made. Some were lighter in style than I prefer but all were very affordable at R50 to little more than R100. When the big boys next door are busy, the car parks full, and range of activities and attractions overwhelming, give yourself a little peace and visit Landskroon. You will not be disappointed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Sauvignon Blanc – R57 FAVOURITE WINE
2016 Paul de Villiers Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc – R111
2017 Pinotage Blanc de Noir – R49*
2015 Cinsault – R49
2016 Cabernet Franc/Merlot (56% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot) – R59
2016 Merlot – R71
2015 Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon – R116
2015 Paul de Villiers Shiraz – R116
SPICE ROUTE WINERY
Friday 4 May 2018
It was the shortest of drives from Fairview Wines to the Spice Route Winery, between sister wineries owned by Charles Black. Unusually for a Cape vineyard, there was no elegant, sweeping, white-washed gated entrance but merely an entry warning/disclaimer notice in the vineyard beside the road rising to the winery on the hillside. The vines didn’t even belong to the Spice Route either, more on that later.
The original spice routes wouldn’t have had signs either as they were the network of sea routes than linked the East with the West. Also known as the Maritime Silk Roads, the sailors brought precious spices such as cinnamon and cassia from Japan, through the islands of Indonesia, around India to the Middle East and across the Mediterranean to Europe. Ivory, silk, metals, precious gemstones and porcelains were traded too. The names are reflected in some of the wines too: Saffron and Malabar.
It was back in the late 1990s that Charles Back stumbled on a tank of Sauvignon Blanc in a Swartland cooperative. The quality was such that he did not believe it was from the Swartland, a region then not known for its fine wines and certainly not (as a warm area) for Sauvignon Blanc. The experience led him to Amoskuil, a derelict tobacco farm and home to South Africa’s oldest block of Sauvignon Blanc, bush vines that were planted in 1965. He bought the farm and, with the help of winemaker Eben Sadie, set up the cellar and planted new vines.
Today, barely a quarter of the land is under vine (90 hectares out of 400 hectares). The grapes are not irrigated and grown as dryland bush vines on the Koffieklip, Oakleaf, Malmesbury Shale and Duplex soils. The rolling hills are just 4 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean with a climate characterised by cold wet winters, when most of the rainfall occurs, and hot, dry summers when water is scarcer. The vineyards I drove through on my arrival at the Spice Route belong instead to Fairview as Charles Back did not want the 2 wine farms to compete. Ten cultivars are grown, including many lesser known ones such as Roussanne, Viognier, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Tannat and Sousão.
The Tasting Room is but one of many attractions at the busy winery. Its elevated position offers glorious views South-West to the Simonsberg Mountains. The Tasting Room is open fronted with comfortable seating, tables on the lawn outside, and decorations that include tiled maps of the Spice Routes and ancient Table Bay. A nice touch was the spittoons that were made from magnum wine bottles cut in half. I remembered the winery from a visit many years ago and before I formed the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society.
Natasha was my tasting host who guided me through the tasting options or ‘journeys’. I chose the basic Swartland Wine Journey (R50 for 5 wines). I could have chosen the Wine & Charcuterie Journey (R85 for 4 wines and cured meats with fresh fruit) or tasted the flagship Malabar red blend (R40). I chose to taste the flagship Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc first. The shiny wine was green in colour and character with notes of fresh lime, grapefruit, bitter lemon and green melon. The freshness showed in a youthful acidity that was almost too bright for my taste.
In contrast, the Chenin Blanc was more rounded and better balanced. Grapes from 2 pickings are fermented in stainless steel and oak before being blended together to make for another lively wine. It showed aromatic, forward notes of warmer, honeyed lemon, greengage, gooseberry, guava, kiwi and litchi. I liked how the aromas followed through to the palate that was smooth and creamy in texture and with a decent finish.
