Tag Archives: South Africa

Brother Jacob, wake up and pour

Our trip to the vineyards of Stellenbosch some years ago was a real hit. Thank you, Maja and WOSA for that! However, even if the visit list was more than long, there was one producer that we would have loved to add to the program. A faithful performer, who has followed us for a long time. A producer who, for a long time, made just one single wine.

The first contact with South Africa as a quality producer was for us some time in the 90ies. We took the car to the well-stocked monopoly store in the big city and purchased a couple of boxes assorted South African wines. A review of the then well-known wine critique Anders Röttorp in the paper “Dagens Industri” had aroused our interest. There were a lot of goodies in those boxes, excellent wines, excellent to store. Renowned Meerlust, vintage à la end 80ies were among others included in the collection. It was not too long ago that the last bottle was poured with great satisfaction.

This time we are thinking of another producer. Jacobsdal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I think the 1995 vintage was the first we tasted. An old product sheet, left in the cellar beside the current collection, points to that. Anyway, the very first Jacobsdal Pinotage warmed our wine hearts to the point that it is now a permanent inhabitant in the cellar.

Brother Jacob likes to sleep long in the dark shelves of the wine cellar. Readily 10 years, up to 20 some recommends, but the fact is that it is hard to resist to pour at once. We have reached vintage 2008 in our glasses, which despite its seven years feels a bit freshly roused on the nose.

Jacobsdal Pinotage

Jakobsdal Pinotage 2008 may be young on the nose, but seduces with delicious fruit and silk on the palate: 
Beautiful red, medium intensity. On the nose youthfully restrained. On the palate nice dark fruitiness, loads of dark red cherries. Add a spicy touch, a pinch of interesting chemistry and well-integrated oak. Almost full-bodied, but at the same time stylish slender. The tannins are present, but plays discretely. Excellent structure and balance, and that lovely texture. A titbit with gorgeous length. As drinking silk, saturated of fruit.

On the summer a perfect pairing to grilled meat. In the darker parts of the year to casseroles, game and roast. We love to sip it just as it is, but have got a reaction from friends of the more simple, fruitdriven style. When they had the first glass “cooking wine”, they wondered what we had recommended,  but when the food reached the plates they totally loved the wine.

The Jacobsdal Pinotage was born when Cornelis Dumas, at his father’s rapid demise in 1966, 21 years old had to stop his university studies and assume the responsibility as winemaker and owner to Jacobsdal. He was forced to quickly change the main production of fortified wine to table wine in order to keep up when the market winds turned. Today Cornelis has got assistance of his son, Hannes Dumas.

For a long time, the Pinotage was the only wine from Jacobsdal. So when a Cabernet Sauvignon was released in the beginning of the millennium that was something of a surprise for the market.

The Pinotage grapes are harvested from organically managed bush vines grown on gravelly, sandy loam not far from False Bay. The 85 hectares of vineyards are not irrigated, a fact that contributes to give small berries with a big concentration of flavours. The yield is also kept low by tough pruning.

Interesting is that the must is fermented without any addition of yeast, something very unusual in South Africa. The fermentation is made in big open concrete vats, manual punch-down with use of homemade wooden poles.  After fermentation the wine matures in French oak barrels for 18 months. The approach is as little interference in the process as possible, a “natural wine approach” it perhaps could be called. Irrespective of which label one selects to use about the method, the result speaks for itself. Delicious!

This summer we will enjoy some more 2008 to the barbecues and keep the remaining bottles for some time. Future consumption is also secured. The cellar is recently refilled with vintage 2011. And that little boy will not be roused for morning prayer in many years.

On the Swedish monopoly, Systembolaget: Jacobsdal Pinotage 2011, no. 22050, 115 SEK (July 2015).

Link to Jacobsdal’s hemsida.

The headline of this post is a play with the Swedish title of the originally French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques”, translated to Swedish as “Broder Jakob” and in English “Brother John”. However, a literal translation of the French should be “Brother Jacob”. Read about the monk, who is sleeping instead of attending the morning prayer, on Wikipedia

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Fairview’s innovative Pinotage

We had an interesting wine from Fairview in Paarl, South Africa, to dinner. No, not just interesting, but a very good one. Perfect to the grilled lamb with its spicy side dishes. The interesting was the mix of Pinotage and Viognier, where the latter brought a gentle but delicious floral aroma to the wine.

The practice of adding the white Viognier to a red wine originates from northern Rhône. In Côte-Rôtie it is allowed to add up to 20 percent of Viogner to the Syrah. The usual practice is much lower, about 2 – 5 percent. When Viogner and Syrah co-ferments, the wine gets a nice aroma and the colour is stabilised.

I already knew Fairview’s beautiful pure Viognier. Round but surprisingly fresh, with lovely floral aromas. Fairview was back in 1997 the first producer in South Africa to make a Viognier. The grapes get a long period to get the right ripeness and the yield is very low. Fermented in a combination of French oak and stainless steel and left on the lees for ten months. A wonderful wine, and to the delight of us consumers, very reasonable priced. Also a good choice for spicy food.

