Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lammershoek 2008 Straw Wine (South Africa)

Tonight was kind of a special evening, I wandered out to the Wine Establishment on the Esplanade to meet up with Eleanor Cosman (Bokke Wines, who specialize in South African wines) and Carla Kretzel (of Lammershoek, a winery from South Africa) to try "something special". When I got there there was a small (375ml) unassuming looking bottle on the counter and four glasses. It was a Straw Wine made from 85% Chenin Blanc and 15% Harslevelu (the grape of Tokaji, Hungary's sweet dessert wine), but this is something special and unique. Instead of the traditional drying on mats Lammershoek winemakers harvest the grapes at regular time then hang the grapes like laundry from a trellis system. The usual way to dry these grapes was on mats, but the problem with that method was rot, with no air movement the grapes didn't dry properly; the new way, air circulates, drying the grapes thoroughly and evenly, till they're the size of raisins and the sugars become more concentrated. Then the grapes are pressed (giving approximately one drop's worth per raisiny grape) and then wild-yeast-barrel-fermented for about 6 months in old barrels, that impart little to no flavour to the wine. Turns out this is a very limited production wine (~2000 375ml bottles) because the trellising system can only accommodate 10 tons of grapes and their are only 2 hectares of "Harsh" grapes available - plus both grapes come from vines that are 40+ years old, thus yields are naturally low. So with all this background information the real test is taste and smell.

The wine, when swirled coated the glass. Aromas of all things honeyed emanated, like apricots, pears, peaches and lychee; there was also brown sugar and caramel notes wafting up from the glass - for a guy with a sweet tooth like mine this boded well. In the mouth, the wine was thick yet smooth with very honeyed flavours, tasting almost like watered down honey, along with raisin and sweet tropical candied fruit notes and just a hint of spice. The wine thoroughly coated the mouth (as it did the glass) and left a long, lingering, persistent finish behind - so much so that minutes later I was licking my cheeks and still tasting the delicious residue. Everybody (5 people) were saying how it was too sweet to drink more than a splash in the glass - I took seconds and almost thirds, why not, not only was it tasty it only had 10% alcohol. Yum ... I would have had thirds, but that's just seemed gluttoness from such a small bottle.

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