The Grenache Rosé was a pricey R142 per bottle, unusually high for the style. The colour intrigued too, being neither pink nor true salmon but towards copper to onion skin. The ‘serious rosé’, as Natasha described it, showed a good intensity of strawberry, white cherry and raspberry flavours. This gave a red wine taste that complemented the clean dry and refreshing palate. The wine was good but so are many in the R50 to R100 bracket. The rosé would have had to be exceptional to warrant the R142 price tag.
The Grenache wine was the lightest red of the tasting and my favourite. Grenache can be thought of as a bolder Pinot Noir with higher fruit, body, tannin and alcohol though less acidity. This wine showed a moderate intensity of red cherry, cranberry and white pepper spiciness, with good balance and intensity on the palate and a decent finish.
I chose next the Mourvèdre, a cultivar with greater body, tannin and acidity than Grenache but less fruitiness. It was fuller in medium ruby colour and full of warm fruity red fruits – red plum, cherry, mulberry and raspberry – that showed good intensity. Soft spiciness on the nose gave way to a savoury palate complete with fine, well balanced tannins that will improve with ageing.
I ended with the Chakalaka, a Shiraz-led red blend of 6 cultivars, and one of the most popular Spice Route wines. I learned that chakalaka is Zulu for ‘togetherness’ – hence the name for the blend – which surprisingly I did not know beforehand. The full bodied wine showed the ruby to purple colour of Shiraz. Blends often give added complexity on the nose or they may confuse. This wine was the latter with obvious red to dark fruit aromas that were not easy to distinguish further. The wine was lighter in mouthfeel than I expected, showing its youth on the palate with tannins that need time to round off their rough edges.
I explored the other Spice Route attractions before leaving: the shop, the charcuterie, the restaurant, the distillery, the ice cream shop and café, as well as the artisan chocolaterie. I sampled a plate of 5 delicious meats (R35) from the Richard Bosman charcuterie: French white sauçisson; truffle salami with garlic and black pepper; pork fillet, cured and lightly smoked with paprika; Spanish chorizo, made with chilli, paprika, red wine and fennel seed; and Diablo, spicy with chilli, paprika and pepper.
Lastly, I bought a selection of artisan chocolate bars for my partner from the chocolate shop that is home to one of the few ‘bean to bar’ micro chocolatiers in the world. I could not resist an ice cream tasting too (R60) for a pre-selection of banoffee, salted caramel crunch, raspberry crumble, chocolate brownie and cookies and cream.
The Spice Route offers many other attractions – a deli, craft brewery, glass blowing studio and art gallery too – which means that it would be easy to spend an entire day at the winery. The range of artisan producers fits in well with Charles Back’s vision of providing an ‘overall experience’ for ‘local and international tourists’ and visitors. The wines were decently made and it was a surprise, given the location just outside Paarl, to find that the grapes come from the Swartland. The hand of Charles Back in making a strong brand, at neighbouring Fairview too, clearly shows and the two wine farms complement each other. Visit the Spice Route and Fairview together and you will be guaranteed a fun day out as well as some interesting and varied wines.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2017 Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc – R111
2016 Chenin Blanc – R117
2017 Saffron Grenache Rosé – R142
2016 Grenache – R122* FAVOURITE WINE
2015 Mourvèdre – R122
2014 Chakalaka (41% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 17% Carignan, 10% Grenache, 10% Durif, 7% Tannat) – R177
FAIRVIEW WINE & CHEESE FARM
Friday 4 May 2018
I am usually hesitant, as an oenophile, to visit wine farms that are popular and with a touristic reputation. Some work for me (for example, Groot Constantia and Boschendal) while others do not (Meerendal, Babylonstoren and Avontuur). Much depends on the relative management focus on the winemaking and on the ‘vinotourism’ elements of the business: restaurant, delicatessen, craft beer, gin or brandy production, bread making, artwork, mountain biking, accommodation etc. Fairview pleasantly impressed and this notwithstanding owner Charles Back’s comment that ‘You can’t get away with wine tastings only anymore. You have to create an overall experience for visitors’.
