Exciting Shiraz top of the pops
The winelands come alive at this time of year, explains Graham Howe
WHEN I walk in the vineyards I watch the rich fruits of the new harvest coming in and wonder if it’s going to be a season for Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Chenin, but the wine makers say it’s far too early to tell.
The vineyards are a sea of green, the grapes hang pregnant on the vine and the dusty back roads are filled with tractordrawn hoppers overflowing with grapes. The cellars are a hive of activity, suffused with the heady aroma of fresh-pressed grapes and must and the wine makers are preoccupied with when to pick what varieties.
While tasting my way around the winelands, exciting new releases of Shiraz have been a highlight:
Allée Bleue Shiraz 2007. I enjoyed lunch with Van Zyl du Toit, wine grower at this boutique Franschhoek winery. He told me, “Attention to detail throughout the wine-making process is the key to excellent wines.” I enjoyed the bold flavours: the herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and spicy, savoury Shiraz 2007.
Allesverloren Shiraz 2009. The oldest winery in the Swartland (1704) has released its new vintage of Shiraz, a signature variety in the Riebeek Valley. Family winemaker Danie Malan says, “It is deep ruby in colour and teems with aromas of blackcurrant, prunes and cigar box, and is rich and full, with ample ripe fruit on the palate.”
Dean David 2 Mile Square Swartland Syrah 2008. One of an exciting cluster of new family cellars in Riebeek Kasteel, this limited release is named after father-andson team Dean and David Thompson. Sourced from five small vineyards within a two-mile square area, this luscious wine is an elegant expression of the Swartland terroir.
Diemersdal Shiraz 2008. Winemaker Mari van der Merwe won Wine’s Shiraz Challenge 2009 for her maiden 2007 vintage. The judges praised its “modern accessible style. In a sea of rather monolithic wines, it stood out for its clean, pure fruit”. Made in the same style, the 2008 has juicy fruit, fresh acidity and fine tannins.
Hartenberg Shiraz 2006. A new trio of Shiraz shows the individuality and style of different sites — the Gravel Hill, The Stork and Estate Shiraz 2006 — all rated 4,5 to 5 stars in Platter’s SA Wines 2010. Wine maker Carl Schultz says, “We feel that only after four years does the variety give one a glimpse of the locked-away potential.”
Heron Ridge The Flight Shiraz 2006. This boutique family cellar on the slopes of the Helderberg is a biodynamic wine farm that specialises in Shiraz and makes just 1 000 cases of wine every vintage. The 2006 vintage takes flight with classic pepper and spice, ripe tannins, fine texture and a light, sweet brush of American oak.
Journey’s End Cape Doctor Shiraz 2005. Highlights of a tasting of the new releases of this cult cellar were the stunning Cape Doctor Shiraz 2005, Destination Chardonnay 2006 and Journey’s End Chardonnay 2008.
Phizante Kraal Shiraz 2007. This maiden wine comes from the Brink’s family farm in Durbanville, where grapes have been grown since 1698. Matured for 24 months in French oak barriques, this lavish wine has rich plum and blackberry flavours enhanced by elegant spice and white pepper aromas.
Solms-Delta Africana Shiraz 2007. I indulged in a superb lunch at Solms-Delta Fyndraai restaurant in Franschhoek with owner Mark Solms and wine maker Hilko Hegewisch who spoke of their passion for blends. They use an old technique to desiccate grapes on the vine, intensifying the flagship Shiraz and alluring Hiervandaan 2007 blend.
Waterkloof Circumstance Shiraz 2007. The new gravity-fed cellar and restaurant on the slopes of the Helderberg offers spectacular views all the way to False Bay. Over lunch wine maker Werner Engelbrecht pointed out the distinct sites of Waterkloof’s terroir trio of Sauvignon Blanc and Circumstance reds.
Welgeleë Reserve Petlou Shiraz NV. Another exciting new release in Cape Boutique Wines portfolio — Dean David, Phizante Kraal, Miravel, Romond, Russo and Rusticus — from a family farm in Paarl. This delightful blend of two vintages with ripe berry fruit and soft tannins came out tops at a garagiste tasting of more than 50 wines.
Wildekrans Shiraz 2007. The label shows workers harvesting baskets of grapes in these Bot River vineyards on the way to Hermanus. Matured in French oak barriques for 15 months, it gives classic expression to the variety with intense black fruit aromas and spicy, vanilla palate.