So much has been said lately (and doubtless more to come when Chef Caro and Sam come back from the glitzy launch party in a week or so) about Waterkloof restaurant and its awesome view, that it is easy to forget that the whole point about Waterkloof is the wine. In fact, I think it might be impossible to get through the rest of this report without mentioning the breathtaking sweep overlooking False Bay, but heck, I’ll give it a go and see how far we get.
When Mancunian Paul Boutinot was looking for a place to build a winery, he decided on either the Helderberg or the Cederberg. The combination of soils and climate - and the view of course (curses, I couldn’t even make it through one paragraph!) - made his decision easy in the end and the extensive building and re-planting programme began 6 years ago. This has involved uprooting lots of non-indigenous trees, grubbling around amongst the stones to find soil in which to plant the vines, erecting predator posts to encourage the many stunning birds of prey swooping around the mountainside and planting a range of varietals from Schaapenberg superstar, Sauvignon Blanc to Paul’s passion – Mourvedre.
Winemaker Werner Engelbrecht is going big on oak barrels at the moment – he has just bought a shipment of enormous 600 litre ones as opposed to the normal 225 litres and the plan is for all his wine to eventually spend time in wood. This was greeted by bemused looks – if Waterkloof is known for anything in particular it is Sauvignon Blanc, a variety rarely wooded – but when he went on to say that the Sauvignons would only get the oak treatment in a few years time when the barrels have relinquished most of their upfront buttery flavours, then it all made sense. Premium Sauvignons often need an extra dimension, and the additional richness from the muted oak will provide greater depth of flavour without compromising the lively acidity in these wines. Can’t wait!
We tasted most of Waterkloof’s current releases, some brand new in bottle, some only just making it to the market as both Paul and Werner like to keep them back until they are ready to drink. And then we drank them over a delicious lunch – a nice touch worth mentioning is that all meals are served with free mineral water from the farm’s own spring - whilst admiring the groovy modern art in one direction and, of course, the view in the other.
I am sorry to keep harping on about it, but truly, it is the most spectacular setting I have ever eaten in in South Africa - it makes me want to have a naughty 6-hour lunch with lashings of wine and the man of my dreams. So my advice is to go to Waterkloof for the view, stay for the food and then make sure you take the wines away with you afterwards. Because whatever else it may be, Waterkloof is definitely more than just a pretty face.
These are my favourites of the current releases:
Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvedre 2009
Paul Boutinot is a sucker for Mourvedre but until his own vines are ready, he is buying in fruit from Paarl and Stellenbosch. This is a delicious bone-dry pink with lots of strawberries and cherries and a spicy finish.
Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc 2008
The flagship wine and you can see why. 25% was fermented in old 600l barrels which adds a rich complexity to the lively green citrus fruit. A generous Sauvignon and perfect drinking right now, particularly with food.
Circumstance Merlot 2008
New bottling to be released in December. Currently showing elegant black fruit with a snappy mineral edge and grippy tannins. Nice clean finish with some vanilla sweetness in the middle. One to watch, but until you can get your hands on it, try the 2006 which is equally tasty, with a softer, more accessible tannic structure.