Scions of Sinai Rocinante 2021


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“The 2021 Rocinante is a white Rhone blend (35% Chenin Blanc, 35% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne) from three vineyards that ripen on the same day, treated as one variety in the winery, and stays on the lees for nine months. It has a pure and expressive nose with yellow plum, lemon curd, rosemary and wild fennel scents, just a very light egg white scent in the background. The palate is very well balanced with a lovely thread of acidity; the 2021 is a textural wine with a waxy texture and veins of stem ginger and white pepper on the finish. Drinking window: 2023-2033. 92 points

I usually try to leave a free morning at the end of my trip to South Africa that I can fill with a new name, one that comes to light during my trip, someone namedropped by other winemakers. This year, that was unquestionably Scions of Sinai, the new project from winemaker Bernherd Bredell, the seventh generation of his family to tend vines. Bredell dropped into the Wines of South Africa offices so that I could look at his recent releases. “I am based in the lower Helderberg area,” he tells me. “Sinai Hill is one of the major granite hills that has been historically overlooked and under-utilised. The fruit was used in bigger blends. My family used to farm there, but we lost our land in 2012 due to trust disputes. I have always grown up in wine though; we were known more for fortified wines, the Chenin Blanc sold to the KWV during the fifties and sixties. I always had a different perspective – I wanted to salvage the bush vines. We’ve seen a lot of loss of heritage. I worked with Alain Graillot and Domaine Jamet, also Jean-Louis Chave. I see bulldozers ripping out old vines so I started to select parcels of bush vines and try to lease them back. I started Scions of Sinai in 2017. Before there wasn’t a lot of single vineyard expression from this site, only Chris Alheit’s Nautical Dawn. The vines are 3-4km from the coast on silica soils. They are earlier ripening, so you don’t get greenness at lower Balling levels, whilst they retain good acidity thanks to the winds. Facing south-east and east, the micro-climate is 6° Celsius, cooler than mainland Stellenbosch. The soils are deep and well-drained. The winery is located just below Cordoba and dates from the 1850s. It was standing unused, waiting for someone to use it, and so I have leased it since 2016. It’s a small space with no cooling facility, but it works. I used to do punch-downs as a kid, so I was averse to it as a winemaker.”

These wines are definitely worth seeking out – exemplary expression of terroir and grape variety courtesy of a young winemaker, Bredell clearly has “the touch”. They just lit up the room as the rain pelted down outside. I would happily drop some of the Rhône blends in a top-level Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie tasting to demonstrate that Syrah does not necessarily reach its apotheosis there. I also like his take on Pinotage, where he likes the ocean to shape his wines and where he seeks not to hide their tannins. Quantities are very limited, so do try to seek these out.”

Neal Martin, Vinous (09/22)