Image ain’t everything, but it sure helps. The stratospheric success of Hemel-en-Aarde’s relative newcomer Creation would not have happened quite so suddenly if the excellent quality of what is being produced in the vineyards were being poured and sold by a bunch of bleached poppies listening to Heuwels Fantasties while trying to ascertain what the difference is between Cabernet Franc and Paris France.
Creation is a super-slick winery ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ you expect to slip on Michael Moll’s hair gel on the way to the barrel cellar. It is what restaurant reviewers would call “a well-kept space”, with money-shot views down the valley of vines and gullies, and a bit of real mountain thrown in for good measure. Everything gleams and is in the right place ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ not a Croc or a well-thumbed copy of You Magazine in sight.
But then, the operation has a slice of Swiss influence thanks to owners JC Martin and Christoph Kaser and their respective spouses. So you would expect everything to be spank and organised.
Thankfully JC has been in South Africa for some time so he is not as boring as most residents of the land of cowbells, Heidi and Third World Dictator safety deposit boxes. He is energetic, chirpy and even humorous at times, which means he can always get a job at the Lausanne Circus if things don’t work out in the South African wine industry.
Much of JC’s ebullient chirpiness, methinks, has to do with his other half, Carolyn. The only daughter of vinous old hand Walther, Carolyn is one of those women who gets things done when others are still thinking of doing it. She is not a coffee shop-cruising, 4×4 driving wine maker’s wife, that is for sure.
Okay, but enough psycho-analysis and down to the wine.
I cruised up to Creation the other day to check out some Pinot Noir, a grape variety that tends to attract some attention in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. In fact, it wants to be the region’s signature grape very much. Yet, in the words of every second American rock star, there is a whole lot going on in the area.
Besides the Burgundian influence in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Semillon,Viognier, Merlot, ,Grenache, Riesling (real), Pinotage and Semillon have ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ among others ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ been planted in this little piece of Burgundy-by-the-Sea. And the climate and soils’ are obviously not limited to infusing a bit of intriguing expression in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Creation can be attributed to assisting in ensuring that the Hemel-en-Aarde’s reputation is not going to depend on its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offering. The winery’s Syrah-Grenache blend, which had a bit of a pong when I found the maiden 2007 vintage, is now showing terrific sunniness and velvety palate weight. Pong has been replaced by perfume and savoury, with a clean-finish minerality that is quite delicious.
The Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is stark, sparse and bone-dry ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ more Bordeaux than Loire and a welcome dimension in the Cape’s Sauvvie offings.
Okay, okay, I know we were there for Pinot Noir.
Creation’s vineyards are in the Valley’s clay region, so the wines are big. No pussy-footing with washed-out colours and airy, fairy delicateness. The Pinot Noir 2008 and 2009 are not shy with upfront red fruit followed by a burst of spice and marshmallow. Wooding is marvellously understated, but ensures the presence of sturdy tannins, which will no doubt be ironed out with a few years in the bottle.
The wine’s clean, sweet fruit-core is a result of the excellent health of the vines. JC may be a happy-go-lucky type, but vineyard practices are thorough and optimal vine health is non-negotiable in virgin vines that exist in a mother block.
Creation’s first vintage was in 2007, but it is already an established winery not only in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, but on the South African vinous landscape. The future’s so bright, shades are called for.