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Like fine wine, Noni rises to top at Delheim

Delheim’s new head winemaker, Noni Langa, right, was previously assistant to the winery’s veteran winemaker, Roelof Lotriet, now promoted to cellarmaster
MOVING UP: Delheim’s new head winemaker, Noni Langa, right, was previously assistant to the winery’s veteran winemaker, Roelof Lotriet, now promoted to cellarmaster
Image: SUPPLIED

It’s a long way from Pietermaritzburg to Stellenbosch (about 1,500km by road), especially when you add a side-trip to California, on the west coast of the US. But it’s all part of the journey for Delheim’s new head winemaker, Nongcebo “Noni” Langa.

In keeping with Delheim’s slogan “worth the journey”, the family-owned Stellenbosch estate has facilitated much of her winemaking journey since she started there as an intern, promoting her to assistant winemaker and facilitating a graduate internship at a leading California winery.

Now, just shy of 30, Pietermaritzburg-born Langa has an MSc in Oenology from Stellenbosch University, is busy with wine business studies at UCT Business School and has just taken over the winemaking reins from her mentor, Roelof Lotriet, who has moved up to become Delheim cellarmaster.

She joins a line of Delheim winemakers, many mentored by late founder Spatz Sperling, including Kevin Arnold, the man with the magic cabernet sauvignon touch who created the super-premium Grand Reserve and later the iconic Waterford The Jem.

“There are great expectations, and big shoes to fill — I try not to think about it!” Langa says, laughing.

The new release 2022 Delheim Pinotage Rosé is the first of Delheim’s wines where Langa took the solo winemaking reins and she’s justifiably chuffed with the results.

Delheim pioneered the making of dry rosé, and making it with SA’s own pinotage grape, back in the 1980s and it’s become a classic of the pink wine genre.

This year’s edition is the palest, gentle pink — dry, of course — balancing just enough sugar for a smooth finish with just enough acidity for liveliness, all berries and flowers and really enjoyable.

“It’s light but full of flavour, totally quaffable. Lovely in summer for every day after work,” Langa says.

So which of Delheim’s other wines does the winemaker herself most enjoy and recommend?

  • To pick up on the way home and open while making dinner, “definitely our Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, made for accessible enjoyable drinking now, but it can also age another two to four years, and it over-delivers on price”.

The wine is juicy with fruit intensity and warm spice notes, velvety texture, and she’s right, it’s perfect everyday drinking at about R80 to R90.

  • For winter and pizza, she calls on Delheim Merlot 2019 — a fruit-driven style, with fleshy dark fruit flavours backed by subtle oak spice and cigar box notes, and silky tannins that won’t fight with the tomato and bold flavours of your favourite pizza.
  • Special occasions? “If I’m wanting to impress, I’ll show up with our flagship white, Chardonnay sur Lie. The current vintage is 2021 and still a bit shy, but this wine opens up beautifully with a bit of age — the 2019 is amazing right now. We keep the wine in the cellar as long as we can to give it a bit of time, but the market demand is such that it just flies out.”

The ultimate wine with which to impress, she says, is Delheim Grand Reserve — the exceptional bordeaux-blend flagship that is only made in vintages when the grapes are suitably exceptional.

“I took the remains of a bottle home after a work tasting and it just got more enjoyable a day after opening.

“I enjoyed it while I was cooking and listening to music, because my philosophy is to enjoy wine wherever and however you like — don’t be intimidated by grand names and pedigrees.”

Cheers to that unpretentious approach to wine, and to Langa’s adding her flavour to the Delheim pedigree.

 

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