Urban winery punches above its weight

Wine
Wine
Image: 123RF/karandaev

Flagstone is all about the wines — its home has no rolling vineyards to admire, no tree-lined avenue of historic oaks, no cosy bistro or picnic lawns or the various other attributes that make visiting wine farms such an attractive prospect.

It does have history, though. And a tasting room to visit — albeit in a factory.

Sir Herbert Baker is more commonly associated with colonial-era stately homes, churches, posh schools, the Union Buildings and Groote Schuur, but he was also the designer of some of the buildings that Flagstone now calls home — the historic dynamite factory founded by Cecil John Rhodes in Somerset West.

Flagstone was SA’s first urban winery with no vineyards of its own and it’s now part of the global giant Accolade Wines, so perhaps a factory is an apt location though that’s where the association ends.

The wines, with their association with personal stories and creativity, the passion of winemaker Gerhard Swart who works hand-in-hand with a select group of long-standing farming partners, certainly don’t have any kind of mass-produced “factory” quality about them.

And as far as quality goes, they punch well above their weight in the pricing stakes.

The Flagstone Poetry range at around 60 bucks a pop delivers some of the best everyday drinking quality around, and a recent tasting of their upper-level Treaty Tree Bordeaux-style blends revealed wines of complexity and substance, well worth ageing, at seriously reasonable prices.

Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2017 has 4 Platter’s stars and cracked a spot in the 2019 Sommeliers Selection “economically savvy reds” category, and it’s delicious (R89.99 at Prestons).

Cabernet sauvignon is almost half the blend, lending lots of typical cassis to the flavours, rounded out with malbec, merlot, cab franc and petit verdot, making a wine that’s inky-dark, juicy and chewy, revealing itself in layers and depth of flavour.

Satisfyingly rich, ripe fruit has a backbone of toasty, spicy oak, some fynbos herbal notes, and the wine is rich without heaviness or “furriness”.

The winemaker’s pairing suggestion of a rack of Karoo lamb with rosemary sounds like a win — picking up the herbal notes in the wine and the acidity of the wine cutting through the fattiness of the meat.

White Bordeaux-style blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon are a personal favourite, for their depth, complexity and mouth-filling texture and the 4.5-starred Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2018 (R109.99, Prestons) is a lovely example of the style — not overly heavy or textured, but with more structure and complex interest than a straight sauvignon blanc.

The nose is fragrantly fruity with melon and gooseberry, a light touch of white pepper spice. Zesty citrus and zippy acidity are mellowed with the background note of semillon waxiness.

A creamy mouthfeel and subtle oak frame the whole lot and leave a mouth-watering finish.

This would be a must for fish and shellfish and its power and structure could stand up to strong flavours like braaied snoek with marmalade or a meaty medium-rare steak sandwich.

Interesting that the winemaker says that while the sauvignon blanc gives the wine its “ethereal notes and lifted aromas”, it’s the semillon that will keep it fresh for up to 10 years, or at least three to five.

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