The Cape no longer does Big Beasts. Early Huguenot settlers in Franschhoek would borrow canon from the Castle to pound migrating elephants (were there any tree-huggers in those days?) while the tygers are now few and far between and mostly seen as screen savers on the computers of André van Rensburg at Vergelegen and a couple in the former dagga plantations of Plaisir de Merle. Even political Big Beasts have moved to Gauteng to keep an eye on their business empires. So no wonder SA “critter wines” – bottles with beasts on the labels with quality inversely proportional to ferocity – fail to get traction in the USA.
Which leaves flowers and fynbos, with Kirstenbosch Gardens – which celebrates its centenary this year – Ground Zero for Flower Power. Hat’s off to Neethlingshof (who already have a few critters in their zoo) for embracing plants and launching their new white blend, Six Flowers, in the Kirstenbosch tea room yesterday. A venue packed with tourists and gourmets as the boerekos of chef Pamela Shippel (above with travel writer and restaurant reviewer Graham Howe and Cape Legends dynamo Anabelle Fouché) is an unexpected treat.
Her beef bobotie would make a Sheik shiver while her falafel, tehina, hummus, tabbouleh and best of all, a spicy Turkish tomato salad would get an Emir excited. And everything worked like a charm with the rich and dense six-way blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. The real wonder is that Anabelle did not sell the entire allocation to Turkish Airlines, it’s that good.
If the origin was Swartland rather than Stellenbosch on the label, it would be a shoe-in for Platter five stars.
The wine is well balanced indeed, with each cultivar aged separately in new Hungarian and French oak barrels with the first two fermented in oak, too. If the big step-up in quality of the 2007 vintage Vin de Constance can be ascribed to Hungarian oak and savvy marketing by the new cyclist owners (no, not Lance Armstrong!) then the sudden popularity of Eastern European wood comes as no surprise. So much so, Neethlingshof winemaker De Wet Viljoen (below) complained of the rise in barrel prices. But that is probably VdC pumping up production.
De Wet said that a good wine should be like a chameleon, and indeed many are as the slow moving critter is often picked by mechanical harvesters – yet another reason for farmers to think twice about replacing striking workers with machines. De Wet’s point was that the wine should change taste (rather than colour) each time you go back to the glass. Which this one most certainly does.
Only 6000 bottles were made and it will only be available in restaurants and from the tasting room. At R80 a bottle, it is sure to fly off the wine list and out the tasting room door as its perfect for a summer picnic in the garden with the faeries.