Two varietals that will astound you
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 . A couple of weeks ago we were talking about a wine festival called The Unusuals, which featured a whole lot of varietals that are unusual in South Africa. But they are creeping in, sometimes to the mainstream, sometimes not so much. But it’s difficult to know what to look for, it’s difficult to know the taste.
If you buy a Sauvignon Blanc, you kind of know what it’s going to taste like. If you do the same with a Chardonnay you have a reasonable expectation of being able to identify it. But some of the varietals that I was tasting at The Unusuals, the name of the Wine Fair were totally different. The Wine Fair was put together by Corlien Morris of The Wine Menu in the BlueBird Centre and I’ve asked her to come and join me.
It’s 9:00 in the morning, we are tasting wine, we are spitting, I think. Just to go through two bottles, well, not entirely two bottles, but two varietals and to break them down for us. Corlien, thank you for joining me so early in the morning. Let’s try the first one which I see is Thelema.
Corlien Morris: Thank you Jenny for having me here and joining me in a 9:00 tipple! Yes, the first one we have up is Thelema. I’m going to pour a little bit here for you and for me cause I can’t drink alone at 9:00. It’s happened before though, I must tell you. You need to talk about wine in the morning and books in the afternoon next time.
JCW: I could do that.
Thelema’s Portuguese option
CM: I chose Thelema to show people that Thelema is not just all about Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet as we all know it. It’s not only the weird and wonderful and whacky winemakers out there that make interesting varieties. A good, old, traditional farm that we all know is also doing interesting stuff. Verdelho, there’s an L and an H there but we don’t pronounce it –
JCW: Thank you for that.
CM: Portuguese variety and for those who can’t see, of course, it is a white wine. I chose this because I think it’s a fantastic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc for this summer coming up. You’re going to taste it and tell me what you think of it. I’m not going to put all my ideas in your head. But yes, I’d like people to explore a little bit.
This is the kind of wine that you probably won’t choose on the shelf when you see it because you’ve got no idea what to expect in the first place. You wouldn’t know that it’s a fresh wine to enjoy in the summer. You might think it’s a heavily oaked wine, so let’s taste it and you tell me what you think.
JCW: All right. Let’s start, I see it’s 2015, so it’s very young.
CM: It’s a fresh style wine, this is not made to be a heavy oaked wine, to age forever. However, I think if you had to put this away and forget about it by accident, five years later you’re going to get completely different flavours and a really interesting wine. Verdelho is known for natural fresh acidity, high acidity, so it has the ability to age quite well.
JCW: Slightly salty?
CM: Slightly salty, lovely, it’s got that beautiful saline finished, lovely dry, taut finish. Yet it has completely different flavour in your mouth to Sauvignon Blanc. It has floral notes, lovely fresh flora. It does pick up a little bit of tropical fruit, but I’d say fresh melon, not really pineapple or heavy on that side. Yes, very nice for seafood or just for sitting outside on your stoep, under your veranda. Whatever you might be doing after work in summer. This is fantastic wine.
What would pair well with it
JCW: What would you serve with this? I also think this is perfect for seafood.
CM: Absolutely, whether you’re going to the West Coast or the South Coast, oysters and crayfish is definitely the thing to have with this and that lovely dry finish. It’s not cloyingly sweet or anything like that, it’s just a lovely taut, dry wine.
What happens is (I kind of have to keep swallowing), it’s that natural acidity that really works your cheeks inside and your tongue. It makes your saliva go a little bit and you really taste all these lovely things and you have to take the next sip. It’s a mouth-watering wine, a really mouth-watering wine.
JCW: It’s a perfect aperitif.
CM: Quite right, perfect aperitif. It kick-starts your taste-buds, so fantastic.
JCW: I would happily buy a box of this and just drink it throughout the summer because it is absolutely lovely, but it’s also quite elegant. It’s not a nasty, cheapie thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with cheap, I have to say.
CM: No, you sometimes get good in cheap.
