Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lammershoek - A New Look at South Africa

I still have a few training drinks to fit in before the Half Corked Half Marathon on the weekend. I may not be able to train on the road, but at least I can keep training with the glass.

1613.  2009 Lammershoek Roulette Blanc (Swartland W.O. - South Africa)

I don't know South African wines very well. We don't tend to buy many ourselves and, when we do run across them at events or parties, they're usually the mass commercial, entry level brand wines. Case in point, I didn't even recognize Swartland as a Wine of Origin appellation in South Africa - let alone know where it is on a map. Same thing with Lammershoek. I knew nothing about it when I picked up this white, along with a red blend, at a charity event silent auction and, while the purchase was a pure gamble, I figured the wines had to be a worthwhile sip as the bottles were donated by Marquis Wine Cellars - perhaps Vancouver's premier private wine merchant. If you can't trust them for a bit of an adventure, who can you trust?

Lammershoek is a family run and managed operation that produces three label ranges - an entry level, this eponymous label and a "project" label that pushes boundaries and plays with more unusual grape varieties and techniques. The winery added a new winemaker, Craig Hawkins, in 2010 and he's apparently upped the ante since his arrival. The experimental, "project" label - Cellar Foot - even has a Syrah that is aged in barrels under water. Never heard of that one before.

Hawkins wasn't with the winery during the vintage and pressing of the juice for the '09 Roulette Blanc but he did supervise the blending of the finished wine. He has an interesting production method for this wine (at least for the subsequent vintages) in that the juice is pressed directly into large (300L and 600L), old oak barrels and aged for 12 months on its lees (spent yeast cells) and then blended and placed in a 9500L concrete tank where it is aged for another 5 months on lees before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The finished wine sees Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Clariette Blanche combined for a rich mouthfeel that goes more for minerality and spice than for fruit - quite different from most of the whites we find back home in BC. It was definitely big enough for a pork roast - although I think I'd want to drink it more with food than just by itself for a cocktail sip.

The grapes are farmed organically on dry land (no irrigation) from well established vines and that likely adds an even bigger element to the mouthfeel on the wine.  The Chenin vines are between 45 and 50 years old, the Chardonnay and Viognier around 30 and even the newest Clairett Blanche vines are 15 years old.

A definite change of pace for my wine glass. I'll be interested to see what the red is like.

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