As featured in the last issue of Business Day WANTED: “Magic in the bottle” claims the back label of Genie, the Brut Rosé 2007 from Robertson property Silverthorn, and it’s difficult not to come under the spell of this appealing pink bubbly.
The wine is made by John Loubser, whose day job is cellarmaster and general manager at Steenberg in Constantia. Silverthorn was acquired by the father of Loubser’s wife Karen in the early 1970s and for many years grapes were sold to Ashton Kelder. Returns were always less than desirable, however, and in 2004, Loubser made his first bubbly under the Silverthorn label, a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) called The Green Man after the mystical figure representing trees, plants and foliage.
Current release is the 2007. A small portion of the base wine was barrel fermented and altogether it spent two years on the lees (spent yeast cells) for extra complexity. Total production was 290 cases and it has a recommended retail price of R160 a bottle
The Blanc de Blancs soon demanded a companion Rosé, the 2007 being the maiden vintage of Genie. What’s unusual about the wine is that it is made from Shiraz, despite the conventional variety for Rosé Champagne and Méthode Cap Classique (the local designation for bottle fermented sparkling wine) being Pinot Noir.
Sparkling wine from Shiraz is something of an Australian oddity and they can be pretty dire, so why Shiraz for Silverthorn? “Ideally I would’ve like to have worked with Pinot Noir but there’s none planted on the farm so the fact that it’s made from Shiraz is a little bit by default,” says Loubser.
Even so, he feels that Shiraz tannins are generally softer than those of Pinot Noir, no bad thing when it comes to bubbly production, where elegance is key. The grapes were whole bunch pressed with a very low recovery rate of only 550 liters per ton to further ensure no bitter tannins were extracted. Again, two years on the lees.
So how did Loubser’s effort turn out? The wine shows plenty of juicy red fruit as well as an intriguing spicy note before a bracingly dry finish. It perhaps does not have quite the finesse of a great Pinot Noir-based pink bubbly, but it’s well put together and the flavour profile, while not classic, certainly isn’t dull. As for the name, Shiraz supposedly originates from Persia and this, in turn, led the Loubsers to embrace the concept of genies, the mischievous, free-willed spirits of Arabian mythology. We could probably all do with a little more mischief in our lives.
Silverthorn Wines, 021 712 7239, www.silverthornwines.co.za
Another top drop
Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2009
Noble Late Harvest wines are so called because they are made from grapes infected by “noble rot” or the fungal growth botrytis cinerea that essentially concentrates the juice into a sugar-rich pulp. The first sweet wine to be made from grapes infected with noble rot was Nederburg Edelkeur back in 1969, and the Paarl winery remains one of the country’s leading practitioners of this style of wine to this day. Edelkeur (from Chenin Blanc) and its sister wine Eminence (from Muscat de Frontignan) are made for sale at the annual Nederburg auction and typically demand a premium. The more generally available Winemaster’s Reserve however is also of excellent quality and very reasonably priced. The 2009 vintage, a blend of 87% Chenin Blanc and 13% Muscat de Frontignan, sells for R61 per 375ml bottle from the cellar. Call 021 862 3104 for more information.