Whales of wine from Walker Bay

On a re­cent visit to the new Her­manus Wine route, Gra­ham Howe tasted his way up and down the Hemel-en-aarde Val­ley

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SOME of SA’s most ex­cit­ing cool-cli­mate wines are com­ing out of the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley’s mar­itime vine­yards. While Sauvi­gnon Blanc, Chardon­nay, Pino­tage and Pinot Noir are the sig­na­ture va­ri­eties of this re­gion, other new Rhône-style wines such as Viog­nier, Shi­raz, Gre­nache and Mourve­dre are com­ing to the fore. If you’re in Walker Bay over the com­ing sum­mer sea­son, visit one of the 20 or so cel­lars lo­cated in some of the most stun­ning lo­ca­tions in the Cape — from Ataraxia and Cre­ation to Su­maridge and South­ern Right — where the moun­tains meet the sea. NEW 2010 RE­LEASES Ataraxia Sauvi­gnon Blanc 2011. The new­est re­lease from Kevin Grant is made from cool-cli­mate grapes from “ex­treme, rad­i­cal and in­di­vid­ual vine­yards”. Vis­i­tors ring the bell at the tast­ing chapel on Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge where the wine­maker de­liv­ers a ser­mon on fruit pu­rity, tex­ture and “suck­ing on a river peb­ble” min­er­al­ity. Bouchard Fin­layson Chardon­nay Sans Bar­rique 2010. Cel­e­brat­ing 20 vin­tages at his cel­lar in the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley, Peter Fin­layson con­tin­ues his Bur­gun­dian quest to ex­plore all aspects of Chardon­nay. This un­wooded ver­sion ex­presses the pure va­ri­etal fruit and del­i­cate min­er­al­ity of Croc­o­dile’s Lair vine­yard. Cre­ation Viog­nier 2011. One of the best food and wine pair­ings in the winelands make this ac­claimed cel­lar high on Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge a gas­tro­nomic desti­na­tion. I tasted a pair of wine­maker JC Martin’s 2011 re­leases — a sub­lime Sauvi­gnon Blanc/Semil­lon blend and Viog­nier with al­lur­ing peach and apricot blos­som aro­mas. El­e­men­tal Bob The Turk­ish 2008. One of three “sin­gle bar­rel” ar­ti­sanal wines made by Craig Sheard, the in­no­va­tive wine­maker at Spook­fontein in the Hemel-enAarde Val­ley. While The Turk­ish blend clev­erly mar­ries the ex­otic flavours of Bar­bera and Gewurz­traminer, the De­light blend brings to­gether Bar­bera and Syrah. Felic­ité Pinot Noir 2011. A bril­liant blend of fruit from older vine­yards in Ei­lan­dia, Robert­son and El­gin with a splash of Cin­saut show­cases the per­fumed cherry and spice of this va­ri­ety. This cult wine from Newton John­son, a spe­cial­ist Pinot Noir pro­ducer in Hemel-enAarde, is one of three styles which show­case the new ter­roir. Hamil­ton Rus­sell Chardon­nay 2010. I en­joyed tast­ing the two new re­leases which mark 30 vin­tages from one of the Cape’s bench­mark pro­duc­ers of Pinot Noir and Chardon­nay. Lean­ing to­wards the classical, old world style, the Chardon­nay bears the cel­lar’s trade­mark fi­nesse with in­tense pear fruit, tight min­er­al­ity and rich tex­ture. Her­manus­pi­eters­fontein Nr 5 2010. Bartho Ek­steen won the cov­eted Diner’s Club Wine­maker of the Year 2010 with the 2009 vin­tage of this wooded blanc fumé style wine. I en­joyed all five styles of his Sauvi­gnon Blanc in wooded, trop­i­cal, herba­ceous and blended ver­sions — No 5 has dried apricot, co­conut and vanilla flavours. La Vierge Jeze­belle Chardon­nay 2010. Wine­maker Marc van Halderen cre­ates “wines of de­sire” to match some of the Cape’s most orig­i­nal art la­bels — with names like Orig­i­nal Sin Sauvi­gnon and Nym­phomane Red. These aro­matic wines ex­pertly com­bine min­er­al­ity, tex­ture and pu­rity of fruit. Seven Springs Sauvi­gnon Blanc 2010. This new bou­tique cel­lar lo­cated in the moun­tains be­tween Cale­don and Her­manus has re­leased an ex­cit­ing maiden vin­tage of Sauvi­gnon Blanc and Chardon­nay, ex­press­ing the ex­u­ber­ant fruit of young vines with del­i­cate aro­mas, ripe fruit and min­er­al­ity. Su­maridge Chardon­nay 2010. Ten vin­tages on, this cel­lar has come of age, win­ning a place in the Top 100 SA Wines with its flag­ship Mar­itimus 2009 white blend — and mak­ing its mark with va­ri­etal wines which ex­press the ter­roir of the sig­na­ture grapes of the val­ley — Sauvi­gnon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardon­nay. Gavin Pat­ter­son makes ter­roir wines of great fi- nesse, ex­press­ing rich nat­u­ral fruit, sub­tle oak and min­er­al­ity. The Last Temp­ta­tion Ries­ling 2010. The mar­itime ter­roir of La Vierge’s vine­yards on Hemel-enAarde Ridge shows in an Al­sace- style wine with clas­sic cool-cli­mate aroma, racy acid­ity and tex­ture. Os­car Wilde reck­oned “The only way to get rid of temp­ta­tion is to yield to it” on one of the most orig­i­nal wine la­bels I’ve seen. This new la­bel from Cre­ation is in­spired by the whales of Walker Bay and the win­ery’s mar­itime ter­roir. The range in­cludes an in­no­va­tive Syrah-Mal­bec 2010 blend and cool Sauvi­gnon Blanc — il­lus­trated with de­light­ful sketches of whales breach­ing and sail­ing.

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