De Grendel bags three Gold medals at Veritas

Friday, 11 October, 2013
Supplied by Errieda du Toit PR
Three double gold medals for Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz
De Grendel, the historic Durbanville farm on the slopes of the Tygerberg Hills, rejuvenated to produce some of the Cape’s most elegant modern-day wines since bottling its fledgling vintage, scored a triple at this year’s Veritas, one of South Africa’s leading national wine shows. Double gold medals were awarded to the Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Shiraz 2011 and Merlot 2010.

In garnering three of the only 68 double gold medals awarded, De Grendel was ranked among the four top achievers at the show (the other three all being long-established cellars with multiple entries among the nearly 1 800 wines judged). De Grendel’s top honours were also one of only three, six and eight double golds awarded in the Merlot, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc varietal categories respectively.

Veteran vintner Charles Hopkins, characteristically pragmatic and unfailingly inclusive, expressed delight on behalf of his ‘team’, which includes owner Sir David Graaff, winemaker Elzette du Preez and vineyard managers Douglas Muzengeza and Kudzai Mwerenga. ‘We’re excited, not only because the wines had to stand out among so many entries but, to get a double gold, at least five of the seven local and international panel members had to score the wine 18 [using the 20-point scale]. It means there is a fair amount of consensus on what constitutes a double gold winner.’

He was particularly pleased with the recognition given the latest vintage of the Koetshuis Sauvignon Blanc. It’s made in smaller quantities (fewer than 2 000 cases) than the farm’s regular Sauvignon (about 10 000 cases). The style is also more restrained: classic, minerally, distinguished by asparagus and gooseberry aromas and flavours and promising longevity in the bottle compared with its immediately accessible, typically tropical, fruit-salad style stablemate. ‘They appeal to different tastes and we enjoy offering both,’ says Hopkins with satisfaction.

The award winner, a blend of carefully chosen grapes from the home farm and similarly cool-climate coastal vineyards in Darling, is also the result of cutting-edge viticultural practices. De Grendel subscribes to a Denver, Colorado-based satellite service. The satellite, which circumnavigates the globe in seven-day cycles, provides infra-red aerial mapping of the designated sauvignon blanc vineyards during three days in late January, a key period in the ripening season. By zooming in on chlorophyl levels in individual vines, the team is able to analyse growth patterns based on varying soil types and conditions. Vines are flagged according to their different stages of producing physiologically ripe fruit, which is then harvested depending on required flavour compounds.

Hopkins is equally delighted with the recognition of the De Grendel Merlot 2010. He says Merlot as a variety requires ‘hard work’ to turn into a ‘soft wine’. ‘The De Grendel is the quintessential feminine, voluptuous, big-fruit wine with all the characteristics I love: mulberry, blackberry, coffee and liquorice drop!’ And the soupon of Petit Verdot (7%) in the assemblage just ‘rounds it out’.

As for the De Grendel Shiraz 2011: ‘It’s caught us with our pants down; I would have preferred to have kept it for another year before release, but demand has pushed us to make it available. So the fact that the judges have lauded it while still so young is wonderful.’ Noting the variety’s readiness to show a ‘sense of place’, he describes De Grendel’s combination of home-grown grapes with those from ‘a block I know very well in Paarl’ as typically spicy with distinctive notes of coriander and fynbos.

Both wines were matured for about 12 months in oak barrels: the Merlot all French; the Shiraz including some American oak influence ‘which adds a hint of coconut character’ to its aroma and flavour profile.

De Grendel winemaker Elzette du Preez, recruited by Hopkins in 2006 to join the team, recalls that these three winning varieties have constituted the core of the farm’s small, select range of wines from the beginning. But two of the newer additions to De Grendel’s wine portfolio have also recently received kudos from expert palates.

The De Grendel Brut Mthode Cap Classique 2011, a classic combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, received a ‘Gold Highly Recommended’ rating at the 12th annual Cap Classique Challenge, the definitive local wine show for sparkling wines made in the traditional French bottle-fermented way. The bubbly, a classic combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but notable for its more feminine fuller, fruitier, softer style, has been Du Preez’s ‘baby’ since inception with the 2007 vintage, launched in 2009.

The De Grendel Rubaiyat 2010, the farm’s Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, garnered a gold medal at leading German wine show Mundus Vini. Also introduced in 2009 (with the 2006 vintage), the wine is named after the lyrical poem in four-line stanzas by 11th-century Persian Omar Khayyam. Each vintage is marked by a different quatrain on the label, while the style of the wine remains one of rich, ripe fruit, fine tannins and gentle acidity.

All these wines are available from De Grendel’s stylish tasting room and restaurant with picture-postcard views across the vineyards to Table Mountain and Table Bay.