Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2012

Cool cat.

Cool cat.

Selling for R275 a bottle, Leeuwenkuil Heritage Syrah 2012 was Wine Cellar director Roland Peens’s top wine of 2014 which is quite an endorsement (read more here).

What makes it special? Grapes come from a vineyard on schist soils on the southern slopes of Riebeek Mountain where Boekenhoutskloof, Mullineux-Leeu and Rupert are all apparently investing with Rudiger Gretschel, who’s head winemaker for Vinimark and has been instrumental in Reyneke’s rise to prominence, overseeing production.

It’s extraordinarily fragrant – red fruit, purple flowers, fynbos and spice but also a little earth and some reduction to keep things interesting. The palate shows great depth of flavour without being weighty, fresh acidity and nicely grippy tannins. A very poised wine – all component elements sitting very well together.

Is it a new benchmark? I think it’s more successful than Porseleinberg 2012 for instance on account of being less attenuated (it has a back-label abv of 14% compared to Porseleinberg’s 13.5%) but I’m not sure it’s a game-changer.

There are no obvious shortcomings but it does have whole-bunch ferment written all over it. Clever whole-bunch but whole-bunch nevertheless and Swartland winemakers may contend that they’re going this route for greater perfume and silkier tannins but basically the realisation has dawned that the Swartland is quite hot and whole-bunch gives their reds the impression of freshness that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Rather whole-bunch character than dead fruit, however.

Score: 93/100.

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3 Comments

  1. Hennie TaljaardJanuary 14, 2015 at 12:07 pmReply

    Not all Swartland Independent winemakers is keen on stalks. Take for example JC Wickens, who I think gets the balance right with good fruit & body and less stalk taste.

  2. Hennie TaljaardJanuary 13, 2015 at 4:59 pmReply

    What you are saying about the warm climate is interesting. Perhaps one can argue that if they really want to make wines true to the Swartland landscape, it should in fact have less acidity, be fuller and riper?

    • Christian EedesJanuary 14, 2015 at 8:23 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Hennie, Whole bunch fermentation is a good idea in principle but much depends on execution. I find that the the whole bunch character is often too much to the fore – because of the Swartland’s warm growing conditions, everything happens pretty quickly towards the end of season with sugar ripeness outpacing phenolic ripeness. Pick early in the hope of achieving lower alcohols and extra refinement and the problem is that the stalks are going to be excessively “green”. Pyrazine-derived herbal character is rightly not tolerated so why should “stalkiness” be permitted?

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