Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied
After more than 20 years at Paarl estate Glen Carlou, in 2016 winemaker Arco Laarman took the bold step of setting up as an independent winemaker. Last year saw the release of his approachable Cluster Series, a well-priced Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but in the background, he was hard at work on the real reason for striking out on his own.
His new Focal Point collection is all about terroir, with the Focal Point Chardonnay and Focal Point Cinsault focusing attention on the unique vineyards that gave rise to the wines.
With the Focal Point collection “I want to see what we can achieve with different expressions of the same varietal, using different soils, different clones and different terroir in each vintage”, explains Arco.
He has long been passionate about Chardonnay, and for the 2017 vintage, he turned to a memorable vineyard parcel in the Southern Cape. “I was looking for a site that offered a different character,” notes Arco. “There’s definitely a trend in the wine industry towards the cooler regions, and I found what I was looking for on the banks of the Duiwenhoks River near the small town of Vermaaklikheid.”
The region’s sea breezes and limestone hills have created a wonderfully elegant Chardonnay: a firm foundation of oak that doesn’t mask the fruit and minerality of the wine.
Freshness was also on the wish list for the Focal Point Cinsault. “I wanted to work with a lighter red variety, and we have such wonderful old plantings of Cinsault in the Winelands,” says Arco. “Just as Chenin Blanc has become the flag bearer of South African white wine on the international stage, I think Cinsault could do the same for reds.”
Old vines are all the rage right now, and Arco secured fruit from 35-year-old vines in the Bottelary Hills outside Stellenbosch. The result? “A floral fruit-driven wine that shows wonderful purity of fruit,” adds Arco.
They’re both wonderful wines from a skilled independent winemaker. And they’ll be easy to spot on the shelf: a striking bottle design sees the traditional foil or wax seal replaced by a sustainable cork capsule, a first for the local wine industry.
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