Unusual varieties were the focus of this week’s The Wierd Ones themed tasting at Steenberg Vineyards where the spotlight was on blended wines which include Verdelho, a white grape grown throughout Portugal but with a small planting in Botriver, Walker Bay; Roussanne, a Rhone white grape; Grenache noir, a Spanish red grape widely grown in Spain and France but with tiny plantings in South Africa; Clairette blanc, another French grape; Nebbiolo, a red grape from Piedmont, Italy and Carignan, a red grape not much respected in France but found in older, low-yielding vines in South Africa.
Adi Badenhorst, maverick winemaker extraordinaire, and more of a keeper of the lands than winemaker in the conventional sense, introduced a flight of mostly blended, complex, some intense, some aromatic, unusual wines some of which have a base of chenin blanc grown on vines which are older than 40 years.
Adi and cousin, Hein, make wine in a once neglected cellar last used 70 years ago, Kalmoesfontein, in the Siebritskloof part of the Paardeberg mountain between Malmesbury and Wellington in the Swartland wine district where they are converting the lands to becoming organic.
Speaking of his blends, Adi explains that 5 or 6 different bush vine varieties could be harvested from 8, 10 or 15 old vineyard sites to make the final product.
The greater the number of varieties in the blend, the more complex the wine will be.
Sceptical of much touted “barrel selection wines”, Adi makes the point that this shows more faith in the coopers than in the fruit, and also impatience in expecting the wine to show it’s potential so soon. This was borne out when tasting the delectable, elegant AA Badenhorst 2007 blend of chenin blanc, roussanne, grenache blanc and gris, verdelho, colombar, viognier, chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc.
Another factor in favour of vineyard selection is that the older the vines are, the greater the root surface area they have to take elements from the earth.
Other wines tasted were:
Feiteiras – Verdelho 2008 from Botriver, Walker Bay.
Steenberg – Semillon 2007 (Semillon being the first grape to be planted in the Constantia Valley)
Orangerie – Blend 2009 of chenin blanc, semillon viognier, chardonnay.
Roundstone Estate 2008 – Chenin blanc and grenache blend showing wonderful clarity of fruit.
Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2008 – Blend of chenin blanc, grenache blanc, clairette blanc,viognier, chardonnay and roussanne. Platter South African Wines 2010, Wine of the Year.
Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2007 – Chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier.
AA Badenhorst 2007 – Roussanne, grenache blanc, clairette blanc, sauvignon blanc.
Steenberg Nebbiolo 2007 – Shows an increased cherry intensity with aging which can be as long as 30 years.
Annexkloof Malbec 2007 – Very intense, plummy, aromatic example.
Niepoort and Sadie Cape Charme 2008 – Carignan, Grenache, Tinta Barocca and Pinotage. Dirk Niepoort, 5th generation port producer from Douro, Portugal and Eben Sadie, award-winning Swartland winemaker.
Roundstone Shiraz 2008 – Small volume wine from shale soils.
Shiraz is the greatest red grape in the world. The Bordeauxlaise would love to put shiraz into their blends but they are only allowed to use malbec.
Orangerie 2009 – Shiraz, grenache, mouvedre.
Lammershoek Roulette 2006 – Shiraz, carignan, grenache, mouvedre, viognier.
AA Badenhorst 2006 – Shiraz, mouvedre, cinsaut.
Remember, they’re not wierd but they have been there for very long time and put together in interesting blends and styles, produce amazing textures.
There’s more to life than Bordeaux blends……..