Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vintage Day at Simonsig, Stellenbosch

It was a complete coincidence that this followed The Vineyard's bottling day, enabling us to visit Simonsig twice in two days. Once a year, Simonsig offers the public a tasting of their vintage wines (held on Saturday, August 12th). We were invited to the trade and media preview which was held the day before. The tasting also included a master class of some of the winery's gems, to be presented by Cellarmaster Johan Malan. How could we say no to such an offer?
Simonsig’s grappa is new to us
The tasting was held in the tasting room, closed to the public for the day. The wines were on different stations around the room. We began at the Kaapse Vonkel MCC table where she began with the newer vintages of this and the Cuvée Royale and worked back to the 2008, 2007 2005 and 2003, They are all good examples of what our MCCs can become with time on the lees. The extraordinary thing was that all these wines had just been disgorged, so the oldest one had had 14 years on the lees. The stand out one for Lynne was the 2005, which is perfumed rather than bready, has a lovely prickle, and is still amazingly fresh with grapefruit and pomelo flavours. John loved the 2007 which had also kept amazing freshness on the palate
White wine maker Hannes Meyer was behind the Kaapse Vonkel table
We were served canapés while we tasted the wines. Crisp battered prawns are always popular
Lots of trade retailers, restaurateurs and sommeliers were attending. Lynne enjoyed tasting the Chenin Avec Chêne (with wood). Of the four vintages, 2016, 2014, 2012 and 2008, she favoured the 2008 which has a great Chenin nose, fruit age and some soft wood, glycerol sweetness and roundness, with spicy warmth and flavours of gooseberry and apricot
Red winemaker Debbie Thompson showed vintages of their Pinotages back to 1998. The 1999 had been decanted and was oxidising quite quickly. Debbie said that the next bottle would be poured from the bottle. It was an excellent example, nevertheless, of Pinotage's ability to age well. Rich, rounded plum fruit with soft, smooth tannin and a very long finish
Francois Jacques Malan showed different vintages of Tiara, Simonsig's classic Bordeaux blend; The Labyrinth 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; the 2005 Frans Malan Cape Blend with lovely prune, cassis and cherry fruit
Exciting to taste vintages of Tiara from 1997 to 2009 with only a few gaps, giving the 2002 and the 1999 special mention. The 1999 has a fruit driven nose, so beautiful with incense wood and black berries. Soft tannins on the palate with soft elegant wood are followed by mature fruit and cooked berries
Arancini balls topped with aioli were served
A thoughtful Emil Joubert considering the wine he is tasting
Tiny melkterts
The beef brochettes were a little tough
It was the Shiraz and Syrah that blew most of us away. 2012 Mr Borio Shiraz and the 2010/06//03/02 Merindol Syrah were there for tasting. They just got better and better as they got older. Good fruit, good tannins, nicely wooded, huge aging potential and good food wines. Some were elegant, others perfumed and full of fruit. The Merindol 2010 really stood out with its pretty nose, where fruit abounds. On the palate, licorice and spice, dark wood, cranberries, black cherries and white pepper on the end. This single vineyard 5 star Platter wine has won many awards
A short break 
before we moved into another room for the "All Roads lead to Rhône" Master class guided by Johan Malan
Why are they now producing Rhône varietals? Johan explained that it all started in California at Tablas Creek with a 7 year old bottle of their 2000 white wine. He was so impressed that he decided to do the same in South Africa. They planted Roussane first, then Grenache Blanc and Marsanne followed, Clairette Blanche is the second worst varietal he has ever worked with, but they already had a vineyard planted by his father. Verdelho came along 5th
We began with the tasting of the white wines, guided by white wnemaker Hannes Meyer 
All the wines we tasted were taken from the barrels and so we were told to expect a little cloudiness. They were extraordinary and we cannot wait for them to be released in bottle. Some could be released as single varietals, but we suspect that, when they blend a full Rhône Châteauneuf du Pape style wine, it is going to be nothing short of astonishing. The 2017 is peachy and quite elegant with fennel, almost muscat notes with a warmth of alcohol. The 2017 Grenache Blanc was also a surprise, crisp greengage acids, fennel and ginger and a good mouth feel. The Marsanne shows honeysuckle and hazelnuts, good acids, with liquorice fennel (typically, a red wine flavour!) And the Roussanne, a russet grape, was reductive, with peaches and rich flavours. These wines are being used for experimentation and blending
We then tasted the Mediterrano, a blend of 66% Roussane, 28% Grenache Blanc , 6% Verdelho. They wanted to do a blend without Chenin. Shy on the nose initially, hazelnuts on the palate, good fruit acid and chalky tannins, warmth and clean minerality. The small amount of Verdelho shows! It can try to take over which is why they use it judiciously.
Then a treat, this year's CWG Auction wine from Johan. 2016 Die Kluisenaar a blend of 60% Roussane and 40% Marsanne. Perfumed pears on the nose, A Nelly Melba surprise with pears, and vanilla on the palate. Quite superb.
Sommelier Denis Garret, here from Europe to taste in the Michelangelo Awards, was enjoying the tasting
Red winemaker Debbie Thompson then told us about the two Mr Borio Shirazes. The 2011 has sweet vanillins, nice wood and a bit of elegance on the nose, wildness, bacon, herbs and chalky tannins, more European in style than SA. The 2015 is similar on the nose and palate, but more chewy with the chalky tannins, asking for it to be laid down to age
The SMV: 89% Shiraz, 10% Mourvèdre, 1% Viognier. Smoky bacon and cherries on the nose, a cherry fruit bomb on the palate, with a touch of maraschino and some herbs. Fermentation was by carbonic maceration
Sommeliers from the One and Only Hotel, Mercy Mwai from Nobu and Luvo Ntezo from Reuben’s restaurant
We finished with a flight of Merindol Syrah 2007 and 2012 which is herbal and elegant, full of good cassis fruit, black pepper leather and some salt
This was followed by Johan's magnificent CWG Heirloom Shiraz, which is our wine of the Week this week. Have a look. It was a really impressive tasting. These are professionals, the quality of the wines is outstanding, the wines age well and maintain their flavours, a cut above many. Thank you Simonsig for widening our eyes and our horizon
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