A group of Cape Wine Masters recently visited the Breedekloof.
The region is so immensely proud of its Chenin Blanc. A handful of the region’s winemakers, called the Breedekloof Makers, are committed to emphasising the quality of wines being made in the region.
On a sunny Saturday morning, we visited Olifantsberg and the Winemaker/Viticulturist/Farm manager/ jack of all trades Elizma Visser hosted us.
Elizma says: “We focus on producing wines that capture our unique location, diverse soils and natural expression of our vineyards. The vineyards and winery are located on the fertile slopes of the Brandwacht Mountain Range overlooking the Breedekloof valley. The vineyards endure big diurnal temperature swings and strong winds .During winter, the mountain peaks are covered in snow. Our vineyards are located in shale Renosterveld with soils ranging from beautiful schist to slate types “
We started off with their 2017 Olifantsberg Chenin @ R115. The vines are planted on alluvial soil in the Rawsonville area, with lighter loam soils. Fermented with CY3079 & D45 and then aged in a combination of large Foudres, Stainless Steel, and 500L barrels. Elizma believes the Foudres keep the lees in suspension and this adds to the mouthfeel, texture and richness of the wine. The vines are 37 year old and the wine beautiful elegant and linear.
Next up was another Chenin Blanc “The Lark 2017” @ R175/bottle. The name represents the bird which is a typical of the Breedekloof biome and have extravagant songs and display flights. The owner of Olifantsberg is Paul Leeuwerik, and as you know the Afrikaans name for a lark is a “Lewerik” – hence the appropriate name for the wine. This vines grow in shale and quartz soils and fermented spontaneous in Foudres , Hungarian oak barrels (of which 10% new). Elizma believe in adding no acid during the fermentation and only adds a dash of Citric before bottling (a squeeze of lemon in her words). The nose shows crisp apples , followed by layers of pineapple and stone fruit with stunning texture. Tim Atkin (94 points).
The Olifantsberg Blanc was a beautiful white blend consisting of 60% Roussanne, 30% Grenache blanc and 10% Chenin blanc. The soils are very well suited to Rhône varieties . The Roussanne adds musk, spice and perfume. The Grenache blanc is whole bunch pressed, and fermented in big foudres adding lime, hints of green herbs and quince. The chenin blanc ads the tannin.
Her take on Pinotage was very unusual and quite refreshing at 12, 5% alc. All winemaking practices results in a wine without the overt overripe banana character and capture the crunchy red fruit aromas, fresh acidity and spicy herbaceous notes. The fruit is fermented whole-berry, carbonic/ Beaujolais style after 3 days’ cold soak and then fermented at 20 degrees Celsius with RX6, with only 2 pump overs.
The Syrah vines are on a “stok by paaltjie” trellis system and are planted on shale soils and the lack of density in the soils (that clay would add otherwise) results in some playful tannins. The Syrah 2016 ferment has a portion of whole bunch fruit adding red fruit. Die alcohol is a fresh 13.5% with lots of pepper and spice. The addition of 5% Carignan adds some more red fruit and a fresh acidity and tannin. The wine is aged in Foudres and a combination of 225L, 300L and 500L barrels.
The Silhouette is a Shiraz based blend with 85% Syrah, 8% Grenache noir, 4% Carignan & 3% Mourvedre. Dark berries, with gamey, meaty and spicy notes with a good structure and tangy acidity.
The visit really opened our eyes to the diverse climate/soils/terroir of the region and the fresh outlook on the winemaking styles are of great interest for the future.