To be sure, South Africa is simply not on my radar as a place from which to enjoy Syrah. I think of Chenin Blanc, I think of Pinotage and I think of Cabernet. But a fellow Syrah aficionado convinced me that this was the real deal.
The nose on this wine just screams Syrah. It’s a combination of smoky and savory components like olive tapenade and smoked wood mixed with blackberry aromas. There’s also just the slightest hint of a vegetal aroma. Which is exactly what I like. The mid-palate has good texture and richness. The finish, although a tad too sweet for my taste, does have a fair amount of acidity. It’s a wine fit for gulping but with just the right amount of complexity to encourage you to linger over it for a bit. It’s a tad New World in style but without much alcohol coming through and any of that blocky sweetness that you can get on Syrahs that are too over the top.
The Waterkloof story is a fascinating one. It’s a biodynamic vineyard and a place that is attempting to create an environmentally sound ethos as a winery. You can watch an amazing video of all that’s going on there. Let me just tease it by saying that it includes Rastafarian Horse Shepherds. The biodynamic/organic story is one that’s been told in many places and I don’t want to belabor it here. Let’s just say that the Waterkloof owners believe that minimal intervention results in wines that more truly represent the terroir from which they come. They believe that most of the intervention should come in the vineyard and actually the majority of the focus should be in the soil, not in the vines. This is a pretty standard story for a biodynamic vineyard.
Does is make better wine? The truth is I’m not sure, but this wine does have a texture and complexity that I don’t often get in many New World Syrahs. Does that have more to do with the biodynamic nature of the vineyards or the fact that the grapes were fermented with their stems in large basket presses and then aged in larger 600 liter oak barrels? Again, I’m not sure. And to be honest this is what I love about wine. There’s an unsolvable complexity to it that keeps me interested. It’s an intellectual and physical experience all rolled into one.