I love a winter vineyard. There is just something magical about the starkness of the gnarled, leafless vines and their bewitching tentacles that strikes a chord with my heritage which is one where the tracks of cold country European wanderers lie etched in the annals of meaningless history.
The winter work of pruning is therefore a favourite time and I happily hire out my services as a deft bearer of the secateurs to any farmer or producer needing a hand. And snipping through soft old vine-wood in the fresh air, worlds away from the hum, buzz and toxic city smoke is enjoyable and therapeutic. Quite why those hordes of sulky labourers keep making so much trouble when vineyard work can be such fun, is beyond me.
Beau Joubert, the Estate outside Stellenboch direction Kuils River, hosted myself and a few less-experienced volunteers at a pruning day recently to remind us of the importance of this task. Secateur in hand, farm viticulturalist Ian Engelbrecht took us to an old Shiraz vineyard and explained the necessity of pruning. Getting rid of old dead wood. Creating an area for perfect bud-development on the bearers for next year’s harvest. Managing space on the spurs.
But it is all about spotting the old wood and trimming down the shoots to leave two new eyes from whence the bunches for harvest 2014 will sprout. Snip. Rip. Break. Move to next vine while a winter sun bakes down on one’s neck and a cool breeze from the north invigorates you for the task ahead.
Lovely quiet work, with a bit of mind-time.
Having made a cracking job of not stuffing-up too much of Ian’s vineyards, marketing maven Lydia Coetzee and wine-maker Christian Kuun set-up a tasting of Beau Joubert wines to reward us for our efforts. And this was the first time I was truly exposed to this range, which is hopefully going to get a bit more face-time on the local wine scene.
On the white side, the Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2012 was the stunner in the Beau Joubert range. Exposed to False Bay, the vineyards are open and uncluttered, and the Chenin Blanc has a much leaner, tighter feel than the old vines you find just over the hill on the Bottelary side. The vines are in their thirties, giving fruit concentration but not sacrificing vigour and freshness.
Kuun gave the wine three months in new French oak. This is just enough to add structure and length without soaking-up the delicate white pear and green plum fruitiness nor the scintillating stone-fruit perfume. A slight saltiness and sea-shell character makes it a truly intriguing white wine. Fine, indeed.
Beau Joubert has an entry-level range called Oak Lane, and here the star was a Chenin Blanc-Sauvignon Blanc blend. The Chenin Blanc brings fruit complexity to the party, while the Sauvignon Blanc is unpronounced, just adding an acidic lift. Fresh, clean and juicy, this perky quaffer has my number.
The farm’s flagship is a red whopper called The Ambassador which is far removed from those breezy whites. The Ambassador is Merlot-led (80%), with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Shiraz. This was real Merlot and totally dominated the presence of the other cultivars, although a tad of Shiraz spice was discernible on the left mid-palate.
The Merlot was ripe. The Merlot was ready. The Merlot was good. Cigar-box and pine-needle with a haunting note of fresh blood and late-summer mulberries. It is, however, the silky mouth-feel that defines this elegant wine and makes it a sensual pleasure to drink.
Two glasses of this, and it’s not your secateurs you’ll be holding in your hand.
Beau Joubert Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2012 : 818/1000
Oak Lane Chenin Blanc Sauvignon Blanc 2013 : 765/1000
Beau Joubert The Ambassador 2009 : 876/1000