New premium range from Stellenbosch Hills is pure class

THE A TEAM: Stellenbosch Hills cellarmaster PG Slabbert and winemaker James Ochse
THE A TEAM: Stellenbosch Hills cellarmaster PG Slabbert and winemaker James Ochse

Stellenbosch Hills cellarmaster PG Slabbert and winemaker James Ochse have more than 8,000 tons of grapes a year to play with, from more than 700ha of vineyards owned by 16 producers across prime wine-growing territory.

That’s a lot of winemaking possibilities.

They’ve recently added a premium level to their ranges that start off with the easy-drinking Polkadraai wines, move up to some super, pocket-friendly quality in the main Stellenbosch Hills range, and then a Reserve red and white that offer great value for Platter’s four-star quality.

The new flagship Sense of Place range is produced in limited quantities, for release in only exceptional vintage years, intended to show off the character of specific vineyards and the art of winemaking at its best.

The weighty bottles and elegant labels with gold lettering and delicate botanical-style illustrations of species occurring naturally in the area, linking in with the Sense of Place theme, are the first signal that these are wines of substance

“This range gives us the opportunity to shine a light on the very nucleus of our vineyard quality.

“And we’re excited to be able to release these wines from vineyards that consistently produce quality fruit, comprising grape varieties grounded in SA heritage,” Ochse said.

The Sense of Place Kastanjeberg Chenin Blanc 2017, wooded, complex and elegant, earned him a finalist’s place in the 2019 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year and it’s not hard to see why.

The wine is lovely — gleaming, pale gold, subtly fragranced nose of almonds, dried fruit and spice; honey, peaches and apricot in the glass with touch of vanilla and oak, balanced with some crisp acidity.

A mouth-filling silky texture, it’s rich and lingering — a worthy flagship (R285) that would be great with spicy Asian food, rich pork belly or creamy dishes.

The Kastanjeberg, from a single vineyard on the farm of the same name, earned four stars in the 2020 Platter’s, and its partner, the Cape blend Suikerboschrand, from the outstanding 2015 vintage, merited 4.5 stars.

The components of pinotage, shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot were all vinified separately before blending and 24 months’ ageing in French oak.

This is a definite red meat wine — rich, smoky, ripe and flavourful, balancing savoury notes and fresh spice with intense berry fruit, the wood lending structure for graceful ageing, and certainly drinkable now (about R385).

The brand new Anna Christina 2018 Methode Cap Classique (MCC) 2018 rounds out the range in a classy 100% chardonnay, single-vineyard, bubbly (about R195).

Deliciously moreish, it’s crisp and balanced, with a nutty nose and a mouthful of green apple and rich citrus with fine, elegant bubbles.

The name reflects the sense of place too — Anna Christina was the eldest daughter of Antonie Vlotman, the first to farm wine in the Vlottenburg area that is now home to the Stellenbosch Hills cellar and tasting room.

The range is available at selected outlets in Port Elizabeth.