Last night I took a trip to South Africa and France
I love wine, I drink my weight in wine and if you have seen me lately you will know that I am saying I drink a fair bit. One of the most fascinating about this elixir is that it transports you a to another world, in that the wine you drink reflects the area or place in which it was grown. Why is a Chardonnay from California so remarkably different to one from Burgundy? The concept of Terroir speaks to this notion, that due to a variety of influences [soil, elevation, row direction, planting density, cropping levels etc] a wine from distinctly different areas will always taste unique. No matter the influence of the winemaker, a Chardonnay grown in the Cote d Or of Burgundy will taste remarkably different to one grown in the Russian River AVA of California. You could argue that there are stylistic similarities [full malo-lactic fermentation or the use of French oak], but that the inherent differences in the wine will always take you back to the place where it all starts, the vineyard. Thai food was on the menu last night, and I thought it the perfect opportunity to break open a few bottles of wine. I am beginning to see a trend between Asian inspired dishes and my need to open up really good wine.
- Last nights trip of choice, was to South Africa with a gorgeous Springfield Estate 2008 Wild Yeast Chardonnay and France, with a 2005 Chateau Haut Bergeron from Sauternes. The Chardonnay is made by winemaker Abrie Bruwer, and the estate is located in Robertson, South Africa. I have always been an admirer of this producer and if you get the chance, look for the "Life from Stone" Sauvignon Blanc and the "Methode Ancienne" Cabernet Sauvignon, you will not be disappointed. With many tools at a winemakers disposal nowadays, this winemaker tends to go back to basics and focus on the vineyard, producing world-class wines that reflect the sense of place. His wine making philosophy is one of minimal interference, fermenting wines with natural yeast, avoiding filtration unless absolutely needed and as the website quotes "let the wine make itself". The 2008 harvest was by all means a fairly tricky one, with cooler than average temperatures and higher than average rainfall. Many producers talk about the fight against fungal disease and the importance of picking at the right time. The biggest positive is that cooler temperatures lead to retention of acid in the fruit and better phenolic ripeness. [Information taken from Angela Lloyds 2008 harvest report]. The Springfield Chardonnay is fermented entirely in stainless steel tank but is allowed to undergo 100% malo-lactic fermentation, and is furthermore aged on the lees for over a year prior to bottling. The wine displayed gorgeous tropical aromas that followed through onto the palate, marked by vibrant acidity which ensured this Chardonnay was lively and focused. I have been pretty down on Chardonnay wines recently, but this wine will certainly change a few opinions and is a champion that Chardonnay still has plenty to offer the consumer. You owe it to yourself to seek this bottle out and give it a try; not withstanding it is from my home country, I really loved this wine! From New World to Old World, a dessert wine from Sauternes finished the evening off.
- This particular Sauternes is made up of 60% Semillion and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. Many experts believe the Haut-Bergeron to be the best of the Non-Classified Sauternes. Part of their vineyards are in Barsac, with the remaining vineyards in Preignac [right next to the world-famous Chateau D Yquem]. The first thing you notice is the gorgeous color which is brilliantly gold, with amber tinges. The aromas are rich and luscious with apricots, honey and caramel tones. This wine is wonderfully textured, rich and lengthy and I suspect there is a fair amount of new oak in this wine [although I cannot confirm]. For all my praises; my wife Kathy did not enjoy this wine at all, alluding to a smell that just did not agree with her. The beauty of wine is that we each have our own opinions. I thought this wine to be showing beautifully though and may still have a few years left in the bottle, although I would probably drink it in the next 2-3 years. What a way to spend an evening, eating Thai food, drinking South African and French wine will sitting in Charlottesville US. Life is good especially when you can share it with people you love. This was one trip worth taking, and that for me is the ultimate beauty of wine. Tonight I think I might visit Australia.
Here's to wonderful wines