Saronsberg Full Circle has not come full circle in 10 years, getting better and better!

Last week a number of writers were invited to a ten-year vertical tasting of Saronsberg Full Circle, the wine estate’s flagship brand, followed by lunch at the Cape Grace.  While the reason for the choice of name is not known, the wine is likely to not come full circle, getting better and better with every vintage.

Winemaker Dewaldt Heyns has a wonderful ability to explain his wines, speaking with passion but

without technicalities, remembering the Saronsberg Dewaldt Heyns Whale Cottagepeculiarities of each of the ten vintages which we tasted, without a note to refer to.  The tasting was held in the recently refurbished Leeward Room, adjacent to the Signal restaurant and facing the refurbished pool area. During the tasting the glass sliding doors were closed when the pool chlorine could be smelt inside the venue.  We were spread over four round tables, with chairs with unusual modern upholstery in black, grey, white and burgundy, in contrast to the green velvety drapes.  I sat with my back to the pool, facing the framed Saronsberg logo projected onto the back wall.

Saronsberg Full Circle is a Rhône-style blend of Shiraz, Viognier, and Mourvèdre in early years, and since 2008 with Grenache added (too young to be added in earlier years).  Dewaldt shared that he started with a high percentage of Shiraz, as high as 90% in 2005, reflecting his reliance on Shiraz, a cultivar he is passionate about, knows well, and is his ‘comfort zone‘, he said.  As he became more confident with the Full Circle blend over the ten-year period, the lower the Shiraz proportion has become, now at 76% in the 2013 vintage. Slowly the Grenache proportion has increased to 12% in 2013, with Mourvèdre at 8%, and Viognier at 4%.  The alcohol level has dropped slightly over time, to 14,5%.

The vinification process was explained, all grapes being hand-picked and force cooled at 4ºC. The Shiraz, Saronsberg 10 glasses Whale CottageMourvèdre, and Grenache grapes are bunch sorted, and the berries gently crushed.  The cultivars are matured separately, left on the lees for 11 months, the blend created and then returned to new oak barrels for 20 months. In total twenty-one 300 litre barrels are produced per vintage. The Viognier is vinified separately as a white wine.

The notes which we received about each Full Circle vintage showed that most received excellent industry feedback in awards won, up to nine for the 2010 vintage, and six awards each for the 2011, 2008, and 2005 vintages.  Each of the vintages was praised by the attendees, many of us really enjoying the first-tasted 2013 vintage, which is likely to come to its peak in eight to ten years, according to Dewaldt. Dewaldt said that ‘the wine should reflect the vintage, and each has its own character’.  Dewaldt advised that wine should be opened just before drinking, to replicate the consumer experience.  He said that his favourite of the ten vintages is the 2006, with perfect balance. In making his wines, Dewaldt strives for elegance. He also wants to prove that Tulbagh can deliver better than is expected of the region. The Saronsberg Full Circle 2012 vintage is currently being sold, at R275 per bottle.

We moved across to the Signal restaurant, seated at one best online casino long table. In both instances I sat next to Good Hope FM Breakfast Show host Guy McDonald, who won best Breakfast Show host at the MTN Radio Awards 2015 this past weekend.  He shared his interesting experience in booking and holidaying in Saint Helena.   On my right sat Ivan Oertle of Woolworths, who gave me interesting insights into the choice of Pharrel Williams as the retailer’s new Style Director, which will be shared in a future blogpost.

We were served a starter of caramelised aubergine salad, with goat’s cheese mousse, warm tomato vinaigrette, andSaronsberg aubergine salad Whale Cottage
tasty onion chips, paired with Saronsberg Grenache 2012.  The coloured plates on which the starter was served added to its plating attractiveness.

Saronsberg lamb shank Whale CottageThe main course was braised lamb shank which was (unusually) topped with labneh and then with crispy phyllo, decorated with pomegranate pips and brussels sprout leaves, and served with mash and plum jus. This course was paired with Saronsberg Shiraz 2012.  TheSaronsberg Pear and almond tart Whale Cottagedessert was a pear and almond tart, served with spiced orange jivara crème, streusel, and honey ice cream, paired with Saronsberg Viognier 2013.  With our coffees platters of friandise (chocolate nougat, caramel white chocolate, pistachio praline, and blood peach truffle) were served.

The Saronsberg Full Circle vertical tasting and the good lunch (prepared by Chef Malika van Reenen) with nice fellow writers in aSaronsberg Friandise Whale Cottage pleasant venue was a great start to the weekend.  The service by sommelier Martin Drotsky and his colleagues was exemplary.  It will be interesting to see where Dewaldt will take his Full Circle in future vintages.

Disclosure:  We received a bottle each of Saronsberg Full Circle 2013, Saronsberg Shiraz 2012, and Saronsberg Viognier 2013 with our media pack.