Fairview was the first of 3 wine farms in the Paarl District I was visiting today. The Spice Route and Landskroon, conveniently next door along the Suid-Agter Paarl Road to the South West of the city, were to follow. The drive from Cape Town via the N1 was straightforward with parking plentiful for a Friday morning. I had been to Fairview before, some 5 years ago and before formation of the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society, and so remembered the ‘Goat Tower’. I had not remembered, thankfully, the acrid smell of its occupants! The 6 metre high building is the distinctive landmark of Fairview. It houses a select few of the 1000 plus herd of goats that supply milk to the Vineyard Cheesery as well as give their name to the cheeky wine brand name of ‘Goats do Roam’. Legend has it that some of the herd escaped when Charles Back’s young son Jason left a gate open. The tower also extends to Africa’s first goat ‘skywalk and activity park’.
Fortunately for me, the main focus remains on the vineyard. Three hundred and fifty hectares of the 600 hectare farm in Paarl are under vine. There are also plantings in the Swartland (155 hectares), Darling (140 hectares) and Stellenbosch (35 hectares), each optimised for specific varietals. The farm beginnings date back to 1693, which surprised, when the land was granted to the first settler. Six years later the first Fairview wine was made. But it was not until 1902 when Lithuanian immigrant Charles Back I arrived in South Africa that the farm began is current development. He purchased Fairview in 1937. Cinsault was the main varietal grown until son Cyril Back and wife Beryl inherited the farm from his father. Their son, Charles Back II, took over full responsibility for Fairview in 1995. He built the Fairview brand to what it is today. He wanted to do things differently and introduced Mediterranean cultivars such as Viognier, Verdelho, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah. He also owns the Spice Route Winery, the adjacent property.
Cheese and wine feature in a number of tasting options. There’s the Classic Tasting (R40 for cheese pairing with 6 single variety wines), the Pioneer Tasting (R60 for 6 wines and cheeses, including red blends) and the (pre-bookable) tutored Master Tasting (R80 for 8 wines) in the separate Beryl Back Tasting Room. I chose the former in my haste. The full Fairview Collection is immense: Fairview – classic, single varietal; Regional Revival – a Cape twist on the Old World; Single Vineyard – highest quality from each vintage in small and limited batches; Bloemcool – an esoteric range of age-worthy wines produced in limited quantities; La Capra – fruit-driven, approachable single variety wines; Goats do Roam – affordable value-for-money wines; and the Flagship Cyril Back.
The Classic Tasting included wines from the Fairview Range. Nosipho was my cheerful tasting host. It being International Sauvignon Blanc Day, I started with this wine which was paired with feta cheese with olives. The grapes were from Darling to make a bright, shiny wine with positive aromas of litchi, green fig, greengage, gooseberry and lime. The promising start disappointed as the complex aromas fell off on the palate that was too tart. It seemed there was added acid as the acidity was not fully integrated.
I rated the Chardonnay, paired with a cream cheese with chilli and lime, the same. It too was sharp on the palate though with a little more creaminess as expected from 7 months on the lees and 4 months maturation in oak. The wine was oak forwards which largely masked simple apple aromas.
I preferred the Mourvèdre which I did not know is called Mataro by the Australians and Californians and Monastrell – the grape from the monastery – by the Spanish. The brie pairing was the best of the tasting. Light and medium bodied, warm red fruits of cherry and plum invited on the nose. A light spiciness emerged on the palate as the soft fruits held on to balance low tannins.
The full-bodied Pinotage, 90% of which is matured in French oak (10% in American oak), was predictably bold and spicy with jammy red to dark fruits. The wine was weaker on the palate than the bouquet suggested and paired with chèvre cheese with garlic and herbs.
