Behind the Bottle: David Cope from Alphabetical Wines

Winemaker: David Cope

Country: South Africa

Region: Western Cape

How many Wines does he make? – 3

What are they? – Red Vin Ordinaire, Vin Blanc and a Rosé

Where does the name come from? – Having been offered a lot of amazing quality grapes for his wine, David couldn’t decide what to leave out, so he put it ALL in, leaving someone to joke that he’d put almost the whole ‘Alphabet’ in there.

David is a Negociant winemaker, what’s that? – The word Negociant comes from the French for ‘negotiator’. Because David doesn’t own any vines. He buys (or negotiates) grapes from farmers, in this case close friends and long-term contacts. He only buys the best grapes he can find and in incredibly hands on! He is often found chucking grapes into the press, picking at the sorting table, pouring his wines at parties and even jumps on the occasional delivery!

Alphabetical Wines share a similar philosophy to us here at myWINEcellar. They too, think that the world of wine can be confusing and intimidating and are trying to change that. So, they’ve kept things simple, they make a red wine, a white wine and a rosé, easy!

They don’t try and change the wine too much by adding chemicals or putting it through convoluted and arduous processes. They like to let the quality of the grapes speak for themselves. They tend to go for what they call ‘underdog varieties’, for two reasons. One, you can get great quality varieties in the ideal weather of South Africa and two, the value is exceptional! A good example of this is Cabernet Franc, used in the Vin Ordinaire Red. In other parts of the world, it is used sparingly in blends. Almost like a ‘safety’ grape, if the Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t ripen fully then put in some Cab Franc to make up the difference?!? But in this wine, it shines! David and his small team show a real understanding of what it takes to make this variety stand out from a crowd, giving it the respect it deserves and producing a stunning wine in the process.

Always conscious of their impact on the environment, the grapes are hand harvested, naturally fermented with minimal sulphur addition. Fermenting ‘naturally’ means that no commercial yeasts are used to make the wines. When you use naturally occurring yeasts that live in the air in the winery you tend to get a much more intense flavour than if you had used shop bought. Try and think about it a bit like homemade bread vs homemade sourdough. There has been an undeniable boom in home baking over the last year with sourdough seemingly being baked in every home up and down the country. To make it, you add water and flour together (appropriately, Paul Hollywood recommends adding a few cut up grapes here too) and then leave it somewhere warm for a few days. The naturally occurring yeasts in your kitchen then work slowly with the flour and water and begin to ferment. Sourdough is much more flavoursome than your average granary and the reason? Natural yeasts! You might get a more consistent flavour and texture from that packet of yeast in the cupboard, but boy do you get more flavour from a homemade sourdough! It’s the same philosophy for wine, natural yeasts make amazing wine but you really have to know what you’re doing otherwise you could lose a whole vat of the stuff.

The red has grapes from two different climates, a hotter one that brings rich, ripe red berry fruitiness and a cooler climate that gives it that darker intensity.

The Alphabetical Blanc is a similar blend of lots of different varieties from Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s signature variety, to Marsanne and Grenache Blanc, more often found in Southern France. It is fresh, clean, crisp, zingy and rich.

The rosé is made in much smaller quantities, in fact we’ve been unable to get our hands on any for a while now but when we do ‘Oh Boy!’ are you in for a treat! Made with the varieties you find in the more familiar Provence rosé but treated with a South African twist, it’s really worth keeping an eye out for.

Checkout David’s intro to his Red Blend and White Wine below…

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