31 January 2018

WoTM - L'Avenir Single Block Pinotage 2014

My Wine of the Month for January 2018 is L’Avenir Estate Single Block 02 Pinotage 2014. 

 It is a registered Single Vineyard  Estate Wine of Origin Stellenbosch, and Block 02 is pictured in gold on the label on an image taken from a satellite photo. The block was planted by François Naudé in 1985 as bush vines, but subsequently changed to low trellising.

I brought several bottles of this wine home from the Cape last year and used two in premium tastings in London where they showed well.

But this one I savoured at home with a Sunday roast. It’s truly gorgeous, with rich restrained berry fruits caressed by tannins from malolactic fermentation in first and second fill French oak barrels followed by 18 months in barrels, and stainless steel.  There’s a purity of flavour, precise powerful and linear yet with that cheeky Pinotage varietal sweetness always present.

It was a Pinotage Top 10 Winner in 2016 and also won Gold and the Stellenbosch Pinotage Trophy at the International Wine Challenge the same year. 


27 January 2018

Cape's water crisis hits quantity but not quality

There's severe water shortage in the Cape. The last three winters have had minimal rain and  dams are at the lowest levels ever seen.

Residents and visitors are restricted to 87 litres per person, per day, falling to 50 litres from 1 February. There's the expectation that water will completely run out by 12 April -- Day Zero -- leaving people to collect a ration from tankers or standpipes.

I find it hard to visualise 50 litres, but that equates to flushing the toilet just five times. The 50 litres is not just for that, but also bathing, washing clothes, drinking, cooking and everything.

Harvest has started in the Cape. Yesterday Delheim were bringing in Pinotage to their winery. Vines had dark green leaves and looked healthy.
Vineyard at Delheim on 26 January 2018

Co-owner and viticulturist Victor Sperling told me: "We have our own spring so we have water for the winery, but we haven't irrigated vineyards. The crop is low and berries are very small, so we are expecting to make less wine but with intense colour and flavour."

Further inland in Wellington Diemersfontein's winemaker,Francois Roode,  said 
"Despite the severe water crisis we’re experiencing and diminishing dam levels we fortunately still have a little water to irrigate our vineyards - for now. The good news is that we are expecting the same volume of grapes this year as we received in 2017.  News in the industry is that many producers and expecting a drop in produce, up to 23% from last years vintage, making it the smallest in a decade. 

The vineyards look healthy with average growth and small bonsai bunches.  The first grape samples came in this morning, Pinotage and Viognier grapes but the sugar indicates another week or two to go.  The season is about a week later than normal and we expect that the bonsai bunches will deliver intense colour and good quality wines in the cellar."


Ashbourne Pinotage-Cinsaut set for UK

Anthony Hamilton Russell intends  to export his new Ashbourne Pinotage-Cinsaut blend to the UK in 2019, according to Harpers trade magazine. 

“For some time now, I have wanted to master a blend of these two underrated varieties,” said Hamilton Russell. 

This Ashbourne is a blend of 80% Pinotage and 20% Cinsaut, both sourced from Swartland. 225 cases of the unwooded 12.99% abv initial 2017 vintage was made. 

Hamilton Russell said that while Ashbourne's estate Pinotage “produces wonderful Pinotage, but it's tighter and more taut – this is a very different expression.”

“It's time South Africa started doing this misunderstood variety justice - the wonderful intrinsic quality capabilities of the grape have always been there. Bolder, more open-minded, new generation, site-driven winemakers with aesthetic aims far more in tune with sophisticated consumers - local and international - are creating a bright new future for Pinotage.”

Read the full story by James Lawrence here.

15 January 2018

Writer’s Block is a Whiz, But... - The Times

Jane MacQuitty, writing in The Times* this weekend says

Not everything smells sweet in South Africa’s vineyards. Down at the bottom end producers are struggling to survive in the face of a weak rand, virused vineyards and a drought. The big boys don’t help by churning out oceans of evil, cheap, bulk wines and Cape pinotage is still too often tainted by the smell of burnt rubber.

However, handled properly, the grape can produce good wines, as anyone tasting Flagstone’s inky yet red-fruited 2015 Writer’s Block Pinotage, a 14.5 per cent whizz from Breedekloof, an inland area once just known for bulk wine production, will attest (Wine Rack, £13.99).

*Article online is behind a paywall