METZER & HOLFELD FAMILY WINES
Wednesday 6 November 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 5/5
I had a special reason to visit Metzer. It was probably an unusual one. I wanted to buy a PétNat wine for a special tasting I was arranging for my WSET Diploma colleagues ahead of the Sparkling Wine Exam in early 2020. Pétillant Naturel is a wine made using the méthode ancestrale (also known as artisanale or rurale) that is currently in vogue. The wine is made by an method older than champagne and its equivalent sparklers (MCC or Cap Classique) included. The wine is bottled before fermentation has fully finished, thereby allowing the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation of the natural sugar remaining to form the bubbles. It is a risky approach for obvious reasons. PétNats are not disgorged, though may be fined and filtered. The sparkling wine is typically light, fizzy, spritzy and low-alcohol and for early drinking. [Afternote: the Metzer PétNat was ripe fruity in character with flavours of lemon citrus, white honey and pineapple. The bubbles were fine and simple but short-lived with the wine showing medium alcohol and an average finish].
I digress. I had already travelled to South Stellenbosch for a morning WSET class and so I was conveniently placed to collect the PétNat and taste some wine. Metzer was a secret that seemed determined not easily to be disclosed. The wines – mostly exported to the USA, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Japan – are Wine of Origin Stellenbosch yet the vineyards are on the lower slopes of the Helderberg Mountains. You won’t find Metzer in the maps at the back of the 2020 Platter’s Guide either. Tasting is by appointment only in a spacious modern house that, even with satnav, was not the easiest to find. Nonetheless, head South and past Avontuur Estate on the R44 towards Somerset West. Turn onto the Cordoba Road and pass Pink Valley Winery and you will be almost there.
I was warmly welcomed by Wade Metzer, winemaker and co-owner with Barry Holfield. The winery was established in 2006 and produces mostly (60%) red wine. I began the tasting in the family kitchen with 2 Chenins Blanc. Both wines were of 2017 vintage, vinified in old French oak using natural fermentation with 8 months lees ageing, but made from grapes grown in differing climates and soils. I rated them both highly. The ‘Maritime’, with grapes sourced from a vineyard 4 kilometres from the ocean at False Bay, was fresh in character with delicious lemon, lime citrus and tropical fruit aromas on the nose. The palate was well balanced with the fruits matched by a crisp bright yet integrated acidity, showing a saline minerality. Deeper in lemon colour and grown on granite, quartz soils on the mountain slopes, the ‘Montane’ chenin was equally elegant. The wine had a weightier character with vanilla notes complementing those of lemon and lime. The wine was more textured on the palate due, Wade explained, to the clay subsoils.
Cinsault is a favourite variety and, like Chenin Blanc, is found in small parcels of old vines. The wine was made from bush vines planted in 1964 on the lower slopes of the Helderberg West peak. The low yield of concentrated berries made for a beautifully perfumed pale ruby wine with aromas of raspberry, bitter cherry, cranberry and violets. White pepper spice emerged on the palate to balance a green and herbal stemminess (30% whole bunch pressed) that gave added complexity on the palate. I would have preferred even greater concentration on the palate.
The Shiraz also comes from the Helderberg but from a single block containing sandstone, granite and clay soils. The wine was made in a light style, belying its 13.5% alcohol, with scented red to dark fruit notes of cranberry, mulberry, white pepper and violets on the nose. The elegance fed through to a precise palate with good intensity and a balanced, integrated acidity.
I ended the tasting with a Cabernet Sauvignon, the first release for Metzer. This was another high scoring wine with an elegant and inviting nose. The red cherry, black plum, cassis and eucalyptus aromas were complex and intense, aided by added 10% Shiraz and 5% Cinsault. Green tobacco leafiness emerged on the palate that showed a good structure from tight but not astringent tannins (14 months in 30% new French oak). The Cabernet Sauvignon was approachable and already very drinkable but will age well for another 10 years.
Metzer was the very essence of a boutique estate. The wines were superb with elegant, simple stylish labels (there is also excellent detailed information on the website). I rated the wines highly and the effort to find the winery was well worth it. I liked the cultivar and terroir specificity that came from the carefully selected vineyards in small parcels from the immediate area. Whilst the Stellenbosch or Helderberg location conundrum confused at first, there was nothing contradictory about the wines. Each one was precise, authentic and made with minimum intervention to allow the soils and varietal character to shine best. The wines were pricey (R250 to R300) but this is understandable for a boutique winery producing only 4,500 cases annually. Their quality is without question and so worth the money. The ‘Montane’ Chenin Blanc, for example, gained 5 Platter stars in a very competitive category in 2020. I could very easily have bought every wine had my pockets been deep enough. I would also buy any Metzer wine without prior tasting. That combination is a rare treat for me indeed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2018 Metzer PétNat (100% Chenin Blanc) – R250*
2017 Metzer Family Maritime Chenin Blanc – R250
2017 Metzer Family Montane Chenin Blanc – R300 FAVOURITE WINE
2018 Metzer Family Cinsault – R300
2017 Metzer Family Shiraz – R240
2017 Metzer Family Cabernet Sauvignon – R240
HAZENDAL WINE ESTATE
Saturday 29 June 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4.5/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 4/5
Call me silly but somehow I get Hazendal and Hartenberg muddled up. I have tasted their wines at festivals and award evenings but never visited either estate. Both wineries are on the Bottleray Road to the North West of Stellenbosch together with Mooiplaas, Kaapzicht, Groenland, Bellevue, Goede Hoop, Fort Simon and many more, some not open to the public without appointment. The mystery deepens for Hazendal as the 2019 Platter’s Wine Guide does not list or rate any wine for the winery as it was recently closed for extensive renovation. My tasting plan for today was to visit both wine estates, with Fort Simon between, to put my confusion to rest.