CM: We just don’t want the nasty ones. Verdelho just to give a bit of background, it’s a Portuguese variety, originally planted on the Madeira Islands. It was used in their heavier wines, they made it in a completely different style there, in addition to their Madeira wines, alcoholic wines. But now very different, you see a lot more examples of fresh, summer-style wines coming through. Of course, if you think about Portugal and you think about the sardines and all the seafood they eat, this is a perfect wine for that. So yes, same going here.
There’s not too many farms in SA that have Verdelho small plantings. However, we’ll be surprised to know how many farms or winemakers add a little bit of Verdelho into their white blends, for whatever reason they have. Maybe it’s that mouth feel they want, maybe it’s a bit of freshness they want to add.
I think a very good example is Simonsig where their offering that they have on the CWG Auction this year. Has a little bit of Verdelho in there, Rossan is the main variety which is a nice and voluptuous kind of variety. The Verdelho just finishes it off, it just adds that lovely fresh finish at the end. Yes, I think if we really had to go and read our labels, or if the labels were telling us everything –
JCW: We’d find it in more.
CM: You’ll find a little bit of Verdelho in a lot of white blends.
JCW: I think this is absolutely lovely. Helshoogte, quite high, perfect in terms of a Portuguese climate. Hot summers and cold, presumably wet winters, I think they’ve had a bad winter.
CM: Look, 2015 was a fantastic year all over the Cape. Like they say, it’s the vintage of the century really, that’s what the winemakers are saying. Yes, Helshoogte is also high, so it’s got the altitude benefit, so at night it cools down, so that’s fantastic as well. If you can think of an island where you’ve got the cool air from the ocean coming in at night and it’s hot in the day, baking, I think Helshoogte has a bit of that.
JCW: All right, let’s try the next one. I think that this is a winner, I think it’s absolutely lovely.
JCW: I would definitely drink that.
A not so sweet Muscat
CM: The next wine we have, isn’t that just the prettiest label?
JCW: It is a beautiful label and I’m trying to work out actually what it is. Is it the wine growing area of the Cape or is it just a gorgeous abstract?
CM: It is abstract, but it is a vineyard. There’s little bits that seem more in focus and that would be a vineyard, sort of the vineyard disappearing in the back. Each one of their labels is unique, they each have a specific, it almost looks like a splodge of paint. But there’s obviously a story to it and the stone wall in front. Yes, this is B Vintners and they call this wine d’Alexandria and that variety is Muscat d’Alexandria.
JCW: That’s a sweet wine, right, a dessert wine?
CM: Yes, we all know Muscat to be the sweet wine, so I’m going to challenge you today. You’re going to smell this and you’re going to smell all the beautifulness. Then you’re going to tell me what you expect to taste. Just to tell you who B vintners is. Gavin, it’s cousins, Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats, a lot of us know the Raats name from Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. But they also, the two cousins teamed up and they found interesting vineyards interesting varieties.
They’ve made interesting Pinotage, so yes, they’re pushing the boundaries a little bit. Making natural stuff, going back to just letting the grape do the talking and for them to just guide it into the bottle. Rather than manipulate it to create flavours that shouldn’t maybe be there. Let’s smell this wine first, don’t sip immediately, smell it and tell me. All those lychees –
JCW: It is lychee, you know that smell you get when you peel lychees, that sudden wham.
CM: And we don’t do that very often do we?
JCW: It also smells a bit of the sea somehow, I don’t know maybe fresh leaves.
CM: Yes, I think you’re quite right, curry, a little bit of a spicy leaf kind of idea. But I get lots of fruit, lychees and also ripe peaches, that kind of things. Jenny has taken a sip –
JCW: Hmmm, Jenny is swallowing now. It tastes of salt and right at the very back, residual sweetness I think, a hint of sweetness.
CM: Yes, it’s sort of, the first taste, your mind goes a little bit crazy. Because now your brain told you, I’ve smelt all this sweet flavour and I know what Muscat is going to be like and then you taste it and it’s not sweet, it’s a dry wine.
It just has that hint of sweetness and the beauty of that is that the character of the variety is coming through, even though they turned it into, they fermented it until it was dry. They didn’t stop the fermentation early to make a sweet wine out of it, like traditionally, what we do with it often.
