Hartenberg Estate harks from Stellenbosch. The name alone conjuring up images of mountain landscapes and lush green vineyards basking in the warm summer sunshine. Winemaker, Carl Schultz, visited the Bancroft offices this week and took the opportunity to explain a little more about Hartenberg. Enthusiastic and driven, he helped to paint an intimate portrait of what makes both he and Hartenberg Estate tick. How, what, where and when.... No stone was left unturned and my appreciation was founded for a man who is doing everything he can possibly do to produce the very finest wines possible. The experience was quite humbling and completely unexpected. The wines were, well... outstanding. Not really a word I use that often, yet in this context it almost feels like I am being a touch unreasonable- the fruit quality, balance and winemaking application on show being unequalled in this taster’s experience of South African wines. Shiraz is the variety for which Hartenberg has become famous, and it is Shiraz which played the strongest hand in our tasting.
Next up was the soon to be iconic “Stork” Shiraz. A single vineyard release, which has only this month been awarded the prestigious Best Shiraz in the World at the Syrah Du Monde. Though extremely well built with a rich, pepper and spice nose and palate, there was a core of real elegance. This wine, though big, has its feet on the ground, exceptional balance and an assured future. Black cherry, fresh crushed redcurrant juice and vanilla... It was disarming in its overall femininity and elegance on the palate. Almost a total contradiction, its personality and gravitas reminded me of the 2000 Opus One I had tasted earlier on in the week. The 2008 Stork has been crafted in a Mouton-Rothschild mould and to those lucky enough to have tasted this noble First Growth, you will know exactly how difficult, nay impossible this style is to mimic. Simply out of this world....
|Gravel Hill Vineyard|
Still to come was the flagship release “Gravel Hill Shiraz”, a single vineyard release from stony soils. Until recently the only way to acquire this rare wine (a mere 350 cases are made each vintage) was to purchase through the Cape Winemaker’s Guild auction, which is held yearly in South Africa. We tasted the current 2007 vintage and were again introduced to a beguiling, contradiction of a wine which must register as one of the most complete New World Shiraz I have ever tasted. This really did remind me of 2003 Hermitage, a vintage of extreme heat in the Northern Rhone, yet one which produced some immortal and uniquely endowed wines. Gravel Hill has this richness but again, a delicacy and freshness to balance these concentrated flavours. More tannic than the Stork, it will be a keeper for several decades and unlike many a New World Shiraz, will continue to develop throughout its evolution.
Written by Martin Wheatley, Fine Wine Sales