Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cape Jaffa Wines: Honey and Spice and All Things Nice

Premier is a big, often crowded event, but there are pockets of calm, such as the South Australian wine seminar sponsored by Doug Reichel Wine Marketing. We tasted approximately 7 wines from Cape Jaffa Wines in South Australia (300 km south of Adelaide).

The winemakers are Derek and Anna Hooper, and they planted their first vineyards in 1993. Their wines are marketed under three different labels: Southern Reef, Cape Jaffa and La Lune.

The wine seminar was a wonderful opportunity to taste and compare good wines. I was particularly intrigued to learn more about organic and biodynamic wines, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Botrytis Semillon.

Organic / Biodynamic
Derek and Anna Hooper deliberately chose to make organic, biodynamic wines as they wanted to let the land speak through the wine. Southern Reef is their entry level wine. It is not organic and the grapes are outsourced from the general area. Cape Jaffa wines are organic and are in conversion to biodynamic; the grapes are from their own vineyards. La Lune is their top-end wine, and is both organic and biodynamic.

Organic is a fairly straightforward concept, but biodynamic farming is much more complex.

Wine Diva website describes it as “a method of organic farming that treats the 'farm' as an holistic organism, developing and maintaining the interrelationship of all animals, plants and soil within its own self-sustaining and self-nourishing system.

"Biodynamic viticulture seeks to bring the vineyard, and all its components, back into harmony and balance with nature. All aspects of the natural world are considered including the cycles of the moon sun and planets, so planting, pruning and feeding are undertaken using an astronomical calendar as a guide.”

We tasted a Shiraz from each of the three Cape Jaffa brands (non-organic, organic, biodynamic) and there was a noticeable difference. They were all good wines, but the Southern Reef was lip-puckering dry; the Cape Jaffa was smoother with a layer of oak; while the La Lune Shiraz was velvety and peppery.

Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon
Doug Reichel describes Shiraz as “all about pizzazz. Let’s party.” It’s very versatile and goes well with a variety of different meals. Cabernet Sauvignon on the other hand strides into the room and says, “You lucky people. I’m here. Notice me.” Winemakers tame its in-your-face flavour by aging it in oak, but it has less food versatility than Shiraz.

At the wine seminar, we had the good fortune to taste and compare La Lune Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 wines that had been closed with cork and that had been closed with screw cap. The wine from the bottles with cork had a more vibrant aroma with notes of chilli and cedar. The wine from the bottles with screw caps was lighter, prettier.

Shiraz is “the most widely-planted grape variety in Australia. It currently represents 40% of the total red grape crush and constitutes one fifth of all wine grape production in Australia.” (Wine Diva)

La Lune Chardonnay 2010
Derek and Anna Hooper have a young family and weren’t able to join us at the tasting, but they sent us some treats, including the 2010 La Lune Chardonnay. This wine was straight out of the barrel and had not yet been filtered, so it was still cloudy. The flavour was amazing.

I’m not a big fan of Chardonnay. Either the flavour of oak drowns out the grape, or the unoaked wines are too heavy to dance in the mouth.

The La Lune Chardonnay was completely different. The aroma reminded me of honey and butter, and it tasted light and somewhat green (gooseberries, avocado) without being tart. Watch out for this one when it arrives in the stores.

La Lune Botrytis Semillon
Cape Jaffa is normally dry and windy, but in 2009 an autumn rain fell just before harvest and botrytis set in. 'Noble rot' set in and quickly sucked the moisture out of the grapes, leaving behind concentrated sugar. The result is a light, flowery, low-alcohol wine that is sweet without being cloying.

It’s a lovely dessert wine. The owners of Cava Secreta liked it so much, that they purchased half Cape Jaffa’s stock.

See Also:
Doug Reichel Wine Marketing Inc.
Morning Bay Winery
Bodegas Luzon
Melipal: ViƱa & Bodega

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