Sunday, March 21, 2021

Swerwer Swartland Chenin Blanc 2018

JC (Jasper) Wickens Swerwer Swartland Chenin Blanc 2018

Continuing our exploration of South African wines recently sourced from Vin Chicago, Linda prepared crabcakes and we opened this South African Chenin Blanc for casual sipping. This is from the Swartland appellation, 'Designation of origin' from the Western Cape, Coastal Region of South Africa.

This is produced by winemaker Jasper Wickens who was previously the assistant winemaker at Badenhorst Family Wines He has built up a following since his first releases in 2012 with his highly popular ‘Swartland’ wines. 

Jasper Wickens started out working at Zevenwacht Wine Estate where he learned conventional wine making practices over a two year period. He went on to graduate from Stellenbosch University with a Bachelor's Degree in Viticulture and Oenology. Jasper spent some time in Napa Valley where he was exposed to cutting edge technology and state of the art equipment.

Returning to South Africa he writes, “Adi Badenhorst brought me down to earth, really fast and hard. Coming to the Swartland changed everything I thought I knew about the wine world. Immediately I was working in the most primitive of ways, paying with blood and sweat, to learn that good wine doesn't come without getting your hands dirty. Tasting and developing a feel for the vineyards, the grapes and what they would become was much more important.”Suddenly, Jasper found himself in a completely different environment of old bush vines, natural whole bunch fermentations, low sulphur levels and a hands-off approach. This ‘Swartland norm’ was very far from the clinically sterile approach of the cellars he had worked in before. His time immersed in the ‘primitive’ ways passed quickly resulting in an almost ten year working relationship at AA Badenhorst Family Wines.

During his time at Badenhorst, he was allowed the freedom to travel and explore new cultures of winemaking. He spent time at the ancient, steep sloped slate vineyards of Priorat, Spain, working alongside Eben Sadie at Terroir-al-Limit, using traditional winemaking techniques, plowing with mules and practicing biodynamic farming for the first time. Crafting top wines from old vine Grenache and Carignan, Jasper returned to Priorat yearly between 2009 and 2011.

During the European harvests of 2011 and 2012  Jasper worked with Tom Lubbe at Matassa in Roussilon, France where he explored and experimented with completely naturally made wines farming organically or even bio-dynamically.

Moving with the seasons, working two harvest a year: a South African Swartland harvest followed by an European Priorat and Roussilon harvest, his ‘Swerwer’ project was born. “Swerwer” is a name which describes the lives of many young winemakers who chase the vintages across the globe traversing between the opposing seasons of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. 

The bulk of Swerwer grapes came from Waterval farm where a number of new vineyards were planted especially for Jasper’s growing production. Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Tinta Barocca vineyards were planted with a particular vision for Swerwer. There he got the opportunity to work with old vine Chenin Blanc and be part of the planting of new vineyards.

Waterval is one of the oldest farms in the area of Pardeberg dating back to the late 18th Century farming fruit orchards, vegetables and livestock. Over time and with the rise and formation of Swartland Co-op in the late 1940’s, attention turned to planting grapes. 

The Paardeberg ('horse mountain') divides the Paarl and Swartland wine regions, on the Western Cape coastal region, north of Capetown. The climate has cold winters with an average rainfall of 400-600 mm and hot summer, typically very hot during the day, with cooler temperatures at night.

Paardeberg has some of the highest vineyards above sea level in the Swartland region rising to 700 m. Vines are planted on the slopes of the Paardeberg in relatively deep soil consisting of decomposed sandstone, granite and some clay, while glenrosa-scali-type soil is found on the lower northeastern slopes.

Waterval has been in the Schreiber family since 1947 managed by father and son team, Cyril and Barry. After graduating from Elsenburg, third generation Franziska joined her father Barry and gradually took the ‘reins’, combining old school with a fresh outlook and modern techniques.

In 2016 Jasper and Franziska Waterfal tied the knot and the proprietorship partnership was formed, Jasper as winemaker and Franziska as viticulturist, they set out to produce estate wines from vines dating back to the 1960s. The old cellar on Waterval farm was renovated and equipped with the help of Adi. The first grapes in 50 years were received in January 2019, the same year James Barry was born to be the 4th generation on Waterval.

JC (Jasper) Wickens Swerwer Swartland Chenin Blanc 2018

Winemaker note for this label in 2019, "A high quality, focused Chenin Blanc. An invite of white and yellow stone fruit and herbal notes to a leaner palate, softly textured with peach, citrus, quince and a slightly savoury touch. A zesty acid zip leaves flavours to evolve and broaden with a longer finish. It is a complex and well-balanced wine, to be enjoyed fresh with food, although it can benefit with ageing to become quite complex and special."

Straw colored, light bodied, crisp acidity with citrus, tropical and stone fruit and hints of peach and lime on a zesty finish.

RM 88 points