Strange Kompanjie Palomino 2022

Strange Kompanjie

Strange Kompanjie is a slightly reticent, yet delightful Palomino wine that comes from the Piekenierskloof plateau. In the past often overlooked as the area one passes through between the Swartland and Olifants River regions it is now firmly establishing itself as home to some of the Cape’s most sought-after heritage vineyards.

The unofficial home of Grenache in the Cape, it’s also home to heritage Chenin Blanc vineyards and a few parcels of Palomino. What most Piekenierskloof vineyards have in common is that they are dry-grown bush vines. Like a scribe with a rapidly approaching deadline has to concentrate his mind, unirrigated vines have to do the same with their fruit. That may explain why this Palomino was crafted to begin with and didn’t find its way into a fortified wine, as generally happens to Palomino on its home turf in Spain.

Palomino grapes are generally low in sugar and acidity and, on top of that, the must (crushed grapes) oxidises easily. All this means that it is great for sherry production but tricky to turn into a palatable unfortified wine. Kudos to Strange Kompanjie for giving it a go; as a wild ferment, nogal!

Incidentally, in South Africa, Palomino was often – very confusingly – referred to as Fransdruif (French grape) or White French. I’m guessing that it came here via France… (No, I don’t know if there is also a Red French! Anybody?)

The very elegant label depicts the origin of the grapes – scraggly, stunted and twisted bush vines on a dry plateau. I’m not sure if it is a representation of the actual 1977 vineyard the grapes came from, or a more generic depiction of the area. Either way, it is certainly one of the more appealing label designs I’ve come across lately. I do however have reservations about the very playful SKU logo on the closure; it jars a bit with the elegance of the label…

In the cellar the grapes were treated with kid gloves. After gentle pressing the juice was left to settle naturally before the clear juice was racked off and fermented naturally. After 5 months of lees contact it was filtered and bottled.

So, what does it taste like? Well, as I’ve already said, it’s a bit reticent but don’t let that put you off! It rewards patience with almonds, fennel and even jasmine on the nose. The palate also reveals bright acidity and the salinity of an old dry-grown vineyard.

Appropriate food pairings include scallops, fishcakes or an asparagus and lemon risotto. Keep it simple and elegant. A mild cheese soufflé will also do the trick. I’m having my next glass solo though while watching the clouds billow by as this one deserves the time it needs to fully reveal itself.

Alcohol 12% vol | Residual Sugar 2.6 g/l | Total Acid 5.7 g/l | pH 3.26

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