Tangram is a Chinese geometrical seven-piece puzzle. The pieces, called “tans”, consists of a square cut into five triangles, a square and a rhomboid which can be arranged to make various forms and pictures to tell a story.
To master the Tangram, one has to look at the whole puzzle to understand and form the myriad of images to be shaped. In the end, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Durbanville Hills believes that wine is an ever-expanding discovery to be shared. And as with a Tangram, their latest release red blend has its own story to tell.
Durbanville Hills’ Seven Elements
The story of the 2012 Tangram Red is distinctive to the area of Durbanville. The story comprises four natural elements (earth, wind, fire, water) and three winemakers coming together to create a wine that is indeed greater than its parts.
Cellar master Martin Moore says it’s a humbling experience to have the final product in hand.
“In 1999, during the cellar’s first harvest, a really top-end blend in a classical style immediately came to mind. Having worked in Bordeaux, the similarities in climate made it even more tempting as I saw our slightly higher temperatures as a big advantage for proper ripening which is often a problem in France.
“We had the vision to create a truly exceptional wine, one that would showcase our unique location with its close proximity to two mighty oceans, valleys enclosed by hills offering slopes of varying altitudes, rich soils with excellent water retention, and a cool-climate with a distinctive microclimate.
“But we realised at the time that we were embarking on a long-term project. We would need to expand our knowledge and gain experience while making changes to the vineyards and the cellar if we wanted to realise our objective.”
It comes therefore as no surprise to Moore that the grapes used in the making of The Tangram 2012 Red Blend came from vineyards planted in 1998 and 1999 – at the time when the cellar was established and vineyard practices suitable for cool-climate production were introduced.
“The vineyards first had to achieve maturity and we had to focus on how best to use a bigger cellar to build the Durbanville Hills brand into a respected player in the South African market, without letting go of our dream.
“And here it finally is! We allowed the wine to mature an additional year in the bottle after its two years in French oak. As a result, the balance and complexity is exactly what we set out to achieve. It’s really a beautiful wine.”
— Sue-Ann Allen (@ChefSueAnnAllen) June 21, 2016
Driven by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which together constitute the backbone of the blend, the wine is a classic Bordeaux-style blend with smaller components of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, All the grapes came from single vineyard blocks on the warmer side of the valley. During harvest the winemakers personally selected a dedicated team to hand-pick the grapes which were then meticulously sorted by an automated sorting table that does berry-by-berry selection to ensure only the best fruit are selected from each cultivar.
“We created a small cellar at Durbanville Hills a few years ago dedicated to the making of truly hand-crafted wines. And it’s here that each component of The Tangram 2012 Red Blend was gently handled.”
Due to the small volumes of the Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec the berries were pumped directly to 500 litre barrels with the barrel head removed to allow for open-top fermentation with manual punch-downs. This method produces softer tannins, better extraction of flavours and overall complexity. Pressing was done in a small basket press from where the wine was transferred to the maturation cellar.
“We selected new French oak for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot components while the other varietals were matured in second fill French oak with tight grain to allow for slow extraction of flavours from the wood. Each varietal was matured separately for two years where after only the best barrels of each was identified for the final blend. To put things into perspective, out of a row of 20 barrels we only selected one.
“We spent three days creating over 100 different blends, each time making only the slightest change to the composition. It’s interesting that our second blend was the winner even though we still continued to try numerous other combinations!”
The final blend consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
Dark ruby red in colour the wine is complex with sweet wood spice lingering beautifully with ripe dark fruit, fennel, dark chocolate and cinnamon. The wine is full-bodied and rich on the palate with fruit cake, sweet spice and soft tannins leading to a lingering aftertaste.
— Lize-marie Gradwell (@lmpaarl) June 21, 2016
Moore suggests that for optimum enjoyment, the wine should be decanted at least one hour before serving. If stored under optimal conditions, he estimates the wine would stay at its prime for at least a decade.
The 2012 Tangram Red Blend is only available from the cellar and www.vinoteque.co.za, and retails for R895. Purchases are limited to four bottles per person.
For more info, follow Durbanville Hills Wine on Twitter and join the conversation using the hashtag #DvHTangram
— DurbanvilleHillsWine (@dhillswine) June 21, 2016