This was a tasting and lunch to celebrate 20 years of Sijnn (pronounced ‘sane’), a vineyard located in Malgas in South Africa’s Western Cape. Sijnn is a vineyard that was founded in 2000 by David Trafford (owner of Stellenbosch winery De Trafford) and Simon Farr (who was one of the founders of Bibendum and now has a number of businesses including fine wine company Cru World Wine).
The vineyard is in the middle of nowhere, and the closest town is an hour away. David Trafford and his wife were on holiday in the region and came across this place with remarkable terroir: round river stones over schist and shale. It was an ostrich and wheat farm. He dug a few profile holes and now 20 years later they have 23 hectares of bush vines on a farm of 125 hectares. The rainfall is between 180 and 250 mm annually, which is very dry, and they need a bit of supplementary irrigation perhaps four times a year from their dam.
The first few years of being here must have been difficult. The Afrikaans farmers who were their neighbours would have been very puzzled by vines going into the ground. The closest winery is 100 km away in either Robertson or Agulhas. They are doing something unique in an area that is undiscovered.
Charla Bosman, the winemaker, presented the tasting, which went right back to the beginning (the first vines were planted in 2004, and the first wines were the 2007s. She began in 2014, after working at Tokara and Kanonkop, as well as shifts in Portugal (Quinta do Vallado) and the USA.
The climate is moderate Mediterranean with afternoon breezes from the ocean cooling things down, and the winters are quite moderate. In the summer it rarely gets about 32 C. They planted a lot of Mediterranean cultivars, plus Chenin Blanc. Grenache Rouge and Chenin are the highest yielding, and then there’s Verdelho, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne and a new planting of Assyrtiko. It takes hardy varieties to grow here. Reds are Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Trincadeira, Grenache, and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon.
They farm as naturally as possible. They buy hay bales from local farmers to mulch and suppress weeds. They aren’t certified organic, but being isolated they have a very light spraying program. Yields are 3-5 tons/hectare.
In the winery, they add no yeast but do add sulfites, and fine with bentonite. They add no acid to the wine. Prior to 2014 the wines were made at De Trafford, but since then they have their own winery.
Production is 30-40 000 bottles annually.
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2020
Powerful and aromatic with bold pear and peach fruit, with some apricot and melon. Has richness and depth with a spicy, mineral character under the broad fruit. Lovely layered fruit with some ripeness but lovely spicy detail, too. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2019
This is linear, lively and quite pure with a lovely stony mineral streak and good acidity. Lovely pear and white peach with this sense of energy, showing salinity and fine spiciness. Lovely depth here, but also focus. This is so impressive. 95/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2018
Rich and textured, this has ripe pear and spice with nice intensity. Chalky, salty and vivid with white peach and ripe pear fruit on the finish. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2017
This is textured and fine with white peach, melon and fine spices. Lovely weight and finesse with some softness, a slight hint of mint, and a lovely ripe pear finish. Nice depth and richness to this. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2014
Ripe, expansive and softly textured, this has smooth pear and peach fruit with a touch of citrus. Warmly spiced with nice depth and weight of fruit. Smooth and developing nicely with a soft finish. Very expressive: a ripe style. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2013
This balances ripeness with freshness showing lovely depth and texture. Has pear, peach, a touch of apple and lovely balance showing some fresh citrus notes. Very textural and expressive, and ageing really well. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate White 2008
Bold, rich, toasty and spicy. Lively and spicy with pear and peach showing a lot of development. Still delicious in a very ripe, toasty, intense style. 92/100
Sijnn Malgas Vermentino 2022
Charla says that is a variety that blew her mind when she saw how it grew, with large berries, looking like table grapes. It has adapted really well. This is the first release, and it’s lively and bright with vibrant lemony fruit, showing high acidity and a stony edge. Lovely detail, too, with mandarin and spice notes. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Chenin Blanc 2021
‘It’s just at home in Malgas,’ says Charla of their most widely planted white. The first vines were planted in 2004. Lovely intensity: mineral with apple, pear, peach and even some apricot fruit. Intense and finely spiced with a saline twist. 94/100
