Franschhoek update

They made their bed, and they made it very well. Now Franschhoek has a stellar reputation for its dining establishments, a reputation that overshadows that of its many wineries and has become the main reason for people to visit. But the Franschhoek vignerons are fighting back, and the recent “Franschhoek Uncorked” festival was designed to draw visitors to the many wineries in the greater valley. They plan to make this an annual event.

What do you think of when you think Franschhoek wine? Whites? Very likely bubbly? Perhaps semillon? Interestingly, a media tasting was held where 26 current and new releases were showcased, and red wines made up the meat of the line-up, chosen by a panel to represent the best that the valley has to offer. The varietal mix was surprisingly light on white, with chardonnay the largest category here, and only one semillon in attendance (Landau du Val, where the vines are now 102 years old!).

Of the five chardonnays, the best was Chamonix’s Reserve 2006, and winemaker Gottfried Mocke showed consistency with another three of his wines in the line-up: his Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2007, Pinot Noir Reserve 2006 and his red blend, Troika 2005. It’s no secret, but if you haven’t tasted these wines yet, or if the name Chamonix is unfamiliar, take a trip out to visit their traditional farm. They have a pretty good restaurant too!

There were no bubblies at the tasting, but Cabrière was represented by its Pinot Noir 2005 which is an honest and appealing pinot in the fruity style. Of the other reds, shiraz was well represented, as were cabernets, but the largest category was reserved for red blends. To my palate, the cabs showed better than the shiraz, with my favourites being the Boekenhoutskloof 2005 which is a pure-fruited and dry red wine. La Petite Ferme’s Cabernet 2005 is also good in a modern style, with lovely soft tannins. If you want a glimpse of the true meaning of “boutique” cellar, visit La Petite Ferme – who of course also have a great restaurant… their merlot is good too.

In the red blend line-up, Boekenhoutskloof debuted a cabernet franc, sauvignon and merlot blend called The Journeyman 2005 which is wonderfully elegant and integrated, and my wine of the evening. Winemaker Marc Kent introduced the name as the title given on an official document to one of his forebears – a title that he feels apt for the “all-sorts” nature of being a winemaker.

And if you don’t get out there before December, you can always make a plan for the 1st and 2nd December when Franschhoek hosts the Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, sure to send the town into fits of merriment.