Friday, September 14, 2018

Villiera Special Release Launch at The Stack

An elegant evening with the Grier family of Villiera, held to launch their new premium wine The Clan. It was held at The Stack in Gardens
We were welcomed with a glass of their Monro Brut, Prestige Cuvée MCC

and we were served this starter of very fresh line fish ceviche topped with a rocher of lime panna cotta. It came with soused onions and thin slices of cucumber. Fresh zingy and exciting, it matched their flagship MCC Monro Brut so well. This has 60% Chardonnay with some Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and is perfumed and yeasty on the nose, a lovely prickle, with crisp limes and lemons and a good richness and complexity. Half the Chardonnay goes into older barrels which gives complexity and maturation. The Pinot Noir has yeast contact. It spends 5 years on the lees and 6 months to a year under cork. This is the 2011 and the 2012 will be released in a month or two
Then it was time to take our places at the long table with the other guests and members of the Grier Family
An amusing opening by Cathy Grier CWM, who handles Sales and Marketing. She says that it was time for the Clan to get together. The Grieg family have always worked together. They are into their fourth generation as a family business. Grandfather Grier arrived in South Africa from the United Kingdom in the 1920s. He studied at Elsenberg and started a poultry business. The second generation of Griers, Robin and Alexander Senior, took it a step further and were involved in developing County Fair, added value poultry business and planted some vineyards. The third generation, Jeff, Simon and Cathy, were more interested in what to drink with poultry! Jeffery Monro Grier CWM is the Cellarmaster and his cousin Simon Monro Grier, the viticulturist. Cathy (née Grier) Brewer CWM, is Jeff's sister. Together they began working on the farm 35 years ago, in 1983. If memory is correct, they were the first brother and sister to earn the Cape Wine Master accolade. And they have now been joined by one of the 4th generation of Griers, Alexander Monro Grier (Xander), winemaker and son of Chef and adventurer David Grier, another cousin. Their other young wine maker is Nathan Valentine and he is not related. That's how the clan works says Jeff
They told us that we would be tasting two new wines. They are also working on a super premium bubble, news of which will come later in the year. 35% of Villiera’s wines are Méthode Cap Classique wines; they are well known for these wines and they are very successful with them. But they felt that it was time for a premium red wine
Jeff told us that Xander is driving membership of the old vines project for their vines. In 2015 they re-assessed the reserve wines. They know that they are quality wines, but they must be different from other wines in the market to continue competing. Part of the difference is using old vines, another is quality and skill in the making of the wines
Their Sauvignon Blanc was not different enough, so in 2016 they made a Blanc Fumé (a wooded Sauvignon Blanc) And this is what we were now to taste
They want to avoid malolactic fermentation, as they want freshness on this wine. They wanted a wine to compliment food. And the wood gives more structure and ageability. They use some new and some older barrels; the cigar shaped elongated 300 litre barrels (similar to Port pipes) maximise lees contact and enhance thiol characteristics in the wine. A portion of the grapes is fermented whole and the wine spends six months in barrel and then six months in the bottle before release. The 2017 is now available
We found that it has richness and ripeness, lush fruit - golden melon, William pear on the nose. On the palate, it has a slight prickle, good weight, loquat and passion fruit first, then some green pepper, smoke and green apple on the end
The second dish was red and yellow beetroot served with creamed goats cheese, always a good pairing and this was served with a square of intense verjuice jelly
Next we tasted the 2018 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc. The wine is a blend from three old blocks of Chenin, each picked at optimal ripeness and also some grapes which were picked earlier. Some is fermented in ceramic eggs, some in 400 litre new and used wood barrels, with some whole bunches and some skin contact. 40% of the pick goes through malolactic fermentation for richness, the balance has none to enhance freshness. It goes through natural fermentation (no added yeast) and they do batonage. These grapes often have some botrytis, but there was none in 2016 and 17 due to the drought. Smoke and gentle fruit on the nose, a good mouthfeel, with lively limes and plums and there is a very satisfying richness on this wine
Journalist Fiona McDonald chatting to winemaker Alexander Grier
Dr Johan Nel who is a serious wine buyer and a customer of Villiera
Journalist Mel Minnaar with stylist Katinka Lombard
The next wine we tasted was the Monro Merlot. Monro is one of the family names and it is used on their Prestige reserve wine labels. We liked this wine so much that it was our Wine of the Week last week. South Africa is not known for its Merlots; much of it is grown in the wrong areas, we often pick the grapes too early and the wines can be tough and harsh. But when they are made carefully and well, they are just beautiful. It is said to be a feminine grape and a wine that women prefer. We think that this will impress both sexes.
Made by Jeff Grier, the wine so reminded us of a good St Emilion; lots of black cherries and incense wood, with minerality and elegance. Richness is their signature on red wines; this is lovely, velvety berry wine with good integrated wood, ripe cherries and cassis berries, milk chocolate and not a single hint of greenness. Long deep flavours of red plums follow with a little salty liquorice and some nice chalky tannins. It calls out for food. Around R200 on the farm
We had it with Pan seared duck breasts with Shiitake mushrooms in Pomme Purée and a good rich jus
And finally, the newest release, Their new super premium red, titled The Clan 2015. An unusual and, we think, unique blend of 86% Cabernet Franc with 14% Carignan. Bruléed berry fruit with violets, incense wood and richness on the nose, with green cassis leaves, cassis, mulberries, forest floor & mushrooms ... and something else ... which of course is the wildness of the Carignan. On the palate, full & dark with cassis and mulberry, rhubarb and dark plums, warmth, dark 90% chocolate and a little liquorice. This wine is complex, structured, grippy and will last for many years. But it is drinking well now. In heavy Stellenbosch bottles, the label has a tartan effect but is, in fact, a grid of all of the family names and it is finished with an applied wax seal. R850 a bottle on the farm
This was paired with tender Springbok loin, baby carrots, and a potato fondant
Jeff told us that he normally only uses Cabernet Franc for his Cape Wine Makers Guild wines. The Clan reflects the close family unity and commitment to quality that has sustained the Grier family of Villiera over decades in the wine business. Attention to detail was foremost in their minds while creating and packaging “The Clan” and no expense has been spared in creating this wine. Only 1400 bottles were produced. To blend a northern French grape with a Southern varietal is unusual and it works. The Carignan portion will vary from 15 to 20 % each year. They have bottled the 2016 and next will be the 2017. It spends 18 months in barrel
Sister and brother Cathy and Jeff Grier, leading members of this successful Clan
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