Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Vondeling launches Methode Ancienne bubbly

Last week, we visited Vondeling in the Paardeberg area to try their brand new wine, a Méthode Ancestral made from 100% Chardonnay. To quote Jancis Robinson: “Méthode Ancestrale, sometimes called Méthode Artisanale or Méthode Rurale, very traditional sparkling wine making method, used chiefly in Limoux, resulting in a lightly sparkling, medium sweet wine, sometimes complete with sediment”. There is no sediment in the Vondeling wine, and it is beautifully dry and full. It is the first of its kind registered with the SA Wine and Spirit Board.
Where did we first taste it? Well they took about 20 journalists in 4x4s up to the very top of their mountain, Kanonkop, and served it to us ice cold with freshly shucked oysters and some killer smoked salmon sandwiches. It is a very steep and long track and we hear that it going to be part of the Cape Epic this year. Good luck to those crazy cyclists!
It was a beautiful day and we could see from Hangklip on the False Bay side of the Peninsula all the way round to the Piketberg mountains and the Atlantic in the north. The mountain is 750 metres above sea level, so you really did feel on top of the world. Then back down the mountain we drove, to lunch in the winery with vertical tasting of their white blend, Babiana, and another of Erica, their Shiraz. It was a sensational event.
A welcome cup of coffee in the tasting room after an early start from town
Spring green in the vineyards on a lovely morning
The cellar, the tasting room and their small chapel, which is used for weddings and other ceremonies. The local bishop will be blessing this very soon
Vines being thinned and trained as they sprout
Our beautiful mountain from the top of theirs, looking over the Durbanville Hills
We begin a very short hike to the top of the mountain from the 4x4s that drove us up
The Paardeberg mountains are covered in the most beautiful fynbos and are part of the Nature Conservancy in the area. Bridget Johnsen, wife of Director Julian Johnsen, is very involved in this. This is a watsonia
Julian welcomes us to the summit
A table bearing the Méthode Ancestrale and the smoked salmon sandwiches. The young man on the left opens and serves fresh oysters from his buckets and can be hired for events He has Tabasco and pepper in the top of his leather apron and lemon in the bucket to flavour them
A view back to the farm in the valley and looking towards Wellington and Paarl Rock on the right
The ancient cannon that was dragged up the mountain centuries ago to protect and notify the valley of visiting ships
Winemaker Matthew Copeland pours the first Méthode Ancestrale for Bridget and Julian
Chilling nicely in a huge ice bucket. Someone had to bring all this up to the summit
The oysterking.co.za shucks an oyster
Matthew explains Méthode Ancestrale to us
We get to taste and enjoy
It is lovely and fresh and full, with some brioche on the nose and rich pear and green apple flavours. Not at all like Champagne, but patently French in style.
To quote winemaker Matthew: “Natural fermentation commences in the tank and when only a small, but critical amount of sugar remains, the fermenting wine is bottled and capped. Bottling must take place at the precise moment when there is enough remaining sugar to create a healthy, vibrant mousse, but not so much as to cause the bottles to explode. This single, continuous fermentation, using fruit which is approximately three weeks riper than base wine used to make Champagne, is what makes Méthode Ancestrale unique.
The wine is matured on its lees for 16 months before being disgorged. Autolysis of the yeast cells creates further richness and adds palate weight and creaminess in the wine. After being hand riddled over a one month period, it is disgorged and topped using Rurale from the same vintage, as an alternative to liqueur d’expedition. It is therefore not sweetened and considered zero dosage. Because of the ripeness of the fruit, it’s flavour profile is more in line with a Brut, rather than an extra-brut.
It is a highly labour-intensive way to produce sparkling wine, and for this reason, only 1200 bottles of the 2012 vintage were produced. All grapes are grown and vinified at Vondeling. Recommended retail price R220

Having a wonderful time on the mountain drinking great bubbly and eating smoked salmon sandwiches
or oysters
Bridget Johnsen telling us about the biodiversity of the fynbos and the mountain conservancy project that she is passionate about and very involved in
The green fields of grapes and wheat that grow so well in the valley, looking towards Malmesbury, Tulbagh and the far Piketberg
You can always tell a 4x4 owner
Sunshine and celebration
Time for the hairy drive back down the mountain ‘road’
Vondeling’s chapel
They laid a long table for lunch
We had three vintages of Vondeling Babiana 2009, 2011 & 12. It’s a blend of Chenin, Viognier, Chardonnay and Grenache Blanc. Full of golden yellow plums, peaches, honey and pineapple, but it’s not sweet. It has a lovely mouth feel and long juicy flavours
The three vintages of this primrose yellow wine
Then three vintages of Erica – a shiraz. 2007, 2009, 2010. All rather different from each other but all good, spicy shiraz. The 09, which is a food wine, gives a lovely mouthful of rich cherries and cassis with some spice and vanilla, and lightly toasted oak.
Jane Eedes promotes and sells the wines for Vondeling
The winemaker tells us about the dessert wine we were served, Sweet Caroline, a divine Muscat de Frontenac with an RS of 140. It is made by crimping and twisting the bunches on the vine to concentrate the fruit sugars and is classified as a Vin du Paille
Lunch was prepared by Mariaan Harris, who manages the tasting room and functions
It started with a lovely fresh salad with beautifully lightly hot smoked salmon. We then had a lovely soft fillet of beef with a rich mushroom and cream sauce

And finished with an Eaton Mess with raspberries and mango served with Sweet Caroline.
Thank you all at Vondeling for a really impressive and very enjoyable day
Photo of John by Maggie Mostert, Batonage
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2014

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