Thursday, October 05, 2017

A day on Longridge wine estate in the Helderberg

An Invitation to visit Longridge in Stellenbosch last week, so that they could show us methods of Biodynamic farming, pruning of the vines and give us a wonderful wine tasting and light lunch. We were instructed to wear comfortable clothes and suitable shoes for a walk through the vines. And bless them, they provided a shuttle from the Waterfront. Longridge is in the Helderberg ward of Stellenbosch
It was an early start, so we welcomed the coffee, tea and rusks on arrival
Old friends Sandra and Philip Engelen with Lucille Botha of Landbou Weekblad. Sandra owns and runs the restaurant on Chart Farm in Constantia, they own and run Brooklands Guest house and Philip is Chairman of the Cape Town Club
Jasper Raats is both Cellarmaster and viticulturist and we discovered that he is passionate about and very well versed in Biodynamic and organic farming. We learnt a huge amount from him about organic and biodynamic farming on this walk. Bruwer Raats (of Raats family Wines, Mvemve Raats and B Vintners) is his brother
After coffee, when everyone had arrived, we took a walk into the vineyards, so lovely in their new leaves. Jasper explained the Helderberg terroir
This Chardonnay, a very early grape and already it has the tiny flowers on it. The vines look exceptionally healthy
and a ladybird, but this is one of the invader ladybirds that eats the smaller local ones. Ladybirds and other beneficial species help to keep aphids and other small pests down so that pesticides don't need to be used
We explored the vineyards and the visible biodynamic methods
Jasper explained that they plough a 'bankie" or ditch next to and on both sides of the vines and in this they put bark, sawdust and other mulch products which keeps the channel moist. This means that they don't have to irrigate. The cover crop of rye and weeds is allowed to grow in the centre and, when they die in the heat, they are rolled flat so that their nutriments can return to the soil. The cover crop is never ploughed in as it disturbs the roots of the vines and the earthworms and the small micro organisms so essential to the soil
You can see how healthy this old vineyard is as the rye cover crop is so tall
These Chenin vines are over 40 years old; they still produce good wine, although the crop is low
We stop for a word or two with Jasper’s horses
He showed us how they make green manure. They put the horse manure in these pits and add water and other ingredients; this makes a magic liquid for the vines
The Longridge winery
Inside the wine cellar with the large fermenting tanks
and the barrel cellar where they keep the red wines
Time for some wine and a chance to taste the 2009 Vintage Reserve Brut Mèthode Cap Classique, a 4½ star platter wine. Nice age shows on the palate and good crisp apples from the 75% Chardonnay
or you could try their Rosé MCC, with lots of red berry Pinot Noir flavours
In the cellar with winemaker Hendrien de Munck
who spoke about her cellar practices
Lots of red wines slowly maturing in the cellar - and a few whites
We tasted a tank sample of the ripe, almost tropical and with notes of toffee, Sauvignon Blanc, not yet organic as they have bought in the grapes
Then upstairs to a large room above the restaurant. where we had a tasting of many of their wines. We began with the 2014 organic Chenin Blanc, grassy with apricots, pineapple and melon on the nose. Barrel fermented, the wood shows on the palate, with good minerality and weight. The fruit follows behind with pineapple, white peaches and marmalade. Then the smoky Chardonnay, also certified organic, and the Biodynamic Driefontein Sauvignon Blanc. Golden fruit on the nose, nutty, layers of fruit and full on the palate, clean and crisp, a little herbaceous; it begs to be paired with food. Jasper trained in Sancerre and this is the style of wine he is making. They brought us platters of tempura herbs: fennel leaves and celery. Crisp and delicious and, to dip in, a good aioli
We also tasted a rather unusual wine which we liked a lot. Called The Emily and named after Emily Hobhouse http://zar.co.za/hobhouse.htm. A British woman who became one of our local heroines during the Boer War. It is an unwooded Chardonnay, blended with a small amount of lightly wooded Pinot Noir from the Elgin valley. Toasty apples on the nose, nice layers of apple and plum fruit, refreshing with long flavours and a good food wine too. Brewer told us that this is one of their best sellers here and abroad. According to their US importer it sells like liquid crack! R70 on the farm
Then the 2016 Cinsault from old bush vines (planted in 1974). Soft cherries and smoke on the nose, grippy tannins, more soft sweet berry fruit; a lovely quaffable food wine. We had this with some cheese and onion tarts. Jasper's Pinotage is made like Pinot Noir, a more elegant style. Then we had the Ultra premium Merlot which is just being launched. Herbal, minty with huge minerality, heavy, heady fruit and nice warmth from the alcohol
Jasper with the wines we tasted. Next we had the 2014 Ekliptika, Longridge's top red wine. Cab Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a classic Bordeaux blend, still rather closed with incense wood, dark red cassis berries and cherries, tannins and chalk this wants lots of time before it comes to delight, and it will. Then the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, full of cassis leaves and berries another classic. And finally the Pinot Noir so perfumed with roses and jasmine on the nose, with violets on the palate, sharp red berries, fresh. We were served bowls of lamb neck waterblommetjie bredie on rice. Then the shuttle took us back to town after a lovely day in the country with the wine trade
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