A Visit to DeGrendel:

Why making Syrahs is like taking selfies

Instagram got me thinking about winemaking…

I recently sat listening to legendary winemaker Charles Hopkins talk about De Grendel’s enormously exciting range of syrahs, and I came away thinking that making a great Syrah is like taking a great selfie.

Wait! Don’t go! Stick with me on this one.
Instagrammers, y’all know that no self-respecting social butterfly posts a #nofilter #allnatural #bestlife photo of their own face if the end result looks like a promo for a Madam Tussaud’s Boris Karloff exhibition. Nay verily. If the result is terrible, an honest narcissist will survey his surroundings, adjust his technique, and (through skill and experience) yield a far more “likable” result.
For example…
#1 No matter how much the summer rays may make your baby-blues pop all azure and crystalline, facing directly into the sunrise makes for tricky selfie conditions.
#2 Unfortunately, reversing your position may only make matters worse.
#3 Challenges also arise for anyone who may have recently developed a Lockdown-induced double chin…but in this instance, the top down approach – with a little pout – covers over a multitude of wrongs.
#4 The perfect selfie can also prove challenging, if say, for example, you aren’t Zach Efron.

So how does Degrendel Estate fit into this? Well, the story here is that DeGrendel will be adding a new Op Die Berg Syrah (with fruit from Ceres) to the exsisting Degrendel Shiraz (with fruit from Paarl and Firgrove), and the multi-multi-multi-award-winning Elim Shiraz.

While I was listening to him talk with such passion and precision about both Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc, I noticed that while he loves to assert that “your wine is really just an indication of how well you have farmed your vineyards”, the incredibly *large* number of seemingly *small* decisions that need to be made in the cellar complicate this assertion. It left me wondering if the notion of a “minimal intervention winemaker” – just like the notion of a “perfect #nofilter selfie” – is at best sincerely aspirational, and – at worst – utterly mythical.

Elim vs Paarl vs Ceres vs …??

Site determines berry size, yield and rate of ripening, which in turn determines date of harvest, transport, extraction techniques (and vessels), punchdown regimens, oak ratios (first to second to third)…and as the process unfolds, there is a cloud of sciencey numbers floating around Charles Hopkins head like a montage from a beautiful mind. But we can talk more about those in another post.
Now the skeptic might say, “ah, but that is *engineered* wine. That approach yields *contrived* flavour profiles. That approach prizes *numbers* over a sense of place.” My retort would be: “That’s madness, Boet! It’s like refusing to wash your windows because it’ll make your view less *natural*.”
The *place* determines the numbers. If one is to yield a result that is not merely “likeable” (to return to our selfie analogy) but distinctive, then one must adjust one’s technique to protect the inherent qualities of what the vineyard had to give. You need only drink these three shirazes to know that I’m right.
Honestly, I feel like Charles’s range of syrahs express “sense of place” more plainly than almost any range I’ve experienced in the country. And there are some big names playing this game.
Wine geeks will appreciate the fact that I am going to hunger strike outside DeGrendel until he allows me to recreate the tasting that we sat through at the estate.
#winelovers #shiraz #syrah #newworldwine #redwine #sitespecific #winemaking #wset #handrinkssolo #paarlwine #elimwine
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