On Tuesday I attended the first tasting of wines introduced by a winemaker and paired with a meal, at OpenWine, the tasting room representing a number of our country’s top wine brands in its Wale Street venue, at the invitation of co-owner Marta Gobbo. It is the first time that I have experienced their new format of wine tasting and food pairing.
I love the tasting room, feeling as if I am going back to the school benches, with a selection of different chairs and tables. I joined a long table, in a smallish space, and it was a good way to meet some fellow winetasters, none of whom I had met before.
I must admit that I had never heard of Elemental Bob wines before, or its winemaker Craig Sheard. Craig told us that he is often called Bob, and that his brother had given him the name, based on his focus on the five elements of Nature. Craig worked at Spookfontein in the Hemel en Aarde valley for many years, and he knows the grapes from this area, especially the Pinot Noir, very well, sourcing from this valley first before anywhere else. Platter’s describes this ‘boutique vintner’ and his wines as follows: ‘…focused on fresh, personality-driven wines that take you on a sensory and spiritual journey’!
Although we did not taste any of this, Craig’s first love appears to be Cabernet Sauvignon, the vine leaf tattoo he carries proudly on his arm, he shared in answer to a question. Craig is quite reserved, but he did open up over the course of the tasting. He makes his wines at a cellar on the Romond Vineyards cellar outside Somerset West. He has gone solo, and his father and sons have helped him make the wines. At the bottom of the labels, each designed by Craig, is a dedication: ‘Made and bottled with love by my Dad, my two Sons and Elemental Bob’. Each label for the white wines is in yellow, each in a different Pantone shade, he explained. I love the berry colour label for the red wine. Elemental Bob wines are made naturally, with little interference. All three the white wines were barrel fermented for eleven months, and had three-day skin contact, giving them the golden yellow colour and the salty mineral palate.
Craig started making his own wines in 2004, alongside his day job. He has been on his own since 2015, never repeating a wine twice, always looking for a new way to make the wines, using new blend recipes, making food wines, and looking to enhance his wines vintage on vintage. His philosophy is to keep his winemaking ‘as simple as possible’. Export countries are Japan, the UK, the USA, Germany, and Belgium. He told us that he has no money behind him, buying grapes, and renting the cellar space. He does not contract with the Vineyards, giving him flexibility as to whom to buy from year on year. He selects the ‘right grape from the right place’, he said.
On arrival we were offered our first wine to taste, the Elemental Bob White Blend 2016. Pourings were generous, with follow-up ones too. On the table was a food and wine pairing menu, introducing the Elemental Bob wines as follows:
‘There is a primitive, natural, force and passion, then there is Farmer Bob. That was the name his brother used to call him, at the time that he was still a young winemaking student at Elsenburg College. Now, after almost fifteen years, and some five stars Platter, everybody knows his name is Craig Sheard, and his primitive force is the essence of Elemental Bob Wines’.
We tasted four Elemental Bob wines, each paired with a food dish, each of which was Italian, devised by Marta.
- Elemental Bob Serie Retro White Blend 2016
The wine is a blend of 44% Chenin Blanc (grapes sourced from Wellington), 22% Semillon (from the Hemel en Aarde valley), 18% Viognier (grapes from Stellenbosch), and 6% Verdelho (from the Hemel en Aarde valley). It was surprisingly golden, with a very distinctive taste, explained by Craig as being due to the grapes undergoing a vigorous pressing in a basket press. A total of 3000 bottles was produced. A bottle costs R160.
This wine was paired with a little starter of mini toasts with ricotta, honey, and anchovy, the latter which I removed, as it is not my favorite.
2. Elemental Bob Serie Retro Chenin Blanc 2016
The grapes for this wine were sourced from Wellington and Darling, with a small quantity from Durbanville. A total of 3000 bottles has been produced, and is sold at R160 each. Its colour too was very golden, and its taste not typical of Chenin Blanc.
The pairing was with battered swordfish, mussels, cauliflower, and broccoli, presented in a paper cone, and served with a shared tartare sauce made with egg, mayonnaise, and a secret ingredient, we were told.
3. Elemental Bob Serie Retro Cinsault Pinot Noir 2016
This wine is a blend of 80% Cinsault grapes, and 20% Pinot Noir from the Hemel en Aarde valley. It was my favorite of the four wines we tasted.
The food pairing was a generous portion of a terrine of chicken liver, beef, and bacon, served with slices of toast, and a grape and mulberry salad with rocket (the grapes so clever!).
A total of 3000 bottles has been produced, and R210 is charged per bottle.
4. Elemental Bob Serie Retro Grenache Blanc 2016
The Grenache Blanc has been awarded a 5-Star rating by the 2018 Platter’s Wine Guide. It is an unusual wine to be made almost exclusively from this grape variety, containing 10% Verdelho too. Grenache Blanc is a strong vine, and it is likely that the grape variety will be increasingly used in making wines in our country. The Grenache Blanc grapes are sourced from Wellington, and the Verdelho from the Hemel en Aarde valley.
It costs R294 per bottle, and only 1500 bottles have been produced.
The dessert was the piéce de resistance, a mascarpone with apricots and a crunchy topping of almonds, absolutely delicious, and an excellent pairing with this dry wine.
The four wine four food course pairing costs R350, and is offered on Tuesdays at OpenWine.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the tasting as a guest of OpenWine.
Elemental Bob Wines, Cell 082 265 1071. www.elementalbob.co.za Twitter: @Elemental_Bob Instagram: @elemental_bob By appointment only.
OpenWine Taste Pair Shop, 72 Wale Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 422-0800. www.openwineza.co.za Instagram: @openwine_za
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein