Johan Malan, member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and cellar master at Simonsig Estate



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Johan Malan offers variety at CWG Auction with Vintage Cap Classique and Mediterranean White Blend

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A Simonsig stalwart Cap Classique plus an adventurous Mediterranean blended white wine comprise the offering Simonsig cellar master Johan Malan has made for this year’s Cape Winemakers (CWG) Guild Auction, South Africa’s leading fine wine auction that takes place this year on 1 October.

As the first winery to make a bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the traditional method, Johan deems it only apt that a Simonsig Cap Classique is among the CWG auction offering.

“As the son of Frans Malan, the pioneer of Cap Classique, it is expected that I include this wine style in the CWG component,” says Johan. “The challenge, of course, is to create a Cap Classique that captures the imagination and is of the kind of quality expected from wines under the CWG label.”

Enter the Simonsig Cuvée Chêne Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 2007, a 100% Chardonnay wine and at nine years of age the oldest wine on this year’s CWG Auction.

“Making this wine gave me the opportunity of literally hand-crafting a Cap Classique from the vineyard to disgorging and it is truly one of the most magical processes in the wine industry,” says Johan.

The Cuvée Chêne Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 2007 is made from Chardonnay grown on the Simonsig Estate on vineyards planted on ideal weathered shale soils. After hand-picking and a whole bunch press, Johan says he was left with the most delicate of cuvées, fresh and lively with an intriguing depth and complexity.

“Fermentation took place in older seasoned French oak barriques, and I gave the wine malo-lactic fermentation for added dimension in flavour and mouthfeel, as well as to soften the acidity,” he says. “During the winter of 2007 we tasted more than a hundred barrels holding this wine, but selected only three barrels deemed to be of superior quality.”

This rare cuvée then spent 15 months in barrel before bottling for the Prise de mousse or second fermentation in the bottle. The disgorging took place after 48 months on lees with a minimal dosage to keep the fruit intact and in the Extra Brut style. A further 54 months on cork completes the history.

According to Johan the cool 2007 vintage offering ideal Chardonnay grapes, meticulous selection of the final cuvée and the artisanal approach in the winery has led to one of the best Cap Classiques made on Simonsig to date.

“The nine-year process has resulted in a wine with a startling array of brilliant flavours, a lingering acidity and freshness and a structured, creamy mouthfeel,” says Johan. “The wine presents lemon meringue and roasted almond aromas with rich buttered brioche on the palate, with that zest for life shown by a great Cap Classique ever-present.”

On Simonsig Johan’s latest playground are the vineyards and the blending cellar where various Mediterranean white varieties are found.

“I have always been intrigued by these grape cultivars and the sophisticated, original wines they make, and recently I have been doing a lot of experimenting with blending them,” he says. So successful has this experimenting been that this year’s CWG Auction will see the Simonsig Mediterraneo 2015 White Blend, a three-way combination of Roussanne (66%), Grenache blanc (28%) and Verdelho (6%).

Ironically this specific wine was inspired by a visit to California where Johan visited Tablas Creek Winery. Owned by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame, it was here where Johan got to know the terrific white wines of Châteauneuf du Pape.

“The range of white grape varieties in South Africa is rather limited, sadly, and therefore I believe Rhône varieties add a great deal of interest to the selection the wine lover has privy to,” he says.

The Roussanne and Grenache blanc grapes were sourced in Stellenbosch and the Verdelho comes from a 20 year-old block on Simonsig Estate. Grapes were hand-picked and chilled in a cold room overnight and whole-bunch pressed the next morning to yield a very delicate juice. The Roussanne was fermented naturally in older French oak. The Grenache blanc and the Verdelho were fermented with cultured yeast, also in older French oak. After nine months on the primary lees, the wine was blended and bottled in December 2015.

Johan describes the wine as: “Shows floral notes with zesty citrus rind and lime aromas on the nose. Sweeter ripe yellow apple and stone fruit flavours combine with the subtle scented oak spices to add a further dimension to the silky texture on the palate. Though very youthful and fresh at the moment it is well known that this style of wine develops beautifully with further aging when the earthy mineral characters come to the fore.”

For further information on this year’s CWG Auction, go to www.capewinemakersguild.com



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