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Old and new at pioneering estate

Lifestyle Section - Wine

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One of the first wines that first made any sense to me as a relatively novice wine lover was Overgaauw's Sylvaner. It was way back in the early nineties and my late mom and I were visiting close family friends in Hout Bay.

Elena D'Aragona Thomas, who hailed from Italy, taught at the same school as my mother had, and with her deeply embedded Italian roots, I took it upon myself to cook her spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) – quite a brave (and at the time somewhat arrogant) undertaking.

Anyway, all was well – and I seemed to pass the culinary test as I made my take on this lovely dish, cooking up a classic tomato sauce made with freshly grated ripe tomatoes and loads of garlic sizzled in olive oil, to which, when it cooked down, I added lemon zest and lots of freshly-chopped parsley. Finding fresh clams was quite a challenge in those days but I sourced some in a tiny fish shop in Sea Point (which no longer exists) and at the last moment threw in the molluscs, cooking them until the shells just opened.

The sylvaner (maiden vintage 1971) as I recall was a perfect match, presented by Elena – and today still remains the only sylvaner produced in South Africa. It's a lovely off-dry wine with tempting aromas of pear and tropical fruit and traces of floral and spice notes, and I am still very fond of it – every now and then I buy a small stash and repeat, to the best of my abilities, that memorable meal that I enjoyed so many years ago.

I was recently lucky enough to receive a trio of samples from Overgaauw, which is also one of the first estates in Stellenbosch I visited as a student, even further back in the seventies.

The charming estate is today a century old, with fourth generation David Van Velden junior, the custodian of this pioneering estate. As wine maker he is eager to embrace changes yet always mindful of the great heritage he inherited and has to look after.

There have been many "firsts" aside from producing the delicious full-bodied sylvaner. Among others, Overgaauw was the first South African estate to bottle a single varietal merlot (1982); and the maiden estate to plant Portuguese port cultivars and, the first estate to drop the contentious name "Port" from their labels in 1996.

moscate-mv2The pack in fact included their single varietal 2012 Overgaauw Touriga Nacional, one of the traditional components of port. It's the second vintage of this delicious wine, which is redolent of rich red fruit like mulberries and raspberries and plums, wonderfully soft tannins and a fine spicy finish. It's one of the finest local examples of Touriga Nacional I've had, supple, full and rounded.

David's philosophy includes minimal intervention in the cellar and a judicious use of oak and I also thoroughly enjoyed the 2012 Chardonnay (which made its debut with its maiden vintage in 1986). Lime-tinged, this pale gold wine offers elegant layers of citrus, stone-fruit and vanilla.

Matured in French oak barrels, there's a hint of fresh biscuit – but the wood never overpowers – a lovely wine that will age well for another few years.

The final wine in the trio I received was the 2011 Overgaauw Merlot (maiden vintage 1982). After all those years, the estate seems to be at the top of its game in creating wonders with this varietal. David meticulously selects only those pockets in the vineyard demonstrating highly concentrated fruit.

A rich and well-structured wine, it offers up elements of black cherry fruit, with hints of dark mocha chocolate and elegant oak, derived from the 18 months it spent in French barrels.

It has lovely smooth tannins and a lingering complexity.(The Overgaauw Merlot 2010 was recently voted among South Africa's Top 100 Wines at the 2013 Top 100 SA Wine Challenge).

l An unusual wine also found its way to my tasting table recently: Badsberg's new low alcohol (9.5%) pink Perlé Moscato 2013, made from 100% Muscat de Frontignan. I was rather sceptical when I received it but what a lovely, fragrant and moreish wine, ideal for summer drinking with salads and fish dishes and even brunches. Aromas of Turkish delight abound, and, take a sip and it's like diving into bowl of fresh strawberries and cream in the nicest possible way you can have with a wine.

It's the wine's maiden vintage made at this Rawsonville cellar and, at R34.50, an absolute steal.

Written by Orielle Berry You are reading Old and new at pioneering estate articles

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