Wine clubs are growing faster than mushrooms in Finnish forests these days and one of them invited me to do a South African tasting for them. It was a tough choice, not to say yes to the invitation, but what to serve? Dare I leave out the trademark of SA wines, the iconic Pinotage, or not?
I took the plunge, a leap of faith in the direction of lean and mean rather than big and bold and held my breath. I’ve done many wine tastings in my time but this one made me nervous. The narrative of wine from my beloved country is sadly encased in descriptives like ‘high alcohol’, ‘in your face’, ‘jammy’, ‘robust’, the list goes on. But I was determined to show another side, one that would make these knowledgeable tasters sit up and think again.
Making history in Finland with the first showing of Mount Abora Wines in a public setting, these are all about ‘no’, ‘low’ and ‘minimal’. With their aim being to emulate the style of Alain Graillot from Crôzes-Hermitage, Burgundy, France, winemaker Johan Meyer and consultants Pieter de Waal and Krige Visser have succeeded in producing some truly bright, light and structured reds in their Saffraan and The Abyssinian. Their Koggelbos Chenin Blanc has a deep yellow colour and is so full in flavour that you could mistake it for a Chardonnay.
In contrast to Koggelbos, is Eben Sadie’s Skurfberg (Sadie Family Wines). From 88 year-old unirrigated vines from way up north on the west coast of South Africa in the Olifants River region, this Chenin shows you just how good this widely planted grape can be made. Pineapple, minerals and acidity explode in your mouth and the finish is steely and long.
Cinsault or Cinsaut as the South Africans spell it, has been the workhorse of South African reds used mostly in blends since before my student days which is a long, long time ago. “The family member that’s been in jail and that no one talks about” (Eben Sadie), has now come out of the closet to show itself in all its glorious structure. Mount Abora’s Saffraan is a great example, low in alcohol, fruity and layered. Lean and elegant, it expresses its terroir and the result is a memorable finish. On the other hand, Louis Nel’s Collaboration Cinsault is bigger and surprisingly bolder considering the fact that it was bottled in the same year as it was harvested. Never seen the inside of an oak barrel, this food friendly wine is rounded expressing yummy tannins.
They do things well at Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate. Owner Guilio Bertrand from Piemonte, Italy, calls in the experts when he is in doubt and has managed to produce one of the best blended olive oils in the world. Now their aim is to do the same with the wine. Henry Kotzé is the Cellar Master and Winemaker and works closely with consultant Pierre Lurton from Chateau Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux. Their Lourens River Valley Bordeaux blend is full with plenty of cigar box and eucalyptus showing in the nose and palate and the finish is so long you can still taste it the next day!
So, what did punters think? Finding the best of the whites and the reds was an impossible task. Each wine had its place, each wine was remarkable. The applause was loud and long. Hey, I got away with it! No Pinotage….
These wines are available from the webshop: Veinidkoju.ee