21 March 2017

Visiting Neethlingshof Estate

To Stellenbosch and Neethlingshof Estate.

Driving along its kilometre long avenue shaded by towering stone pine trees makes a grand entrance and brings to mind horse drawn carriages making the same journey in past centuries, since the estate was founded in 1692.

It takes its name from Johannes Henoch Neethling, who in 1828 became joint owner. Smartly dressed and active in the community he gained the nickname 'Lord' Neethling.
Neethingshof Manor House Restaurant

As usual, we'd booked lunch on the terrace of the grand Manor House which faces the winery, with a view of vineyards stretching behind.

I've long enjoyed Neethlingshof's Pinotages and this is a special year since Neethlingshof are the current holders of the Perold Trophy for Pinotage, awarded by the International Wine and Spirit Competition. (see here for my report on ceremony)

Before lunch I meet cellar master De Wet Viljoen, whom I saw last at the IWSC awards ceremony in London in November.
De Wet hold stalk with berry rejected by destalking/sorter

De Wet shows me through his cellar. He has a new destalking and sorting machine. In one operation it removes stalks and rejects unripe grapes and other unwanted material. “We'll be making big changes in the cellar,” says De Wet. “Come back next year!”
2017 Owl Post Pinotage undergoing malolactic fermentation  in barrel

Neethlingshof produces two Pinotages, both estate grown. 'Owl Post' is a premium barrel selection from the Owl Post single vineyard that is barrel fermented and aged for 12 to 14 months. The vineyard takes its name from the posts that encourage owls to perch on in the vineyard as pest control.
Barrel Cellar seen from Tasting Room

The standard Neethlingshof Pinotage is tank fermented then aged in barrels, about 40% are American oak and 20% are new.
2016 PG = Pinotage aging in Barrel Cellar

The trophy winning Neethlingshof 'Owl Post' Pinotage 2014 has sold out. “We had to claim back from our distributors,” says De Wet, “so we had some to sell from the Estate.”

De Wet says that 2014 vintage was large and is ready for earlier drinking, while 2015 suffered from draught at the start which produced smaller berries and better concentration.

We tasted Neethlingshof Pinotage 2016. This has a deep intense colour, but is tight with fruit, at this stage, in the background. “It's not a fruit bomb,” says De Wet, “but it's not dried out and not overly oaky.”

A couple of days later I found a shop selling the previous vintage. 2015 releases a tremendous smell on opening, and it's fruit is sweetly rich and delicious.

Neethlingshof 'Owl Post' Pinotage 2015 also has that Neethlingshof intensity of deep colour. It's spicy and silky with soft tannins that firm up on the finish.
De Wet Viljoen by artwork for Owl Post Pinotage

De Wet thinks it'll reach optimum drinking in 2019. He detects a firmness on the palate with bit of a bite at the back. “It should be in balance in a couple of years and then be ideal drinking for years afterwards.”

The restaurant had reworked its menu since last year and we shared a bottle of Neethlingshof Pinotage 2016 to accompany a delicious Bobotie with all the trimmings. Both a beef bobotie and lentil version are available. Opening up in the glass this quintessentially South African wine was a perfect match with the traditional South African food.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Peter for visiting us, you are always welcome! De Wet Viljoen, Neethlingshof