Tuesday, June 16, 2015

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  • Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Avondale Wine Tasting (South Africa)



Avondale Terra Est Vita
, I had the pleasure of tasting the wines of Avondale with proprietor Johnathan Grieve.

Avondale is located on a 160-hectare, picturesque farm in the Paarl valley in the southwestern part of South Africa, only 35 minutes from Cape Town, and has been cultivated for more than 300 years. Early records also indicate that this piece of land was one first in Paarl valley to be allocated specifically for the production of grapes.

Johnathan Grieve
Although the farm was established as early as 1693, current owners John and Ginny Grieve (Johnathan's parents) only began producing wine on the site in 1999, two years after purchasing the land. Today, it continues to be family-owned and operated with Johnathan taking up the challenge to transform the land into a balanced vineyard ecosystem using organic and biodynamic viticultural practices that he developed, along with modern science, and now terms BioLOGIC.

One of the ways Avondale promotes a balanced ecosystem is through the use of natural predators. Beginning more than 15 years ago, Avondale began unleashing White Pekin Ducks to feast on snails that were proliferating throughout the vineyards and eating the vines. Johnathan showed us a fascinating video of the ducks in action that you can view here:


Other natural predators include predatory wasps (to combat mealy bugs), Spotted Eagle Owls, Rock Kestrels, Yellow-billed and Black-shouldered Kites.

Continuing on the theme of "natural" is the waste water system that mimics the way Nature cleans water. The system is comprised of three dams interlinked by spiralling channels of cleansing reeds that replicates the natural river system. This closed-nutrient cycle yields quality water that is then used for their irrigation needs.

Avondale Wine
Avondale has 13 different soil types on their land, and vines are planted within pockets of soil types. Furthermore, when Avondale built their cellar, it was designed such that each block of fruit from these different soil types could be vinified independently of each other, allowing for terroir expression. The soil is often re-balanced using the soil balancing system pioneered by Dr. William Albrecht, followed by re-mineralization of the soil. To further help balance the soil and ecosystem, legumes and other cover crops are used to create a vibrant and diverse plant community.

All of the wines at Avondale go through natural fermentation - a process which is much slower than commercial fermentation. Some wines are also warm-fermented at this estate, producing wines that can be aged for longer periods when compared with wines that are cool-fermented.

One thing Johnathan talked about that really intrigued me was the Luna Tasting Calendar. This calendar is based on the Biodynamic Planting Calendar that was developed in the 1950's by Maria Thun and centres around the 12 Zodiac constellations and the lunar cycle. Within the calendar there are four cycles: Fruit, Root, Flower and Leaf. The Luna Tasting Calendar conjectures that any given wine will taste different based on the current cycle. The Flower cycle is regarded as the best day for tasting wine. I personally have not tried tasting wine based on this, but it's on my list of things to do this year.

The dowsing experiment using rods that Johnathan performed on one of the attendees was also very interesting. I have a pair of dowsing rods that I haven't used in quite a few years, so it was refreshing to see somebody else perform dowsing, and do it well!

Avondale Wines Lineup

Overall, I was quite pleased with the tasting. It was an eye-opener in terms of the many organic and biodynamic practices that are followed. The labels are also very pretty - with a unique story behind each of them. However, it's what's inside the bottle that counts - and the wines are delicious.

Thank you Rare Earth Wines for the invitation and the opportunity to taste these fabulous wines that also happen to be organic & biodynamic. Since most of these wines are not (yet) available at the LCBO, you can order these wines directly with Rare Earth Wines.

Tasting Notes:

AVONDALE ARMILLA BLANC DE BLANC 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#) (XD) - $28
100% Chardonnay. Medium-high aromatics with toast, bread, poached pear and citrus notes. The palate has vibrant mousse and show hints of sweetness that are cut very quickly by the vibrant acids. Medium-long finish. Score: 88 pts

Avondale Armilla Blanc de Blanc 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (88 pts)Avondale Jonty's Ducks Pekin White 2013 - WO Paarl, South Africa (87 pts)

AVONDALE JONTY'S DUCKS PEKIN WHITE 2013 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#) (XD) - $14.95
Primarily Chenin Blanc (85%) with Roussanne, Muscat de Frontignan, Viognier and Semillon rounding out the blend. Aromas of medium-to-high intensity consisting of sweet ripe peach, citrus and lemon notes. On the palate, it's medium-bodied and fleshy with flavours of lemon/lime, citrus, tangy peach and hints of honey. Some chalky minerality mid-palate. Balanced acids and medium-length finish. Score: 87 pts

AVONDALE ANIMA 2013 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#) (D) - $22.95
100% Chenin Blanc. Elegant, medium+ intensity aromas of honeyed fruit, white peach and tropical fruit. Palate is medium-bodied with very nice aroma replays showing nice complexity. It's off-dry with good tension between fruit and vibrant, yet balanced, acidity. Long finishing. Score: 89 pts

Avondale Anima Chenin Blanc 2013 - WO Paarl, South Africa (89 pts)Avondale Cyclus 2012 - WO Paarl, South Africa (90+ pts)

AVONDALE CYCLUS 2012 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#295220) (XD) - $26.95
White wine blend consisting of equal parts Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussanne & Chenin Blanc, and a small amount of Semillon. Medium-high aromatics that are elegant with notions of apples, orchard fruit, floral and fennel. The palate is medium-bodied, dry, and slightly oily with a chalky mineral texture and fresh, vibrant acids. Layered flavours of herb, lemon and floral continue through to the very long finish. Score: 90+ pts

AVONDALE JONTY'S DUCKS PEKIN RED 2011 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#383547) (XD) - $14.95
Blend of 37% Shiraz, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec. Medium+ aromatic intensity with complex herbal, wild dark/red berry fruit, currant, cassis and elegant oak aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with ripe, supple tannins and flavours of red/black fruits, black cherry, black currant, vanilla and chocolate. Good, balanced acids and a medium-long finish. Currently in VINTAGES. Score: 88+ pts

Avondale Jonty's Ducks Pekin Red 2011 - WO Paarl, South Africa (88+ pts)Avondale Samsara Syrah 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (90 pts)

AVONDALE SAMSARA 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#295550) (XD) - $32.95
100% Syrah. Medium+ intensity aromas of red cherry, berry, white pepper, dark plum, and soft vanillan oak. Flavours of spiced oak, plum, white pepper and currants on the medium+ bodied palate. It has brilliant acidity and firm, chalky tannins. Hints of chocolate on the spiced finish. Will age gracefully for 5-8 years. Score: 90 pts

AVONDALE LA LUNA 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#) (XD) - $34.95
A Bordeaux-blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, this red wine has medium+ intensity aromas with suggestions of elegant plum, red & dark fruits, floral, cedar oak and some purple fruits. It's full-bodied with refined tannins and very nice aroma replays. It also has very good acids and a long, smooth finish. Score: 91 pts

Avondale La Luna 2009 - WO Paarl, South Africa (91 pts)


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