Reach­ing New Heights

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text & Images © Bernard K Hellberg

If you are old enough to re­mem­ber the days when a bot­tle of Chateau Lib­er­tas was the red of choice (at 75 c a bot­tle), and the white al­ter­na­tive was ei­ther SFW’S Au­tumn Har­vest or Neder­burg Late Har­vest, the cur­rent ex­plo­sion in in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pet­i­tive wines and wine es­tates in South Africa will warm your heart.

The mak­ing of great wines is linked to the in­sights and ef­forts of vi­sion­ar­ies – in­di­vid­u­als who can see be­yond the mun­dane. En­ter Toby Ven­ter of Porsche and Kyalami fame with a firm be­lief in at­ti­tude (only the best is good enough) and al­ti­tude (620 m above sea level).

Apart from be­ing the of­fi­cial im­porter of Porsche into South Africa, and the owner of the re­cently up­graded, world-class Kyalami Grand Prix Cir­cuit, Ven­ter is also the owner of Uva Mira Moun­tain Vine­yards, where six great va­ri­etals are pro­duced in lim­ited quan­ti­ties.

As the high­est es­tate on the slopes of the Helder­berg be­tween Som­er­set West and Stel­len­bosch, ev­ery bot­tle is filled on the es­tate with wines crafted on the es­tate. As with most things in life, there’s quan­tity and then there’s qual­ity. There is lit­tle re­sem­blance be­tween, say, a Porsche 911 GT3 and a Chi­nese econobox (apart from both hav­ing four wheels), such as the wines of Uva Mira when com­pared with mass-pro­duced box wines, or “Chateau Card­board”. With the em­pha­sis of qual­ity above quan­tity, and as a bou­tique es­tate, the “less is more” prin­ci­ple ap­plies – only 23 hectares of the es­tate’s 127 hectares are cur­rently un­der vine.

Wine­maker and Gen­eral Man­ager, Chris­ti­aan Coet­zee – an Elsen­burg grad­u­ate with in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence gained in the vine­yards of France’s Bordeaux re­gion – pro­vides the rea­sons for the qual­ity of Uma Mira wines: Hav­ing the right ter­roir, or soil, is a given. Lo­cated on the high­est slopes of the Helder­berg where the 620 m el­e­va­tion pro­vides not only breath­tak­ing views of False Bay as well as Ta­ble Bay, Uva Mira of­ten en­joys cool­ing sea breezes and cloud cover which keeps the fierce African sun at bay. Care­ful se­lec­tion of the right geo­graph­i­cal re­quire­ments, based on the Win­kler Scale sys­tem de­vel­oped by the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, in­di­cates that Uva Mira falls within Cat­e­gory II and is per­fectly suited to the va­ri­etals (cul­ti­var and style) pro­duced on the es­tate.

Th­ese per­fect con­di­tions al­low for the cre­ation of six (at this stage) of Uva Mira’s prize-win­ning va­ri­etals, namely Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, Chardon­nay, Mer­lot, Shi­raz, Caber­net Franc, and Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon.

The flag­ship wine of Uva Mira (which means “won­der­ful grape” in Latin) is the trib­ute Red Blend O.T.V. which has as its base 52% Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, 35% Caber­net Franc, and 13% Mer­lot. Ded­i­cated to Tony Ven­ter Snr, this red blend be­gins life at an al­ti­tude of 300 m to 400 m above sea level, and spends the first 18 months of its life rest­ing in new oak bar­rels, cre­at­ing a con­cen­trated palate with op­u­lent flavours of black­ber­ries, cherry to­bacco, cedar, ca­cao, and nut­meg. Lit­tle won­der, then, that this wine is fully ca­pa­ble of tak­ing its place among the Top 10 Best Bordeaux Blends in the world.

Suf­fice it to say that ev­ery sin­gle va­ri­etal pro­duced on the es­tate has, at some time or another, been show­ered with accolades – just one be­ing the Sin­gle Tree Chardon­nay. Tak­ing the gold medal at the Chardon­nay du Monde 2016 – and thereby lead­ing the charge on be­half of Chardon­nay which, in re­cent times, had lost some ground to Sau­vi­gnon Blanc – this wine starts life at 420 m above sea level, and be­gins its de­vel­op­ment on 70% new oak for a pe­riod of nine months.

But why, the ques­tion may be posed, would a ded­i­cated mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­ast veer slightly off the tra­di­tional track (rac­ing or oth­er­wise) to in­volve him­self in the cre­ative art of wine­mak­ing?

The an­swer, I be­lieve, lies in the con­stant quest for per­fec­tion which some in­di­vid­u­als, such as Ven­ter, ad­here to as a ba­sic phi­los­o­phy. To him, a chal­lenge lies not only in be­ing the fastest around the race­track, but also be­ing in­volved in cre­at­ing wines which are des­tined for leg­endary sta­tus.

Any in­di­vid­ual who drives what may be re­garded as the very best cars on the planet, surely will not drink just any wine, but will ap­pre­ci­ate the hand­crafted wines pro­duced in lim­ited quan­tity. And if th­ese wines come from your own es­tate, you will raise a glass of your very own to toast the ac­qui­si­tion of a piece of land des­tined to change the face of wine­mak­ing in South Africa.

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