The approach to the Bottleray Road wine region from Cape Town is through dwindling, untidy suburbs so it is always a pleasure to reach the undulating winelands with their gentle slopes. Hazendal is the first estate reached from Brackenfell. Security at the entrance gate was extra tight – my UK driving licence being barely adequate – but I successfully gained entry. I had not been before so I had no idea what to expect and so I was pleasantly surprised when the tree-lined approach, with young vines and olives beside, crossed a small brook to a large grassed area surrounded by impressive historic Cape Dutch buildings with their whitewash walls, characteristic gables and thatch roofs. My eye was immediately drawn to the Jonkerhuis after parking at the rear. Built in 1781, it is believed that the building was constructed by Joost van As who was the son of Willem van As who bought the farm in 1729 and who was responsible for introducing the Cape Dutch style of architecture to Hazendal.
The Jonkerhuis housed slaves after the Homestead was built in 1790 but is now home to the Marvol Gallery. I now realised why there was the heavy security on entry when I saw the armed guard at the entrance with chest GoPro looking like a member of an American SWAT tactical team (photographs strictly not allowed). The Gallery houses works of Russian and South African art from owner Dr Voloshin’s private collection, who bought Hazendal in 1994. The rotating collection contained a display of modern-day Fabergé eggs. Made for Tsar Alexander III in 1885 for his wife, the eggs became symbols of splendour, power and wealth of the Romanov Dynasty and the Russian Empire. Production ceased after the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution when the factory was nationalised and the Fabergé family fled Russia. The trademark has since changed hands many times with most of the impressive, gilt and detailed eggs with inlaid previous and semi-precious stones at Hazendal, including 1 of only 2 ‘Mandela’ eggs, made under licence by the Victor Mayer jewellery company. The collection was impressive – as well as celebrating the history, relationship and art between Russia and South Africa – and well worth seeing if you visit Hazendal. As if to remind, the sign outside leading me to the Tasting Building had directions in Cyrillic as well as Roman lettering.
The Tasting Room and adjoining Avant-Garde Restaurant were equally impressive. Tall ceilings and modern décor bring a contemporary and rich touch to contrast the historic building. A number of diners were enjoying an extravagant Russian tea ‘brunch’ in the plush dining room, with large, exotic marine fish tank and bar at one end and the cellar with stainless steel tanks worthy of an art installation itself visible through glass panelling to the side. The Tasting Lounge, aptly housed in the original 1870 wine cellar, was grandiose and luxuriant as if for a Tsar with its signature shiny black, gold and copper coloured theme reminiscent of a Russian Orthodox Christian icon painting, babushka doll, or even the Fabergé eggs themselves. Tastings are either in the open lounge with welcome winter open log fire or around a bar beneath a cleverly designed mezzanine private room above. I chose to taste at the bar though the raised bar stools were not the most comfortable. Brent was my eager, polite and attentive host who remembered me from my tasting visit to Ken Forrester more than 2 years ago.
Tasting options include the 3 wines of the Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range (R35), 3 wines from the premium Hazendal Range (R65), or both (R90). I was fortunate to be able to sample the wines from across both ranges together with the Scarlet Sails MCC, usually not for tasting. The grapes are planted on 13 hectares of the 145 hectare property and include a wide range of common and less common cultivars (Carignan, Carménère, Albarinho, Marsanne and Roussanne being the less widely planted varieties) to suit the varied granite-based, red, yellow and brown soils amid the terroir at 150 metres to 400 metres above sea level. Besides being the most popular novel by the Russian author Grin, Scarlet Sails is a spectacular firework celebration during the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, Russia. This is reflected in the elegant wine label with ship made with gold, bronze and copper coloured sails.
The very pale blush coloured MCC is aged for longer on the lees than most in South Africa (48 months for the 2015 vintage, 58 months for the 2014 vintage) to give distinct yeasty brioche notes on the nose. It was good to sample and compare both vintages. I rated them equally though they were not the same. The grapey nose, smooth moussante mouthfeel and fresh green apple and citrus flavours were similar. The 2014 vintage, containing 10% more Pinot Noir, was more subtle and elegant with a fuller body greater depth and length. The younger, 2013 wine showed a lighter but sweeter character with good acidity and grip on the palate.
The Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range includes easy drinking wines with the name being a tribute to the farm’s first owner who changed production from grain and cattle to vines to make Hazendal one of the first independent winemakers in the region. He was also a German settler and messenger to Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel who granted him 60 hectares of land. South African white blends are usually a nod to white Bordeaux wines and made from Sauvignon Blanc with added Sémillon for extra body, moderated acidity, complexity and softer texture. The White Blend was thus unusual in being a mix of 4 common white cultivars – the Cremello at Cavalli and Laurens Campher White Blend at Muratie excepted – in broadly similar overall proportion. The wine benefitted with a fresh and complex nose of honeyed, floral and herbaceous apple and citrus aromas. The apparent sweetness of aroma hid a dry wine on the palate that was more rounded and with more body than a Sauvignon Blanc.
Hazendal translates from Dutch to mean ‘the valley of the hares’ and the painting of a hare in Regency styled clothing features on the wrap around labels of the Hazenwinkel wines. The Blanc de Noir made from Shiraz was medium pink in colour, much deeper than many a Rosé, from 6 hours skin contact before pressing. I was again fortunate to be able to taste from 2 vintages of this popular wine. The 2018 vintage showed a good intensity of raspberry and wild strawberry aromas – avoiding the temptation for customary sweet candy notes – and was better for it. This helped for a dry, clean, refreshing wine with good acidity and average length. I preferred, just, the older 2017 wine due to its more honey, perfumed and subtler aromas.
My favourite wine was the Bordeaux-styled Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc that, again unusual for the style, was mostly Sémillon (67%). The wine, like those in the Hazendal Range, came in distinct Italian-imported, prosecco-shaped bottle. Why do anything the same as elsewhere? I liked the layered nose of guava, preach, nectarine and pear notes that overlaid those of more herbaceous and grassy green pepper. This made for an interesting wine with vanilla, oaked flavours (9 months in French and Hungarian 500 litre barrels) that emerged with extra complexity on the palate to give a rounding and balance.
The bush vine Chenin Blanc could only have been a Chenin Blanc due to its distinct white honey, tropical fruit salad, guava, litchi and vanilla aromas. These followed through to a flavoursome palate in which fruit, acidity and sweetness balanced. Oak flavours again come to the fore on the palate but freshness was retained by blending back 30% from stainless steel tanks. The same vinification and oaking techniques were used for the Chardonnay, the final white wine and penultimate wine of the tasting. Green and yellow apple aromas mingled with distinct vanilla and acacia (Hungarian oak) notes for a fresh and floral nose. The wine was youthful and fresh on the palate with a subtle oaking to show off the fruit flavours. This is an excellent wine for those of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement or for those who do not enjoy the more traditional or heavier oaked Chardonnay.
The sole red wine of the tasting (Hazendal has plans to produce more red wines) was the Red Blend from the Christoffel Hazenwinkel Range served with hare’s ear-shaped palate cleanser. This was another unusual blend. Besides being a less common Cape Blend (a Bordeaux-styled wine containing Pinotage) the Red Blend contained Pinot Noir. The wine was just full bodied and most likely less filtered than the white wines due to its slight opacity. Spiciness from each of the cultivars made for another interesting wine with the Pinotage contributing sweet banana notes to those of dark plum, red cherry, cinnamon and white pepper. Additional spiciness on the palate balanced the fruit flavours and fine, integrated tannins with a good finish for a well-priced red blend.
Hazendal, much like Cavalli, Waterford and Waterkloof, is a statement wine estate. Not only is there a signature restaurant but also other activities to tempt the wine drinker and family. There is the Marvol Gallery, Wonderdal children’s Edutainment Centre, family BMX Park, the Babushka Deli, Russian Tea experiences and Babushka picnics. The plus for Hazendal is that the quality of the wines has not suffered with owner and management attention being focused on the vinitourism activities as at Meerendal and Spier. The extensive restoration and redevelopment that was completed in 2018 cleverly combines 300 year old history and architecture with modern, contemporary living and adventure. New meets old but so too does South Africa meet Russia in seamless, integrated fashion. The avant-garde brand, even down to the unusual wine blends, wine labels and bottle shape, cleverly ties everything together to balance rather than clash. The Bacchus (Roman God of Wine) bronze logo, in use since 1831 to signify a commitment to produce fine, quality wines, is as relevant today as over the past 180 years. I thoroughly recommend a visit (noting winter closure of many activities until early August) and especially if you prefer white wines. Hazendal will embrace you whether Capetonian or from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek or the Wine Lands, or the rest of South Africa or visitor from overseas. Make a trip to the valley of the hares …
Wines tasted (bought *):
2015 Scarlet Sails MCC (54% Pinot Noir, 46% Chardonnay) – R360
2014 Scarlet Sails MCC (64% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay) – R360
2018 Christoffel Hazenwinkel White Blend (34% Chenin Blanc, 29% Sémillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Chardonnay) – R120
2017 Hazendal Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc (67% Sémillon, 33% Sauvignon Blanc) – R295 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Hazendal Chenin Blanc – R285
2017 Hazendal Chardonnay – R285
2018 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Blanc de Noir (100% Shiraz) – R120
2017 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Blanc de Noir (100% Shiraz) – R120
2017 Christoffel Hazenwinkel Red Blend (59% Shiraz, 26% Pinotage, 15% Pinot Noir) – R120