WOSA Megatasting visit 13th and 14th October 2009

Vaughan and Tim at WOSA with friend Ken Forrester

Vaughan and I are just back from a very successful WOSA, Wines of South Africa, Megatasting at Earls Court in London. Armed with a new name, Seven Springs Vineyard, new branding from a fantastic South African brand designer called Marcel de Quervain living in London, and hot off the press business cards, we attended these networking and tasting sessions with renewed vigour.

Tuesday the 13th and two of the first people we met were Anthony Hamilton Russell and Talita Engelbrecht from Hamilton Russell Vineyards, pioneers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Hemel en Aarde Valley (www.hamiltonrussellvineyards.co.za). These two wines benchmark these varietals in South Africa. A Decanter Gold Medal 2009 says it all. Next we met Yvonne Le Riche and tried a Bordeaux blend from the Le Riche (www.leriche.co.za) Winery in the Jonkershoek Valley, red wine of the year 2009 in the Platter guide. Then we met with our good friend Ken Forrester (www.kenforresterwines.com) ending with a tasting of his superb FMC 2008, in my opinion this wine has the potential to be his best yet, Chenin Blanc at it’s best. From Ken we met with our friends Andrew and Rozy Gunn from Iona Vineyards in Elgin (www.iona.co.za) makers of one of the best South African Sauvignon Blanc’s.

This is the winery where we are going to make our first wines. Their 2009 is stunning and continues my view that this varietal is right up there with the world’s best. Our next port of call was another Hemel en Aarde producer, winemaker Gordon Newton Johnson of Newton Johnson Wines (www.newtonjohnsonwines.com). Their 2008 Pinot Noir, from young grapes grown at their vineyard, won a 5 star accolade from the 2009 Platter guide. Springfield Estate (www.springfieldestate.com) from Robertson was our next stop and we tried the stunning Life from Stone and Firefinch Sauvignon Blanc’s and the wild yeast Chardonnay from Jeanette Bruwer. Our favourite was the Chardonnay which showed wonderful complexity and character, Jeanette’s brother Abrie is the winemaker.

Then on to Sebastian Beaumont, winemaker at his family farm (www.beaumont.co.za). Beaumont’s are justifiably proud of seeing their Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2008 achieve the 2009 Decanter Trophy for the best Chenin Blanc varietal worldwide, well done Sebastian. Next was a tasting of wines from vineyards next to our own land. Peter-Allan Finlayson (son of Peter Finalyson of Bouchard Finlayson fame) has set up his own winery called Crystallum (www.crystallumwines.com). His Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from young vines, show amazing fruit concentration, minerality and elegance, giving us a taste of how good our wines should be in a couple of years time. Watch out for this young man, Vaughan and I both think he will be up there with South Africa’s best. The last person we met today was Andrew McDowell Editor of the Platter Guide (www.platteronline.com). It was our first meeting with Andrew who lives in Hermanus, a stones throw from the Seven Springs Vineyard (www.7springs.co.za). We ended the day with a meal and a West End show, Hairspray.

Day two, and after a hearty full English breakfast, Vaughan had the lighter option of an omelette, we hit the tasting room again. Bruwer Raats, from Raats Family Wines, was our first port of call this time. Bruwer (www.raats.co.za) makes some of South Africa’s best Chenin Blanc, wooded and unwooded, and definitely the best Cabernet Franc in the Southern Hemisphere, We were blown away by the wonderful MR (Mvemve Raats) de Compostella a stunning red wine, maybe the best wine we tasted at the show. We then had a chat to our good friend Francois Naude from Beyerskloof (www.beyerskloof.com) and arranged to meet for a meal when we visit the Cape in November. Francois and his boss, Beyers Truter, are two of the most decent people we have met. Our next visit took us to the fledgling winery of Chris Mullineux (www.mullineuxwines.com) and we met with Chris and his business partner, Englishman, Keith Prothero. We were amazed by these wines from Swartland from this extremely gifted winemaker. The sweet Chenin Blanc Straw Wine was a revelation and in the glass was the same colour as a sweet sherry, another Platter 5 star wine.

Peter Finlayson (www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za) was the next person we met. From the Hemel en Aarde Valley, Peter has been making stunning wines for years, beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are his trademark. Towards the end of the day we met with our neighbour and winemaker from Creation Wines (www.creationwines.com), Jean Claude Martin. JC is making excellent wines from 5 year old vines from a site very similar to our own. The last visit of the day was to see Albie Koch from De Toren Private Cellar (www.de-toren.com). Albie makes two wines from Bordeaux grape varieties and these are some of the best produced in South Africa. Stunning wines Albie, we just needed the springbok steaks to go with the wines. Before we left the show to catch our train we had the good fortune to ‘bump into’ ex Springbok rugby centre Brendan Venter. Brendan is passionate about wines and took a keen interest in what we are doing, he is currently coaching for Saracens in London. Our visit finished at 3pm when we caught the train to Banbury from Marylebone reaching our home just before 5 o’clock.

Tim Pearson
Seven Springs Vineyard