One of the many Cape estates experiencing an endless summer of wine tourism success is Simonsig, and this is no surprise. The Stellenbosch farm has always been a wine tourism pioneer. In the 1970’s legendary patron Frans Malan played a lead role in engineering wine tourism in South Africa and as far back as I can remember Simonsig has always been known as a winery with open doors and a hospitable, welcoming atmosphere.
I stopped by last week to pick-up some pre New Year bubbly, and the place was packed with local and international tourists. Hoping to squeeze in a bit of wine-tasting from an attentive staff-member, the numbers of tasting-room visitors was a bit intimidating for us introverts. But the staff were on the money, briskly moving around filling glasses and offering wine advice without missing a beat.
The Simonsig wine offering is comprehensive and as diverse as rugby’s rules for the ruck-maul situation: From Gewüztraminer to Pinotage, Blanc de Blancs to Syrah, Chardonnay to Bordeaux Blend. Pretty much a United Nations of Wine under one roof made from grapes from one farm.
I kicked off with the fizzy Kaapse Vonkel to get the taste-buds going, something that a Méthode Cap Classique knows how to do with zest. The wine is bright, clean and zippy without being cluttered by the breadiness of extended lees contact. A splash of Pinot Meunier added to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay brings a floral whiff and broadens the wine on the mid-palate, although Kaapse Vonkel goes down as easy as a gay joke in Green Point and really does not require more explanation. Fresh, delicious and drinkable to the max. It gets a solid 890/1000 point score.
Next up, Aurum Unwooded Chenin Blanc. I like it. Stony with a hit of wild-brush and that mouth-puckering yummy tartness you get when sucking the last bit of flesh from a peach. This is Chenin in its purity, the way it should be made. Hello for 911/1000.
The Chenin Avec Chêne – as in “with wood” – was a bit clunky from a just-opened bottle, but after a few swirls the air released a pungent and heady combination of sun-burnt river gravel, stewed guava and potpourri. An interesting wine, but on its own a bit tough-going. I have had this wine with my curried perlemoen recipe, where it goes down as easy as a Venda woman upon seeing a national leader, and thus having taken the food-friendliness of the wine into account, I’ll let it clock in at 898/1000.
Wow – a Rousanne! I knew Simonsig had made a Rousanne for the Cape Winemakers Guild, but was not aware of a version labelled under the estate’s name. But hey, there it was, and it was a blinder.
Rousanne is quite useful in picking up a French pong and veering off into all directions. But not here. This wine is an extremely good rendition of a classic white Rhône variety and illustrates Simonsig’s winemaking style – clean, pure and committed to a translucent expression of grape character.
Peaches and Packham Pear seem to have enthused this wine, while a tangy fleur de sel saltiness adds an exotic hit to the wine. The palate is broad, yet clean and vivid, and it really is a wonderful wine to swirl, sip and swallow. Down the hatch, and all that. How about 921/1000. And a wine I shall be following.
Over lunch at Cuvée, Simonsig’s stylish eatery, I glugged a glass of very elegant SMV 2012 (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Viognier) with a chunk of pork belly. The wine exudes a velvety, plummy plushness with glassy tannins and a silky mouth-feel, although I missed a bit of spiciness.
However, 901/1000 in the bag for that wine. And there’s plenty more, so hit the road, Jack.