Meeting the characters of Nitida

Small Durbanville winery Nitida is named after the Protea nitida that grows in abundance on the farm among the endangered Renosterveld vegetation, which features on its labels
ABUNDANT NATURE: Small Durbanville winery Nitida is named after the Protea nitida that grows in abundance on the farm among the endangered Renosterveld vegetation, which features on its labels
Image: SUPPLIED

One of the things that appeals to me about Nitida is the layers of stories and character that are woven together and reflected in the labels with their pretty, finely-detailed botanical illustrations and back label descriptions that are a joy to read.

The small Durbanville winery is named after the Protea nitida that grows in abundance on the farm and the labels feature those and the host of plants, spiders, birds and small creatures inhabiting the endangered Renosterveld vegetation brought back to life on the former sheep farm.

Owner Bernhard Veller tells how the nitida (waboom) proteas grew unusually small on the farm, leading botanists to think they were a new subspecies, until finding that the plants grew to their normal, larger size when transplanted elsewhere.

Similarly, says Veller, “we thought our little farm had the heart to grow big wines”.

The word nitida is a form of the Latin for “bright, shining, blooming/healthy, smart, cultured” — the idea perhaps inspiring the subtle silver and gold highlights on the label illustrations; it’s also reflected in the care put into the health of the farm’s natural environment and the considered, handmade approach to making wines that have a bit of an intellectual air about them.

That smartness carries through onto the back labels that paint a user-friendly, non-technical word picture of what to expect in the bottle.

Evocative descriptions — the deep and intense Calligraphy red blend is “a tall dark soul”, the zesty Sauvignon Blanc “a dazzling dance”, Shiraz is “mature and debonair” — meet practical suggestions on food pairing, where and when to enjoy the wine.

Earthy, fruity Merlot “might encourage a black forest cake pursuit”; Coronata Integration will “make you hanker for Gran’s Sunday roast pork and crackling” — you get the picture.

Of course, none of this appeal is just about a pretty and well-written label — it’s what’s in the bottle that counts and will keep us coming back for more.

“Tall dark soul” Calligraphy 2017 (R225 cellar door) is an elegant, complex Bordeaux blend, featuring Malbec for the first time in this vintage, which adds a deeply savoury dimension balancing bright fruit.

It’s a really distinctive, sit-up-and-take-notice wine, with layered textures and flavours and a deliciously long finish.

Winemaker Danie Keulder won the 2019 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year with the Pinot Noir 2017 (R165) — a “jubilee of strawberries, liquorice and flambe cherries”, balancing the typical Pinot Noir savouriness with lots of berries, and ideal for a winter evening with a crackling fire.

Durbanville is Sauvignon Blanc country and Nitida makes five different styles to show different aspects of this terroir.

Starting with the Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (R98) — it is intended to strongly show “Durbanville character”, grapes from both Nitida and neighbouring vineyards harvested in 28 separate pickings over six weeks, diverse building blocks for a wine that’s fresh, zesty and crunchy with touches of florals and spice.

Wild-fermented, wooded Wild Child 2018 (R160) is bolder, more muscular and textured, with creamy vanilla, ripe pears and a nectarine zing, showing Nitida’s specific character.

Golden Orb (R300) is lees-matured for a full-flavoured, complex Sauvignon Blanc showing the character of a single vineyard.

Consider these wines as characters that you need to meet.

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