OVUM WINES, JOHN HOUSE & KSENIJA KOSTIC, Newburg
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- LUDDITE, NIELS PENNY VERBURG, Bot River
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- RADFORD DALE “THIRST” - Organic
OVUM WINES, JOHN HOUSE & KSENIJA KOSTIC, Newburg
John House and Ksenija Kostic both have day jobs so they're able to take risks with Ovum. For example, they focus solely on
whites rather than more lucrative reds. "They are unveiled, so raw," explains House. "You can't hide anything. I think whites
are a better conduit for terroir (the expression of a vineyard site) than red wines."
Where a larger winery might ferment whites quickly in large, temperature-controlled steel tanks for a consistency of style
from year to year, the goal at Ovum is to reflect the vintage, no matter what it brings. So the techniques are old-school: House
and Kostic allow fermentation to happen spontaneously and linger for months, in neutral (old) oak barrels. The resulting
wines are richly textured and deeply layered.
The name "Ovum" is a reference to the perfect natural shape of the egg, and the life cycle a wine takes, from grape to bottle.
And, yes, for all you wine geeks out there, these guys do have one of those au courant egg-shaped concrete fermenters. "There
is a special convection that occurs in the concrete egg during fermentation that constantly stirs the lees," House explains.
"The natural energy and heat generated by the yeasts make the sediment move in a circular fashion, making, in my
experience, wines on the most mineral end of the spectrum."
House and Kostic have made it their mission to find the state's best old plantings of overlooked varieties like Muscat and
Gewurztraminer. Their explorations have led them to highlight different vineyards, often in unexpected regions, with each
vintage. "There are parts of southern Oregon we find very compelling," says House. "I just got an e-mail from someone who
has plantings of Riesling, farmed organically in the Umpqua Valley since 1979. Where has this fruit been going until now? It
has been blended."
BIG SALT ~ Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat
GEWURZTRAMINER LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME
RIESLING OFF THE GRID
RIESLING WHALE MEMORISTA
STATERA CELLARS, LUKE MATTHEWS & MEREDITH BELL, Carlton - Organic
Luke Matthews and Meredith Bell are the co-vignerons at Statera Cellars (Statera means balance)
Meredith has made wine at the legendary Bass Phillip in Australia and also worked in Burgundy at Domaine de la Pousse
d’Or. Their project (funded by Kickstarter) was to make authentic terroir-driven Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley.
The winery itself is in Carlton, but the three vineyards are on different terroirs in the Willamette Valley. Meredith and Luke
only work with organically farmed fruit and have selected three single vineyards in Willamette. Each of the wines is a entirely
different expression of Charonnay – yet the winemaking is the same in each cse.
The Johan Vineyard Chardonnay is from a Demeter certified vineyard - the whole farm is a living organism.
This, one of the coldest sites in the Willamette benefitting from the cooling winds of the Van Duzer corridor, produces wines
with extraordinary acid and freshness.
The winemaking is sympathetic to the origins of the wine. The Chardonnays are always fermented with indigenous yeasts in
used barrels with just a little stirring at the beginning before letting the ferment go. No sulphur is added nor adjustments
during ferment. No filtration or fining and only a small amount of SO2 at bottling.
Note: I was not looking for an Oregon Chardonnay but was intrigued that a winery should only make Chardonnay. I tried the
other two cuvees which were very good, but this blew me away with its sheer verve and minerality. It reminded me a 1er cru
Chablis and then some. The quality of the farming allied to low-intervention winemaking brings out the full potential of the
“JOHAN VINEYARD” CHARDONNAY
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LA GARAGISTA, DEIRDRE HEEKIN & CALEB BARBER, BARNARD, Vermont - Biodynamic
La Garagista Farm + Winery began in 2010. Deirdre and Caleb farm three parcels of co-planted, alpine varietals that are
horticultural crosses of vinifera and native riparia and labrusca vines. The family trees of these varietals are quite baroque
and uniquely American. They practice biodynamic and also pull from organic and permacullture concepts. Firstly, in the
home farm and vineyard in the Chateauguay, a protected forest in Barnard, Vermont (1600 feet) where they also grow
vegetables and fruit and raise some livestock for their restaurant Osteria Pane e Salute. The farm is a polyculture project with
vegetables, orchards, flower gardens, vines, and chickens all interplanted. The chickens are particularly interplanted They
also raise pigs on farm, utilizing them to naturally till new ground and to be the source of their farm-cured charcuterie. In the
vineyard, they co-plant vegetables between the vines focusing on root vegetables, escaroles and chicories, and flowers, all
things that aid the soils in this parcel. The two other parcels are in the Champlain Valley (184/194 feet) and are close to Lake
Champlain. No-till and natural field cover crops are part of the farming at these two vineyards, encouraging the flora and
fauna particular to each microclimate.
