Tungsten – Nico’s ‘lightbulb’ moment

The best things, as they say, come to those who wait. And there are things in the world of wine that are no exception.

This is the tale of Tungsten, a limited edition, hand-crafted Méthode Traditionelle from the 3-times Champion South Africa winemaker Nico Vermeulen.

Way back in 2010, Andrew Baker, Graham Knox and I were sitting in Nico’s living room after a long day’s blending, and had just cracked open a bottle of bubbles. We all tasted, and were blown away at the same time. It turned out that this was a private stash of sparkling Verdelho, a wine made by Nico specifically for his daughter’s wedding. We asked him, there and then: could you make this again, for Virgin Wines? The answer was “yes”, and that’s precisely what happened the following vintage, in 2011.

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The result is Tungsten, a wine that has finally – over 3 years later! – arrived on these shores. A limited edition of less than 4,000 bottles of stunningly precise, mouthsmackingly fruity sparkling Verdelho, made in the classic Champagne method (or, Methode Cap Classique as it is known down in SA).

Why the name, “Tungsten”? Graham explains. “There are three small vineyard operations in the Mouton’s Hoek valley, isolated from the rest of the Cape winelands. The valley nestles into the western foothills of the Piketberg Mountain. The aspect is to the west, where the Atlantic is 35km away over semi-desert scrubland. The nearest shop of any kind to Mouton’s Hoek is one hour drive away in the town of Piketberg, on the other side of the mountain. This remote valley is an oasis of green, moistened by streams leaking out of the adjacent mountain.

“The mineral fraction in the Mouton’s Hoek soils made the news in 2011, when geologists working for an international mining company announced the presence of commercially valuable quantities of tungsten under the Mouton’s Hoek vineyards. The problem was only resolved after a year-long court battle. Happily, the vineyards and agricultural economy of Mouton’s Hoek remain in production with their annual cycle of growth and renewal.”

Verdelho is a canny choice for Methode Cap Classique. Its natural high acidity – coupled with the inherent minerality of vines from this very special vineyard – provides a fabulous armature for the decadent, voluptuous yeastiness that the second fermentation and over 2 years’ ageing on lees in bottle has imparted.

If you’re looking for a remarkable fizz to grace the most special of occasions, without breaking the bank (always an important bit!), this is it. The background story is unique, as is the vineyard; and the winemaking is first class. Enjoy.

Tungsten

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