With so many exceptional wines on our shelves, sometimes not every label gets its proper place in the sun. These can be wines from less well known regions, varietals that people are unfamiliar with, or ones just simply overlooked. So, try as we may to spread the word, there are two wines that we carry from South Africa that I want to shed a little more light on. One is a Sauvignon Blanc and the other is a Chardonnay, certainly very well known varietals. And, both producers have received international acclaim. So let’s put these two wines in the “definitely not to be overlooked camp!”
The Sauvignon Blanc is the 2010 Reserve White from Reyneke. The forty hectare Reyneke Estate, or more correctly, farm, goes back to 1863 and was appropriately called Uitzicht, which is Dutch for “View,” as the property overlooks Stellenbosch and False Bay, located in the Western Cape Coastal Region. It was in 1998 that Johan Reyneke took over running the family farm which is part vineyard (north, east and south facing slopes) and part pasture with pockets of wilderness. It was as far back as 1992, however, that Johan began converting the vineyards to organic techniques which has eventually progressed to biodynamic practices. An interesting example is allowing Dandelion weeds to grow within the vine rows, ensuring that the Mealybug lives on its roots instead of the vines. Another is using ducks to snatch the snails! It’s obvious that Johan is totally committed to his philosophy of maintaining his land in its natural state and the idea of less intervention carries over to the winemaking as well.
The 2010 Reyneke Reserve White is a 100% Sauvignon Blanc made from part of a few selected rows of a single vineyard. The grapes are whole bunch pressed, and the must is spontaneously fermented by the indigenous yeasts which grow on the grapes naturally instead of commercially cultivated yeast. The fermentation takes place in new 300 liter French oak barrels and matured a further 15 months in used casks on the gross lees before being racked and bottled. The barrel fermentation gives the wine a slightly plush, creamy texture which surrounds the intense citrus, lime and tropical flavors. A subtle mineral character, think Sancerre, sneaks through as well making this an amazingly exotic and complex example of Sauvignon Blanc. If you love Sauvignon Blanc then don’t miss this one! Price is $44.99.
The 2012 Kaaimansgat (Crocodile’s Lair) Chardonnay ($24.99) is from the producer Bouchard Finlayson, a vineyard and winery located at the southern tip coastal region of Walker Bay, near the small town of Hermanus along the famous” Cape Whale Route.” The close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean provides the perfect cool climate conditions which Chardonnay and Pinot Noir require to achieve high quality fruit, the result of long slow ripening producing intensely flavored grapes. But wait, you say, isn’t Bouchard the name of a Burgundy producer? And, yes it is. Established in 1989, Bouchard Finlayson is the result of a collaboration between Paul Bouchard of Burgundy fame and Peter Finlayson, the highly regarded winemaker initially famous for his work with Pinot Noir and in more recent years, Chardonnay as well.
This particular Chardonnay, made exclusively from the Kaaimansgat Vineyard, is not from the estate vineyards near the coast but rather from the nearby mountainous area of Overberg. This wine is definitely Burgundian inspired with a streamlined elegant texture. The fruit shows bright tightly knit flavors of citrus, pear and peach with subtle mineral and nutty tones underneath. The partial barrel fermentation of new French oak gives the finish a slight creamy layer of subtle well integrated oak. It’s a superb combination of vibrant fruit and sophistication, richness without being overly weighty. This is an outstanding wine for $24.99, so enjoy!
Gary M., Beltramo’s Wine Consultant