From Portugal and Spain with love
01 January 1970
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Welcome to Old Mutual Live Wine Edition, on mobile, on digital, on demand. Thanks for listening, I’m Jenny Crwys-Williams. Well, we’re continuing our series on varietals that are not all that common in South Africa. They may be in Spain, they may be in Portugal, they may be in France and they may be in Italy. But they are not run of the mill in South Africa, or certainly not as standalone varietals.
My guest is Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright who is a Cape wine master, also one of the owners of Warwick Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch. Jen, thanks very much indeed for coming. I’ve been drinking wine since 09:00 this morning, but I have been spitting, otherwise…
Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright: That’s why you look happy, Jenny. Wine definitely makes you happy.
JCW: Tell us what you’ve actually chosen because I know you’ve poured it for me, it’s red. It doesn’t look thick and gloopy, but I’m going to leave you to tell us a little bit about it.
Have you tried a Tinta Barroca?
JRW: Well, just a little bit of an introduction. I’m crazy about new, different varietals that people don’t know. South Africans have been hung up on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz for so long that really we need to move on. Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz are getting better and better but with those, other wines are catching up. What we’ve got is a Tinta Barroca. Its’ from an estate called Peter Bayly in Calitzdorp. Tinta Barroca is one of the five permitted varieties that is allowed to make port.
So they do make port from it, well port style wines as we call them now at Peter Bayly in Calitzdorp. But Tinta Barroca is one of the varietals that I really like a lot. It’s a fabulous red wine for people that don’t like their red wine too strong. They don’t like it too alcoholic. They don’t like it too tannic.
The reason the Tinta Barroca is not tannic is; all of the port varieties have been chosen to make port because they lack tannin. Because as soon as you make and it has got too much tannin it becomes undrinkable. So all of the port varieties by definition have low tannins in them. The grapes are such in the way that they’re grown.
So the Tinta Barroca starting out is a low tannin grape. So you can drink it young, very young. This is a 2015 we’ve got in front of us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 2016 coming out very soon. It will be perfectly palatable. What’s interesting about this wine, Peter Bayly is new to the wine industry. He only started in 2002. I think he came from the advertising industry. I’m not sure. And in fact, he is in partnership with his son, Mark Bayly, who was the first presenter of survivor.
JCW: The blonde guy as you told me?
JRW: The blonde, very good looking blonde guy. Anyway, he and his father make a lovely team and they make this wine together in Calitzdorp. I’m not sure if everybody knows Calitzdorp for its wines, but it’s in the middle of the Little Karoo. It’s a harsh growing climate to say the least. It’s very hot, it’s dry, they don’t really have enough water for irrigation.
So only certain varietals can be chosen successfully to grow there. I really take my hat off to people that embrace the climate and embrace the terroir and grow the grapes that will be successful. As opposed to planting Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz like most people do because they think that’s where their cash will be.
What a Tinta Barroca tastes like
So this Tinta Barroca, if you taste it, it’s jammy, is the character that I would really use. Freshly made blackberry jam, raspberries, cranberries, as many berries as you could think. Almost like a freshly made summer pudding. That’s the description that I always come up with when you think of Tinta Barroca.
When you think of other red wines, you wouldn’t think that much fruit. A Cabernet, its more savoury tones and its stronger flavours. This is delicate and pretty and soft and feminine with hints of violet. So if we’re looking in that flavour spectrum, it’s definitely on the softer, juicy red fruit side. As opposed to anything savoury and anything harsh at all.
It is therefore wine that you drink young. This one I tried to look up how much oak it’s got. It would be unusual to give Tinta Barroca any new oak whatsoever; they never do because it doesn’t have any tannin, so it can’t handle the oak.
It’s possible they could have put it in some old oak barrels just to give it a little bit of micro oxygenation, but certainly they wouldn’t have put it in new oak. Usually if people do put it in new oak they tell you because it helps with selling it and with the higher cost of the wine.
What is interesting is that this wine is unfined and unfiltered, which you can do with the wine without heavy tannins. Because the tannins essentially are going to be the things dropping to the bottom of your bottle and causing all the sediment. This is also wine that will be drunk young, so you cannot filter it and expect a slight deposit at the bottom. But nobody would age a Tinta Barroca for 20 years.
