1. The sale
Uva Mira, the chardonnay specialist high on the Helderberg, has been sold. It’s been a long time coming – owner Denise Weedon (widow of a mining magnate, from whom perhaps she learnt her acumen) has been holding out for a high price, and it seems it was worth the wait , although for the comparatively poor it’s difficult to imagine the difference between having R60 million – and she got a little more than that, apparently – and a mere R50 million. What on earth do you do with the extra bit!?) I believe the buyer is the head honcho of Porsche in South Africa. I apologise for not knowing his name; I suppose we hacks should know the names of very rich people.
My main thought about this deal is that it’s a lot of money for a so-so wine farm. If I was looking for a Helderberg property I’d have bought another overpriced one rather – Cordoba. But I believe that there’s now another serious nibble at that other long-for-sale farm.
Incidentally, talking of property sales – I’m itching to talk about one in the process of happening in the Swartland. It seems set to be finalised this week….
2. The confirmation
It’s always gratifying to a mere provincial hack to discover that one of The Great has similar opinions on at least one aspect of world wine. So I was pleased to read the report of the great Jancis Robinson on a London blind tasting of oaked sauvignon blancs from around the world – though it seems, in fact, that many of them were blended with semillon, which Jancis, like me (and a daresay a million others) thinks is a Good Idea. Jancis also remarked that she “would probably more easily recall thrilling oaked Sauvignons than unoaked ones”, which is exactly my opinion. While I believe that De Grendel’s sauvignon guru, Charles Hopkins, has said he can’t see the point of oaking sauvignon blanc, all my favourite varietal sauvignons are oaked to some degree – not to mention the blends.
Non-subscribers can’t read Ms Robinson’s report, as it’s on the restricted part of her website, but I can tell you that the favourite of the 32 wines on offer, scoring 18/20, was the marvellous straight, oaked sauvignon from Reyneke, the Reserve White 2011 (which I successfully put forward for five Platter stars last year).
In fact, South Africa did very well for Ms R in the tasting, coming top overall, thus (her average score per region/country with the total number of wines in the tasting in brackets):
- South Africa 16.75 (6)
- Napa Valley 16.67 (3)
- NZ 16.43 (7)
- Bordeaux 16.14 (6)
- Turkey 16.00 (1)
- Friuli 15.75 (2)
- Chile 15.75 (2)
- Australia 15.67 (3)
- Loire 15.25 (2)
Her other two Cape favourites were two blends: Chamonix Reserve 2012 (17.5/20) and Nitida Integration 2012 (17/20).
Ms R is coming out to the Cape for a week next January, and I think she’s starting to realise just what an interesting, rewarding time she’s going to have here.
3. The label
Isn’t Hoeksteen a great name for a chenin blanc? It means “cornerstone” in Afrikaans, fittingly for the most planted Cape grape variety, and plays nicely on the sadly under-utilised local name for chenin blanc, steen. (Of course there was already a wine named “Cornerstone” – from Reyneke, where the “crucial” element seems to be the workforce rather than the grapes; I daresay they could have objected to the name, but they’re nice people and, I suppose, didn’t.)
Hoeksteen, made from old-vine Stellenbosch grapes, has been around a few years, but it’s taken me till now to catch up with it, and be even more impressed by the wine than by the name. It’s part of a possibly quirky, definitely interesting, range called The Fledge & Co, made by Margot Nel (winemaker at Boplaas – she’s one of THOSE Nels) and Leon Coetzee. Watch this space – and meanwhile rest assured that you’d do well in buying Hoeksteen 2013 (a good buy at about R100 cellar door), though, if you don’t put it down for a good few years, make sure you decant it well in advance of drinking.