CapeWine 2015 is not just about tasting wine, and meeting the passionate wine makers, but it is also educational, with a series of seminars which have been offered in the Amorim Speakers Corner, which have included wine tastings too.
Each of the seminars are only half an hour long, meaning that speaking is concentrated to 15 minutes and the tasting equally long. Each winemaker represented wines of a number of wine colleagues, and was not just promoting his own wines. Seating was tight in the 20-seater venue at the back corner of the Convention Center Hall, so it was first come, first served.
On Tuesday I was lucky that a kind gentleman got up and offered me his seat, when Rickety Bridge Winemaker Wynand Grobler spoke about Franschhoek Semillon and the 110 year old vineyard. He told us that a number of young (all under the age of 35) Franschhoek winemakers have got together to attract attention to the excellent Semillon grown in the valley. In the past Franschhoek has been mocked for not having quality grapes, and that the award-winning wines have been made from grapes brought in from elsewhere. Semillon however is a niche for Franschhoek, He and his Franschhoek colleagues believe in the Valley, he told us.
*. Franschhoek Cellars 2012, who produced 4000 liters, a blend of 1936 (60%) and 1998 (40%) bush vines.
*. Rickety Bridge Paulina’s Reserve 2012, made from vines planted in 1990, prior to the clone era, Wynand said of his wine. It is an unirrigated vineyard, the wine is barrel fermented for 10 months, and is a limited production.
*. Boekenhoutskloof 2012, made from grapes coming from 1902 and 1936 vines, with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc added.
*. Landau du Val 2013, made from vines dating back to 1905, from a 5ha area. It spent 10 months in the barrel. No sulphur is added until bottling. He said it will drink well up to 10 years.
*. Rickety Bridge Road to Santiago 2014, 6 month skin contact, their first vintage.
*. Arrow Heart 2014 is made by Chris Alheit from Franschhoek grapes dating back to 1936 vines.
Wynand concluded by sharing that Semillon is still hard to sell amongst local consumers, yet is such a good food pairing wine. Semillon was used for bulk wine in the past. It grows well in the sandy soils of Franschhoek.
Role of labour in winemaking
Andrew Gunn (left, with consultant viticulturist Kevin Watt) of Iona (reflecting his roots, the name of a Scottish island) bought a run down apple farm Geelbeksvlei in Elgin, and with the consulting assistance of University of Stellenbosch Professor Archer they created a wine farm. It has the coolest vineyard in the country, and they tend to harvest two months later than other vineyards. He focused on Iona in his talk, but also mentioned and poured Newton Johnson (medical programmes for staff, and joint Hemel-en-Aarde Valley school facilities) and Klein Constantia (do not offer housing).
They inherited 50 workers on the farm, who used to be paid a bonus for coming to work on a Monday. Andrew changed the system, expecting staff to work on Mondays, and using disciplinary procedures if they did not. The staff number has reduced to a core team of 30 over time, and now they have a loyal workforce, not one person being more important than another. Some have worked there for 30 years or more, and the newest ones for 7 years. Andrew shared that they prefer humans rather than machines working with their grapes, mentioning that it is ethically responsible to employ more staff. Joseph is their viticulture manager, treating each vine as a child, caring and treating for each one individually. Hand contact comes with planting the vine, training the vine, leaf plucking, and picking the grapes.
We tasted Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2012; Iona Owner White One Man Band 2014, a Bordeaux Blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon; Newton Johnson Family Reserve Chardonnay 2014; Newton Johnson Granum 2013, a Syrah and Mouvedre blend; Iona Red One Man Band blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Mourvèdre, a most enjoyable wine; and Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2009, made from White Muscadel grapes.
Francois van Zyl of Laibach is a passionate organic wine producer, he showed in his half an hour talk. His vines receive no pesticides, no fertilizers, are certified organic, and are tended to by the winemaker. A little bit of sulphur is added. He referred a number of times to ‘bakkie winemakers’ and those with holiday houses in Hermanus who will not make it as organic wine farmers, given the care that the organic vineyards require. There is a group of young dynamic organic wine farmers that meet informally. Johan Reyneke of Reyneke Wines is the best known organic producer. Francois said that our country has the best climate for Organic wines, and the wine production method ‘will grow over time to be noticed’. Currently fewer than 1% of wine farms are certified organic. More farms practice the method, but are not certified, due to the admin load it requires. The biggest challenge is to produce a sustainable crop to generate income. ‘It is all about balance’ , Francois said a few times.
