I first met David Clarke a few years ago when I traded him lessons on wine (he is a sommelier, after all) for Afrikaans lessons. He’d just moved to SA – married to an Afrikaans-speaking local and he wanted to improve his local lingo. Packed schedules eventually got the better of us both and we only really had a few lessons, but his incredibly knowledge and honest, down-to-earth love for wine stayed with me. Back to present day, David and his wife Jeannette have started Ex Animo Wine Co. and they’ve been bloody busy since. They had their first trade show in early March and it was packed to the rafters with some of the most exciting and enjoyable wines I’ve encountered in ages.
First, a bit of an intro for Ex Animo. I think of them as “not just another wine company”. In their own words: “…work with and represent a select group of producers who are passionate about vineyards and aspire to reflect them in the cellar.” and “Our aim is to get South Africans to drink better wine, thus quality ‘in the glass’ is paramount.”.
This vision translates into Ex Animo sourcing some of the most exciting, talked about and paradigm-shifting wines, wineries and wine-makers to be involved with. Each partner reflects the core idea that David and Jeannette have in mind: getting SA to drink better wine through service, knowledge and education. It’s impossible to miss the love these two have for the wine industry and it’s hard to not get excited when chatting to either of them about wine. Their trade show was a collection of the new, the unexpected and in some cases (I’m looking at you, Testalonga El Bandito), the downright incomparable. The complete list of producers featured at the trade tasting is at the end of the post. Choosing out special mentions is tricky (the merits of the likes of Julien Schaal, Testalonga El Bandito and Thorne&Daughters is no surprise to anyone), so I’ll just go for the ones I enjoyed the most – which is also tricky because the wines were all exceptional in their own way.
Craven Wines – I fell in love with their Pinot Noir last year, while continuing a stormy and tumultuous relationship with the heart-break grape. I still love it as much as the first time I tasted it. I also had the chance to taste their Clairette Blanche, which I found fresh and fascinating.
Lammershoek – They brought the longest wine list to the show and I worked diligently through all of them. They make a Hárslevelü (the only other winery I’m aware of that makes one is Lemberg in Tulbagh), the unusual nature of the wine is quite noticeable though it’s probably not to everyone’s taste. As recent self-appointed champion for rosé and Blanc de Noir wines, the LAM Rosé 2013 was a great find, good strong acidity and just the faintest hint of spice from the Syrah with a great finish. The Bush Vines Chenin Blanc was by far my favourite though, good body and a complexity that makes it moreish and engaging.
Spioenkop – Elgin based producer, crazy Belgian Koen Roose makes wines in more a French style (though I wouldn’t presume to try and box their wines in too tightly). The vibrant, cool climate Pinotage 2013 stuck with me, an elegant wine made more like a Pinot Noir than it’s progeny normally is.
I adore what Ex Animo are doing, I think it’s exciting to see people with the knowledge and the (ugh…I hate this next word, but in this case it is authentically appropriate) passion of the Clarke’s doing their bit to breathe new life into industry, adding to the mix in ways that ultimately means that we – the wine consumers – are in for a treat.
The Ex Animo Trade Tasting was held on the 9th of March, 2015 and feature the following producers: Craven, Intellego, JH Meyer Signature Wines, Julien Schaal, Lammershoek, Restless River, Skinny Legs, Spioenkop, Testalonga El Bandito, Thorne & Daughters, Trizanne Signature Wines. The Ex Animo website will be launched soon. For more information, contact David or Jeannette.