An anniversary calls for celebration, especially when it is a year symbolised by a precious metal. Recently, the Basson family celebrated the silver jubilee of their wine estate Kleine Zalze. On a sunny day in Stellenbosch, we joined the Bassons for this special occasion, where a selection of vintage and Family Reserve wines told the remarkable story of the family-owned wine farm.
Arriving at Kleine Zalze, we were warmly welcomed with a flute of the estate’s exquisite MCC Vintage Brut, an old-world-style sparkling wine crafted from only the finest selection of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties and matured for five years. Following a few “cheers”, the guests were invited to escape the sun and move to the cool wine cellar adjacent to the restaurant. It was an appropriate venue as this was the cellar where Kleine Zalze launched its first collection of wines in 1996.
The vibrant hues of the first selection – Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc – lit up the wine cellar. Seated alongside close friends and employees – all of whom have, over the years, become like family to the Bassons – we went on a wine-tasting journey, with each variant telling a story of not only the history, but the future of Kleine Zalze wines.
The selection of oaked Chenin Blanc comprised varieties of 2013, 2015 and 2017. “Still young”, the most matured of the trio – the 2013 – was distinct on the nose and on the palette, hints of fruit and an essence of honeycomb. It’s a variety which, after eight years, has matured beautifully. The same should apply to the current 2019 which, stored in optimum conditions, will be enjoyed over the next 15 years.
The 2015 had a less distinct olfactory character, while the 2017 was sharper on the nose. Both these variants were equally enjoyable, with the time spent inside the barrels providing additional texture to the wine.
Following the selection of Chenin Blanc, the Sauvignon Blanc derivatives included varieties from 2009, 2012 and 2017. “Serious wines with a long future” the trio of Sauvignon Blancs are crisp and flavourful, with each providing an herbaceous and fruity character on the palette.
The first Shiraz produced by Kleine Zalze, the selection of Family Reserve Shiraz we tasted included the elegantly aged 2003 variant. It was great to experience how its 2009 and 2013 descendants, both beautiful on the palette, compared to the most matured variant. On the eye, the 2003 and 2009 had hues comparable to that of coffee, while the youngest of the trio was more burgundy in colour.
For the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, the age-old adage of “wine gets better with age” do, indeed, ring true. The beautifully crafted, flavoursome 2015, the youngest of the trio of Cabernet Sauvignons we tasted, then, should age remarkably well over the coming decades.
However, wine is best enjoyed with not only family and friends but also paired with delectable food. After the journey through Kleine Zalze’s short yet storied history of winemaking, Chef Nic van Wyk spoiled us with exquisitely prepared lunch which, of course, was enjoyed with Kleine Zalze MCC Brut and Family Reserve wines.
The menu included an array of canapes, which comprised curry lamb spring rolls with riata, trout tartare with horseradish cream and whole wheat blini, and crispy polenta with truffle sweetcorn and soft spring onions. When it was time to have a seat at the celebration table, guests were served row salad, green beans and asparagus, baby potatoes, sirloin, lamb rib and a prawn and calamari dish. Desert included pistachio meringue, soft nougat, and macerated strawberries.
All wines do, indeed, tell a story. For South African wines, this is especially true, with centuries of tales capable of filling libraries. In the grander scheme of South African wine history, though, Kleine Zalze’s biography may be short. However, it is an unfolding story, and one that’s worth a read, preferably with one of the estate’s award-winning wines. We are looking forward to seeing what the next chapter of Kleine Zalze’s story will bring. It will no doubt be an incredible one.
For more information on Kleine Zalze’s wines, wine tasting and restaurant, visit www.keinezalze.co.za.