The lingua franca has of late been eagerly embraced by modern, trendier producers resulting in ranges of really fine Afrikaans wine labels, ranging from elegant and classic – Koetshuis and Voetpad – to earthy and rugged – Pofadder and Swartskaap.
I found it quite ironical that a winery showing a Mrs English wine in its line-up is the latest top-end brand to release a range of blue-blooded wines with bold Afrikaans names. The collection in question is Die Keldermeesters-versameling and consists of three wines: Bergpad, Prof and Dok. Despite sounding like three just-born Boerboel puppies, the wines are at the pinnacle of the Lanzerac range. They are nattily packaged with white labels the texture of blotting paper still used at Eton.
These wines are the triplets of Wynand Lategan, former finance journalist turned wine maker who himself comes from some mentionable Stellenbosch Afrikaans pedigree. His mother, Esther, was part of the independent political movement in the 1980’s that caused the Nats many a sleepless night. Professor Bernard Lategan, his father, is an esteemed academic in the field of biblical studies. And Wynand’s uncle, one Danie Malan, was the greatest middle-distance runner South Africa ever produced and a boyhood hero of mine.
Now ensconced as Lanzerac cellarmaster, Wynand is churning out some of the town’s greatest wines with his terroir-driven approach and commitment to the region.
The nature of the bottled contents are not straight-forward nor conventional. The Bergpad 2016 is a Pinot Blanc from the Lanzerac property, a variety I am not aware of there being too much around in the Cape. It is named after the steep footpath above Coetzenberg familiar to any Stellenbosch student, scholar or runner who has – and still does – run along its quadriceps-tearing inclines. Prof, one of the two red wines in the range, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the two parents of variety Pinotage. The name is derived from Professor Abraham Izak Perold who introduced the two and oversaw the coupling.
Last but not least, there is Dok, a wine titled upon the memory of Danie Craven, legendary Stellenbosch rugby icon who would find the odd toot on the stoep of Lanzerac not too disagreeable.
The Pinot Blanc, or Bergpad, is made from a vineyard growing on Lanzerac at 280m, south-facing. Roots kick into those magnificent decomposed granite soils the region is known for, the clay element allowing water retention as well as broadening the structure of the wine. Wynand ferments this in old French oak after which it relaxes for 11 months.
I poured the Bergpad with a real Cape wine chick, and not knowing the variety she stated it was Chardonnay, but very dry. An apt description. The Pinot Blanc has a golden colour, and a complex nose of ripped lime leaves, orange peel and crushed raw macadamia nuts. In the mouth it is one helluva drop of big deliciousness.
The palate-weight is hefty, but because the wine keeps moving it never becomes bogged down. Tasty wet flavours of grape-fruit, kumquat and litchi come to the fore once the mouth has experienced the nutty, floral density. There is a breeziness about this wine that makes it extremely fresh and approachable, but on the background lurks a monumental and robust white wine that is going to truly come forward after a few years in the bottle.
And yes, it is dry, coming it at 3.2g/l residual sugar but tasting leaner still. A mysterious white wine, and at this stage one of my discoveries of the year.
The best of the two red wines in the Keldermeesters-versameling is Prof 2016, blended from 60% Cinsaut and 40% Pinot Noir. It is not a Stellenbosch wine, but Wynand has sourced great bunches of Cinsaut (Northern Paarl) and Pinot Noir (Hemel-en-Aarde). With a name like the Prof, I expected a meticulously scientific approach to the construction of the wine, but Wynand does it straight-forward: the two varieties were vinified and matured separately in older French barrels, before being chucked together after six months on the wood.
Once again, what a wine of delectable flavours. It has become quite a gimmick to play around with Pinotage and/or its two parent-varieties, but this rendition shows that somewhere between them there is a shared DNA providing tasty drinkability. On the nose and the approach to the palate, the Cinsaut plays lead guitar with its distinctive notes of ripe berries, wine gums and sunburnt hay. Also, that sensual and luxurious coaxing of the mouth with a line of ripe fruit.
But in the background, some serious Pinot Noir is waiting to break on through to the other side. There is forest-floor on which a band of gypsy women have slept, a mushroom-feral presence offsetting the easy-going ripeness of the Cinsaut. Once again, another few years in the bottle and the wine is going to gain a different profile as the Pinot Noir takes hold, and I am thinking greatness.
The Dok is Malbec 2015, showing that prime Stellenbosch properties with provenance are not shy to break the mould. The wine is the older of the range, but still a bit raw in its youth with firm acids and an austerity that could be determined as green and leafy, as young Malbecs tend to do. But it is destined for a place as one of South Africa’s leading Malbecs, as Danie Craven called his dog – in Afrikaans – a real “Bliksem”.
- These wines are made in limited volumes. Find out more at http://www.lanzerac.co.za/