Kleine Zalze Wines from Stellenbosch saw its offering of Chenin Blanc and Shiraz/Syrah wines topping two leading international and South African awards shows this week, with a Gold Medal at the international Syrah du Monde held in France as well as a top-scoring and top 10 spot respectively in the Prescient Chenin Blanc and Shiraz Reports presented by leading on-line wine publication Winemag.
In the Syrah du Monde, held in the village of Ampuis in the Northern Rhône region, the Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Shiraz 2019 was one of only five South African entries to garner a Gold medal from 241 wines entered by Shiraz producers from 20 countries. Kleine Zalze’s Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2022 received top honours in the Prescient Chenin Blanc Report with a 95pt score, while the same winery’s Project Z Syrah 2021 secured a top 10 spot in the Prescient Shiraz Report with a 94pt score.
RJ Botha, Kleine Zalze cellarmaster, says these three leading awards – presented in one week – reaffirm Kleine Zalze’s goal of producing a diverse range of wines harnessed by terroir expression and a non-negotiable quest for top-quality in the cellar.
“With regards to the two winning Kleine Zalze Shiraz/Syrah wines, these showcase the incredible diversity we can achieve with one grape variety originating from two very different sites, as well as using various winemaking techniques,” says Botha.
“Klein Zalze Family Reserve Shiraz 2019, from grapes grown mostly on our own property where soils are of decomposed granite, received traditional maturation for 22 months in French oak, 65% which was new,” he says. “During the fermentation we a 15% portion of ripe stems for a kick of pepper and spice. Overall, it is an elegant, classic Shiraz, and if any of our Shiraz wines were going to impress the international judges at the Syrah du Monde, it was going to be this one.”
The winery’s Project Z Syrah 2021, a part of Kleine Zalze’s irreverent experimental project that is gaining a fervent following, features grapes growing on the broken shale soils in Stellenbosch’s cool Faure region on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at False Bay.
“This Shiraz fruit, ripening in extreme conditions, was just right for the spirit of Project Z,” says Botha. “The fermentation tank was filled with 25% whole clusters at the bottom and 75% destemmed whole berries on top to extract the complete spectrum of fruit characters while maintaining vibrancy and freshness. After fermentation, the wine was aged for 10 months in a combination of clay amphorae and old French oak barrels, allowing the wine to gain structure and longevity along with vivid, bright dark fruit and spice expression.”
In the Prescient Chenin Blanc Report, Kleine Zalze reaffirmed its status as one of South Africa’s leading Chenin Blanc wineries, with the top spot claimed by its Family Reserve 2022.
Botha says this honour is especially rewarding as the wine is the first Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc to bear South Africa’s Old Vine Project Heritage Seal, affirming its status as a wine made from vines that are 35 years and older.
“Kleine Zalze has a tradition of Chenin Blanc, and especially Chenin Blanc from old vineyards, as we believe the depth and concentration older vineyards bring to the variety is unique to Stellenbosch’s expression of this cultivar,” says Botha. “This is underscored by the fact that Kleine Zalze is the winery having access to the largest number of old-vine Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc vineyards, and we see it as one of our unique features.”
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2022 is made from old-vine vineyards growing in three different Stellenbosch sites. The crushed juice is allowed 12 to 18 hours skin-contact before inoculating with selected yeast strains in stainless steel tanks to kick off the fermentation process. The juice was then placed in a combination of three different vessels: clay amphorae, old 400l French oak barrels and concrete eggs where the fermentation was completed. The wine spent a further eight months in these vessels on its lees.
“Sometimes a complex approach brings a beautiful simplicity, as is the case in this Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc,” says Botha. “The three varying elements used for fermentation and aging – old wood, clay amphorae and concrete egg – bring the myriad characters found in good Chenin Blanc grapes into one harmonious whole. There is a lot of story here: old vineyards from three sites and diversity of material used for the wine’s fermentation and aging. But in the end, there is just one fabulous white wine showing nature and Stellenbosch.”