The gentle shift from winter to summer is briefly intercepted with a few short days of spring here at Londolozi. While we have enjoyed only one short rain shower lately, the trees and shrubs seem to have stretched deep into the earth and soaked up just enough moisture to begin dotting their branches with vibrant green shoots and leaves. The days have lengthened lazily, and the warm temperatures have resulted in a certain shift in wine choices and drinking behaviours. The hearty, full-bodied reds are gently being replaced with cool, crisp whites and bubbles to accompany a fresh new summer menu. One such wine, hand-picked from the Londolozi wine list, is the Nicholas van der Merwe Five to Nine Sauvignon Blanc, which has been a favourite choice for Camp Managers and myself lately.
As a proud member of the Relais & Chateaux family, we celebrate a sense of place in choosing certain wine estates to feature on our diverse wine list. The South African Terroir is home to some of the finest wines in the world – Nico van der Merwe’s estate being one of them. Nico is a stalwart in the South African wine industry and he has produced wine since 1980. For the leopard aficionados out there; this was only one year after the Mother Leopard of Londolozi was first viewed!
Nico’s winemaking included a stint at renowned Saxenburg in Stellenbosch where he produced award-winning wines for 27 years. At the end of 2016 he parted ways with Saxenburg so that he and his family could solely focus on building and marketing their own brand.
In 1999 Nico and his wife Petra decided to start making their own wine, which then was an “after hours project” aside from Saxenburg. They vinified their first vintage of the Mas Nicholas, a stunning blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. In 2005 the couple purchased a smallholding on the Polkadraai road outside of Stellenbosch named “Mooi Uitsig” or “beautiful view”, and in 2007 they built their cellar – this has become the home for Nico van der Merwe wines.
The Five to Nine Sauvignon Blanc is a clever play on words for working “nine to five”, but has relevance to the harvesting of the grapes for this wine as they are harvested on cool mornings between five and nine o’clock to preserve freshness and optimum cultivar flavours. The wine shows characteristics from the warmer Stellenbosch climate, and whilst it is fresh and crisp, it is more on the fruity side with aromas of guava, grapefruit, figs and Cape gooseberries.
On a scorching day it pairs beautifully with some of the summer delights from Chef Anna’s latest menu, such as grilled calamari, salmon poke bowl, caprese salad, Thai prawn fritters or the refreshing melon with Parma ham and cherry salad.
We’d be interested to know your thoughts on this wine and whether you’ve had any experience with Nico van de Merwe’s creations? Do you have any summer food and wine pairings you can recommend?