Reaching New Heights
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.
For more information, visit uvamira.com.