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Spier: Signature belies the estate’s depth

The historic Spier wine farm located just outside Stellenbosch has more than 300 years experience in making wine. It is now a giant in the South African wine industry and has worked hard to get their name out and expand their brand. While I certainly admire their large repertoire, last year I wrote a rather damning review calling the Spier brand middle-of-the-road and their Signature Pinotage unremarkable. I do, however, pride myself on being open minded and so of course I accepted when presented with the opportunity to learn more about the various Spier wines. I was not disappointed. While I stand by my review of their Signature Pinotage, I must admit I had no idea of the extent or excellent calibre of their other ranges of wine.

When we arrived for a tasting we were greeted, offered a glass of Méthod Cap Classique (MCC) and shown around their beautiful tasteroom, which is designed with an indoor/outdoor flow and situated next to a dam with a view of the Helderberg mountains in the distance. After a quick tour and explanation of their various ranges, we settled down for the tasting.

In addition to the Signature, Spier also carry the Seaward, Creative Block, 21 Gables and Frans K. Smit ranges, as well as several MCCs and a host of organic wines. The tasting was well conducted, in-depth and very educational, even featuring a few blind tastings as a fun extra. Spier sommelier, Georgio Meletiou, joined us for awhile and it was wonderful to chat about the Spier ranges with someone who is so incredibly knowledgable on wine in general. Indeed, there was so much conversation and discussion surrounding each wine that the afternoon practically flew by. For this write up, however, I am just going to touch briefly on the standouts from each range.

The Spier Signature range is designed as an introduction for those who are starting out on their wine journey. Having previously knocked the pinotage from this range I wasn’t excited to delve into the other wines on offer. But my apprehension was proved entirely unfounded as in the blind tasting I turned out to really enjoy the Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot/ Shiraz blend, thereby proving that the blind tasting is the great equaliser.

Made from grapes grown no further than 30kms from the ocean, the Seaward range features wines that have a distinct minerality and saltiness. Vineyards situated close to the ocean are also slower to ripen than their counterparts inland, thus resulting in a higher fruit concentration and producing wines that are more full bodied and flavourful. I particularly enjoyed the Seaward Sauvignon Blanc. Left on the skins for slightly longer than the Signature Sauvignon Blanc, it has a deeper colour and more rounded flavour profile. I think this range is the perfect step up from the Signature collection and a fantastic introduction to characteristically South African wine.

In a similar bracket is the Creative Block range. While the Seaward range features wines made from a single varietal, the Creative Block range is exclusively blends. Included in this range are some of the classic French blends, from the Rhône style to the white and red Bordeaux blends. Most casual wine lovers may be familiar with a white or red Bordeaux blend but the Rhône style blend is slightly lesser known and, I believe, lesser produced in South Africa. It is usually comprised of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. The Spier take on the Rhône blend combines Shiraz with Mourvèdre and Viognier resulting in a delicate yet complex wine that will be even more enjoyable after a few years in the cellar – keep an eye out for it under the label Creative Block 3. The Creative Block 2, a white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, is a great understated wine perfect for a summer evening. Put a few bottles of the Creative Block 2, 3, or 5 at the back of your cupboard and – at a fantastic price – you will be rewarded with an even better wine in a few years.

21 Gables is a range that is named after the 21 unique gables that can be found on the Spier estate. These gables are a treasured piece of the estate history and dotted around the tasting room, from name tags to wall features. The wines produced under this label are fantastic, with the standout stars for me being the Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. These are well worth the increase in price for the quality of wine. I am looking forward to enjoying more of this label and am excited to see what a few years of ageing in the bottle will do for these wines.

Spier’s top wines are undoubtedly the red and white blend under the Frans K. Smit label. Spier have been meticulous about the winemaking process for these Bordeaux style white and red blends and it has resulted in two world class wines. I could easily write paragraphs about each of them but suffice to say they are a testament to the excellence that Spier is clearly capable of producing. A great addition to to your collection or even as a gift to an avid wine lover. At R1,050 for a bottle of the red blend, it is certainly a splurge, but everyone is entitled to treat themselves once in a while, right?

Whether you are interested in an informative wine tasting or simply wish to relax and snack on a charcuterie board, I can highly recommend a trip out to Spier. Enjoy it by exploring the art, sampling wine at the tasting room, dining at the restaurant, or doing all three. I guarantee you will leave with a few wine bottles in tow.

Mother City News was hosted at Spier’s invitation

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