Spirit of free creativity shines in latest offering from Franschhoek winery
The boutique Franschhoek winery Paserene’s first release of Dark – a full-bodied and broody 2018 Syrah in its Elements range – is a fine ambassador of the winemaker’s pursuit for appealing and authentic expression.
Showing notes of spicy treacle, cherries, and antique leather, this Syrah was crafted from a combination of grapes grown in clay soils in Tulbagh, and sand in Franschhoek. These two renowned wine regions, together with vineyards in Elgin, are the palette from which third-generation winemaker and Paserene co-owner Martin Smith draws for his creations.
From these, hail the winery’s two ranges: the high-end Paserene and the wilder child, Elements.
Elements echoes the spirit of freedom of the winery itself. The word paserene is derived from Latin and alludes to migrant birds, like the little swallow on its labels. The birds spend most of their lifetimes on the wing. “The freedom of these constant travellers inspires our own pursuit, unfettered, of ultimate expression. It’s what we want to share through our wines – this sense of freedom,” says Martin.
The packaging of Dark and indeed the complete range, communicates this endeavour. A child’s swing depicted on the label – work by accomplished artist Carmen Ziervogel – suggests a happy, innocent space. It is the wine’s invitation to the consumer, to embark on a journey inward and savour each moment in a sip.
“Our wines are super precious to us,” adds Martin. “With that comes a responsibility and a serious commitment to the wine-lover. For Elements, we pare the wine down to its core while having fun with it.”
The name of the range reflects not only the three wine territories – Tulbagh, Franschhoek and Elgin – but the fruit character each provides too.
Elgin is the coolest, with soils of Bokkeveld shale. The climate is best for aromatic grapes, allowing them to retain bright acidity. Franschhoek is more moderate and therefore ideal for growing fragile, elegant wines. Mountain shadows temper any heat, bringing complexity in the wine. Tulbagh in the Breede River Valley is the warmer of the trio.
Cool evenings and soils of decomposed shale are also defining characteristics. In this environment, grapes develop deep flavours while retaining acidity. Wines are therefore more robust and powerful.
With this DNA, Elements Dark 2018 emerged as a deep and bold wine that shows classic varietal traits. In addition to the previously mentioned aromas and flavours, there’s blackcurrant and cola on a backdrop of all-spice. Spice echoes on the palate too, along with rich notes of dried plums and liquorice. The finish is long and satisfying.
Having had the benefit of time to develop in bottle, the 2018 vintage certainly shows what may be expected of this lineage. It is an occasion wine, sumptuous on its own or served with well-made comfort food like rich stews and roasts. A perfect sip for winter wine indulgence.
It joins other members of the Elements range:
- Rosie, a pink and deliciously dry rosé
- Emerald, a zesty citrus-laden Sauvignon blanc
- Bright, an easy-sipping, tropical Chardonnay; and
- Midnight, an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon that scored 93 points and was placed in the Prescient Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignon Report for 2021.
More about the winemaker and winery
Prior to Paserene, Ashton-born Martin Smith gained experience at Vriesenhof Vineyards, Cosentino Winery in California’s Napa Valley, Caldwell Winery and Newton winery in Saint Helena, CA, and Vilafonte. He fulfilled a lifelong dream soon after by acquiring the land that would become Paserene with Johannesburg businessman Ndabe Mareda and producing Paserene’s first vintage in 2013.
Set in a tranquil, natural setting, the farm’s tasting lounge – The Paserene Nest – opened five years later, with its landmark design inspired by swallow nests. Its sunny terrace overlooks an idyllic dam on the farm, a clever nod towards the swallow’s habit of swooping over water.
Every welcome to the contemporary tasting lounge is enhanced by opulent wine tastings and sumptuous gourmet platters served up postcard-pretty vine and mountain views.
The Paserene Nest is open Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 17:00. Reservations can be made online via the website.
The wines are available from the website and selected leading wine retailers. The Elements wines sell for between R125 and R220/bottle; Dark 2018 is priced at R205/bottle.