15 February 2004

Laibach Punches Down and Tees Up

If you have scuba gear and want little extra pocket money then head towards Laibach Vineyards. They’re excavating a reservoir below their winery building, leaving a tiny island which will be grassed over as a golf green. Winemaker Francois van Zyl intends relaxing during breaks by teeing off from the winery’s upper floor observation terrace. Until he gets his eye in there should be rich pickings retrieving lost balls.

I found Francois pushing down the cap on fermenting Pinotage. For this vintage he introduced small open plastic fermenters, enabling regular manual push downs, part of his move to downscale winemaking. “Next year we’ll have a grape sorting table,” he told me. Francois has been at Laibach five years and he intends consolidating his reputation there. “If you make wine in Pomerol why would you want to move to Bergerac?” he asks in a reference to recent rounds of winemakers changing address. “You have to think where you want to be in ten years time.”

Francois drew a glass of his 2003 Pinotage from its barrel. It will be bottled in June or July ready for entry to 2004 Pinotage Top 10 Competition. It is chock full of soft fruits and eucalyptus and, although it had already spent 12 months in cask, had very soft tannins. Definitely one to watch.

I had already tasted the 2000 and 2001 Pinotage in Laibach’s tasting room, one of very few using large fine wine glasses.

Laibach Pinotage 2000 14.5% alc.
Dark black with red rim. Sweet soft fruits and uplifting spices with good structure. Some tannins and a long lasting dry finish.
Laibach Pinotage 2001 14.5%
Light bright ruby red with purple rim, Very soft, almost a cordial sweetness and medium length, with tannins developing on the finish. Enjoyable

“Pinotage is very popular in Germany and England,” said Francois. “We can sell all we make.” I can believe it. I left him looking at scars in a Chardonnay vineyard that will one day be a reservoir and his single hole golf course.

Laibach is located on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Paarl.

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