Special Cuveé releases from Longridge Wine Estate

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013
Dave March, CWM
Longridge winemaker Jasper Raats recently introduced two new wines to invited guests at his Helderberg winery.
It was noticeable how many of the guests were close friends and family of Jasper and how few were in the wine trade - this was a refreshing indication of his approach to these wines. These are special, very low production wines which Jasper admits are an indulgence rather than a commercial exercise.  ‘’These are definitely not my day job”, laughs Jasper. These are wines made naturally, as Jasper likes them, to be enjoyed slowly and with food and this was shown by the careful pairing of each with a hearty five course menu designed by food consultant Marilou using vegetables and herbs from the organic Longridge Restaurant kitchen.

Over the 2008 MCC and Oysters, Jasper explained how Longridges’ history was based largely on Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, but how he had identified a nearby plot as being suitable for Sauvignon and how his dislike for overtly green and razor sharp SA Sauvignons has stirred him to produce something different. “You need antacid to accompany many of the current Sauvignons”, says Jasper. He was looking for more roundness, balance and depth of flavour.

The 2012 Driefontein Sauvignon Blanc is as natural as Jasper dared make it. The grapes from the 0.7 hectare block of 10 year old vines were left on the vine as long as possible, cropped at less than 7 tons per hectare, no yeast or enzymes were added at fermentation (which took more than four weeks), nothing was added after and the wine is unfiltered. He admits it was risky and you can hear it made him nervous at times.

The wine is quite substantial with smooth complexity and myriad flavours. Definitely not green, the Sauvignon leans to the tropical with lots of orange zest, peaches and cream and juicy mango. It is not, though a fruit salad of confusion, each flavour seems to follow from the last and the balance and finish leaves you wanting more. It stood up well to the chicken-stock based broccoli soup and would easily match lighter sauces and many meats. Again reflecting Jasper’s approach to the wine, he was asked what the alcohol and residual sugar levels were; “no idea”’ said Jasper, “I’d have to look at the bottle or the technical analysis for you, but I don’t know”.  This is a wine where that sort of information doesn’t matter, just enjoy.

Pinot Noir is about perfume, says Jasper, “the scent of a woman”, he says. It will be feminine and Marilou paired it with classic beef bourguignon ‘to provide the masculine edge, the perfect ying and yang’. The grapes for the Driefontein2011 came from chalky calcium rich soils in Elgin. Jasper believes the calcium helps soften and smooth out the wine and it was certainly smooth, but surprisingly rich.  Its colour was deep and I felt the power of the wine made it more masculine than feminine with dark fruit and leather from a wet tack room. This was not the femininity I was expecting, rather chunky and luxurious. Less delicate and ethereal, more an iron fist in a velvet glove. This wine is named Cuveé Rika in honour of his mother who was present and I felt the charm and sophistication, combined with an obvious steely streak and substance matched her perfectly, despite her tearful pride in Jasper’s achievements she is – like the wine – certainly no pushover. Hopefully, I enquired of its alcohol level, “just right”, says Jasper.  The wine is layered and textured, with oak tannin support coming from up to 18 months in second and third fill barrels. It needs a few years to develop and with only 750 bottles available from the farm that might be difficult.

Jasper thinks the 2012 looks promising, but points out that these wines are not made to a plan, but evolve in their own way and reflect the vintage, so will vary from year to year. He is not worried that this might confuse consumers who expect a certain style from year to year, these are ‘natural’ wines, he stresses, and will develop in their own way.

Dessert was a rich poached pear and chocolate tart with hint of chilli accompanied by the botrytised Noble Late Harvest ‘Edelgoud’ 2011 made from the Verdelho grape. This is the feminine wine, subtle, poised, ethereal and delightful and undoubtedly will age interestingly. It is all tangerine, marmalade and wet straw – nicer than it sounds and beautifully balanced; but not overt enough to match the richness of the dessert, I fear.  Again, though, with just two barrels made stocks are limited.

Driefontein Sauvignon Blanc 2012 R150 from farm
DriefonteinCuveé Rika Pinot Noir 2011 R180 from farm
LongridgeEdelgoud 2011 R145 (375cl) from farm