Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The launch of Bellevue’s 1953 Pinotage and new restaurant.

We visited Bellevue Wine Estate in Bottelary recently to taste their wines and they told us that their new restaurant and wine tasting venue would be opening soon and that we would be invited. This launch took place last week and it was also their opportunity to launch an iconic new wine, 1953 Pinotage, made from the vineyards planted on Bellevue 64 years ago. Pinotage vines (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault - aka Hermitage - propagated by Professor Abraham Perold in 1925) were planted on Bellevue in 1953 by PK Morkel. The grapes for the first commercially produced Pinotage were harvested from these vines and made into this original South African wine which sold under the Lanzerac label, owned at the time by Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery. Bellevue is an historic wine estate (established in 1701) with its original Cape Dutch homestead built in 1803. The new modern facilities complement the original farm buildings
Inside the tasting room
Nice packaging for a case of the Canto MCC Brut which was served to us on arrival. Canto is a Boutique winery in Durbanville owned by Marinus Neethling, who also owns Bellevue. This sparkler is made from 100% Chardonnay from Stellenbosch grapes
Some pizza slices were served as canapés
Some of the old wine and spirit making equipment graces the back wall of the room where the coffee station is situated
Nice use of an old workbench!
Tables had been set up on the lawn for the wine tasting. There is plenty of outdoor space for tables and umbrellas and its child friendly. It was a hot day
Later, lunch would be served on the shaded stoep
Previous owner of Bellevue Dirkie Morkel, who is still working and living on the farm, chatting to Julian Richfield
One of the chefs
Time to begin the tasting. We were welcomed by owner Marinus Neethling. He is a very successful property developer in the area. When Lynne asked him why he bought a wine farm he said he likes to grasp opportunities when he sees them. He is also a very keen wine lover. Bellevue winemaker Wilhelm Kritzinger is on the left 
Dirkie Morkel told us a lot of the history of the farm and the history of Pinotage Professor Perold first crossed Pinot Noir and Cinsault in 1924. It produced many different clones but he thought that chose what he thought was the most successful one. Seeds of this clone were found and cultivated and only one grew into a vine, the mother of all South African Pinotages. In 1953, Dirkie’s father wanted to plant Grenache but was recommended to plant Pinotage. Bottled from 1959 by Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery as Lanzerac Pinotage, the wine was sold to them by Dirkie’s father. In 1999 the wine won the General Smuts Trophy and the first PK Morkel Pinotage, named for Dirkie's uncle, almost won Wine of the Year. Dirkie loves his wines; he prefers the Burgundian style which is more feminine and lighter and says the wines show much better as they age. While many Pinotages are grown on bush vines, Bellevue's newer vineyards are trellised. This bears double the crop compared to bush vines, but they do have to control the crop size to get good quality. The original 1953 vineyard, which is still producing, is bush vines. He says his wines have the flavours of maraschino cherries and plums in them. Winemakers only manipulate, the wine is made in the vineyard
Time to begin the tasting. First the 2015 Pinotage. Cherries and dark berries with some maraschino and vanilla on the nose. Soft sweet fruit, some chalky tannins, warmth with red plums and red cherries on the palate. Wood supports the fruit but is not intrusive and it has a long finish. New style, no metallic flavours or banana at all
Winemaker Wilhelm Kritzinger told us all about his successful wine making career and his techniques and ably guided us through the tasting
Next was the newly released 2016 '1953' Pinotage, the current vintage. Matured in new French oak barrels. A similar nose to the 2015 with those maraschino cherries and some perfume; very pretty, almost Italianate as there were some violets. Silky soft on the palate, with grippy chalky tannins, cherries and prune plums. Will age beautifully
Wilhelm told us that Pinotage ferments fast; it can be like a runaway train and can go down to 10 balling in one night. It also needs air; when they went from open kuipe to closed tanks they had to circulate the winer through a sprayer to add oxygen. It is lighter on yeast and nitrogen and there are never any stuck fermentations. They have 40 hectares of Pinotage on Bellevue, a huge asset. We also tasted a tank sample of the 2017 which is filled with plums and prunes, chalky tannins and dark liquorice wood. This will age well in bottle
New owner of Bellevue, Marinus Neethling and his wife
Chef tells us what he will be serving for lunch
The first course was a tranche of smoked salmon and asparagus pate with a mango and litchi drizzle
Lynne who asked for no dairy, was served a large salad of beetroot, butternut, creamy goats cheese and assorted leaves and herbs. We drank the Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc made by Anika Potgieter, who was presently in France. This was awarded a gold medal at Veritas. Initially she made it with lots of green grass and nettles with grapefruit - a bit harsh and aggressive, it is now more tropical in style, friendlier and easier to pair with food. Full of elderflower on the nose and palate, with a lovely full mouth feel
Our main course was a reformed springbok shank; tender shreds of long-cooked springbok wrapped back onto its bone, on a creamy, cheesy yellow maize pap (polenta) with a few carrots and beans and a good meaty jus. This was rich and not at all criminal
We drank the new release, the 2016 '1953' Pinotage with the main course and it was indeed a lovely match. This is a very, very good Pinotage, even for those who are not huge fans of Pinotage, like Lynne. Artfully wooded, it is soft and sophisticated. Will age very well and probably win lots of awards. R545 a bottle on the farm
We also had the 2014 Malbec. With notes of wild berries, herbs and incense wood, this cracker of a wine is full of red, black and blue berries, with lots of earthy wildness on the palate. Yum. A good expression of this grape. Will age well too .R100 on the farm
Wilhelm with his young schnauser
Dessert was a warm camembert with nuts, honey and some berries
A quiet courtyard with a pink bougainvillea. Thank you Bellevue for a very good tasting and lunch

No comments: