Guillaume Nell is a very unassuming guy. In the best kind of way. Modest, soft spoken and restraint. You know it’s going to be an interesting interview when he opens with;
“I’m a boring guy. Much like the hard rock and metal I listen to, I express myself through my wines. So I want them to sing!”
Firstly, this guy doesn’t look anything like a metal head. And secondly, a small scale winemaker racking in 94+ point wines without an ego? Now that’s something special.
Lýsa Wines is the first in this series documenting the portfolio of Stellenbosch artisans joining the collective at Karibib Wine Craft’s new tasting centre run by yours truly, Somm & Co. And my God is it good!
The name Lýsa is derived from an old Norse expression which refers to bringing things to light. It harks back to Guillaume’s heritage when the paddy’s ancestors still carried an “o” in front of the O’Neil and hordes of Norse raiders made the trip across the Giant’s Causeway rearing for a fight and a spot of rape and pillage. The net result of which still lives on in oddly Germanic names in a very Gaelic region.
Guillaume currently only trades in two varietals, a Pinot Gris and a Verdelho. Embracing the philosophy of doing less better. And, in keeping with his personality, and the ethos of lýsa, he believes in playing a backstage role in the persona of the wine. Harvesting earlier retains varietal expression. Slow spontaneous fermentation on the leas that lasts up to four months builds complexity. And never any oak. These wines truly embody purity and a sense of place.
The Verdelho is from a block on the foot of the Helderberg mountains, planted in 2002, 5km from the ocean as the crow flies.
Lýsa Verdelho 2020: Bright pale lemon with a pronounced bouquet of pineapple, paw paw, papaya, ripe yellow pears, peach, desiccated coconut and the faintest hint of sweet spice.
The pallet is just the slightest touch of dry, barely perceivable next to the lip smacking refreshing acidity. Medium bodied with flavours that follow through perfectly from the palate. Now showing the addition of tart green apples with a lovely slightly grippy mouthfeel that leads to a long chalky and fruity finish. Outstanding
With an equal affinity for real estate overlooking the ocean the Pinot Gris is situated in Vlottenburg drenched in the cooling sea breezes of False Bay.
Lýsa Pinot Gris 2020: Pale gold with restraint aromas of fleshy, juicy white melon, lemons, wet chalk, lanolin and gravel. Hot gravel, baking on a summer's day. The wine is just a hint off dry but beautifully balanced against racy acidity with slightly viscous mouth feel backed up by abundance of fruit concentration and long refreshing finish. A very good wine indeed.
Two exceptional wines that rival the best in the world while retaining a uniquely South African expression. Now that’s something to get excited about.
Lýsa’s 2020 vintages will be released at the new Somm & Co. Karibib tasting room on Polkadraai road on the 28th of November and online at somm.co.za. For allocations contact email@example.com.
From the author:
I am a certified sommelier through the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), WSET and CWA educated and have worked and consulted for a portfolio of top South African restaurants. I’m a 3IC Certified expert in Piedmontese Food & Wine, currently serving as the chairman for SASA as well as the Head Sommelier and MD for Somm & Co.
I use a very simple scoring system. Faulty, Acceptable, Good, Very Good and Outstanding. No hundred pointers or star ratings. Read the note, love the wine, love the story, not the score.