The name Grace & Favour is inspired by Hampton Court. La Crescent is descendent from Muscat d’Ambourg, also known as
Black Hambourg. The Great Vine at Hampton Court is Black Hambourg. Caleb and I made a pilgrimage to pay our respects
to the Vine and while there read some of the history of Hampton Court. After Richelieu took over the palace from Henry the
, the apartments in the palace were given to ladies in waiting and chevaliers in “grace and favour”. We thought this was a
perfect nod to La Crescent’s parentage”. Currently, this wine is only available in the London market.
Vimu Jancu and Harlots and Ruffians each have their stories. The former is homage to Salvo Foti’s Vinu Jancu in Sicily. Vinu
Jancu means white wine in Sicilian dialect, but also an old~style white wine that was always fermented on skins
intimate vineyard with essentially a natural clos. This vineyard works in a way, defying probability, one that allows Deirdre
and Caleb to keep it fairly wild. Three primary flora grow up into the canopy of the vines: purple aster, daisy fleabane, and
wild mint. It is composted naturally with coyote and deer scat which roam through the vineyard in the winter months. This
wine has five weeks on skins in the glass demi-johns.
Harlots is 50% La Crescent (descendent from Muscat d’Ambourg) + 50 % Frontenac Gris (descendent from Aramon and
Muscat d’Alexandria) from the Vergennes vineyard in Champlain, a broad open field five miles from the lake. The grapes are
harvested by hand, destemmed into open fibreglass vats, then five weeks on skins before press. Indigenous yeasts, ambient
ferment, malo for the La Crescent before bottling with a minmum amount of added sulphur. “An Orange Omelet for Harlots
and Ruffians is a medieval Italian dish that we make at our restaurant, the orange ingredient used believed to inspire the
debauched to purity. The citrus and creamy notes are reminiscent of this dish for us”. (writes Deirdre)
is 90% Marquette (descendent from Pinot Noir), 10% La Crescent (descendent from Muscat d’Ambourg) from
the same vineyard as the Harlots. Yields are a mere 8.5hl/ha. The wine takes its name from the glass demi-johns in which it is
fermented and aged.
Loups-Garoux speaks of the woodland and is mercurial in nature. Deirdre and Caleb use typical biodynamic preps of horn
manure, silica, horsetail, stinging nettle, kaolin clay, and small amounts of minerals copper and sulphur due to intense
humidity and also experiment with plant medicines provided by the vineyard floor when needed. Loups is 100% Frontenac
Noir destemmed into small open fibreglass vats for wild ferment and then into 59 gallon seven year old Burgundian casks for
ageing. No sulphur is used in the making of this wine.
This wine is made essentially like a ripasso on the vine. Because of its naturally high acidity, they wait until about half of
each bunch is raisined then pick the whole bunches, seeking the tension between the raisined fruit and the fresh.
This Valpol-style approach yields aromas of blood sausage, bruised sour black plums and notes of bitter chocolate and
roasted herbs. This would be great with venison or meat cooked with wild berry fruit
The wines are stunning – the whites (which are amber-hued) wildly floral with flavours of orange marmalade, cloves, wild
mint and strawberry leaf. They are nourishing. La Crescent expresses the different terroirs of the vineyards in the most
eloquent way imaginable. The reds are very different. All share this Alpine meadow character; Deirdre has captured
something unique here.
