The words ?+¦?+º?+¦good and clean and fresh?+¦?+º?+æ may have sold trillions of boxes of washing powder, but these descriptors also reflect the whims of the majority of wine drinkers. And seeing as most South Africans drink white wine, clean and fresh wines are sought, with good being non-negotiable.
Of course, this simple fact has slipped from the focus of many white wine specialists. The buzz-words now are ?+¦?+º?+¦oxidative?+¦?+º?+æ, ?+¦?+º?+¦complex?+¦?+º?+æ, ?+¦?+º?+¦unorthodox?+¦?+º?+æ. Whenever I am faced with a new white blend or an unknown Chenin Blanc, apprehension sets in. Those stuffy, chunky and sherry-like whites may be made with ?+¦?+º?+¦minimum intervention?+¦?+º?+æ to a recipe that is ?+¦?+º?+¦totally natural?+¦?+º?+æ and will possibly be interesting for half a glass. But the novelty wears off quickly, leaving you with a mouth that feels like a gorilla’s arm-pit and a stomach full of simmering half-fermented lees.
When recently faced with a new white blend from Fairview, however, I knew that this was not going to be the case. Charles Back, Fairview’s Main Goat, is far too in touch with consumer preference to try and sacrifice joyful and unpretentious drinking on the altar of fashion. Plus, he has got nothing more to prove in the industry.
The new Fairview wine is called Nurok and it is from the 2011 vintage, a corker for whites. The label has two stories. First, Charles’s wife, Diane, is a maiden Nurok and painted the label. Secondly, the history of the name Nurok entails some Jewish kid in Lithuania who dived into an icy river to save a bell and became a hero. Not quite Wolraad Woltemade, but still quit charming.
Now for the wine. This is a white blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Fairview wine-maker Anthony de Jager used a variety of oak, lees contact and blending tricks to come up with a wine that confirms my belief that the real excitement in the South African industry is on the white wine side.
The wine has a beautiful purity, a clean and bracing structure with a hell of a lot going on. There is a lovely perfume on the wine with both floral and summer fruit whiffs. Flavours vary from stone-fruit to fynbos, with a bit of melon and honeycomb thrown in. But there is a linear core running through it, a tight wet stone splash of acidity most probably from the Grenache Blanc that pulls everything together in one hell of a deliciously succulent wine.
Best thing about Nurok for me is the fact that is looks, smells and tastes South African. Obviously the Chenin Blanc, nice and uncluttered in form, plays a role. But the balance between sunny fruit and a just-so dryness is an expression of winemaking skill and great Cape viticulture.
Like Fairview and Charles Back, Nurok is a great ambassador for the South African industry: as it is now, and where it is going.