Thursday, March 29, 2018

A day in Franschhoek 2: An Appointment with the Winemaker at Chamonix

Continuing our day in Franschhoek, we had arranged to meet winemaker Thinus Neethling in the tasting room. The farm is above Franschhoek on the right hand side when you enter the village. It is also on the Franschhoek Tram route. The farm has been owned by German businessman Chris Hellinger, who bought the farm over a quarter of a century ago. We were so pleased to see that they have extended the seating area for the Tasting room outside in the sunshine. Inside can be a little dark.
Catching up! Thinus is Cellarmaster, winemaker and viticulturist. We were joined a bit later by Bernard Dewey, the Sales and Marketing Manager
We began with the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a good classic South African SB on the nose, grassy, green leaves and some honey on the nose; this is not in the tropical style, and is crisp and clean and very refreshing with zingy acids and green capsicum on the end. The 2017 Unoaked Chardonnay has golden fruit on the nose, and is a quaffing wine, with crisp citrus and peach notes and some nice chalk on the end
The wooded Bordeaux style 2015 Reserve White blend has some 79% Sauvignon Blanc & 21% Semillon added and is redolent of lemon and wood on the nose , on the palate rich with wood and citrus fruit, and some creamy complexity
The star white wine of Chamonix is the 2006 Reserve White 73% Sauvignon Blanc and 27% Semillon which wine writer Tim Atkin MW scored a high 95. This is more elegant and perfumed and very French in style. Crisp citrus with nice gentle wood, long citrus flavours on the end, a truly impressive wine
Then two vintages of wooded Reserve Chardonnay. The 2015 has vanilla oak, from 14 months in French barrels, 70% new, 10% second fill and 205 in a concrete egg. Crisp and fresh with long flavours, wood follows with nice smoke on the end, will age well. The 2016 is shy on the nose at first with smoke, lemon and citrus. Rich flavours on the palate belie the quiet nose, more
Time to switch to red and we started with the 2016 Feldspar Pinot Noir. Balsam hints and very ripe fruit on the nose with some rose perfume. Heady with good fruit, warmth and more of those roses, lovely to drink, a good food wine
Then the 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir, a green leafy nose with a hint of eucalyptus and balsam beneath some mushrooms. Full-on warm wine, silky and fruity with a minty eucalyptus hint, long fruit, prunes and strawberries, The 2016 Reserve Pinot Noir has smoke with some faint eucalyptus, intriguing, and pretty with roses and quality. A little like the Hemel and Aarde Pinot style. Full palate of ripe raspberries, mulberries, a success. Also a bit French, but not shy in fruit and delivery
Then the 2015 Greywacke Pinotage of which 30% has been 18 months in new French oak barrels. An interesting fruit driven nose, The wine has had some repasso treatment, where it is added to a cask containing the skins and lees left over from recently fermented wine. This triggers a second fermentation and increases colour, depth and alcohol. It has good fruit, prunes, plums and raspberries, chalky tannins with some toasted wood on the end and no metallic flavours. A wine made to last and age well
We paused for some light lunch with two of Chamonix's meat and cheese platters
The Cabernet Franc 2015 is savoury with dark berry nose, and perfume. Hot savouriness, smoke blueberries and cassis, delicious
Then the flagship red, 2015 Troika, 48% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 15% Petite Verdot. Balsam, cassis and violets, sweet berry fruit warm alcohol, will go well with spicy foods with a good savoury end from the Cabernet Franc
Then a cellar tour. Thinus told us that they farm dry land, they use organic yeast from Germany and they spray just copper sulphate and sulphur when necessary, no other chemicals are used
The cellar has a black mould which was specially imported from Germany, it keeps away other moulds
They were in the middle of harvest, so we were very grateful to Thinus for his time spent with us
We met Mrs Barbara Hellinger in the cellar; she was just off to Germany to see her husband, Chris
Lovely view from the cellar door
Some of the very old and very large German barrels which are still being used in the cellar
Destemmed grapes pouring in to the open-topped barrel 
Purple grapes
delivered by tractor

The Franschhoek Tram comes to drop off and pick up visitors
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