In viniculture, blends are commonplace. In fact, almost all wines are blends in some way or another.
Blends can range from wines combined from different barrels, grapes from different vineyards or vineyard blocks, and – of course – different varietals. At Haute Cabrière, we pride ourselves on pioneering new wine blends. It’s a part of our DNA and something we continue to explore generation on generation.
Blending is an artform. It takes understanding, skill, ingenuity, creativity and of course – a passion for wine. A blend is then a perfect artistic expression of a winery’s joie de vin or joy of wine. By bringing together different vineyard blocks, varietals, or barrels, vintners have more control over the resulting balance in the wine, structure, mouthfeel, and flavour.
Some blends are so beloved that they inspire global trends such as the red or white blends of France’s Bordeaux, Rhône, Burgundy and Champagne regions. The recipes for these blends might be handed down through the eons, or they may be entirely new.
Our Pioneering Wine Blends
We are committed to exploring the versatility of Burgundy’s classic varietals – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – at Haute Cabrière in Franschhoek. Pioneering new wine blends with these grapes within the South African context has always been our passion. Each new blend contributes to our understanding of wine blends, to joie de vin for our customers, and to South Africa’s growing wine industry.
The Chardonnay Pinot Noir
Our founder, Achim von Arnim, was the first to introduce the now widely crafted Chardonnay Pinot Noir still wine blend in South Africa. While harvesting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the Pierre Jourdan Brut, the unusually hot conditions in 1994 led to the sugar content rising too much to be suitable for exceptional Cap Classique. Forced by the natural conditions of the Cape to be innovative, Achim decided on an inspired solution – a ‘still’ blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and something never before seen in Africa!
After tasting the blend at a luncheon of Mediterranean dishes in the company of wine-loving friends, the verdict was unanimous. This wine deserved to be a permanent release from the Haute Cabrière cellar. More than 25 years later, this serendipitous wine continues to lead the way in the category.
“This classic Champagne blend works as a still wine due to the interplay between the two varietals. The Chardonnay is the fresh portion, adding the lemon zest and lime notes and bringing in the acidity to the blend. The Pinot Noir adds to the mouthfeel and texture of the wine, and brings more red fruit, like strawberries and cherries to the overall experience,” comments Tim Hoek, winemaker.
The Arnim Family Réserve | Pinot Noir & Syrah
Achim’s son and our second-generation Cellar Master, Takuan, alongside Tim Hoek, has since introduced the Arnim Family Réserve – a unique blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah not to be found elsewhere. Takuan and Tim had spent years talking about a red wine blend for the Haute Cabrière wine range and they set up a benchmark tasting for local and global red blends to determine which varietal they may explore alongside our first love, Pinot Noir.
“To our surprise, Syrah-based wines led the way on the scoring sheets and definitely worked in the Cabrière style. This got us thinking,” comments Tim. After more research, they discovered that prior to the 1920s, it was fairly common for vintners in Burgundy to use a portion of Rhône varietals to their Pinot Noirs to add depth of colour and strengthen the wines if they had a weak vintage. “The Syrah brings body and colour to the blend, with hints of white pepper and spice, whereas the Pinot Noir lifts the aromatic side of the blend, bringing the lighter red fruit into the wine such as sour cherry and raspberries, grounding it with more earthy notes,” Tim shared with us.
The Arnim Family Réserve was conceptualised in 2017 with small scale trials to test the theory and hone the concept. “To our surprise, the Pinot Noir was never overpowered by the bigger, bolder Syrah, but made its appearance known on the nose and the finish of the wine. The key to creating a harmonious wine to sit alongside the range flagship – the Pinot Noir Réserve – lay in the percentages,” Tim remarks.
With the way forward now clear, grapes were harvested in 2018 and vinified separately, before being carefully and precisely blended in 2019 for the maiden vintage!
Q&A with Takuan & Tim
What is the majority varietal in each blend?
The Chardonnay Pinot Noir is Chardonnay driven, while the Arnim Family Réserve vintages have thus far been Syrah driven (although percentages change with each vintage of course depending on the harvest and how each wine develops).
What makes these wines stand out amongst their peers?
The constancy and identity of the Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir is its real stand out character. Every year there will be slight vintage changes, but when you open a bottle of our Chardonnay Pinot Noir and smell it, you will know exactly what you are drinking. The Haute Cabrière Armin Family Réserve is a brain-bender due to its unique composition, and it is setting a new standard for quality at a great price point. Where one blend is known, trusted and loved by everyone who drinks it, the other surprises anyone who tastes it.
How do you enjoy the Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir best?
Takuan: All year round. Especially over a lengthy Mediterranean-style lunch with lots of mixed dishes packed with flavour on sunny days, served chill.
Tim: At a Saturday luncheon with friends or family. The wine brings back so many memories every time I open a bottle, and all the memories are associated with great food, close friends and loving family.
How do you enjoy the Haute Cabrière Arnim Family Resérve best?
Takuan: On special evenings with my family and friends, paired with a Tomahawk steak on the braai and a Madagascan pepper sauce, served slightly chilled at 15°C.
Tim: After a long winter’s day in the cellar, coming home and sitting with my wife, pulling the cork on this wine just eases all the stresses of the world. It’s a dreamer’s wine, and you find something new in it every time you open a bottle.
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