They just picked it up, normal ripeness, didn’t leave it to ripen further, to make a sweet wine with it and it’s just beautiful. I think it’s just a fantastic alternative. The kind of thing that you can serve with slightly spicy food, but maybe not your Durban curries. Maybe your slightly spicy spring rolls or peri-peri prawns in the morning.
Keeping the consumer guessing
JCW: What a nice idea! I haven’t had breakfast, so I could do with peri-peri prawns. It’s B d’Alexandria.
CM: Yes, so the B is standing for B Vintners, and then the d’Alexandria, I think they were also clever not putting the word ‘Muscat’ d’Alexandria there –
JCW: I think so.
CM: Because then people immediately know, oh, this is going to be sweet.
JCW: And actually think you’ve put it in the wrong place and it should be with the dessert wines and the stickies and things.
CM: Yes, and also, that hopefully would get the customer to ask, what is this…that would help you to explain to them. We, in our shop, we obviously guide people all the time. This is the kind of wine that we love using when they come in on a Saturday morning saying ‘I have a dinner party tonight, what am I going to serve’? We’re like, ‘Give us your menu, let’s have a look’.
This is the kind of thing that you can then start using and say ‘Try this’ and it becomes a conversation point. Because you now are going to educate your customer who is going to go home and educate his friends around the dinner table at home tonight and so it grows. Hopefully next time when they’re in a restaurant and seeing something interesting on the menu, they’re not going to shy away from it. Be too worried that they’re choosing something they know nothing about.
JCW: Well, first of all, you’ve chosen two bottles with the most gorgeous labels. I love the varietals and I love what has happened with this because it is dry and it is actually slightly salty, definitely. Then you’ve got that kind of residual hint of sweet, it’s right at the back of my mouth. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. Peri-peri, whatever it is, just bring it on, it will go absolutely beautifully.
CM: Fantastic. I think the two wines we’ve had here are both perfect for your beach holiday this summer coming up. You’ve got to have that in your little parcel that you’re going to pack up. Because they’re both going to go well with whatever you eat down by the coast.
A sharing of space
JCW: Where is this farm, do they bring it in? Do they go all over the Western Cape because that is without a shadow of a doubt a trend isn’t it?
CM: Yes, quite right. They do buy grapes from little pockets, wherever they find something that they would really like to work with. But it becomes increasingly more difficult because there’s a lot of competition now. A lot of winemakers that go out and search for the perfect vineyard. You find sometimes that one vineyard is shared between quite a few different winemakers. This one gets two rows, that one gets three rows –
JCW: Is that what’s happening?
CM: That’s happening in many areas and there’s some varieties that’s gaining popularity a little bit faster than others. But yes, the interesting part is that there are so many varieties that we, ten years ago none of us knew about it, let alone ever choosing it on a shelf or on a wine list.
JCW: What you’re looking for with this, I think it’s easy drinking isn’t it? It’s just easy, it’s lovely, easy drinking. It’s sun-downers, I can hear the sea and I can almost, but not quite, smell the lobsters. It’s just a lovely, put your feet up, very different take on this wine, this varietal.
CM: It’s not hard work.
JCW: It’s gorgeous.
CM: Easy to enjoy and yes, I think that’s what summer wines should be, summer wines shouldn’t be wine that you have to go and sit and think about for too long. You need to from the first sip, just enjoy, it just needs to be easy enjoyment.
JCW: Corlien Morris of Wine Menu, thank you very much indeed. I do actually think that if you do want something different over the weekend, why don’t you pop into Wine Menu. It’s in the BlueBird Centre and bring your dinner party list. Whether it’s a lovely different Sunday braai a Sunday lunch, or maybe something a little bit different for Saturday night.
Just bring it in and see what you get, maybe you’ll end up with one or maybe both of those. But I suspect you’re going to have to choose. Thanks for joining us and download the Old Mutual app from your app store to get your favourite podcasts. It’s also the best place to listen to our exclusive pop-event station.