Despite all this talk of over-supply in a cluttered wine market bursting at the seams with 7 000 labels, there can always be something more. Why so few white Bordeaux blends, for example? Good ones. Sure, many wine-makers broaden their Sauvignon Blanc with a whack of Sémillon. But focussed and harmonious combinations of these two stunning grape varieties are relatively few and far between.
Vergelegen Estate was a pioneer of this style, and its G.V.B. White is still around. But the accent on Sémillon has been too much and over the years the wine has become clumsy and overdone.
The Morgenster White is a far more nuanced and elegant Bordeaux style white, and a true reflection of the greatness this category is capable of attaining. The blend of the 2014 is 58% Sauvignon Blanc and 42% Sémillon, with wooding regime involving 20% new oak. It is still far too young, but the floral scents drifting from a base of wet stone, crushed fennel and lime peel is captivating, offering terrific enjoyment with panache and sophistication.
A welcoming and very fine rendition of this category is to be found from the somewhat unlikely slopes of early Helderberg in what is known as the Golden Triangle. This area is more famous for its stunning and captivating reds, but Stellenzicht has come up with a white Bordeaux blend that is currently hitting my lights out.
Besotted with ranges and labels, Stellenzicht has a Speciality Range that hosts a wine by the name of The Ratio. This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based, according to a very inadequate press release, “on the Golden Ratio of 1:1,618 found throughout nature and utilised by artists and mathematicians such as Da Vinci and Fibonacci”.
The maiden release is from the exceptional 2015 vintage and using this “Golden Ratio” the wine is prescribed to employ a formula of 68% Sauvignon Blanc and 32% Sémillon. Unless the occasion arises to reverse the percentages of the varieties. Wine maker can’t have a say, this is the recipe.
Gimmicks aside, The Ratio is a very fine white wine and if there can ever be an excuse to use the corny expression “crafted”, here it is now.
Considering Stellenzicht’s Stellenbosch location which is famous for drawing brooding ripeness from red grapes, a white blend from here is never going to tick the cool climate box. This suits Stellenzicht’s no-nonsense cellar master Guy Webber, who I have gotten to know as a hands-on maestro who likes nothing more than a challenge. His execution of creating a distinct style of Pinotage and Shiraz, among others, makes him the kind of bloke who can shift the piano, as well as play it.
After crushing, a portion of the blend was aged in 500 litre new oak barrels for six months. Then it was all bunged in steel for another 15 months. We are talking, thus, of 18 months lees time which is the major reason for the sheer awesomeness of the wine.
In extended autolysis, the initial textured creaminess of the first few months’ lees time is brightened by a kind of reversed energy kicked back into the wine as the lees enter their final death throes.
The result is pure magic, leading to a wine of more dimensions than a side-view of Jennifer Lawrence on a beach holiday.
Let’s not, also, forget that the Sauvignon Blanc in this wine is made from old vines planted 30 years ago, another factor adding to the overall majestic structure of this wine.
On the nose there are dew-fresh hits of ripped Kenyan lettuce, iced Perrier water and morning jasmine. The pleasant nippiness is off-set by an attack to the palate that is broad and confident, covering every molecule in the mouth with the merciless determination of a South Sea tsunami.
With the depth and complexity provided by the wood and lees, one is now left with a flavour spectrum where a playful tug-of-war is being had between fruit and minerality.
White pear, Portuguese green plums and Tahitian papaya rise to the fore before being swept away by an avalanche of geological convolution. Broken rocks and minerals and ripped quartz add a dynamic, pulsating showiness, while Himalayan rock salt and kelp breathe restorative maritime gulps of oxygen-intense air.
The Ratio 2015, and thanks for adding to the mix of classic white blends that South Africa does so very, very well. Please Sir, more?
- Emile Joubert