A cold continental climate Syrah adds more intrigue at De Grendel

Elegant and complex, full-bodied, fragrant and fresh – the maiden vintage of De Grendel Op die Berg Syrah is a distinctive wine grown in one of South Africa’s highest, and coldest, winemaking districts.

Op die Berg Syrah 2019 is the third addition to De Grendel’s Op die Berg range. These wines are grown literally “on the mountain” near the village of Op-die-Berg in the Witzenberg mountains of the Ceres Plateau, on the farm Rietfontein owned by Robert Graaff, brother of De Grendel’s owner Sir De Villiers Graaff. At 1000m above sea level, the vineyards are often blanketed with snow in winter.

The wine is also the third shiraz/syrah in the De Grendel portfolio, each one stylistically distinctively different, the product of De Grendel cellar master Charles Hopkins constantly seeking out unique areas for the particular characteristics they lend to a cultivar that he finds fascinating.

“Syrah has an air of intrigue, a mystique about it, and part of that is due to its stylistic diversity and adaptability to different climates where it produces very different flavour profiles. For me, it shows the greatest sense of place of any wine, showing in its style so clearly where it comes from, and that really fascinates me,” says Hopkins.

At its high altitude and approximately 140km inland from the west coast, Ceres is one of South Africa’s few truly continental winegrowing climates – far from the reach of moderating ocean influences.

Below-freezing temperatures and snow in winter provide the perfect resting and recovery conditions for the vines in their dormant period before Spring and the growing season, when the sharp contrast of warm days and cooler nights results in slower ripening and more concentrated fruit.

The elegance and terroir expression of these cool continental climate Wine of Origin Ceres Plateau wines – De Grendel Op die Berg Chardonnay and Op die Berg Pinot Noir now joined by the newly-released Syrah – have won them numerous international and local accolades and made them a firm favourite of De Grendel customers.

Hopkins has chosen to label the Op die Berg wine as Syrah, indicating its lighter, more Old World style in contrast to the boldness of De Grendel’s Coastal Wine of Origin Shiraz and Elim Shiraz from the cool maritime region near Cape Agulhas.

“The Op die Berg Syrah is very interesting. A totally different flavour profile – where the coastal region Shiraz is dark, full-bodied and weighty, the rotundone-style Elim and Ceres wines are lighter in colour, more delicate in structure, and slightly lower in alcohol. But where the Elim Shiraz is a clear expression of black pepper, Op die Berg Syrah is more white pepper, a bit more coriander seed, lighter and fruitier. The difference is fascinating, and I am sure that Op die Berg Syrah will please the most discerning of Syrah lovers,” Hopkins said.

The grapes from the Op die Berg vineyards are delivered to the De Grendel cellar in Durbanville where they are destemmed before crushing to reduce tannic influence and undergo aerated pump overs in closed tanks to preserve freshness, while extended skin contact develops full body and the wine’s deep, brilliant colour.

Malolactic fermentation takes place in steel tanks before the wine is transferred to 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels for 12 months’ maturation prior to final blending and bottling.

“Op die Berg Syrah 2019 has a distinctive deep purple hue with a bright, inky violet rim. The nose is shy at first but opens beautifully into youthful, fresh, clean aromas of white pepper. The flavours are leafy and herbal, buchu, rosemary, with allspice and pepper complemented by the smooth, ripe, well-integrated tannins – an extremely elegant wine with lots of finesse,” Hopkins said.

Offering superb drinking pleasure on release, the wine will reward careful cellaring for up to 8 to 10 years.

Op die Berg Syrah 2019 is especially good with rich lamb dishes, such as lamb’s liver with creamy mashed potatoes and onion gravy or a hearty, Mediterranean-style lamb ragout with red peppers and olives.

The wine is available from the De Grendel cellar door or online shop at R300 per bottle. For more information visit www.degrendel.co.za