A Generous Wine Thief

I can’t explain it; I fell in love with Sémillon at an early age. It might have to do with its unusual taste profile, or how seldom you find it on its own; though increasingly more nowadays. Further still, it could also be due to its immense versatility in that it could produce charmingly sweet wines, such as the great Sauternes and Barsac wines (France); character laden and long-lived dry wines, such as in the Hunter Valley (Australia); or be blended successful with varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Chardonnay. Whatever the case, I vigorously seek out any new expression I can find; and on discovering a well made version, it should satisfy my appetite, temporarily, before I’m out again searching for the next fix.

Sémillon grapes courtesy of http://rlliquidassets.com/blog/
Sémillon grapes courtesy of RL Liquid Assets Blog

This particular bottle came to me rather unexpectedly and fortuitously while out in Stellenbosch with a group of friends (a witty German, an eccentric Kenyan and the “big dog that couldn’t be kept down” Zambian) on a sun scorched Sunday. We had stopped off at Quoin Rock, whereas my real intention had been Starke Condé: worlds apart, I know, but both unexplored territories.

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We were tasting through their great value Méthode Cap Classique (see explanation of what MCC is here), the elegant Nicobar and seductive Syrahs, when this scruffy bearded man walked up to our table with a glass half-filled with some murky liquid offering us a taste! Instinctively, I was quick to try it out, without, at that point, fully knowing what exactly it was…

It turned out to be his freshly pressed Sémillon juice that had recently come in from a vineyard in Franschhoek. He was animatedly excited by its quality, and as a result was simply eager to offer others the chance to taste what the raw juice was like. Having never tasted it unfermented before, I was fascinated to discover its blatant similarity to ripe juicy pears; which he confirmed to be its characteristic. What would follow next for the juice would be barrel fermentation and aging (I stand to be corrected) with as little interference as possible.

Sample finished, we begun conversing about the wine, his story and how pissed his wife was during harvest as he spent all his Sundays in the cellar. Hahaha. How I envied him… Telling him about my infatuation with this particular grape variety, Ludwich, I did actually remember his name, decided to spoil me yet again with a bottle of his 2012, his first ever vintage, that was seating in his car. Grateful, I promised to let him know what I thought as soon as I had tasted it, as we had to be leaving in search of food for the “big dog that couldn’t be kept down”.

Jasper is the dog
Jasper is the dog, and a Wyndief is Afrikaans for Wine Thief
A Wine Thief shown on the back label is a glass apparatus used to draw wine samples from barrels
A Wine Thief shown on the back label is a glass apparatus used to draw wine samples from barrels

… 5 weeks later, I finally came around to it. I rather liked the wax detail over the cork, which made an even bigger spectacle of opening the bottle. The first whiff gave forth this enticing dusty hay scent, with that primary pear fruit aroma following through. Lingering in its midst was a further bouquet of creaminess that suggested a richer, rounded mouthfeel to come.

Tasting it, I picked up more quince than pear, and a slight, though expected oily, lanolin character. Its fresh acidity was pleasantly surprising, with the hay flavour reverberating before tapering off with some dried herb aromatics. It is fair to say that I was impressed. The wine certainly had that edge that could captivate a wine-nerd or two, while showing enough restraint and freshness to be enjoyed by less risk loving consumers. As if that wasn’t enough, it paired beautifully with lamb I had cooked that night; showing more fleshy fruit and citrus type acidity!

I’ve subsequently purchased more of the Sémillon (which is unfortunately sold out until next year), and his straight Cabernet Franc and Malbec; which I am still to try. If you’d like to get a hold of his wines do go to his website http://ljvintners.com/wines.html.

PS: To Mrs Jacobs, on behalf of the general wine public at large, kindly keep letting him out as much as he needs (during harvest that is), as I believe he is on to something rather spectacular!

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