Tin Soldier is a skin-fermented field blend of Semillon blanc and Semillon gris. Semillon gris is almost unique to South Africa, and a vestige of a time when Semillon was the grape on which the South African wine industry was built.
The colour of the wine is unusual, having taken some bright copper tones from its time on skins. The nose is striking, with a briney, oyster-bed note coming out under subtle red fruit, licorice and white pepper notes. The interplay between savoury and sweet is a key point of interest in Tin Soldier, and makes for a subtle and engaging wine. The palate is finely structured, with fresh acidity and full flavours of strawberry leaf, sweet herbs and pink peppercorn. It is dry and delicate, while at the same time showing a core of richness and depth.
Tin Soldier 2015 – Nuts and bolts
Semillon blanc and gris – Franschhoek (32 years old) and Swartland (4 years old) – alluvial soils
Alcohol – 12.5%; Residual sugar – 1.9 g/L; Total acidity – 4.9 g/L; pH 3.51
About the wine
If we go back 100 years, Semillon was responsible for probably 95% of the wine made in this country. Tim James’ research on the variety suggests that the red mutation may at one time have been even more common than the white. I’m really fascinated by the idea of the kind of wines that would have been made in the old days using these mixed vineyards, and this led me to the idea of fermenting a blend of the white and red Semillon.
The Semillon gris appeals to me simply because it is incredibly South African in that no significant plantings are found anywhere else in the world. As it is, it is extremely rare now in South African vineyards, and we were obliged to pick small amounts from vines dotted around in an old white Semillon vineyard.
The one thing I wanted to avoid was making a ‘gimmick’ wine. In the run up to the first harvest I was still considering what my approach might be and while walking through the vineyard and tasting the grapes, I began to formulate an idea of fermenting white and red Semillon together on their skins to build a structure into the wine and hopefully extract some of that wonderful colour. Fermenting a white wine on skins extracts some grape tannins which a lot of modern white
winemaking tends to avoid. I’ve managed the extraction very carefully to retain a delicacy in the wine, while bringing out a lot of complexity.
It is truly a wine we love.
All of our wines take their names from archetypal childrens’ toys, and Tin Soldier takes its name from Semillon’s status as the old footsoldier of the South African industry. Much like the old toy soldiers buried in the garden, Semillon has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former glory days in the Cape.
Score Tim Atkin
Thorne & Daughters Tin Soldier 2015 93/100 in Soldier wasn’t made in 2014, but it’s back with all flags flying in 2015, marrying Semillon Gris and Semillon Blanc from the Swartland and Franschhoek. A little skin contact addscolour and tannin here, but avoids being “the full orange”, according to John Seccombe. Orange peel, dried herbs and a bitter twist are supported by remarkable freshness, focus andminerality. Drink: 2016-19