Amathus Drinks is thrilled to have South African, family run winery, Idiom in its portfolio so when we had the opportunity to taste their range of wines with Roberto Bottega, we couldn’t let it pass. Roberto is the son of Alberto who set up the winery as a retirement project in 1997. You can read more about the history of the family and the winery by following the link, but for now we’re going to be focussing on the wines themselves. This blog will just look at the French influenced wines but follow the link and you can explore the Italian varietals too.
Taste the Journey
Despite being categorised as a New World wine making country, the climate in and around Stellenbosch in South Africa is actually more similar to that of the French wine making regions; the cool sea breezes from both the Atlantic and Indian oceans and the cooler temperatures found at altitude up the mountains are to thank for this. The grapes benefit from glorious New World sunshine but with cooler, Old World temperatures which allow for elegant, refined wines.
Roberto and his family have taken their influence from these factors and have produced wines that mimic some of the iconic wines of France. In our master class we started in the Rhone Valley and began by tasting the only white in the range, Viognier.
Idiom Viognier 2011
This expressive, elegant white emulates the iconic wine from Condrieu. The texture is incredibly rounded and complex thanks, in part, to two pickings taking place. The first just before the grapes are at their prime ripeness, this retains the freshness, acidity and elegance, and the second later on when the grapes are fully ripe, succulent and with optimum sugars. 50% of the wine is then fermented in new French oak barrels to add a spicy, warmth to the final blend before all the wine is matured in older barrels. The result is a rich, creamy, spicy wine with notes of apricot, honey, blossom, lime peel and peach. The finish lingers beautifully on the tongue to ensure you appreciate this multifaceted wine to its full effect.
Staying in Northern Rhone we moved onto the reds with a wine that emulates Cote-Rotie:
Idiom Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier 2008
The blend here is 52% Shiraz, 44% Mourvedre and 4% Viognier. The addition of a little bit of white wines adds a real elegance and refinement to the finish of wine and ‘cools’ the heat of the reds grapes. The three are vinified separately then expertly blended to achieve the perfect balance. The result is a sumptuous yet savoury wine with notes of smoky bacon, cloves, herbs and licorice but cram-packed full of juicy black cherries and black currants. It’s a really inviting wine, but be warned, there are sinister undertones lurking in its dark, brooding depths.
Next we move west to visit Bordeaux and a wine style that South Africa has become well known for:
Idiom Bordeaux Blend 2007
Right in the middle of the floral kingdom of the Western Cape is where we find the vineyards that grow the grapes for this exciting blend. The Bottega family have allowed many different clones of different grape varieties to grow on different patches of vineyard with different aspects and soil profiles. When skilfully blended the final wine shows many small bumps of complexity rather than one large peak. It is this complexity of black currant, black berry, mace spice, wild flowers, fruit cake and ripe plums, along with firm tannin and fresh acidity, that make this wine fine and elegant for drinking now but with the potential to age for a further 5 years. Simply delicious.
Our final wine in this flight is something unique to South Africa that has its root firmly back in France.
Idiom Cape Blend 2008
To be called a Cape Blend a wine must have a minimum of 30% Pinotage along with, usually, but not always, Bordeaux varietals. Pinotage was developed in South Africa as a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, both French varietals. The rest of this Idiom Cape Blend is 40% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. It exudes cassis and sweet red cherry, which are balanced with warming pudding spice, worn leather and a mushroom earthiness. It is enticing and intriguing and a delight to drink, especially now the nights are drawing in.
If you liked the sound of Idiom range so far, check out the Italian style wines they produce too, just follow the link. Or if you’d like to explore the French style wines for yourself, Amathus Knightsbride will be hosting a comparative masterclass on Thursday 20th November. Email email@example.com to book your place and join us to compare the Idiom wines with their French counterparts.