Wine passion gets tasting boost

Friday, 7 June, 2013
By Myrna Robins: ioL lifestyle
If I needed evidence that my enthusiasm for southern Rhone-style wines was more than a passing phase, a tasting savoured recently provided ample proof. While Ken Forrester may be better known as the king of chenin, he has also been in the forefront of hunting down – and planting – these cultivars for several years, and today is reaping some splendid results.
In France, the region spreads south from Valence to Avignon, taking in the Midi, part of Provence and extending eastward to the French Alps. Dozens of varietals are cultivated there, including the syrah and viognier that are the stars of the northern Rhone. Those most likely to be recognised at the Cape include carignan, clairette, grenache, mourvèdre, marsannne, pinot noir and roussanne, while one of our oldest workhorse reds, cinsaut, needs little introduction to South Africans, being used for years in popular blends and gaining fame as a parent of pinotage.
Viognier has gained popularity as a solo wine alongside its role in enhancing shiraz. A few overpowering examples of domination by peach and oak dampened enthusiasm, but viogniers have greatly improved. Forrester makes his for Woolworths, using grapes from a nine-year-old vineyard near Lynedoch. The 2011 is a fine example, less than 10 percent being wooded, and the 2012 is likely to eclipse it: not yet bottled or filtered, it exudes warm citrus ahead of stone fruit, while maintaining a fresh elegance.
We followed this by sampling a unique blend known as VCR or Van Coller Reserve, named after the friends for whom it is made. By coincidence, the initials double to identify the ingredients – 81 percent viognier, 18 percent chenin and one of roussanne. It’s a lively, more-ish blend with more than a hint of silk, that will complement Cape and Gallic culinary classics. Ken Forrester’s 2011 roussanne calls for a rich autumn risotto, I decided, after savouring this sensuous, rich and vibrant limited edition and its 2012 successor which is as promising, but needs more time in the bottle.
We started our tasting of reds with the 2008 Renegade, where grenache just overtakes shiraz and mourvèdre, accounting for rustic notes and ruby hues, balanced by spice from shiraz and dark fruit from mourvèdre – medium-bodied, enjoyable and well priced at R85.
Mourvèdre, says Ken, “is meaty, even bloody on its own”, but combined with shiraz and grenache has produced a sultry 2007 meld, Three Halves, that begs for meaty Med fare like moussaka, lamb knuckles and youvetsi. The 2009 Gypsy, a near equal blend of grenache and syrah that boasts a string of awards including a five-star Platter rating, has its 2010 successor waiting in the wings. Here, the addition of a little grenache from 50-year-old vines has produced another winner, savoury intensity not obliterating an appealing wildness that inspired its name.
These wines share an earthiness and approachability, even when complex and intense. Characteristics that, one could argue, are reflected in both the cuisine and the inhabitants of the home soil. As the Cape produces more examples that should develop something of a local character, they are likely, I predict, to make better partners for indigenous culinary classics than cab or even Cape blends.
Returning to his first love, chenin, Forrester is about to release a new addition to his range: the 2011 Sparklehorse is an all-chenin Cap Classique, where aromas of Golden Delicious apples tantalise ahead of the bubbles. We drank to its success before moving down the road to pair southern Rhone-style reds with Winery Road restaurant’s appetising fare.