Once a year Blaauwklippen invites writers to attend a Zinfandel tasting, followed by a lunch. Last Thursday the focus for the tasting was Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest, held at the Cape Grace hotel. The launch of Triple Three Distillers Cut gin towards the end of the lunch will be covered in a stand-alone Blogpost, linked to a Triple Three gin tasting held at OpenWine on Monday.

We were served a glass of Blaauwklippen Diva Zinfandel Brut Reserve 2015 MCC as a welcome drink. The Diva label describes the Zinfandel as ‘temperamental and challenging but totally worth it’, making it a ‘Diva‘!

Canapés were offered on trays, including salmon on rösti; profiterole rolls with goat’s cheese and figs; and granadilla with scallop chevice served in a small glass. 

Blaauwklippen Cellarmaster Rolf Zeitvogel welcomed us as we sat down for the tasting, telling us that we would be tasting eight Zinfandel Nobel Late Harvests, starting with the latest 2016, and moving back in time to 2004.

Rolf told us that the origin of the Zinfandel grape is Croatia, originally part of Yugoslavia and Austria. He referred to a glass house in Vienna, and told us that a Hungarian had taken a cutting of Zinfandel with him to California, Napa having become the Zinfandel growing area, concentrating on red Zinfandel in that country. It is very sweet in the USA, and ‘loud on the nose’, Rolf said. It has a massive standing in the USA, and every year a ZAPSS show is held in San Francisco in honor of the cultivar. There are about 200 – 250 Zinfandels in the world.

Walter Finlayson was the first winemaker to bring Zinfandel into our country, whilst he was the winemaker at Blaauwklippen. Thereafter he planted the cultivar at Glen Carlou, when he moved there as winemaker, but it has since been pulled out at Glen Carlou.The oldest Zinfandel block at Blaauwklippen is Padstal1, planted in 1982. Most Zinfandel grapes are picked from this block. There is also a Zinfandel block 2 and 4. Despite Zinfandel being such a diva, they have learnt how to read the blocks as to their readiness to be harvested. Since 2005 they have not fertilized or irrigated the Zinfandel blocks. They remove two-thirds of the bunch, leading to balanced ripening and therefore do not lose half the grapes due to sour rot. The Zinfandel grape shrivels early, having a thin skin, and therefore has higher sugars. White Zinfandel is picked early, and the grapes are usually harvested a week after the Zinfandel red. 

Rolf shared their first experience in 2007 in making Noble Late Harvest, originally intended as a port.  Rolf had no experience in making Port, and contacted Danie Malan at Allesverloren for advice. Following a weekend heatwave, half the berries had shriveled, which gave concentration, and so the first Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest was born. Blaauwklippen challenged the Wine & Spirit Board to allow the making of the Noble Late Harvest with Zinfandel grapes. 

Blaauwklippen winemaker Narina Cloete took us
through the Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest tasting, starting with the newest vintage 2014, poured from an as yet unlabeled bottle, and not yet released:

#   2014: honey bush tea and potpourri flavours, to cost R350. 

#   2013:  rooibos tea, plum notes. Riper.

#   2012:   Sour worm, tangy, acidity 

#   2011:   meaty, spicy taste of coriander as in biltong. For this vintage Romanian oak barrels were used as a trial, a once-off. 

#   2010:  Black Forest cake, Christmas pudding, sticky, with layers of flavours

#   2009:  tea flavour, sweet and sour taste, has a hint of a port character, some nutmeg. This vintage was liked most of the eight, the writers voted. 

#   2008:   aniseed and liquorish flavour notes.

#   2007:   Could have been an excellent port! 

We were moved through to Signal restaurant, and more Blaauwklippen Diva Zinfandel Brut Reserve 2015 was offered. 

I was lucky to sit next to Rolf, as well as to Florian Leykauf, the latter handling Marketing for Triple Three gin, at lunch. The launch of the Triple Three Distillers Cut gin, whilst offered to us to taste at the lunch, will be covered in a Blogpost about the Triple Three gin at OpenWine last night. 

Rolls were offered, being ciabatta baguettes, and raisin rolls, served with a dish of butter covered with branded Cape Grace paper. The White Zinfandel 2016 was poured in preparation of the starter course, being Confit pork belly, a grilled prawn, curried pumpkin purée, crackling, and mango salsa. The White Zinfandel is a white wine made from red Zinfandel grapes, is tank fermented, and was bottled in 2016. 

Rolf shared that he and his family are heading to Switzerland and Italy on a family holiday. He will miss a Zinfandel conference being held in Croatia while he is overseas, but they will send some bottles of Zinfandel to the conference. 

The main course was a massive portion of seared ostrich, served with creamed potato, spiced pear jus, and sprinkled with crispy onion streusel. I could not eat the ostrich, the portions being so large. Zinfandel 2015 was served with the main course. The Red Zinfandel 2015 has a new Burgundy style bottle, and was matured in French and Romanian oak barrels for 20 months. 

The dessert was exceptional, an orange semifreddo served with coffee poached pear, honeycomb, gingerbread crumble, and candied orange zest, paired with a taste of the new Triple Three Distillers Cut Gin. 

With our coffees we were served friandise, a trio of poppy seed macarons, guava jelly, and peanut brittle. 

Cape Grace Chef Malika van Reenen and her team went out of their way to prepare an excellent lunch, and to complement the dishes with the Zinfandel wines. 

Disclosure: We received a bottle of Blaauwklippen Diva Zinfandel Brut Reserve 2015, as well as a bottle of Triple Three 100% Juniper Berry with our media pack.

Blaauwklippen Vineyards. R44, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 880-0136 www.blaauwklippen.com Twitter: @Blaauwklippen Instagram: @blaauwklippen

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein