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Consistent elegance at La Motte

It's all change at La Motte - except on the wine side.

by: Cathy Marston | 11 Oct 2010

Food and wine circles are buzzing with all the changes that are taking places at La Motte. An exciting new restaurant has opened – click here to see Food 24’s Cath Shone’s take on it – a new museum to house the largest collection of celebrated artist J.H. Pierneef’s work, an art gallery showcasing young SA artists, a deli/farm shop featuring purple bread (yes, really - it’s made with Shiraz!), new statues, new entrance to the farm – it is easy to see why they are now referring to it as ‘La Motte, redefined.’

In amongst all these changes however, winemaker Edmund Terblanche has quietly continued making some of the most consistent wines in SA today. Many winemakers are content – even delighted – to have vintage variation showing the story of their wines and their journey, but Edmund sticks to his guns and follows the model of French champagne in blending many different batches of wine to achieve the same flavours and structure year after year.

Because when you have a thirsty market of 30,000 cases for your Sauvignon Blanc as Edmund does, it is probably best not to mess around too much with a winning formula. La Motte’s Sauvignon Blanc is the market-leader in its price bracket and has grown from a mere 4,000 cases 10 years ago to its current levels. In order to maintain consistency, Edmund uses grapes from up to 13 different farms ranging from areas as diverse as Elim, Elgin, Darling, Bot River and Franschhoek.

Although the label doesn’t say so, nearly all of the grapes he uses are farmed organically although the only wine which is certified as organic is the Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc. Edmund prefers working with organic grapes, but acknowledges the commercial risks of changing the main label as he doesn’t want to be forced to compromise on the flavours of the wine.

He harvests and buys in about 25% more grapes than he needs as they all get sorted twice by hand – firstly as bunches and secondly as individual grapes ‘I like to give everything the chance to be part of a good wine.’ The results are very pure, elegant flavours with good structure and complexity, suggesting that when it comes to La Motte’s wines, some things are just too good to change.

I tasted the whole range and here are my thoughts on my favourites:

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2010     R57.00 (all prices are from the farm)
Sweaty nose with green peppers and pineapples. Excellently-balanced acids with a mouthfilling richness coming from extensive lees contact. Good length and crisp finish.

La Motte Millennium 2007     R98.00
Five-way Bordeaux blend much beloved by La Motte fans. This one is mainly Merlot and Cabernet Franc (Edmund is a big fan of this variety) and is well-integrated with juicy black fruit, soft tannins, hints of tobacco and a creamy, fruity finish.

La Motte Pierneef Shiraz/Grenache 2007     R319.00
This wine also contains 17% Mourvedre along with the 30% of Grenache and has a classic nose of white pepper and leather. Nicely integrated oak with dark chocolate fruit and a clean finish.

La Motte ‘Hanneli R’ 2005     R805.00
Mainly Shiraz with contributions of Grenache, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is ‘the best we can do’ according to CEO Hein Koegelenberg. Named in honour of his wife, La Motte owner Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg, this is a warm, ripe wine with intense, gritty tannins and a perfumed, elegant finish. A meal in itself.

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