Upon arrival in South Africa we drove to Stellenbosch and spent the first evening enjoying dinner with a small group of producers making unique, small production wines. The intimacy of the group paralleled the sense of nuance found in the wines themselves.
Bootstrap wineries doing what they can to make wines of passion often reveal the fingerprint of the winemaker in the wines themselves – there is great insight to gain into the person behind a wine when they have had to dedicate themselves so thoroughly to making all aspects of the project happen themselves. It is, perhaps, a comparable challenge to that shared by writers like myself where doing what we love turns out to carry such high demand. And there I find my sympathy.
My interest in small production wine projects rests not only in the feeling that we can make a big difference by supporting them. In studying how they make their wine and handle the logistics of being a one-person operation we also learn more about the person themselves – where their values rest, what they are truly committed to, and what vision they have for themselves in the world. When someone has to work so hard to make their dream happen choices have to be made on what to commit to and what to let fall away. In observing those choices we learn something about what the person truly cares about. I find that both fascinating and also personally educational.
Saltare sparkling wine was the first of the wineries we tasted. After studying movement, owner-winemaker Carla Pauw shifted to winemaking and named her winery for the Latin word “to dance.” While she also makes a couple choice still wines, her first focus rests in sparkling made in the classic method, with secondary fermentation being done in bottle as is found in Champagne. (In South Africa, such wines are referred to as Methode Cap Classique or MCC in order to distinguish them from sparkling wines made by other methods.) Having previously served as head winemaker for other wineries, since 2010 Carla has devoted herself fully to Saltare making wine from vineyards in the Western Cape.
My favorite of her wines tasted was the first. Her Brut Nature made from an approximately 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay stays 2 years on lees and is treated with both no SO2 and no dosage at bottling. The wine carries fresh, delicate aromatics and an elegant palate of building acidity. The flavors float in the mouth with lacy notes of citrus and chalk accented by crushed almond. There is a lovely dance of subtlety with persistence through a very long finish. I also loved the acid signature of this wine – it was fresh and glowing, coming into the palate incredibly fine, then building in intensity and presence through the finish. The wine is, in a word, graceful.
In the United States, Pascal Schildt imports Saltare wines, bringing in both the Brut Nature described here and her Reserve, made in a similar fashion as the Brut Nature but with an additional year on lees. Within South Africa, Saltare wines can also be purchased direct from the producer.
To read more about Saltare wines, check out Carla’s website here: http://saltarewines.co.za/
Or, Pascal Schildt’s page about her here: http://pascalschildt.com/saltare
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