Boasting 74 wines from 11 producers the Fields, Morris & Verdin South African tasting was an opportunity for those lucky enough to have gone to Cape Wine 2018, to re-taste the wines and see if they matched up to first impressions. Dubbed the ‘Back to the Future’ tasting, this was also an opportunity for those who did not attend Cape Wine to see what all the fuss was about. Chris Wilson put his tasting glass to good effect and comes up with 12 wines you simply have to try.
Eden Sadie, Hannes and Natalia Storm and Chris Mullineux all had new wines on show at the Fields, Morris & Verdin tasting.
When a carpet like the one pictured below is the least interesting thing in the room you know you’re in for a treat, and this was some rug. It was a Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat of a thing; it really tied the room together.
The venue was Dinerama in east London, and the occasion was the Fields, Morris & Verdin South Africa portfolio tasting. It was billed as ‘Back to the Future’, and although there were no DeLoreans or hover-boards in sight, many of the wines were true blockbusters.
A tidy collection of 11 producers showed some 74 wines between them from all over the Western Cape, ranging from classic to avant-garde. For those of us lucky enough to have visited Cape Wine in September this was a chance to re-taste many of these wines and chat again to the winemakers.
Here’s a selection of the most interesting, from waxy and wild Chardonnays to deftly made blends of both colours and a ‘gateway’ Pinotage.
Anthonij Rupert, Cape of Good Hope Serruria Chardonnay, 2016
Fruit for this Chard comes from a windy, shale-soiled vineyard 680m above sea level. 10% of the wine spends three months in second and third-fill oak barrels giving a lovely full and rich character, but it’s not overblown. There are nice lanolin and lily notes as well as honey and stone fruit.
Waterford Estate Chardonnay, 2016
Planted in the 1980s when it was still an experimental variety in South Africa this comes from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the Cape. It’s a weighty and voluptuous wine which is not surprising as 18% is fermented in new oak barrels. The vanilla and spice is balanced by pear and nectarine fruit and a mineral finish.
2017 was only the fourth vintage for the husband-and-wife team at Craven who craft single site wines from Stellenbosch. The Pinot Gris is not what it seems; it’s made like a red wine and looks like a red wine, albeit a pale one like a Beaujolais. There’s a real spice to it, some sweetness of fruit and a raspberry/red liquorice note. Lovely weight.
Winemaker Bernard Bredell produces five ‘pure wines’ in the Helderberg, Stellenbosch. By ‘pure’ he means that they are minimal intervention and he uses a handful of techniques to enhance his offering. Here in this Grenache Blanc/Chenin blend he mixes the stems and skins with the wine during a long 28 day fermentation to add texture and character. This is chewy with notes of tinned pear and fermenting apple juice.
Scions of Sinai Nomadis, 2018
The kind of blend you only find in SA, this is 70% Cinsault and 30% Pinotage. “It’s a gateway Pinotage!” jokes Bredell. It’s bright with plum and sloe fruit, a hint of boot polish and a bitter – Campari-like – finish. A really refreshing and juicy wine; just the type of thing that makes South Africa the go-to place for interesting, off-the-wall wines.
Tania & Vincent Carême, Terre Brûlée Rouge, 2016
The Chenin Terre Brûlée is familiar, but this was my first encounter with the Rouge. It’s a 60/40 blend of 20-year-old Syrah and early-picked Cinsault. Taking the Cinsault early helps retain freshness in the wine as the Syrah is super-ripe. This is a textured, almost wild, wine with a savoury whiff of animal blood and brooding hedgerow fruit. Expansive.
Sadie Family Wines Skurfberg, 2016
The full gamut of Sadie wines were on show and it was a pleasure to taste through; red first, then white – of course – the Eden Sadie way. These are lush and textured wines, they have power, poise and a real sense of place. The Skurfberg is a pure Chenin Blanc from vines grown on Table Mountain limestone, it’s creamy and lush with a bite of acidity and a kick of spice. Incredibly long with fine texture and focus.
Arguably Sadie’s benchmark white wine, this is a blend of all 11 of Swartland’s official white varieties. Bush-vine Chenin leads the pack which includes fruit from 17 different sites. Just 6,000 litres of this honeyed, lively and expressive wine was produced; there are aromas of lime, wax and hot leather car seat, and on the palate there’s white pepper spice and ripe stone fruit.
Mullineux Granite Syrah, 2017
From the decomposed granite soils of the Paardeberg comes this deeply perfumed Syrah that’s bright and enticing with red berry fruit, black pepper and violets. There’s a fennel herbiness too and an acidity that’s at first brisk then wonderfully balanced.
Hannes and Natalia Storm make a good team, they are passionate about their small but beautifully formed collection of wines without being over serious or – heaven forbid – precious. This is only wine after all. But what wine it is. The Vrede Chardonnay is grown on clay and shale soil in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley and spends eight months in used and new oak before release. Given the ageing process it’s mineral and lean, but has a lick of spice and chalkiness to balance the pear and guava fruit.
Storm Wines Ridge Pinot Noir, 2016
It’s the Storm Pinots that have put this producer on the map. The 2016 Ridge is the product of fruit grown in the stony, clay-rich soils of one of the Valley’s northeast-facing slopes. It’s concentrated with black cherry and dried cranberry fruit, a grip of tannins and an earthy, savoury finish of smoke and pastrami.
This Piekenierskloof Sauvignon is a real breath of fresh air. Yes it’s bright, tropical and aromatic – which is kind of expected – but there’s an incredible sweetness of fruit here too and a zippy acidity than begs you to come back for more. All of this at the ex-VAT wholesale price of £7.75. Unbelievable value.