Yesterday lunch at Wild Fig restaurant in Mowbray with the maverick Pieter de Waal who makes wines under the Hermit on the Hill label. He showed four flights of wines, each flight containing three wines, two of his plus a comparable French example. “The French stuff is all wines I would’ve like to have made,” said De Waal.
Hermit on the Hill The Infidel Natural Fermentation 2010 (100% Sauvignon Blanc)
Henri Bourgeois La Côtes des Monts Damnés 2009 Sancerre
Hermit on the Hill The White Knight 2009 (roughly two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc, one-third Semillon, dash of Muscat de Frontignan)
Hermit on the Hill The Sauvignier 2009 (50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Viognier)
Château Doisy-Daëne 2008 Bordeaux
Hermit on the Hill Aurora Blanc 2010 (barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc)
Hermit on the Hill The Red Knight 2009 (75% Durbanville Syrah, 10% Paarl Syrah, 15% Paarl Cinsaut)
Hermit on the Hill The Second Crusade 2008 (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre)
Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau Châteuneuf du Pape 2008
Hermit on the Hill Syrah 2007 (Stellenbosch)
Saint Cosme Cote Rotie 2008
Hermit on the Hill Syrah 2007 (Paarl)
De Waal’s departure point is “to make authentic wines which offer great drinkability while remaining affordable” and on price at least, he delivers – the most expensive wine in the range is the Syrah 2007 from Stellenbosch at a very reasonable R80 a bottle (yet-to-be released Aurora Blanc set to be the same).
I thought it was a brave act on the part of De Waal to put his own wines up against some very good French wines, the danger being that they might be overshadowed and yet this wasn’t the case. I particularly like The White Knight 2009, which is elegant and sophisticated with great fruit expression and a good line of acidity. As for the reds, the Stellenbosch Syrah has concentrated dark fruit, fresh acidity and firm tannins as was my most preferred although De Waal distances himself from it somewhat, saying that he now finds it too ostentatious.
In the end, however, wine of the day was French: the Vieux Télégraphe showing balance and restraint and making for a more profound drinking experience than De Waal’s Second Crusade, also very good but more sweet-fruited and ready with its favours.