06 July 2007

Say Hello to SAAM

In May I posted “I have never heard of SAAM Mountain, they are not listed in Platter 2007 and a Google gets not a single hit” after SAAM Mountain Heldersig Pinotage Viognier 2006 won a Silver Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards

Well, I now know about SAAM and have tasted their cracking good Pinotage Viognier.

Kobus de Kock, one of the winemakers at Pederberg Winery emailed - “No wonder you have never heard about SAAM . SAAM is a brand-new jointly owned label. The parties are Bibendum (one the UK's biggest wine companies) on the marketing and distribution side, and Perdeberg Winery on the production side.

SAAM being the Afrikaans word for together and describing the whole concept of the brand where everybody, from the primary producer right through to final distribution, is working together in an effort to service the consumer in the best possible way. This service obviously includes the wine to be enjoyable to as many as possible.”

Saam Mountain Vineyards is a collective of forty South African growers with low producing vineyards (less than 7 tonnes per hectare) located from Paarl to the Durbanville Hills.

Saam Mountain’s home is a 1688 farmhouse (the oldest registered building in South Africa) at Eensaamheid Farm at the foot of Perdeberg Mountain, in Paarl.

The winemaker is Pieter Carstens, from Pederberg Winery, who has been tasked with making ‘wines with unusual degree of complexity and intensity at affordable prices’. The basic wines will be priced around £5.99 in the UK with a premium single block selection – where each wine has the Afrikaans name of the vineyard block from which the grapes were sourced - priced from £7.99 -£10.50.

Courtesy of Bibendum, I got my hands on a bottle of their just launched SAAM Pinotage Viognier 2006. It comes in on a heavy bottle with a classy looking label whose illustration appears to be a mountain range formed of embossed very pale grey zebra stripes which gives a pleasant tactile feel.

The words Heldersig appear on the front and back label where the text says “Our Heldersig (Clear View) Pinotage Viognier) is produced from small batches of specially selected grapes”, but there is no mention that this is a single vineyard wine, which seems to be a missed marketing opportunity.

The wine is dark in the glass, with a minty nose and a purple rim you'd expect from such a young wine. The first impression is of ripe juicy plummy fruit. Red berry flavours are to the fore, and underneath there are subtle hints of chocolate and tobacco. There’s an attractive silky texture to this wine, it is 13.%abv but it feels quite powerful and it will be interesting to see how the wine develops in the bottle. Excellent.

Pieter Carstens co-fermented Pinotage with a little (3%) aromatic white Viognier, a practise common in the Rhone where Syrah is co-fermented with Viognier and, instead of diluting the red Syrah, a chemical reaction with Viognier during fermentation extracts more colour and flavour and adds complexity. This is only the second co-fermented Pinotage I know of, and the results are so promising I expect more to follow.

Saam Mountain Heldersig Pinotage/Viognier 2006 retails at £8.95. There are two more Pinotages, Saam Mountain Paarl Pinotage 2006 (£5.95 closed with a screwcap hooray! (- my wine had a composite closure)) and Saam Mountain Leeuwenkuil Pinotage 2006 (£8.95). All the Pinotages are Paarl Wine of Origin. There are another eight wines in the SAAM range.

Saam Mountain Vineyards website is at http://www.saam-mountain.com/.


  1. Hi Peter

    This sounds like good stuff, I'll need to look out for some in the Pacific NW. (I wonder if they have a US distributor?)

    Do you mean Paardeberg Winery (instead of Perdeberg/Pederberg)? Paardeberg is a wine region near Paarl, so I'm guessing that's what the winery is called.

  2. No - It is Perdeberg WInery - http://www.perdeberg.co.za/

  3. Anonymous20:17

    Hi Peter, very interesting website you run, I am also a great Pinotage fan myself and have visited the site a couple of times.

    @Mark: Hi there, Paardeberg is Dutch for "Horse Mountain" or Perdeberg in Afrikaans and early cape settlers named the mountain after the indigenous Kaapse Berg-kwagga ("Cape Mountain Zebra") of which thousands were found in the area, but now they are a endangered species (At one point their numbers were as low as 91). Thus the wine region is now known as Paardeberg in honour of the Cape Mountain Zebra which used to roam those mountains.

    Enjoy some Pinotage-Cheers!