Quando Vineyards & Winery was very close to Arendsig Wines. The wine farm had been recommended by fellow Wacky Wine Weekend wine aficionados as a place to taste. Palm trees lined one side of the driveway that led to the Tasting Room in a small farm cottage located on flat ground close to the Breede River. Visiting tasters mostly sat outside in the intimate, shaded garden beside the house and full of clivia. They must put on quite a show when flowering.
The Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Mourvèdre vines are planted on the best 80 hectares of the 190 hectare farm. Fanus Bruwer, winemaker and owner, is aided by his brother Martin on the farm. Fanus told me that much of the harvest is sent to co-operatives but he keeps the best grapes for himself. Sauvignon Blanc was first made in 2001, having been nagged for years by family and friends to do so. Herein lies the origin of the quirky vineyard name. ‘Quando’ is Latin for ‘when’. “When, when, when are you going to make wine?” Fanus was repeatedly asked.
I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc first. It is made from vines of 2 clones (one New World and one French in flavour) grown in adjacent vineyards using the same viniculture. The vines are grown on rich alluvial soils on the lowest part of the farm. So much so that frost can be a problem during the early Spring. Fanus’ ginger cat, who was in his element amid the olive and snoek tasting canapé, is a natural ‘frost alarm’ as he sleeps on Fanus’ bed when temperatures are very low at night.
The Sauvignon Blanc was the best wine I sampled. It is made from up to 5 hand-picked batches of grapes blended together. Each batch brings a different flavour profile: first pick for sour fig freshness and acidity; middle pick for ripe fig, tropical peach and grassiness; and final pick for sugar. I detected fruity and herbaceous aromas on the nose – greengage, gooseberry, lime – that reduced to leave a lively crisp palate.
The Chenin Blanc Viognier, from the highest vineyard on shale soils, is not a combination I commonly taste (Bellingham Pear Tree being the only other I can recall). Fanus told me that the wine profile (pH, acidity, alcohol) was similar to that of the Sauvignon Blanc but contained more sugar. The wine was a very pale watery straw colour. The nose was a complex and interesting mix of fruity and floral: white peach, light apricot, pear and honeysuckle. The follow through to the palate jarred though, with little fruitiness and too much crispness and acidity.
The next 2 wines were both Mourvèdre, one a Rosé and the other a single variety red. The cultivar used to be sent to co-operatives but, after going to a French festival, Fanus decided to make his own Rosé. The wine was a very pale blush in colour (just 15 to 30 minute skin contact) and a shy strawberry on the nose. There was none of the warm honeyed nougat notes that mark out the Mourvèdre Rosé made by Babylonstoren. Like the Chenin Blanc Viognier, it was too fresh and eager on the palate and with not enough fruitiness.
The second Mourvèdre, a red expression of the Rosé, had more pronounced fruitiness on both nose and palate. Mulberry, cassis and blackberry aromas emerged from the full-bodied medium ruby purple wine in the glass. In the mouth, the tannins were dry and coarse.
The final wine I tasted was a Pinot Noir, made from grapes picked on another farm in Ashton. It was too sour cherry for my liking, mingled with liquorice spiciness, and unbalanced on the palate. Tart tannin overpowered any fruit expression in the mouth to leave a bitter aftertaste.
Quando, to be honest, disappointed. Rarely, do I not buy at least 1 bottle when tasting. It was not just because I had just visited 2 outstanding wine estates during the day, De Wetshof and Arendsig, that any vineyard would have been hard to follow. I struggled to discern why. It could simply be that I did not enjoy Fanus’ winemaking style. That happens and there is nothing wrong in that. I consider it important to be upfront and honest about, albeit I offer personal opinion. I think a more likely explanation is that many of the wines were offered far too young, whites included. The 2017 Chenin Blanc Viognier had been bottled for 2 days only – to produce sufficient stock for the Wacky Wine Weekend – and was obviously suffering from ‘bottle-shock’. The Sauvignon Blanc was another 2017 vintage but I detected a brash, raw eagerness of youth in many of the other wines too. They left a bitter aftertaste that I did not expect. It left me wondering how they might have tasted with longer to mature and settle in the bottle.
But, when … ?
Wines tasted (* bought):
2017 Sauvignon Blanc – R70
2017 Chenin Blanc Viognier (71% Chenin Blanc, 29% Viognier) – R70 FAVOURITE WINE
2017 Mourvèdre Rosé – R60
2016 Mourvèdre – R110
2015 Pinot Noir – R110