I tasted side-by-side the Shiraz (last wine of the Classic Tasting and paired with cream cheese with black pepper) and a Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is not real Syrah and known also as Durif. I had not tasted before as a single variety wine but only in Shiraz-led blends at Ken Forrester and De Morgenzon. The Rhône Valley cultivar is actually a cross between Peloursin and Syrah. Its name stems from the small berries that are known to produce dark, tannic wines with a savoury, meaty character and blackberry fruits.
Both wines were full-bodied and matured for 14 months in French and American oak. The Petite Sirah showed more purple to the deep ruby colour. The Shiraz was spicy on the nose together with red and dark fruits. Oaky tannins overpowered these notes on the palate to give a wine that was less well balanced than it might have been. I preferred the Petite Sirah due to a better balance on the palate. The wine showed potent tannins from the higher skin-to-juice ratio than the Shiraz, combined with heady aromas of dusty dark fruits and tobacco leaf.
I finished the tasting by choosing some wines from the Pioneer Tasting. It gave me the chance to taste some rarely found cultivars and some interesting blends. The Portuguese grape Verdelho is typically grown in Madeira and a major component (at least 85%) of Madeira wine. It is increasingly being blended in Bordeaux-style white wines (by Muratie, Solms-Delta and Cavalli) as South African producers experimentally make wines from classic Port and fortified wine varietals. Like Petite Sirah, I had not tasted as a single variety wine before. The pale shiny wine was reminiscent of Sémillon on the nose with aromas of white stone fruits, peach, sweet lemon, apricot and pear. It was dry on the palate with moderate acidity, a clean mouthfeel and a short finish.
Fairview offered a rare Spanish blend and a Portuguese blend which were too tempting to miss out on. The Extraňo was a blend of Spanish cultivars Tempranillo, Grenache (Garnacha in Spanish) and Carignan. Extraňo means ‘stranger’ as the varieties are rarely blended together. The medium-bodied wine showed a Shiraz-like character with aromas of spices and fruits – mulberry, black plum, raspberry and black pepper – that was chewy on the palate due to heavy dry tannins that overpowered any fruitiness from the nose.
The Broken Barrel, the second batch to be made and so called because very limited quantities are made, was a blend of traditionally Portuguese grapes: noble Tempranillo (Tinta Roriz in Portugal) and rustic, dark, rich Souzão. It was one of my favourite wines of the tasting, being full-bodied, spicy fruity (mulberry and dark plum), and with rounded, integrated tannins.
I ended with a Barbera, an Italian cultivar known for low tannin, high fruit flavours and high acidity. I liked the full intensity of red fruits on the nose – red plum, cranberry, red- to dark cherry – and white pepper spiciness. The medium bodied, medium ruby coloured wine was light in the mouth and well balanced between fruit, tannin and alcohol.
It is always a treat to taste a new cultivar and Fairview gave me two in single variety format: Petite Sirah and Verdelho. Frankly, it was an impressive surprise as I did not expect. Fairview was so much more than the ‘cheesy’ and caprine reputation suggest. It was certainly a surprise to learn that 31 different cultivars are used in the winemaking. I could have tasted Tannat that I have tasted only within a blend at Glen Carlou and Rickety Bridge had it not been sold out and thus unavailable for tasting. Do therefore visit Fairview. Enjoy the cheeses and the cheese tastings (I am never a huge fan of wine-pairing tastings) but pick out and roam amid the interesting single variety wines and unusual blends along the way. You will be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Darling Sauvignon Blanc – R82
2016 Chardonnay – R106
216 Verdelho – R82*
2016 Mourvèdre – R111
2016 Pinotage – R111
2015 Shiraz – R111
2015 Petite Sirah – R137*
2015 Extraňo (75% Tempranillo, 17% Grenache, 8% Carignan) – R100
2015 Broken Barrel (96% Tinta Roriz, 4% Souzão) – R100
2016 Barbera – R111* FAVOURITE WINE