Giorgio Dalla Cia, an Italian wine man in South Africa
The Italian winemaker who has divulged wine to be cellared in South Africa. Giorgio Dalla Cia from Friuli to Meerlust
Seen for you by Carlo Gardini
South Africa: wonderful beaches, incredible nature, and a simple lifestyle although full of incredible refined things… I remember a meal in a resort in the savannah, in a small restaurant that seats about 20 guests, furnished like a Victorian home. In front there is an artificial lake full of birds and wild geese which was lit by torches, in the background the Drakensberg mountains …. At the table we were served delicacies apt for a starred restaurant matched with exquisite wines ……..there is only one thought in my mind: when will I be able to come back?
My wife Donatella (Cinelli Colombini) and I began visiting South Africa 15 years ago, and for 6 years we went really often. We were so fascinated by this nation that we tried to create a wine project in the Cape region.
We visited practically all of the important wineries at that time, we met the owners and the winemakers, and we made friends, people with whom still today we are in contact regardless of the distance and the time passing. One of the first people we met was Giorgio Dalla Cia < if you go to South Africa and you love wine you must meet Giorgio > we were told. And so we met him. He is a wine maker from Azzano Veneto, expert in mushrooms and with a passion for archaeology and metal detectors. He is a traditionalist, perfectionists, and like all intelligent people he is unconventional and courageous.
Giorgio is always kind and smiles a lot, he dresses in an informal manner as the South Africans do, and he always has a hat with him. Simonetta his wife is a splendid cook organizes Italian cookery lessons and has divulged our cuisine in South Africa. Their home is like a Friuli house with garden and pool, transferred to Cape Town. Furniture, books lifestyle even the TV programs give one the impression of being in Italy.
Giorgio left Italy, that he loves passionately, with his family to work near Cape Town, in a winery in Stellenbosch that became famous also tank to him, called Meerlust.
His wine – Rubicon – A Bordeaux style wine with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, became an icon. Released on the market in 1980, after many years of experiments, it marks the beginning of a new style of South African wines, which for the first time, get considered apt for cellaring….the three grape varieties ferment separately and then united after the malolactic fermentation, then the wine ages in French oak barrels, for a least one year to then be bottled and put on sale four years after the harvest. For the more recent vintages of Rubicon some Petit Verdot grapes.
After 25 years Giorgio left Meerlust and created his own estate together with his son George. They produce high quality wines, but he has also gone back to his family passion: distilling grappa in an authentically Italian style. He also collaborates with Bottega they too come from Friuli and produce a wine in Hermanus in South Africa- they were recently awarded a prize by Decanter –and they import excellent wines from Italy among which, our Brunello.
The most recent creation by Giorgio Dalla Cia is the wine called “Teano” that already with its name indicates a meeting between two wine cultures for him both important, Sangiovese and the Bordeaux; the Tuscan and Bordeaux traditions blended. I recently tasted the 2011 vintage, which I absolutely adored. Dark ruby red, with aromas of ripe wood berries, wood and spices. In the mouth it is fine, clean, with soft tannins that are well balanced.
Giorgio Dalla Cia keeps up the good reputation of Italy and South Africa, in other words he too is a brain gone down the brain-drain, escape abroad to somewhere young, and complicated but able to reward those with talent.