Stellenbosch Vineyards on the Up

The wine joint now known as Stellenbosch Vineyards has changed its name more times than Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has swopped his tranquilizer prescription. I am not sure if I have managed to keep up, but the branding has included the holistically transcendental The Company of Wine People to the awesomely dull Omnia.

Now it appears that Stellenbosch Vineyards is here to stay, sourcing grapes from an array of Stellenbosch sites – plus a few far-flung others – and making a diverse range of wines. Jeff Gradwell, an experienced marketing and sales honcho in industry who recently joined the ranks, is extremely bullish about the business. Chief winemaker Abraham de Villiers has an easy going confidence in the product range. Flexibility appears to be an opportunity and not a challenge, but Jeff is making no small beef about the company’s ambitions to establish brands and hit the export market with a bone-crunching haymaker.

Winemaker Abraham de Villiers.
Winemaker Abraham de Villiers.

Looking at the Stellenbosch Vineyards wines, it certainly can be done.

Pinot Grigio is pretty much an excuse for a grape with an Italian name and a “Pinot” prefix, but the Welmoed Pinot Grigio 2015 is a quaffing wine in the Linda Lovelace mould. Abraham compares it to Colombard, although the easy, unwooded sip is leaner and dons more flint than the tooty-fruity finish Colombard is known for. This Pinot Grigio reminds of an entry-level Douro white, with a crispness which is almost audible and a lovely down-the-hatch accessibility. Cool and dry with balanced acids and a bracing finish, this is going to be downed in gallons come the first Boland heatwave.

Talking of Pinot, the Pinot Noir 2014 in the Welmoed range almost mirrors the story told by the Pinot Grigio. This wine, all of R50 a bottle, is aged for 12 months in 3rd fill barrel and the winemaking process was seamless in execution. Nuits St George this ain’t, but of course it does not want to be. Just purity of red fruit, a crunchy smack of raspberry and sagebrush all meant for drinking of the unchallenging kind from a chilled glass and some sun on the horizon.

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Stepping up a few notches to Stellenbosch Vineyards’ Credo range, I find once again a terrific Stellenbosch Chardonnay. The Credo Chardonnay 2014 gets the new barrel going-over, which juice of this quality deserves. Broken rock can be tasted in a wine which is truly a sitter for a white from the Beaune region. Subtle brioche crumbs are evident, but the overall impression is a stylish, cursive Chardonnay varietal signature of white flowers, cooking pear and un-sugared Key Lime pie. A brilliant wine.

On the red side, the Bushvine Pinotage under the Stellenbosch Vineyards label jumps at you like an unexpected Beyers Truter back-slap. Vintage 2013 is beautifully developed with plums, allspice and black jelly babies wearing red arm bands. The wine has a complete mouthfeel, any possible excess tannins having been soaked up by the sappiness verve of a fine example of Pinotage at its best.

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The kicker in the range was The Flagship Petit Verdot 2010. Now, you don’t easily come away from drinking a neat Petit Verdot without hairs on your teeth and tears in your eye, but this wine has a power which is seductive and approachable. Darling grapes are the source, the wine having been left in barrel for all of four years. Plush and full as a Kate Winslet cleavage, this wine coaxes the palate with exciting dark flavours. Fruit, fruit and more fruit. Black and ripe. With a smoky edge and an evocative sweet finish.

If there are any beautiful monsters out there, come and meet this one.

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