PASERENE is a small family-operated winery in Franschhoek owned by Martin Smith and Ndabe Mareda with the sole purpose of producing the highest-end luxury wines, which is a worthy endeavor by anyone’s standard.
On a visit to the ultramodern tasting room after a tour of the tiny cellar on a neighbouring farm where we tasted straight from the tanks and barrels, Smith guided us through his small selection of wines, including the stories behind them as well as the artwork on the labels. The name Paserene comes from the Latin word Passeriformes, the order of “travelling and free” birds containing swifts and swallows; Smith’s first name also refers to these same birds, so it all works out rather well.
“We focus on three terroirs – the imaginary areas into which I have confined this brand – Elgin, Franschhoek and Tulbagh,” explains Smith.
“I wanted to make a Napa-style Chardonnay when we started, but after tasting the grapes from Elgin I realised there was no way that was going to happen. So what we have is a Chablis style.”
The labels are as important as the wine, with much thought going into their design, and a theme of femininity and nature linking all of them. The Chardonnay label was created by a Cape Town-based artist Carmen Ziervogel and designer Lauren Ann McCarthy. The girl on represents the beauty of Mother Nature, and the area where the wine is from.
Predominantly Syrah from the Tulbagh region, along with Carignan and Mourvedre, the label for Union carries a scene set in Tulbagh and the message of unification – the two entities of the other wines, the girl (Mother Nature) and the swift (the winemaker) finally found a place to be together. The tree in the background represents stability and calmness and anchors them.
My favourite is called Marathon, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and a dash of Carménère – the “lost” sixth Bordeaux varietal. It’s a romantic tale: the word means “crimson” and refers to the colour of the autumn foliage of the vines. Its origins are in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, but it’s all but impossible to find them there today as a phylloxera plague in 1867 nearly destroyed all the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular so much so that for many years the grape was presumed extinct. And yet, here we are.
This one’s label was created by McCarthy and another Cape Town artist, Lorraine Loots. The swallow represents the Smith’s relentless pursuit of acquiring knowledge in South Africa and California to produce his style of wines.
The annual release of the Paserene Chardonnay – the 2017 vintage – will be celebrated with a swinging seafood-inspired Saturday Fish Fry on the deck of the tasting lounge on May 18 from 12.30pm till 5pm. The 2017 Chardonnay can be sipped and savoured while listening to upbeat swing music, sampling the finest seafood and relaxing in the autumn sunshine overlooking the mountains and vineyards.
Guests can expect a luxury version of fish and chips and other seafood delights prepared on the coals. There’ll be sushi, line fish with sauces and seaside dishes on the menu.
Paserene Chardonnay, in its fifth vintage, is an expression of cool-climate elegance from Elgin. The wine spent 16 months in French oak barrels, for balance between the fine acidity and a creamy oat character, making it the perfect sip for any wine lover.
“The 2017 Chardonnay is complex and layered, with a good balance between acid and creaminess. I would suggest trying it now, but also keeping a few bottles back for another year or two for the flavours to fully develop,” says Smith.
Tickets are R400 a person or R750 a couple and include the luxury seafood lunch, a glass of Chardonnay, and all the swing music you could hope for. Children under 10 enter free of charge and children between the ages of 10 – 18 years pay R110 a person. All Paserene wines will be on sale by the glass and bottle. A sneak peek of the new wine range, named Wren, will also be available for tasting. Tickets are limited and available via www.quicket.co.za