(Almost) every week, I select an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed my attention. View the whole series here.
The Morning Claret has been a little sparse with blogging lately – holidaying in South Africa was the focus of a two glorious weeks. Part of that was of course about wine discovery, and there’s plenty to discover in the huge and diverse Cape winelands.
One rapidly emerging theme is the younger generation of winemakers who reject the “Parker style” ethics that dominated premium South African wine in the late 90s. New oak, over ripe fruit and massive extraction isn’t the only game in town anymore, thank goodness.
Johan Meyer is definitely part of this movement. He’s also one of a few South African producers with the odd distinction of not owning any vineyards (Jurgen Gouws/Intellego is another). Meyer works with small leased parcels in various parts of the Cape, preferring dry farming and harvesting early to avoid excessive sugar or alcohol. He’s a member of the Swartland Independent Producers – an increasingly important cadre of high-class vignerons who self-certify that their wine is made extremely naturally. Read their manifesto here to find out exactly what that entails.
Mount Abora Koggelbos 2013 is the bottle I stumbled across in a Cape Town bottle shop. Mount Abora is a place borrowed from Coleridge’s Kubla Khan – it doesn’t exist, except in your head. The label has a nice graphic of the presumably off his nuts Coleridge dreaming up the concept.
Koggelbos is whole bunch fermented Chenin Blanc, from old vines in Swartland. It’s fermented and aged on the lees (for six months) in used 300 litre French oak barrels. Whole bunch seems to be all the rage in Swartland, and indeed across the Cape. It’s generally a good technique to maintain freshness and achieve a lighter, more refreshing wine style. With white grapes, this effectively means skin contact during the fermentation (so probably 1-2 weeks at a guess).
It might be stretching things to call this an orange wine, but nonetheless the richness and complexity of the flavours, and the phenolic note on the finish do have more than a nod in that direction – as does the deep gold colour. The nose is wonderful herby, along with guava and pineapple fruit. The palate is rich & fruity, but also fresh and herbaceous. A welcome dash of sour apple adds lift, there are beguiling hints of woodsmoke & buttermilk too.
I left this bottle open in the fridge for two days, and if anything it seemed more harmonious and well integrated than when I first pulled the cork – always a good sign of a well made unfiltered wine. Overall it’s quite big and ripe on the palate, but the little touches of sourness and tannin reign everything in and stop Koggelbos becoming overwrought.
It’s a stunning effort and would be a great wine to keep for a few years, and also worth monitoring future vintages – 2013 is only the second outing. If you buy this in South Africa (and the moment, you’ll have to as it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else) it costs something like €6 retail. What a bargain.
STOP PRESS: This wine is available to buy online in the UK via Gudfish, for £13 which is an absolute steal for the quality.
Some of Johan Meyer’s other wines are imported in the UK by Indigo wine.