For the second time in a row our wine of the week is South African. And again it’s from Swartland (literally: the black land, after the indigenous, now endangered ‘rhino bush’ that turns black after rain), an area formerly famous for bushvines and for full-bodied red wines and fortified wines. It’s generally hot and dry, but with many variations on the theme.
The Swartland Independent Producers (SIP) is a group of producers that wish to express a true sense of place in the wines of the Swartland.
The SIP organization has implanted several requirements, such as a minimum of 80% of own bottling, and that an “independent” wine must be 100% of Swartland origin. Interesting for us is the requirement that the wines must be naturally produced. Their view of a natural wine reads: “a wine that has no yeast or yeast supplements added, no acidity manipulation, or tannin additions, no chemical fining, water addition / dilution, and no reverse osmosis or any other application to change the constitution of the wine. Sulphur additions are allowed, but producers are encouraged to make moderate additions.”
Another view we share 100% is this: “As over-oaking tends to ‘mask’ the essence of grape variety and site, no wine may be aged with more than 25% new wood (barrique) as a component.”
Penny and Billy Hughes
The Hughes Family is located in the Malmesbury area in the middle of Swartland. It’s named after the main town, and is also the name of the most prominent type of soil. Argentinian-born Billy Hughes bought some land here in 2000 and is now running the estate together with his wife Penny. In various topsoils on granite bedrock primarily Rhône varieties are planted. The working of the land is in accordance with the organization’s principles. Did I say working? ‘Leave the vines in peace’ is their motto.
Native yeasts are integral to give the site-special aromas and flavours. The wine is always made primarily from shiraz (in this vintage 63%), with variable amounts of mourvèdre, grenache, pinotage, tempranillo, – and once in a while the white viognier, each variety vinified separately, then blended. The wines stay around 8 months in small French barrels, with only small amounts of new oak.
Nativo 2013 (The Hughes Family Wines)
Deep cherry red. Aroma of dark berries, nuances of spices, herbs and coffee. Lots of both fresh and mature fruit in the mouth, nice rounded tannins, a mineral touch, and a fruity accent all the way.
Food: Meat like beef, lamb and game (and why not with tasty sauces, and possibly also with tropical fruits on the side), stews, and much more