I love talking to winemakers. They are so wonderfully opinionated. And, most of the time, they have some sort of explanation for their opinions too. Whether it be philosophical, scientific, populist, or controversial, they all are damn sure they are right. Once you get a winemaker going – some will launch into their spiel, others you have to wind up – they take a lot of stopping. It’s great. I love hearing all of these opinions of wine, sulfites, acidity, the market, other winemakers, other regions, labeling, sugar content, new-oak, old-oak, Chenin, Pinotage, whatever. I love it because much of the time it makes me reconsider what I had previously thought on a subject. Only to speak to another winemaker and find myself disappearing down a different path of vinous contemplation.
I get very very nervous when I meet a winemaker who doesn’t express strong views. A winemaker out of whom I cannot extract a single fist-banging (they don’t actually have to bang their fists) point. Imagine meeting an artist who was all, “ya, no, well, fine” about her art? What would you think? I’d think their work would be lucky to be hung in the local library, and more likely find a permanent exhibition above their mom’s bed.
Jacques de Klerk is a winemaker who is never short on an opinion. He has many points, and he likes to make them.If I write something that he agrees with, or if I have posted on a topic on which he thinks I need a little schooling, an email will arrive soon after congratulating me for getting off my arse and writing something, and either agreeing with me, or gently pointing out that I’m entirely missing the point. I enjoy these emails as much as I do drinking Jacque’s Chenins.
His last email arrived after my last post. It was a gentle reminder that I had not yet written about his new wine – Jacques’ day job is making wine for The Winery of Good Hope – a Swartland Chenin named Reverie (pictured above). My last post was about Durbanville, Paulliac, and South Africans possibly not drinking enough foreign wine. It was not, as some seemed to think, about Pyrazines. They were leading actors in the piece, maybe, but definitely not the theme or topic.
Jacques wrote to me because he got my point first time round – high-five Jacques – but as we have discussed this issue before, in somewhat different terms, he wanted to take the discussion in a different direction. He has allowed me to quote from his email.
Look, I want people to understand that we shouldn’t try and make copies of French wines, but take the values of the old world and reinterpret them in our own country. In a recent Chenin tasting (with Max Graillot’s group), where Reverie was the only SA example this point came up. The conclusion we came to is what often make French examples better is the fact that they are being themselves. It is this authenticity that makes them shine. Parkerized, modern styles of Bordeaux, Burgundy and (insert here any established old world region), lack the soul that traditional styles have and in their context they look odd.
In SA we will have to find our own identity and our land is a good place to start looking, in my opinion. I want people to understand that to make “better” wine is not to look outside for inspiration but to look to our own terroir to lead the way. This is what made the great regions of the world famous over hundreds of years and it is also this which has saved their authenticity, integrity and typicity. We can do this without wanting to put a French spin on everything and let our wines be what the want to be.
No shortage of opinions here. Jacques seemingly contradicts what I was whaffling on about us having to learn something from the French. I don’t think he does. It’s a tight balance between the two: learning from what has come before, while producing top quality that is uniquely ours.
I do not want to get sucked into a post about pyrazines – I’ll leave that until my next visit to Durbanville. My question today is how do we find out what is ours, what is South African, that has nothing to do with shitty Pinotages and acidic Chenins wrapped up in kitsch animal print labels and sold for £3.99 in Tescos, that has nothing to do with burnt rubber, but everything to do with excellence that can only be attained by being, well, South African?
I have not met anyone with an answer. Eben, Alheit, Rosa Kruger, Keets, Hawkins, Marshall – agh that was a stupid move, there are others, but you know, time, memory, etc – are all doing their part , and with this wine, Jacques is stepping up and doing his.
TO THE WINE [I tasted this a while back, and wrote the note then. I like this tasting note because it brings back clearly what I tasted]:
The first day the wine’s all peaches, with some spanspek, and lemon zest. It’s a lithe broad wine with a very waxy texture. The waxiness develops, and becomes almost too much, but never, ever, fat. It’s energetic without being athletic; excitable without being annoying. A day open has done wonders. Slight oxidative edge tends toward honey, waxy texture more together with the wine. LIke wineywaxywoo, as opposed to “mmm this wine is nice and, damn it’s WAXY.
It’s not the most intense wine, but it has beautiful breadth on the palate. Like an a4 piece of paper bent into a U shape with one hand. A silky, slimy, swift type of swartland chenin. You expect it to be fat. But it’s not, it just slithers.
There’s a slight salty/mineral aspect on the finish. The fruit is subtle, and all peachy, pears, melons, citrus with a wonderful textural contrast between zippy vigor, and weighty waxiness.
I really really liked this wine. It’s subtle and intriguing. It captures the rich Swartland fruit and texture while managing to remain fresh. Not quite taut, but there is tension. In fact, my favourite part about this wine was the contrast between rich breadth of the wine, and its minerally, steely core. I reckon it’s pretty damn authentic.
The wine is sold out, but the 2013 is on the way. Get in there by hassling Jacques on twitter for a case. Or if you want to try this one, I thin you can find it at 96 Winery Road, The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club.
Vineyard: A single Paardeberg vineyard planted in 1965. Granite Soil.
Vinification: Lightly crushed and destemmed. Basket pressed and juice transferred directly into old barrels without any settling. Fermentation occurred spontaneously through natural yeast. The wine matured on its lees for 10 months with occasional stirring. No malo-lactic fermentation. No fining or filtration.
12% alc pH 3,39 RS 2,3 g/l TA 4,8 g/l