JCW: I have to say, talking about fining, I have a very clear memory of being invited to Warwick by your parents. Being given God knows how many eggs and egg-whites and beating them and actually beating the egg-whites for the fining.
JRW: Absolutely, I remember growing up having to break all these eggs. We had some wonderful recipes, so we had to eat whole egg mayonnaise for the whole year basically. My mother had a cake that took 16 egg yolks because we had a lot of egg yolks. Because we used all the whites, so we always had recipes. In fact, I didn’t eat eggs growing up because –
JCW: You just couldn’t.
How using egg whites actually works
JRW: I got poisoned by so many eggs. But what is interesting about an egg white fining is that it’s actually not the egg white itself that is…because the egg white, the albumin has a sort of gelatinous texture. People think that that is catching the particles as it filters through the tank or the barrel. It has to do with positive and negative ions.
So the egg white is drawn to the solid particles and it actually sticks together in a physical reaction that pulls it out of the wine. As opposed to using it as a filtration system. I found that very interesting because it would make sense that you put in an egg white and it would filter it just through the texture of the egg. But it’s actually the positive and negative ions that do it.
JCW: All right, so here we’ve got Peter Bayly, it’s a nice-looking bottle and I do remember him. He’s kind of short and I met him at The Unusuals Wine Fair. Very passionate about what he’s doing. So this Jen, it’s got a really interesting nose. What would you serve it with? Just about anything, I would have thought?
JCW: Just about anything.
JRW: In Johannesburg, people put ice in their wine. They put ice in their red, they put ice in their white, and they put ice in their Rosé. This is the perfect wine to put ice in. It’s light, it’s friendly, it’s fruity, you could serve it before a meal. You could serve it with a pudding, like a summer pudding, something with berries.
JCW: Would you do that?
JRW: Easily. You could do it with a fruity meringue sort of idea. But it’s the tannin in the wine that makes it so interesting because the tannin is so light. I would serve it chilled and you could put ice in it or not, but I personally would serve it chilled. Yes, even a plate of strawberries and Parma Ham as a little warm-up meal or some salami and a little bit of Buffalo mozzarella. I think would all work beautifully.
Eat what you like with it (or don’t eat at all)
JRW: It’s not a wine for your 500g steak possibly, if you like that. Because we’re now more, in the wine industry. We’re more open to the consumer’s opinion than we were 30 years ago. 30 years ago we were very prescriptive. You have that with that and that’s the way it is.
Nowadays we see people having red wine and fish all the time, white wine and steak, bubbly and whatever, bubbly with everything. So we are less prescriptive, but I would see more enjoyment coming from lighter style foods. It really would go with anything and it doesn’t need a meal, which is what I like about it.
JCW: That’s lovely. Would you say it’s a sundowner wine? I mean I’m just thinking of Christmas holidays coming up for instance.
JRW: Certainly and so many people are moving towards red wine because of the health benefits. This has got all the health benefits of a red wine without the heaviness.
JCW: All right, that sounds to me like seriously good and I love it. I don’t think, it’s almost salty, is that the tannins?
JRW: It’s got a very interesting taste because often people taste Tinta Barroca and they think it’s port before they’ve tasted the wine. It smells porty, which might sound obvious. But that’s what port tastes like. If you think of port, it’s partially fermented grape juice with fortified spirit. So it would have a very grapey taste and this has a grapey taste. So to use words like porty and grapey, it seems very obvious but it actually is what it tastes like.
JCW: Yes, no it’s a lovely wine, your next one.
Meet the Spanish Albariňo
JRW: Okay, so the two I’ve chosen today I’ve chosen because they come from the Iberian Peninsula. Tinta Barroca is Portuguese originally as we said about it being a port varietal. Albariňo is Spanish and it’s also got a wonderful story.
This wine is made by Newton-Johnson and it’s the first one in South Africa. I’m drinking it as fast as they’ll sell it to me, but considering they only made a very, very small batch, it’s in very short supply. But Albariňo’s got an interesting story.
