Sunday 27 September 2020

Two Interesting South African mutations




Cinsault Blanc, aka Albatros.

The delicious Cinsault Blanc by Rall of Wellington, South Africa is not Cinsault (or Cinsaut) vinified white as Hedonism describes it but a wine made from a white mutation of the red Cinsaut grape. The back label tells all:

'Cinsault blanc or "Albatros" as it was called , was discovered after Cinsault mutated to Cinsault Gris and then eventually to Cinsault blanc. This wine made from the last remaining 0.2 ha of old vines in the Cape was fermented partly on the skins and aged for 10 months in locally produced clay amphorae, Total production 1,000 bottles.'

It come in at 10.5% alcohol but is dry and subtle. A fabulous drop to be sure. Not cheap but we challenge you to try it and not want to buy another bottle.



Semillon Gris or Semillon Rose.

Thorne Daughters' 'Tin Soldier' is one of the small band of producers of this other South African mutation, Semillon Gris. Their website has it as follows;

"Tin Soldier is a skin-fermented wine made from Semillon gris, which is almost unique to South Africa, and a vestige of a time when Semillon was the grape on which the South African wine industry was built. The vineyard has been established from a sélection massale of Semillon gris cuttings taken from an adjacent vineyard of Semillon that was planted in 1964.

The colour of the wine is unusual, having taken some bright copper tones from about a week’s fermentation on skins."

 Other producers include Mullineaux and Eben Sadie (in blends).

 Andrea Mullineaux sums it up thus:

  “Sémillon Gris is historically significant in South Africa, not just for the old vine aspect, but for its previous popularity. In the early 1800s, 80% of the vines in South Africa were thought to be Semillon. By the mid-1800s 50% of the Semillon had gone through the natural mutation and turned into Semillon Gris. This variation of the variety only happens slowly, vine per vine, after the vines are at least 30 years old. My vineyard, planted on Paardeberg decomposed Granite in 1959, is 55 years old and has only partially turned gris. I would say 70% of the vineyard is now Sémillon Gris, so it is hand picked to ensure that ONLY the gris bunches are picked.
Although this CAN happen in other parts of the world, it is extremely rare and rarely recorded. That is why it is so special for South Africa. It has proven itself to have adapted to our terroir and does very well, even in the extreme Swartland."

'Wine Grapes' does not mention Semillon Gris but has a chapter on Semillon Rose under the general Semillon entry. Their take on the grape is also interesting as they say the mutation seems to be unique to South Africa...'and may even have become the more common of the two [Semillons]. It is not known when it first appeared but it had become common by the 1820s.'

Galet has various Semillons (Semillon a bois noir - 'elimine,' Petit Semillon, aka Semillon Blanc etc) as you would expect but not Semillon Gris and he credits 'Robinson et al' for his mention of 'Semillon Rose ou Red Semillon...C'est la mutation rouge de Semillon observe en Afrique du Sud."

Whether Gris or Rose, whether unique to South Africa or 'extremely rare and rarely recorded' in other parts of the world, we consider this 'Tin Soldier' by Thorne Daughters to be special and especially lovely at 12,0% but then we are succers for low alcohol Semillon wherever it is made.

While we're on mutations, it should be said that even if what Jancis Robinson describes as 'generally deletarious,' these are not anything sinister but a completely natural spontaneous occurrence without which we wouldn't have some of the lighter versions of grape varieties which were originally dark. 

Examples given include the two Gamay teinturiers, Gamay Freaux and Gamay de Chaudenay which are thought to be mutations from Gamay de Bouze. Mauzac would seem to be a better example with Mauzac Blanc, Rose, Vert, Jaune and according to Robert and Bernard Plageoles three others, but not Mauzac Rouge which is not related. Things get a bit more complicated with partial mutations called Chimeras whereby the skin may mutate without the inside doing so. If that sounds obscure then consider the example of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Apparently Pinot Meunier which we consider so different from Pinot Noir isessentially similarwith the exception of white hairson the shoot tip and young leaves.

Thursday 17 September 2020

A better idea?


We ordered this Bird Scarer tape from China months ago and had quite forgotten about it until it arrive one fine day - just in time. If it keeps the birds away for the next two or three weeks we'll be very happy. 

It promises to be easy to remove unlike the tinsel curtains we've been experimenting with. Getting rid of those is going to be the equivalent of mopping up an oil spill. We may have to wait until pruning next year to get rid of it completely. 

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Not a good idea


It's happening once more!

Something (Pheasants? Wasps? Squirrels? Deer?) is beginning to take our grapes - again.

Last year we lost practically every singke grape, we know not what to. We thought pheasants on account of the cloud of them that rose up when we entered the vineyard. 



We considered all sorts of deterrents. A dancing man, a clapper, electronic ultrasound, 



model birds of prey on long wires and so forth. All expensive and - we heard - only effective for a short time (birds get used to them).

A party last winter gave us an inspiration: Tinsel Curtains! We bought 10 boxes each of 5 curtains. 

At first the look was promising. However, we noticed that the grapes were not ripening well under the tinsel (surprise, surprise). Also grapes were being eaten.

Nevertheless, we pressed on. We'd bought the tinsel and there weren't going to be any opportunities for using it at parties for the forseeable future.

Wierdly, all the pheasants had disappeared this year. True, one or thwo have made their way back but nothing to worry about. 

Due to an inexplicable, once-in-a-lifetime glut in pears this year the wasps were occupied elsewhere.

True, two Muntjac deer were seen in the garden one morning but the depradations were nowhere near what they had been in 2019.

So we're going to harvest our two earliest varieties, Rondo and Solaris any day now.

We think Tinsel notwithstanding. Oh, and it's not easy to remove tinsel curtains from vines once they are no longer needed. Perhaps we should have thought of that.