WINE: A label fit for this chilly season
Paserene produces batches of handcrafted wines from vineyards across the Cape winelands
Martin Smith is an unassuming third-generation winemaker, was raised amid the vineyards of the Breede River and trained in Stellenbosch, has a host of leading labels to his credit and acquired a decade of experience in the cellars of California’s Napa Valley.
Smith isn’t short of winelands street cred; but he’d rather let his wines do the talking. And at Paserene they have plenty to say.
This boutique winery is a partnership between Smith and industrialist Ndabe Mareda. The enterprise produces batches of handcrafted wines from vineyards across the Cape winelands.
The name "Paserene" is derived from the Passeriformes order of birds that includes rock martins and swallows. It’s the last-mentioned that gave Etienne Stols of SCS Architects the inspiration for his striking design of the Paserene tasting room in the Franschhoek valley: timber wrapped around a steel frame resembling a swallow’s nest. And what a nest it is, looking out over indigenous wetlands and vineyards and across to the Simonsberg mountains.
It’s in this eye-catching space that Billet Magara, formerly sommelier at Durban’s upscale seafront hotel The Oyster Box, conducts tastings at R150 per person of Paserene’s focused range of wines. There’s a Morsø fireplace to ward off the chill, and leather armchairs to sink into while watching the clouds that bring the Cape’s cold winter rain roll in. Glasses are Riedel crystal, of course.
That attention to detail carries through in Paserene’s trio of wines, each released only years after the vintage date to ensure they are ready to show their true character.
Paserene’s chardonnay "has the golden colour with a hint of green that is the signature of Elgin fruit", says Smith. Despite 16 months in barrel it’s a supremely elegant wine, balancing richness on the palate with a refreshing minerality. If you never thought chard’ was for you, you can give this beauty a whirl. The artwork on the label is no less appealing, the feminine figure, penned by artist Carmen Ziervogel, a tip of the hat to the role Mother Nature plays in the winemaking process.
Mother Nature returns on the label of the Paserene Union, the second wine in the collection, with a swift above her head. It’s a Rhône-style blend of syrah, carignan and mourvèdre grapes, its elegant yet spicy character belying its origins in the hot Tulbagh valley.
Smith’s time at Napa and his love for Italian "Super-Tuscan" reds comes out in the Paserene Marathon wine, the last of the trio of red wines the winery produces. Here cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and the rarely used carménère are combined in a layered blend.
Half of Paserene’s production is being exported to Europe. For now the company has a compact range of wines, but Smith has big plans. He already has three chardonnays in barrels, the grapes sourced from vineyards situated from Elgin to the Cederberg. A 100% cabernet sauvignon from the superb 2017 vintage is also in the offing.