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A look at Silkbush Mountain Vineyards from South Africa

h-silkbush-wines-about-1A while back we did a series on South African wineries, focusing on the famous Stellenbosch district in particular (you can start that series by clicking here).  There is a wide diversity in South African wine beyond Stellenbosch, with new vineyards and producers expanding into new areas.  In this article we will head an hour northeast of Cape Town, to Breedekloof in the Breede River Valley.  This land is a nature conservancy area, and there is plenty of nature to be found.  Some of the best fishing spots in South Africa are here, as well as mountain biking trails and serious bird watching.  There are also lots of wild animals (they have leopards!).  Not surprisingly, since we are writing about it, they also have vineyards.  In this article we’ll explore a bit about the vineyards and wines of Silkbush.

Silkbush is located on gradually sloping hillsides that eventually become towering cliffs, the highest of which is Silkbush Mountain.  MAPThis is rugged but beautiful country.  Near the font gate of the property the elevation is 237 meters above sea level.  As the land rises into the mountains the vineyards reach heights of 700 meters.  The vineyards here have been replanted into systematic, evenly spaced blocks of the different varietals, which include (in descending order of area): Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Petit Syrah, Pinot Noir, Grenache Noir, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Mourvèdre.  Do you detect a French theme?

The farm’s current range of wines includes many of the aforementioned varietals, as well as some blends.  There is a Pinotage and a Cape Red, which pays homage to the indigenous, South African developed Pinotage grape, a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault.   A Cape Blend has to use at least 30% of the grape to be so designated (but no more than 70% of the total blend).  We have had great Pinotages and not so great Pinotages, but a good one is worth the search.  Also in their range, they feature a Shiraz and a Bordeaux style red blend called Altitude, as well as a series of white varietal wines.  They also make a white blend and a rose.  You can see all of them on the Silkbush website at www.silkbush.com.

We have the Silkbush Altitude red blend and the Viognier to taste.  Let’s see what we found.

2014 Silkbush Altitude – this is made with grapes from the highest elevations, which explains the name.  These vineyards are all at IMG_1069600 meters and higher above sea level.  The blend is 35% Malbec, 25% Petit Verdot, 15% Shiraz, 15% Pinotage and 10% Merlot.  Our thoughts:

This is dark red wine, and transparent.  The nose is full of red and black fruit.  On the palate the fruit is more black, with plum and blackberry.  There are some oaky notes as well.  This has a good acid balance and is fresh.  The tannins are integrated, and the wine presents beautifully throughout.  A long finish wraps it up nicely.  This is quite delicious.  Right now the Altitude might be hard to find in the US, but when it is it will retail just over $20, and we think it is well worth it.

2016 Silkbush Viognier – this comes from a single vineyard block, which the folks at Silkbush think is pretty special, when you IMG_1077consider the unique combination of soil, slope, climate and aspect in conjunction with the Viognier grape.  The wine sees no wood at all.  Our impressions:

This is very pale yellow, with a bright nose of fresh fruit including pear, citrus and melon.  It is actually quite complex, and there is a lot going on here.   The palate is all about the fresh and lively fruit.  Melon and pear stand out.  It is clean  and crisp throughout the long and satisfying finish.  Well done, and a bit unusual.  If an unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc had a child, this might be it.  Retail around $17 and worth that price.  This is well made.

We have, across the board, been extremely impressed with the recent wines we have tasted from South Africa.  Our first foray into the Breede River Valley is no different.  Silkbush is clearly paying attention to detail, and is a winery to watch.

A votre santé!

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