The last time I was so inspired to fight for a cause was back in 2015 when those demented camel-jockeys by name of ISIS blew up the 1 800-year-old Temple of Baalshamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra. This onslaught on world culture in the name of what-the-hell-ever, had me wanting to form an army. Hop to Syria to bang some ISIS heads together and tell them not to mess with civilisation.
This similarly heated blood is coursing through the veins as I watch the South African government decimating a way of life that has been a part of Africa’s southern tip since 1659. One that has brought beauty and joy; livelihood and status; genius and culture to the country in the form of wine.
Committed and inspired to action and revolt as I have been since the last prohibition of wine-distribution, I needed to see a threatened temple or monument to switch over into confrontational, combat-ready gear.
And lo and behold, such a shrine appeared before me recently in the form of a bottle of Chardonnay.
It was not meant to be thus. I was in the process of procuring a bottle of the much-vaunted Olerasay 2°, the iconic sweet wine from the Mullineuxs when a bottle of Leeu Passant Chardonnay 2018 popped into the mix. The Leeu Passant is, of course, the pinnacle of the partnership between wine couple extraordinaire Andrea and Chris Mullineux and Indian tycoon Analjit Singh.
Upon receiving my stash, I placed the Chardonnay into the fridge, and proceeded to gaze longingly at the 375ml bottle of Olerasay 2° wondering when it would be apt to open this vinous treasure which had recently obtained a perfect 100pt rating from ordained wine critic Neal Martin.
These kinds of decisions are serious. They require thought, insight and strategy. And as these plans were being constructed, the weather turned balmy one afternoon, instantaneously putting me in a Chardonnay kind of mood. Out came the Leeu Passant 2018. After admiring the feel of the classically sexy bottle, the cork popped and a glass was poured.
Well, half a glass at first. Even at the pour, it became evident that something genuinely incredible was going on with this wine. There was the perfect colour, pale gold with an edge of sunrise. Alluring. Golden stars. I stared at it, and it looked at me. Not with a wink or a flirt, just a wide-eyed warm and friendly gaze.
To the nose, and I fell in love immediately. There are three life-affirming, heart-twitching aromas in the universe: a baby’s breath, the smoke from a fresh galjoen on the braai and a great Chardonnay. The smell of this wine was perfectly great. Grated green pears, hazelnuts slowly baked with a drizzle of wild fynbos honey and the smell of a scented breeze drifting through a valley filled with wild-flowers at the end of spring. A scent of just-shucked abalone added a beguiling maritime presence, further proof of a living heartbeat existing in the wine.
The origin of the fruit is Stellenbosch, the Helderberg side. Soils are loamy, hence the breadth in the wine. Fermentation via indigenous yeasts. And a hefty 18 months in 225l barriques, 30% new.
By now, I was in tears of anticipation to drink the stuff, not just taste it, but drink deeply to consummate the seduction. The only thing that surprised here was that even after the brilliance shown on the eyes and nose, the taste exceeded the expectation.
My Chardonnay-obsessed palate welcomed the first drops presented by what this wine had to offer. There was the familiar white buttered gentleness, the nuts and brioche elevated by a bump of citrus-driven acidity. As a kid I picked narrow, long red flowers and sucked the nectar out the back ends, and this was what the wine tasted like. Some green-fig notes showed up on the mid-palate, and a slight tang of those preserved Moroccan lemons provided an extremely delicious exotic touch.
What pushed me over the edge to fall head-over-heels for this wine, was the palate weight and texture. It is confident and assertive, to the edge of being loud. But at the same time, there is purity and a delicacy in all that the wine offers. Like a Walt Whitman poem, forceful, confident and strong, but with a fragility to break your heart.
There are some great moments in wine that I’ll never forget. Leeu Passant Chardonnay 2018 is one of them. And I shall happily die for the right civilisation has to experience this.
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