Pleasures of wine become a virtual necessity
We might not be able to go out and buy wine, but lockdown has opened up a whole new online world of virtual tastings and meet-ups with wine-loving friends and the opportunity to “meet” wine personalities that you might not ordinarily get to see.
How else would you find yourself in the same “room” talking wine with Swartland rockstar winemakers Andrea and Chris Mullineux in Riebeek-Kasteel, Master of Wine and wine judge Greg Sherwood in London, former Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo, polo-playing businessman Nicky van der Walt, and co-founders of Stellenbosch’s Vilafonté winery Zelma Long and Phil Freese?
More than 70 people from as far afield as Texas, Hong Kong, Brazil and Germany joined Vilafonté managing partner Mike Ratcliffe in his Stellenbosch kitchen and Long and Freese in their California dining room for just such a conversation this week.
How absolutely fascinating it was to hear the story of Vilafonté’s journey direct from its founders and the memories and impressions of wine lovers from all over the world, and how heart-warming to see the shared joy over wine in spite of distance. (Also to hear the shared frustrations of lockdown, with Brazilian importer Raphael Malago in Sao Paulo commenting on his children in the background driving him crazy!)
What shone through in this global chat was the ageability of the wines – some participants sipping on and raving about the maiden 2003 Series M – and the absolute focus on making super-premium investment wines, with the obsessive attention to detail in precision winegrowing and winemaking.
Sherwood, the fine wine buyer at Vilafonté’s UK importer, said the quality of the wines had always been there but recognition of the brand had grown strongly in the last few years, with customers clamouring for new releases, such as the Series M 2017, to be delivered globally to an eager waiting list next month.
Freese is an internationally acclaimed viticulturist and talks about how the Vilafonté vineyards were planted “by design – the journey starting with the end in mind”, first defining the wines they wanted to make and then planting accordingly.
Long, herself similarly internationally acclaimed as winemaker and described as “fanatical” about precision, says the goal was to grow grapes that would produce wines of “real concentration and intense flavour” — the key to their longevity.
“To us, over time, the vineyards develop a personality. Like people, they have an intrinsic nature that carries through the variations of each vintage and the wine is distinctive of its personality and place,” she said.
And it’s those personalities that are expressed in the two “equal but different” Bordeaux-style blends: Merlot/Malbec-led Series M, with its softer characteristics — lush, plush, velvety, beguiling and sensuous, the 2016 tasted recently being incredibly luscious and smooth, with herbal tones, savouriness, rich juicy fruit and a touch of florals.
In Series C, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc dominate, with the more intense, deep, structured, linear, austere style of Bordeaux, complex and spicy.
Consider it an investment in future pleasure.
The second label, “everyday luxury” Seriously Old Dirt, is seriously good, the current release — 2017 — smooth and silky, a mouthfilling texture with dark, inky berries, subtle oak spice and liquorice lingering and asking for more. At R265, it’s actually a bargain for what you’re getting.
As a “lockdown bonus”, Vilafonté are offering both their older vintage library and current vintage wines at the 20% discount normally reserved for members, on all online purchases from www.vilafonte.com until 1 May (for delivery after lockdown, six or more bottles for free delivery).
Now that’s not an offer to be sneezed at.