Thursday, December 06, 2018

A visit to Darling Cellars

For our last media engagement of the year, we travelled to Darling in a minivan organised by Darling Cellars. The invitation was to come and taste some of their ranges of wines and enjoy a fish braai for lunch. How could one refuse. It was a great way to end the year and a huge success. We know the wines well, we used to stock the at Main Ingredient and they have always been consistent, good, and also good value…
A welcome from Lourens Relihan, Marketing Manager
They make four Méthode Cap Classique bubblies
Our welcoming drink was the new Old Bush Vine MCC Darling Brut, bready on the nose, it has peaches and lime crispness and a good mousse
Riaan de Waal, Managing Director, told us that they have had some recent successes with the wines. In the Tim Atkin 2018 South African Special Report, three wines awarded were: Lady Ann Darling 2017 (93 points), Old Bush Vines Chenin Blanc 2017 (90 points) and Old Bush Vines Cinsault 2016 (91 points). At Veritas, Double Gold medals, of which only 39 were awarded to wine producers, were presented to the cellar’s Lady Ann Darling 2017 blended white wine of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and to its Gustus Chenin Blanc 2018. Golds went to the Arum Fields Chenin Blanc 2018, Lime Kilns 2017 blended white wine (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier) and the Sir Charles Darling 2016 red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And at this year’s Young Wine show, they won the Trophy for SA Champion Shiraz (wooded)
Head winemaker Pieter-Niel Rossouw told us he has been with Darling Cellars since 2014 and was previously with Wellington Wines, L'Avenir and Mont du Toit. He has done stages in Portugal, Germany and Bordeaux. Darling Cellars (previously known as Mamreweg) was founded in 1947 and now has 17 producers, of which 3 produce 80% of the crop. They are very supporting of what he is doing at Darling Cellars. He says that they have made huge strides in the past few years, with a young wine team with energy. The wines he tasted before he worked here did not impress him, the reds were not elegant, the whites had problems too. He and the team are striving to improve them and we think he has succeeded so well. Their main focus is on Sauvignon Blanc - 20% of their production - and they are producing some wonderful wines from this cultivar and others that really express their terroir and ability of the area, the climate and the influence of the ocean.
Ilse van Zyl and Johandri Nell with the wines we were to taste, from several of the ranges that they have. Pieter-Niel said they can do lots with Chenin; they have some bush vines older than 50 years old. The vines produce grapes like apricot cheeks; pink, plump and juicy. They can make world class Pinotage here, not in your face but softer, more Pinot noir like in character, and the Darling Shiraz in cooler areas is linear, spicy with black pepper, floral red fruit. They do have access to some very interesting varieties. There are only 70 hectares of Bukettraube left in the world; 50 are in South Africa. They have 5 hectares of Durif (Petit Sirah) and the Cinsault is on the Old Vines project. There are 6.2 hectares of Semillon up in the hills. Most of the wines are on bush vines and they work well in this totally dryland area. They are much more drought resistant and can move their stems about to protect themselves from the climate. He prefers to farm biodynamically
Our tasting sheet
We began with four white wines. First was the 2018 Gustus Chenin, which we liked so much that it is our Wine of the Week. Golden fruit, minerality a full nose with perfume and even a hint of pyrazines. Full and rounded on the palate with warm golden fruit, ripe yellow peaches, quince and apple, and jujubes, a good acid fruit balance, the wine is very satisfying. It will be just the thing to serve with your Turkey at Christmas. R76 from the cellar. The multi award winning 2017 Lady Anne in the Heritage Collection, a crackerjack white blend of 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 100% new oak An initial 'attack' of toasty yellow oak which fades to reveal the beautiful fruit: a warm country nose of peaches, quince, loquat and ripe English gooseberries. On the palate it is silky and full, with rich layers of golden fruit, a good balancing acidity and long flavours. 9 months on gross lees, R136. Go and buy. The 2017 Heritage Lime Kiln, a blend of 60% Chenin blanc, 30% Viognier and 10% Chardonnay, has hints of wood smoke, then fruit, Full in the mouth, the Viognier appears first with yellow peaches and nectarines, then lees and citrus from the Chardonnay and finally the warm Chenin charms. R136. The 2017 Old Bush Vine Chenin has intense fruit on the nose with wood hints. Layers of peaches and nectarine fruits, some limes, intense concentration with some salt on the end, typical to the area. R160. All are superb and worth buying. We bought the Gustus but might be back for some of the others
Wine merchant Charles Withington, who runs the Darling Wine Shop, is always worth a visit and stocks Darling Cellars wines if you do not have time to go to the Cellar
Then four top reds. The Gustus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is full on fruit on the nose, cassis berries, overripe and some green leaves, incense and forest floor. It spends 16 months in oak. Cabernet is does not ripen easily in this cool area; this succeeds. Soft and silky, pure cassis on the palate, a blockbuster wine, nice balance with soft chalky tannins and wood supporting. WOW. Lynne scored it 19 points. R107. The 2015 Old Grain Silo Darling in the Heritage collection is new. 60% Shiraz, 40% Pinotage. Balsam and dark black cherry, incense wood and elegance on the nose. Complex palate, slightly green flavours with liquorice; dry, chalky, grippy and chewy tannins. Sweet dark plums with rhubarb. R136. The 2016 Heritage Collection Sir Charles Darling, a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, has sweet cherry fruit on the nose with some light incense wood. Grippy tannins at first, then light fruit on the palate; lovely cherry flavours, needs time. R136
And finally the Old Bush Vine Cinsaut. Perfumed with roses and violets, very pretty nose with some toasted oak. On the palate, some cola, showing some Pinot Noir character, but sweeter, layered cherries and strawberries, wood just supporting. Lynne scored it 19.5 and wrote "Want Some!". So she bought six. R186. Tim Atkin gave it 91. One of her best wines of this year
Over lunch we could taste other wines including these three, but we had reached our limit. Must go back and taste more. The Chocoholic, R58, is the most popular Chocolate coffee Pinotage in South Africa, the Cinful, R58, from Cinsault is also very popular. The Capeman Red is a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache, R43.50
The MCCs. A 2017 Blanc de Blanc, a 2016 Demi-Sec from Chenin Blanc and usually, a 2016 Brut Rosé from Grenache, all R100 a bottle, and a new Old Bush Vine MCC Darling Brut at R250.00
The small bottle is the Gustus Skattie (the term of endearment, Darling in Afrikaans!). It is a Sweet Pinotage, R100
Bertrum Titus and Winemakers Anthony Meduna and Maggie Immelman
This was our starter, wonderful Smoked Salmon Trout from Three Streams with cream cheese
Served with a great selection of different crackers
A long table set for lunch. We could drink any of the wines in the collection with our food
Two good mixed salads, watermelon and sweet melon with bread
Expertly cooked on a braai, tender and moist, Yellowtail.
Lots of chat with good company over lunch
Great to get a chance to talk to the young team of wine makers too
Thank you Darling Cellars for a great way to end a busy media year and for a really good tasting and lunch. We will be visiting again soon. And thank you PRO Emile Joubert for arranging this and driving us all there and back in the minibus

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