Need an excuse to visit the Stellenbosch Winelands? Here’s a great reason to pop in at our tasting room: we’re releasing three exciting new vintages over the next few weeks.
It’s a busy June morning in the cellar, and winemaker Mark le Roux is hard to pin down. “We’re taking out an old virus-infected Shiraz block today,” he explains when we finally catch up. Plus, this year’s Shiraz harvest is currently undergoing malolactic fermentation (a second, intense period of fermentation) and careful monitoring is required.
In between testing and tasting the wine, and prepping colleagues for tasks that have to be done while Mark travels to France the following week, the winemaker sets an hour aside to talk about the release of the new vintages. It’s the moment of truth when many months of hard work in the vineyards and cellar culminates in the enjoyment of the wines.
This winter, Mark is particularly excited about the release of the 2016 Waterford Estate Grenache Noir, the 2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir and the 2018 Waterford Rose-Mary. While these new vintages have remained true to the estate’s classic, restrained style, subtle nuances in aroma and taste tell interesting stories about the seasons in which these wines were produced.
2016 Waterford Estate Grenache Noir
The Grenache Noir (one of Mark’s personal favourites) is an elegant, savoury expression of the Spanish varietal grown in a small, rocky block on Waterford Estate. While this varietal has always been part of the estate’s portfolio, it took a few years for the fruit to exhibit the characters needed to produce a top-quality, single-varietal wine. With the 2016 vintage, it’s clear that the Grenache Noir vineyard is finally reaching maturity.
In 2016, temperatures were high, and the estate had some rains during the harvest season – factors that all had an influence on the wine. This was also the second year in which porcelain jar fermenters were used in producing the Grenache Noir, adding to the vintage’s earthy character.
As with previous vintages, Grenache Noir fans can look forward to plush red cherry notes and hints of spicy clove in a wine that perfectly complements venison and other meat dishes.
2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir
The grapes that go into the Pinot Noir are carefully sourced from a single vineyard in Elgin – an area in the Overberg region of South Africa that has a slightly cooler climate than Stellenbosch. After harvesting, a very natural wine-making process is followed to ensure that this delicate wine remains a true expression of the terroir.
“When compared to previous vintages, the 2017 Pinot Noir feels like a more modern wine,” Mark says, explaining that this can be attributed to the dry season. “As a result of the drought, we had more control over the growth and ripening of some of the vineyards, which helped us to produce a cleaner, fresher wine. Many of the vineyards, including the Pinot Noir vineyard, also liked the fact that they weren’t subjected to rain during the harvest season.”
In step with previous vintages, the 2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir offers floral and wild cherry notes, but this time with a fresh, crisp edge. It’s the perfect pair for fish and lighter meat dishes.
2018 Waterford Rose-Mary
The red grapes used to produce the Rose-Mary, one of Waterford Estate’s best-loved wines, are always picked early in the season, and this year was no exception. However, the 2018 vintage is cleaner and fresher than previous vintages, and the alcohol content lower. These are slightly surprising results, Mark says, given the fact that the 2017/2018 season was particularly tough and dry.
The crisp, salmon-coloured wine is a blend of Shiraz, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Malbec, all of which add a soft texture to the wine. “The grapes that go into the Rose-Mary achieved ripeness at lower sugar levels this year,” Mark says, explaining that, while the season was very dry, it wasn’t particularly hot.
“The vines were under pressure from the drought, which meant that they used more of their energy to produce fruit and seeds,” he continues. As such, Waterford Estate had a good harvest season – a result that’s reflected in the wine.
This 2018 Waterford Rose-Mary makes for the perfect start to a lunch or dinner, and pairs wonderfully with winter salads and other light meals. It’s also a great wine to stock up on for spring and summer.