GRACE AND FAVOUR PET NAT
SI CONFONDE WHITE
HARLOTS AND RUFFIANS WHITE
VINU JANCU WHITE
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The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy hand in mine With pulses that beat double. What I do and what I dream
include thee, as the wine Must taste of its own grapes. Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Sonnets
Several years ago I wrote: “If you had to hold up a country
as an example of how not to do it, vis-à-vis wine, then South
Africa would be in pole position.” Most of the reasons were
historical. During the eighties, before apartheid came to an
end, other countries were able to invest heavily in vines and
technology, whilst South African growers were left out of
the loop. Secondly, the co-operative system which for so
long determined prices and production, although it
established security for the industry, neither promoted
quality nor encouraged innovation. There had to be a major
undertaking to abandon the age-old habit of growing as
many vines as possible on the same estate on easy-to-
cultivate land. Sensible measures, such as planting higher up
on hillsides in search of cooler climates, are only a
comparatively recent phenomenon. Having said all that there
are encouraging signs: the Coastal Region has an ideal
climate to produce quality grapes and there are some
fascinating examples of Pinotage. And the IPW (Integrated
Production of Wine) system officially launched in 1998 has
set benchmarks for quality that are beginning to bite. My
sneaky feeling is that more growers should experiment with
Rhône and Italian grape varieties rather than adding to the
world’s brimming reservoirs of Chardonnay and Cabernet.
And so to the present day. That chomping noise you hear is
me eating my air-dried words liberally barbecued with
humble grape pie. Within the past couple of years strong
identification of terroir allied to a sensitive organic approach
to winemaking has driven quality of South African wines
remorselessly forward. I’ve tasted great Cabernet, Merlot
(and blends thereof), Shiraz is improving and Grenache,
especially where there are old vines, is a star. Synergistic
(yes, it’s the revival of that buzzword) blends are in fashion,
oak is being used to highlight rather than obliterate the fruit,
the approach to winemaking is certainly more considered at
every stage of the process.
The (Fun) Winery team encompasses everything
characteristic about the ‘New South Africa’. A diverse
cultural and racial mosaic, combining indigenous
South Africans with Northern Hemisphere adoptees -
a blending of ideas, of values and of purpose, creating
a natural dynamic for innovation and success. The
Winery's distinctive range reflects entirely separate
styles. Each range has its own raison d'etre,
independent of the others, though complementary to
the bigger picture. The wines have a pleasing restraint
from the Burgundian Radford Dale Chardonnay to the
very mineral wines from Black Rock and Vinum.
Working organically across all their ranges, with very
low yields in the vineyard, making wines with less
extraction and oak flavouring The Winery has
embraced change with relish.
The Winery is definitely a winery to watch, so to
speak. This year they have been recognised by the
respected John Platter which garnishes virtually all the
offerings with plentiful stars – and quite right.
If The Winery covers many bases extremely capably
then Niels Verburg’s Luddite is a one off speciality.
This is a knock-your-socks-off-and-marinate-your-
toes-in-it-Shiraz, a wine so generous you’ll be smiling
for days. This year we have brought on board even
more wines from. Craig Hawkins in the Swartland. He
is pushing the natural boundaries, making natural (&
skin contact!) Chenin with fantastic energy. And now
With the rise of the Australian and New Zealand
dollar, South Africa is where the “bang-for-spring-
buck” is. Now all they have to do is to learn how to
play rugby again.
LUDDITE, NIELS & PENNY VERBURG, Bot River
Niels Verburg founded Luddite wines in 1999 with the express intention of making world-class Shiraz. He has recently
purchased a 10-hectare hillside vineyard in cool Walker Bay and we await the fruits of these grapes with keen interest. This
entirely creditable effort is made from bought in grapes from unirrigated vineyards in the warmish regions of Malmesbury
wine was pressed with the horizontal basket press into tank where it underwent malolactic fermentation. Barrels were 30 per
cent new, 50 per cent second fill and 20 per cent fourth fill. 75 per cent French Allier and 25 per cent American barrels were
used. Total of 12 months in barrel. Wine was racked and given a light filtration before bottling. The Luddite Chenin expresses
the nature of this grape in the Bot River. Batches of free run juice and pressed juice were put in barrel without settling and
allowed to ferment naturally. This was combined with a skin ferment component regular punch downs. The wine was left on
lees for 12 months with regular batonnage (all old barrels) – no sulphur was added to allow the wine to develop its own
characteristics without any intervention. The fruit is all Bot River from a couple of vineyards including some very old vines at
Avontzon Farm. Peachy apricot with hints of honey and spice come to the fore, rich, mouth filling entry with yellow peach,
melons, raisins and spice. Good fruit sweetness balanced by clean, citrus tones create a beautifully balanced wine with a
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I look at a stream and I see myself: a native South African, flowing irresistibly over hard obstacles until they become smooth and, one day,
disappear - flowing from an origin that has been forgotten toward an end that will never be.
