If the new wave of Swartland winemakers needed a poster boy, it could be Jurgen Gouws. With one of the cheekiest smiles in wine, and a pile of used oak barrels chalked with romantic history rather than toast levels, Gouws is certainly a character.
He’s also an exceptionally sensitive winemaker who represents the cutting edge of what’s happening in the Cape right now. Gouws has a “no investment” operation, increasingly common for younger winemakers who are fuelled by passion but lack rich parents or corporate sponsors. Jurgen owns no vineyards, nor a winery – that said, he tends the rented vines with considerable care, insisting on organic dry farming in a nation where the norm used to be anything but.
Cutting his teeth at Lammershoek with Swartland star Craig Hawkins (Testalonga), Jurgen finally quit the day job in 2015 to concentrate 100% on his Intellego project.
Elementis 2014, like its predecessors, is 100% Chenin Blanc, fermented on the skins for 3 weeks and then matured in used French oak for 9-10 months. Jurgen gets incredible freshness and concentration from his dry farmed fruit. That’s given this wine a lightness of touch and purity that is quite startling.
There’s a burst of ginger and chamomile tea on the nose, leading to flavours of granny smith apple, ripe melon and red grapefruit. The acidity is really taut and bright, and at a mere 11.5% this is a kind of “featherlight” orange wine. The zesty kick plus added complexity from the skin contact really work well together.
Jurgen has an interesting take on the well trodden argument that ‘all orange wines taste the same; the method obscures place and variety’ – “A lot of people say that if you taste eight skin contact wines, they all taste the same. I think more people need to make wines in this style, so we can start to hone in on the differences.”
He adds “I was no fan of Grüner Veltliner until I tasted a skin contact example. Thanks to skin contact, I found my way to GV”.
Elementis has a wonderful label that’s every bit as fresh and exciting as the wine inside – in fact it’s a big improvement on the terribly clunky scales logo that graces some of Intellego’s other wines. Still, if labelling is the only facet of this project that lacks consistency, I can live with that.
To finish, a favourite Jurgen soundbite: “Wines are all bottled without filtering and after bottling we go drink Gin&Tonics!”
In the Netherlands, try winematters.eu.
My bottle of the 2014 was provided for review.