Thorne & Daughters, 'Cat's Cradl' Swartland Chenin Blanc 2019
Thorne & Daughters was started in 2013 by John and Tasha Seccombe with the aim of producing authentic wines from the Western Cape. It is widely acknowledged to be one of the forerunners of the ‘New Wave’ wine movement in South Africa. Thorne & Daughters is mainly focused on producing Cape white blends, from 15 different growers in Bot River, Stellenbosch, Voor Paardeberg, Swartland, Citrusdal, Franschhoek and Overberg. Fruit sourcing has relied on a network of close winemaking friends and knocking on doors to gather the various parcels with which they work. John and Tasha did not want to be limited geographically, so the net was cast wide and has been driven by “a happy synergy of people, place, soil and vines”.
The Chenin Blanc grapes for the ‘Cat's Cradle’ are sourced from a single vineyard planted in 1979 in the ‘Langkloof’ (Long Valley) on Swartland’s Paardeberg mountain. The soils are composed of decomposed granite and the 40-year-old bush vines produce small yields of very concentrated fruit. The vineyards are farmed sustainably and the grapes are harvested by hand.
The 2019 vintage, like 2018, was characterised by warm and dry conditions with the Cape drought still very much in force and yields were relatively low. Low soil water reserves in the Paardeberg make for challenging conditions even at the best of times, and John and Tasha monitored the ripeness levels of the grapes assiduously in the run up to harvest to ensure that they were picked at the ideal moment with the perfect balance between concentrated and ripe fruit flavours and acidity. The grapes were harvested slightly earlier than usual in two tranches on 23rd and 28th January 2019.
Upon arrival at the winery, the Chenin Blanc grapes were whole bunch pressed in an old Vaslin press. This ensured an oxidative and very gentle pressing - yielding a very clear juice. The juice was left to settle overnight and was then racked into old, 600-litre French oak barrels for fermentation with natural yeasts. After fermentation, the wine underwent spontaneous malolactic fermentation and then aged in barrel on its lees. No sulphur additions were made until August following the vintage once the wine had had time to settle. The final blend was assembled in November and was bottled at the end of December to make way for the wines of the following vintage.
This is a very clear and bright expression of Chenin Blanc. On the nose, aromas of white peaches combine with ground almonds, frangipane and floral nuances. On the palate, the wine has a lovely creamy texture and a vibrant acidity balances the precise and concentrated flavours which endure on the lingering finish.