By Lafras Huguenet
As a retiree and without wife, woman or life-partner, I am less familiar with the term “tension” than Ace Magashule is with the words “admit” or “truth”. Yet, tension continues to be used when describing one of the finer and wondrous features of life. Namely wine.
Andrew Jefford, he of Decanter fame and one of the world’s finest wordsmiths on things vinous, was the first active deployer of tension in describing the taut, leanness of especially white wines. Those sporting a run of acidity slicing through the liquid’s fruitier aspects. AJ opened the coup, and now most serious wine commentators marvel at the tense features of a piercing Chablis, steely Sancerre and rock-pelted dry Riesling.
A descriptor such as tension is of no use to me, a basic lover, imbiber and willing sharer of wine and the way it enhances my life and makes the world around me a better place. Tension and joy just don’t belong in the same glass.
I thus made an extra relaxed effort when opening the latest vintage-release of The Site Chardonnay 2018 from De Wetshof Estate in Robertson. Of the five wines in De Wetshof’s Chardonnay range, it is The Site that has attracted the word “tension” in amassed droves. It is always an elucidating experience to attempt tasting the tenseness, of what they all speak, in this wine.
The Site’s vineyard is rooted in a patch of almost pure limestone on the De Wetshof Estate, a lower bed of clay ensuring cool dampness for the vine’s roots within which to remain calm. Exposed to the broad southern skies on a gentle slope, the vineyard receives energy and wisdom from loads of sunlight, while the lack of obstructive rocky mounds allows the air to move freely among the plants. It always has been a gorgeous spot to look at whilst driving to the southernmost part of Africa, some 90km from the De Wetshof farm.
Tasting this version of The Site, it is evident that 2018 is proving to be an excellent vintage for De Wetshof. The farm’s Bateleur Chardonnay from that year is one of the best I have ever had, and without wishing to sound repetitive on my appraisal, The Site has also joined the party in offering an absolutely fantastic wine.
Pale straw in colour, aromas of torn orange leaves and sherbet ascend from the expansive rim of my wine-glass. The attack on the palate is about as discreet as a 03.00am phone-call from a former mistress who still has access to her husband’s credit card. Illuminating shafts of lime, salt-lick and river-rapid race into the mouth, immediately elevating the mood and alerting the senses. As is my wont, I swallow the first sip while noting the effect of the wine’s entrance.
The next glug is to ascertain the manner of the mid-palate. Here, the salty citrus, so gorgeously abundant, mellows as some of those classic Chardonnay features take over, traits common to the wines of Corton. This involves the settling of those lemon and bitter orange elements to allow the mysterious drawers of classic Chardonnay to be unlocked, opened and savoured. Green almonds and white flowers, with a bit of jasmine perfume. Freshly laundered linen, just-dried in a harsh African sun. A touch of William pear picked and eaten, greedily, on the greener edge of ripeness.
As the wine nears the finish, an immense sense of satisfaction is experienced. It is complete in its beauty, a woven silk rope providing robust power and steadfastness, without sacrificing beauty. Thirst is sated and there is that privileged feeling of good wine in the stomach, and the knowledge that there is a whole bottle to come.
Absolutely nothing to be tense about.
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