If you ever want to hoodwink a wine connoisseur friend, have them blind-test a glass of Mellasat Vineyards Pinotage: if they’re not familiar with the varietal, they’ll likely struggle to identify it correctly. This is because Mellasat makes a white Pinotage, which the estate introduced back in 2007 – a world first.
Owner and winemaker at Mellasat Vineyards near Paarl in the Western Cape Winelands, Stephen Richardson is no stranger to taking risks. The Richardson family created Mellasat Vineyards in 1996 from the original farm Dekkersvlei, which was established in 1693 near Paarl. From 1997 on, Richardson began a replacement programme from the farm’s existing vines. Careful consideration was taken into selecting cultivars that suit Paarl’s particular climate. The result is a range of extraordinary wines that go against the norm.
Making white wine from red grapes is no easy task. Richardson uses a blend of juice that has had next to no skin contact and juice that has a little more skin contact. The result is a magnificent wine with a slightly creamy, nutty character that balances tropical notes of pineapple and banana.
Mellasat Vineyards White Pinotage is not the only exceptional wine Richardson makes. The vineyard’s premium range includes a classic barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Tuin Wyn, an unfortified dessert wine. Under this range, Tempranillo and the Viognier form part of the Premium Exclusive collection, owing to the small volumes that are made.
Tempranillo and Viognier are Spanish and French wines respectively. Having hailed from the UK, Richardson’s love for wine began with European varietals, so it makes sense that he would want to create them. Tempranillo is a full-bodied red wine that gives a cigar-box aroma, leading to marinated cherry and autumn blackberry on the palate. The Viognier has prominent floral notes of orange blossom on the nose that lead through to stone-fruit flavours on the palate.
Mellasat Vineyards also have an easy drinking range called Dekker’s Valley, which features four wines for casual enjoyment that are unwooded or more lightly oaked.
To experience the full range, head to Mellasat Vineyards’ tasting centre, which offers beautiful views of the Paarl Valley and the option of a picnic or cheese platter to accompany your vintage of choice. And you’ll get to atone for your earlier white Pinotage trickery by taking your wine aficionado friend to the Cemetery of Forgotten Wines – an underground cellar that features a collection of museum wines with which you can interact.