Anyone who has ever attended one of Leon Coetzee’s tastings would happily confirm he’s not your everyday hipster winemaker. Sure, he has a line in banter straight out of Woodstock, an anecdotal style which has you hoping you’ll still be with him when he reaches his conclusion. It’s not that he wanders off the subject: it’s just that the subject has too many highways and byways for those with a linear sort of mind.
At one stage at a recent tasting he explained himself by saying that his approach is ADHD: this might account for why he gets to the turn-offs before he gets to his destination. This indirect approach – to give it its most positive spin – is not simply a figure of speech: it’s also in the DNA of Fledge and Co, the wine business he and his wife Margaux have been running since they made their first barrel of wine in 2012.
However, it’s the way that it has escalated, following all the laws of chaos theory and entropy, that really tells the tale. In 2012 they had 360 bottles of wine to sell: that’s smaller than a backyard business – all they needed was a few hundred kilograms of grapes and a bit of working space. Today – effectively 7 years later – they work with 22 varieties from 42 vineyards, spread out across a geography which extends from Piketberg via Agulhas to the Klein Karoo. Just during the vintage Leon’s bakkie clocks 20000 kilometres.
One morning the two of them are going to wake up, quietly throw a few items into a backpack, scoop up their new-born son and just vanish. It might be hard for them to leave behind all the barrels of unfinished wine, but it might be the only way out of the maze. How else are they going to bring order to a universe which has long ago spiralled out of control? Certainly not with their three-tiered approach to classifying their offering.
Their proposed taxonomy runs like this: at the so-called entry level is the Jikken Bareru experimental range – which is where the fruit of newly discovered vineyard blocks can (only theoretically, mind you) find a home. One step up – taking a tenuous birding metaphor with the Jikken pun – are the Nest Eggs, wines which have been around for a bit and may even enjoy a bit of a cult following – the Hoeksteen chenin from Stellenbosch, the Klipspringer chenin from the Swartland, for example. At this point – given that the range also includes the Vagabond white blend (a place to ‘lose’ a barrel or two of an obscure white variety), a Fumé Blanc and the KatVis Pinot – even the most loyal consumer could be forgiven for being a little confused.
But now we have the top tier, the Rare Sightings (mainly but, as you will see, not exclusively) from single sites. This of course implies that below this level there is neither rarity nor terroir-based wines, which is patently improbable. As Macduff says under much less jolly circumstances, confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Or has he? Here with the Rare Sightings mostly the offering is familiar – well-known varieties, handled by Coetzee in his unshowy, restrained way. There’s the O-Velaphi (where are you from?) Chardonnay from Elgin, the O-Velaphi Cabernet from Stellenbosch and then (because it’s not from a single site – see what I mean about confusion) there’s the “Big” Red Blend.
The Chardonnay and the Cabernet are both very good, pure and linear, unburdened by overt oaking and, while pleasing now, worth keeping for a year or two. However, the wine of the tasting for me was the 2015 Big Red Blend, a beautifully assembled Douro-style red, perfectly managed tannins, textured and full but still fresh and savoury. Touriga nacional, tinta barocca and touriga franca harmoniously combined to produce a wine of seamless excellence. Though this be madness, as another of Shakespeare’s characters says, yet there is method in’t.