A postcard from South Africa – with love from Damascene 

Today sees the fourth release from this dynamic producer.  With each release, the momentum builds as acclaimed winemaker Jean Smit refines his storytelling of the land and is able to translate it more accurately into the bottle. Oenophiles, locally and internationally, will be hunting out these masterpieces today as production is extremely limited and demand is at an all-time high. Especially seeing as 2021 is deemed to be one of the Cape’s most outstanding vintages.

This year the highly lauded lineup includes two new wines, Damascene W.O Swartland Chenin Blanc and Moya Meaker Riesling.

The Damascene Semillon is invariably always one of my highlights, and the 2021 edition certainly did not disappoint. Sourced from two vineyards planted in 1942 and 1962, this is a story which encapsulates Franschhoek’s old vine Semillon and celebrates South Africa’s affiliation with this noble cultivar.    A wine of great depth yet defies gravity with intriguing delicacy and a luscious texture.  Truly unique in style. Dried pear and white peach interspersed with subtle ginger spice and lifted by citrus blossom.  The wine concludes with an intricate savoury detail and retires with length and freshness.  

This year sees two old vine Chenin Blancs being released from Damascene; one a snapshot of Swartland and the other of Stellenbosch.  The point is not to choose a favourite, but one can not help to compare and observe the differences between the two regions, particularly as the fruit is handled the same way in the cellar.  The W.O Swartland Chenin shows a little more focus, whereas the W.O Stellenbosch adaption is more generous. Both are impeccable expressions capturing both the essence of the region and the variety.   

Pouring the flight of Syrahs, Jean indicated that he would always have something close to the coast, something more inland and something at a higher altitude, three pillars of extremity to truly depict the regional diversity of Syrah.  W.O Stellenbosch Syrah is perfumed and spicy.  Aromas of lavender, potpourri and leather spice intermingle.  A silky entry before lush dark cherries and ripe plums. The W.O Swartland Syrah shows slightly less fruit concentration, replaced by compelling savoury notes.  Beautiful clarity with a pop of bright fruit aromas.  The W.O Cederberg is distinctly different to its siblings, wild and broody with notes of fynbos, dark fruit and earthy spice.  Each expression is the perfect definition of Syrah with its region accent highlighted. 

Damascene W.O Stellenbosch Cabernet Franc is from a low-yielding vineyard in Bottelary.  A more refined wine than in previous years, Jean’s more profound understanding of the vineyard is apparent. It is rustic in the most elegant way.  A perfect balance of fruit, cooling herbal notes and hot spice. 

The only vintage not aligned is the Damascene W.O Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.  Incredible fruit intensity, a Cabernet which celebrates the attributes winemakers in the region often apologise for.  Cassis, mulberry, cranberries and a graphitic minerality.  Plush, luxurious fruit restrained by a tightly woven tannin structure.  Charming even in its youth. 

All the wines are accessible now but will benefit considerably from cellaring. The hype around this release is hugely deserved. These wines are set to become South African benchmarks and should be part of any serious wine collector’s cellar.  

For detailed notes on the wines and sites please visit their website

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Bubbles Hyland

Bubbles Hyland

Bubbles Hyland, Well Red Wine Magazine Editor and Founder. Wine is her passion and it's also her job; it engrain every aspect of her life. She aims to make wine accessible, and spread the love and knowledge she has in a fun and approachable manner.

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