If you try different wines, you are bound to figure out what works for you. One part of me wants to do a dipstick and check how useful, you, the reader, are finding these blog posts. Another part of me says it’s too early, keep writing because with hundreds of wine types and styles out there in the world, I have not even scratched the surface with the four South African wines I have blogged about so far. We need more time. Then we can have a useful dipstick test, but feedback along the way is very welcome and useful. I already have a request from Iblis Bane, and I have committed to tasting a Cabernet Sauvignon. That won’t be today though, as I had already lined up the next couple of tastes. Today, I get to share with you the Steenberg Rosé 2016 vintage.
In my opinion, a Rosé is the most under rated and probably least well positioned of the wine types. When I was growing up, a Rosé was perceived as a sweet and cheap wine, good for one purpose only, and that was, the effect of the alcohol in the contents of the bottle of wine. Things have moved from that era, but I don’t think the marketing has been done to correct the thinking of the public, particularly if you are starting out in the world of wine. Rosé can be made in various ways ranging from, blending the red and white wine together, to a more complicated process known as the skin contact method. The latter is where the black/ purple grape skin is removed during the wine making process before it deeply colours the wine.
I have never seen a red wine grape (in terms of appearance on the outside), and so I am very curious to know if you have? Wine grapes used to make red wine are mostly black or purple in skin colour. All wine grape juice is white, be it a red wine grape or white wine grape. The colour of the wine, is therefore a function of the skin of the grape, not the juice inside the grape. Indulge me as I introduce some trivia to illustrate the point I am looking to make. In the 1970’s, California wine producers made white wine from red wine grapes as the demand for white wine far exceeded the availability of the white wine grapes. The wine in the bottle looked white, even though it was from red wine grapes, as the winemakers used the saignée method, which is in essence ‘bleeding off’ the juice from the grape. The saignée is the third methodology used in some regions to produce a Rosé wine.
Rosé wine therefore gets its colour from the black/purple grape skins, but not enough to call it a red wine. That’s not all that is confusing! A Rosé is not served at ‘room temperature’, as you would a red wine. It is chilled and served at similar temperatures as you would serve a white wine, even though it is made of predominantly red wine grapes. Refer back to my blog post on the Spier Signature Merlot if you are not familiar with the serving temperature for red wine. Personally, I like the minimal skin contact type of Rosé, and have found some to be very complex in structure, making for a more pleasant easy drink than some white wines. I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to quaff a pink drink, a practice frowned upon by Louise Gossett Jr and Windhoek Larger in an ad campaign almost a decade ago.
The Steenberg Rosé 2016 was a tasting from early February 2017, and the heat in Cape Town went well with the tasting. This tasting business has become quite the family affair, as Jordan gets busy with the camera and Chomba and I look at the colour, smell and then taste the wine, sharing tasting notes as we go along. Jordan and Maya also get to nose the wine, and I can see their interest to learn based on smell and not taste.
The Steenberg Rosé 2016 is a blend of Syrah grapes from Robertson and Cinsault grapes from Stellenbosch, being 72% and 28% respectively. Cinsault is a red wine grape I had never heard of in my life until drinking this Steenberg Rosé 2016. If I am not mistaken, the grape was not in the previous vintages. After the grapes were pressed, the juice was left for a minimal time on the skins of the grape, giving the wine a beautiful blush pink colour. I was serving the wine chilled to a temperature of 12 degrees Celsius. I know this because the wine thermometer told me so. In case you didn’t believe me when I mentioned my toy last week.
The nose was floral for me, and yet Chomba picked up on the fruits first. Another reason why I find tasting so fascinating is the fact that, it really is your own experience based on what and how you perceive. On tasting, I did pick up the fruity notes Chomba had picked up in the aroma. My taste was still dominated by the spicy notes, but at least I tasted the watermelon Chomba had claimed on nosing the wine. For me though, the finish was a lot more dominated by the herbs. Chomba picked up peaches as well. I was battling to narrow down a particular spice that kept dominating taste buds at the back of my mouth, and voilà, it was none other than liquorice. At the same time Chomba chimed that she had picked up fennel. We were rather animated, and Jordan at this juncture mentioned that fennel does taste like liquorice.
This is a medium bodied wine, 13% in alcohol and it really is a fresh easy drink, fantastic on a hot summer day. It has a decent finish, that lingers at the back of your palate and is one that is dangerous in the sense of how quickly I go through a glass! I’m a wine club member at Steenberg, so I bought it cheaper than the Retail price of R80-00. That makes it a Category C wine by my scale, and at that price it is testament again to my argument that South Africa has quality wines that are below R100-00 per bottle in price. JD Pretorius, won the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the year in 2014, and he has been the cellar master at Steenberg since 2012. The Steenberg Rosé 2016 is a definite HIT for me.
Steenberg is the oldest farm in the Cape and its first owner, Lady Catharina, was the first female land owner in Southern Africa. She is a legend! If you ever go wine tasting at Steenberg, you must immerse yourself in her encapsulating story, which, myth or not, makes for a wonderful addition to the Steenberg experience.