Continuing our tasting tour of wines; today we are tasting the Penny Black, a dark blended red wine from Post House Vineyards in South Africa.
Even though wines have been produced in South Africa for 350 years, the country itself is still considered to be a new world producer. In the earliest of years, wine production and techniques were influenced by European settlers from the Netherlands, England, Italy, and Germany. Although the South African wine industry was growing and production improving, the exportation of South African wines was still quite limited through the 20th century.
In the 1990’s a confluence of events:
1) Nelson Mandela’s freedom in 1990
2) The introduction of democracy in 1994
3) The economic and political desire to reemerge on the international trading market
4) Investment capital in export industries i.e. wine
truly opened up the world market potential for South African wines. As such, an old world wine industry becomes a new world wine producer.
The winery: Post House Vineyards
History and Background
Hermann Gebers bought the farm in the picturesque area between the towns of Somerset West and Stellenbosch in 1981. Situated on a ridge, the winery offers panoramic views of Cape Point, False Bay and the surrounding Helderberg Mountains. This area is one of the preeminent wine regions of South Africa and falls under the ward of Stellenboch.
The farm was systematically planted to vine. In 1996, Nick Gebers made a couple of experimental barrels. Two vintages later, and after a stint in Burgundy, the first vintage was released. As the homestead on the farm had originally operated as a post office, serving the local missionary community of Raithby, it was a logical step to associate the wine with its postal origin. The wines were thus named Post House.
Viticulture and Terrain
Until the early 1980s, the Post House site had a mix of tobacco and bush vines, which was systematically planted to vines. The property covers a total of 185 acres of which 111 acres are used for vineyards. Varietals were selected to suit the soil and growing conditions. Since 2007, the vineyard comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Petite Verdot, Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Viognier.
Using leaner soil, rather than more fertile soil, results in a more balanced vine. The more fertile the soil, the more vigorous the growth; this leads to the associated drawbacks of high yield and shaded fruit. At Post House the advantage of leaner soils, results in wines with a good balance between the levels of alcohol and acidity.
The vineyard is planted on the foothills of the Helderberg Mountains. The red varietals are planted on a gentle westerly slope while the Chenin Blanc enjoys a cooler southerly slope. The soils mainly are a conglomerate gravel on a clay base. This gravel soil is known as ‘cool ground’. This is because the gravel acts as natural mulch, shading the vine roots from the sun. The gravel /clay combination acts like a sponge, storing water during the rainy season and redistributing it back to the roots in the dry season. This ensures constant feeding of the vines, giving them a more balanced water source than simple irrigation would supply.
The foliage is a very important element of the vine. It is both the energy factory of the vine as well as a moderator of the sun’s rays in bunch zones. It is important to have sufficient leaves to ripen the grapes to their optimum while not over shading the bunches. The trellis system is 4-6 wires for vertically trained vines known as the Vertical Shoot Positioned Trellis. Shoots are trained up allowing the sun to filter through onto the grape skin, which is essential for the development of ripe tannins and colour in red wine. Furthermore, leaves are removed on the south side of the vine around the bunch zone thereby increasing the exposure of the grape bunches to the gentle morning sun.
The Wine: Penny Black 2006
Named after the 1st stamp to be printed in the world, the wine is composed of the following varietals: Shiraz , Merlot , Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.
Alcohol 15.1% vol
Residual sugar 1.7 g/l
Free SO2 22 mg/l
Total SO2 40 mg/l
Total acid 5.7 g/l
Maturation potential up to 8 years.
On our 1st pour we immediately noticed the color; a deep inky red almost purple in appearance; a rich and intense display. Upon tasting we were struck by the depth and character; layers of tastes, a smooth almost silky texture was noticeable. We were anxious to pair this with some food.
We paired the Penney Back with some grilled NY sirloin, oven roasted potatoes, broccoli, and a fresh garden salad with blue cheese dressing. As expected, the food and wine paired exceptionally well. The grilled beef brought forward the layers of subtle flavor. In fact, the food helped us discover and appreciate the depths of flavor in the wine. This is a great wine to serve with any type of grilled meat such as lamb, beef, or pork.
Since the subtle flavors were enhanced by the food, we suspected the wine would open up over time and flavorfully stand on its own over time. We were not disappointed. After being opened for 2 hours or so, we tasted the wine once again on a stand-alone basis. Wow! The flavors were present, the wine now smoother, and the texture a silky smooth mouthful. Especially good and definitely something we would serve again.
Where to buy the wine:
A special thank you to the folks at Terry Seitz Inc. for their support in providing information on the wine.