Aslina Wines by Ntsiki Biyla, an exclusive masterclass

Alina wines are part of the portfolio of Solo Vino, which specializes in Italian wines and South Africa. Even though the importers of this wonderful group are able to present the wines on it in all its glory, it is always very inspirational to meet the winemaker behind the wine. This time the source of inspiration was none other than Ntsiki Biyla, the female winemaker of Aslina wines from South Africa. During this exclusive masterclass in the Italian restaurant La Galleria at Kurhausplein in Scheveningen, we got to pick her brain, and taste a selection of her wines.

When saying the word inspiration, it has not to be taken lightly at all, because Ntsiki started her wine career as head winemaker at Stellekaya Wines and was the first female winemaker of color in the entire country of South Africa. Since then, she has been known for her groundbreaking work that has led to fame around the wine world. She has been honored with awards in many fields, like Female Wine Maker of South Africa in 2009 and Diversity and Transformation in 2021. This honor and fame will only grow after she founded her very own company in 2017. Aslina Wines, named after her grandmother, has become a red thread throughout her work and life. The grapes used for the wine generally come from around the Western Cape, like Elgin, Stellenbosch, and Paarl.

We got the opportunity to taste 6 of her wines and the first thing I noticed, within the first two, was how much of an importance the vintage has, not only for red but also for the whites. We started by tasting the Sauvignon Blanc 2019 that was fermented on stainless steel and after being aged on the lees. That way a creamier texture will be achieved, and the level of acidity will be softer. The nose starts of rather closed and throughout the aromas and palate I did feel it lacked Sauvignon Blanc character. However, this does not mean that the wine lacks complexity! This is a beautiful new version of the Sauvignon Blanc with upcoming notes of minerals and a crispy aftertaste.

After that we got to taste the 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. Now this did have all the characters that you expect from a Sauvignon, thinking of gooseberries and freshly cut grass. Then this one did not contain the same level of complexity as the 2019 did. So, if you are looking for a complex white to match with different kinds of food, no doubt goes for 2019!

In terms of creating the Chardonnay, Ntisiki wanted to pursue a style that has elegance and is not overloaded with oak. For the 2020 parts of the grapes come from the area around Stellenbosch, which is known for its thicker Chardonnays. The grapes of Paarl and Elgin were fermented on stainless and then aged on oak, the oak and the creaminess are toned down due to not using patronage during the process. Still, the wine presents itself as very balanced and soft with medium complexity and the typical Southern African scent of steamed white vegetables. In the 2021 vintage, the nose brings a lot more minerals, fruit, and complexity. On the brings also characters to the mix, however, does not strike to be as smooth as you would expect from a Chardonnay. The wine is able to be cellared for a few years longer, but no more than 3.

After this, we come to the premium selection of the reds, which is the specialty of Ntisiki. The Cabernet Sauvignon of 2018 consists of 86% and is supplemented with Petit Verdot. The wine is very subtle with soft notes of red fruits, along with distinctive Cabernet notes like shaved pencil, cedarwood, and nutmeg. Beautiful blend that needs to develop some more over time.
The Bordeaux blends that are used for last two reds are made with the majority of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These wines get the name ‘Umsasane’, her grandmothers nickname.  The 2018 has a lot of red fruit characters and still has a tart finish. Which indicates that it still needs to age for quite some time. The 2019 vintage is ready to drink now, after four years of aging. This is the trophy wine that just has an explosion of aromas. From where I am standing however, I feel that the 2018 will surpass the 2019 in a few years’ time, leaving it behind in complexity and quality.

We like to say thank you for this beautiful masterclass and the whole team of The Story of My Wine wishes Ntsiki the best of luck in her career and are looking forward to see and taste more of her ground breaking work!

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