Blood of the Port - The Fledge & Co. Souzão 2018
Scrolling through Publik a few weeks ago, desperate for my wine fix after the sale of alcohol in South Africa had been banned as a health precaution for COVID-19, a particular bottle of wine caught my eye – The Fledge & Co. Souzão 2018. I’d come across their wines before, but a variety that until then I thought I hadn’t tried, paired with its playful label are what got my wine glasses clinking.
About The Fledge & Co. and Their Souzão
Owned and run by the dynamic duo, Margaux Nel and Leon Coetzee, The Fledge & Co. is all about “wines whispering of their origin; wines benefitting from careful cellaring; wines that are best decanted and accompanied in good cheer with fine fare.” In short, they’re all about delicious and honest wines.
Margaux is an 8th generation winemaker of the Nel’s of Boplaas in Calitzdorp with a barrel of knowledge from her studies, travels and experience in the cellar. Leon hails from the North Eastern Cape and after studying a commerce degree in Stellenbosch, found a love and passion for wine. Working with 23+ varieties from 40 vineyards, the duo is quickly forging their own path in the South African wine industry.
With roots in Calitzdorp and a natural urge for wanting to go against the wine status quo, it’s no wonder that The Fledge & Co. are the only guys brave enough to bottle a single varietal of Souzão in South Africa. Brave indeed, but a risk that has certainly paid off. They’ve created a spectacular wine that expresses the beauty of Souzão incredibly well.
The Vineyard - The fruit comes from youngish vines planted on Doornbosch in Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo. Grown in deep red Clovelly soil that has veins of calcium carbonate, gallets and quartz strewn throughout, Leon says that this particular vineyard has never had “sufficient” water but has still managed to thrive.
Vinification - The berries are hand-harvested at dawn, crushed and destemmed into a lagar. It then undergoes a cool ferment and manual pigeage (punch downs) before being pressed and put into an old 300L French oak barrel to complete ferment and malo. The wine was matured for 16 to 18 months and then bottled unfined, unfiltered directly from the barrel into recycled bottles (love this!) with a little bit of sulphur.
What’s the Story Behind the Label?
What initially looks like two jolly skeletons having a dance-off at what could possibly be a Japanese club, chatting to Leon and diving a little deeper, the story behind the Fledge & Co. Souzão label really is something special.
The Two-Toned Dancing Skeletons
“The two-toned dancing skeletons have a plethora of meanings, but this label is reserved for wines which we literally only bottle a barrel of or vines which have been lost to drought/ whims of fashion, economics or Mother Nature and the resultant wines are the last relics thereof, or just true oddities we can't fit into our three-tiered pyramid approach to wine."
"[They] are also a loose reference to the Danse Macabre, a late-medieval allegory on the universality of death and also that "the end might not be the end" and life should be a celebration. The label design also acts as an eye test & if you oscillate the bottle you have very rudimentary animation. An allusion to Studio Ghibli - one of our favourite Japanese animation studios and headed up by the genius that is, Hayao Miyazaki. Also, most farmers like to wear two-toned shirts.”
The Japanese Text
The Japanese on the sides, “Niwatori no ha”, translates to “hen’s teeth” for the English saying, “as scarce as hen’s teeth.” This alludes to the rarity of the Souzão grape in the Cape and that The Fledge & Co. is its only true bottling.
Tasting Notes and Pairings
True to the Souzão grape, this densely coloured wine packs great acidity with crunchy, chalky tannin. Rustic with some spice, dark plum and a hint of damson. What usually makes a great blending component stands beautifully on its own. And from the legend himself, Leon says that The Fledge & Co. Souzão is best enjoyed with a crackling fire, a couple of braaied lamb chops and a starry night sky – sounds like a pretty perfect setting if you ask me.