Yesterday I attended a Tutored Tasting of some of our country’s exceptional wines, which had in common that they were made from vines many decades old. The Tasting was led by South Africa’s leading expert on Old Vines, Rosa Kruger being a passionate pioneer for the preservation of our country’s vintage vines.
Rosa Kruger is a straight-talking dynamic viticulturist, who ‘knows grapes‘, and who consults wineries on their old vines. The Tutored Tasting of wines is one of numerous elements of the Hermanus FynArts Festival, which runs until Sunday.
Rosa introduced her tasting with the good news that 61 mm of rain has fallen in the Swartland since last Wednesday. She told us that we would taste wines made by winemakers who she admires. As a background she shared details of her Old Vines Project, a classification of vines which are 35 years or older, funded by Johann Rupert. Rosa said that the Project gives heritage to the SA wine industry. Vines planted in 1887 are still producing grapes, and wines made from them. Rosa described younger vines as being ‘like teenagers’!
Rosa said that it is the driest year since 1904. She said that she sees the reality of climate change in the Vineyards. Old Vines do not necessarily have deeper roots, but they do have a complex root system. This makes old vines better able to withstand climatic change.
As a welcome drink we tasted Filia Chenin Blanc Brut Nature from the House of Chevallarie, made by winemaker Christa von la Chevallerie outside Malmesbury, whom I have known since childhood, as our parents were friends. Her website states that she produces wines with a ‘strong regional identity’, and is a member of The Swartland Independent producer organization. Rosa is the viticultural consultant to the wine farm. The fruit is hand-harvested in the cool morning, and grapes whole-bunch pressed. Fermentation is by the natural yeasts. Secondary bottle fermentation is created via adding yeasts, and a crown Cap added, resting on the lees for 14 months before disgorging. Christa does zero dosage, allowing ‘the truest expression of our site’. The sparkling wine gives brioche, lime zest, and kumquat on the nose, and acidity and a mineral finish on the palate. The sparkling wine was made from grapes of 45 year old vines.
Rosa traced the history of the wine industry, and referred to the globalization of wine making, in an industry originally dominated by KWV, Distell, and wine cooperatives. Since the change in our country in 1994, ‘deglobalisation‘ became a trend, with winemakers as well as wine lovers being excited about small pockets of land with unique characteristics, benefitting the making of original unique wines. The story behind a wine intrigues its buyers.
Rosa led us through a tasting of five of her clients’ wines:
# Reyneke Chenin Blanc 2015
Johan Reyneke was the first Biodynamic wine producer in our country. She said that Johan’s wines take on the personality of Johan. He loves his land, and this shows in his wines. He grows vines by the ‘moon and the stars’, and he never studied viticulture. He is also a passionate surfer. His wines reflect the respect he has for nature. The wine was described as having texture, with a good acid balance. Grapes are from Polkadraai in Stellenbosch.
# AA Badenhorst Raaigras Grenache 2015
Rosa described Adi Badenhorst as a person who has Wine running in his veins. He is married to Jan Boland Coetzee’s daughter. He previously worked at Klein Constantia and at Rustenburg, before establishing his Kaalmoesfontein wine estate in the Swartland. Rosa called Adi ‘the Royal Class of winemakers’. She is impressed with how well he mulches and composts his soils, and prunes his vines. He has the oldest Grenache Vineyards in our country, dating back to 1949. His wine has a lower alcohol content, at 12,5%, despite the hot climate, allowing one to taste the soil. He picks grapes earlier, resulting in the lower alcohol content.
#. Cape Winemakers Guild Mullineux The Gris Semillon 2013
Andrea Mullineux and her husband Chris met whilst doing internships on wine farms together, and worked at Reyneke Wines, and at what is now Fable, before going on their own with Mullineux Wines, making their wines in a cellar in Riebeek Kasteel, before moving to Roundstone, once they had formed a partnership with Mr Analjit Singh of the Leeu Collection. Rosa described Andrea as ‘fierce‘, dedicated to her wines, and shared that she was named Wine Enthusiast international Winemaker of the Year earlier this year. Many of their Vineyards are on schist soil. The Semillon grapes are picked from unique sites, about 60 in total. It is made as if it is a red wine, and it takes time for the wine to have structure. It was described as a ‘brilliant‘ wine, made in old barrels.
# Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2004
Rosa said that she respects Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, a visionary, and a fantastic marketer. He was one of the first winemakers to recognize the quality of old vines. He has one of the oldest Semillon Vineyards, dating back to 1900, planted in alluvial soil. He has added a little Semillon Gris to his mainly Semillon Blanc. It is the benchmark of old vines. Franschhoek has of the oldest Semillon Vineyards in the country, of up to 117 years old. We tasted a thirteen year old white, which was exceptional. Rosa expressed regret that we do not have a culture of aging white wines in our country.
# The Sadie Family Wines Skurfberg 2016
Grapes come from Piekenierskloof, located between Lamberts Bay and Clanwilliam, the vines being so big that they are called ‘bome’. The area has hot days and cool nights, sandy soil, and the vines have a low yield. The wine was described as ‘World class’, and as ‘art in a glass’. The Skurfberg has fynbos, quince, Rooibos, wild lavender, wild Sage, and wild Buchu on the nose.
Rosa ended off her talk with a plea for farm workers to be educated in viticulture, which would raise the quality of our country’s wines. She also said that viticulture is ‘80% science and 20% magic’. Melvyn Minnaar curated the Turored Tastings for Hermanus FynArts.
Hermanus FynArts, 9 – 18 June 2017. Tel (028) 312-2629 www.hermanusfynarts.co.za. www.webtickets.co.za. Twitter: @HermanusFynArts
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein