15 February 2018

1953 Pinotage and Lunch at Bellevue Estate

To Bellevue Estate for lunch. When I'd called there the previous week I was unable to buy a bottle of their new single-vineyard wine from the old block as it is available only from the restaurant.

It's all change at Bellevue. The Morkels, whose family have owned and farmed the estate for four generations sold it to a German man last year. He has already made several adjustments, including the single-vineyard bottling and a  restaurant with its own brick pizza oven. 
Restaurant seating outside on a lawn under large umbrellas

Seating for the restaurant is both inside, at the rear of the tasting room, or outside under large umbrellas on a lawn. There are mostly huge tables, but our waitron found us a small one and moved it so we were shaded.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves,though it seems it's packed at weekends. I hope so. Bellevue always seems to have been under-appreciated though it  makes first rate Pinotage and were among the first to bottle single varietal Malbec and Petite Verdot.
A generous mound of tasty tangy wings, salad and chips go great with Pinotage. 

There's a small and interesting menu as well as pizzas. I was tempted by whole baby chicken in a lemon sauce but ordered spicy chicken wings. These came on a wooden platter in a generous mound, well coated in a spicy and flavoursome sauce accompanied by skinny chips and a small salad. 

Skinny chips came in an individual small 'frying basket' and the salad in a tiny colander. This may have looked good in the restaurant supplies catalogue, but practically it makes no sense as the salad dressing was coming through the colander's holes forming a pool on the wooden paddle.

The wings were very tasty and moreish and what looked too much when delivered soon was finished.

What to drink? I was going to take home a bottle of the single-vineyard wine and decided to have another with the meal.

Our attentive waitron diplomatically rested his finger on wine list pointing to its price (R545) asking if this was the wine I wanted. When he showed me the wine, which is named 1953 after the year the Pinotage vineyard was planted, he made a point of explaining that the wine was from the 2016 vintage. 

After making sure I understood he offered to decant the wine because of its youth.
1953 decanted

The wine was young, but there was good fruit, a tautness about the wine, and the promise of greater things to come with a bit more bottle age.

Many years ago, I'd asked Dirkie Morkel why he didn't bottle the old vineyard separately. He'd said he always wanted to make the very best wine and that sometimes the other vineyards out performed the 1953 block. 

The wine is called 1953 after the year PK Morkel planted 2.58 hectares of Pinotage. The following year PK added another 3.23 hectares. In those days wines made at Bellevue were sold to Stellenbosch Farmers Winery. It was in 1961 SFW released Bellevue's 1959 vintage Pinotage under their Lanzerac brand, and the rest is, as they say, history. And history celebrated by a  stamp issued last year by the South African Post Office with a photo of that first Pinotage.

A neck label stated that there were only 600 bottles of this wine. That equates to two 225 litre barriques, so I assume 1953 is a selection of the two best barrels made from the old vineyard.

The previous week I'd taken away a bottle of P K Morkel 2010 Pinotage and it was one of the best I'd drunk so far on this visit. Now eight years old with an attractive cedar wood nose, beautifully spicy fruit, soft tannins and lovely Pinotage sweetness. I must keep 1953 to let it develop. 

1953 comes in a big heavy thick bottle with a hugely deep punt and wax seal. It's a statement bottle, but irritatingly too wide to fit in a polystyrene packer so to get it home I'm going to have to wrap it in clothes in my suitcase.  

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