Friday, August 31, 2018

Simonsig Vintage Day preview

Once a year, in the late winter, Simonsig in Stellenbosch holds a Vintage Day on a Saturday when they allow customers to come and taste and buy some older vintages. We felt very privileged to be invited to the Preview on the Friday before the public event
Greeted by their Kaapse Vonkel Brut and Rosé which are always a treat and two of the best MCC bubblies in South Africa. Two of the best sellers as well. And Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel was the first Méthode Champenoise wine produced in South Africa
A selection of the Chenins we could taste
But first a Master Class of Chenin Blanc
Local Chenins would be tasted alongside some good French ones from Moulin Fouchais a 1971 and a Coteaux de Layon 2002. The impressive magnum bottle was to commemorate Simonsig's 50th anniversary
The wines on ice
1st Flight. We began the tasting with two Méthode Champenoise wines made from Chenin: First Ken Forrester's Sparkle Horse 2015. Bready with honeysuckle perfume, some herbal notes wood leesy and ginger. Crisp with sweet fruit on entry, a lovely prickle with pineapple, quince and apples on the end.14 months on the lees

Then Domaine Huet Pétillant Brut Reserve 2009 from Vouvray. 6 years on the lees, natural yeast, zero dosage. Elegant nose, so French, with apple blossom perfume. A tiny prickle, crisp, chalky and flinty with apple and limes, clean and long. Chenin has been made in Vouvray since the 9th century and it makes the longest lasting wines. This can age for 5 to 10 years. Cellarmaster Debbie Thompson poured with others
Johan Malan telling us about the wines with winemaker Charl Schoeman
Our array of glasses and some happy faces opposite
The line up
There were informative slides
Flight 2 was three unwooded Chenins from Simonsig and three different vintages. The 2009 had lees notes first, some age showing with a touch of terpene, elegance, a full nose with nougat and over ripe apples and almond. Also a full on palate of layered sweet honeyed fruit, a very attractive wine from a great vintage. 18/20
The 2015 had sesame and linseed, forest floor oak leaves on the restrained nose. Again honeyed fruit deep and long with a nice acid fruit balance, stewed quince, pear, apples and more honey. 18/20 
The newly released 2018 is at first more Sauvignon Blanc on the nose than Chenin in style, fresh and grapey on the nose, young and vibrant. Packed with Thiols. It is crisp and prickly and long, then the honey creeps in quietly and the fresh white seedless grape juice. This will age beautifullly. 18/20
The 3rd flight was a revelation and we thank Simonsig for giving it to us. We say we never stop learning about our mistress, wine and this was a really great lesson. We were to taste the wine from the four pickings of the 2018 Chenin Blanc. They vinify them seperately. You can see the dates and chemical analysis on the slide of the juice and the wine. They began picking on the 3rd of February and brought the final grapes in on the 12th of March. And each picking has its own character but makes up the sum of the parts. Chenin fruit can start at passion fruit and then go through green apple, pear, ripe peach, honey, apple tart and finally reach raisin flavours on the vine as the vintage goes on
Picking 1 was fresh, grapey, clean, cloudy, crisp line acidity
Picking 2 had orange, grape, clean flavours, nicer than 1, more integrated juice with some oxidation
Picking 3 was shy but more integrated and elegant. Grey grace notes and perfume appear, lovely fruit, with a little semillon character, fat on the palate, limes and loquats, beginning to be fuller in texture (everyone preferred this picking)
Picking 4: Shy fruit, frey flavours, good warmth and complexity with oxidation. And when you blended all four in a glass, yes you tasted the same wine bottled in 2018.
Autumn and spring on the same oak tree outside
Flight 4: 1) Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne 2012 Asparagus, clear, with smoke on the end and on the nose and palate full fruit with honey and pears, guava and lime 2) the 2016 had such a familiar beloved smell for us. Pure Tart tatin. Apple caramel, butter and pastry - perfection. Richness and fullness with lovely stewed apples, nuts and pastry 3) The Commemorative 2017 Magnum. fresh fennel and fennel seed on the nose, lovely on the palate with fresh fruit, crisp apple and limes with length and wood smoke, then dark toast and minerality on the end, Wine No.4 was Domaine Huet Le Mont Sec Vouvray 2016 with complex perfume and oxidative fruit, then new oak barrel sawdust. On the palate crisp layered fruit, so "essential', lean and dry, so food calls. More acid than the SA wines, grippy and hints of the sea with minerality on the end
Winemaker Debbie Thompson and, behind her, photographer Gavin Withers
Flight 5 was entitled Mystery Delights and we had to guess where they were from1 was a honey bomb with great acid balance, limes and hone, so good, what we need people to drink more of as it is what we do so well. Most of us guessed it had to be local and indeed it was the 2016 Kika Noble Late Harvest from Miles Mossop. The grapes came from Nooitgedacht
No.2 had green pyrazines, floor polish wax on the nose and more of that waxy character on the rather acidic palate. It had to be French and it was the 2002 Moulin Touchais
No.3 had age and dark caramel and honey with spice on the nose, tarry caramel and balancing acid flavours from 1971 the Moulin Touchais, who have been making Chenin since 1787. It did start to die a little in the glass but its an aged wine. of 44 years. What a superb master class
Joakim Hansi Blackadder and Joaquim Sá
Time to go to the tasting room to begin the task of tasting as many vintage wines as possible
The Merindols were showing particularly well and we loved the 2002 the most, the 1999 is still great and the 2015 is coming up to the front.
The Tiara 2002 particularly impressed
The Vintage Cuvée Royale can stand its ground amongst the best
Tastings on the stoep
 Lize-Marie Gradwell, after many years with Distell, has joined Simonsig as International Sales Manager
Father and son
And cases to take home if you so wish. We suspect that the Saturday Vintage Sale was good despite being one of the wettest and coldest days in August
Former Springbok rugby captain Tiaan Strauss in serious conversation with Johan Malan
John's favourite Pinotage
Happy and smiling tasting room manager Itumeleng Mohale
Simonsig always has such a good atmosphere, everyone is helpful and obliging and friendly
A winter sunset of orange and apricot over the vineyards looking towards Table Mountain
And the sunset reflecting on the mountains turns them pink, mauve, purple and blue. When people paint them like this they are accused of making the paintings unrealistic. But this shows that they do indeed turn wonderful colours, as do our skies
Heading home after a truly enjoyable event. Thank you to all at Simonsig, again

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