When in doubt, say Italian. This is Peter de Wet from DeWetshof’s advice to one faced with the challenge of identifying an unknown international wine. And with so many bloody wines coming out of the Boot, it’s sage and practical counsel.
But it’s funny how in one week Italy can make a turn in one’s vinous consciousness all of three times.
First up was an article I read in the Independent on Ernest Hemingway’s legendary capacity for wine. The manager of Hemingway’s preferred hotel in Venice told the author’s biographer, Anthony Burgess, that Hem would start the day with three bottles of Valpolicella ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ first thing in the morning.
As they say in the classics, suck me fideways.
Still reeling from this admirable fact, I found myself at the DuToitskloof Winery outside Rawsonville where CEO Marius Louw acknowledged my trek through the DuToitskloof tunnel by presenting me with a bottle of the winery’s Dimension Nebbiolo 2009, made at the winery from grapes grown next door.
Like many Italian varietals, I find young Nebbiolo as tight as a bikini-waxed nun and just about as approachable. The fact that it is a moody and churlish grape to grow does not improve the situation. I thus bubbled the stuff into a decanter, allowing a couple of hours’ calming-down before pouring.
Well this was a real surprise. And DuToitskloof are really onto something here.
This Nebbiolo, grown in mountainous soils as is the case in its native Piedmont, has true varietal characteristics. ,There are hints of bramble, truffle and,prosciutto rind, all underscored by that characteristic minerality. This minerality could be interpreted as steely, and will soften under bottle maturity in the hands of someone more patient than my greedy self.
But it is currently drinking beautifully and is well worth the buy for those finding their palates a bit out-Shirazed, out-Caberneted and out-Pinotaged.
Incidentally, I am really impressed by what’s coming out of DuToitskloof. The Sauvignon Blanc is of the rare multi-faceted kind, the Pinotage rocks with spice and energy and Shiraz is as voluptuous as those Rawsonville Girls immortalised by folk legend Alastair van Huyssteen.
O, yes, then there was the third Italian venture, courtesy of Jeanri-Tine van Zyl. The recommendation was the 2009 Etna Rosso from Tenuta delle Terre Nere. Going for R120 a bottle at the Wine Cellar in Cape Town, I immediately put in an order and got the last nine bottles in stock delivered to Stellenbosch within hours.
The Etna Rosso is made from Nerello, some of the vines being pre-phylloxera, but mostly of between 40 and 50yrs old. Grown at between 700m and 900m on the slopes of Mt Etna in Sicily, the pedigree is pretty exotic sounding, and trust me, the vino does not disappoint.
Despite being totally unfiltered, the wine is fresh and full of verve and vitality. I found an exciting savouriness and an enchanting taste of fig-paste, dried pomegranate and salted eel lung.
But at 120 bucks a bottle!
On that note, hats off to the team at the Wine Cellar. Along with Great Domaines in Johannesburg, South Africans have two committed, passionate and knowledgeable specialist wine outlets when one is willing to explore outside our borders. I have used both on various occasions and the selection, advice and service has always been top-notch.
They’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.