Nitida Calligraphy 2010

July 22, 2011
by Christian
in What I Drank Last Night
with 3 Comments

Cassia's Warren Swaffield at work in the Nitida cellar.

Yesterday five different dishes served with a single wine, Bordeaux-style red blend Calligraphy 2010 from Durbanville property Nitida, the point of the exercise to demonstrate the wine’s versatility.

First up was choc-chilli venison soup prepared by Warren Swaffield of on-site restaurant Cassia, which I thought was inspired, bringing the subtle oak-derived flavours of the wine to the fore. Swaffield’s seared tuna with Cajun spices was however not as successful, the heat of the dish a little too much for the wine to handle.

Helena Bester of Tables, the other restaurant located at Nitida, opted for “Imam’s Surprise”, a variation of Imam Bayildi, a dish consisting of eggplant, tomato, onion and feta with mixed origanum and sesame seed to the side of the plate and the wine accommodated the more gentle spices well. Her Irish lamb stew that followed might have been the most traditional accompaniment to the wine but arguably worked the best, the wine looking at its most harmonious.

Ice-cream cake (prepared by Nitida cellarmaster Bernhard Veller) and dumplings (by winemaker RJ Botha) finished off the meal, and as ever, I was surprised how well wine works with ice-cream.

Vellar, who established Nitida in 1992, says his “first love” is Bordeaux blends and he first attempted such a wine in 1997 when he co-fermented Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Calligraphy dates from 1999 when some Cabernet Sauvignon was included in the mix and the wine was made every year until 2004, when an infestation of leaf-roll virus meant the vineyards had to be replaced. No 2005, a 2006 from grapes acquired from nearby Altydgedacht, no 2007 or 2008. The new vineyards came on line in 2009 and Botha promptly won the title of Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year with the wine from that year.

The Calligraphy 2010 is a blend of 48% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Petit Verdot and spent 11 months in barrel, 25% new. Medium bodied, fresh and elegant, it drinks very well now. Does it have maturation potential? A serving of the 1999 at the end of lunch which was very much alive suggests that it indeed it does.

Being from cool-climate Durbanville, these red wines have a distinct herbal edge to them but this serves them well, adding to their refreshment value. There’s a difference between green aromas and flavours that are the consequence of under-ripe fruit and those that are present in a wine due to cooler growing conditions. It would be a pity if the pre-occupation with wines of weight and power in some critical circles eventually resulted in their being no place for wines like Calligraphy.

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3 Comments

  1. KwispedoorJuly 24, 2011 at 5:14 pmReply

    Eish, only eight harvests from the vineyards before virus decimated it – tough break..!

  2. Bernhard VellerJuly 22, 2011 at 3:13 pmReply

    The 1999 as made from vines in their 3 rd harvest. this compares with the current 2010 that was made with Merlot & Cab Franc from their second harvest. i was the wine maker at the time and am still very involved with the current production

  3. KwispedoorJuly 22, 2011 at 8:40 amReply

    “Does it have maturation potential? A serving of the 1999 at the end of lunch which was very much alive suggests that it indeed it does.” – A bit of a stretch perhaps to make a connection between 1999 and 2010’s maturation potential? I’m not saying the 2010 Calligraphy hasn’t got good ageing potential, but it’s made by a winemaker using fruit from a very young vineyard (the upside is absence – thus far – of virus, but of course there are downsides to such young vineyards). Conversely, the 1999 was made by a different winemaker from an entirely different vineyard (virus-affected, but mature).

    I do agree with your last paragraph, though. Good stuff.

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