Is the Hanneli R 2009 the finest Southern Rhône blend in SA? I searched in vain in the 2014 edition of Platter, the sighted wine guide, for advice, but just found the tired old platitudes of tired old taster Angela Lloyd. Did she perhaps sell her sample before tasting it? She has the reputation of Sample Shebeen Queen, in the past flogging dozens of free samples on the now defunct Grape communal blog to fund her Woolies take-away lasagne habit.
Thank heavens the guide was a freebee from new owner Diners Club and I didn’t have to pay for this drivel. But why is there no mention of the estate’s flagship? After all, 3900 bottles were made and Hanneli R (the R stands for Rupert) is a huge name in the local wine firmament. Hope this is not another manifestation of the Anti-Afrikaans houding of the guide this year. For the wine is a sensual stunner made from Elim Shiraz, Grenache from Darling, Carignan from Malmesbury and Cinsaut from the West Coast. There’s even a splash of Merlot from Walker Bay. It’s light years more elegant and precise than the 2005 edition which we also enjoyed at South China Dim Sum Bar last night, together with spicy pork sandwiches and green peppers stuffed with hake.
What a pity I missed the annual Christmas Carols Service at La Motte this year. It went down on Saturday while I was dodging the Killer Whale (watch out for his vile cabbage eructations) at the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award at La Residence, also in Franschhoek. Talk about the sacred and profane! This year saw a performance of Mozart’s adaptation of Handel’s oratorium Messiah.
But all is not lost as there’s the annual Carols by Candlelight on the rolling lawns of the historic Laborie wine farm in Paarl this Friday. Father Christmas arrives at 6pm to delight and entertain the children, and Errol the clown will be performing his magic. Newton and Co., a three piece guitar and vocals band from Wellington, will help you chill out and explain the concept of gravity to the kids.
If it’s half as good as last year’s La Motte carol service, missing the event will be a religious tragedy. My thoughts on La Motte last year:
Linguistics: If those EU bureaucrats who rule on acceptable curvature of bananas ever get their way and “Dalewood Wineland Brie™ Green Fig” has to be renamed “Dalewood mold-ripened, whole-milk cheese with a whitish rind and a soft, light yellow centre with Green Fig” and all other French origin names have to be South Africanized, Franschhoek could be renamed Ruperthoek. For the Rupert family is steadily increasing their visibility in the valley, in an understatedly elegant way.
On the right bank of the R45 from Paarl to Franschhoek, the winery sign of the late Graham Beck now reads “Rupert” outside the entrance to La Garonne. Further down the road “Anthonij Rupert” has emerged at L’Ormarins which will be relaunched as a site-specific terroir brand at a later date.
Un-Gallic eponymous brands are brave as the Chinese have a word for luxury and that word is French. Like Meerust which cannily rebranded to Allée Bleu after complaints from Meerlust. Rupert & Rothschild round the corner in Simondium, is half French and an incredibly successful brand which stealthily shifts 900,000 bottles of Classic a year which is now assembled in the former Beck cellar.
Anthonij Rupert debuted in style when Wine Spectator magazine scored the 2007 flagship red blend 95/100, although the description of “power, cut and balance” would not have pleased sommeliers on the Eskom gravy train.
On the left bank of the R45 is La Motte, owned by Hanneli Rupert. La Motte is romantic when said in English with an Inspector Clouseau accent, but it means a clod, sod or lump of earth, or turf or butter, respectively. So translation is unlikely. Any rebranding would likely feature Pierneef, an artist famous for those atmospheric black and white woodcuts from Another Country, the Old SA. P now has his own art museum on the estate which attracts 3,000 visitors a month, way more than many public art spaces, which places him up with tortured sculptor Dylan Lewis as “popular with plutocrats.”
Then there is the award winning Pieneef à la Motte restaurant which takes indigenous boerekos to the Next Level. Sort of Die Antwoord of the kombuis. At last a South African restaurant to celebrate Karoo lamb karmonaadje, smoked sout ribbetjie and cured berry jus rather than foams of foie gras and tians of Italian truffle and other dishes copies from Ferran Adrià’s cookbook. Chef Chris Erasmus is as revolutionary as his religious namesake Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus.
No wonder La Motte was recently confirmed as the #1 SA wine tourism destination by Great Wine Capitals of the World, an organization of the well fed who devote their careers and waistlines to judging international tourism offerings. The SA public agrees, as the farm welcomes 10,000 wine tourists a month.
Wine: La Motte has painstakingly built a name for itself as a reliable Shiraz brand in a category that has more ups and downs than a rollercoaster at the Rand Easter Show. The Shiraz berries from Franschhoek give a lightness of flavour that defines a tasteable point of difference with those more baked profiles from Wellington and the Swartland at the other end of the R45. A lightness and delicacy which is also to be found in the Sauvignon Blanc which is organic by default as no pesticides are used in the Franschhoek vineyards. La Motte GM Hein Koegelenberg, husband to Hanneli Rupert, reports he’s planting vineyards in Elim of Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc to incorporate the excitement and energy of the continent’s southernmost viticulture into his wines.
For everyday enjoyment it’s hard to beat La Motte Millennium red blend which is often discounted to R59.95 at Checkers, as a loss-leader. The 2010 vintage is current release, although any stray bottles of 2009 should be snapped up on sight as it was a comet vintage and Millennium is cellar-worthy indeed.
Open: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm.
Directions: R45 main road from Paarl to Franschhoek.
Helipad GPS: 33º 52′ 55″ S; 10º 4′ 24″ E; Altitude 214m