The Swartland Revolution
Visiting South Africa's Swartland region, Part 1 - dinner on the Porcelain mountain

Swartland view

I arrived in Cape Town mid morning, picked up an unfeasibly small hire car, and headed off for the Swartland.

On most press trips I take, I'm looked after, like a small child, with all transport, meals and accommodation being taken care of. That’s great, but there’s something to be said for driving yourself on a visit to wine country. Hitting the open road, on your own, is an invigorating feeling. 

Riebeek Kasteel

So after heading up the west coast (after taking a wrong turning and ending up in downtown Cape Town), I made my way through the rather functional town of Malmesbury, arriving at my destination in Riebeek Kasteel by early afternoon. It’s a small rural town – well, a village, really – and it’s pretty and compact. 


My first appointment was dinner up on Porcelain Mountain with Callie Louw. I was driving, so I offered a lift to French filmmaker Sebastien Burel with me. He had some pretty hardcore directions, and we needed them, because we were heading off the beaten track. My poor, underpowered hire car…

Callie’s home is on the top of the hill, and that evening, a strong wind was blowing. Sebastien and I joined up with Callie and viticulturist Rosa Kruger for a tour of the property. Porcelain Mountain is the Swartland property of Marc Kent and Boekenhoutskloof, and when the wines are released they will go under the label Porseleinberg. 

Rosa Kruger

Boekenhoutskloof bought grapes from here for 3 years, and then in 2009 the owners decided to move on. So they offered the farm to Mark, who purchased it and started planting more vines in 2010.

There are currently 16 hectares planted, but it is only the old vines that are currently bearing. They produce tiny berries. In 2009 the wine was made at Boekenhoutskloof; in 2010 it was made here in the small winery at the farm. No wine has been released yet; the first release will be the 2010 early in 2012, with the 2009 being made just for the Cape Winemaker’s Guild auctions.

Eventually there will be 40 hectares of vineyard here. Callie describes Porseleinberg as a zero barrique winery. ‘I hate those things,’ says Callie. ‘They are good for pot plants.’ Just concrete (Nomblot eggs) and large oak are used.

Production should end up at 10- 20 tons, although the farm will produce 200 tons altogether, much of which will go to Boekenhoutskloof. ‘The things I like most is farming,’ says Callie. ‘The winemaking side of things is an opportunity to see how well you have farmed.’

I can’t tell you what the 2010 Porseleinberg wine is like, because the project is being kept under wraps and away from curious journalists for the time being.

A number of wine people gathered for dinner, including guest of honour at the Swartland Revolution, Olivier Clape of Cornas, Northern Rhône. The wines we drunk were as follows:

Hughes Family Wines Nativo 2009 Coastal Region, South Africa
A blend of 51% Chenin with Viognier and Verdelho. 14% alcohol. Bold, rich and powerful with notes of spice, pear and peach. Ripe and rounded. 89/100

Lammershoek Cellar Foot The Hárslevelű 2010 Swartland, South Africa
12% alcohol. Just 800 cases made, and not released yet. Will be around 250 Rand. Grapes are crushed by feet in a basket press. Full yellow colour. Remarkable stuff: apples, herbs, spice, tangy acidity and lemony freshness. Powerful, fresh and slightly oxidative. Long and tangy: a crazy wine. 93/100

Domaine Léon Barral Faugères Jadis 2007 France
Wonderfully aromatic: fresh, meaty, spicy nose with some herb and spice character. The fresh palate shows pure black fruits with some meaty, earthy notes. Ripe and rich but also with savoury animal notes. 92/100

Chateau d’Or et de Geules La Bolida 2007 Languedoc, France
Rich, vivid, intense and spicy. Ripe but still well balanced with warm, rich spicy notes. Powerful and chunky, and perhaps also a bit rustic. Warm spicy, savoury, drying finish, with some medicinal notes. 89/100

Stephane Montez Côte Rôtie Fortis 2007 Northern Rhône, France
Open, sweet, aromatic floral meaty nose. The palate is fresh and meaty with lovely black cherry fruit. Ripe, pure, expressive and meaty with subtle pepper notes. Lovely fruit purity: fresh and elegant. 94/100

Jasmin Côte Rôtie 2007 Northern Rhône, France
Savoury, spicy and slightly herby. A bit dilute with high acidity. Cherry and herb fruit, with some astringency. 86/100

The next three wines were served blind. Notes are as written.

Chapoutier Barbe Rac 1997 Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône, France
Old nose. Spicy, evolved, complex and earthy. Some ripeness and a savoury finish. This is quite old: early 1980s? 84/100

Chateau Rayas 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône, France
Rich, warm, spicy and quite elegant with nice richness and lovely savoury, spicy structure. There’s richness here but also good acidity. Warm and spicy, there’s still life in this. Late 1980s? 92/100

Domaine Pegau Cuvee Capo 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape, Rhône, France
Rich, warm and ripe. A bold, powerful wine with sweet cherry and plum fruit. Youthful and intense, pushing ripeness. 90/100

Clape Cornas 2009 Northern Rhône, France
Very fine and expressive with lovely intense pure black cherry and plum fruit. Fresh with good structure and  just a hint of meatiness. Vivid black fruits dominate: a ripe, fruity vintage. Freshness despite the richness. 93/100 

Part 1: Dinner at Callie's on the Porseleinberg
Part 2: Lammershoek  
Part 3: Photos of Lammershoek
Part 4: Intellego

Part 5: Testalonga
Part 6: Eben Sadie and a Columella vertical tasting
Part 7: Mullineux Family Wines
Part 8: Tobias/Bryan McRobert

Wines tasted 11/11  
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