Saturday, March 13, 2021

Babylonstoren Simonsberg-Paarl South Africa Shiraz 2018

Babylonstoren Simonsberg-Paarl South Africa Shiraz 2018

This South African Shiraz is a current special offering from local merchant Vin Chicago. We had to try it and are glad we did! It is from the Simonsberg-Paarl ward or appellation, (what in the US would be called an AVA, or an AOC in France, DOC in Italy), the most granular South Africa wine area designation, within the Paarl District, within the Coastal Wine Region of South Africa, located in the southwestern tip of the nation. 

South African Wine Regions are generally aligned with geographic units, regions and districts largely traced by political boundaries, the sub-unit appellations or wards are segmented and defined by their unique Terroir characteristics, as with other wine area classifications around the world.

Simonsberg, translated into English means Simon's Mountain, is part of the Cape Fold Belt Mountain Range in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is located between the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, where the prominent 1399 m high mountain is detached and freestanding from the other ranges in the winelands region.

I gained an appreciation for South African wines during my South African Wine Experience visit there two years ago when I had the chance to drink some popular and limited release wines.

Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, set at the foot of Simonsberg in the Franschhoek wine valley. They produce a wide portfolio of wines, crafted in a state-of-the-art winery to reflect the unique terroir soils and climate where its grapes are grown. The Babylonstoren estate also includes a contemporary Farm Hotel & Spa, and the Farm Shop and Restaurants.

They have 88 hectares (217 acres) under vine and produce 13 different grape varieties. The vineyards lie against the Simonsberg (Mt Simon) reaching altitudes of 600 meters above sea level. The highest vines are planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Some of the vines on the farm date back to original plantings by the farm’s previous owners, the Louw family, who lived there for four generations. The Louws were grape growers for the former Simondium Co-operative Winery and other large wineries in the area. 

The branding of Babylonstoren wines are represented in the Babylonstoren logo, which consists of the pipe (representing the farmer), the flower (representing the garden) and the bird (representing nature).

Winemaker producer Charl Coetzee says, "This combination is the very essence of Babylonstoren – keeping things simple and as true to the earth as possible. It is this that we strive to achieve in our wine," says Charl Coetzee. "Truth to the area we are situated in on the slopes of Simonsberg, and simplicity by making elegant and balanced wines as natural as possible."

This label is 100% estate Shiraz. Fermentation takes place on the skins for about seven days, after which it gets an extended maceration period of about one week. The wine then gets pressed into a combination of 70% new and 30% second-fill 300 liter French oak barrels. After malolactic fermentation the wine gets racked and is then returned to the barrels for another 18 months before bottling.

This release was awarded 96 points by Decanter World Wine Awards in 2020.

Winemaker: Charlenes Coetzee Tasting Notes: "Aromas of cassis, pencil shavings, ripe fruit, a little dustiness and fragrant violets. Matured in French oak, this delicious Shiraz has a fresh mid-palate with dark cherry and soft prune flavours and a hint of spice. The mouth-feel is rich and velvety and the finish long and pleasing. A firm favourite of ours."  

At slightly more than $20, this represents good value high QPR (Quality Price Ratio). 

We drank this with Covid carry-out Italian pizza and pasta dinner from Angeli's Italian, our local neighborhood trattoria. 

What you would hope for in a big full throttle Shiraz - dark inky purple colored, full bodied, slightly flabby, concentrated dense black berry and sweet black cherry brambly fruits with a layer of smokey menthol and black olive, spice, graphite and hints of cassis and white pepper with tongue coating acidity on the lingering finish.  Lacks elegance or polish, a bit obtuse, but tasty and enjoyable.

RM 90 points.

twitter : @babylonstoren