Beyond the periphery of South Africa’s conventional vineyard regions lie great vinous treasures, resigned to anonymity; forgotten, abandoned or just simply undiscovered. It is the mission of Rick, our intrepid Cape Crusader, to seek out and liberate these rare wines, consigning them to the table of the most inquisitive and discerning imbiber. Each episode represents a single discovery; a precious parcel that is both unique and finite.
The Francophile Chenin Blanc marks a departure for The Liberator since this latest release is neither an Episode nor a Special Edition. With such a fantastic resource of old, bush vine Chenin at his disposal, Rick has commissioned the making of this particular wine, rather than liberating an existing parcel. It’s intended to be sustainable and repeatable; to be enjoyed copiously in the knowledge that it is not subject to the finite quantities imposed by The Liberator Episodes.
With Rick’s Francophile palate in mind, these grapes were selected and hand-harvested from the cooler south-east slopes of the Bottelary Hills which flank the town of Stellenbosch. In collaboration with his old mukker, Carl van der Merwe, they were naturally fermented, partly in stainless steel tanks and partly in 3,000 litre oak foudre. Without recourse to any malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged on its lees for ten months, prior to being bottled in March 2013.
Anyone who has ever had an audience with Rick will already be convinced that Chenin Blanc is, in fact, the world’s greatest grape variety. For the past 20-odd years, it’s been Rick’s Mission from God to preach this gospel to South Africa’s winemakers, to ensure they recognise the value of their old vine Chenin; a vinous resource just as precious as gold and diamonds are to the rest of the country.
For those commentators content to view South African Chenin Blanc as the primary source of industrial quantities of sub-standard supermarket promotional fodder, think again. This is no facile example; it’s a wine that is designed to demonstrate what can be achieved with a little bit of care and attention in both the vineyard and the cellar. It might well remain South Africa’s most widely planted grape variety, but it’s a fact that should be celebrated and not dismissed.
Dry, with just the faintest influence of its ageing in the the four-year old wooden tanks, The Francophile Chenin Blanc is delicious now, but could be expected to evolve and gain additional complexity over the next two to three years.
The Francophile marks a departure for The Liberator since this latest release is neither an Episode nor a Special Edition. In this instance, Rick has commissioned the making of this young vine Syrah, rather than liberating an existing parcel. It’s intended to be sustainable, repeatable and created to be enjoyed copiously in the knowledge that it is not subject to the finite quantities imposed by The Liberator Episodes.
Hand-picked from the weathered granite soils on the cooler south-east facing slopes of the Bottelary Hills, these grapes were sourced with Rick’s Francophile palate in mind. For the benefit of those anoraks among you, the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks (using indigenous yeasts), incorporating around 15% of whole bunches to help retain both fruit and freshness. After enjoying a two week post-fermentation maceration, the young wine was drawn-off into concrete tanks where it underwent the malo-lactic fermentation, before being aged for a further 12 months and then bottled (without filtration) in March 2013.
Ask Rick which wine The Francophile Syrah most resembles and he’d probably compare it to a young Crozes-Hermitage. Full of vibrant red-black fruit and with an aromatic nose reminiscent of Saint-Joseph lilies, the result is a thrilling young red that is free of the constraints and manipulated flavour profile that come with barrel-ageing. This is a very pure and naked example of the Syrah grape. Dangerously drinkable on release, it could be expected to age for three to five years in bottle.