New Trafford: De Trafford & Sijnn Winemaker’s Dinner @ Stanley’s, Dublin
Last month I had the pleasure to attend a fantastic Winemaker’s dinner at Stanley’s Restaurant in Dublin. Regular readers may remember a previous dinner event I attended there with Yves Cuilleron and his wines. On this occasion it was the wines of David Trafford, co-hosted by importer/distributor Dr Eilis Cryan, the lady behind Kinnegar Wines of Galway.
David was originally an architect – with a few clues in the names and designs of his wines – but felt compelled to make wine in such an amazing land as Stellenbosch. Many years later, he set up Sijnn in a hamlet down near the coast.
This tasting featured wines from both wineries, plus a starter from another Kinnegar producer:
Thelema Méthode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs 2011
For those not familiar with the term, Méthode Cap Classique (or MCC for short) is a traditional-method sparkling wine from South Africa. Thelema are much better known for their excellent still wines, particularly their reds, but this is a serious effort.
As the Blanc de Blancs name suggests this is 100% Chardonnay. Fulfilling the same requirements as vintage Champagne, it was (second) bottle fermented and left on the lees for three years. It was disgorged in Sept/Oct 2014 and given an “extra-brut” dosage of 3.2 g/l.
It’s a lovely fresh, citrus style, perfect as an aperitif at this time in its life. With a few more years it should mellow out so that more mature fruit develop and the acidity softens a little to let the bready characters from time on the lees show through.
One of the things that great chefs can do is challenge your preconceptions. The amuse bouche had radish which I don’t particularly care for, but with crab it was just heavenly.
Marinated scallops, cucumber, bergamot, fois gras butter
I love scallops, but I’m no fan of cucumber – I’ll pick it out of salads and send back a G&T that someone has stupidly infected with cucumber. However, I have now become a convert of cucumber and mint soup – it was served in a mini tea cup on the side and was just divine!
De Trafford Chenin Blanc 2012 & Sijnn White 2012
Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape, capable of playing several different roles, though always with its trademark high acidity. Personally, I prefer it when it has either (1) a bit of oak, (2) a bit of age or (3) a bit of sugar; without these it can be too simple or too harsh for my taste.
David Trafford has been making Chenin for twenty years. As with all his wines only wild yeast is used for his De Trafford Chenin, and then around 15% is matured in new oak barrels. Bingo! The oak adds a bit of roundness and texture, but it’s not an overtly oaky wine – it’s still fresh. Malolactic fermentation is blocked by adding a dash of sulphur and the low cellar temperature.
The Sijnn White is also Chenin based, but as well as 20% oak maturation, it also has another trick up its sleeve: Viognier! Around 16% of the blend is Viognier which gives stunning aromatics and a tempting texture. I now have to add a fourth type of Chenin to my list!
Guinea fowl, green asparagus, black bacon, carbonara jus
There were no weird surprises here as I’m a fan of guinea fowl. It was tasty and succulent, with lots of additional interesting flavours from the accompaniments. Asparagus and green beans provided a contrast against the richness of the meat.
De Trafford Elevation 393 2010 & Sijnn 2010
For many attendees I expect this was the main (vinous) event of the evening.
Elevation is De Trafford’s flagship red. As the 2010 is such an approachable, ripe style it has been released ahead of the 2009 which needs more time to mellow out. This is partially due to the blend of the 2010 which was a third each of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Shiraz – there is usually a higher proportion of Cabernet in the blend which makes it a little more austere.
Although definitely fruity, the Elevation had more of a savoury aspect than many Australian Cabernet blends, for example. South Africa really does straddle the boundaries of Old and New World.
The Sijnn Red was an altogether different blend, mainly a cross between the Rhône and the Douro: Syrah 41%; Touriga Nacional 27%; Mourvèdre 18%; Trincadeira 10%; Cabernet Sauvignon 4%. And funnily enough, both of these influences were apparent in the finished blend – the spice, blackberry and blueberry of the Rhône were joined by the plum and prune of the Douro. It’s quite a big wine, but totally delicious.
A fantastic wine geek fact that David gave us was that Mourvèdre needs more vine age than most other varieties before it begins producing quality fruit in reasonable quantities.
Rooibos tea custard tart, guava sorbet
This was so tasty that I barely managed to take a snap before wolfing it down! You may recognise rooibos as a South African speciality – it’s a herbal tea, though often taken with milk and sugar down there.
De Trafford Straw Wine 2006
This might be something of a mystery for many – a straw wine? The name is a translation of Vin de Paille – pronounced “van de pie” – which is the French term for this style of dessert wine.
It starts as 100% Chenin Blanc grapes, picked at normal ripeness. The grapes are then dried outside on mats for three weeks, partially in the shade and partially in the sun. The must takes a whole year to ferment, followed by two years maturation in 225L barriques (60% French and 40% American).
The finished product has a high 230 g/L of residual sugar, but with a streak of Chenin acidity it remains balanced and far from cloying.
Thanks to David, Eilis, Morgan, Stephen, Patrick and all the staff at Stanley’s for a wonderful evening!