||2007, Sijnn, Red Blend
Everything is new about this ground-breaking wine. This is its debut vintage. It is being exported for the first time. And it is grown in a vineyard 40 km from the nearest vines, the closest being those of much hotter terrain way inland around Swellendam and the vines of cool Elim on the coast. The vineyard lies way to the east of Cape Agulhas between the hamlet of Malagas and Cape Infanta 15 km from the ocean at the mouth of the Breede River, called Sijnn by the original Khoisan inhabitants of the region. (Sijnn may be difficult to pronounce but it works well for online searches.)
This is a joint venture between South African environmental businessman Quentin Hurt, Simon Farr of UK importers Bibendum Wine and gifted architect-turned-winemaker David Trafford, who has his own eponymous winery in Stellenbosch. You can read a bit more about him in connection with this 2002 wine of the week.
The idea behind Sijnn is to grow warm-climate varieties in this cool climate and, presumably, push things to the limit. Trafford has long been a terroirist and is presumably inspired by the slate and rolled stone plateau on which this new vineyard sits. The blend in this particular maiden vintage is 42% Shiraz, 26% Mourvèdre, 21% Touriga Nacional, 10% Trincadeira and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, all vines being grown as bushvines on these rugged, low-yielding soils. Average yields in this first year of commercial production were a completely ludicrous 6 hl/ha.
The land used to be home to an ostrich farm, apparently, but that is certainly not taste-able. The alcohol level of 14.5% is not obvious either. The wine itself is sweet with the merest hint of coffee toasted barrels but the fruit dominates and is attractively complex, very gentle and flattering at first, even though the wine finishes firm, sinewy and very polished. The overall impression is of a South African red that is unusually lively, complex, confident and creditable.
The wine was made at De Trafford in Stellenbosch, although the aim is to build a winery on the vineyard in the next few years. The must was kept on the skins between six and nine days for a spontaneous fermentation and was aged half in French barriques and half in what must be very unwieldy 700-litre casks for a total of 18 months, with a few of the larger casks being new.