It’s made in Western Spain in an elevated area that’s actually quite cool. So it’s a cool climate varietal which is perfectly suited to Newton Johnson in the Hemel en Aarde. Albariňo globally is a phenomenon because as an area, the area that it comes from in Spain is called Rias Baixas. Rias Baixas has managed to establish a cost per bottle higher than almost most regions in the world, it’s expensive.
To get an Albariňo in England, you can’t even look at under £15 and it goes right up to £50. It’s a bottle of easy-drinking white wine. So it’s quite surprising that they’re managing to achieve those price levels, but I’ve never tasted a bad one.
They are all delicious, they are all zingy, and they are all fruity. So I really take my hat off to Newton Johnson for producing wine. Because if you look up their story, what’s quite interesting, they had a Shiraz vineyard that had lovely granite soil. They decided to graft it across the Albariňo.
Now how a field graft works is they chop off the Shiraz vine so just the root is left in the ground. They stick in a little shoot of Albariňo at the top and wait for it to grow. So you’ve got these old knobbly stumps at the bottom and this brand new vine at the top and it looks very strange, but it works very well. Because the vineyard is already established so it can grow faster.
So all they did was half a hectare, 2015 which is what we’re drinking, which is their first release and honestly they produced a miniscule amount. I mean half a hectare would give you a ton or two. So they’re really producing very little. But it will grow because it’s very popular as a varietal.
If we look at the taste, it’s kind of citrusy, peachy, spice, it’s very full-flavoured. So it’s not light and lean like a Sauvignon Blanc at the finish. It’s full-flavoured and it’s a little bit fatter in your mouth than a Sauvignon Blanc. But it does have those zingy flavours of an entry of a Sauvignon Blanc.
That’s why it’s so popular globally. It goes with food like seafood and shellfish and lighter style foods, it’s great in warm climates. It’s zingy, it’s also been described as peaches, almonds, blossoms, soft yellow fruit. So for me it’s almost like a Sauvignon Blanc on steroids. It’s like a better Sauvignon Blanc. That’s why it does well globally. That’s why I think it’s going to do very well in South Africa.
Sauvignon Blanc on steroids
JCW: Who else grows it?
JRW: Nobody, this is the first one.
JRW: Yes, and actually it was Newton Johnson that got the plant material and had it quarantined and had it cleaned. It’s quite a huge process to get it agriculturally approved. Their plant material actually came from California and not from Spain. Because they couldn’t get virus free plant material in Spain. So they got from California. They were going to get it from Australia, but then they worked out that the Australians had got their varietals wrong. What the Australians thought is Albariňo is not Albariňo in their country, so that was a little tricky.
The other thing that they do to this wine to give it a little bit more weight. Is they give it some lees contact. So as the wine is fermenting in the dead yeast cells fall to the bottom of the tank. They keep stirring them up and this gives it a little more creamy character. Sort of a lemon cream sort of flavour as opposed to too much of a zingy, zesty, crisp flavour, which also is very attractive in the wine.
JCW: I mean, I think it sounds like an absolute winner. The thought of wild peaches and chilled and again, this is fish, this is salads. Would it marry with blue cheese in any way at all, I would think maybe?
JRW: Possibly a goat cheese or something a little lighter.
JRW: If you picture yourself in a Spanish beach with sort of garlicky prawns dipped in aioli and you’ve just got the happiest place that you could be. But also it’s often drunk as an aperitif before a meal, it’s nice and zingy, it’s got a fairly good acidity.
I wouldn’t pair it with meat unless it was Parma Ham or something before a meal. Goat’s cheese possibly or one of the whiter, lighter cheeses, but perhaps not blue, would work quite well. It is unwooded, so it’s got good acidity and yes, maybe goat’s cheese panna cotta or something might be interesting.
JCW: Well, it just sounds absolutely gorgeous and it tastes gorgeous, so those two varietals, I think sound quite wonderful. Jen thank you very much for that. Thanks for joining me for another episode of Old Mutual Live Wine Edition, I’m Jenny Crwys-Williams.