David Trafford is modest to a fault – and notoriously low profile when it comes to his own label, De Trafford. For years he’s allowed his wines to do the talking for him – but now he wants to let folks know what is going on with his new venture in Malgas.
“We don’t often do this sort of thing,” he said (with typical understatement) to a select group of wine retailers and writers at a low key tasting last week, “but we want to get across what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Sijnn is the Khoi word for river – since Trafford’s new vineyards are near the Breede river near Cape Infanta on the Cape’s south east coast. “The pronunciation and spelling of Sijnn varies. One expert said it was ‘sin’, another ‘sane’ – as in insane… and we go with the latter! There have been a few moments when we’ve thought we’re mad to have tackled this…”
His partners in this venture are wife Rita, Simon Farr of Bibendum and Durban-based wine enthusiast Quentin Hurt. What makes Sijnn so interesting within the South African wine context is that this team are a bit like Captain Kirk and the crew of the startship Enterprise – boldly going where no-one has gone before.
It was the stony soil and relative dryness of the area (around 350mm of rainfall annually) that saw him initially aim to produce a Rhône or Chateauneuf du Pape-styled wine. Hence the planting of Shiraz and Mourvèdre – but he also decided to plant Portuguese grapes Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional along with some Cabernet Sauvignon. On the white side there is Chenin Blanc and Viognier. Still in the pipeline are Roussanne, Grenache and Tempranillo. In total there are 16 hectares under vine at present but there is patently room to grow.
The interesting thing about the tasting Trafford conducted was the component parts – and then a vertical of the final blend. The Trincadeiro offers wonderfully expressive fruit – as does the Touriga, while the Mourvèdre is spicy, the Shiraz peppery and restrained. By contrast, the Cabernet Sauvignon shows a marked leafy “green” character – but does make a contribution to the blend by toning down some of the overt plummy fruitcake notes of the Portuguese grapes.
The maiden 2007 (and 2008 and 2009) were driven by Shiraz and Mourvèdre with them making up nearly 70% of the final blend but with the 2010 and 2011 the Portuguese varietals take on more than mere bit parts. In the 2010 Touriga is 27% and Trincadeira 10% while in the 2011 which is still doing its thing in large 700-litre older oak barrels it’s 19% and 6% respectively.
Obviously the wines and the enthusiasm were exciting to witness but everyone present reflected on whether we were seeing the birth of another South African wine producing area. On the basis of less than five years of production, Malgas shows distinct promise – and hats off to Trafford and his fellow pioneers.