by Barbara D. Ritchie
The South African Wine Society staged a vertical tasting of Lammershoek Red Roulette at the Toronto Lawn & Tennis Club this March. Carla Kretzel, daughter of Lammershoek owners Austrian born Paul Kretzel and his wife Anna, led us through a lineup of eight Roulette wines from their 2002 to 2010 vintages. The 2007 is currently available at Vintages (LCBO# 58164; 14.0%; $23.95).
Lammershoek Wine Estate is a short 45 minute drive (50km) north of Cape Town, located in the Paardeberg wine region of Swartland. The winery’s name means ‘lamb’s corner’ as the ewes and lambs sought protection from the predatory black eagles (Lammervanger in Cape Dutch) by hiding in the property’s forests. It has some of the oldest vineyards in the region, with the first plantings dating back to 1750. The Kretzels purchased it in 1995, selling their grapes to a co-operative until 1999 when they renovated an old, derelict cellar on the farm into a winery, and launched their own Lammershoek label. In 2010 they became organic. Carla described their philosophy as one of sustainable farming, top quality fruit and minimal interference in the cellar, with an emphasis on Rhone-style varietals. Paul is a proponent of bush vines, as he feels they deliver more consistent fruit and everything in the vineyard from pruning to harvesting is done by hand, which ensures quality and less damage to the grapes. To ensure maximum expression of the terroir and maintain the integrity of the grape, there is no fining and modest filtration of the wine.
Some of South Africa’s best Chenin Blancs (South Africa’s flagship white varietal) come from Lammershoek. Grown on low yielding, 50+ year old bush vines, they thrive in Lammershoek’s Rhone-like growing conditions of a hot climate and sandy, mineral-rich, decomposed granitic soils. Their 96 hectares of property are home to a medley of grape varietals. These include Carignan (first planted in 1976), Harslevelu (a rare European varietal), Pinotage (South Africa’s signature red wine grape) and Tinta Barocca (a Portuguese varietal prominent in Port and red Douro wines). Roulette is the name of Lammershoek’s blended wines – Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier in their Roulette Blanc and Syrah, old vine Carignan, and Grenache in their Roulette Rouge. Since 2002 they have added Mourvedre to the blend, because its deep colour and intense spicy character gives depth and length to the wine.
The blend for the Roulette Red varies from year to year, with a focus on spice and depth. It shows a plum purple colour, with a savoury component, highlighted by thyme, sage and forest underbrush. Lammershoek Roulette Rouge 2007 (LCBO # 58164;14.0%;$23.95) is a classic example of this line. It shows vibrant scents of raspberry, blackberry and cherry, with black pepper and leather tones that interplay with hints of olive in the finish.
As a reception wine, we also enjoyed their rose which is part of Lammershoek’s new LAM label. Lammershoek LAM Rose Syrah 2010 (11.5%) shows a strawberry onion skin colour. Bone dry, it offers delicious strawberry compote and rose petal flower notes in the nose, with a hint of earth and raspberry notes in the finish. Carla explained that is more like a southern Rhone rose, which is unique to this region.
For more information, contact wine agent Eleanor Cosman of Bokke Inc. and President of the South African Wine Society (www.bokkewines.com; Tel: 289 597-9261).