Waterkloof: Seriously Cool Wines by Lesley Trites
Among the South African wines that are foremost in my mind these days are the intriguingly complex wines of Waterkloof, a family owned winery located near False Bay, just outside Stellenbosch. After a ten-year search for the perfect site, UK wine merchant Paul Boutinot purchased the property in 2003 and converted the vineyard to biodynamic farming. (They also, however, source grapes from non-biodynamic vineyards for their False Bay and Peacock Ridge lines.) The vineyard site gets a lot of wind, which gives them an advantage in an otherwise warm climate. In the cellar, Waterkloof favours minimal additions and natural fermentation in open top fermenters.
I tasted with Louis Boutinot, export manager (and son of owner Paul Boutinot). When he described the first wine, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, as “wacky”, I thought I was in for something quite experimental (which doesn’t always mean tasty). While it indeed wasn’t your typical Sauvignon Blanc, I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste. I wouldn’t describe it as wacky. To the contrary, it was quite clean and delicate. Its dominant flavour was a citrus spice, like orange pith left to marinate with some cloves. But way more tasty than that might sound.
Next I tried two wines from their Circumstance range, a line of single grape variety wines. The 2012 Cape Coral Mouvèdre is a dry rosé that’s made using whole bunch pressing without any further contact between the grape skins and the juice. After pressing, the natural yeasts take over for a five-month long fermentation. (This is a much longer process than that of your average commercial rosé.) The result is a relatively pale, complex, subtle, and textured rosé, with delicate flavours of red berries and minerals, and a spicy finish.
Then there was the wine that stole my heart: the 2012 Seriously Cool Cinsault. It’s a bit of a contradiction: made from old vines and somewhat serious, yet also playful and fun, and meant to be served chilled. It was floral and pretty yet juicy, with perfumed violet flavours, lovely structure and texture, and some definite length to the finish. Very fragrant, yet full of berries, pepper, and minerals, it tasted like the lovechild of Beaujolais cru appellations Morgon and Fleurie.
Finally, I tried a white and a red from the Circle of Life range, which was created to celebrate Waterkloof’s conversion from conventional to biodynamic farming. The 2011 white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and a small amount of Semillon. Half of the blend is fermented in old oak barrels, and it’s kept on the lees following fermentation. The result is very pretty, with citrus flavours and tight minerality, but also some creaminess and spice, and just a hint of toast.
The 2009 red is a blend of Merlot, Shiraz, Mouvèdre, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. It was rich, ripe, and concentrated, all smooth dried fruit and fig elegance, with lots of dark fruit and a tannic structure that begs for food. I think this would show even better with more time in the cellar.
You have to have a certain amount of guts to brand your wines with phrases like “seriously cool”, but if anyone can pull it off, Waterkloof can.