The (soon-to-be) Famous Five: A Noble Vice Wine Festival 2021 Report
A showcase of some exciting wines from emerging South African winemakers
(originally published in 2016)
The Noble Vice Festival is one of the most important events for any South African wine lover wanting a glimpse something of what the future holds for local wine.
If one were to try to define the single ethos that connects all producers on show, it would simply be the seemingly genuine commitment to wine first and commerce second. This ultimately allows for the birth and growth of wines and wine projects that perhaps would never have seen the light of day, if their success or failure had been determined by a pitch in an episode of The Shark Tank.
Now this is not to say that many of these winemakers are not financially viable (yay, verily, some be ballin’). But rather I mean to say that viability and profitability have never been their raison d’être, and as a result, the wines they produce are unconstrained by what’s considered “an easy sell” in the local market. This, my friends, is the ideal hunting ground for genuine wine adventures.
The purpose of this post…
…is not to punt the rockstars at the top of their game (IE @crystallumwine and their showstopping Ferum Chardonnay, or Radforddale’s superlative Antidote Gamay Noir, or Miles Mossop and his Max Bordeaux Blend) but rather to highlight the wines from some relatively fresh-faced newcomers, who I think are incredibly exciting:
⓵ Bringing Back the Joy Sauvignon Blanc
– made by winemaker Chris Groenewald of Pounding Grape
It’s vivid, and textured, and explosive, and moody. A car crash of elderflower and asparagus and kiwi fruit and cut grass. A lot to take in in just one sitting…which is why it deserves an entire evening with just you and your glass.
There is an argument to be made that you cannot consistently put great wine into a bottle, unless you have a palate that can consistently recognise greatness as it emerges in the cellar. One must be sufficiently attuned to distinguish between the “rather nice” and the “truly sublime”. So it’s worth noting that Chris is the 2021 South African Blind Wine Tasting Champion.
⓶ Stars in the Dark Syrah – Minimalist Wines
Probably my favourite red wine of the day.
Not unlike the man himself, Sam’s Stars in the Dark Syrah (and his Connect the Dots Blended Syrah) are impressively groomed and tidy in their expression (clean, balanced, light-footed), while still possessing a sort of nervous tension that simmers below the surface. It’s the contrast between pretty, clean fruit elements, and the tightly-coiled cherry acidity that makes the whole experience so intriguing.
For someone who, became a winemaker “almost by accident” Sam appears to possess a very deliberate sense of where he’s going with his wines.
The Stars in the Dark Cape Agulhas Syrah 2020 is currently sold out, but the Connect the Dots Blended Syrah is still available from his website.
⓷ Om Pinot Noir 2020 – Saurwein
– made by winemaker Jessica Saurwein.
⓸ Old Vine Colombard 2020 – Rebel Rebel Wines
– made by winemaker Kayleigh Hattingh
As Kaapzicht’s winemaker (working alongside owner Danie Steytler Jr) Kayleigh is probably best known for her award-winning Kaapzicht 1947 Old Vine Chenin.
The Rebel Rebel range is her David-Bowie inspired bid to further express her own vision for what South African wine can be. As a promising start, she has released this Old Vine Colombard, which joins the rising wave of bottlings that are quite persuasively arguing that, like Chenin before it, Colombard may have a more esteemed future than its bulk-production-workhorse history may suggest.
She also has a Rebel Rebel Syrah. Both are available from WineCellar.co.za
⓹ Hemel-en-Aarde Syrah 2020 – Lielie van Saron Wines
– made by winemaker Natasha Williams.
Both this Syrah and her Lelie van Saron Chardonnay use fruit sourced from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, showing a clear affinity for South Africa’s cooler climate vineyards.
If you haven’t tasted the Bosman Family Vineyards Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Pinot Noir, made under the guiding hand of Corlea Fourie, it’s also well worth hunting down.