SPICE ROUTE CHENIN BLANC 2015
Charles Back was a pioneer in the Swartland when he started Spice Route in 1998. “Without [Charles]…the Swartland would still be regarded as a rural backwater” wrote Tim Atkin. Today, the region is the source of many of South Africa’s outstanding wines, yet Spice Route remains one of the best and most credible producers in the region, due largely to the fact that they own their own vineyards. Spice Route’s 100 hectares of vineyards are situated in Malmesbury and Darling. The former, all bush trained on Malmesbury shale and red clay subsoils (the clay ensures the vineyards are dry grown), give the Grenache and Mourvèdre the intensity of fruit that makes this region so exciting. Winemaker Charl du Plessis has been with Charles for 15 years, and knows the region intricately. The winemaking is ‘hands off’, as Charl is keen to capture the flavours and structure of the outstanding fruit he has grown.
This Chenin Blanc is from a vineyard planted in 1978 in the Swartland. These trellised vineyards are planted on a south-east facing slope and are dry farmed. The soils are predominantly koffieklip (decomposed granite and iron-rich clay).
The 2015 season was one of the driest and earliest harvests in years. Conditions throughout the growing season and harvest were conducive for the production of high quality grapes. Crops were thinned out at the beginning of January in order to balance growth and tonnage. Despite one heat wave towards the end of January, the cool night-time temperatures caused the grapes to ripen slowly, which helped to maintain their natural acidity. Harvest took place two weeks earlier than usual.
The grapes were picked at different maturity levels for this wine. The first picking was done at 21.7 degree balling, with the remaining balance picked in late February, with high sugar levels and some botrytis. Bunches were gently de-stemmed and pressed. After 48 hours settling, the portion that was picked earlier was all fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness and elegance. The late picked portion, showing great complexity, was all fermented and matured in old French oak for 9 months, before the two components were blended and bottled.
ABV 13.5%; Residual Sugar 1.9g/L; Acidity 5.5g/L; Wine pH 3.43
This wine has a lovely, bright light yellow colour. The nose is complex with tropical fruits, peach and melon followed by flinty notes. The palate is rich and broad, reminiscent of the koffieklip (coffee stone) soils, with well-balanced acidity from the first picking.