I had never noticed Org de Rac until a friend made a very good sparkling Cap Classique from grapes growing on this wine farm. For few things alert the senses quite like a beaded glass of bottle-fermented fizz, and it was this that woke me up to this wine estate in the Swartland.
And this is the real Swartland, on the southern edge of the jagged mountain riff known as the Piketberg. It is dry, wide country with a big foreboding sky. From the beginning of the Piketberg, Org de Rac and its vines – a deep fresh green – roll down an incline to the Berg River, where the soil is chalky and deep. Back up the hill the earth is old and dense with Malmesbury shale and Hutton, the age and quality and cool depth of the soils enhanced by Org de Rac’s commitment to organic farming.
The aforementioned friend is Frank Meaker. A grandson of late Kanonkop owner Paul Sauer and one who has also left deep footsteps in the South African wine industry.
But deep down, his love is the fizzy stuff. It was, in fact, 30 years ago this year that I met Frank for the first time, in Paris, as he had been sent to the houses of Champagne to learn the local craft on behalf of his then-employer, Distillers Corporation. Since then we have consumed our bit of Champagne and sparkling wine together, sessions during which I’ve heard him describe the cellar techniques, the quality fruit a fine cuvée requires and the characteristics of a glass of good bubbles.
Now manager-cellarmaster at Org de Rac, Frank is busy putting the farm on the map, step by step, with the Org de Rac La Verne Cap Classique being a massive leap – the 2012 hit Double Gold at this year’s Veritas, a competition decidedly miserly when it comes to awarding MCC’s.
The wine is 100% organically farmed Chardonnay, the soil’s limestone depth assisting in creating what was obviously perfectly balanced and expressive grapes. Frank has never shied from complexity in his approach to Cap Classique, but freshness and the bright-side of the flavour spectrum are of the utmost importance.
During the three years on the lees, the Cap Classique developed a life-affirming mousse, exotically hued colour and real Blanc de Blancs backbone and length. But it is what’s on the palate that counts, and this wine struck me with its pure delicious drinkability.
Being Chardonnay, it is not over-appled as so many Brut Cap Classiques are, instead displaying many of the features one finds in a still wine made from this most royal of white grapes. Citrus, both conventional and tropical, leap to the fore, but not without dragging a salt-laced tang with them. There is thread of butteriness and, of course, something Frank has said no Champagne-like wine should be without, namely an ever-so-slight hint of freshly baked brioche.
The Org de Rac range includes a gripping, personality-filled Chardonnay on the white side, and Merlot and Shiraz on the red. But feeling like a bit of “real wine” after the La Verne Cap Classique, I opted for Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 despite Shiraz being pretty much the go-to grape when mentioning Swartland.
And here, in the vast black land next to the Piketberg, the sun does indeed shine on the Bordeaux variety which is undoubtedly South Africa’s number one red grape. The wine is deeply, layered and plush, as broad and perfumed as a middle-aged Italian actress. But 20 months in fine new French oak has given the Cabernet a brooding power, a feral note of fynbos and wild wind howling through the wheatfields onto Org de Rac’s vines at the foot of the mountain. Proof that the Kingdom of Cabernet stretches far, and stretches wide.
– Emile Joubert
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