These mature, prime vineyards are located on the slopes of the magnificent Helderberg Mountain, facing the ocean, in a
south-westerly and south-easterly orientation. They consistently produce some of the finest Chenin grapes in the
Stellenbosch Region, where the great Chenins of South Africa are produced. All picking and sorting was by hand. The
bunches were then de-stemmed, very gently pressed in a pneumatic bag press, and the juice settled in chilled stainless steel
tanks prior to fermentation. This took place mainly in tank, on the lees, with less than 5% being transferred into small, new
Burgundian barrels. Kept on the lees for six months, with regular batonnage, both in tank and in barrel, ultimate freshness
was preserved, whilst developing considerable fruit complexity and depth in the wine; achieving a wonderful minerality on
the palate. Bottled young, after seven months maturation, the wine retains lively fruit, steely acidity and abundant
aromatic concentration: the exact qualities you’d expect from beautiful old vines. The nose hints at the wonderful elegance
of this wine. White petals, citrus crispness, gentle vanilla, spicy cinnamon. The palate unfolds layers of fresh lime, deep,
opulent fruitiness, and tingling spices -all wrapped in very subtle and harmonious notes of French oak, hanging on the
palate with a mineral resonance. In essence, it has immense personality. A wonderfully balanced combination of the finer
attributes of good Cape Chenin. For best results decant and serve not too cold alongside some grilled wild salmon (if
The Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in tank and then matured in a mixture of tank and barrel (80% French oak, 20%
American, one third new). The deep, shiny cherry hue and smooth, rich spicy nose beget individual flavours, a layered
structure & generous fruit. The aim is to combine the classic structure of Old World Cabs, with a nod to the warmth of the
New World’s accessible fruit. Intelligent oaking complements rather than dominates the wine, allowing it to reflect its
origin’s natural flavours. Cigar box, blueberry, cherry and mocha mingle seamlessly – quite a mouthful. The wine also
shows some secondary development of leather, truffle and tobacco.
VINUM CHENIN BLANC – stelvin
VINUM CABERNET SAUVIGNON
RADFORD DALE “THIRST” - Organic
This unconventional Gamay is grown in the warm region of Wellington. The old vines from which the fruit for this
wine is harvested grow in deep alluvial soils and have never been irrigated. Planted on the lower slopes of the on
the Eastern bank of the Berg River with a West facing aspect, the grapes ripen in the warm conditions of the region.
Low, single wire trellising and the sprawling growth pattern of the variety mean that grapes are carried within the
canopy, which shelters the thin-skinned bunches from too much direct sunlight, thus conserving natural acidity and
freshness. Yields are small, as can be expected from a vineyard of this age.
Following a pre-selection process in the vineyards, the grapes are picked by hand at sunrise into 15kg lug-boxes. They are
then ferried to the winery on the Helderberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. The hour long journey is carried-out early in the
morning, before the sun has time to raise temperatures. Here, thebunches are hand sorted over a rolling sorting table whole
clusters are then placed in stainless steel fermentation tanks. Dry ice is employed to ensure the tanks are saturated with
Co2 before any fermentation starts, thus encouraging the carbonic maceration that gives this wine is unique character.
While this intracellular, enzymatic process takes place over the course of 10 to 12 days, the wine is only pumped over once
or twice. The focus being on the gentlest extraction possible while also allowing a homogeneous medium. The whole
bunches are then basket pressed and the wine then transferred to tank, to complete its alcoholic fermentation. By this time
the malolactic fermentation is mostly complete as a result of the carbonic maceration. The wine is matured for a short while
(3 months) on lees and then racked. The wine is not fined or filtered. Nothing has been taken away or added, except for a
small amount of SO2 before bottling. From the vibrant, pink hue with purple tinge on the rim to the soft, yet striking
strawberry and cranberry aromas of the nose, this wine refuses to be defined by the rules of modern conventional
winemaking. The palate shows a range of red fruits and a touch of tomato leaf, before a bracing acidity brings the wine to a
long, clean finish. Light, supple tannins provide texture and a lift in the finish which refreshes and rewards at the same
time. Utterly moreish, this wine seems to disappear out of the glass on its own. The wine is lean and fine but my no means
simple. It intrigues with its subtle vivacity and nonconfomist attitude.
The Cinsault comes from youngish vines on sandy soils of the Moddergat River. Whole bunch ferment in stainless steel with
native yeats, 14 days on stems with occasional pump-overs. No filtration or fining and sulphur added only at bottling.
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