Enjoying wine on the river in Robertson

Thursday, 26 October, 2017
Judy Brower - wine.co.za
Robertson is looking gorgeous, with the vines already showing great growth.

Robertson is well known for its Wacky Wine weekend, and for those not in the know, there are three other annual events in the area which you don't want to miss. Early in the year in Feb is their Hands-on Harvest, where you really get a first-hand experience of wine-making. Then there is Robertson Slow Food and Wine festival in August, followed by their Wine on the River in October. This event takes place (as its name suggests) on the banks of the Breede River at the Goudmyn farm, which is a lovely lazy space to enjoy the vinous and delicious delights of the valley.

It was surprisingly my first time attending Wine on the River, and I really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to be one of a group of media given very special treatment, with three personalised tutored tastings presented by the next generation of winemakers in the valley. The valley has a few well-known long-standing families, like de Wet, Marais, Jonker and Bruwer, and must be one of the few places left in the winelands with so many wine farms still being family-owned and run.

Our tastings were presented by Johann de Wet, new CEO at De Wetshof, Peter de Wet from Excelsior, and Philip Jonker, from Weltevrede, who is also the current chairman of the Robertson Wine Valley.

The view from our media table was gorgeous - looking straight out onto the river, with the southern view a lush green vineyard surrounded by a hedge of purple bougainvillea, and the north-west up the relatively full Breede River, on which the jolly double-decker boat occasionally tootled off.

 

Philip took us through a flight of delicious MCCs from Robertson and Bonnievale, and they were really all wonderful. I must say I love my Chardonnay with bubbles included!

Johann de Wet is clearly passionate about Robertson and Chardonnay. He had prepared eight Chardonnays for us, four unwooded and four wooded. The unwooded were also split into two made with spontaneous/natural ferment and two using standard inoculation. This is where it got interesting for me - as Johann gave us a delightful and animated educational lesson on what happens when the 'wild' yeast in the tanks encounters the mass of wine about to hit it.

Johann de Wet educates us: "Some yeasts will allow more glycerol formation than others. But in an inoculated yeast environment you add the right amount of yeast to do the job of fermenting X liters of wine. With spontaneous ferment, there is not enough yeast to do the job of fermenting the tank so it must first multiply. One of the byproducts of yeast multiplying is glycerol." It is this glycerol which can then give these wines a fuller sweeter mouthfeel.

Let's just step back a bit. Fermentation is the process by which yeasts turn sugars from the grapes into alcohol and CO2. Yeast must be present in order to make wine. Cultured yeasts have been around for about 100 years, and before then, yeasts which were naturally present on the grapes or in the tanks were used to ferment the grapes. Grapes don’t always need help from commercial labs to turn into wine – the vineyard is full of flora that will happily do the job for free BUT... there is always a risk involved and should the yeast not work well, you get what is called 'stuck ferment'.  When you have thousands of litres of juice half-way to being made into wine, it is very risky.

I take my hat off to those winemakers who go the 'wild' yeast route, as the process is unpredictable and takes plenty of care and monitoring. Springfield is well known for their Wild Yeast Chardonnay and Cabernet and if I was reincarnated as a winemaker, I would be too terrified to go the spontaneous/wild yeast route!

De Wetshof had two Chardonnays in the line-up as expected and my favourite was their unwooded Limestone Hill. Of course, De Wetshof is right in the middle of the lime deposits and apparently, I am in good company as Robert Parker's comments on this wine are 'this wine possesses far better balance and sheer drinkability – not to mention more finesse – than 99% of the world’s Chardonnay I have experienced.'

 The unwooded Chardonnays from Rietvallei, Springfield, Langverwacht and De Wetshof

One of the unwooded Chardonnays we tasted was from Mont Blois - made by Cape Wine Master Nina Bruwer, and I reckon she will give Robertson's blue-eyed boy Lourens van der Westhuizen from Arendsig a run for his money.

Chardonnays are real food wines, and again I learnt that because the lime often lends a salty character to the wine, this then stimulates the saliva glands, and this extra saliva ensures that the wines are better digested and therefore work better as a culinary match. The saltiness of the lime comes from centuries of fossilised seashells of course.

So do try the wines with and without food and see how it impacts your palate.

Our media tastings took up most of our day at the Wine on the River but we did have a chance to do the boat trip and wander through the winery stands. I was most impressed with the effort that they had mad, with most having custom-built attractive stands showcasing their wares. It was already busy on the Friday afternoon, but just busy enough to chill out with a great glass of wine in the sun on the banks of the river.

The Wine on the River is a 3-day event run annually in October,  so block it out in your diary now already for next year - 26-28 Oct 2018.

#wineontheriver #tastethelifestyle

 

Judy Brower

Judy has been running wine.co.za alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells wine.co.za services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at wine.co.za

A relaxed time at the river
A relaxed time at the river

Cabernet Sauvignons
Cabernet Sauvignons

Arendsig Inspirational Batch Cab
Arendsig Inspirational Batch Cab

Johann de Wet (De Wetshof)
Johann de Wet (De Wetshof)

Mercy Mwai & Aubrey Ngcungama
Mercy Mwai & Aubrey Ngcungama

Philip Jonker (Weltevrede)
Philip Jonker (Weltevrede)

Tshepang Molisana
Tshepang Molisana

MCCs
MCCs

Vineyard surrounded by bougainvillea
Vineyard surrounded by bougainvillea

Aubery Ngcungama & Peter de Wet (Excelsior)
Aubery Ngcungama & Peter de Wet (Excelsior)

Bon Courage - Blanc de Blanc
Bon Courage - Blanc de Blanc

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