“I was his tennis friend.”– Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.
With Wimbledon’s Ladies’ Singles Final today, we remembered a lovely afternoon spent with Alex Milner of Natte Valleij on the farm on the slopes of the Simonsberg. They have a tennis court that presented a tennis-themed photo opportunity, though the only serve we were interested in was whether he would be pouring his old vine Darling Chenin or the Stellenbosch Cinsault. Largely acknowledged as one of South Africa’s Cinsault champions, Alex continues to produce site-specific, old vine Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, and a new wave Pinotage that turns the traditional perception of Pinotage on its head.
Any of which would make the perfect accompaniment to your strawberries and cream.
Best read the story in full here, and stock up on these beautiful wines while stocks last.
“The Axle Chenin Blanc is made by Alex Milner of Natte Valleij winery from grapes sourced from a dryland old bush vine certified Darling heritage block planted in 1985 on decomposed granite soils. Made in a very minimalist, low intervention manner without losing any of its fine wine integrity, this wine is a classy textural style of Chenin Blanc. The grapes were basket pressed and allowed to settle for 24 hours, then racked into old 225 litre oak barrels with careful addition of fine lees sediment to each barrel. After a natural fermentation, the wine received regular bâtonnage until late May. Aged in barrel over winter, the wine was bottled in the Spring after 9 months. In the glass, the wine shimmers with a translucent golden yellow straw intensity, revealing rich exotic aromatics of incense, potpourri, grapefruit marmalade, yellow peach, dried apricots and attractive hints of stem ginger. The addition of the fine lees really adds another dimension of texture and complexity to the wine, lending an almost Sauternes-like breadth and opulence to the nose. The palate is equally plush, glycerol and broad but with a majestic coolness and creamy harmony that allows delicate notes of tangy apricot, peach and dried guava to linger on the long, intense dry granitic finish. This is another magnificent creation from this regal old vine Darling Chenin Blanc vineyard and undoubtedly a wine that is going to woo its already sizeable cult following. Drink on release and over the next 5 to 8+ years.” – Greg Sherwood MW.
“A translucent red cherry ruby in colour, the aromatics on this wine are astonishingly pretty sharing the tantalisingly perfumed opulence and lift that you would find on a young classical Grand Cru Burgundy tasted from barrel. The fragrant notes of violets, cherry blossom and pressed rose petals slowly melt into waves of red cherry, cranberry and wild strawberry fruits with that ever present granitic mineral vein lending further complexity. The texture in the mouth is enchanting, resembling liquid silk and the intense red berry fruits are as pure as driven snow. This is an impressive single vineyard wine built around purity and precision, finesse and freshness, and in 2021, Alex Milner has created a proverbial liquid masterpiece. Drink this on release and over the next 10 to 12+ years.” – Greg Sherwood MW.
Pinotage is a truly South African grape: a cross between Cinsault and Pinot noir, usually made in a riper style. The NAT Pinotage is made in a lighter and fresher style that is more reminiscent of its parentage and connected to Alex Milner’s passion for Cinsault at Natte Valleij. Dark in color, berry fruits and whiffs of charcuterie on the harmonius nose. On the palate macerated plums and that subtle charcuterie character follow. A nice athleticism with bright freshness, balanced acidity, with an elegant tannic pull.