BEFORE lockdown I’d never heard of Zoom. Why would I have? I am anti-meetings in real life; doing it online is maybe even worse…all these strangers looking at me in my home! And me having to look at them in theirs…sometimes it’s just too much information.
But then people began doing wine tastings via the platform, and I was torn. Long story short, I use Zoom now, mainly for wine, yes, but for my first experience I enlisted the help of my friend Nicole Biondi, a seasoned Zoom-user. She not only helped me drink the wine that day, but she showed me the basic functions and explained etiquette (like turning off your audio while the host is speaking).
The event was a tasting of Bellvue’s new Reserve range, paired with music. When I first heard about it, for some reason I expected it to be classical music. It was, however, contemporary, with songs chosen by winemaker Wilhelm Kritzinger – songs which remind him of the wine.
The range consists of a barrel-aged Chardonnay, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Bordeaux blend named Tumara – where all five components are grown on the estate in Stellenbosch. We tasted in that order, from left to right. The Chardonnay, which is barrel fermented for 12 months for a rich, decadent wine with the classic combination of buttery pastry, citrus mid-palate and mineral finish. Kritzinger paired it with Sensitive Kind by JJ Cale. It’s a bold wine and you will not get everything this wine can offer you if you drink it too cold, advised Kritzinger.
The Pinotage spends 24 months in 100% French oak barrels. According to the tasting notes, “This is a rich concentrated wine with perfumed fragrances of raspberry, maraschino cherry, ripe plum and cedar wood. The nose and palate is supported by dense, fine-grained tannins that end in a long, clean, lingering mouthfeel.” The song was Tougher Than The Rest by Bruce Springsteen, because one has to be tough to stick one’s neck out to produce Pinotage in decent volumes and of high quality, said Kritzinger. “You don’t go home, you don’t’ go to sleep and come back the next day to see what happened. It is hectic. It’s demanding. It’s also extremely rewarding. The varietal itself stands up to the Stellenbosch heat that you get at the time when it’s almost ready for harvest. Pinotage is a tough character but you can make really elegant wines from it.”
Wine number three was the Cabernet Sauvignon, which has for the longest time been my favourite single variety but not Nicole Biondi’s. I said she could choose what was left of this bottle or what was left of the … I didn’t finish the sentence because she picked the Cab Sav, with its smooth dark fruitiness and double Veritas gold. This should tell you all you need to know about how delicious it is. The vintage was 2018, so the drinkability now gives it gold stars but it will age for up to 15 years if you cellar it properly, number one, or can wait that long, number two.
“Yes, the tannins will be obvious now but in the end the fruit is what makes a wine mature and last properly over many years. It’s quite a challenge with a single varietal Cab. You only get one chance with it; you cannot blend it with the other four varietals. You’ve got to use it as is, so you have to be on top of your game and do it right, right from the start,” said Kritzinger. “The song I chose for this, I think reflects that – About A Girl by Nirvana.”
Lastly, came the Tumara Bordeaux-style blend, named for an Arab mare still grazing the farm. It consists of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc, and spends 24 months in 100% French oak barrels. The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the same block of vines as the single varietal wine, so unsurprisingly it shines in a similar manner. As much as I’d like you all to believe I have a fairly unlimited capacity to drink wine, it’s not true; I decanted the rest of this 2018 and drank it over the next two days, as it improved exponentially. It can age quite nicely for 10 years.
Kritzinger’s song choice was Dire Straits’ Six Blade Knife, because the sixth component in the blend is the interaction between the varietals. “Every one does its little bit, but that interaction is something you cannot quanitify.”
Most of the vines on Bellevue are planted based on the bush vine method, and the farm boasts with some of the oldest blocks of vineyards in the country. Bush vines naturally produce a smaller crop and consequently good concentration. The Reserve range was created to showcase this, with elegance being the ultimate inspiration.
For more information, click here.