South African wines are becoming so exciting, believe me, but you have to know where to look. For the most part that may not be among the branded wines but from the individual producers many of whom are like brands anyway their names are becoming so well-known. I’ll come back to others in a subsequent blog but let me introduce you to this little wonder;
Lam 2012 by Lammershoek
The 2012 is a vintage of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay (a blend which changes year on year suggesting a work in progress) with only 10.5% abv and the wine-making is extreme minimalism – nothing added, almost nothing done it seems, the wine is making itself until the wine-maker blends the various tanks together. Admirable (if you can get away with it) and interesting but what makes the wine truly exciting, intriguing actually, and worth talking and writing about, not to mention buying and drinking, is how it tastes – of course, this is true of any wine however and wherever it’s made.
It is immensely fresh and the acidity gives a real finger-flick on the tongue. The fruit is a sort of stewed Bramley Apple crispness with a buttery, nutty weight for great balance. It is a food wine or possibly as an alternative to a Fino aperitif. I was reminded of Jura Savagnin, slightly oxidative and hugely tangy. I’d love to drink this with pork and apple, with a pine nut and Comté salad, with an apricot risotto. But not now. Actually, yes now, but with a few bottles squirrelled away for the future because this wine seems to me to have serious keeping potential.
The wine is not varietal, of course as it’s a blend, it’s not representative or indicative of a South African wine or actually of a particular style. It’s pretty individual and in this fact represents well what’s going on in Swartland with the Swartland Independent Producers. These are guys who are taking risks, not following a prescribed recipe, doing their own thing all with the same strategy and ambition – to make the best and most exciting wine they can.
The Lam has been awarded 4* in the South African wine bible, John Platter Guide 2014, and you can buy it from Winedirect (12.95) or the 2011 from Harvey Nichols (£13.50). The Platter guide is available from Amazon in January.