Pure Class at Simonsig

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.

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