Delheim Edelspatz 2011 a Trophy Winner
Delheim Edelspatz 2011 has just won the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show’s trophy for South Africa’s Best Dessert Wine! And to think, this wine may have never come to fruition were it not for a chance meeting. Herewith the story in ‘Spatz’ Sperling’s own words:
“At Delheim it happened this way. We had experienced weather particularly conducive to the growth of the botrytis fungus in 1979, with intermittent rain and coolish days. Checking on my vineyards, I found extensive rot and wrote off the grapes as basically useless material. Or so I thought.
“Having nothing better to do than swallow my sorrow, I went to collect the mail at the Koelenhof Post Office – this was a routine early morning chore – and ran into Frans Malan of Simonsig. The usual oes discussions followed, and I shared my distress over the bad rot in my Chenin Blanc vineyards.
“Dié wingerd kan ek maar afskryf! Alles opgevreet deur die botrytis. Dis net muggies waar jy kyk, en daar’s so ‘n soet-suur reuk.”
Frans’ reaction to my gejammer was: “Nee man, Spatz! Dis noble rot, man! Die beste basis vir ‘n edelwyn!”
“I didn’t quite believe him, because everyone knew him as a born optimist, although he was sometimes right. Nevertheless, I rushed home. The cellar had already closed and the workers were packing up to head homeward after yet another miserable day. “Sorry, ladies and gentlemen”, I shouted as I rushed up to
them. “Daardie vrot druiwe wat ons so oor worry is eintlik goeie goed – ons moet dit nou gaan pluk!”
“The poor grapes looked at me sourly, but by 4pm we had gathered about two tons of the most rotten grapes I have ever seen. There was hardly any juice left in them, just a conglomeration of raisin grape nectar.”
“An urgent half-hour phone call was placed to Germany, the home of Edelbeerenauslese, to get the recipe on how to make wine from this gemors… when it came to centrifuging the few hundred litres of so-called noble juice, the senior cellar assistant, Jackson Matabela, proclaimed in disgust: “No more for me! I am going home!”
“Well, as it turned out, our first efforts to make a Botrytis cinerea wine reached the market and was a big hit!”
Dessert wines were highly prized at the time, as using sugar to sweeten wines was a punishable offense. Having tried unsuccessfully to source the recipe from Nederburg’s Günter Brözel, who had produced the Cape’s first Noble Late Harvest a decade earlier, Spatz couldn’t have been more pleased. The following year he tried to create the required humidity within the vineyards with the help of an Austrian intern – fan and hose in tow – and while very entertaining, the experiment failed dismally.
Now much wiser in the ways of botrytis, or noble rot, Delheim has changed tack and is using Riesling grapes; a cultivar selected for its naturally high acidity. This move has paid off with Dessert Wine Trophies at the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, most recently now for the 2011 vintage, and multiple 4½ star ratings in the Platter guide to wine.
Each year the grapes are left to hang a little longer; a measured risk as the team understands the vineyard so well. A briskly acidic profile prevents the nectar-like fruit from becoming cloying or sweet; and with age, the fruit-rich flavours – apricot, cumquat and quince in the 2011 vintage – give way to a slate-like minerality that is prized by Riesling enthusiasts.
Attractively packaged and reasonably priced at R145, Edelspatz is ideal as an interesting gift, or a talking point that doubles as a celebratory toast. National orders can be placed here or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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