Niël Groenewald, Bellingham Winemaker

I think we can safely call both Pinotage and Chenin Blanc South African grapes.  Pinotage was created here in the late 1920s by Professor Abraham Perold.  Chenin Blanc originated in the Loire Valley in France, though our plantations here are 6 times larger than the French and it is South Africa’s most planted white wine grape.

Bellingham, one of the oldest premium wineries in the Franschhoek Valley, was brought back to life in the middle of the 20th century by Bernard and Fredagh Podlashuk.  The wines by Bernard, a maverick and pioneer in the wine industry, and the homestead and its gardens by Fredagh. Today it stands as a monument to them both, much like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’s houses in Hollywood, almost like they have stepped out for a moment.

Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc on my desk

Modern day Bellingham has Niël Groenewald as its winemaker and he is producing some truly great wines in his The Bernard Series, which honour the founder of the new Bellingham. Each wine has its own unique provenance, in terms of age of vines and soil and microclimatic conditions.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016

The Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 is the produce of three exceptional vineyards in Agter Paarl, Durbanville and the Bottelary Hills with an average age of 45 years.  Grown in weathered granite the vineyards yield a low 4 to 5 tons per hectare. 12 months in 50% new French Oak Barrels, the balance being 2nd fill, give the wine its gravitas from the extended lees contact with regular stirring of the lees.

It looks like
Packed under screw cap in a Burgundy shaped bottle with the elegant The Bernard Series Label. In the glass a gem bright pale golden wine with green amber flashes.

It smells like
A mélange of tropical fruits, ripe white fleshed peaches, granadilla, guava, desiccated pineapple. Undertow of supporting oak, white flowers and fynbos honey.

It tastes like
A brilliant fruited entry with a big mid palate.  The oak, the fruit, the oak, the fullness and the length all make for a truly sublime wine. An excellent food wine.

It’s good with
Chenin Blanc for me, always goes well with chicken.  A good roasted, buttery, herby garlicky organic chicken will meet the wine perfectly.  Excellent with Oriental dishes, mild Kerala Vegetable curries, roast pork belly with crispy crackling. Tracy Foulkes of NoMU Foods has a fabulous pork belly recipe,  Tracy Foulkes’s Crispy Pork Belly with Chocolate Hoisin Sauce, which actually would go well with both of these wines.

Tracy Foulkes’s Crispy Pork Belly with Chocolate Hoisin Sauce

The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage 2015

Picked from a 17-year-old single vineyard block of dry land farmed vines. The vines are planted in weathered granite and produce low crops. What Niël did was to have the hand harvested bunches selected in the vineyard and this was followed by berry selection once the grapes reached the cellar.  Fermentation took place in open top French oak barrels with regular daily punch downs. After malolactic fermentation the wine was taken to half new French oak barrels, and the remainder to second fill French oak barrels where it was matured for 12 months, before being prepared for bottling.

A fine handful of Pinotage in the harvesters hands

It looks like
Bottled under cork in the traditional Burgundy shaped bottle indicating its central and southern French provenance. Elegant quietly stated label. In the glass, a dark opaque ruby at the core which pales out to a purple garnet meniscus.

It smells like
A generosity of dark fruits. Satsuma plums, black cherries and the raspberry I always associate with this grape variety.

It tastes like
Fabulous dark fruits – rustic mulberries, wild roadside brambles, sweet Agen prune plums before desiccation – on entry which fills the mid palate and continues through to the long aftertaste which is sprinkled with sweet brown spices and well interwoven tannins. I sense an undertow of fine charcuterie lurking midst the say fruit.

It’s good with
This is a serious food wine and Pinotage is a good match with pork.  It works with duck, lamb and venison and a good hard cheese like the Dalewood Fromage Huguenot.

Dalewood Fromage Huguenot – pasture fed cows

For both wines, the Tracy Foulkes dish above is a good match. Click here for her recipe.

Tracy Foulkes with business partner and husband Paul Raphaely

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