Hermit on the Hill = Value + Character = Happy Harry

As the production is quite small you might not have heard of Hermit on the Hill. Now you have and you can thank me later. Pieter De Waal is the wine maker and owner of this small Durbanville operation; we met the other night for dinner to taste his wines in my lounge (also referred to as the Snug Bar at Societi Bistro). It was a good night. Must have been as my notes are illegible.

I have enjoyed his wines for a while now. They are affordable. They are interesting. They have gees (oh no Ididn’t?).

We ended up meeting for dinner after he left a comment on the post I wrote about The Stables Wine Estate opening up a wine bar at King Shaka International. Pieter thought I needed another tasting of their Sauvignon Blanc. He was right.

It seems that when I tasted the Experience Sauvignon Blanc 2008 the first time I was, well, a little too generous. I am not sure why. It could of been because I was dying for a glass of wine, happy to quaff something before dealing with the testing business of air travel. I am not sure. But the other night I tasted a rather nasty wine. It was dirty on the nose, sour, wet and funky. The palate carried along the same lines with Shirley Griffiths from Vino Pronto exclaiming, “they’ve screwed with the acid”. It was pretty grim. I was far too nice the first time round. We all make mistakes, and it seems that both I and The Stables have made one.

Thankfully Pieter had also brought his own wines. The White Knight 2009 – a spunky blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscat Blanc is great. Although the Muscat makes up the smallest part of the blend its floral aroma saunters through prettily. The palate is fresh, bright and zingy. If you drink with me this summer odds are you’ll be tasting the Knight. After reading why it is called the White Knight I wondered whether this was Mr. De Waal’s first (sort of) eponymous label?

Next up was an odd blend. No, not odd, just new for me. It is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier which will be named The Souvenir (Correction. Pieter has left a comment below pointing out that it is called the Sauvignier, which makes more sense). This wine was bigger and rounder than the Knight, but at no point flabby  or tiring as I find in some white blends that use Viognier. The nose was like a floral apricot boiled sweet. In the mouth the wine is whisked along by the zippy Sauvignon which tempers the Viognier, not allowing it to dominate. Shirley pointed out that in blends with Chenin it feels like the two are running along at arms length. I agreed, but in the Souvenir it is as if the Viognier is sitting on the Sauvignon’s shoulders. Scrumptious. It made me think of pig-tails: bouncy, carefree, and ‘not bovvered’

We then tasted three Syrahs: the 07 from Stellenbosch, and the 07 and 05 from Paarl. The Stellenbosch example was rich and quite dense, with bright red fruit. This is such a solid wine. It had good length, and a pleasant touch of bitterness at the very end which emerges from a juicy but spicy start; this I found  balanced ever so slightly sweet fruit. It is bold but not ‘spoofy’ at all. Pieter said it was not a gay wine. I think he’s been listening to Emile Joubert’s podcast where he remarks that Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer 1998 is not a “faggot” wine. Hmmm, are homoerotic wine tasting notes the next big thing?

The Paarl version from 07 was less opulent than the previous wine, with more restraint and elegance. Deep blackberry upfront on the nose with some savoury spices and dusty herbs. A cracking palate that was spicy, taught and refreshing. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed these wines.

With the ‘ludicrosity’ (Pieter’s word) on the rise we moved on to the 2005 Syrah from Paarl. My wine of the evening. A whisper of black olives with a salty, earthy note greeted my nostrils. The palate was spicy with black pepper and nutmeg, and finished with a little dark chocolate. It had lost some of the austerity that I found in the 07, like it had changed from its school uniform into civvies.

The final wine of the evening – where we reached the peak of ludicrosity – was a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre from the 2008 vintage. Pieter reckons this is the closest he has got to making a natural wine. I did not find it as odd as Pieter made out it would be. Leathery and a touch rustic, full of rugged character and – a common trait among all five wines – a refreshing finish. My notes here are mere squiggles, hence the less detailed description.

We also sipped on Abingdon Wine Estate’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was fruity with some dark berries, clean and well structured. There was a slight vegetative element to it which I always enjoy. It wasn’t incredibly complex but a very enjoyable wine. And believe me there are some crappy Cabs around. I tasted twenty-odd the other day and there were a good few that felt as if they’d been given an enema with a 2×4.

If you haven’t tasted Pieter’s wines, do it. Character like this at such reasonable prices are not the easiest things to come by. And if you are the type of person who couldn’t give a shit what a wine tastes like but if someone famous drinks it  you want it; well then you are in luck:


5 thoughts on “Hermit on the Hill = Value + Character = Happy Harry”

  1. Hi Harry

    Thanks for the kind words regarding my wines. It is much appreciated and definitely motivates me to continue experimenting with new and authentic approaches and projects. Hopefully we’ll still share many vinous adventures in future.

    A couple of small corrections. The Grenache / Syrah / Mourvèdre blend is from the 2008 vintage.

    I don’t know whether I would have said that the Stellenbosch Syrah ’07 is “not a gay wine”, but rather probably that it’s not a wine for “moffies” which would (in my lexicon) translate better to that it’s not a wine for “sissies” or “wimps”. I would hope that Emile uses it in the same context (have a look at the definitions at http://www.urbandictionary.com) and that there are no “homoerotic” connotations or any kind of prejudice as many of my gay friends (and customers) are definitely not “moffies”, “sissies” or “wimps”.

    Keep up the good work. Your notes and experiences are a breath of fresh air and honesty in a very stale, corporate manipulated, wine-world!

  2. Ps. The Sauvignon Blanc / Viognier blend will be known as The Sauvignier 2009. It’s a play on “Souvenir” (i.e. a memento or keepsake which is an object a traveler brings home for the memories associated with it) but the spelling of course a more literal reference to the 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.

    1. Hi Pieter,

      Thanks for the comments. Sorry about the vintage error I have corrected it. Ya, the homo-erotic comment was a little silly, and I am aware of the context you were using it in. Funny thing is I find the Sauvignier (I have changed it from Souvenir) very gay, but more in the ‘bouncing over hill and dale, without a care in the world’ kind of way. Thanks again for reading. See you soon.

  3. Re The Stables Sauvignon Blanc – if you see their so-called “cellar” (a marquee tent) you’d understand why their wine tastes ‘funky’. In comparison the Abingdon Sauvignon Blanc is rich in mineral character with the palate showing a delicious, creamy mouthfeel. Also have the Viognier if you’d like to do a comparative tasting. As for the Zolani Mahola interview, thanks for the plug – but I am sure your readers would like a link to the full article. Read it at http://www.winemag.co.za/article/zolani-mahola-2009-05-25

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s