Spier is all of a sudden less Sun International and more Heath Nash, proving that you can be tourist oriented without being a tourist trap. On Friday, we ate at “Eight” or at least on the lawns in front of Spier’s farm-to-table restaurant. “Eight” is very Heath Nash: the foyer features a ceiling made out of 17 000 milk bottle tops.
After supper, The Festival of White Lights conceptualised by leading local choreographer Jay Pather and involving choir, dance, puppetry and fire twirling. It ended at the Spier hotel with a free glass of 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2010 or Pinotage. Supposedly just a glass but a few like-minded souls were soon doing an in-depth analysis of both wines before duly progressing to the ultra-premium red blend Spier Frans K Smit 2006. Party on.
The Spier wines with Frans Smit as cellarmaster, Johan Jordaan, this year’s Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in charge of red wines and Jacques Erasmus in charge of white are nothing if not accomplished but the house-style is unashamedly modern and full-flavoured.
The 21 Gables Chenin Blanc 2010 costs R112 a bottle ex cellar. Predominantly from old dryland bush vines in Durbanville, it spent 14 months in 400-litre French oak barrels, 60% new. It’s intense: big fruit, prominent oak, tangy acidity. Impressive but currently a little unknit. Score: 16.5/20.
The 21 Gables Pinotage 2009 (R148 a bottle) is definitely one of the more serious offerings from this variety around at the moment, among the 20 finalists in this year’s Absa Top 10 competition but denied a place among the winners due to the curious ruling that no producer can have more than one wine in the final line-up – the Naledi 2009 as part of the Savanha range also made by the Spier team got there ahead of it. Reviewed previously here, I scored it 17/20.
Frans K Smit 2006 is, simply put, a monster (R695). A multi-regional blend of 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Shiraz and equal parts Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Pinotage, the wine spent 27 months in French oak, 100% new. With an alcohol by volume of 15%, it’s dense and rich and most certainly not for the faint hearted. It was rated 5 Stars in Platter’s 2011 and it’s not difficult to understand how it achieved this. I’d like a little more finesse and so my score is 17/20.
The next day was the opening of the swish new tasting facility and we were doing it all again. Thank goodness for a glass of the Spier Méthode Cap Classique 2009 (R98). Clean, fresh and quite understated relative to some of its stablemates. Score: 16/20.