Receiving grapes from some 715ha and typically processing 8 000 tons a year, Stellenbosch Hills is one of the former cooperatives turned private companies of growers which don’t get much air time but still play a significant role in the SA wine industry.
The stand-out wine at today’s new release tasting was the 1707 Red Reserve 2014, a blend of 50% Shiraz, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot which sells for R105 a bottle. Matured for 24 months in a combination of American and French oak, 100% new, it’s a rock-solid offering – red and black fruit plus a touch of fynbos on the nose, good concentration, bright acidity and firm but fine tannins on the palate.
The 1707 White Reserve 2014 (R80 a bottle) meanwhile flirts with greatness but ultimately comes across as stylistically misguided. A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Semillon, 10 Viognier, it was fermented and matured for 10 months in 100% new oak. There are suggestions of very good fruit both aromatically and flavour-wise but basically wood dominates, making it appear very much behind current thinking.
Cheeky journalists at the launch function made up a blend of approximately two-thirds Reserve White combined with one-third unwooded Chenin (from 30-something year old vineyards and selling for R38 a bottle) and a much more pleasing wine resulted with better fruit definition and greater freshness. C’mon, Stellenbosch Hills make both your accountants and the average punter happy by holding back on the oak.