Semillon is a complicated grape variety that could probably be thought of as the white equivalent of Cabernet Franc – neither being easy varieties for wine novices to get their heads around, but once you fall in love with them, there is no looking back. These 116-year-old vines come from the famous Landau du Val vineyard in the Bo-Hoek area of the Franschhoek Valley, owned by Basil Landau, really do yield some very special fruit capable of making some truly profound white wines.
Harvested February 2017, the fruit was picked and chilled overnight before being destemmed without crushing and left to macerate on the skins for 24 hours before pressing. The juice was settled in tank and then transferred to old 500 litre French oak barrels for natural fermentation which lasted 6 weeks. After fermentation, bâtonnage was performed once a week to add richness and texture to the wine. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined after 12 months ageing in barrel.
As with many other complex wines, cuisines and works of art, it seems unreasonable to expect that every critic will taste and understand classic old vine Semillon in the same manner and see eye to eye with their critical ratings. But this is undoubtedly an impressive wine fashioned by subtlety and whispered nuances, austere liquid minerality and a slowly evolving textural passion play that eventually seduces the drinker.
Black Elephant Vintners & Co. The Dark Side of the Vine Semillon 2017, W.O. Franschhoek, 12.25% Abv.
pH 3.41 | TA 5.6 g/l | RS 2.30 g/l
Old Vine Semillon doesn’t come much more serious than this wine. Add to the equation a high quality, super taut, tightly wound vintage and you have all the building blocks for a truly special wine. This vintage requires plenty of time and breathing to release its intricacies, but after several hours, the aromatics rise to a fine classical crescendo of pithy white citrus, nectarine peel, crushed gravel and dusty chalk minerality, hints of white pepper, dried nuts and a lick of lanolin and tinned petit pois. On the palate, the structure is super taut with an iron grip that releases the underlying intensity of the old vine fruit in a slow and measured manner. There is plenty of crunchy white peach stone fruit, dried herbs, tart green pear, yellow grapefruit pith and a long, spicy, leesy finish framed by linear acids. Another complex, restrained offering that will take a little time in the cellar to show at its best. An educated palate will undoubtedly recognise and enjoy the classism and quality of this very fine Semillon expression. Drink from 2022 to 2034+.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)