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
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.