"South African Syrah doesn't get much better than this. " 95 pts, Neal MartinFrom the wilds of Tulbagh, North of Wellington and East of Swartland. The couple, Paul and Rebecca, who make this wine are just delightful as well as being really brilliant viticulturalist/winemakers.
Fable Mountain is a new star from Rebecca Tanner and Paul Nicholls and former managing partner of the obscenlely successful Screaming Eagle.
Platter Guide 5 stars for both the 2011 and 2012 vintages
Neal Martin, 95 points:: "The 2012 Syrah comes from the estate in Tulbugh and is raised in 500-liter French oak barrels (20% new) for 24 to 30 months. There is great detail and precision on the nose here with engaging blackcurrant, raspberry preserve and violet scents that unfold in the glass. There is something almost "Pinot-like" here. The palate is very well structured with a keen line of acidity cutting a swathe through the crystalline blackberry and blueberry fruit, and there is an enthralling underlying mineralité that imparts so much complexity and nuance on the finish. South African Syrah doesn't get much better than this.
Fable Mountains Vineyards’ recent releases just blew me away last year. Part of Charles Banks’ stable, it’s Rebecca Tanner and Paul Nicholls who have really ratcheted up the quality in recent year to the very top of the South African tree (or should that be vine). Though I went to Tulbagh last year, I did not have time to visit their estate. I corrected that on this occasion, where I tasted the wines and toured the vineyards and winery. It is an idyllic location if you like dramatic mountains, the wilderness, the open sky and making wine.
As we tasted the new vintage from barrel, I asked Paul about recent developments at Fable.
“We have been planting since 2011 and finished last year. The first blocks were taken off with the 2015 harvest and the potential looks pretty good. There is a Fable character on the site, a slate-like quality. It's encouraging that we have this character in the new vineyards as well as the old vineyards. The site outside the winery will come online with the 2016 harvest and then by 2018 all the new plantings, but we won't put anything in [the vat] that is not up to scratch. I think because there is no topsoil here, you get that mineralité straight away, plus you only get 3.5 tons per hectare. The plantings are a bit narrower so we might end up getting five tons per hectare. We are also experimenting with dry stalks by drying the stalks of the old vines. There is a little in the 2012, say about 20% in the Syrah. We are not keen on that 100% stalk character and it can take away from terroir.”
“We have everything we have in the vineyard so we don't have to do a lot of winemaking. It's about attention to detail in the cellar. We have very good acids on the site and keep the sulphurs moderate. We've tried to get our alcohols down. We pick on taste in the vineyards. The mountains tend to cool the microclimate and we can pick three weeks later in some areas.”
Their four recent releases are all strongly recommended and deliver fantastic bang for bucks. In particular, their 2012 Syrah is one of South Africa’s finest and I feel benefited from the judicious addition of stems, imparting complexity, freshness and that edginess stalks can sometimes bring. If you have not acquainted yourself with Fable Mountains Vineyards wines, it is time to do so. "