Two Semillons from The Vineyard Party: an exciting debut for this South African producer

Semillon is an interesting variety, and it has made some really interesting wines in South Africa, both as single variety wines and also in blends with Sauvignon. Here are two more, and they are quite special. Both have some skin contact.

This is the debut vintage of a new producer, The Vineyard Party, which is the label of Jolette Steyn. She’s business development manager at The Wine Cellar, but she also has an enology degree and 15 harvests under her belt, including some European vintages.

Jolette Steyn with her partner Tom Prior

With The Vineyard Party, her goal is ‘to source biodiverse, sustainably farmed vineyard parcels, whilst working with avant-garde vinification techniques, and applying low intervention in the cellar.’

Both of these wines come from an 18 year-old Semillon vineyard on the slopes of the Helderberg in Stellenbosch. It’s a north-east facing site with decomposed granite soils.

‘I wanted to explore the impact that one small tweak in the cellar would have on otherwise similarly handled wines,’ says Jolette, ‘and thus fermented Sémillon in three different ways:

whole bunch pressed in a 1-ton basket press, juice fermented in older fill barrels; crushed and destemmed into an open top fermenter with fermentation on skins with gentle

press downs to wet the cap; and whole bunch fermented in an open top fermenter, so with fermentation on skins and stems.’

The three wines were then blended into these two.

The Vineyard Party I’m your Huckleberry 2018 Stellenbosch, South Africa
12% alcohol. Whole-bunch pressed juice fermented in older barrels (70%) with a portion skin contact fermented in open top tanks (30%) for about 15 days. No additions apart from SO2. Full yellow in colour. This has brightness and freshness, and also a bit of structure. There is a lovely chalky, green limey character here, with crystalline citrus fruit and a hint of green apple. Lovely freshness and presence on the palate with good acidity and a fine, spicy, nicely green twist on the finish. It’s fresh but textural with lots of detail and interest. This is a lovely expression of Semillon. 93/100

The Vineyard Party Here be Dragons 2018 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Some crushed destemmed and fermented on skins (40%) and a 60% whole bunch fermented (60%). No additions apart from SO2. Yellow/gold colour. Lovely aromatics with some lime, a bit of green, and rich honey and apricot notes adding an extra dimension. The palate is fresh but rich at the same time, with lovely green, chalky Semillon characters meshing well with nuts, toast and spice, and also some exotic apricot characters as well as some orange peel and well integrated tannic structure. A really lovely wine of real depth, showing off Semillon in a beautiful way. 94/100

In South Africa these retail for R200 and are available from Wine Cellar.

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