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The art of winemaking savoured

Lifestyle Section - Wine

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Owning a property in the beautiful Banhoek Valley must be a rare privilege – with a terroir that offers immense potential, especially when it’s as diverse as Oldenburg. Adrian Vanderspuy, the debonair owner, came full circle when he acquired the property in 2003 – he was born in the Banhoek valley, and following a spell overseas returned to be part of the “new South Africa” – and to have the opportunity to contribute to the wine renaissance then in progress.

oldenburg_2-mvSimon Thompson was headhunted and fulfils the role of both winemaker and viticulturalist. Between him and Adrian they have created wonders in replanting the old vineyards that were in a parlous state, and have been revamped.

Under their own label, the wines have been something to watch for many years now, and this fact was again confirmed at a tasting a few weeks ago, where we sampled the latest vintages and an exciting new Bordeaux blend Rhodium.

It was in 2007 that a few barrels were made at a neighbouring cellar (wines are now made in situ at the magnificent cellar and tasting room with 360 degree views), and while Simon said the vines are still young, he added “we are on the right track. We are going up a quality curve and the Banhoek valley is the place to do it. There’s a lot of latent quality in the bottle, but the actual quality is in the Banhoek.”

Speaking of terroir, he emphasised that the way the vineyards and the vines are managed is critical – “keeping the truth in the terroir is ultimately the golden thread that runs through the wines”.

This was evidently the case in the wines we sampled, which were teamed with some delicious dishes at Ottimo Cibo in Bishopscourt – a deliciously minerally chenin blanc and a golden chardonnay (both 2012 vintages), where the key words were texture and balance between the acidity and wood.

While the whites have always been a downright treat (says Simon – “we have stuck to tried and tested principles”), the reds are big, textured wines, and the latest releases showed that with each year that passes there is greater complexity, greater weight and greater structure to the wines. An inky black syrah (2010) offers wonderful savoury qualities backed by vanilla undertones and a fabulously silky smooth finish; the same year vintage cabernet sauvignon is a full and rich wine with lavish aromas of wood, berries and a tad of mint which carries through when you sip – fabulous balance between wood and fruit.

The cabernet franc has always been a favourite, and the 2010 is a treat with floral and perfumed notes on the nose enhanced by a singular spiciness. A luscious mouthful when you sip: delicious black berries and dark red stone fruit which all add up to a wonderfully seamless wine.

* How ever many times one visits Muratie, it’s difficult not to be swept up in the history and romance that envelops this charming, laid-back estate. History is everywhere, from the time you step out of your vehicle and see the ancient oaks that form a virtual canopy across the narrow Knorhoek road, to the moment you enter the historic building housing the tasting room which dates back to the 17th century.

The love story of young German soldier Laurens Campher (who lived in the late 17th and early 18th century and was first custodian of Muratie) and Ansela van de Caab, a slave, is one that most are familiar with – a story of a couple who despite the odds, had a love that endured and flourished.

On my most recent visit I had the privilege on taking part in a fantastic vertical tasting of the Isabella Chardonnay (named after owner Rijk Melck’s daughter); six vintages of Ansela van de Caab and six of shiraz.

Like most good wines there is that common thread that runs through each, and the beautiful Isabella (and I am referring to daughter and wine) all shared similar characteristics give or take more or less acidity – with rich, full-flavoured honey and citrus qualities all shining through. With each vintage, time in oak varied, but was generally between seven to 10 months. As Rijk and winemaker Francois Conradie pointed out, the intention in the wine is to offer an elegant Burgundian wine with lingering minerality.

Following was the tasting of the estate’s Bordeaux blend Ansela van de Caab, dating back to 2005. Proportions of the components of cab sauv, merlot and cabernet franc have varied over the years, obviously making the taste profile and character vary vintage on vintage: 2005 was predominantly merlot (65%) with just a soupcon of cab franc (5%) and 30% cab sauv – resulting in a splendidly concentrated mouthful which over the years has seen a seamless balance of flavours and tannins meld together.

Yet following years saw a greater proportion of cab sauv and also gradually a larger proportion of cab franc, but again that golden thread of a perfect weave of flavours and tannins as the wine ages in the bottle – silky smooth but great concentration with the cab sauv offering that fantastic backbone. These are beautifully elegant wines, and I’d give my eye teeth to be able to possess the full bouquet of consecutive vintages we tasted from 2005 up to 2010.

Finally we rounded off in a slow and leisurely way with a sampling of shiraz (also from 2005 to 2010). Grapes come from three different vineyards with the oldest planted in 1975 and the other two established in 1994 and 1998.

The wine for all years was matured in French and American oak barrels – ranging between 12 months  to the latest vintage spending 20 months in wood. All had their own characteristics but all superbly structured – the 2005 being referred to in the tasting notes as having “hedonistic deep berry fruit on the nose”. On the whole, spice, smokiness and fruit integrated beautifully and some vintages were more savoury (as in 2008); some offering more of a sweet spiciness (as in 2009). But all a rare opportunity to savour the recent history of winemaking at this much-revered estate.

Written by Orielle Berry You are reading The art of winemaking savoured articles

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