On Friday, a dinner to sample the new releases from Durbanville estate Hillcrest. The venue was a marquee next to the huge disused quarry on the farm – up to 1984, what was then Anglo Alpha had used the property to obtain rock for use in the production of concrete and road base and hence the excavations.
It was subsequently acquired by Rick Haw and Pete Inglis to accommodate the head office and workshop of their construction company Haw & Inglis and the potential for growth of quality wine was soon recognized. Maiden vintage of a wine under a Hillcrest label was 2002 and today the property produces some 160 tons of grapes, about 100 tons sold to nearby Durbanville Hills and the rest being processed for own purposes.
Graeme Reed, originally a marine biologist, is winemaker, perhaps his proudest moment to date being when the Hillcrest Merlot 2005 won the trophy for best in class at the 2008 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.
His latest efforts included a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2008 Merlot called “Quarry” and a 2008 Bordeaux-style red blend called “Hornvels”. Discussing the Sauvignon, Read says he gave the wine extra skin-contact in order to achieve a wine that was “more rich and full-bodied” Disarmingly honest, he confesses that the extra phenolics which resulted made the wine prone to “pinking” after bottling. He was subsequently advised that exposing the wine to UV light was a means of eliminating this problem and says that the entire batch has consequently “seen a bit of sunlight”. Price per bottle R70.
The two reds are part of the so-called Metamorphic range, the rock that Anglo Alpha coveted so much being shale, which was heated by molten volcanic lava and metamorphosed to baked shale or Hornfels, outcrops scattered throughout the vineyards. “Hopefully, the geology of the property expresses itself in the wine,” says Read.
The Quarry 2008 is a blend of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, which spent 18 months in French oak, 70% new. It shows appealing red fruit and well judged oak, but is possibly a little insubstantial to justify its price tag of R150 a bottle.
Hornfels 2008, meanwhile, is more expensive at R250 a bottle but is nevertheless more convincing. The wine is a blend of 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec and 12% Petit Verdot, the wine again spending 18 months in barrel, 70% new. The wine is similarly styled to the “Quarry” in the sense of being medium bodied in structure but is more complex and layered. It has a restrained alcohol by volume of 13.2% and should appeal to those who prefer finesse over weight and power.