A good dry table wine from port varieties

peterbayleyIf you’re  a port drinker, you’ll recognise the aromas and flavours of Peter Bayly III 2012. I won’t try to describe them, being weary and not all that interested in doing so right now, but it’s not surprising, seeing the wine is a blend of touriga nacional, tinta barocca (spelt “barroca” elswhere than South Africa) and souzão, all significant port varieties. These are the varieties that Peter and Yvonne Bayley grow in their tiny vineyard in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains, in the Groenfontein Valley, just outside the Cape’s “port capital”, Calitzdorp (see their website here). They started off making a Cape Vintage a decade back, but have more recently been spreading out a little.

In Calitzdorp, as even more in Portugal’s Douro valley, there are increasing numbers of table wines being made from the traditional port varieties. I can’t say I know the local ones well (let alone the foreigners), but my impression is that they’re a predictably mixed bunch. I tasted the Axe Hill Distinta earlier this year, for example, and found it much too ripe, soft and sweet for real satisfaction.

Peter Bayly III is altogether more distinguished. It has warm, welcoming plum-pudding, fruit-cake aromas, reminiscent of port, as I suggested, but reveals itself as even rather light-feeling and elegant, with a savoury element to it, and not sweet (despite a bit of residual sugar), at a declared 13.5% alcohol. A sensitively made and most likeable wine, quite serious in some ways but without pretension, it held up very well over a few days’ sampling (ie, drinking – I enjoyed it). Smartly packaged, with the estate’s charming gold flying pig logo. At a cellar price of R120 (a bit more at retail, if you can find it) it’s not cheap – but for something a bit different and as well crafted as this, it’s decent value, I’d say.

White table wines from Portuguese varieties are rarer. Boplaas’s Cape Portuguese White Blend in fact mixes half verdelho with notably un-Portuguese chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, making its name a trifle dubious. Read more about it on the ebullient Boplaas website, here. It’s a wine of some charm, flavoursome and rather soft in texture and structure, easygoing, but with a touch of sour greenness from sauvignon. The Platter taster was startlingly over-generous, I’d say, giving it four stars (I’d have gone for an enthusiastic 2.5 or 3 stars myself), but it’s a perfectly pleasant wine in a modest way, and decent value at R40.

2 thoughts on “A good dry table wine from port varieties

  1. Leon Coetzee, who makes some really interesting wines for The Fledge & Co together with Boplaas winemaker Margaux Nel, sent me the following generous comment:

    Really well pleased you tried Peter & Yvonne’s III and it over-delivered on expectations. The Bayly’s have a truly unique site, although it’s a mere 15 km out of Calitzdorp and roughly 200 odd metres higher in elevation, their annual rainfall is on average double that of Calitzdorp, they’re on roughly 3 to 5 degrees cooler, they harvest 3 weeks after we do for the similar varietals, the vines are grown except for a scant covering of soil on impregnable Swartberg schist/shale (black, red sheets similar to roof tiles) and very little or no additions are done (barring yeast & sulphur). What I’m really pleased with is the annual improvement and evolution of the wine, the 2013 is even more refined & 2014 is looking really very promising. I’ve bought each of their vintages & in time will do a vertical. The residual sugar in the wine, although it’s fully fermented dry, is as result of the Souzao – both it & Touriga Franca, no matter what one does always leave a little something extra. I’m of the opinion that in due time folk will really be impressed by the wines crafted from Portuguese varieties in the Cape – although the III, the wines of Sijjn and one or two others are already showing the way.

  2. Dear Tim

    Thanks for your comments on our early attempts (now Y5 for me) at putting together a (Calitzdorp Blend (red)). This informally requires that the blend should comprise not less than 70% Portuguese varieties. Axe Hill Distinta 12 (second vintage) is still work in progress – as is our other Portuguese blend, Machado (start 2010, from 2013 only Portuguese varieties) and not yet released.

    Distinta 2012 is Souzão (49%), Tinta Baroccca (40%), the difference essentially Shiraz & splash Touriga Nac. Alc 14.27%, RS 2.9, acidity 5.8 & pH 3.58. I guess my aim with Distinta is to make a soft, approachable wine, which hopefully leads the consumer to access the “different” Portuguese varieties. Machado is slightly different – some new wood – but as I have said, we are still learning!

    I pretty much echo Leon Coetzee’s thoughts about Pete & Yvonne Bayly’s place – if you love the Klein Karoo, it is a place worth a visit! Simply stunning! We are around 2 km’s out of town (North) – our vineyard is on ripped Dorbank – alluvial deposits with hard agglomerated rock – we are water stressed and rely on a monthly “water-turn” – not great water carrying capacity, but no chance of water logging! Our ripening is probably quicker and the trade off is sugar and acidity. I guess all things equal, we might pick a tad earlier – but then we still have to manage the tannin load from the Port varieties lest we get hard wines – a task I find myself doing at the press deciding when to bin the harshest of the last press wine!

    There are other fine Calitzdorp Blends around – all worthy of a try out – we look forward to visitors knocking on our cellar doors to sample these wines. A few surprises will be in store! And yes they do get better with a bit of bottle age!

    Kind regards
    Mike Neebe
    Axe Hill

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