Sijnn near the settlement of Malgas on the banks of the Breede River some three hours’ drive from Cape Town is about a remote a wine farm as I have ever visited (see images here). It sees David Trafford of De Trafford in Stellenbosch and partners attempting to push the envelope – they have chosen to operate in an area with soils too infertile, water too scarce to have previously been considered suitable for vineyard.
Their aim, however, is not high volumes but high quality. “The typical New World approach is to cultivate classic grape varieties in a warm climate resulting in richer, fuller wines. We’ve done the opposite by planting varieties adapted to warmer climate in a more moderate area and hopefully we can achieve lower alcohol, more elegant wines.”
To date, 16ha of bush vines have been established and the idea is to keep yields low (between 3 to 4t/ha) in order to arrive at the best quality fruit. The farm’s soil is remarkable in appearance – a dense scattering of large sandstone pebbles atop a layer of shale. Water, meanwhile, has to be pumped some 65m up from the river below.
Trafford is working on blends unique to the property and over dinner in the just-about completed cellar the 2010 vintage of the Sijnn Red, recently given a score of 93 by US magazine Wine Spectator. A blend of 41% Syrah, 27% Touriga Nacional, 18% Mourvèdre, 10% Trincadeira and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine was matured in a mix of barrels for 12 months and then mostly 700-litre barrels for a further nine months.
On the nose, heady lily-like perfume plus red and black fruit. The palate meanwhile is plush with ultra-ripe fruit offset by tangy acidity, a slightly briny quality on the finish lending interest. It’s a dramatic wine and I’m not surprised it wowed Spectator but the 2009 (reviewed here) also on the table had greater charm…