The red is made in open-top fermenters with pump overs early on and light punch downs a couple of times a day. The cellar is quite cool, but there are cooling plates if the temperature gets down. The wine is pressed to 225 litre barrels, mostly French but some Hungarian and Austrian. 20% new oak each year. Not much whole bunch these days because of worries about potassium from stems raising pH: maybe 10%. The blend is mostly Syrah with some other varieties in the mix, including some Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2018
Has 17% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, the most ever. Fresh and vivid with ripe, sleek black cherry and plum fruit as well as some meaty detail. Concentrated and intense with a salty edge to the fruit, with notes of liqourice and tar. Nice tannins here under the fruit. A bold wine with great intensity. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2017
Ripe but fresh with nice elegance, showing sweet black cherries, blackberries and spices. Notes of herbs and pepper, with good structure as well as ripe, lush fruit. Finishes quite firm and dusty with some aniseed and liqourice. Distinctive. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2016
Ripe, saline and nicely mineral with sweet, lush berry fruits, some saltiness and notes of iodine and dried herbs. Developing in interesting ways with salinity and minerality offsetting the concentrated, sweet fruit, with good structure. 95/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2012
Some development here with notes of earth and spice, tending towards soft ripe fruit with some cured meat and olive, but then there’s a nice spicy bite with some salty notes. It’s showing its age a bit, but drinking well now. 92/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2009
Dense, savoury, spicy and grainy with sweet black cherry and plum fruit as well as some earthy hints. Dense and savoury with a hint of mineral and salinity. Really interesting, but showing some development. 92/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2008
Concentrated and bold with ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit. Rich and spicy with a salty edge, showing nice grip on the finish. There’s a lot of intensity here with ripe, bold fruit. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Estate Red 2007
Ripe, rich and bold with nice blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, as well as notes of earth and spice and some fine minerals. Nice density here: grainy and vivid with good tannins. A rich wine. 94/100
There’s also a second red, called Low Profile, which acts as an introduction to Sijnn, made from lower lying sites with higher yields.
Sijnn Malgas Low Profile Red 2020
Sweetly fruited with spice, cherries and plums. Warm with nice depth. Shows ripeness but also a dark spicy quality. Lovely balance. 92/100
Sijnn Malgas Low Profile Red 2018
Fresh, focused and linear with some richness, as well as spicy cherries and berries with some stony mineral notes. Nice freshness and focus, with lovely weight. Fruity but fine. 92/100
And some red single variety wines:
Sijnn Malgas Carignan 2021
As you might expect, Carignan does very well here. Very fresh and linear with lovely brightness, showing fresh blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Juicy and focused with good acidity. Pure, showing a saline twist. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Syrah 2021
Concentrated and spice-laden with black cherries and blackberries. Peppery and fine, and so juicy with lively red cherries in the mix too. Very fine. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Mourvedre 2021
Mourvèdre isn’t the easiest variety to grow here. Sweet and ripe, with concentrated blackberry fruit, a touch of cedar and some spicy notes. Vital and alert. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Trincadeira 2021
Lush, juicy and bright with lots of blackberry and raspberry fruit with a juicy quality. Nice precision, showing good acidity and some salinity. Supple and fine. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Trincadeira 2007
From three-year-old vines. Malt, earth, spices and raspberry and cherry fruit here: it has developed quite a savoury edge. But there’s still a lot of bright raspberry and cherry fruit and nice acidity, along with a twist of salinity. 93/100
Sijnn Malgas Mourvedre 2007
Complex, lively and fresh with juicy cherry and raspberry fruit as well as some notes of mint and spice. Fresh, fine and expressive. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
This is a surprise. Rich and dense with blackcurrant and spice, showing nice concentration and a mineral streak. It’s bold and rich, but still so well defined and expressive. 94/100
Sijnn Malgas Cape Vintage 2019
Another great surprise. Very rich but fresh with sweet liqueur-like blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Vivid, lively and so pure with a salty edge. Amazing presence here: a remarkable Port-style wine. 95/100
UK agent: Raeburn Wines