Organic, sustainable, unfined and unfiltered,
Martin Smith is the man behind Paserene. In partnership with Ndabe Mareda, they have now established a very smart tasting room in Franschhoek, as well as purchasing a farm in the shadow of the Witzenberg mountain in Tulbagh. The name derives from the Latin Passeriformes, the type of bird that includes swifts, swallows and martins; all birds that follow the epic migration from Europe to South Africa, representing the often travelled route by young winemakers gaining experience abroad before returning to their home country. They have started planting vines on their farm, and for the moment are fortunate to take a best of breed approach with working with particular special sites in Elgin, the neighbouring farm in Tulbagh and Stellenbosch. These are authentic wines, with little added or taken out, yet still made with the greatest precision and care to ensure that the wines produced, and artwork on the labels, are truly authentic to ensure its “sense of place and people” and a lasting legacy for many years to come.
Paserene’s Chardonnay is sourced from Elgin – a cooler climate region at a higher elevation (300 metres above sea level) just a few miles inland. An exceptionally special site that Martin shares with one other highly regarded winemaker and Chardonnay specialist, planted on dense red clay with a high proportion of iron ore. This high proportion of iron ensures a lower pH in the wine, which is a great assurance in wine when working with less sulphur and for stability. The Chardonnay’s from Elgin tend to have a distinct golden green hue and this one certainly does. It is an immensely special wine!
Picked on taste, not on numbers, Martin presses the grapes extremely slowly – for up around 7 hours, keeping the pressure really low for the most gentle extraction. The juice and solids and all are transferred to oak barrels without settling, with spontaneous fermentation kicking off after a day or two. For maturation, Martin selects a combination of super tight grain new French oak barrels (about 30%) and the rest is neutral, and the wine remains sur lie for 16 months. No fining or filtration – Martin adds about 5% of the new vintage (here 2018) to give it a little more lift.
A fine and vibrant richness of lemon zest, white peach, oatmeal and citrus blossom. Buttery shortbread, creme anglaise, cake sponge and fresh greengages. It’s incredibly luxurious but well judged and with a cracking acidity and finish. Delicious now, delicious for years to come.