Van Zyl Du Toit, who joined Allée Bleue as winemaker in July 2009 after almost twelve years at Simonsig is a fund of pop-cultural aphorisms. “Plan the dive. Dive the plan,” he says, quoting former boss and Simonsig cellarmaster Johan Malan. Allée Bleue which is situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek was acquired by Wilfred and Elke Dauphin of office furniture fame in 1999 and first bottling was in 2001. “That makes us ten years old, roughly the same age as Capaia, De Grendel, Diemersfontein and Groote Post. We should have a higher profile than we do.”
Du Toit took over from Gerda Willers, and while she enjoyed some success most notably with her Pinotage twice placing in the Absa Top 10 and her Isabeau white blend attracting a loyal following, it is clear that Du Toit’s brief is to up the ante.
“I’m a winemaker not a wine-happener,” says Du Toit, and he’s keenly aware that he needs to put stuff in the bottle that gets both critics and punters talking. Yesterday saw the launch of three wines, the production of which was either partially or directly his responsibility.
First up, a Méthose Cape Classique Brut Rosé 2009, Willers having made the base wine and Du Toit seeing it through secondary fermentation and disgorgement. It’s from 53% Chenin Blanc and 47% Pinotage so is “proudly South African” rather than “classically styled”.
The wine is very pale orange in colour and is rather neutral on both nose and palate but does show fresh acidity. Not the most complex bubbly but Allée Bleue has over 50 weddings booked for the coming summer season and Du Toit reveals that it’s pretty much sold out already (price per bottle R89.50). Long involved in the production of Kaapse Vonkel at Simonsig, he’s persuaded the property’s management to let him make an additional bubbly from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and you suspect it will be worth looking out for.
Next a Shiraz Rosé 2010, made in a generous, fruit-driven style, and at least not as bland as so many examples of Rosé are. It’s just qualifies as a “dry” wine coming in at 4.8g/l of residual sugar. “Sweet? I prefer to think of it as showing ‘purity of fruit’,” says Du Toit. Price per bottle from the tasting room is R32.
Last a Chenin Blanc 2010, which Du Toit says he positioned stylistically somewhere between the standard Chenin Blanc and more premium Chenin Avec Chêne that he used to make at Simonsig. Grapes were sourced from both Franschhoek and Walker Bay and carries dual certification as a result. After half the ferment was completed in tank, the wine was put into French oak barrels, a combination of 400-litre and 500-litre in size, 25% new. It was then left on the lees for six months before bottling. To spice things up, the final wine contains a small portion of Viognier.
This is the smartest of the new releases, with great fruit expression and carefully judged oak. At R39 a bottle, it over-delivers on quality relative to price point but as Du Toit says “Allée Bleue is an emerging brand…”
Expect some exciting stuff from Du Toit in the future. There are 25ha under vine on Allée Bleue and while he concedes that the Franschhoek Valley floor is generally not the best location in the country, he reckons that there are pockets that will produce excellent quality. He also buys in fruit from areas he’s identified as having great potential: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Banhoek, Shiraz and Pinotage from Pikenierskloof and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Walker Bay. And his last quip of the day is from the slogan printed on a t-shirt given to him by a cooper: “No wood, no good. No good, no medals. No medals, no job.” He knows he needs silverware and he’s going to go out and get it.