Andrea and Chris Mullineux released a new wine on Wednesday, at a small, casual function at Jason bakery in Cape Town’s interesting Bree Street. The wine and its context were no less interesting.
Those who know the Mullineux pair of old (well, not all that old except in context) will remember the Vin Pi that they made for the then Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards (now, talking of old and new, reborn as Fable). Vin Pi was a dessert wine made of chenin grapes desiccated to an extent on straw mats – its name punning on Vin de Paille, of course. Its schtick was that it was made by the solera system of fractional blending – each vintage new wine would be added to the system and (potentially at least) some would be drawn off, bottled, and sent to market.
Same with the new wine, which complements the acclaimed standard Mullineux Family Wines Straw Wine. Each year, the barrels that don’t quite fit into that wine (too rich perhaps, or too lean) will get bunged into the solera. At some point (like now), when the winemakers deem appropriate, wine will be drawn off and put into quirky but very attractive little bottles (375ml) and bottled. The maiden release contains wine from all the vintages from 2008 to 2014. It was bottled in January this year.
Andrea and Chris used the majority of the barrels, so it’ll be a while before there’s another release – but of course that next release will contain at least little bits of all the vintages back to 2008. And on, as per Swift’s poem about the flea and littler fleas, ad infinitum. Long life, Mullineux! Viva!
I reckon the Mullineux pair (and Tremayne Smith who works on the winemaking side too) had fun with this project. There’s a lot of delightful detail gone into the packaging, for example. Each little brown-green bottle comes in an intricately constructed, neatly jointed wooden box – triangular, I’d say, to match the label, only it’s actually hexagonal. There’s a small brass screw that needs undoing (unless you have an axe or saw handy), but I managed to penetrate the contents with no hardware more elaborate than a teaspoon (though a screwdriver would undoubtedly have been quicker). Perhaps I’m just prejudiced in Chris and Andrea’s favour (I suppose I should declare an interest here in that I regard them as friends), but this elaborate opening gambit seems to me more playful than pretentious – unlike with certain other expensive but hard-to-get-at bottles.
The wine is called “Mullineux Olerasay”. I needed to ask about the Olerasay bit, but maybe it’s clear to you that it is Pig Latin for “solera” – a word they’re not allowed to use, apparently (and in the USA, it seems, they’re not allowed to call it “straw wine” either, seeing that it’s not made from straw – duh!). As to why it’s not announced as part of “Mullineux Family Wines” like (as far as I know) the other wines still are, I didn’t dare ask, as I always get too confused when I venture into that territory. The back-label does refer to the “Mullineux and Leeuw Family” (or is it that “family wine” is a concept?) which of course reminds me why I don’t go there…; families can be confusing and complex things when allied to business.
The price? Pricey, by local standards. Per millilitre, more or less the same as the single-soil syrahs – about R430 for the little bottle. No magnums available
Oh, but what of the wine, you might well ask. It is immensely delicious. I’d hesitate to compare it to the standard Mullineux Family Wines Straw Wine, not having them side by side and my taste memory being something substantial less than exact, but I’d venture that it’s a bit more complex, and a bit fresher. The alcohol is a trifle higher because of evaporation of liquid over the years, but I can’t claim that that registered, even on my exquisitely sensitive palate.