An unusual venue for the vertical tasting yesterday of the Doolhof Malbec wines in its Signatures of Doolhof range was Belthazar in the V&A Waterfront, where we tasted the five latest vintages of the wine, as well as some Argentinian and a French Malbec too.
Owner Dennis Kerrison welcomed us, after we had enjoyed oysters and Confrérie du Sabre d’Or champagne, explaining that they had planted Malbec with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, to create a Château Lafite style wine. In the process they discovered the quality Malbec they were producing, and bottled it as a stand alone wine. Dennis said that baboons and the southeaster create a low yield for the variety. The Kerrisons have celebrated the tenth year of owning Doolhof this year, and celebrated the estate’s 300th anniversary last year. Dennis introduced Rianie Strydom as their consultant cellarmaster. As winemaker Friedrich Kühn could not attend, the tasting was led by Rianie.
Rianie described Dennis as being passionate about his property. She described Malbec as a grape variety with big bunches and big but few berries. In the cellar the juice is ink black, she said, giving perfumy black fruit aromas, with cherries, plums, blackberries, and mulberries. Malbec is juicy and voluptuous, and can stand on its own. Vinpro is bringing two new Malbec clones to South Africa, Rianie said.
She contrasted Doolhof’s location with that of Mendoza in Argentina, the home of Malbec wines in that country, and synonymous with the variety. In Argentina Malbec is grown at 1200 – 1800 m above sea level, while at Doolhof in Wellington is is 500 m above sea level. In Argentina the soils are arid, but the soil quality improves the higher up one plants. Little attention is paid to Malbec in our country, mainly grown in Stellenbosch and Paarl, Backsberg having the oldest Malbec vines, and Buitenverwachting planting it too. Doolhof’s location at the end of Bovlei Road gives it fewer sunshine hours compared to other Wellington wine farms, giving better maturity on the tannins. In our country Malbec has a unique problem that the vine becomes infertile as it gets older. She explained that Malbec is a ‘tricky’ variety to make. Its origin is from Burgundy and Bordeaux, and it was frost in the latter region that led to Malbec largely dying out in that region. Malbec is a good blend component for Merlot, despite its complexity, we were told.
We tasted the 2007 – 2011 Doolhof Malbec wines, and even the youngest Malbec meets the consumer requirement of drinkability, Rianie said:
* 2007 Malbec has hints of mint and prune, and was matured in oak for 14 months. It won a Decanter gold medal in 2009, double gold at Michelangelo 2009, double gold at Tri Nations 2009, and was Top Malbec in the SA Terroir Wine Awards in 2009.
* 2008 Malbec has hints of violets, black cherries and prunes, with spices. It won a Decanter gold medal in 2010.
* 2009 Malbec also has violets, black cherries, and prunes, with spices. It won gold at the Michelango Awards 2011, and was National Winner at the SA Terroir Awards 2011.
* 2010 Malbec has blackberries and eucalyptus, with fresh mint, vanilla, spice, and sandalwood. National winner in SA Terroir Awards 2012.
* 2011 Malbec has black cherry and eucalyptus, with fresh mint, fynbos, and sandalwood. Won Silver at Michelangelo 2013. R119 from the cellardoor.
* Finca Los Primos Malbec 2012 from Valentin Bianchi is produced in San Rafael, 200 km south of Mendoza. It is an entry level Malbec, uncomplex, some notes of Marmite, and smoky.
* Punto Final Mendoza Malbec Clasico 2012, by Bodega Renacer, a wine estate which is focused on being environmentally friendly, its bottles being 15% lighter than other bottles. Its carbon emissions are certified. They use satellite vineyard management.
* Malbec Clasico 2012 from Altos Las Hormigas, the five owners coming from Italy. It is fruity, with salty liquorice, smoky, herby, and chalky.
* Estate Malbec 2011 from Bodega Colomé is a blend of 85% Malbec, with Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is earthy, savoury, and a good food wine. Lots of oak.
* Cahors Malbec 2008 from Château de Chambert, the largest biodynamic farm in France. The Malbec is made in the natural way in which they have always made wine. Refreshing.
Johan Fourie, Doolhof GM and handling Sales and Marketing, said that they have registered their 2,5 ha Malbec vineyard as single vineyard status. They will do the same for their Petit Verdot, Pinotage, and Cabernet Franc. He shared over lunch that Sparkling Lady MCC is to be launched soon, bought in by them and relabelled, for use at weddings at the boutique Doolhof guest house Grand Dédale.
After the tasting we moved to an outside table, where we had grilled Patagonia calamari tubes with garlic and chilli (beef carpaccio with shaved pecorino as an alternative) as the starter. This was followed by what Belthazar is best known for, being its 28 day matured grainfed beef fillet, with highly praised chips (‘linefish or kingklip’ being the alternative choice), a serious steak knife being provided, unfortunately placed on the right by a stretch from the left (this happened with the cutlery for the starter as well). The salad accompanying the main course was one of the most attractive seen in a while. The home-made baked cheesecake was good and light, made in the German style, probably the best course, despite the cheap commercial ice cream served with it. We were offered Doolhof wines with each of the three courses.
Disclosure: We received the latest Signature of Doolhof releases with our media pack, which were the Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Pinotage 2010, and Malbec 2011.
Doolhof Wine Estate, Bovlei Road, Wellington. Tel (021) 873-6911. www.doolhof.com Twitter: @DoolhofWines Monday – Saturday 10h00 – 17h00, Sunday 10h00 – 17h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleTales