Ridgeback Wines, Paarl, South Africa

5 09 2017

I’ve just been to an inspiring tasting of an estate previously unknown to me, Ridgeback Wines, who are situated in the Paarl mountains. Viticulturist and winemaker Toit Wessels was in Bath today, showing a range of whites, reds, a couple of sparkling and a sweet Viognier.

The estate covers 65 hectares but only 35 of those are planted with the rest as fynbos. The name comes, of course, from the Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, three of which roam and relax in the vineyard.

The entry level tier is called Lion Hound (after the dogs again) and I particularly liked the Red 2015 – a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier. Really aromatic on the nose, developing nicely on the medium-bodied palate. Very good.

The mid-tier is called Vansha (after the children this time, not the dogs) and in this range it was the White 2016 which caught my eye – a blend of 48% Sauvignon Blanc, 32% Chenin Blanc and 20% Viognier. With pineapple and grapefruit characters and nice weight and texture.

The core range is of course called Ridgeback and here there is a very nice Sauvignon Blanc, fresh grapefruit and lime fruit, not too green, with nice concentration. The Viognier is barrel fermented and took some time to open up with some peach kernel aromas.  Quite weighty but still light on its feet and delicious by lunchtime with some sea bass.

There are a whole range of Ridgeback red varietals and blends. I particularly liked the Shiraz and the Cabernet Franc. They were both properly ripe and fragrant. In fact all the reds are properly ripe and one thing I enjoyed about the wines here was the restraint. The alcohols were not too high, the wines are well balanced, not over extracted. Toit knows his vineyards and how to get the best from them.

Top of the range is His Master’s Choice, a Rhone blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache and a touch of Viognier. These are the top barrels with 65% new French oak. The 2013 had lots of concentration and power yet had not become top heavy.

There was a Charmat method Sauvignon/Viognier blend and a Cap Classique Viognier with two years on yeast lees, both of which worked better than you’d expect (10% of the vineyard is planted to Viognier). The sweet wine is unusually 100% Viognier picked very ripe with the fermentation stopped leaving 170g/l residual sugar and a good balance of acidity. Fresh pineapple and lemon glace fruits, light on the finish and not at all cloying.

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