Suipie finds that he has a good old wine month.
Firstly, Suipie Jnr spoiled his father by producing a Hartenberg, but not just that, their top of the range, The Mackenzie, and more importantly, a 2005!
Now, Suipie had tasted this, many moons ago. It is a blend, almost a Bordeaux, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. It is a wine made to honour the Mackenzie family, who own the estate.
When Suipie first tried it the wine was still a baby, so much so that it was very difficult to work it out. Now, at 14 years old, it was simply astounding. Heaps and heaps of bright berry fruit, lovely soft tannins to keep it in balance, and so smooth all you get is the taste, you hardly know the wine is there at all.
That wine will go down in the memory banks up there with the best of the lot.
Secondly, Suipie has for some or other reason never really bothered with the Spar range of wines. Not because Suipie ever had a bad one or anything like that, he just never tried any.
Well now. Suipie was fossicking about at a Spar Tops, oh alright, Parklane, looking for some whites. He spotted one called Le Geminus, a sauvignon blanc/semillon blend. It had a Veritas star.
It was quite reasonable, so Suipie thought why not? Without looking further. Only later when about to open it did Suipie notice it was a 2012, the Veritas Award was 2013, and it was from Olive Brook, which is the Spar range. It is never a bad idea to read the instructions, not so? Had Suipie bothered, he would have noted that it was mainly barrel fermented, the Semillon was aged in Oak for 17 months, and had been kept on the lees for 24 months.
Bless Suipie’s cotton socks. It was a pretty light orange colour, from the condition of the cork had not been kept on its side, had an amazing fruit/vanilla flavour (from the oak, you see?) and was just about at its peak, with a tiny touch of mustiness to say it was about to start going over-ripe.
Wow. Shows: (a) white wines do keep; and (b) wine contact with the cork is maybe not as essential as once we all thought. On that score, we are now learning that wines under screw cap do alter their character, invariably for the better, but leaving that aside, do you really think that air will get through a piece of cork? The purpose of cork is not only to keep the wine in but also the air out, after all. So there you go.
Suipie has been having fun recently, revisiting Beachcomber. Suipie thinks he has mentioned him before. It is a column in the English newspaper, the Daily Express and has run for over 100 years. Obviously the style changes as new writers take it on, but it was mostly the work of J.B. Morton, who wrote it from 1924 to 1975.
It is no criticism and only fair to say that the humour is something of an acquired taste, because it is lunatic. Suipie loves it. There are an array of recurring characters, one of whom was “Dr Jan Strabismus (whom God Preserve) of Utrecht”, an absent-minded inventor, who had to his list of creations “a leather grape”, “a revolving wheelbarrow”, “a hollow glass walking stick for keeping very small flannel shirts in”, and so on.
Thank goodness for madness, says Suipie, it’s what keeps us sane.
As William Congreve so accurately put it, “I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull”
Congreve, 1670-1729, was an English playwright. What does a playwright from that long ago have to do with Suipie, crazed fictional inventors (whom God Preserve) and wine?
Well, it’s sort of like this: wine is a moving feast. The new generation of winemakers are doing amazing (crazy?) things. Suipie feels blessed to have travelled with the wine of this country since it started moving, back in about 1970, to where it is now.
In those far off days varietal was all. Regulation meant you could only add very small amounts of another type if you wanted it classified as a “single varietal” and everyone went crazy trying to remember what the characteristics of each grape were. Suipie, by the way, was (and still is) useless at this. There was a sense that a wine was sort of mostly judged by how well it presented the characteristics of the varietal.
Now it is all about flavour. Taste. So what if it doesn’t come across like a traditional cab sauv, say? Malbec with Pinotage? Actually, that Pinotage/Merlot from Middlevlei that’s been around for a long time now. The young guns, some from old wine families, others not, a wonderful swell of black winemakers. They all have the youth and lunacy to try new things. Dr Strabismus would approve!
Suipie has just put in an order from Tesselaarsdal. East India company settler Johannes Tesselaar was the first land Baron in the Overberg after Governor WA van der Stel. He was the son of a cook’s mate. Born in 1748 he had become a Captain in the Cape Cavalry and it is known that he was paid in the form of two farms, Hartebeesrivier in 1781 and Steenboksrivier in 1783.
In 1775 he married Aaltje but had no children with her. He is believed to have had a large number of “coloured” children however and to this day their offspring who still live there claim him as their father.
He died in 1810, leaving Aaltje a huge estate, jewels, 38 servants and 150 horses. How he acquired all this nobody has any idea. What is known however it that when the ship the Nicobar got wrecked close by in 1783 several wagon loads of goods were looted and ended up at Tesselaar’s farm. This despite the fact he was supposed to be one of the officials in charge of salvage operations!
Aaltje went on farming there until she died in 1832. She left the farm Hartbeesrivier to nine of her servants. She had vines there and presumably produced wine.
Some of those families still live there. Land was informally used and transferred without recording who had what, with the result that over the years disputes kept rising, and it has not yet all been sorted out.
Now Berene Sauls, who worked at Hamilton Russell, and grew up in the area, has produced her own Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. She has named the brand Tesselaarsdal after him. She joined Hamilton Russel as an au pair in 2001 and soon got herself involved in the wine business now producing her own. Her pinot has been called the next South African icon and has been awarded 94/100. The Chardonnay has been in amphoras, that is clay pots like the Ancient Greeks and Romans did. Suipie is very excited! So there we have it. An “entrepreneur” (shall we call him that?) from the late 1700’s now remembered in a young an exciting winemaker in 2019. Brilliant, isn’t it?