This week we are celebrating Syrah as part of Shiraz South Africa’s Seven Days of Shiraz. Tasting our own wines from a number of vintages, I was considering the actual influence of site. Does wine being site specific actually relate to taste or is it mainly marketing talk?
Being a winemaker and wine lover, of course, I believe in the difference site makes to a wine. To its taste and to the talk – its true terroir story. I love it when the vineyard site determines the wine. Every year, we present a Sauvignon Blanc experience where we taste the new vintage, fresh from the fermentation tanks – same variety, same vintage, different terroir – and the differences are astounding!
After many years of combining grapes from areas such as Franschhoek, Paarl and Walker Bay for the popular La Motte Syrah, we changed to Franschhoek grapes exclusively in 2015. Syrah from Franschhoek contains a natural fruitiness and when you taste the various vintages against each other, the upfront fruit character of the latest La Motte Syrahs clearly differentiate them from earlier vintages.
I guess we do not have to convince wine people about the importance and joy of site. But what difference does site make to consumers? Do they care about where the wine comes from? Do they taste a difference?
For wines made in big volumes, being site specific is often not possible. Big volume, commodity-style wines – while I am not disputing their quality – often aim at being consistent and meeting consumer expectations, rather than being true to a specific vintage or site. Nothing wrong with that.
But for those interested in the wine’s story, there is a lot of beauty in site specific wines. Perhaps you enjoy good wine and can’t bother with the story. Nothing wrong with that either. What differentiates wine from other drinks, though, is exactly the influence of site and vintage. Keeping these in mind will definitely contribute to the appreciation of wine. We have such easy access to information. Do yourself a favour and find out a bit more about the wine. You can find it on your phone – the winery’s website, Vivino, social media video’s and podcasts. Wine producers are trying their best to communicate why their wines are special and perhaps it gets lost in the cacophony of communication, but it is there if you want to listen. And I would recommend you do.
At the risk of being overwhelming, South Africa’s diversity of terroir makes it exceptionally interesting. Much deeper than the demarcated Wine of Origin areas such as Coastal or Stellenbosch or Robertson, you can now find wines from new districts and small wards – interesting little pockets such as Agterkliphoogte and Koekenaap! (Read more)
One of the ideas that I found especially interesting this week, was when La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche, explained how Shiraz found its friends in blends and its friends in food. (Read more) Over many years in France’s Rhône winegrowing area, winemakers experimented with wine partners from their area to blend with and food partners to eat with Syrah.
Yes, when it comes to site specific, I am in boots and all!
Who can resist Syrah and saucisson?!