Those of you who drink South African wines regularly have probably noticed that the quality of the wines have increased dramatically in recent years.
This is often due to hard work in the vineyards by young, ambitious winemakers and their will to experiment with different techniques. An example of this is Wynand Grobler, winemaker at Rickety Bridge in Franschhoek. In addition to his diploma from the Stellenbosch Wine University, he has also worked at some of the best estates in South Africa, Rust en Vrede and Ernie Els. His wines are very structured with good acidity and tannins.
Rickety Bridge is an old winery property, founded in the late 1600 by the first French Huguenots who arrived in Franschhoek. In the beginning the grapes were used mainly for brandy, now it is a “boutique winery” of 16 hectares.
A few tasting comments from a tasting recently with the Swedish importer (Samplex, House of Wines) .
Chenin Blanc 2010
Chenin is still South Africa’s most planted grape variety although it only represents 18 % of the total surface today, down from 32 % in 1990. And more and more chenin blanc (which used to be called steen in South Africa) is made in a quality conscious way, which means, for instance, not killing all the aromas with cold fermentation. Chenin blanc from Rickety Bridge has passion fruit and citrus as dominant flavours and a completely dry finish. A tasty and refreshing wine, delicious with food.
In most places the chenin that is pulled out is replaced by red grapes. Rickety Bridge Rosé is made from merlot (50%), cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and a little bit of viognier. Interesting idea to put some white grapes in the rosé wine, quite unusual. But maybe the spicy after-taste actually comes from the viognier. A pleasant wine, with hints of strawberry, for spring and summer.
Paulina’s Reserve 2006
This is a very elegant wine with a lot of minerality (thanks to the granite, says Wynand) but also typical cabernet aromas like cedar wood and some vanilla from the oak. 100 % cabernet sauvignon.
Foundation Stone 2008
The dominant grape is shiraz and mourvèdre and grenache are added to make the blend complete. Wynand is quite a Rhône lover. Good structure, refreshing fruit flavours and noticeable tannins make this a superb wine with any red meat.
I was reminded of an 8-10 year old Bordeaux with flavours of tobacco and leather. Quite a sophisticated wine that will probably keep for another 10 years. The taste is soft and velvety but with a structured finish.
Wynand made his first pinotage in 2008 and he was not very happy with it. Pinotage is a difficult grape to work with, he says. He has every reason, however, to be proud of his 2010 vintage. It is always difficult to know what to expect of a pinotage. Here, Wynand succeeds in getting both power and a generous fruit into the wine. There is also a hint of tar that reminds me a little bit of syrah. The colour is dark, almost black, but the wine is not heavy. The acidity is there to balance the power.
[box type=”info”]Curious to learn more about South African wines? BKWine also organises wine tours to South Africa. At the time of writing we don’t have one on the schedule but will be glad to discuss a custom designed wine tour. Our South Africa wine tours focus on the small quality conscious producers, with many exciting wines (and wine tastings), and pass at a safe distance the makers of volume wines for bag-in-box.[/box]