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The French have a unit of sensory measurement known as a caudalie, 'equal to one second's length of a wine's impact on the
palate after swallowing or spitting' (Oxford Companion to Wine). I don't think I have ever heard anyone
use this term but I lost count of my caudalies with this wonderful South
African Chenin Blanc in its maiden vintage. I tasted the wine at my desk one evening, wrote my
tasting note, then wandered off to do something else. When I came back to my
desk many caudalies later (minutes rather than seconds), I still had that
lovely flavour in my mouth.
My tasting note reads: Very
pale, soft gold colour. Even when quite chilled and first opened, an inviting aroma:
sharpness of quince plus the richness of just-ripe apricots, plus a mealy,
leesy depth. The palate is a wonderful combination of tension and freshness
with a creamy, nutty spread across the breadth and length of the palate. At
this youthful stage, a little smoky and mineral and a very slight chew on the
finish. Great concentration and length yet still so lively and a hint of saltiness
on the finish.
Cartology (meaning 'the study of maps') is made by Chris (right) and Suzaan (below) Alheit from
very old, unirrigated bushvines in different parts of the Cape (see the map
below, taken from their website): 30% Perdeberg, 30% Skurfberg (Citrusdal
Mountain), 20% Kasteelberg, 12% Bottelary Hills, 8% Franschhoek. It is all
Chenin Blanc apart from the 8% from Franschhoek, which is old-vine Sémillon.
The Alheits, who have worked not only in the Cape but also in the Napa Valley,
Western Australia, Clare Valley, St-Émilion, the Mosel, intend their wine 'to
be a picture of the Cape, seen through the lens of her mature vineyards, in a
In order to do this, and to make their wine a 'gymnast rather than a sumo
wrestler', the grapes are cooled, hand sorted and whole-bunch pressed. The
juice is lightly settled and then goes into old oak barrels. Once fermentation has
started, without the addition of yeasts, the barrels are monitored daily. They make no acid
adjustment, add no enzymes and add SO2 only post fermentation. Total
production of this wine is just 5,000 bottles.
The Alheits are based at a mountain farm high on the
Hemel & Aarde Ridge in Walker Bay. There's more information about
them and their philosophy on their very attractive website.
The wine has just arrived in the UK, imported by ABS Wine Agencies, where the
recently arrived South African (and Loire) expert Richart Kelley MW is
introducing some great new wines. It is, or very soon will be, available from The Wine Society, The Wright Wine Company (Skipton), Handford Wines
(London SW7), Lay & Wheeler,
Harrogate Wine Company and
(Cambridge). The Alheits are also working with Pascal Schildt in the US, Lovett Vins in Québec and Peter de Leeuw in Belgium. Wine-searcher currently gives just two sources in
South Africa: Wine Cellar and Cybercellar. It's not cheap – the vine yields are tiny, the total production very limited – but each mouthful lasts for ever.
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