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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #159 (article first published : 2006-10-2)

The Middelvlei estate, in the Devon Valley on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, has been run by the Momberg family for nearly a century, since 1919 in fact.

The modern era of winemaking there began in 1963 when the second generation owner, Stiljan Momberg, set about upgrading the vineyards. So named because he is an amiable but remarkably taciturn character, Stiljan replanted 130 hectares of vines over a period of thirty years, concentrating on classic red varieties. Today he hovers silently in the background while his sons Tinnie (cellarmaster) and Ben (viticulturist) run the farm.

There is something reassuring about this family continuity, a dedicated, long-term operation quite different from some of the get-rich-quick “boutique” wine farms that have sprung up in the Western Cape in recent years. Middelvlei has some pleasant domestic touches: miniature horses, a few donkeys, pygmy goats, three wallabies and a pack of friendly dogs named Barlinka, Ruby, Bordeaux, Shiraz, Pongracz, Cab, Pontac, Tinta and Malbec.

When, in 1994, Middelvlei produced its first white wine, 140 cases of chardonnay, the family consumed half.

Middelvlei is a red wine farm; 95 percent of its 35,000 cases a year are red wines. A new release from the estate is the Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot 2005, a lovely aromatic, fruity blend, plum flavours with a hint of chocolate. The wine was matured for 16 months in second-fill oak barrels and has a mellow, smooth character, thanks largely to the merlot content. Alcohol content is a commendably low 13,5 percent. Ready to drink now, by itself or with almost any food, but may improve in the bottle over the next couple of years.

Another new release is the Middelvlei Chardonnay 2006. Chardonnay is the only white wine made by Middelvlei. This year’s production is 2,000 cases and it will be doubled next year to meet consumer demand. The wine is elegant, with peach and guava flavours and a touch of spice.

These are quality wines at reasonable prices. The Pinotage Merlot is about R49 a bottle, the Chardonnay about 39.

Middelvlei recently won three gold medals and a silver at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards. The winning wines were the 2004 vintages of pinotage, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and a yet to be released red blend called Middelvlei Momberg.

Middelvlei is about 50 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and is open for tasting and sales. Phone 021 883 2565.




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