Alheit La Colline Semillon 2017
The La Colline vineyard is uniquely South African in that dark skinned Semillon vines are inter-planted with light skinned Semillon. It was planted 82 yrs ago on the southern slope of Dassenberg in Franschhoek on soils of decomposed granite with quartz, and 310–350m above sea-level. In summer, the tightly-planted bushvines form a wild looking mess. In winter they resemble a crowd of drunkards cart wheeling across the slope. The vines are very settled, producing a wine of remarkable depth and mouthfeel.
Sémillon has the power to create wines with considerable structure, depth and length that will improve for several decades. It is the perfect partner to the vivdly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. Sémillon especially shines in the Bordeaux region of Sauternes, which produces some of the world’s greatest sweet wines. Somm Secret—Sémillon was so common in South Africa in the 1820s, covering 93% of the country’s vineyard area, it was simply referred to as Wyndruif, or “wine grape.”
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.