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2012 Keermont Syrah, Stellenbosch
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Keermont intends to create wines that reflect the beautiful place from which they come and the particular year’s vintage conditions. The wines are made as naturally as possible with very little irrigation in the vineyards and minimal intervention in the winery.
The estate has been owned by the Wraith family since 2003. Two thousand and five saw the start of a major vineyard-planting programme on lands that had been fallow for a number of years. Seventeen hectares were planted over four years to add to an existing eight hectares of older vineyards. Keermont’s official maiden vintage came in 2007.
The farm is situated high up in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, otherwise known as Paradyskloof (Paradise Valley). Due to the steepness of the terrain, the altitude climbs 200m within the 1.7km length of the farm and the vineyards are planted between 250m and 400m above sea level. Thus the vines planted over these different terrains ultimately produce wines with good complexity and a variety of flavours. In addition, the proximity to False Bay and the Indian Ocean also moderates the climate in the vineyard.
Winemaker Alex Starey is in charge of the vineyards and making the estate’s wines. Employed at the start of the redevelopment of the farm in 2005, he has travelled and worked in wine regions including Maipo Valley in Chile; Penedès and Priorat in Spain; and St Emilion and Cote Rotie in France.
Keermont have been ‘up-and-coming’ for the last few years but it feels as if their 2013 white and 2012 reds are suddenly realising the full potential of this spectacular site. The wines are fabulous. In the words of Neal Martin (Wine Advocate, October 2013), “If you want to see the new South Africa and catch a glimpse of what the future beholds, then look no further than Keermont.”
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.
Stellenbosch is South Africa’s best-known wine region, producing a wide variety of wines from leading estates, even though it accounts for less than 20 per cent of the country’s total production. Designated wards within the wine region are Jonkershoek Valley, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Bottelary, Devon Valley and Papegaaiberg.
At 17,500 hectares, Stellenbosch remains the Cape's most famous and important fine wine district, thanks to its proximity to Cape Town, to the cooling influences of False Bay, its mountainous (ie Helderberg, Simonsberg), granitic topography and its centres of learning such as Elsenburg Agricultural College.