Porseleinberg Syrah 2010
South Africa’s best wines have come a long way in the last 10 years. Not only shedding the image of rusticity and rubber aromas, but now starting to compete with some of the world’s best. This Porseleinberg Syrah is one of those wines capable of competing with some of the best Syrahs from around the world.
Part of the Swartland Revolution
Located it Swartland, arguably the hottest wine region in South Africa, Porseleinberg is a project by Mark Kent of Boekenhoutskloof. It is a very new project, beginning only in 2009 with the purchase of land on Porcelain Mountain, only some of which was planted at the time of purchase, though plantings are now being expanded.
The terrain is rugged, with mostly slate soils and very little topsoil. Viticulturist Callie Louw runs the farming and winemaking, and has commented that Porseleinberg vineyard is incredibly difficult to farm. Farming is organic. There is little rainfall. Both the new and the old vines are, interestingly, planted as bush vines, sitting quite low to the ground. Only the old vines are now producing fruit, with very low yields and tiny berries. There are some fantastic photos showing the extremeness of the vineyard over at Jamie Goode’s blog.
As for viticulture, Porseleinberg uses a combination of concrete tanks, concrete eggs and large oak foudres, but no barrique. Ferments are all natural.
The Wine: South African Terroir Syrah
This is marvelous, meaty Syrah. It is also very aromatic, with felt tip marker, licorice, and dark red and black berries. The palate is everything you want from Syrah, though still quite young at this point: ripe dark fruits, animality, iron and tons of umami. Also expect superb structure and length and still firm tannins, though just starting to come around. Ideally I would age this another 4 years at minimum. It can clearly improve for another 10-15. This is world class Syrah that is big boned but poised in its potency.
With this wine sitting at 13.5% ABV, it always amazes me how great Syrah can be so intense on the palate but also below 14%, fresh and balanced. Here is proof that Syrah is an incredible grape and that clearly certain parts of South Africa can do phenomenally well with it.
In my opinion the Porseleinberg Syrah competes with Sadie’s Columella for the best red of South Africa and one of the very best ‘New World’ Syrahs being made today. However, this comment is unfair to the exciting number of new terroir-focused producers taking aim at Swartland’s outstanding terroir, many of whose wines have not yet made it to North America, and certainly not BC. We’re talking about the likes of Mullineux, Badenhorst, and a newly revived Lammershoek amongst others. These wineries have formed their own group called the Swartland Independent Producers, not dissimilar I would argue to the ‘In Pursuit of Balance’ crowd in California. For more on the ‘Swartland Revolution’, I recommend this excellent article by Tim Atkin, MW.
As for the Porseilenberg Syrah, it may seem expensive, but it competes in quality with Northern Rhone Syrahs priced similarly while also offering a completely distinct sense of place that cannot simply be replaced with French wine. It seems that South African terroir has arrived.
Excellent to Excellent+
$100 at BCLDB