Points from Paardeberg and Kasteelberg

Two of the Swartland’s magic mountains….

A few months back I wrote (here)  about the vineyard that Eben Sadie is about to plant on his small Paardeberg farm, the first South African vineyard that he will actually own, and one that speaks a lot about his vision and his modest sense of his own place in the grander scheme of Swartland wine.

Slangdraai1I included this rather poor quality photograph I’d taken of Slangdraai, as the vineyard is to be named, showing it all freshly broken and raw as it was on the day I visited in late May, soon after Eben had sorted out some drainage issues.

Then, a few days back, Eben sent me a splendid panoramic photo of Slangdraai, also under a bright winter sun – but now a green tract of land showing what effect the recent rains had on the seeds of the cover crop (“triticale/koorog” Eben has just cursorily Whatsapped me in response to my question, but not much to my enlightenment). I thought it worth sharing, as Eben is such a superior photographer to me (of course the photo looks much better big, in high resolution). The whole of Slangdraai is included. Above it on the left are the Lammershoek buildings; towards the centre the Sadie Family Wines cellar.


My next point is less cheerful, I suppose. At the recent Shiraz Showcase in Cape Town, I was pleased to see that Anthonij Rupert was showing their Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Red 2013. I’d heard there had been a 2012 produced, but it seems not to have been released (I think th 2013 is due for release mid-August, at about R250).

riebeeksrivier1This wine, from the large and magnificent farm which Rupert owns on the slopes of the Kasteelberg, outside Riebeek Kasteel in the Swartland, is 70% shiraz, along with mourvèdre, grenache, carignan and a drop of viognier. It’s certainly a good wine, well structured and balanced, with some intensity and length, and a fairly dry finish. But (rather like Spice Route) the producer has largely ignored what the Swartland has come to stand for with syrah and syrah-based blends: ripe enough but on the underside of ripeness – stressing the perfume of red fruit and, above all, freshness, untrammelled by new oak, breathing naturalness. The Riebeeksrivier Red shows just a little too much ripeness, power, oak and working; and too little freshness, character and excitement – and terroir.

Brilliant examples of modern Swartland wine are made from other vineyards on the slopes of the Kasteelberg, not far from the Rupert farm (and in fact Sadie Pofadder cinsaut is off that very farm): Mullineux Schist Syrah, and Leeuwenkuil Family Reserve Syrah, among the country’s top red wines. There’s every terroir reason that the Riebeeksrivier Red should be able to challenge these wines in terms of quality. Sadly, it doesn’t – yet, at least. Anthonij Rupert Wines owns some of the great vineyards of the Cape, and buys in grapes from others. I admire the two whites from the Skurfberg: Van Lill & Visser Chenin, Laing Semillon, and have heard good reports of the Altima Sauvignon Blanc; but (even though the dreadful experiment with Bordelais consultant Michel Rolland is long past) the house’s red winemaking especially, based in the grand Franschhoek cellar, is still not up to the standard of the vineyards or to the spirit of the modern Cape wine revolution. If only a Swartland cellar could be established on the Riebeeksrivier farm, with a winemaker in tune with the ethos of the Swartland revolution, it could be one of the Cape’s great properties, I have no doubt.

Oh well. I’ll look again at that photo of the soon-to-be-planted vineyard on the Paardeberg, and imagine the wine coming off it in ten or twenty years time, via the cellar just above it.

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