At 1,000 meters, the rock faces of Saronsberg (aka. Saron Peak Mountain)
begin a green cascade of rumpled ridges and water-worn gullies down into the
verdant valley at its base. Since time immemorial, the mountain’s form has been
carved by the buffeting rains and twisting currents of the South-easterlies; the
often fierce south polar winds that blow across the Cape in Spring through early
Summer. In 1488, the intrepid Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias fought his
way about in the churning seas that frame Africa’s southern tip. He depicted
this first harrowing sail by christening it Cabo das Tormentas (‘Cape of Storms’).
The winds have continued blustering over the centuries, but with the benefits of
accumulated maritime experience and sturdier ships, sailors have embraced
the more optimistic: Cabo da Boa Esperanza (‘Cape of Good Hope’). The retitling
is also credited to Bartolemeu, when to his astonishment on a returning voyage,
realized that he’d discovered the fabled and elusive sea route to India. What was
less apparent, was that he was sailing blindly past the rich potential of one of the
world’s best wine regions and some of its most accomplished wine makers!
In the 15th century, the coastal ranges of the Western Cape were occupied by
indigenous herders known as the Khoi. They were decidedly unwelcoming to this
first wave of European intruders, predictably cutting them down as soon as they
stepped ashore. It would take another 200 years of negotiated cajoling before
the displaced French Protestant Huguenot and Dutch immigrants were allowed
to exploit the land’s potential for settlement; starting the cultivation of grapevine.
300 years on from the modest beginnings, development of the fertile winelands
has continued to the present, with new zones being added or expanded in each
succeeding generation. This week’s DéClassé featured Twee Jonge Gezellen
(‘two young companions’) is an estate established in 1710 and a dynamic example
of the agricultural vision that’s been cumulatively inherited. Despite cyclical ups
and downs that are common in the challenging wine business, and with the recent,
critical infusion of new investment, it’s bearing more fruit than ever.
The property lies in the Tulbagh Valley 125 km northeast of Cape Town and is
the next outlying wine region beyond better known Stellenbosch, Frankshoek and
Paarl. With sloped vineyards in the sheltering shadow of Saronsberg mountain,
the so-called ‘rainmaker’ also provides an ample supply of irrigation. Elsewhere,
without appropriate drainage and a counterbalance of heat, the abundant rainfall
levels might be problematic. Here, there’s a balance in the 30-hectare terroir,
which current stewards, the Krone family, recognized in the 1950’s when they
first considered planting the noble varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is the South African term for a bottle-fermented
production method that results in sparkling wines. As the young wine is also left
to rest on its lees (expired yeast), imparting the telltale toasted notes, this style
emulates the basics in the classic French méthode Champenois. What’s more
regionally innovative is the regimen of cool night-harvesting, and a follow-on cold
temperature fermentation; both are key adaptations to the hot growing climate
that can otherwise, dull the brightness and acidity in white wine grapes. In this
well-crafted sparkler, Krone Vintage Rosé Cuvée Brut Sparkling 2014, it’s the
60% Pinot Noir that’s left in contact with the skins during first fermentation,
imbuing the light pink hue into the final blending with 40% Chardonnay.
Remarkably, this modest $18.95 bottling carries its vintage year, which is fairly
unusual across all price-points for premium sparkling wine. More typically, the
vintner will hold batches of previously finished wine, to be judiciously added to the
current vintage; maintaining year-to-year consistency. Here, as in so many facets
of modern SA winemaking wisdom, the vintner elects to let each harvest reveal
its unique character, with less intervention. Evidently, 2014 was a splendid year.
Buy two; serve well chilled to add a touch of pink delight to Christmas morning!
KRONE VINTAGE ROSE CUVEE BRUT SPARKLING 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #130047 | 750 mL bottle
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Made in Tulbagh, South Africa
By: Twee Jonge Gezellen
Release Date: November 28, 2015
This refreshing sparkler with a refined mousse offers flavours and aromas of
pomegranate, red apple and citrus. As expected from the fermentation method,
it also finishes with some subtle baking notes. Try serving as apéritif with herbed
cheese crostini, a roasted Goose stuffed with apple or baked smoked ham.