Bruce Jack, a leading south African winemaker, who made a reputation for himself with Chenin blanc at Flagstone Winery, was in London recently to launch a new project, and a range of own label wines. And he brought some friends along. So I was delighted to find Karen Turner pouring a couple of wines from Prieuré de St Jean de Bébian. She and Bruce were at Roseworthy together.
2017 Prieuré de St Jean de Bébian Blanc
70% Roussanne with 15% each of Clairette and Grenache Blanc, with both fermentation and élevage in barrel, of which 15% were new. Whole bunch pressed and not filtered before bottling. Light colour. Lovely rounded floral white blossom, fleurs blanches on the nose. And on the palate some weight and rounded fruit; good acidity, which gave the wine an elegant lift on the finish. A shining example of just how the white wines of the Languedoc are improving.
2015 Prieuré de St Jean de Bébian Rouge
A blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre. Most of the vines were planted in the mid-1980s but the wine does include a plot of Grenache Noir, planted in 1925. The previous owner, Chantal Lecouty, used to refer to them as her vieilles dames, my old ladies. A long maceration and an élevage in barrel for the Syrah and Mourvèdre and in tank for the Grenache, and then blended before bottling. Lovely rounded spicy fruit, spicy cherries from the Grenache, and supple tannins. A lovely elegant balance on the finish.
There were a handful of examples of pure Syrah, from Bruce, and from Waterkloof in Stellebosch but the other surprise was a lovely example of Clairette Blanche from the Cape, from Daschbosch in the WO of Breedenkloof. When you think how underrated Clairette is in the Languedoc, it was a discovery to find one in the southern hemisphere. Apparently the vineyard had been planted in 1977, but then forgotten about and rediscovered about three years ago. The wine is made very simply with some lees contact and bâtonnage, making for a rounded textured palate and understated fruit on the nose. Intriguing layers of flavour.
And the same estate also made a Muscat d’Alexandrie, that they would call Hanepoot. It was fortified like a Rivesaltes and aged in old barrels for twelve months, making for some smooth unctuous fruit, with ripe orange marmalade, and good acidity on the finish. It would be delicious with Christmas pudding or mince pies.