WORDS: RICHARD HOLMES IMAGES: SUPPLIED

Whether you fancy it as a bird’s nest or the ribs of a wine barrel, the striking tasting lounge at Paserene will no doubt catch the attention of any eagle-eyed visitor to the Franschhoek valley. And once inside this modern space, with views over wetlands and vineyards to the distant Simonsberg, the wines certainly don’t disappoint.

Paserene is named for the Passeriformes order of birds, which includes the global wanderers such as swallows, swifts and rock martins. It’s a fitting moniker for the wines of Martin Smith, a man who flew the coop from his childhood in the Breede River valley and training in the Stellenbosch winelands, to hone his craft in the vineyards of the Napa valley. Luckily for us, after a decade Stateside he migrated home to the Cape and – alongside business partner Ndabe Mareda – has fast developed a reputation for crafting some of South Africa’s most elegant wines.

When it comes to vines, Martin remains a wanderer at heart, with the three wines in the Paserene range drawing from distinct vineyard blocks across the Cape.

The Paserene Chardonnay 2017 comes from cool-climate vines in the Elgin valley. Despite spending 16 months in barrel, fermenting and maturing, it’s a perfectly pitched wine that balances richness with elegance and not a trace of over-blown oak. Little surprise that the 2015 vintage was rated five-stars in Platter’s Wine Guide last year.

Martin is all about finding subtlety in the vines, and his Paserene Marathon – a full-bodied and complex blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and carménère – unfolds in layers of flavours: dark fruits and smooth tannins in perfect balance with the inky-dark hue.

Cabernet sauvignon is the grape Martin loves most, but it’s the syrah-driven Paserene Union that makes the biggest impression on me. From vineyards on the slopes of the Witzenberg, in the Tulbagh valley, the rhône-style blend of carignan and mourvèdre delivers a wine spicy, smokey and voluptuous. Perfect for slow-braised stews on rainy winter afternoons.

Paserene | 021 876 2714 | paserene.co.za