On Monday 6th August Ralph showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group CINSAULT WINES FROM NATTE VALLEIJ.

 Natte Valleij is situated at the foot of the Simonsberg and it is not a new estate, “it’s just been resting for the last 50 years…” Winemaking ceased there in the 50s, and it was bought by the Milner Family in the late 60s

In 2005 wine was made once again and Winemaker Alexander Milner strives to make wine with minimal interference and pretence, merely guiding “beautiful grapes into character full wines” They pride themselves in keeping things traditional: grapes are picked by hand, bottled by hand, corked by hand…

The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective is a culmination of Alexander’s explorations of The Cape Winelands. Seeking out forgotten patches of old dryland bush vine Cinsault that he felt would offered exceptional quality and interest.

The Estate makes about 800 bottles a year each from 4 parcels:

Simonsberg-Paarl – bush vines planted on decomposed* granite in 1993 face North-West in the lee of the Simonsberg Mountain. They are the youngest in the collective.

Darling  –  bush vines that are most isolated block in the collective. Planted on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember, this block stands very alone. Planted in 1978 (they think) on Malmesbury formation with strong influences of decomposed * granite.

Stellenbosch – bush vines planted in 1974, in the shadows of the Heldeberg Mountain are planted in decomposed* granite and face West towards False Bay, making it the oldest block and the closest to the sea.

Swartland  – bush vines planted in 1986 on decomposed* Malmesbury shale. The vineyard is situated on an eastern facing slope, which catches the early morning sun and a beautiful block to be in at sunrise.

*  The group thought, especially in the light of recent discussions,  that the use of “decomposed” for minerals should be viewed as a metaphor for “smashed up” or “eroded” rather than taken literally.


Ralph showed us 2 vintages: 2016 & 2015; from each area.

Here are my notes:

This is pale, translucent with a subtly perfumed nose, red fruit (I though cranberry) and a hint of farmyard. Palate has a lively fresh, almost citrus acidity, cranberry fruit again and refreshing length with just a hint of spice at the finish.

This is darker and has a smoke nose with herby notes reminiscent of Côte Chalonnais reds… Palate is deeper too, darker flavours and more tannin but a bit simpler and less interesting…

This is similar in colour to the previous wine, with pungent, vegetal aromas. It has a creamy texture and rich body with herby plum fruit and some lifting acidity but a little unintegrated and soft.

This has cream notes on the nose with some spirit-tinged fruit (kirsch?). Palate has a brilliant long line of fruit-acidity and a deeper crunchy loganberry fruit. Just delightful, moreish and involving!

Back to a lighter colour, just deeper than wine 1. Fruit nose with some perfume and herbs. Palate is sweet, jammy summer-fruit with some citric acidity – but very “jelly-juice” simple.  Not to my taste at all…

This is darker – almost purple – with spirit nose of plum and cherry. Palate has earthy tannin but sweet fruit again and a warm – spice and alcohol – quality. Big, unsubtle and definitely more Côtes du Rhône than Burgundy in style.

This is very dark. Strong pungent compost nose, more black than red fruit and spirit again. The palate is blackcurrant pastille with a tannic structure and a lot of spice. A little “cooked” IMO, though more successful than the previous wine…

This is even darker again, with  a more dried-fruit nose and an oily hint. Firm tannins and acidity balancing the big, but less blowsy, prune fruit. Longer and fresher than the previous wine – and successful in a more Gigondas style, the best of the 2015s!

These are very interesting wines, each of well-defined character but ranging from light Burgundian to heavier Southern Rhône in general style. The expressiveness of the grape is a revelation – I don’t think I’ve ever before tasted 100% Cinsault, and even majority-grape examples would be outnumbered by the set here. Vintage too was clearly expressed though the tasting – usually the 2016s being lighter and “prettier”. However the Swartland examples were the reverse – at this, the biggest, end of the spectrum the 2015 showed more elegance and better integration – maybe due to the greater maturity. I liked that wine a lot, and the first (Simonsberg-Paarl  2016) for exactly the opposite reason – light, fresh, fruity, succulent and delightful. However, all-in-all my favourite was a lovely wine with real depth and poise – the Darling 2015.

A wonderfully deep enquiry into a quite neglected grape – excellent! Thanks so much Ralph

À Bientôt