Some Sémillon this Old Road is

The Old Road Wine Co. in Franschhoek has reaffirmed the exceptional quality of wines made from South Africa’s legendary old vineyards by winning the Trophy for Best Sémillon at the prestigious Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. The Trophy went to Old Road Wine Co.’s Grand Mère Single Vineyard Sémillon 2017, this trophy and a 96pt judges’ rating playing a profound role in making Old Road one of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show’s Top 10 producers for 2021.

The Grand-Mère 2017’s most recent award at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show follows on the prestige the wine accrued in June when the same wine won a Gold Medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London, one of the world’s leading wine shows, where it was also named the Highest Scoring South African White Wine.

Ryan Puttick, who has been at the helm of Old Road Co.’s winemaking since the beginning, says that it is tremendously rewarding to see wines made from treasured old vineyards capturing the imagination of the critics and judges at wine shows such as the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.

“With our Grand-Mère Sémillon, Old Road is privileged to have access to the famed, 86 year old, La Colline vineyard, which truly has a personality and character of its own,” he says. “Sémillon is a grape variety that has made – and continues to make – Franschhoek famous, and in local and international wine circles the La Colline Sémillon vineyard is spoken about in revered terms. Planting of the vines goes back to 1936. And lying at between 310m and 350m above sea-level on a southern-easterly slope on the Dassenberg Mountain, these vines have been exposed to over 85 cold wet winters and dry, wind-beaten summers. They are low and gnarled, appearing to be at one with the earth which on this site is comprised of decomposed granite and sandstone rich in quartz.”

Puttick says that to add to this site’s unique geographical fingerprint is the fact that research proves these Sémillon vines to be related to plant material brought to the Cape by the VOC in the 17th century. “This has led to the vines mutating over the years, resulting in some parcels of Sémillon Gris finding their way between the Sémillon Blanc, with us harvesting these two components together while making the wine. One can truly say that this vineyard has a life of its own which is reflected in the visceral expression of the wine.”

“Our approach to winemaking is indeed akin to following an old road that is tried and tested. “First up are the vineyards, and here we have made a point of going off the beaten track to find parcels of fruit that express each variety in a unique way. The winemaking is strictly minimum-intervention aimed at preserving – at all costs – the signature of site-specific terroir.”

Old Road Wine Co. is a collaboration between Tim Hutchinson, executive chairman of DGB, and private partners. The winery was formed in 2019 to ensure vineyards in the Franschhoek Valley are protected for future generations to continue the region’s legacy of winemaking and viticulture, as well as to source grapes from the finest vineyards in the Cape to make superlative terroir-driven wines.

Ryan Puttick, Old Road’s winemaker.

Andrew Harris, DGB’s Marketing Director for wine, says the continued success of the Old Road Wine Co. Grand-Mère Sémillon and other wines in the stable, reaffirms the fact that Old Road’s entrenched values of conserving old vineyards and making wine through an approach of minimum intervention and utmost respect to the fruit leads to wines of exceptional quality.

“This Trophy for Grand-Mère Sémillon is the second Trophy in as many months for the winery after the Anemos Chenin Blanc won the Trophy for Best SA White Wine in Show at Mundus Vini in Germany” says Harris. “What this points to is the overall exceptional quality of these old vineyard wines, implying that Old Road’s decision to build its ethos around legacy vineyards of unique individuality and using the primary fruit to create excellent, terroir driven wines is being duly recognised.”

“Having access to old vineyards and vinifying the grapes is one thing, but honouring the provenance of these old vines by using winemaking techniques to allow the vineyards to express themselves throughout riveting quality that grabs the imagination of the consumers, judges and critics is another aspect all together. Fortunately, by having fruit from old vines and a winemaker understanding what is required for the grapes to express their full potential in the bottle, Old Road Wine Co. has managed to do full justice to these vineyards.”

Puttick says that medals, awards and high-ratings, such as received by Old Road Co.’s Grand-Mère-Sémillon act as an important indicator of one’s ethos and progress in terms of wine quality and stylistic endeavour.

Other accolades include a 94pt rating in the South African Report by Tim Atkin MW, Double Gold Medal at the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards and being named Franschhoek Champion Semillon at the Novare Terroir Awards.

Grapes for the Grand-Mère Sémillon were hand-harvested in the La Colline vineyard in two batches to achieve a spread of balanced ripeness. The fruit was left overnight, on the skins, and allowed to settle before 50% of the juice was inoculated with a specially selected yeast-strain, the remainder being wild-fermented. Once fermentation was complete, the wine was placed in older French oak barrels. Regular stirring of the lees was done to ensure complexity of flavour and mouthfeel.

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