Why has Lars Maack, owner of Constantia property Buitenverwachting, removed his Riesling vineyards just when interest in what can be done with the variety locally finally seems to be reaching a meaningful level?
To answer the question a bottle of his Rhine Riesling 2006 next to Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2005 from the Mosel in Germany. Not an entirely fair comparison as the Buitenverwachting was more in a Kabinett style (from normally ripe grapes) while the Dr Loosen necessarily had extra weight and concentration by virtue of being an Auslese (from very ripe, late-harvested grapes selected cluster by cluster). Even so, Maack was attempting to demonstrate that Riesling from South Africa is never going to match the Mosel for fruit purity and complexity.
The Buitenverwachting was lean, its flavours more towards the green end of the spectrum and the acidity a little hard (abv 11% and RS 6g/l). The Dr. Loosen, meanwhile, was definitely richer with more yellow fruit flavours. There was however also bright acidity ensuring great balance (abv 7.5%).
“Riesling is a cool climate variety. To make great wine from it, you need a proper winter and a fresh spring [unlike South Africa],” he says. “In any event, Riesling is a low yield, high cost variety in Constantia. If I can’t sell it above a certain price point, then I can’t play that game.”
Going forwards, Sauvignon Blanc is set to dominate even more on Buitenverwachting than it has historically. No bad thing when revisiting the absolutely splendid Husseys Vlei 2010. This wine won gold at last year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, and just seems to be getting better and better. Intense, pure fruit, good palate weight offset by a great line of acidity and a very long, saline finish. What’s currently most striking is the broad range of flavour from parprika through green and yellow pepper to yellow apple. Score: 18/20.