The innovative Fairview has once again come up with something new in the Pinotage Viognier blend. And once again they have succeeded. Just as in Rhône, the winemaker Anthony de Jager has made a co-fermentation. Now the black Pinotage grapes together with a small percentage of Viogner. Then nine months in old French and American oak barrels. The result, a softer Pinotage with marked fruit.

My tasting notes says; Soft aroma with dark berries and some floral hints. Medium bodied, marked but soft tannins, nice medium acidity. Dark fruit with morello cherries, beautiful floral hints. Just a very tiny sweetness and subtle oak. Good length. New world wine in old world style. A truly good wine, easy to drink and great to food.

Fairview is well-known not only by the wines labelled Fairview, but, perhaps even more, for the Goats do Roam selection of wines. Also a range of really good wines, humorously branded with allusions to the goats lodged at Fairview’s estate; Goat-Roti, Goats do Roam in Villages, Bored Doe, etc. And the goat cheese, just wonderful!

Rosé reviews give hope for freezing souls

The rain pours down outside. To find something positive, I can conclude that there is no wind and the sea is smooth as glass. The pale shade of green in trees and bushes tells about a spring that ought to be here soon. April has been so chilly. Despite all the warm sweaters, I have been freezing constantly. The remedy has been full bodied wines with power. A few single malts have also passed by to bring some heat. 

It seems much too early for the reviews of this year’s rosé wines. However, the calendar says it is time and consequently we have been able to read many in recent weeks. It gives hope. The sun and the warm days have to lurk somewhere around the corner. 

Rosé has become so trendy. There has been a lot of “pink talk” the last few years. Of course it has influenced the consumers who are buying, drinking and chatting about them, usually in spring and summer time. It is nice that a previously undervalued type of wine has come into vogue outside of France. 

I have always liked a good rosé. Fortunately, the wave of rosés has brought with it a greater selection of quality. I favour the elegant ones with body, character and good length. Fruitiness, freshness and multifaceted appearance in nose and palate are also included on the wish list. Often I find the ones I prefer to be made of the grapes from southern France. 

Tavel in southern Rhône is the classical origin. An AOC where rosé is the only permitted type of wine. Tavel gives us wines that respond well to the requirements. Structure and body are there, freshness and fruitiness as well. The grapes are Grenache and Cinsault, together with, among others, Syrah and Mourvèdre. 

A new favorite of mine is found in Costière de Nîmes, located only a short distance south of Tavel. This region received its AOC-status in 1986 and got its current name in 1989. As recent as 2004 the AOC changed main region, as it was moved from the Languedoc to Rhône at the request of the growers. 

In Costière de Nîmes we find the small family-owned estate Château Mourgues du Grès. Franҫois and Anne Collard make whites, reds and also some beautiful rosés. Two of them are found on top of my list thanks to their freshness, concentration and body. 

“Le Galets Rosés” has exactly the right appeal to my palate. Made mainly of Syrah, with a little Grenache to season the blend. While this wine only has seen stainless steel, the “Capitelles des Mourgues” has been fermented and then aged a few months in large oak barrels. In this wine, the leading role is played by Mourvèdre with Syrah and Grenache as important supporting actors. 

I conclude with a contender from the New World. Morgenster in Stellenbosch makes a superb rosé from an unusual guest in the South African vineyards. This rosé is namely made of 100% Sangiovese and has a name which alludes to its Italian roots; Caruso.

Merlot can be brilliant

What a wine! Thirteen years old, still vibrant with life. This week’s most stunning experience came from a South African wine, bought and put in the cellar many years ago. Then forgotten, until this week.

A quick web search made me a bit nervous. It was not unlikely that its best days already had passed. Better open it and face the harsh reality. 

Magnificent! That is the right word to describe the Steenberg Merlot 1999. It met me with a hue of brick. Overwhelmingly rich, with layers of flavour sensations. The nose delightfully mature and complex, just slightly smoky with hints of sweet roots. The sensational explosion came in the palate. A rich concentrated, spicy blend of laurels, root vegetables, raisins and well integrated oak. Great body. Balanced with velvet tannins, moderate alcohol and very good length. And after a little while the minty notes evolved together with some sweet raisins. 

Isn’t it time for a revival of the Merlot? This Steenberg confirmed my belief in the grape’s maturing potential. It also showed the ability to make great Merlot in South Africa. A Morgenhof Merlot Reserve 1998 some time ago gave the same impression, even if this wine from Steenberg was well ahead of its competition. 

Steenberg is one of the reputable South African wine farms dating back to the seventeenth century. Unusual is that the farm was founded by a woman. Catharina Ras came from Lübeck to South Africa already in 1662. In 1682 she was allowed to lease some land in Constantia from Simon van der Stel, a lease that was converted to ownership in 1688. Catharina was also known for her bad luck with husbands, the fatality rate was so to say high and she was married five times. But that is another story. 

Steenberg is today owned by Graham Beck. The 62 ha Constantia vineyards include plantings of Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Nebbiolo. The latter a rare guest in the South African vineyards, which in the hands of the winemaker JD Pretorius is transformed into a beautiful, well-structured wine with the typical nose of leaves in decay and a substantial load of tannins. 

Unfortunately, I have not tasted any newer vintages of their Merlot. But now I have a great reason to find a bottle. Hopefully, a sip of it will convince me to put some into the cellar and, in ten years’ time or so, give me another stunning experience.