Wine of the Week 20: Trizanne Signature Wines Seascape Groendruif Skin Contact Semillon 2022

Trizanne Groendruif Semillon

A cool-climate white shaped by the sea.

“The ocean is very much a part of my life,” says winemaker Trizanne Barnard. “I draw a lot of energy from it.” The scent of salt hangs in the air at her Kommetjie home on the Cape Peninsula. We’ve just tasted through the new releases of her label Trizanne Signature Wines (TSW). The surf is calling. While she lugs her surfboard to the car, I take the Seascape Groendruif Skin Contact Semillon 2022 (from the Cape Agulhas wine district) home, and am instructed to taste it over the period of a few days to see how it changes – and allow me the poetic licence – much I suppose like the tides.

Close to the sea

Trizanne Groendruif Semillon Sea

Curving up the Atlantic for Trizanne is not only a lifestyle choice – but also a viticultural one. For TSW she sources grapes from Elim, Darling and the Swartland. Granted, the latter may be a bit more interior, but it’s actually a surprisingly short drive to the wild waves of the West Coast from there. 

“I do look for vineyards that are close to the sea, not only for the influence on my wines – but it’s easier for me to take a surf break,” she laughs. Like most surfers, Trizanne likes to take risks. The Groendruif Skin Contact Semillon being the case in point. Sourced from the same Elim vineyard as her much acclaimed sauvignon-semillon blend, her first attempt at making a straight semillon from the vineyard using skin contact, well, flopped, she admits.

Elim’s ancient soil

Trizanne Groendruif Semillon Vineyard

In 2022, she decided to gamble again. This wasn’t fool-hardiness, Trizanne knows what to expect from these wild, raw vineyards at the edge of the continent, the most southerly point for viticulture. The ancient soils – they have not budged since Gondwana started tearing apart – and the constant assault of sea winds as they come screaming off the Atlantic, combine for slow ripening (concentrating flavour and acidity) as well as a generally low pH in the wines.

This time Trizanne picked earlier and left the wine on the skins until the cap slowly sunk to the bottom. “What’s fascinating about these cool-climate skin-contact wines is that even though they have been made oxidatively, they’re not orange in colour, and they give you a totally different flavour spectrum than you’d expect.”

The other interesting thing she says is the amount of gravitas the wine has at its relatively low alcohol of just 11% (the earlier pick ensures this). Trizanne equates this with the lower pH this cool-climate ward is able to achieve. 

With Elim’s quixotic mix of elements, she can’t guarantee when next we’ll see this wine again. “I don’t know if I can bring it out every year,” she shrugs. “It remains to be seen.” I guess it’s a case of catching the right wave at the right time. 

Seascape Groendruif Skin Contact Semillon 2022

Trizanne Groendruif Semillon Wine

Semillon was so widely planted in the early 1800s it was simply called “groendruif” (meaning “green grape”) in Afrikaans. From her Elim vineyard, Trizanne harvests the original GD1 clone, ferments on the skins and is left for a further two weeks before being basket-pressed into barrel, spending some time on the lees. 

Thatch, whitewashed stone walls, sea pebbles and the spice of dune-flowers conjure up from the glass; this is the heart of the sea, the magma pulsing coolly, a rush of salty acid bubbling past. Somewhere in there are yellow apples, peach, but the fruit hardly seems to matter, this wine is all about depth.
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Time of publication: 21 December 2023