Saturday, 11 May 2013

Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White (2011)

Waterkloof has quickly established itself as one of South Africa’s top wineries with biodynamic vineyard practises and a fantastic location (just a short distance from the ocean at False Bay) combining to offer wines that are both technically accomplished and that speak loudly of their origins.

Unusual in respect of the fact that this “Circle of Life” White is one of only two wines produced by Waterkloof to feature more than a single variety, this 2011 “Circle of Life” is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes that are hand harvested from a couple of plots of vines located towards the upper end of the slopes that Waterkloof utilise for vineyards. Heavily influenced by both their proximity to the sea and the altitude, grapes grown on these plots benefit from an extended ripening season that causes increased intensity and complexity of flavour. These influences were exacerbated in the 2010/2011 growing season by a cool but dry summer. The result was a small, but very high quality harvest.

Fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and old 600 litre capacity oak barrels (with only indigenous yeasts) the different components of this 2011 “Circle of Life” White then saw 10 months of lees aging before they were blended together and the finished wine was bottled.

A relatively pale lemon colour in the glass, this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White is intensely aromatic as it is swirled. Aromas of ripe peach and melon are joined by clear notes of oak-derived cedar, with aromas of gooseberry and lime zest freshening the bouquet as a whole. The influence of each grape variety is detectable as is the influence of oak. An alcoholic content that is higher than the majority of Waterkloof’s other white wines results in fairly visible alcoholic legs as this wine is swirled.

Medium bodied and offering a greater sense of mid-palate richness than was in evidence for the 2010 iteration of this blend, this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White is utterly astounding in the mouth. At first ripe peach, guava and melon fruit notes lead this wine, with a clear but not overbearing oak influence appearing. Then flavours of gooseberry, lime and a significant sense of minerality emerge from the mid-palate. With plentiful (but beautifully integrated) acidity, this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White is never cloying on the tongue (despite its prodigious length) and it lingers for age after swallowing with melon and citrus hints remaining.

Clearly offering potential for further development in bottle, this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White could either be drunk now (and why not?) or it could be cellared through to 2018.

Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White (2011)

Score: 94/100 – Thoroughly reflective of the vineyard site, the grape varieties used and the vintage, this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White is without a doubt one of South Africa’s finest white wines.

Value for Money: 8/10Whilst a retail price of around £15 per bottle means that this 2011 Waterkloof “Circle of Life” White is not an inexpensive bottle of wine, rarely is this level of quality found at this price.