Laibach started growing vines organically in 2000 when Francois joined them, and he explained that they run the risk of having smaller crops. However the smaller berries and bunches give them flavour concentration.
* Joostenberg Chenin Blanc 2014, from 32.year old bush vine. He called Chenin Blanc the most exciting varietal currently. It is waxy and creamy, Francois described.
* Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 2014, the best known organic wine. Well balanced, no acid.
* Avondale Cyclus 2012, A blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon.
* Org de Rac Shiraz 2013, made from two clones in Piketberg.
* Waverley Hills 2011, a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, and Viognier.
* Laibach The Ladybird, a low alcohol Bordeaux Blend, with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot. Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. Each year they release thousands of ladybirds to take care of the mieliebugs, giving them the most abundant bird life.
Swartland: The Dry Land Story
Adi Badenhorst, of AA Badenhorst in the Paardeberg region of the Swartland, spoke about the region which has old vines, but has become hip and popular. Adi is a character, irreverent, one not knowing when he is serious and when not. Someone who knows him well said he came across as very serious today. He told us that he knows little about viticulture, and that he was meant to be supported by two other Swartland colleagues, but they did not arrive. He looked at the Winelands wallpaper of the Speaker’s Corner cubicle, the lush green vineyards depicted not reflecting the Swartland, he said. It is currently very dry there, and they have had below-average rain in the past two seasons. It affects the fruit, he said, and is a serious situation for farmers in the Swartland. Many farmes have a mix of agriculture, being animals, wheat, and grape. Most grapes are planted high up on the mountains in the area. Older vines have deeper roots, and they can withstand dry conditions better than younger vines.
A question about the purchase of Swartland grapes, and whether it is competitive, led Adi to reply that there is competition for older vines, becoming a ‘contact sport‘. He only buys from his neighbours, in the main. He recently discovered a Barbarossa vineyard from the 1900s, about 120 km from his farm.
He said that the Swartland used to make mainly white wine, used by the distilling industry. The farms were meant to replant 10% of their vines every year, but couldn’t afford to. So the older vines are now of interest to wine lovers. The wine farmers are trying to increase the price of their grapes every year, to remain sustainable, and try to resist being squeezed in price by the larger buyers. In summary, Adi said, the Swartland has humble and passionate wine makers.
* Riebeek Cellars Short Street 2014, a co-operative with 28 members. It is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Grenache.
* David Chenin Blanc 2014, by David Sadie, made from an old vine Chenin Blanc.
* Pulpit Rock Swartland Stories 2013, a blend of Shiraz, Pinotage, and Grenache.
* Babylon’s Peak 2014, made by Stefan Basson, who does mixed farming. Blend of Shiraz and Carignan.
* AA Badenhorst Ramnasgras Cinsault 2014, production of about 2000 bottles, vineyards date back to the 1960s. The wine was named after a type of mustard seed, which they like to smoke in the Swartland, Adi said! While Cinsault plantings have decreased, he said, Cinsault is becoming fashionable again.
* Testalonga El Bandito Redemption Syrah 2014, from the Paardeberg, made by Craig Hawkins.
Johan Wiese is a viticulturist and nurseryman, and he added more information. He said that the Swartland is such a large area, that different parts of it have different soil types and climates. The Swartland vineyards take longer to age, he said. He mentioned that the Swartland is best known for the following Reds: Shiraz (but it needs water), Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan. It is known for the following Whites: Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier. New cultivars are on the rise, with those from the Mediterranean (France, Spain, Italy, and Greece) possible in future.
This brought an end to CapeWine 2015!
POSTSCRIPT 17/9: The first three seminars were held on Tuesday. This afternoon I went back to CapeWine15, to listen to the seminar led by Adi Badenhorst, Swartland winemaker. I have added my write-up about his talk in green above.
POSTSCRIPT 26/9: CapeWines 2015 has been described as the most successful ever, with attendance up by 27% relative to 2012!
Cape Wine 2015, 15 – 17 September, Cape Town International Convention Centre. Wines of South Africa, Dorp Street, Stellenbosch. Cell 082 658 3883. www.wosa.co.za Twitter: @CapeWine2015
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Tel (021) 433-2100, Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click