The Buyer
Lisse Garnett puts South Africa’s Spier wines to the taste test

Lisse Garnett puts South Africa’s Spier wines to the taste test

As one of the oldest Cape wine farms, Spier has its share of controversial history but for the past five decades it has been at the forefront of enotourism, sustainable viticulture and social innovation in South Africa. By seeing to the needs of workers and practising regenerative farming, Spier has generated positivity in the local community and even abroad, where they’ve won many accolades for this work. In her second piece about the estate Lisse Garnett met up with Frans Smit in London to taste through Spier’s latest vinous offerings.

Lisse Garnett
19th January 2024by Lisse Garnett
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

“Cabernet Sauvignon leads the charge, Merlot and Cabernet Franc follow in this vibrant Bordeaux inspired blend,” writes Garnett about the new Creative Block 5.

Spier Wine Farm managing director Frans Smit addresses writers before the tasting

South Africa is one of the oldest wine producing countries in the New World. Like Madeira, which was first populated by the Portuguese, it was colonised by the Dutch to provide vital victuals on a profitable long-haul maritime route. Dutch East India Company ships stopped off in Cape Town on their way to and from the East Indies.

Jan van Reibeeck, the Capes first Commander, triumphantly recorded the region’s maiden grape pressing in 1659, seven years after his arrival. Muscadel and other white grapes were cultivated, ‘with the aid of certain free burghers and some slaves’, ‘as the moon waned’. Biodynamism was sexy even then.

Later, in 1679, Commander Simon Van de Stel discovered the fertile valley he christened Stellenbosch. Spier Wine Farm was one of the original tracts of Stellenbosch to be claimed by a colonist or freeburgher. That claimant was Aarnout Jansz. An ex German soldier and favoured employee of the Dutch East India Company. By 1692 he had successfully cultivated 2000 vines on the riverfront property. Today, Spier Wine Farm boasts over 600 hectares and also works in long-standing partnerships with numerous well-respected producers.

And so to the tasting

Spier Wine Farm wines were paired magnificently with food at Petersham Nurseries

It’s always a pleasure to spend time in the presence of Spier’s managing director, the elegantly formed, gentle colossus that is Frans Smit. Impeccably mannered, soft tenor voiced, he somehow managed to engage with each and every one of us during the crowded presentation of these wines at Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden. The food was perfectly paired as well as absolutely delicious.

Spier Signature Albariño, Stellenbosch 2022 13.42%

Launched April 2022. 40,000 litres produced, there are approximately 35 hectares of Albariño in the whole of SA and 9 in Stellenbosch on the Bottelary Hills. Apparently the Skandi’s love it. Creamy yet zesty, stony fresh with cantaloupe, peach, grapefruit and fantastically priced. £11.99 at Majestic

Seaward Chardonnay, Coastal 2021 14.35%

Three whites and three reds made with grapes grown close to the ocean. This is made with Chardonnay grown on the Tygerberg Hills. Bosomy and voluptuous, barrel fermented and fecund with flavours of peach, vanilla, almond, nectarine and lime with a spray of white blossom. £14.95 at Slurp

Seaward Chenin Blanc, Coastal 2021 14%

8 months on lees. Luscious and weighty as cold silk; fresh and crystalline. Viscous with almond oil and there is a smorgasbord of fruit on the palate; peach, honeydew melon, nectarine – laced with honey and lifted with lime, vanilla and a spray of fragrant white blossom. Divine. £14.95 at Slurp

Seaward Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 14%

Deep, dark, delicious, dry, rich and spicy with cedar, blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Bitey, chewy, savoury; delectable tannins, redolent with Upmann.No2. Tobacco leaf, leather. Moreish as chocolate to a child, chalky finish. All this and sapid freshness. Superb. £14.95 at Slurp

Creative Block 2 2021 13.5%

Named after the Spier art project that support African artists, Creative Block are broadly speaking, South African interpretations of Bordeaux and Rhone blends. Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Chenin brings complexity, part wild ferment. Fresh white peach, majestic minerals, lime zest, cucumber, gooseberries with a good pinch of aromatic fynbos bush herbs. £16.95 at Slurp

Creative Block 3 2018 14.8%

Shiraz laced with Mouvédre and Viognier. Deeply spiced, rich and velvety with salted savoury Asian plum, tobacco leaf, cigar box, leather, woodsmoke, deep black cherry, violets. So multifaceted, layered and enticing; there is a moreish savoury character too; black pepper and fennel. A deep dark delectable draught. £21.95 at Slurp

Creative Block 5 2019 14.4%

Cabernet Sauvignon leads the charge, Merlot and Cabernet Franc follow in this vibrant Bordeaux inspired blend. Deep plum velvet, aromatic cedar and dark mint chocolate chip dance delectably across the palate. The tannins too are dense and brooding. This has far more to give. £21.95 at Slurp

Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2019 14.5%

A predominantly natural ferment of single vineyard vines planted in 1982. Nutty, rich, oily with almond, apricot, savoury bitter endive, pepper and super fleshy honeyed peach. Dry and savoury yet voluptuous, enticing and full, whole bunch and botrytis add layers and texture as does barrel ageing. Deliciously indulgent and begging for caramelised fatty food. £24.95 at Slurp

Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 13.7%

100% Single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Optically sorted to perfection. Tobacco leaf, cedar and salty Asian plum laced with sweet violets and peppered with pencil. Profoundly concentrated. £25.00 VINVM

Spier 21 Gables Pinotage 2017, 14.5%

Dry crushed tobacco leaves, liquorice, subtly sweet earthy spice, deep dark fruit and black chocolate. Firm mature tannins. This is only just beginning to show an ankle, give it time to seduce you and become poetic with age. It happens to us all with the right accompaniment. Circa £30.00 Various